(10) Did I ever own this one on videotape, or did I first watch this during the Toonami run on Cartoon Network? I don't remember. I know I had "Force of Arms" and "Reconstruction Blues," and "Season's Greetings" and "To The Stars." The first twenty episodes I had uncut on five LaserDiscs, but for whatever reason getting those last four LaserDiscs of The Macross Saga -- that never happened. Well, it didn't happen until years later when a completist streak struck me, even after getting all the DVDs, and I snagged all but one off of eBay. They're probably still sitting at my old house back in Kansas, on the shelf next to where the big TV used to sit before someone broke in and stole it (and given the size and weight of the TV we're talking about here, I'm not sure whether to curse them and hope they suffer from lower back pain for the rest of their natural lives or give them mad props for being able to haul that sucker out of there).

My point being, we're entering territory where I'm actually more familiar with the stories from the novelizations and comics than from the TV series itself. Of the remainder of The Macross Saga, I think this might be the episode I've watched the least; it's the premiere of Minmei and Kyle's movie, but most of it is relationship drama with Rick and Lisa while they're boxed in following a full ship transformation.

That title frame reflects another view of Macross City showing it to be a lot bigger and more urban than it usually appears, along the lines of the busy neon city Rico, Konda, and Bron were witness to in "Blue Wind." Remember Rick running through deserted streets in "Sweet Sixteen?" Here we at least see some traffic in the evening hours -- late enough for Minmei's manager to be a little laid back and tipsy. "Celebrating enough for both of us" indeed.

(9) Speaking of people who are tipsy, good lord, catty old Jan Morris is adjusting poorly to Minmei's rising star. Never noticed that line about offering to read her beefy male companion's palm; seems like that's the launching point for the way Daley & Luceno spun her post-Miss Macross contest career as a new age guru for the post-Robotech War generation.

See, this is what I'm talking about when I say I've read the comics and novels much more than I've seen the show; while the guy who answers the phone at the barracks is reading a generic "Maga Zine" (with the front cover on the right), I'm used to the comic adaptation, where he's depicted reading a slightly genericized ZETA GUNDAM manga.

Minmei comes off rather well in the opening of this episode, trying to get Rick a good seat at the movie, dealing with a sloshed Jan Morris, and then realizing that Rick's probably not gonna get her message about the seat: "Oh brother, I hope Rick gets the word. That boy didn't sound too bright. I wonder what kind of people they're taking in the military these days." Between that and her rallying speech to the people of Macross City, in two episodes' time she's a far cry from the ditz she was depicted as in the final moments of "Bursting Point."

(8) Miriya makes her first appearance aboard the ship, completely misinterpreting the round-the-block line for "Small White Dragon" as a gathering to honor the soldier who shot her down. Her ego truly knows no bounds.

Speaking of the title, while "Little White Dragon," the name given for the movie in the novels and then picked up by the comics of the 1980s and 90s, rolls off the tongue better, "Small White Dragon" sounds more like a title you'd see on the video case of a kung-fu flick back in the 80s, don't you think?

You know, the chatty folks in the audience whispering gossip about how close Minmei and Kyle are getting are only fueled by how close the two of them appear as they make their way into the premiere -- and, of course, the kiss in the movie. This is the point in the series where Rick's complaints about Minmei and Kyle getting too close really start to look like a sharp observation on his part. Like I said, Minmei in Kyle's hand in "Phantasm" is looking more and more like a reality every day.

This is the first time I've found one of the singing sequences cringe-worthy, because it's the one where Minmei explicitly says A) it's a new song, and B) it's the theme to the film. And what do they play? "My Time To Be A Star." The song that originally played here in MACROSS, for those of you in the back who haven't watched the original in any of the half-dozen or so ways it's been released outside of Japan, is "Shao Pai Loon," which also plays in an infinite loop in the MACROSS Famicom (NES) game and is the song Minmay is singing when the Zentraedi attack at the beginning of DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE. This, right here, is where the Minmei songs become a joke in ROBOTECH. They're not that great to begin with, and this is where it becomes, "This is my new song!" and it's bloody freakin' "My Time To Be A Star" again.

At this point there are only two complete songs left unheard: "It's You" (the one George Sullivan later covers in "Stardust") and "We Will Win" (which is also covered later in the series, by Yellow Dancer); the song "The Right Move" appears briefly in one of the early Reconstruction era episodes, I think "Reconstruction Blues" itself, but doesn't exist in full; all we hear is all there is. There is also a Minmei version of "The Way To Love," which we hear Lancer cover later on in the series, but it's never used in the TV series; the Minmei version actually can be heard in THE SENTINELS when Jack Baker is at his computer doing testing and his invitation to Rick & Lisa's wedding arrives, way low in the background.

