ROBOBLOG III Archives

7.27.2010

DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: Paradise Lost



(10) Funny, Milton's PARADISE LOST concerns Satan being cast out of heaven, while the SDF-1 is cast out TO the heavens. At least, I think that's kind of funny. Your milage may vary.

Another episode low on action and heavy on building things up for the episodes ahead, as the Zentraedi undergo a changing of the guard, the spies deliver their report, and the SDF-1 is exiled from Earth. It's also another clunker in the animation and art department. The SDF-1 looks lumpy and misshapen throughout, and the supply boxes that are delivered in preparation for the exile look like, I don't know, giant sugar cubes or something.  The apparition of Ben Dixon that Rick sees about five minutes in is too short and dumpy and, married to the weird audio effect and Richard Epcar's squeaky line delivery, is absolutely terrifying. There's a lot of other abnormalities in the animation which I'll get to later, stuff that brings to mind the remarks of COWBOY BEBOP screenwriter Dai Sato's recent remarks about the problems that plague modern anime that have their roots right here -- yes, he name-checked MACROSS in particular as the beginning of a particular damning production trend. (If you're interested, the article is here.)


(9) The reason Dolza gives for turning command of the mission regarding the SDF-1 back over to Breetai is Azonia's inexperience with the Micronians, especially in the wake of the barrier overload, which to the Zentraedi's eyes looks like a new weapon deployed with obvious disregard for their home planet's surface and populous. He fails to bring up the fact that the last attack was explicitly unauthorized. I assume he doesn't want to admit the error he made in turning command over to Azonia. Breetai agrees to take resume the mission just so long as he gets command of the Imperial-class Fleet -- a million-plus ships, which Breetai is starting to think may not be enough. This is the level of fear and respect he has for his foes.

More worthless narration over dead air as Breetai returns to his ship; Breetai and Exedore actually repeat everything the narrator says moments later.


(8) Just as Captain Gloval's matchbook (usually, though not in this episode) makes cigarette lighter noises, Rick Hunter's computer makes typewriter noises. Then again, that's probably the only typing sound they had in the sound effects library in 1985.

What is this room, anyway? Is this Rick's office? No, that looks like an awkward bunk over his work area; his third second quarters and third living space in about a year and half, more like it.

Today Cam Clarke is using the higher-pitched Max voice, which is weird, because he's talking about how his first command is probably coming up in the wake of his rapid promotions. He sounds like he's, I don't know, fourteen. Which got me thinking about Rick's very quick leaps in rank and status, but given the closed-off nature of the talent pool in the SDF-1 and the rate at which it loses pilots, it's little wonder that young men with the skills Rick and Max possess are rising to leadership positions this quickly. (And along the same lines, given the casualty rates, it's a wonder they can get a person into a Destroid anymore. Seriously. Not that you see any Destroids today, but y'know, it just gives me the thought ...)


(7) "My Time To Be A Star" count: four. Yes, just four. And hey, it's kind of surprising that in a cartoon aired in 1985 -- and originally produced for a Japanese audience in 1982 -- the Zentraedi spies' boom box has a CD player in it. Not only did the MACROSS creators project that the public would take to CDs, but that they'd still be around almost thirty years later -- which turned out to be the case.

(And then we get to SOUTHERN CROSS and they're using LPs again.)

I was going to quibble with the sight of Konda doing repairs to the Battlepod, but I suppose the Zentraedi probably have some minor technical abilities, at least enough to do field repairs on their infantry craft. That level of technical knowledge wouldn't be dangerous, and would make them far more effective in battle. The bigger question is, where did they GET that Battlepod? (Most likely: it's the same one Rick, Lisa, Ben, and Max stole to escape the Zentraedi ship and get back to the SDF-1.) And later in the episode, when it ejects its legs and flies through the sky -- is that a standard function? And if not, how did they get it to do that? THAT level of mechanical ingenuity -- the release mechanism, adding an entirely new propulsion system small enough to fit in as little space as a Battlepod shell provides and strong enough to push the little egg-shaped capsule through the atmosphere -- wouldn't make any sense for a Zentraedi to have, even an intelligence operative like Konda or Rico.

