(10) "Blind Game" serves as the start of a trilogy of episodes that showcase the inner workings of the Zentraedi war machine while simultaneously changing the nature of Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes's relationship. We don't get to the big Zentraedi stuff in this episode, but the groundwork is laid for Rick and Lisa ceasing hostilities and becoming friends. As I said at the time, the narrator seriously jumped the gun in "Bye Bye Mars;" Rick stops looking at Lisa as that annoying "old sourpuss" sometime in "First Contact," and spends most of "The Big Escape" warming to her more, when he's not busy running from Zentraedi soldiers and fighting for his and Lisa's lives.

I've brought up FHE's 100-minute VHS edits of The Macross Saga before; that's because for a few years that's the only version I had of the first eighteen episodes of ROBOTECH. For the uninitiated, each tape took six episodes of ROBOTECH and edited them down into a 100-minute "feature," cutting the middle opening sequences, recaps, next episode previews, and about four or five minutes of actual episode content, though that kind of depended on the episode -- ones with more "filler" (unnecessary character beats, bad animation, scenes that didn't make any sense) got hacked down more, ones with more plot got hacked down less. Sometime during either late middle school or early high school, I forget, I wound up recording the audio of most of the latter half of the second 100-minute tape, from the moment Khyron says, "I've been ordered to fire a warning shot across the bow of the SDF-1," in "Blind Game" through Miriya's report back to Azonia at the end of "The Big Escape," onto an audio cassette. That audio cassette was prepared for a class field trip, I forget where, so that I'd have a distraction during the long bus ride. I have a hazy recollection of listening to it three, maybe four times during that trip, always getting annoyed that I ran out of tape before the Battlepod containing Lisa and the Vermilion Team got rescued.

I suppose the point of that story is that this episode and the two that follow are pretty well lodged in my mind, even if the version of each that's lodged in there is missing a few minutes here and there. Despite this, "Blind Game" is far from a favorite, due to more than a few things about it that nag at me.

(9) "Enough! Be quiet! It's apparent nobody knows what he's talking about!"

(Ah, one of those lines that's so useful so often in real life ...)

First, it's another bad art and animation episode. Errors abound. Bron throws a punch, hits Rico square in the face, and we cut to Konda falling to the ground in reaction. Zentraedi Battlepods fly about in space upright like they're featuring in a bad knockoff of SPACE HARRIER. Fuel positively POURS out of a leak in Ben's plane, making both Ben and Lisa's dismissals of the damage as "nothing serious" almost comical (though in Lisa's defense she never gets to see the damage). Certainly if one of the local studios had done the job it would have been a finer stream, easier for Ben to dismiss without looking like an idiot with a death wish. Meanwhile, Breetai looks like a bug-eyed madman, Gloval's eyes appear sinister and shifty, and once again Claudia does some strange, broad, out of character overacting gestures as a woman known for speaking her mind clamps her hand over her mouth. If I didn't know any better I'd say one of the "bad art episode" animators had some kind of agenda.

However, just like "Space Fold" before it, the episode improves as it goes along; after the commercial break, it by and large rises to the level of, say, "Transformation" -- the very model of a competent B-level episode. Nothing that looks like it should be framed on your wall, but everything's reasonably on-model. No more chunky jets like you see in the first half of the show. My guess is that in order to get it out on time the first act, pre-commercial break, was done by a different studio than the second.

(8) The Zentraedi, now hungry for whatever information they can get out of the SDF-1 following the confusing spectacle of the Miss Macross pageant, allow the ship to open a line of communications with United Earth Defense Headquarters back on Earth. We get a hint of what's coming for our heroes once they get back to Earth -- Headquarters tells them not to return to Earth, since the alien forces haven't actually attacked the planet since the ship misfolded and seem content to chase the SDF-1 across the solar system. For now, though, Captain Gloval seems understanding; Headquarters believes that if the SDF-1 keeps the Zentraedi in constant pursuit, it could wear them down. They don't yet have an inkling of the vast scope of the Zentraedi war machine.

Rick's lecture to Lisa serves two purposes in the story: first, it's an attempt to show how Rick's growing into a his role as a leader, and second, it gives Lisa something to think about when she winds up doing her own recon patrol at the end of the episode. And while this seems to come at the cost of making Lisa look like a petty fool, maybe in this case she just IS being a petty fool; her lingering contempt for Rick could be clouding her judgment. Remember that when Rick was promoted she didn't think he possibly could have gotten there on merit, she just assumed it was all her fault for being dumb enough to need rescuing. You know what I keep saying about what Rick sees when he looks at Minmei? Well, obviously when Lisa looks at Rick she either sees the loudmouthed air circus pilot calling her names on her monitor screen (in his defense she DID take a shot at him for having no idea how to fly his plane; I assume she just meant as regards the transformation controls, but that's not what Rick HEARD) or she sees the idiot in uniform tripping over his own feet in a dress shop -- either way, when she looks at him she sees an idiotic kid, not a commander worried for the welfare of his men.

