DAY TWENTY: Homecoming

(10) So, "Homecoming." Another episode, much like "The Long Wait," with barely any robots and no fighting, but while "The Long Wait" had a psuedo-action scene with a giant tuna fish in space, the drama of the "stranded in space" setting, and the budding romance-that-goes-nowhere between Rick and Minmei to draw the viewer in, "Homecoming" instead has a lot of talk and arguments and drama and Our Heroes impotently shouting and shaking their tiny fists at authority figures. In the end, the only person who really gets her way is Minmei, which is a shame, because in her first scene in this episode we discover that she's really taken to the two-faced celebrity lifestyle like a fish to water, first complaining about her adoring fans, scoffing at the "mobs" and saying their presence is "the price one must pay for fame," and then for Rick she turns on the smiling celebrity act and tells him that, oh, she loves them so much, HELLO LITTLE FANS, HELLO, LET ME WAVE AT YOU, MWAH, MWAH. Surrounded by people paid to treat her like a pampered little princess for months, she's become a much more self-centered individual, as he will learn to his frustration over the next twenty-some minutes of airtime.

(9) The story of "Homecoming" is basically about two pairs of Our Heroes going to to their respective authority figures to check in, say hello, and explain what all's been going on for the last year. (The next episode preview at the end of "Blue Wind" stated it had been two years, the only prior verbal cue as to how long it's been, but when Lisa offers her report she says twelve and a half months.) So Captain Gloval and Lisa board a plane and go to United Earth Defense Headquarters hidden deep underground in Alaska, while Rick and Minmei take that fanliner Minmei won in the Miss Macross contest and are cleared to go visit Minmei's parents in Yokohama, Japan. Officially, Minmei's the only won allowed off the ship; Gloval and Lisa's mission is a secret, their destination classified, so the first chance she gets, Claudia offhandedly says to the other bridge girls, "Yeah, you don't want to go where they're going, Alaska's terribly cold all the time, and it's nice and warm out here in the middle of the Pacific," or briefer words to that effect.

Okay, being the bridge crew they're probably cleared for that information, but I just find it funny that the narrator draws a big red line under the fact that this is all hush-hush, and then Claudia immediately has a conversation about it.

The interesting big similarity between the two storylines, besides each being about two members of our regular cast going to a home of sorts is that they also introduce two supporting semi-regulars who are family to the returning characters -- two frustratingly stubborn supporting semi-regulars who philosophically stand at extreme opposite ends, one in favor of military victory at any cost, and one who despises the military with every fiber of his being.

(8) As Colonel Maistroff storms onto the bridge to take command in Gloval's absence, Claudia goes off-duty and drops by Roy Fokker's room. During her walk, the narrator spends a good minute, maybe more, explaining their relationship, telling us that it's been strained by the ongoing crisis of the past two years, and generally just filling dead air. If we were going to get some hand-holding, dead-air-killing overexplanation, I'd have honestly preferred one of those inner-thought voiceovers. The only thing this particular case of the narrator gabbing on about things we can see for ourselves has over the worst case prior, the end of "Bye Bye Mars," is at least this narration appears to be true, although for some reason Roy Fokker doesn't seem the sort who'd ask a woman to be his "fiancee." He's a man who's almost disturbingly secure with his own mortality; given the conversations we see Roy and Claudia have later on, in the flashbacks in "A Rainy Night," I doubt they'd formalize things to even that degree.

Fact: you would never see a shirtless man drag a woman out of camera view onto his bed on VOLTRON or TRANSFORMERS. This is one of so very many things ROBOTECH has up on those two shows.

(7) Minmei, don't tell Rick that it "does sort of feel like a date." It's unfair to feed his ongoing fantasies like that. Before she's even said the words, he's already muttered to himself, "I'd forgotten how I felt about her." You know how I've been saying every time he sees her he thinks about the events of "The Long Wait"? Look at what he's wearing in this episode: his old orange jumpsuit, which he last wore in ... yep, "The Long Wait." And here he is, getting in a plane with Minmei for the first time since that day he got them both stuck in that hold in the SDF-1. He has his fun with the plane, loosening up and doing a few fancy maneuvers he couldn't get away with flying a Veritech; between the change of clothes, being with Minmei, and flying a plane that's not for work, he's being given a chance this episode to regress a bit. But just like the way the jumpsuit doesn't quite look right on him, after he spends some time talking to Minmei, you can see that Rick realizes he's not just going to be able to pick up where he left off. (What he still forgets is that there's really no place to pick up FROM.)

