DAY TWENTY-SIX: Bursting Point

(10) Hey, it's the episode where Captain Gloval flagrantly defies his superiors and accidentally nukes Canada!

While it's entirely possible that the character art of other episodes of The Macross Saga have the fingerprints of "name" artists of the 1980s who aren't character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto on them that I just can't see, none has them on it so blatantly as "Bursting Point." The characters are all in a consistently different and familiar style, that of this episode's key animator Toshihiro Hirano, who would go on to do the character designs for MEGAZONE 23 PART ONE (to which Mikimoto contributed the character design of Eve, which would be a case of HIS art style invading Hirano's space), DANGAIOH, and the three ICZER OVA series. Looks like his style became unfashionable in the mid-90's, and the last ten years he's spent directing sequels and remakes to 70s and 80s material -- his own GREAT DANGAIOH, Nagai's DEVILMAN LADY, and a couple of recent FIST OF THE NORTH STAR movies; the last two  seem weird resume entries for a man who made his name designing cute anime girls with extra-tiny mouths and extra-big eyes. But hey, whatever pays the bills, I guess.

(9) One must wonder what the man on the street thinks when he sees the sight of the SDF-1 in its attack configuration floating over his city. Based on what the UEDC told Gloval in "Homecoming," they've managed to successfully keep the story of the alien invasion out of the press, and ran a cover of the SDF-1 being destroyed by terrorists. On top of that, the SDF-1 in this configuration doesn't even look like the ship that was destroyed. For all they know, THIS could be an alien invasion; remember the reaction of the folks in the street on Macross Island back in "Countdown." That's the card Gloval's playing here; while he's careful not to say it outright, he's creating a state of panic as a ploy to try and get his superiors to let the civilians go, returning to a key story thread the MACROSS creators just didn't have any time for in "Farewell Big Brother." Claudia makes a speech about headquarters losing face if Gloval chucks his orders out the window, but who's really going to care if they've all already been declared dead? More likely they're going to lose face because they're not attacking that big scary robot ship that's flying over major cities. Lisa, on the other hand, points out that a sympathetic ear might have been listening in, which leads us to this episode's A plot.

(8) Claudia's crying in her coffee, Rick's brooding on an observation deck; losing Roy has really soured the mood among our band of heroes. The fact that the citizens of Macross City have come to think of themselves as prisoners and the captain is egging on his superiors in hopes of getting them safe passage off the ship can't be helping matters, either.

First public performance we've heard of "To Be In Love." Total performance count: five, though most of those were in Rick's dreams back in "Phantasm." I think this is the first time we've heard it with the music correctly synched.

When Lisa asks Rick how he and Minmei are getting along, she says, "That girl on the P.A., that's your girlfriend, isn't it, Rick?" Calling the ship's biggest star "that girl on the P.A." seems really weird to me. At the same time, given the way Lisa's falling for Rick, throwing the word "girlfriend" out there seems a deliberate move on her part to try and suss out whether or not there is actually anything going on with Rick and Minmei at the moment. Rick grumbles about Lynn Kyle and changes the subject to the new omnidirectional barrier system, which is sort of a leaden exposition-filled conversation with the only exception being Rick's crack about what happens if the Zentraedi get serious -- "everybody on-board gets killed, is that it?" Well, they DID just kill off Roy Fokker ...

Meanwhile, Minmei faints.

(7) The North American Ontario Quadrant -- I guess the United Earth Government isn't as united as the series has implied so far -- sends a "secret crypto-communication" to the SDF-1 that, to my eyes now, is obviously a bunch of Japanese written out in romaji that name-checks both Sammie ("Shamy") and Captain Gloval ("Glorval"). That's all I can take away from it, though.

How are the orders handed down to Azonia and Khyron not to attack the SDF-1 "new" orders? Azonia's been diligently not attacking the space battle fortress the entire time she's been hanging in orbit, and Khyron's been defying orders and attacking it since even before that. It sounds to me like Dolza's been monitoring the situation and is underlining the rules one last time for the slow kids in the back of the class; that would explain why Dolza reverses the decision he made in "The Big Escape" in the next episode. He gives them one more shot, and Khyron, as usual, blows it.

