DAY SIX: Transformation
(10) In a show that's so far had no such thing as a status quo, this episode is a turning point. You can apply the title to several things, the obvious one being the transformation of the space battlefortress SDF-1 into a sorta robot-looking configuration. One can assume that's what the title is supposed to be directly pointing to. But observe Rick's concern in this episode that Minmei has "completely changed from what she was before." Never mind that Rick has known her for only something like two weeks, most of that time divorced from anything resembling her normal life. Never mind that by the end she was scared for her life, worrying that she'll never see her family or her home again and would die with Rick and the rats in a cut-off corner of an alien warship. (In this context, Rick's angry dig that he sometimes wishes they were never rescued makes a sort of sense, even if it makes Rick look like an awful, awful person.) What he doesn't see is that if she's changed completely, she's probably just reverted back to who she was before his robot fell out of the sky and landed right outside her house. Hell, look at how kind of sheepish she seems when someone asks about him, "Err, right, Rick. That guy. Yeah, he's upstairs." The one anomaly, besides the metal ceiling standing in for the sky, that reminds her that things have changed, that their lives may never be the same again.
That their lives have transformed.
But the transformation here that sticks occurs within Rick. Unlike most of Macross's surviving residents, he REALLY can't go back to his old life. That's because unlike everyone else we meet in the series, he doesn't belong here. He wanders out of the Chinese restaurant in a broody huff, caresses the broken heap that was his plane, and has the two, exactly TWO people he knows in Macross City lean on him to join the military. "You can't just keep moping around like a lovesick idiot," Roy tells him. Which I suppose is true; that's really never good for you. When Rick asks Minmei if she says she thinks he should join the defense forces, she says no. She is lying. This is EXACTLY what she spends their entire conversation in the park telling him. And given that his only marketable skill, by all appearances, and only real passion is getting behind the controls of an airplane, well, he throws up his hands and goes with it. I'm not entirely sure WHY watching the entire city fall into ruin during the ship's modular transformation winds up being the tipping point for him, maybe it's just that he looked out at all the people injured, possibly dead, all the property destroyed, and realized that hey, life is short and I'm wasting it being a depressed moron. Or maybe some desire to protect these people suddenly rushed to the surface. The point is that this decision forever alters the course of his life. He is forever transformed.
(Okay, that's the last time I'm doing that.)
(9) I think the sequence where Minmei poo-poohs the group of flyboys who keep nudge-nudge, wink-winking her as regards the two weeks spent alone with Rick would probably have run a little smoother without the one guy (played by Richard Epcar, the voice of Ben Dixon, Vince Grant, Lunk, MACROSS PLUS's Guld, and GHOST IN THE SHELL's Bateau) who says, "You didn't fall in love, or anything?" Because really, the implication they're making the REST of the time is basically that, "Yeah, you two totally did it, right?" And Minmei's reaction to the whole thing, getting outraged and telling them that they make her sick, is a perfectly natural reaction to that. I suppose the line Epcar delivers was thrown in there to smooth things over for the younger members of the audience, so they'd have an idea what the hell these guys are talking about without, well, the context the rest of us have. I also suppose SOMEONE had to go out and say SOMETHING nice and straightforward eventually, and this was the most PG-rated thing anyone could think to put in those flyboys' mouths.
Needless to say, the scene plays a lot differently to me now than it did when I was twelve.
(8) I realize Tobey Maguire is getting a bit long in the tooth to play teenage heroes, but "Transformation" gives us a Rick Hunter that neatly fits into the range of persona he showcased in his turns as the title character of the SPIDER-MAN franchise. He does, indeed, spend the entire episode dragging himself around the ship in a kind of funk, only brightening up for the, indeed, impressive sight of the Prometheus docked to the SDF-1 and the Veritech Fighters shooting off into space and flying, by all appearances, just as well as they did in atmospheric conditions. So, y'know, plane stuff. His argument with Minmei features him putting words into her mouth and, we later learn, wishing Macross City would just explode or something -- after all, he doesn't deny it, he just says, "Yeah, but I didn't really think it would HAPPEN." In short, he's being weird, mopey and ridiculous and he's snapping at people who don't really deserve it. Kind of like Peter Parker through most of SPIDER-MAN 3, only without an alien symbiote as a handy excuse.
And I suppose the reason for it is that he thought the thing with Minmei wasn't just a hey-we're-stuck-together-and-you-might-be-the-only-one thing. Unlike Minmei, he was really feeling something there, the poor guy, and the fact that she appears not to be feeling the same way is gnawing at him.
Also, again, the crushed plane probably doesn't help at all.
(7) Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Emil Lang's first of two appearances in the TV series. Which is more episodes, though less screen time, than his fellow SENTINELS stalwart Jonathan Wolfe (if you don't count the flashback Scott Bernard has in "Enter Marlene").
