DAY THIRTY: Reckless

(10) I've never really thought about it, what exactly does the episode title refer to? Whose behavior here is it saying is reckless? Rick angrily rushes headlong into combat after he spots Minmei and Kyle, but that's not exactly the focus of the episode; the Zentraedi spies' behavior in coming forward, admitting who they are and why they're here, that could be perceived as reckless. Or is this a reference to Lisa's decision to leave the ship and try to talk some sense into her father? Maybe it's all of the above, everyone taking sometimes foolish chances towards their own ends. Oh well, at least it's not as nonsensical as "Battle Cry" and "Battle Hymn." I suppose if they had to replace any other MACROSS episode titles we would have wound up with "Battle Time" and "Battle Front," eh?

(9) The Zentraedi are a genetically-engineered warrior race that has traveled far and wide across the stars destroying planets, ending civilizations, and conquering worlds for their glory and for the empire of the Robotech Masters. So how come we're now seeing so many dumpy, dopey, wishy-washy Zentraedi? The Battlepod pilot Khyron pursues and calls his "little friend" looks like a sad puppy dog. Was the genetic engineer asleep at the wheel when he was sequencing the DNA strands for some of these guys? I suppose it's easier to be sympathetic to a puppy-eyed funny little Zentraedi guy than another tall, masculine, grunting soldier of the sort we saw throughout the "Blind Game" through "The Big Escape" trilogy.

The spies made sure the stakes were clear in the last episode, and Khyron proves them right as, upon hearing that the Battlepod pilots are searching for Minmei solely to meet her in person and hear her sing, he begins to lay waste to them instead of laying further waste to Macross City. He's not the only name character who turns out to be a serious threat to Zentraedi life, though; Rick, searching for Minmei, does an expert job blasting Battlepods apart, in a display as impressive as Max's moves in the previous episode.

(8) Rick, from his Battloid, doesn't have the best view of Minmei and Kyle's kiss; he can't see the shock in her eyes, can't quite notice her trying to get away. He protests that this is worse than the movie, but I wonder, how much has he been in her life as of late? The last time we saw them interact was when he hung up on her in "Bursting Point." They kept missing each other's calls in "A New Dawn," then he made sure that both he and Lisa avoided Minmei and Kyle at that episode's end. His suddenly getting hung up on her as someone to fight for in the last episode didn't make any sense, and at this point his fixation on her seems almost as delusional as Lisa's thing for Kyle.

Speaking of which: "Tell me, has something happened to Kyle?!" And then as Rick signs off, Lisa flips switches and bangs on her monitor screen, demanding Rick tell her about Kyle. This is getting unhealthy.

With Rick turning away, finally beginning to accept how far apart he and Minmei have drifted since his captivity aboard the Zentraedi battlecruiser and her rise to stardom, Minmei finally shoves Kyle away. Kyle's completely clueless; did he think their on-screen romance and increasing closeness since his return had actually blossomed into something it's not? We don't see enough of these two to know how this has developed, just the rumors and the way they've carried themselves in public, which very well could just have been for the promotion of the movie.

"My job now is to defend the SDF-1 and nothing else." So then, was the whole "fighting to protect Minmei" thing from the previous episode just set up so he could make a one-eighty in THIS episode? The thing to always remember about Rick's military career is that he was more or less shoved into it by Roy, who was getting tired of him shuffling his feet with his head down over newly distant Minmei and his wrecked plane, and Minmei, who I guess was trying to find Rick a place to belong aboard-ship that could use his particular skill set. And it was Minmei who made that last little push that got him to enlist. "Fighting for Minmei's sake" seems like a throwback to that, and ultimately discarding that mentality is a sign that he's made one more step towards being an adult.

(7) For the first time in the series, the Minmei doll serves as a symbol of the destruction and havoc the war has wreaked on the culture the Zentraedi deserters have come to enjoy, obsess over, and ultimately adopt as their own.