(7) Those Zentraedi look like a bunch of kids sneaking around watching porn in their parents' basement, don't they? The only reason that occurred to me: the sweat. It'd look less weird and shameful and sneaky without the sweat.

The novels stated that Breetai's feed of "Small White Dragon" -- oh right, they'd say "Little White Dragon," wouldn't they? -- is coming from a camera on Miriya's person, like he's watching a first-day pirated shakycam copy off the internet. Today there's a hundred and one ludicrous ways it could be explained away using hacking and digital projection and wifi signals or whatnot. What I do like about the Miriya idea, though, is that it makes her mission on-board seem more like a proper sanctioned spy mission than the ridiculous half-cocked ego-stroking vendetta it really is.

Heh, Breetai gets the full widescreen theatrical experience, but the spies and their friends have to be content with the pan & scan on their little TV screen. The spies get an opportunity to build some whoppers about being close personal friends with Minmei, while Breetai and Exedore assume what they're watching is an old battle record that soldiers are required to watch, like a history class -- until Kyle cracks out the crazy energy-fu, causing Breetai and Exedore to flip out and decide there's no way they can defeat the Micronians if they can fire death rays from their hands.

For the five of you who don't know, by the way, "Small White Dragon" was fleshed out for a backup strip that ran in the otherwise pointless LOVE & WAR mini-series by WildStorm/DC, written by Ken Siu-Chong (Udon's STREET FIGHTER comics) and Tommy Yune and drawn by Jo Chen (Dark Horse Comics' BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER cover artist) where the giant Kyle fells with his chi blast and jump kicks is explicitly made a Zentraedi who crash landed his vessel at the turn of the previous century. Most readers seemed to find it even more pointless then the main story ("Dana's Story: The Director's Cut"), but I found it a neat little diversion; by issue #4, I was flipping to the back first, since I knew all the story I was going to see in the front. LOVE & WAR is being reprinted in trade paperback in December, so if you do see a copy then, I'd at least give it a flip-thru for that. There's some cute bits in it.

(6) It's interesting seeing the reaction the other Zentraedi have to the sight of Minmei and Kyle kissing. Is it diminished by seeing it on a screen rather than in person, or has everything Rico, Konda, and Bron shown them and explained to them opened their minds to the point that their first glimpse of a kiss isn't quite as jarring as it was for the spies, Breetai, and Exedore?

(5) Remember kids: in today's anime world, Rick wouldn't have just tripped and accidentally grabbed Lisa's rear end, he would have tripped and fallen into her grossly oversized breasts. Then she would have slapped him instead of just rolling her eyes and giving him a snide talking to. Scratch that, that's not just today's anime world, that's pretty much any anime of the last ten years ... ugh.

Air raid sirens go off, a full-ship transformation is ordered, Breetai is busy pondering the amazing powers he believes the Micronians possess and NOT ordering an attack on the battle fortress, and when we cut to an exterior shot of the ship it's still in cruiser mode and NOT being attacked by Zentraedi. Rick is as puzzled as I am, and Lisa actually explains this: the transformation is initiated from her post, which is currently being occupied by Sammie. I always wondered how Sammie, the youngest person on the bridge, wound up taking the First Officer's post, but until recently I didn't know in the original MACROSS animation it's Claudia who's the ship's First Officer. That actually makes a lot more sense given this episode, and on top of that it makes Rick and Lisa a clearer mirror of Roy and Claudia. But given how close Gloval and Lisa are, how much trust he places in her, and how strongly the overachiever card is played at various points (like the last time Rick and Lisa were stuck alone together) I can see how ROBOTECH wound up turning things around.

(4) Oh, so THIS is the episode that animation cel of Rick I've had for forever is from. See, I TOLD you I hadn't watched this episode enough. (Not the image above; rather, it's from the sequence where Rick explains why they shouldn't overpraise Max lest he get too cocky, which could get him killed)

Lisa's astonishment at how Rick's sounding like a genuine squadron leader just goes to show how much these characters are ruled by their first impressions. She even likes Rick at this point -- hell, is secretly (to everyone but Claudia) harboring a crush on him -- and she's still surprised by the fact that he's actually growing up.

Rick makes the obvious comparison to the time they were trapped in the enemy ship, and then he narrates through the flashback, describing exactly what we're watching on the screen. Sometimes the airtime-filling dialog and narration are handled in a way that you don't notice it, like Gloval in the previous episode having an internal monologue about the orders given him, and then sometimes it's painfully obtrusive. This would be one of the latter times.

The Protoculture see-saw dips towards the Japanese MACROSS definition when Lisa remarks that one camp of the Zentraedi believe that humanity is "derived from something called Protoculture, which scares them." She mentions this after Rick asks why the enemy just doesn't go ahead and destroy them, which doesn't make any sense for him to ask -- he and Lisa have talked this over before, specifically DURING that time they were caught in the enemy ship, and he heard her thoughts on it during their debriefing once they returned home in "Blue Wind." But then, she does mention to him that he may have heard some of this before.