Azonia gives in rather quickly to Miriya's desperate, teary puppy dog-eyed request for Micronization. I can only assume that Azonia trusts Miriya implicitly, and knows that if she needs to do this, she NEEDS to do this. Either that or Azonia can see quite clearly that Miriya is of no use to her in this state. You can tell her defeat in "Farewell Big Brother" has changed her entire demeanor. That cockiness that defined Miriya in all her previous appearances is completely gone. All that's left is wounded obsession.

(6) Rick makes his self-flagellating remarks to Ben and Max about the irony of how the guy who's always getting shot down is taking over flying the aircraft of the guy who was never shot down, Roy Fokker's Skull One. Ben and Max have come by to give Rick the good news about the civilians being accepted by Ontario and invite him to a nice dinner to celebrate, and all he can do is beat himself up a bit. No, he's not feeling unworthy or anything, perish the thought!

Well, at least Ben got one bite of HIS last meal. Roy's pineapple salad in the last episode, Ben's steak in this one ... never make a date with your favorite food before going out into action in The Macross Saga. Clearly it's bad luck.

(5) Khyron's plan for today isn't exactly subtle; sneak up on the SDF-1 with all the ships under his command by jamming their radar, then let loose with a punishing laser barrage, destroying the ship. He wasn't counting on the omnidirectional barrier being there to literally put a stop to it; the crew of the SDF-1 and the civilians in their care are lucky they'd just gotten it up and running.

Speaking of the omnidirectional barrier ... while the obvious assumption in this episode would be that the barrier system was newly developed by Dr. Lang's crew aboard-ship, later on, in "The Robotech Masters," the Masters speak of the barrier system as though it was there all the while. I suppose the obvious interpretation then would be that this is just one of those things Gloval was referring to back in "Countdown" when he said to Russo that they didn't even know how half of the ship's systems worked yet.

At the same time, Grel tells Khyron that the barrier is unlike anything they've ever encountered. If you wanted to build a circumstantial case that the SDF-1 is the unique precious little snowflake of a ship that Daley & Luceno (and, to some extent, Macek) implied in their work, this would be a useful data point.

(4) Assuming that the barrier won't hold out forever, Khyron presses the attack, and is proven right when Gloval gets word that the barrier system is already overloading -- just as Lisa told Rick it would in their conversation earlier that day. Lisa makes a speech to Rick basically telling him that if he and the Skull Squadron can't take out the Zentraedi ships, they're all gonna die. First the burden of taking Roy's plane and his command, and now the burden of saving the SDF-1 from certain doom. Big day for Rick. He taps the side of his helmet and, for the first and only time in footage that ISN'T reused from the opening theme, he lowers the cool "sunglasses visor" on his flight helmet, then goes to work taking out Zentraedi laser turrets.

But it's too little, too late. The barrier turns red and the generator releases a wave of energy that, by the sound of it, kills everyone working in the generator chamber. Lisa radios Skull Squadron and tells them to evacuate the area, because there's going to be a massive chain reaction.

(3) So Khyron's plan backfires; that barrier system he and Grel had never seen the likes of before did something very unexpected and, when pushed too far, pushed back. Khyron pulls his flagship out of the battle zone just in time. The rest of the Zentraedi ships, and the city below the SDF-1, aren't so lucky. Neither is Ben Dixon, whose plane is torn apart by the rapidly spreading energy effect. As Vanessa reports, it takes out everything in a twenty-five mile radius -- but not the SDF-1. Gloval unhelpfully remarks that "because we were at the center we were able to survive," which I suppose means that it was protected from the energy effect by the remaining barrier itself, or at least by the fact that the barrier effect stood a certain radius away from the ship's body.

(2) Max makes the sign of the cross after Ben dies. I've always found that an interesting touch, that and the way "Season's Greetings" actually reflects the Christian part of Christmas rather than just Santa and presents. Those aren't things you normally see in an anime series, regardless of the vintage.

The only way you see Ben's death coming is if you caught how the camera lingered on that steak of his. It's thrown in at the end, not even a death in the heat battle, just another terrible consequence of the barrier overload. You know how it's said that when the body count gets too big you just get numb? We don't know any of those citizens of the Ontario Quadrant that the barrier blew to smithereens, but we did know Ben Dixon, and his death was just as tossed off and pointless.