Exedore reports to Breetai that Khyron has informed him of the desertion in the ranks. He does say something interesting: "This must be the tremendous force the Robotech Masters have been speaking of. Then, the legends must be true." A direct reference to "Transformation," and the first time Exedore has said that it is the Masters who passed this "legend" down to him. Propaganda, as SENTINELS suggests? Or is it a warning that something very much like this actually happened a long, long time ago? I'd say the former, though I'm not sure how much of that is actually logical or just my long-term exposure to and fondness for SENTINELS talking, with its talk of false memories and history crafted by the Masters to keep the Zentraedi in lockstep. Again, I'm stuck on parallels; the Zentraedi themselves are a genetically-engineered construct race, so why wouldn't the lore of their people be a construct itself? The thing is, I'm torn right now between the idea that it's solely about keeping the Zentraedi from fighting back against the Robotech Masters, "Micronians" themselves, and the idea that the Masters know that a free and open society like that of the humans will be a temptation -- a fruit of the Tree of Knowledge situation -- and should be avoided at all costs. My only problem with THAT is that I find it difficult to believe that the Zentraedi, if they do have the long and illustrious military history the narrator insisted they do -- "bred for thousands of generations for the sole purpose of military conquest" -- haven't encountered a race with this kind of culture before. And if they have, and it hasn't resulted in a situation like this, then why now? Is it something about Minmei?

And if it is, well -- good lord, that takes us to the conclusion of THE END OF THE CIRCLE, doesn't it? Look at Dana, a half-Zentraedi, and her reaction to Zor, which the show seems to kind of take as a kind of race-memory thing (mixed up, of course, with the fact that he is an attractive fellow, in a wispy elf boy sort of way). Now look at the Zentraedi here and their reaction to Minmei, who would be ... ohh, man. That makes entirely too much sense. I need to stop this train of thought right now. It's getting scary.

(6) Every time a Zentraedi mentions Protoculture from "First Contact" through now, all the humans in the area are obligated to repeat the word as though they've never heard it before and act terribly confused. Especially Rick, who has to have heard it at least a dozen times since then and still is the first person to go, "Protoculture? Huh?" The weird thing is, while it seems like the scene is going to go in the direction of explaining Protoculture somewhat, it's clearly a case of the scene originally mentioning Protoculture and the ROBOTECH writers working the ROBOTECH definition of the term around it; Rick's remark about, "Well, that's not enough reason," proves to be, more or less, false as the focus of the remainder of the discussion is how, yes, the Zentraedi have come to live among the humans pretty much because it's a happier way of life and Minmei's is here to sing for them every day.

Colonel Maistroff and his fellow ranking officer (played by Michael "Rolf Emerson" McConnohie) basically spend the whole meeting playing the "OMG ALIENS" card. They're acted and scripted as straw men, on par with the assemblage of officers who were present at Rick, Lisa, Ben, and Max's debriefing in "Blue Wind." It would be nice if this was an honest debate, but instead it turns into our reasonable heroes, who worked this all out months ago and are being proven right, against a pair of unreasonable, sinister-looking authority figure xenophobes. Lisa's reaction to the news that the Zentraedi are all but genetically identical to human beings pretty much sums up the way our heroes are handled: "I expected something like this, but to be told I'm right is still unbelievable!" Maistroff and his cohort are right to be suspicious of the Zentraedi: they entered the ship as part of an invasion force that has all but utterly destroyed Macross City. They're unarmed, but the Zentraedi are still wired for combat. Rick and Gloval are both right in saying that if their intentions are true, this could be the first step towards peace that they need -- a need the people of Macross City wouldn't argue with, given what's happened to their city -- but the other possibility, that this is a trap of some sort, is treated as the ravings of a belligerent scratchy-voiced jerk.

(5) Nitpick: Max and Lena claim Kyle was out looking for Minmei, but he was standing in the wings during the whole concert -- and it's Minmei, everyone would know if she was in concert.

(4) If Lisa's fixation on Kyle was supposed to be setting her up to lead her where she's going through the end of this episode, it did a terribly clumsy job of it. The first time Kyle spoke out on TV against the war and the military, she nodded along in lockstep with Claudia that he was just advocating surrender. It was only in the last episode that she started to fixate on him and his message again, with no real trigger to it. The hope for peace that exists now is one that was just dropped in our heroes' laps from the Zentraedi spies arrival. What would Lisa have done with these increasing doubts about the military way if that hadn't happened? Would she have left the military and tried to start something with a man who barely knows she exists? In her conversation with Rick in the Chinese restaurant she makes it abundantly clear that she knows there's nothing there, just a hopeless fascination with the man.

Interesting that she's trying to encourage Rick to go back after Minmei if, as she claimed in "Farewell Big Brother," she's in love with him and he seems to be happy to spend time with her. They're still blind to each other's growing feelings, aren't they, even after they urged one another to stick around in "A New Dawn." It would be cute if it wasn't so irritating.

(3) Sammie takes Lisa's post again until she arrives, hinting at changes to come. She's still freaking out about it, but at least nobody's telling her that every word she's uttering doesn't make a lick of sense.

