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."