When Minmei tells him that he seems a lot nicer now, maybe she's seeing how his experiences have blunted his boastful and sarcastic edge, or maybe she's just so used to being surrounded by bullying wanna-be Hollywood types dragging her from this project to the next that she's forgotten what an actual honest-to-goodness human being is like. Look at the contempt in her manager's eyes when he gets a look at Rick. That man clearly doesn't even like the idea of Minmei leaving; he's got a schedule to keep her to, for crying out loud. She rattles off all the things she's got to be doing over the next few weeks: a TV show, a play, and yes, a movie. Then when Rick asks where she gets all her energy, she falls asleep on him. Rick forgets that she's done this to him before; he gets to talking, and when he's not looking, she falls asleep. Did it twice in one night in "The Long Wait," yes she did.

(6) More than anything else, this is an episode of introductions. The first thing to be introduced is what Gloval calls the Great Cannon, though Daley & Luceno prefer the pun-tastic Grand Cannon -- which is what Admiral Hayes calls it later in the episode, and I'm pretty sure that's the name that sticks. ("Great Cannon" might have been a dialog flub for all we know.) Gloval calls it a massive Robotech weapon, powered by the Earth's gravitational field. While in The New Generation era it's going to be hammered home repeatedly that all Robotech devices require Protoculture, at this early stage I assume it can be understood that anything built using technology derived from that found aboard the SDF-1 can be called a "Robotech" device; if an alien refers to Robotech, they're talking about something that, in one way or another, is derived from Protoculture, but if a human refers to Robotech, they're talking about something that has been created or improved upon from something found on-board the SDF-1.

Gloval tells the story about Admiral Hayes, back when they were both young soldiers together, taking their division to raid the commanding General's food supplies when headquarters wouldn't give them sufficient rations. The thing is, these are men in their mid-forties or early fifties. (Mid-to-late fifties in Gloval's case, according the official bio on ROBOTECH.COM.) We're probably looking at them serving together in, oh, about the same time ROBOTECH was originally airing, the mid-to-late 1980's. The modern comics establish Gloval as a Russian submarine captain in 1999. The Cold War ended in 1991. Under what circumstances would a member of the Russian Navy be serving alongside an American in a military operation before 1991? This wouldn't be such a problem if we still had Gloval on "our" side, as the captain of the "Western Alliance" carrier Kenosha in '99 as in the Comico Graphic Novel and the Daley & Luceno novel GENESIS (in the chapters derived from that material); then we could just say his parents emigrated/defected to the U.S. when he was a lad and he met Admiral Hayes in the Navy and they served together, and so on and so forth. But that pesky thing called real world history had to catch up, and the borders and allegiances of the Global War setting of the late 1990's had to be redrawn.

Mind you, FROM THE STARS did indicate that Gloval and Hayes knew each other. I keep thinking the intention from the current Harmony Gold take on continuity is that they served together during some joint-U.N. operation in the early 1990's, right after the fall of the Iron Curtain. What would that be, twenty years ago tops? Gloval would be about thirty-five. That seems a bit old for being game for that kind of mischief. Then again, as we've already seen, Gloval's kind of an outside-the-box, to-hell-with-the-rules-if-it-works kind of guy. Colonel Maistroff, just earlier this episode, tells the bridge girls he's planning on running a tight ship in Gloval's absence, suggesting he thinks Gloval is failing on that front.

And of course, none of this is a problem in Japanese-language MACROSS because there Gloval is Italian.

(5) I love Rick's reaction when Minmei tells him that the "New Marine Tower," at one point the tallest structure in the world (or so she says), is just as old as she is: "It looks it." While we get a montage of moments of Minmei marveling at the sights, sounds, and smells of home, I get the feeling that by the time she's trying to impress him with the marine tower that he's been putting up with Minmei's insistence that her home is the best place ever for hours. On the other hand, her worries that things have changed and nobody will recognize her are the stuff of being that young; she's still only sixteen, not quite seventeen, and when you're that young a year is still a very long time. On top of that, given how at home she was in Macross City, it might have been even longer since she'd seen Yokohama.

Rick is surprised that a girl with a Chinese name who lives over her aunt and uncle's Chinese restaurant  calls Chinatown home. I've said it before, and I'll say it several more times before the year is over: Rick Hunter is an idiot.

This is actually kind of a brilliant exchange:

Minmei's mother: "Our darling little girl wasn't taken from us!" (Meaning she wasn't killed.)

Minmei: "Well, I was, but they brought me back."

(Cue puzzled look.)