(3) I may have mentioned this before, but all the crazy contraptions that wander the city streets are one of my favorite parts of the MACROSS world setting. Despite the fact that we've moved on beyond this world technologically, what with our netbooks, cell phones, iPods, and wifi, ROBOTECH's wandering cola machines and photo "booths" that hide in the bushes until they're requested still make this feel like "the future" to me, even if it remains so terribly steeped in the 1980s.

(2) When Rick starts needling Lisa about being interested in the movie only for Kyle, since there's no OTHER reason she'd have been going, she asks him, "Aren't YOU supposed to be in love with Minmei? Well, aren't you?" Which I think is a very funny way to put it; it's almost like she's saying to him, "You're Rick Hunter, by DEFINITION you're supposed to be with Minmei." It seems to hit him like a physical blow, and it also hits him that they both wound up leaving the theater for the same reason.

Lisa actually spells out that to her eyes Kyle looks eerily like Karl Riber which, as I said back during "Battle Cry," I can sort of see in the face. As she tells Rick this, she starts crying and ... is it significant that the only time she said one word to Kyle she tried to offer him a handkerchief and he refused, and now that she's sobbing over him-slash-Karl, Rick offers HER a handkerchief and she accepts? No? It's just me? Okay then. You get to watching something with this level of scrutiny day-in and day-out and you just start seeing patterns everywhere, small and large.

The pattern I think IS significant is that right before the crisis ends and the ship reconfigures to cruiser mode Rick and Lisa get a look in their eyes like they're just about to lean in for a kiss -- not quite as close as Rick and Minmei when THEY were trapped somewhere on-board the SDF-1, but their animosity has pretty much all melted away in the past -- what, maybe an hour, maybe two? It's taken them this long, but they've both realized that there's something there between the two of them, something that makes a lot more sense than fantasies about Kyle and what could have been with Minmei.

It's really odd that for all the talk of a battle outside, you never see any Veritechs or Battlepods -- the few times you see outside the bridge's outside windows they're painted over in blue -- and Breetai spends the entire episode fixated on the movie. Presumably Khyron's attacked again, with his usual rate of success. I'd suggest the whole thing was a training exercise, but I spot-checked the original MACROSS episode and unless that was revealed at the end -- notice Claudia does mention something about such-and-such rate of efficiency or something, which would suggest a training exercise -- it didn't seem to be the case.

(1) Lisa gives Minmei and Kyle the benefit of the doubt about their closeness -- she says it's not unusual for cousins to show affection for each other, they probably grew up together, and so on. Rick's not so sure: "They almost seem TOO close." I think when Rick tells Lisa not to look he's projecting; he probably wishes someone was there to tell HIM not to look. Sure, Lisa has the painful memories of Karl Riber running through her mind when she sees Kyle, but Rick -- well, one mention of Minmei's name from Lisa's lips all but shut him down.

Does the narrator overplay what Rick and Lisa have going on? Rick does make a quip about maybe wanting to buy her dinner later, and they did both play the "oh, I must be going" card before the other said, "Hey, not so fast. They won't miss you for another X minutes." It feels like a significant step forward, but if I remember the next episode right, Rick goes ahead and takes two steps back, doesn't he?

Well, I guess I'll see in a bit here.

"Be with us for 'Battle Hymn," the next thrilling chapter in the saga of ROBOTECH."

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  • Sometimes, this series does do a good job of a credible extended love triangle. I think it works nice here.

    I've always preferred the way "Little White Dragon" sounds as opposed to the other rendering of the title, though I never get much cause to use it...

    The Zentreadi are funny, aren't they? Heh. I mean the ex-spy trio and their cohorts. Quick development is probably more characteristic of the Zentreadi transition than anything else: they're eagerly grasping at what they know realize they've lost, without the maturity and restraint that humans might posses from social conditioning.

    Which is a way of saying that to have these comic-relief guys so suddenly enamored of kissing when it got their superiors and cohorts in a huff so soon before, doesn't surprise me too much. It might not be realistic, but it follows the series' patterns.

    Miriya, of course, has none of this and is just going around being arrogant. I really wish the writers would have given her some interest in human culture before Max *ahem*, sweeps her off her feet, so I wouldn't feel guilty about only caring about the male Zentreadi characters.

    Breetai and Exedore's reactions to the movies are pretty cliched, but somehow the series sells it, so that they don't look like complete dunderheads.

    I continue to be surprised by how many alcohol references appear in a 1980s anime dub airing on US TV.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 31 July, 2010 00:47  

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