Mind you, while Roy sticks up for him, he does basically tell him to keep his yap shut next time. I suppose that's because this isn't a card he can play forever.

(7) Exedore's idea of "being more aggressive" with the SDF-1 is firing a warning shot across their bow. Breetai, ever wary of causing too much damage to the ship, presumably nodded thoughtfully at the plan, despite the whole crazy eyes earlier making him look like his idea of aggression might be, I don't know, eating babies, even though being a Zentraedi he'd have no idea what a baby was. However, Khyron, being Khyron, decides to take things one step further, firing his "warning shot" at the SDF-1's radar tower, leaving them ... well, like the title says, blind.

Khyron and Grel don't really suffer too much under the poor artists of this episode. I even think the shot of him pointing at the screen is pretty darned good. However, pity poor Rick, who, well ...

(6) Yeah. Cross-eyed. He looks like a deranged Muppet. Ouch.

I have to laugh at the fact that THIS is the future they projected for us back in the 1980's. No, certainly we won't all be walking around with our own personal portable phones. Instead the phone booths are going to wander around verbally tapping people on the shoulder. "Are you Lieutenant Rick Hunter? Are YOU Lieutenant Rick Hunter? Paging Lieutenant Rick Hunter!" What if that random guy it rolled up to said yes? Well, obviously Minmei would have hung up on him, but the point is, the whole system seems terribly inefficient and prone to problems and abuse.

When the bridge girls see that Rick's getting a phone call, they quickly get behind the bench to see who he's talking to, but I thought it was nice of them to, once they discover the nature of the conversation, just leave poor Rick alone. I guess they feel sorry for him. By now it has to be sinking in that this thing with Minmei, whatever it is, is a lot more important to him than it is to her. He keeps on hoping, wishing that it'll turn into something more, something much more like when they were marooned in that cut-off hold, but ever since they got freed Minmei has only teased, here and there, whenever it's suited her (most notably with the shopping and the "this is the dress we chose together" in "Blitzkrieg") that this is anything more than a strong friendship. And now that she is, yes, building a sort of career from her Miss Macross win -- now that she has this opportunity in front of her -- even her strongest friendships are going to suffer.

(5) The planet Palmir? Lisa, that was a particularly large rock, not a planet. There are no planets between the Earth and Mars. Wake up! Sammie, go fetch the girl some coffee. She's talking nonsense.

So the Zentraedi show of force is is basically them lining up a whole bunch of their ships to fire a bajillion lasers around the SDF-1, culminating in Khyron firing a blast right past the bridge. Only instead he hits the bridge, taking out their long-range radar. It's kind of a horrific juxtaposition, Vanessa chirping that, "Oh, the wide-range radar doesn't seem to be working, sir!" after which we cut to a pan across the trashed radar control room with one operator slumped over his console.

"Regult Pods and Tarantulas, move out." Wait, that thing they just called a Tarantula, that's what the show has consistently called a Cyclops recon ship (the Quel-Quallie in Zentraedi parlance). Why in the blue blazes would you call that a Tarantula?

(4) No, Claudia, that is not Lieutenant Hunter's Battloid. That is a brown VF-1A. The sad thing is, without Claudia's line of dialog, which suggests for a moment that the show has killed off its main character, the sequence would make a lot more sense. Lisa sees a pilot in a smashed VF-1A (in a uniform in Rick's colors, no less), Lisa remembers what Rick said, Lisa realizes Rick was right. The strange sudden line of dialog by Claudia while the VF-1A is on-screen also has the weird side effect of Claudia seeming callous for a half-second when, after Lisa recalls Rick's dialog, she asks Lisa if she's alright, before you realize that the show has just spat a bit of nonsense junk dialog at you.

The animation makes it seem Lisa's lighting up at the prospect of going on Cat's Eye recon duty, like she's going to get a chance to prove herself, but then she begins to protest, after which Gloval hilariously says, "LisAAAAAAAA!" in another one of those unintentionally hilarious touches that kind of makes me cringe. It doesn't help that they replay the animation from moments earlier, when Lisa was thinking about Rick chiding her, reminding the viewer of that bit of nonsense with the busted up VF-1A.

Strangely, the shot of Rick chiding her when Lisa remembers is a new bit of animation featuring him sans protective visor -- IRONY! -- done in the style of the second half of the episode, not the chunkier, bad animation of the first half. True to form, when the decent MACROSS animators are doing a flashback to something that looks awful, they reanimate it rather than use the bad animation twice. Although in this case they do screw something up in the process ...