(4) The giant faces on video screens at least have the dignity not to jump in with any "little green men" quips, but despite Lisa offering everything she pulled together from her time being captured by the Zentraedi, we still have General Wolverine-Hair McMustache asking why an alien armada with that many guns at their disposal hasn't already just blown up the SDF-1. Then General Widow's Peak Pointy-Face has the audacity to go, "Really? REALLY? You want us to believe that report? That's a thing you want us to do?" You know full well that's why they're only talking to Lisa and Gloval from the safety of their giant monitors: because at that precise moment, if they were in the room, Lisa would have totally just thrown military decorum out the window and just slapped that dude in the face.

Well, maybe not, but you know she's thinking about it, especially after her dad seems to side with Pointy-Face and tells her to sit down before she can say anything she'll regret. Then Gloval calmly asks about the request for negotiations and relocation of the survivors. Cleverly, we've already been given one tiny hint about the latter. As for the former, um, Lisa and Gloval just came here through the mouth of a ridiculously large gun which was championed by Lisa's dad, who appears to be the ringleader of the brass at headquarters. Does he really seem like the negotiating type?

(3) You know, all I can think of now when Minmei's dad gets all steamed about Minmei wanting to leave them to "go entertain troops on a warship" is a particular image from MACROSS FRONTIER -- specifically, the image of teenage Ranka Lee, wearing only a bikini top, painted on the side of a Konig Monster. (Pal Levi sent a screen grab along thinking it was a cute nod to the fighter plane traditions of, what was it, World War II? Sorry, not as up on my military history as I probably should be. Anyhoo, I looked at it and quickly messaged back, SHE HAS NO PANTS. He looked at it again himself and was all like, OMG YOU'RE RIGHT.) I betcha anything those are the sorts of images rushing through Minmei's father's mind as he puts his foot down about Minmei going back.

Also, notice that all her parents' arguments about her turning her back on family and tradition and all that are falling on deaf ears as she screams, at the top of her lungs, "I WANNA BE A MOVIE STAR!" To be fair, all her talk of fans and all the people who've worked very hard to try and build her a career aboard-ship is perfectly reasoned, but when it comes right down to it, um, yeah, she just kind of wants to be a movie star, even if it is within the microcosm of the ship.

And then we meet THAT guy. Lynn Kyle, Minmei's ludicrous anti-military peace movement-hippie cousin who left Macross Island to get away from the shadow of the battle fortress. Once he finds out Rick's a soldier, he looks down his nose at him, and once he finds out he joined up AFTER saving Minmei's life, he's all, "So, what's so great about the military?" Daley & Luceno refused to let that one go unanswered, so in the novelization Rick retorts, "Free bullets, free food ... and it sure beats working for a living!" Which really isn't in character, but given Kyle's attitude problem, it's more than deserved.

(2) To Gloval's credit, when the United Earth Defense Council rejects his proposal for negotiations he accepts their reasoning, that the enemy's is an alien culture they do not understand, and thus they don't even know if they'd negotiate in good faith. Unlike Chief of Staff Emerson a generation later, we're not going to be seeing Gloval grumbling and muttering about negotiations every day for the rest of the series. When Gloval asks about the civilians, though, Pointy-Face yells that the civilians have all been declared dead, so they can't leave the ship -- which is what the scenes with Minmei, her parents, and Kyle have all been hinting at for the last, what, eight minutes or so. When Gloval gets mad and tells the council that he's going to have rioting on his hands if the civilians aren't allowed to leave the ship, all Pointy-Face can say is that controlling the civilians is Gloval's responsibility.

While Gloval and the survivors all have a problem, one can understand the UEDC's decision. The information blackout, the false story about the anti-unificationists, these make sense given the firestorm that occurred worldwide following the arrival of a single unmanned alien spacecraft ten years prior. Throwing the potential spanner into the works of SEVENTY-THOUSAND PEOPLE who know differently, know that mankind is not alone and that their new neighbors are far from friendly, well, that could cause some serious problems. Hell, if only Minmei's parents talked to a guy, who talked to a guy, and then let the story spread that everyone on Macross Island survived -- well, actually, there are probably plenty of conspiracy theorists floating around out there telling similar stories.

It's interesting, neither Rick nor Minmei mentions the aliens during their side of the story. Sure, Rick's mostly silent and Minmei's pretty single-minded, but it's weird that it never comes up, what's been going on for the last year. All Minmei talks about is her career. Maybe she was told not to bring it up? No, more likely she's so self-absorbed by now she'd never even think to bring it up.