(1) So they have a barrier system that's too dangerous to use for any length of time, they just wiped out a fair chunk of a major Canadian metropolitan area, they lost their comic relief guy, and now Ontario sub-command is calling with news that their actions have consequences -- yeah, those civilians they wanted to drop off? No go. Gloval takes that particular call in his quarters, I guess to spare the bridge crew the sound of what had to be one angry, angry war of words.

And THEN you get Lynn Kyle using the media attention from Minmei's fainting spell to send a message that he thinks the war needs to end. Fair point on the media attention on an overworked celebrity when there's more important things going on around them every day, I'd say that pretty well mirrors our own useless trashy news media today, but Kyle's hard-line ideological stance is, well, stupid. Like Claudia says, it's total surrender. Then again, Kyle isn't privy to the nature of the enemy they're facing. He doesn't understand what Rico, Konda, and Bron do; Rico says it himself, "that would negate our entire reason for existence." The Zentraedi don't understand peace, don't understand negotiation, and are only interested in seizing the battle fortress -- or in Khyron's case, destroying it for his own glory and revenge. What we the viewers at home know makes Kyle look like more of an idiot than he really is; he's an annoying gnat, to be sure, but we (and Lisa and Claudia) are looking at him from the perspective of someone who really knows what will happen if they "stop the war."

When Rick picks up that yellow phone to talk to Minmei, he looks and sounds exhausted. When I was younger I laughed at him hanging up on Minmei as she natters away at how it would be "great fun" for him to come see her, that he doesn't need to bring her anything, and so on, a mile a minute -- but now that I think about it, she was nice enough to come see him when SHE was tired and overworked and run down from her frankly ridiculous schedule as the SDF-1's one-woman entertainment industry. Yes, that scene puts in stark contrast the worlds Rick and Minmei inhabit now. When Minmei has a bad day, it's just about a little overwork, some stress, the news media on the lawn. When Rick has a bad day, good people have died and they've made it through yet another life and death struggle by the skin of their teeth. Consequently, I certainly understand Rick's point of view, I get that he doesn't feel like dealing with self-absorbed and frivolous Minmei after the day he's had, but he could have at least had the courtesy to say something to her, even a quick, "Sorry, I don't feel up to it right now." In MACROSS we at least get a shot of Minmei looking at the phone, confused; ROBOTECH doesn't even grant her that dignity. Clearly Macek & Co. sided with Rick on that one.

I remember reading somewhere about eight to ten years ago that in the original plans for MACROSS, long before production when it was still being planned as BATTLE CITY MEGAROAD with a female captain in the center chair and numerous other differences throughout, that this was going to be a longer arc, that after watching Ontario obliterated by the war, the ship was then going to seek refuge elsewhere and THAT place was going to be destroyed as a consequence, and this would actually go on for a while -- and I guess that was going to form the spine of this arc, much as the return to Earth formed the spine of the first thirteen episodes. Then the episode order for MACROSS was reduced from either thirty-nine or fifty-two episodes down to a measly twenty-three, so something had to give. That something wound up being this particular stretch of the show. The rest of The Macross Saga seems to breathe a little better, even if the animation quality seems especially variable for the rest of the lead-up to the climax of the war. Then again, if you're going to put most of your eggs into one basket, that would be the basket to put them in ...

"Stay tuned for 'Bursting Point' --" Wait, hold on, that was THIS episode. Wrong episode title in the next episode preview? Real nice, guys. Next time, "Paradise Lost."

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  • As a Canadian, seeing Canada briefly acknowledged in an anime, then getting a huge hole blown into it, is kind of shocking--even if it means Ben's dead and Exedore and Breetai will soon be returning. You win some, you lose some, eh?

    Ben's death, of course, falls a little lower on the, "Things that shocked American kids in the 1980s" scale, since it happened so soon after Roy's death, and Ben was far less "cool".

    (I'm still surprised the shot of Max crossing himself was left in the original dub cut)

    And then, if you're an anime fan, you notice Ben's death might be an example of "Funny-looking fat guy dies" mecha trope, and the impact is further lessened. (Think Ryu from Gundam 0079, though he had a lot more dignity than Ben)

    I like these internal conflicts among the human military as a way to ratchet up the tension...they work much better than the attempts to do the same in the love triangle.