Watching Rico, Konda, and Bron count off the things they're going to miss about human culture is depressing, even knowing that they're A) going to fill that Battlepod with as many knick-knacks as they can, above and beyond what they're going to share with their commanders, and B) going to find a way to sneak BACK on-board in, what, three episodes' time? Singing, dancing, movies, TV, all these things that pass the time and shape our lives beyond work, sleeping, and eating -- and even food, the art of making something that tastes good, or at least tastes like SOMETHING, they're going to miss that as well. I think this is the longest time we've spent with the Zentraedi spies since they first made their way on-board in "Blue Wind," and it's the first time since then that their culture shock has been played for more than laughs. The shock is over, and they've clearly figured out that as Zentraedi they've been cut a raw deal. Right now they're probably thinking they might be able to get over it and get back to their duties. You know how you go on vacation sometimes, and you get back to your daily routine, and that vacation sort of seems like it was all just a dream because it was so different from your day-to-day life? The spies right now must be hoping it's going to be just like that. The problem is that life aboard the SDF-1 is so radically and fundamentally different (and so much more enjoyable), and their time there has been so very long -- three and a half months at least -- that it sticks with them.


(6) The ranking officer who delivers Gloval's orders is drawn as a very long haired man (look, his bust isn't any bigger than the soldiers with the closer-to-military-regulation haircuts accompanying him), but is given a sort of British accented female voice. Those orders end with, "If these orders are not followed to the letter, we may be forced to --" and Gloval stops reading there. Given that the ship is back over the water and everyone on-board is officially dead, I think we can all guess what the rest of that message says. Let me reiterate: all that talk about how the SDF-1 is a symbol for the strength of the United Earth Government that Claudia said in "Bursting Point"? Hogwash. The only people who know it's still out there are the military themselves (and the folks who saw it in attack configuration in "Bursting Point," put two and two together, AND discounted whatever military-fed propaganda was put out soon after), and if push came to shove, the UEG would sink that ship in sixty seconds flat. Mind you, if the Zentraedi couldn't do it, I'm not sure the rest of the military forces under United Earth Defense Command could, but they'd sure as hell try. I was about to say it might be tough getting the crew of the SDF-1 to fight back against their own people, but they'd be fighting to defend the people of Macross City. Theirs would be a righteous cause.

But Gloval really isn't the type; he won't let things come to that. He's a good soldier, he has his orders, and they have to go. He gives Claudia a quick call on the bridge and tells her to order the crew to prepare for an immediate takeoff following his announcement.

Sammie suggests that maybe Lisa should try and contact her father to turn things around; Claudia appears behind her to nip that idea in the bud. Given how high up Admiral Hayes is, he very well could have been the one to pull that trigger. It wouldn't surprise me, though I'd think he'd have tried to get Lisa off the ship beforehand.


(5) Hang on, the sudden gravitational disturbance of all those Zentraedi ships is the signal the spies were waiting for? They were supposed to be returning under Azonia's care, not that of Breetai's newly acquired million-strong fleet. They might have sent a recall signal, but I don't think the gravitational shift would have shown up on a measly Regult's sensors -- again, it's not built for that sort of thing. Maybe the recon variant, but not a standard combat pod. I was going to say the SDF-1 would have noticed first but ... well, yeah, the SDF-1 radar control center DOES notice, right after the commercial break. How could they not? Breetai's bringing all the ships he's been assigned with him in a show of force, and placing them all behind the Earth's moon. That's going to catch any long-range sensors' attention.

Sammie: "Wait, maybe they've come in peace this time."

(The entire rest of the bridge crew, including Gloval, looks at Sammie like she's nuts.)

Sammie: "Right, probably not."