(1) "It's just temporary, anyway." Ohh, famous last words, Kyle. Clearly Minmei's parents put a lot of stock in Kyle, if just his word that he'll keep an eye on her is enough to allow her to go back to the SDF-1. So Kyle, to our dismay -- and Rick's -- joins the regular cast. A man who hates the military this much moving into a massive alien warship. Yeah, THAT'S gonna go well.

Like I said, the only person who gets what she wants by this episode's end is Minmei -- and not only that, she gets the happy bonus of bringing a beloved family member home with her, someone she dotes on and teases about not having a girlfriend, telling him she'd probably be jealous anyway. Rick, on the other hand, realizes he REALLY isn't as close to Minmei as he thought or hoped he was. Lisa returns feeling like a failure and feeling nothing but contempt for her father, and Gloval ... well, he seems resigned and tired; from the moment he pulled out his pipe, it was clear he had a bad feeling about this meeting. It probably went down more or less as he expected, even if he had hoped for a different result.

Men controlling their daughters -- or at least trying (and failing) -- is kind of a thing this episode. Minmei's dad tries to keep her home, but fails. Mind you, that's only because another male steps in and says he'll keep her in line, but he does fail. Then at the end of the episode Admiral Hayes gives Lisa a letter telling him he's going to try and get her assigned to a different ship, since the SDF-1 is so dangerous right now. She takes that letter and tears it right down the middle. He never gets a chance to act on that threat; she'll head back to Earth of her own accord a handful of episodes down the road, but that's HER decision. It's an interesting parallel in the two stories, probably a product of the very early 1980's timeframe in which this was animated, and probably also set up consciously as a contrast between the two women who form the legs of the love triangle surrounding idiot boy Rick Hunter.

Notice we saw no Zentraedi in this episode. The last time we saw them was in "Blue Wind." The next time we'll see them is in "Battle Cry," the next episode. Then "Phantasm" is a goofy dream sequence. The two episodes that follow feature the Zentraedi attacking the SDF-1, and then Azonia's command of the mission is terminated. No wonder she gets no characterization before she becomes Khyron's girlfriend; she's only the main villain for four episodes total, and during those episodes she's being upstaged by Khyron or Miriya!

"Be with us for 'Battle Cry,' the next thrilling chapter of ROBOTECH!"

Labels: , ,


  • (6) Seeing as how the SDF-1 didn't show up in 1999, there's only so much we can allow the "real world" to enter in to Robotech. Lets say that the Cold War still ended in 1991. At what point does the Global Civil War start? Keeping in mind that "Booby Trap" states that the Earth was *already* at war when the SDF-1 arrived, it's not too far of a stretch to say that the US and Russia were on the same side of the Global Civil War. The idea may have seemed impossible in 1985, but much more plausible in 1995.

    (4) I always thought that General Widow's Peak Pointy-Face looked liked T.R. Edwards. Maybe this is where Daley & Luceno decided to get the idea that Edwards had been in the Grand Cannon when he got his scars?

    By Blogger Fer, at 23 July, 2010 11:22  

  • Like many romances (fictional and unfortunately, real), a lack of simple communication is what keeps the couple apart until the Big Decision (whatever that means here). It helps the story perpetuate itself, but it often makes the characters look like morons when they can't simply speak to each other.

    Watching Rick and Minmei here and later, I start to wonder how much improved resolution could have come from the two of them at some point up and asking each other if they're really in love. I know men and women can be "only" friends, but they keep hanging around like that, and this is bound to come up.

    Sometimes it looks like Minmei is totally oblivious to the feelings Rick might have for her; other times she seems to be stringing him along for the hell of it--though for some reason I have difficult subscribing to the second theory, even though the first makes Minmei look totally stupid. (Which I don't believe she is, but nor is she some scheming fatale)

    I really, really dislike Kyle. Having something of a liberal streak myself, he gives anyone thinking of peace or respect of others' rights a bad rap, as he shoots his mouth off or makes some half-cocked move that causes trouble in the long run. That, and he's just a jackass.

    Like Fer, I sometimes wondered if that man on the screen was turned into T.R. Edwards for later stories. It's just the nerd in me talking.

    If you ask me, Azonia gets no characterization *after* she becomes Khyron's girlfriend, too. :P Funnily enough, I once argued with someone over whether this was a condition I had to accept and take Azonia as she was because the series could do no more, or if I should perpetuate my criticism of it and in turn of Azonia's character. I chose the latter.

    Even if the cast of Robotech is operating under psuedonyms, it's interesting to the VA-triva person in me that some of them ended up becoming prominent in the world of "proper" anime dubs, such as Wendee Lee.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 23 July, 2010 15:25  

Post a Comment

<< Home