    I'm a lot less forgiving of Azonia than you: she and Miriya never struck me as having any kind of strong relationship that would lead to Azonia's sympathy for Miriya's distress being the reason she let Miriya go.

    The other explanation, that Azonia perceives Miriya as now too weak to fight and grants her request for pragmatic reasons, also doesn't ring true. In a world like the Zentradi's, it seems more likely that Azonia should and would have said, "You'll do it and you'll like it; who is in charge here?"

    That Azonia does not do that, and instead accedes to what must look like an absurd request, namely sending a top pilot to become a *spy* for no apparent reason, only makes Azonia look like even more of a weak commander who can't be booted off the mission too soon. Miriya is their best pilot, and it makes no sense to let her off easily, except to further the plot.

    Yes, Kyle knows little about the Zentreadi whose rights he'll later claim to support. Ass.

    Although, I also like these moments when Bron, Rico, and Konda are shown as sympathetic characters as well as the comic relief about whom fans make damming speculations. If you ask me, they're BOTH comical and sympathetic, which makes them a lot more lovable than they could otherwise be.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 26 July, 2010 13:17  

  • That the UEG could keep the alien invasion a secret strikes me as rather incredible. It may be the official policy to deny the invasion, but it wouldn’t be something that anyone would actually believe. I mean, based just on the events of Booby Trap and Countdown, the number of potential witnesses would basically be the entire human race. I exaggerate only slightly.

    Any amateur astronomer that happened to be looking near the moon when the Zentraedi arrived would have seen them (or rather would have seen a large group of unidentified 1 to 3 mile-long objects), which means that within a few hours, every amateur astronomer in the entire world would have seen (or heard about) the Zentraedi – a million eyes watching their every move. Then there is the SDF-1’s own fireworks – a beam of fire over 200,000km long and half a mile wide, which would be visible to basically anyone on the right side of the planet just with the naked eye (never mind the miles long wall of cloud rising from the path the beam cut through the ocean). This is shortly followed by a space battle that includes a barrage of thermonuclear missiles (or the reflex warhead equivalent), by which time everyone is probably watching the sky.

    This is to say nothing of the difficulty in hiding a missing island after the SDF-1 folds. Even if air traffic were routed well outside the line-of-site of the island, there is still the matter of several dozen commercial imagery and weather satellites in orbit. Saying the terrorists destroyed the whole island would partly solve the problem, but it would require the that the terrorists (or anti unification league, or whatever) have access to a nuclear weapon of unprecedented size (Macross island is a lot more massive than the tiny, near-sea level coral atolls that the US and Russia cratered with their weapon tests back in the50s and 60s – and those test weapons were much larger than the nuclear devices that were actually deployed on real weapon systems). Finally, there is the fact that several cubic miles of matter actually disappeared from Earth – something that would show up on very sophisticated measurements of the Earth’s gravitational field and possibly on sea-level measures (although the former wouldn’t be something the average person would have access to).

    The events of the first two episodes are just too significant to be believably swept under the rug.

    By Blogger Niff, at 26 July, 2010 17:05  

  • Living in Ontario myself, perhaps I got past the "kind of shocking" reaction at some point and started wondering if I could figure out just what city was supposed to have been destroyed. I never seem to see any lakes in the background, and a lot of Ontario's cities are on lakeshores... although, suspicions (and perhaps even odd preferences) aside, it's occurred to me that this might be sort of like trying to place some of the "South American" locales we'll get to in "The New Generation."

    By Blogger Keith Palmer, at 27 July, 2010 09:18  

  • Niff:

    You forget the power of the government and the media working in concert. Especially if there's only one governing body for most of the First World nations and you've got a press corps afraid of losing their access. The people who know the actual truth -- or at least more than the government will allow out -- are probably just as ostracized as, say, those folks who claim to know "the truth" about 9/11.

    The SDF-1 firing the main gun can be explained away easy -- a misfire during a struggle with the anti-unificationists. The missing island could be explained with, yes, a crazy-sized nuclear weapon, though there would be the issue of A) no explosion (though the fold system, by all appearances, did put on a hell of a light show) and B) no radiation (though who's gonna go double-check the government's work when the ENTIRE ISLAND is missing), or by claiming the terrorists activated a stolen Robotech device (if need be -- some well paid scientists can decide which story to go with).