Remember what I just said about headquarters being perfectly okay with destroying the SDF-1 if Gloval doesn't comply with their orders? Well, Gloval pretty much tells the bridge crew that when they inform him that headquarters hasn't made a peep about the Zentraedi fold operation. "We are considered expendable."


(4) You have to love the 21st century. The narrator uses the word "regeneration" for the transformation of the Zentraedi spies back to full size. Exedore says they should be "hearing from the cloning chamber." I go, "You know what? I'm gonna see if that line Lisa said about all the Zentraedi being clones was a translation error, if she actually did say something about cloning and it just got bungled somehow back in '85." And you know what's on Hulu right now? The ADV Films MACROSS dub. And sure enough, in the worse-acted, worse-cast, more wooden ADV Films MACROSS dub, Misa does indeed say the word "clones," but after it's established that she and Hikaru plainly see that the big guy is the same as the little guy, they're the SAME guy, and what appears to be happening is, in fact, a kind of cloning. The translation was probably referring to the small tanks as compared to the big tanks, and when it was turned into something actual English-speaking humans would say that fit into the allotted time the meaning got lost. That seemed to happen in a lot of the scripts around that time; by this point in the series that's less of a problem. The only trouble that seems to occur at this stage of the series is when they try to smooth over bits where nobody's talking with extra narration, like the bit about gravitational forces being a signal for the spies earlier.

Azonia calls Breetai up presumably to offer her report. Yeah, like she would have anything to report besides "Khyron's a dick."

Azonia: "You've assembled quite a fleet to deal with one small Robotech ship, Breetai."

Breetai: (laughs) "You've noticed. That ship has caused quite a bit of trouble. Even you were beaten and humiliated."

The point Breetai and Dolza ignore is that Azonia herself never did anything, with the exception of the time she let the SDF-1 return to Earth by blockading Khyron's ship and the one time she sent Miriya out to try and drag Khyron back kicking and screaming, where Miriya then turned around and ignored orders and Khyron only returned home after setting into motion another attack -- which ended with the suicide ship exploding without causing any significant damage to the SDF-1. Azonia's humiliation wasn't at the SDF-1's hands, it was at Khyron's.


(3) Breetai ponders a refrigerator while Exedore considers a piano.

The Zentraedi spies report to Breetai has more the feel of a school project than a military intelligence report. Each spy even stands when he's speaking, and they take turns every handful of lines. Breetai listens until he can listen no longer; wrapping his brain around human culture proves difficult, though Exedore's interest is piqued enough that he considers taking his own trip, foreshadowing events six episodes hence.

Boy, how can the Zentraedi even taste the candy Rico gives them? How can he even handle it? A piece of steak, a whole turkey, maybe even a can of cola I could see. Candy, though, would be smaller than a pin's head (to scale). But the, the scale is completely off throughout the spies' interaction with their artifacts swiped from the SDF-1. The Minmei doll in particular should be about the size of a Nerds candy, or the snapped-off point of a pencil, in a human hand, but appears to be the size of a human being compared to a Zentraedi (revisit the sight of Lisa in Dolza's grasp in "First Contact") -- hell, it's almost the size of the refrigerator Breetai was examining. Likewise, I'd think they would all need to be listening very, very close to the doll in order to hear it, unless that thing has a tremendous speaker.

Working my way up to this scene this time, I'm actually surprised that the spies don't seem as obsessed with Minmei as they are keen on the culture at large; the Minmei obsession is something that's born aboard-ship, among the Zentraedi soldiers they show all their neat stuff to, because to them that little singing doll in the Chinese dress is the neatest thing of all. Oh, and the song it knows is "To Be In Love," so that brings the count on that song to six.


(2) I don't think the comedy camera directions were entirely appropriate for the buildup to Gloval's big speech to the citizens of Macross City telling them that their government has abandoned them to die in space and will kill them if they don't leave.

I was about to ask what Rick was doing just hanging out in his plane, but I suppose that's what a squadron leader does when all Veritechs are on yellow alert. It still seems a bit odd, since he's the only Veritech pilot you see chilling in his cockpit.