(3) The Zentraedi plan works out perfectly. Right at the start Exedore mentions he'd like a human for study, and Khyron's little twist causes the SDF-1 to send out a recon plane that the gathered Zentraedi forces surrounding the ship (which the SDF-1 can't see for all the fragments of the "planet" in addition to the busted radar) can swoop in and snatch up. Though I suppose the real culprit in getting Lisa captured is the pilot of her Cat's Eye, who, when pursued by a Zentraedi ship, crashes the plane into a fragment of the "planet."

Another thing that's always bugged me: the one time we get a close-up of her pilot, it's just a slotted-in shot of Ben, freaking out about the Zentraedi Battlepod on his tail, from "Sweet Sixteen." When we later get a look at the pilot, dead, behind her, his uniform isn't even the same color.

(2) When Max says he's run out of ammo, it's Ben's VF-1A we see -- or so we think, based on the color of the Battloid. What appears to be the same Battloid comes over and restrains Breetai with its gun pod; again, Max's voice is what we hear, but it's Ben's Veritech color again. THEN we cut to a closer shot of the two, and it IS Max's VF-1A restraining Breetai. Oh, so it's not a dialog error, it's an animation error! Okay! See, this episode is just so full of glitches, bugs, and errors. It really drives me nuts.

(Arguably, it could be Ben's VF-1A we see at first, when Max mentions his rifle is out of ammo, but certainly the second shot of the Battloid restraining Breetai is Max's mecha.)

Speaking of Breetai, this and his actions in the next episode are what truly cemented him as one of my favorite characters in the entirety of ROBOTECH. Not only does he have one of the best "villain" looks of all time (which was totally ripped of for Christopher Plummer's Klingon character in STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY), but he's also ridiculously effective on the battlefield, outperforming his armed subordinates and their Battlepods with his bare hands. He cannot be stopped, not even by the vacuum of space. I just love that we've seen this guy on the bridge of his ship for nine episodes now looking impressive but just giving orders, and then when someone breaches the hull of his ship and sneaks in, then we see that he's every bit as powerful and awe-inspiring as he appeared to be all the while.

(1) CLIFFHANGER! And no, they don't go over the top with that last shot. GASP! SHOCK! RAYS OF LIGHT BEAMING EVERYWHERE! HOLY CRAP! I love that Lisa goes, "Look out, Rick!" when it's Ben that Breetai's leaping at. Clearly she's become as overprotective as a mother hen since her freak-out earlier in the day.

You can also tell she's softening around Rick ever since that moment of fear and realization, the way she's teasing him ("Could you put me down now? You can admire me later."), the way she said right at the start of the mission, "Oh, I think we can handle it," about the two of them working together. Rick still assumes she's going to be the shrill voice over the radio, but to her credit she's decided to try and be a little more civil, presumably because it's finally occurred to her that it's possible that Rick Hunter is actually growing up.

Poor Ben. This time it wasn't even his fault. He was just the nearest target.

"Be with us for 'First Contact,' the next thrilling episode of ROBOTECH!"

(0) This parody dub of the first episode of MACROSS contains foul, foul language, several gags that wind up being funny only because they're so dumb, and British accents, which wind up smoothing over some of the lamer bits, because comedy in a British accent is always better. It is also a more enjoyable dub of MACROSS than the ADV Films dub. The responsible party broke it up into three parts, so I'm staggering them across the three days of this particular story arc, though you may want to find part 2 after you're done watching this part, because I tell you what, their Breetai and Exedore are pretty great.

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  • Breetai is wonderful, i'in he? Not only good at fighting, but he has more personality than a lot of characters of his type.

    I've never been the type to pick through every dialogue and animation error in series that I watch avidly (I'm just too lazy), and the amount here remind me of the Transformers cartoons and their egregious errors.

    It's when watching these episodes that I conclude I really, really dislike Khyron, no matter how many arguments I've gotten into with people who think I sell him short. He's just an all-round unpleasant character to me, and not just because he spends almost his whole conversation with Grel bad-mouthing Exedore. :)

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 13 July, 2010 22:25  

  • (9) "Enough! Be quiet! It's apparent nobody knows what he's talking about!"

    This line is shortly followed by an even more (unintentionally?) hilarious line:

    "I like nothing better than aggression. Exedore, I think we should discuss this matter further in my quarters."

    Yeah, that's what she said.

    By Blogger Niff, at 13 July, 2010 22:38  

  • Niff:

    I'm trying right now to remember if I forgot to go back and jot that one down or if I skipped it intentionally. Right now, in my exhausted and sleep-deprived state I just keep flashing back to a passage from Luceno's THE ZENTRAEDI REBELLION about how homosexuality made much more sense to the Zentraedi than heterosexuality. So yeah, roll that one around in your head and do with it as you will ...

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 14 July, 2010 04:32  

  • I really didn't want to go there....but its my own fault. :P

    By Blogger Niff, at 14 July, 2010 16:46  

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