I get the impression that Tommy Yune finds Lang's thick cartoon German "vat is dis?" accent amusing. Not only has every line of dialog he's delivered in the WildStorm era of comics been written phonetically with the accent, but there's a "deleted scene" bit of dialog that I THINK is on the Special Edition of THE SHADOW CHRONICLES where Lang is delivering status report dialog behind Rick telling Vince Grant and General Reinhardt not to use the Neutron-S Missiles. (The scene is in the movie, but the dialog isn't there, not even faded in the background.) I've heard a story that this dialog wasn't in the script and was just handed to Greg Snegoff on the spot just to have something for the DVD extras and was never ACTUALLY going to be in the movie. Not sure whether to believe that story, but I'm not gonna say it sounds outside the realm of possibility ...
(6) One of my top ten favorite Roy Fokker lines, and easily my favorite line in the episode, regarding Rick's crushed fanjet plane: "Actually, it's very NICE junk."
On the other hand, when Roy puts his hand on Rick's shoulder and asks him to join the defense forces with that blank faraway look in his eye, I want to scream at Rick, "DO NOT TRUST THAT MAN, DO NOT PARTAKE OF HIS CANDY, STEP AWAY AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN." He uses the phrase "join us" for crying out loud. It's like the scene in the Pupil Pistol episode of Robotech Masters where the two weird yellow jumpsuited techies ask Dana if they can "borrow" Louie. It comes off as kinda weird and creepy.
When, at the end of their chat, Roy tells Rick that Minmei is the sort of girl who might be fickle enough to be swept away by some guy in uniform, you've gotta ask, is that Roy trying to pressure Rick to enlist, or is that Roy threatening to take her away? Or both?
(5) As you can see here, the artists for this episode have some serious trouble with Breetai's faceplate.
So, what HAVE the Zentraedi been up to for the last two weeks? When we return to them, they're still hanging in lunar orbit out by Earth. Exedore brings some footage to Breetai for the first time, material he claims he brought in as soon as he could, which means either he's lying to Breetai and has been sitting on it for two weeks (extremely doubtful given that it's Exedore), or this footage DIDN'T EXIST two weeks ago. It's possible, I guess, though very unlikely, that they've been attacking Earth, or maybe doing rudimentary intelligence gathering over the last two weeks. The only problem with this idea is that nothing else in the entire series gives this impression: "Homecoming" gives us the idea that the Zentraedi haven't been seen on Earth since "Countdown," they've only been interested in the SDF-1, and nobody else on Earth has any idea that the planet has been invaded. Terrorists blew up the SDF-1, and that was that.
Which I suppose could be painted as the UEDC just trying to get Gloval and the SDF-1 out of their hair -- it's not like they're the most straightforward, trustworthy folks in the world -- except that Minmei's parents give us the same story that very same episode. If the UEDC was simply banking on Gloval and Lisa not having any other contact with the outside world and giving them this story that, "Everything is safe, nothing is wrong, now shoo," while the Zentraedi were ACTUALLY invading other parts of the Earth, then you wouldn't be getting the same story in Yokohama.
This brings us back to square one: why exactly have the Zentraedi been sitting on their hands for two weeks? The first thought that crosses my mind is that, well, they're just not very good at finding things. After all, it took them ten years to find the SDF-1 the first time. However, when Breetai gives the word, they fold straight to the SDF-1's immediate vicinity.
Or maybe ... hmm, remember how in "Boobytrap" the SDF-1 was originally said to have "slipped through the time-space continuum"? Maybe the SDF-1 actually, through the malfunction of the fold drive, went BACK IN TIME two weeks (or so) and when we return to the Zentraedi it's only been, I don't know, a day or so since the SDF-1 folded.
It's a thought, and it's the only one that makes the Zentraedi under Breetai not look like either layabouts or morons.
As for what Exedore tells Breetai here, that he cannot lay his hands on any Micronian planet, I've long pondered the possibility (ignoring any of the novels and comics that show the Masters and Zentraedi side-by-side) that the Zentraedi have NO IDEA that the Robotech Masters are Micronians; it's why the Masters have come to refer to other species smaller than the Zentraedi as Micronians, because of their constant communications with their unstoppable giant alien war machine. However, as a fail-safe, they've planted this seed of an idea in the Zentraedi history books that they CANNOT lay their hands on a Micronian planet. Completely forbidden, do not touch, just in case the Zentraedi wind up in the vicinity of Tirol in their journeys. An insurance policy, if you will, against the Zentraedi coming round and accidentally trouncing their diminutive, wizened creators.
(Quick aside, like I said back in "Boobytrap," Breetai is surprised to see that his foes are Micronians and yet he seemed to ASSUME they were when he said, "Mere Micronians couldn't possibly have captured a Robotech ship." Maybe he changed his mind when they executed that "impossible" space fold?)