In the short right after we see Gloval over Rick's shoulder a person actually vanishes in mid-sequence. These terrible sub-contracted Korean studios are getting worse.

"I don't understand anything that has to do with politics, I'm just like you, Average Joe Macross Citizen! And I say if they're kicking us out, whatever, we have everything we need right here in Macross City! Let's stand together and be proud citizens of Macross City and the SDF-1!" That's more or less what Minmei's speech, picking up where Gloval left off when he broke down in tears, boils down to. It's impressive, going from the point where Minmei starts to turn the Zentraedi around right into the moment where Minmei truly becomes the SDF-1's beacon of hope. Their military leader, broken by his failure to sway his superiors, gives way to the charismatic young woman who's already captured the city's heart. God, after a speech like that she should've gone into politics; she could very well have taken Mayor Luan's job then and there. Heaven knows the average person loves a politician who claims to know nothing about politics ...

What is with the weird way Minmei walks in place there? ("Well, Jonathan, obviously the animation studio doing this episode sucks, THAT'S why she's walking in place." Alternatively, "Well she's using up the meager bit of the animation budget that was reserved for that woman who just disappeared in mid-shot.") And why in the heck are we going into a performance of "My Time To Be A Star" of all things? It's the fifth time they've used it -- god, I would've thought it'd be more by now -- and it rarely seems to pop up at appropriate times. Then again, "The Man In My Life" and "To Be In Love" are both sappy love songs and are equally inappropriate. But "My Time To Be A Star" is so self-centered. Then again, I guess it is her time to be a star right now. She just saved the morale of the people of Macross City.

MINMEI LIP SYNCS! THE SONG STARTED PLAYING BEFORE SHE STOPPED TALKING! SCANDAL!

I am amused by the fact that Kyle pats Gloval on the back, offers his respect, and then we cut to Rick looking perturbed.

Also, Gloval's still frame appearances in the final montage sequence under the song are absolutely sinister-looking.


(1) If there's one thing that going through the series again has taught me, it's that remembering the plot doesn't necessarily mean remembering what the episode is about. The story beats of this episode are simple. The Zentraedi spies go home, while the Macross City refugees are cast off of their home planet. But the episode is really about the revelation of the effect and influence Minmei has on everyone. Her second-hand pacification of the Zentraedi Imperial-class fleet has begun, as tale of her song spreads from soldier to soldier and ship to ship, while at the episode's end she has just completed her ascent to the role of chief morale booster aboard the SDF-1, a rise that began all the way back in "Transformation" when she pulled the sign for that Chinese restaurant out into the street and reminded the mayor that this was still home -- a fact she just reminded every man, woman, and child aboard the SDF-1. Minmei might drive ROBOTECH viewers nuts, but at this particular moment its her personal charm turning the key of fate in this war towards our heroes' final victory.

But there's still a ways to go before then. First, she's got a movie premiere to attend.

"Don't miss 'A New Dawn,' the next chapter in the amazing story of ROBOTECH!"


Labels: , ,

4 Comments:

  • "And there was much rejoicing"

    I've always found the human-friendly male Zentraedi to be the most compelling characters in the series, and it's always good to watch the episode and see Exedore and Breetai coming back. It's an unsurprising but nice bit of convergence that all five of my favourite characters are in a room together.

    Of course, they're not perfect guys at all: Breetai is positively nasty towards Azonia, and it may be partially because he wasn't too happy about being shifted from the mission.

    I still think the concept of "clone a new body" as the method of Zentreadi size-changing causes more problems than it solves, though you have to remember that apparently the official counterpart to "Micronize" is "Miclone", owing in part to the r/l transliteration difficulty, but it also suggests cloning might be involved.

    I didn't mention this in my earlier review, but I'll put it on the table here: Zentreadi might have had "clone" groupings, but initially they were not shown, perhaps because they would detract from the prominent Zentraedi characters if they had a bunch of clone selves running around--though I find it hard to believe that Zentreadi in the same clone group looked *exactly* alike, since that might make giving orders confusing.