    Then the government promptly finds a scapegoat and bombs them into oblivion. Story over.

    Hell, the battle in space can even be handwaved by playing the terrorist card. Mars Base Sara was destroyed by a terrorist action, after all (well, until Tommy Yune decided it was Zentraedi -- but in MACROSS it was still a terrorist action), and that was ON MARS. Pick some likely candidates out of the ARMDs' crews, claim they had ties to some cell, the ships turned on each other, voila. It was all a coordinated plot!

    Think about this: you never see Senator Russo again for the rest of the series. Why? Well, he was either killed -- orrrrrrrrr he got out while the getting was good, not long after telling Gloval to take off. And everyone knows he was at the SDF-1's launch ceremonies. What do you expect that, if he has survived (which is likely), he's been on TV to lend some credence to the official government story?

    And then, in three months' time, the mourning is over and the media's fixated on the usual again, some missing child with a shifty-looking stepmom, or some white girl kidnapped on spring break in Mexico or some such nonsense garbage. The only time it'll come up again is if there's a war going on in whatever region the UEG decided to bomb the holy hell out of in "retaliation." (Probably not, if there was you'd THINK a noted pacifist like Kyle would be there protesting it.)

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 27 July, 2010 14:27  

  • This still seems like a stretch. Having one centralized government certainly helps matters a lot in terms of controlling information, but only after the fact. The government is not going to be able to move fast enough to clamp down on the press as the events are unfolding, particularly for live broadcasts. I just don’t see how they can put this genie back into the bottle.

    The amount of hand waving and convoluted cover stories required to explain away such a significant preponderance of evidence, which would be available to most of the world’s population in the form of eyewitness and video accounts, just seems unrealistic.


    Many tens of thousands (maybe even millions) of amateur astronomers and scientists across the globe would know that an alien fleet arrived because they would have the equipment and expertise to know the unidentified objects in orbit were too large and numerous to be an Earth fleet.

    Many tens of millions to perhaps a billion or so people would have seen live or near live footage of the space battle (some, perhaps with their own eyes). The ARMD and Zentraedi ships might have been too far out for un-enhanced ground-based footage to clearly show exactly what was happening, but the SDF-1 was definitely large enough and low enough in orbit to be visible and, with minimal magnification, completely recognizable, so if it the UEG claimed it was destroyed, it clearly couldn’t have been while on the island.

    Any live video footage from Macross Island would completely undermine the use of a terrorist cover story and pretty much prove the alien attack was real (i.e. laser bombardment from orbit, battle pods running amuck, maybe even a 50-foot corpse here and there), and we can almost be certain that there was live footage since the island would have already been crawling with journalists in preparation for the launch ceremony.

    Finally, think about what it would take to account for all this. Assuming by some amazing chance there wasn’t any (or any good) footage from Macross Island to totally debunk the terrorist cover, the UEG would still need to discredit thousands of expert witnesses, then create some scenario where by a terrorist organization is able to take out portion of the UEG space fleet, including the SDF-1 (after it has already launched and “misfired”), and completely obliterate an entire island. But this is a cure almost as bad as the disease since the UEG would basically be admitting that there is some group running around that can not only launch simultaneous strikes against space and ground assets but successfully build and fire a nuclear weapon more powerful (by far!) than any ever constructed during the height of the cold war (either that or fire many hundreds of smaller nuclear weapons, which really isn’t any better). In short, this requires a cover story that is only marginally less frightful than an alien invasion while also making the UEG look completely incompetent.

    By Blogger Niff, at 27 July, 2010 18:57  

  • This episode actually shocked me more than "Farewell Big Brother" did. Ben dying an inglorious, pointless death-- man, if he had just switched to fighter mode a few seconds faster-- and dying screaming as his Vertiech goes, and then, oh my god, it's still growing, an entire city of innocent civilians being wiped out... this just did not happen in cartoons in 1985. Hell, it didn't happen in any of the live-action SF I watched in 1985! I just sat there feeling like I was made out of jell-o and realized I had no, absolutely no idea what was going to happen next on this show.

    By Blogger Fer, at 30 July, 2010 21:19  

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