The POINT of the scene, though, seems to be that Exedore is telling Breetai that the planet is not to be touched, so basically, let's find that battle fortress and conclude our business here. Remember how Breetai kept saying, "Do NOT damage that battle fortress, I want to take it intact!" Well, while Breetai tells his decoy ship to minimize damages, in practice that's completely out the window in this episode. The SDF-1 sustains numerous direct hits, completely at odds with the ROBOTECH conceit that Breetai HAS to take the SDF-1 back intact because it holds the secrets of Protoculture on-board which have to be returned to the Robotech Masters; these serious direct hits drive Gloval to make the desperate decision he does at the action's climax.
(4) "Oh no, his hat fell off! Now he's mad. Now he means BUSINESS."
Also, as a catchphrase for a space battlefortress captain, "Thundering asteroids!" isn't half-bad.
(3) So Rick sees that letter in Minmei's room and he mentions that she was accepted into the Miss Macross competition, which when you freeze-frame you see isn't exactly true, but hey, it's a twenty-five year-old English dub of an even older anime series, and it's cute how the writers are trying to even FURTHER weave in bits of continuity, stuff that wasn't even in the original. Honestly, the only thing that rings false about the business with the letter is -- well, actually, it's only something that rings false once you actually SEE the Miss Macross competition, which is pretty much an old-fashioned beauty contest, without even the pretense of a talent competition that we see, while the letter she got is, as Rick accurately points out, from a record label; it's all about her singing ability, not how good she looks in a bathing suit. (Though I'd think if a record label took a look at her in a singing competition and pushed her towards a beauty contest I'd say that would be a DIG at her singing ability, wouldn't it?)
Minmei does seem to get hit with a wave of melancholy during her chat with Rick in her bedroom. She first put in a dig about "IF we get back," then wistfully remarks that nobody will care if she becomes a star here. I am starting to get a feeling that Minmei, despite her cheerful bravado, is deep down much more of a realist than Rick is. However, she is a bit forgetful; I mean, did she really expect a different response out of Rick when she asked him if he dreams? Of course he's going to talk about planes. What did he say just yesterday, when you guys were trapped below decks? "It's always been planes for me. All I've ever wanted to do is fly." All about planes with this one. Seriously.
(2) First Breetai and Exedore wonder why the SDF-1 hasn't fired the main gun. Then when it does, their reaction is, "What was that?!" I suppose the actual object of their question might have been the transformation to that configuration to fire, which as far as they've seen doesn't make any sense, but you can't help but think the whole thing has them baffled when their faces are lit up by the fiery glow of so much of their war machine torn to scrap.
Thanks to the disappearance of the fold system and the drastic measures they're forced to make here to actually fire the blasted thing, the SDF-1 NEVER has its main gun fired by human hands in its cruiser configuration, as is shown in the original MACROSS TV series opening. Mind you, that footage only appears in ROBOTECH in the Remastered edition Macross Saga opening sequence, but still -- that's the only footage of that happening, and it DOESN'T actually happen in the TV series story.
Beautiful tonal shift when the bridge girls start cheering and patting each other on the back triumphantly, then Gloval replaces his hat and lets out a small cough and they all look at him and remember the cost of their victory. Also, the reports piped in through the P.A. system in Macross City never fail to have the whiff of government propaganda about them, even when they're delivered by people we like, like Vanessa and Lisa.
(1) Some of the more amazing animation work in the whole episode is the destruction of the Zentraedi forces rained upon them by the SDF-1's main gun. Look at this Zentraedi soldier getting ripped apart by the space battle fortress's hellfire. I actually feel a little sorry for this guy. Poor genetically-engineered bastard.
There's something weird and abrupt about the ending to the episode. A natural ending point would have been just panning across the destruction throughout the city, then fading to the exterior. But we return to Rick and Minmei, they consider the damage, and then in an utterly non sequitur fashion he says he's going to join the defense forces simply because he needs to quit being a mopey idiot -- nope, no inspiration from the damage around him, it's all just Minmei and Roy telling him he's an idiot, like they have been ALL DAY LONG, and then we get Roy and Skull Squadron returning to the ship, though after the main gun did all the heavy lifting, I don't know about you but I'd kind of forgotten about them. It's just an odd sequence to end on.
"Don't miss 'Blizkrieg,' the next exciting episode of ROBOTECH!"
(0) It's a Matchbox ROBOTECH toy commercial featuring, what else, the SDF-1 being transformed. And I don't care how many Japanese companies try and make a detailed "collector's toy" SDF-1, they'll never top that original durable bright plastic playable toy of the great ship. It's a good, solid, FUN piece that, moreover, looks pretty darned spot-on ... well, when you transform it properly, at least. (Which the kid and the folks making the commercial never do.)