    Hmmm...I've never quite been able to "buy" Minmei being able to charm the anxious citizens after sticking her face into the TV broadcast. Macross usually disarms the cynic in me, and Minmei *is* a one-woman show, but...it seems to be pushing things too far if all it takes is a few words from her to calm the citizens.

    I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but these days I feel Minmei in the Robotech dub is a character who falls under "informed ability". Robotech is pretty much just as idealized about Minmei as the original dub was, but can't back it up with good singing. However, I still think her singing was "meant" to be viewed as good by the Robotech characters.

    It's pretty common in fiction to present a character as a great artist, singer, or writer, and the actual writers unable to have the chops to make this believable.

    And of course, for me this develops into the obvious equation of: "Favourite characters love Minmei = cannot hate Minmei to save life". However, I don't the notion that HF male Zentraedi all love Minmei in the same fanboyish way, or that their love of Minmei will define their emotional lives f'rever. Thankfully anything that suggests otherwise is almost always fanon.

    Episodes like this do a good job of showing it: the Trio is almost as interested in everything else as much as Minmei, and are clearly enjoying spending time with other girls instead.

    (For some reason, I wondered where they had hauled that damn piano from, before I wondered about the Battlepod)

    Max's rapid promotion and the possible external reasons for it, independent of his skill, remind me again if this was also meant to be the justification for this "Admiral Hunter" nonsense (I still can't picture Rick in any position of high authority), that they were so short on talent they put that guy in charge.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 28 July, 2010 12:59  

  • As much as this is another "dwell on one moment" comment, I've been thinking about the question "So where did the spies get that Battlepod?" and wondering if it's one of "those questions" from "those fans," the ones who obsess over the minutiae to the point of not seeming to get the big picture, a perfectly legitimate criticism of a moment sort of slid by us, or just an opportunity to imagine a "missing adventure" (if one that might cast the spies in a different light from when they're trying to steal Minmei dolls...) "They got the Battlepod Lisa and the pilots came back in" had never occurred to me before, but it actually is sort of interesting to think about.

    Well, one more moment dwelled on: I remember eventually realising that the RDF uniforms for men and women have their trim and chest stripes on different sides... and yes, the "female-voiced" officer is wearing a man's uniform.

    By Blogger Keith Palmer, at 28 July, 2010 17:39  

  • You do have to wonder how exactly the UEG intended to back up that threat. The SDF-1 isn’t invincible, but without the element of surprise, which the threat ironically eliminates, there are few options left open that wouldn’t risk crippling what’s left of the UEG’s armed forces.

    It makes me wonder if the actual threat wasn’t a bit more subtle – something like: follow these orders to the letter or we will be forced to suspend humanitarian aid/supplies/etc. The problem with a more overt threat is that it creates a kind of catch 22 situation: If Global really is so out of control that you believe he can only be reined in with the threat of deadly force, then the last thing you would want to do is actually threaten him with force, because if he actually did decide to disobey orders, you’d have lost the one best chance of stopping him without a costly full-scale assault (i.e. taking the SDF-1 by surprise). Once threatened, he would know not to trust the approach of any UEG force and could prepare countermeasures in advance of any planned insubordinate action. In other words, if you truly think that Global is actually a high risk liability, don’t let him know you think that and risk foreclosing future action against him. On the other hand, if you don’t really think Global is that much of a risk, then there is no sense in insulting him with a threat that is both unneeded and overly hostile.

    By Blogger Niff, at 28 July, 2010 21:31  

  • That bit where Kyle supports Gloval (didn't he say "I know you tried your best" or something like that?) is why I don't really feel Kyle was such a bad guy in these early episodes, just a misguided pacifist. It's in the reconstruction years that he turns into a complete and utter jerk.

    By Blogger Fer, at 03 August, 2010 13:28  

Post a Comment

<< Home