Rick and Lisa's banter before and after the battle is probably the strongest indicator of how far their relationship has come since "Blitzkrieg" or even "Blind Game." His playful cry of "GO HOME!" to the enemy always makes me smile.

The battle sequence here is interesting because it's a great example of just how uneven this entire episode is. There's some really solid drawing and animation throughout, and then not twenty seconds later you'll see something that would be at home in the first half of "Space Fold," especially some of the weaker Veritech animation. At the same time, there's one sequence of a Veritech taking out a couple of Battlepods with a missile launch where the frames per second hit theatrical animation speeds. That sequence doesn't even look to belong in the series, let alone this episode.

(2) Lisa comes to Gloval with her plan to try and shore up support for his decision to grant the defectors asylum, heading off Maistroff and his supporters by going down to headquarters in Alaska in person. She isn't stupid, though; she realizes she's going to have to have something big to turn her father around. I'm surprised she thinks the genetic similarity of mankind to the Zentraedi is enough to go on; didn't mankind just get through with a period where they were killing one another over whether or not all mankind could live together in peace? Gloval's brief speech to himself and his bridge crew towards the end of "Boobytrap" suggested it had ended with a perfect peace, but I'd think the scars would still be fresh enough that proving that Zentraedi are just people too wouldn't be enough to flat out end the war over.

(1) Rick is finally far enough over Minmei that he's thinking of asking Lisa to dinner tomorrow night, only Lisa is heading back to Earth, perhaps never to return, tomorrow afternoon. If there's one strong through-line to this episode, it's that Rick Hunter's timing sucks.

And I think I've decided what the title refers to: Gloval's decision to grant the Zentraedi asylum. That is easily the most reckless decision of all. At the same time, though, you can't make history without breaking a few eggs. Thankfully for Gloval, those broken eggs ultimately result in a pretty decent omelette, albeit one cooked over the burning wasteland of planet Earth ...

Okay, that metaphor turned out kind of weird. Point is, Gloval's damned lucky it all turns out okay in the end.

"Stay tuned for 'Showdown,' the next chapter in the continuing drama of ROBOTECH!"

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  • You know...

    That's an interesting point you make in the end there.... In many ways it would be cool if they ever re-do Sentinels to have that be an angle by Lynn Kyle. Maybe have some historians argue that for all his good, countless times.... Gloval put Earth in danger as well, if not ultimately damned it.

    What if they gave up the SDF-1 and the Zentraedi considered everything else of Earth to be inconsequensial. ((Hell, Breetai's fleet wasn't large enough to take on the entire Earth and Exedore did warn them about Micronian culture... he'd likely take the SDF-1 and fold back immediately without testing Earth any further.))

    By Blogger Tolarin_Skylar, at 02 August, 2010 08:47  

  • I specifically don't search for any larger, deeper justification for Minmei's effect on the Zentraedi: what we have is a musical style designed to invoke emotions cheaply and easily, experienced by those who have never known tender emotion. It's no surprise that things become explosive.

    This is far more effective than any "primal eve" bullshit

    At this point, any gushing I could do about the way that Rico, Bron, and Konda's characters manage to balance comic relief with some earnest portrayals would be redundant--but these episodes do a good job of extending such things to the other Minmei fanboys, which is what really makes them work, much moreso than any other attempt to recapture this kind of thing in other Macross works.

    As for these Zentreadi hordes not being the cream of the crop in terms of physical appearance, I don't mind it. If you want to try to explain, you probably can't expect or need clone systems to spit out "perfect" disposable warriors every time, not when most of them are going to die anyway.

    Furthermore, these funny-looking faces give them a lot of character, especially if mixed with better-looking specimens. Such diversity is much better than the monotonous physical perfection of the female Zentreadi characters.

    The strawman nature of Maistroff and his ilk, and the genetic compatibility proving to be a turning point in the acceptance of Zentreadi, are both tied to the same thing: the fundamentally idealized nature of the story.

    (Although, sometimes I feel that those in charge of Robotech too often read the stylization of Zentreadi features as literal deformities instead of an anime artistic convention. I'm guilty of this, too, but these days I roll my eyes at the constant assertion that Exedore is stunted and deformed rather than simply odd-looking.)

    That doesn't justify circumstances, and sometimes I actually would prefer some nuance, but it is perfectly in keeping with the feel-good nature of a lot of what's happening here.

    (Also, I wonder why so many people who make Robotech material outside of the TV series never quite *got* what this genetic comparability meant, and instead kept treating human/Zentreadi birth as things rare and difficult)

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 04 August, 2010 13:06  

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