DAY TWENTY-THREE: Farewell Big Brother

(10) This is the sixth of the first eighteen episodes of ROBOTECH to have a different title from the original MACROSS episode; that's only a third of the episodes that have a different title so far, though the percentage is going to go up as the series goes on. The original title was "Pine Salad," after the pineapple salad Claudia makes for Roy at the episode's end. Ridiculous as that title might be, it at least has the benefit of not giving away the ending; the only way you'll look at that title and NOT know Fokker's gonna bite it at the end (whoops, twenty-five year-old spoiler!) is if you're going into it thinking a character death isn't even remotely possible, since after all, hey, this isn't the sort of thing that happened on Saturday morning in 1985. Or weekday afternoons in 1998, for that matter. Hey, Rick ejected before his plane blew up two episodes ago, right? Or maybe it'll be a VOLTRON thing, and they'll just say he has to go rest on, err, another planet, or something. Yeah. That's the ticket.

(9) While the narrator's implied for two episodes in a row that Rick was downed by the Zentraedi, Lisa knows the score. It was her slip-up that put him directly in that particular harm's way. Rick, telling her not to be too hard on herself, blames himself -- probably for chasing that impossible-to-catch enemy Powered Armor out too long and too far. Oddly, when Rick tells her this isn't like her -- "Where's that old command confidence?" he asks -- she has a total change of tone, washes her hands, and tells him she'll be too busy to see him again. It's almost like he flipped a switch on her: "You liked me better before? Fine, I'll be like I was before. You're an idiot, I hate you, goodbye."

Wait, no, it's not really THAT extreme. Though from Rick's stunned reaction, I could definitely see him taking it that way. Once she gets her apology out of the way, she gets all nervous, like she doesn't know what else to say or do. Does she want to admit her growing feelings (confirmed the minute she returns to the bridge, in a moment) then and there? Hell, Rick asks if she'll come back, but I guess she doesn't WANT to come back if it'll make her feel as awkward as she's feeling right now. The thing is, obviously she knows Rick still would LIKE to be with Minmei, so there's a barrier there, and she also figures that if he's still pining for Minmei, telling Rick how she feels is an invitation to get shot down.

Claudia, the most outwardly perceptive character in the entire show, hints at the backstory we'll see in "A Rainy Night" and essentially tries to shove Lisa into admitting her feelings for Rick. Lisa tells Claudia that she doesn't think Rick cares. Lisa, HE JUST ASKED YOU TO COME BACK AND SEE HIM LATER AND YOU SHOT HIM DOWN. (Literally AND figuratively.) Listen to Claudia, woman, she knows what she's talking about.

I love Gloval's response when Claudia tells him she's been briefing Lisa on "military procedures of quite a different nature." Hand-to-hand combat expertise indeed!

(8) "The Man In My Life" count: 2.

So, why does Rick seem so downbeat when Roy, Ben, and Max come in? My guess is that Lisa brushing him off has soured him. The girl he thinks he likes doesn't want to see him, the girl he's starting to realize he can't have is on the radio -- and when Ben draws attention to it, he shuts it off immediately -- and all he can do is lay in this hospital bed, alone with his thoughts. At least he's got Roy coming by to cheer him up, right? And that cool model biplane Roy tosses in his lap. That should get his mind off things for a bit.

Max mentions Minmei, then catches a death-glare from Rick that makes him immediately realize that was the worst thing he could have said. Either that, or he caught the subtext of Rick flipping off the radio and it only clicked the moment the words fell out of his mouth. Ben, not versed in subtext or subtlety of any sort, courts death by joking that Rick should set Minmei up with an ace like himself.

Hold on, not the radio thing, Max brings up Minmei again after Roy's started to cart Ben off for being an idiot. Then again, it's about the flowers; I guess it only makes sense that Max would figure Minmei brought the flowers, who else would it be in their small circle of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances? Catch the way Rick bitterly tells Max they were from "Commander Hayes." Is the tone reserved for the person he's talking about, or is the tone reserved for Max for bringing it up?

(7) "Dinner tonight ... if we're lucky, breakfast." Unfortunately, Claudia, Roy's not gonna last that long -- WHOOPS, SPOILERS!

(Sorry, just can't help myself.)

Seriously, though, Roy and Claudia's banter here just makes you appreciate the two of them, as individuals and as a couple, which is kind of the point; this scene here is why whenever I see a character who's gotten the shaft for a while getting the spotlight, especially a mentor figure like Roy, mid-way through a show (this is the exact halfway point in The Macross Saga), I shake my head, point at 'em, and go: "That guy's totally going to die." The other great example jumping out at me right now is Lt. Burning from GUNDAM 0083: STARDUST MEMORY, Mr. "The Zeon secret plan is -- EEYARGHH!!!" But it's a well-worn trope at this point.

Also, minor thing, but Roy and Claudia are at Rick and Minmei's table from "Miss Macross." Y'know, up to this point this is the only part of that coffee shop we've seen -- the view from that particular table out over the city. I don't think we ever get a look at any other part of it, do we? I thought maybe in "Reckless" during the cleanup after Khyron's invasion of the ship, but that's the Chinese restaurant; Max and Lena leave it in Rick and Lisa's care. Hm.

(6) "I'd LOVE to have one for my very own!"

Would you believe that this moment is the REAL turning point in the First Robotech War? Three Zentraedi spies get their hands on a singing Minmei doll, and the future of mankind is assured for at least the next fifteen years or so -- at least, until the Robotech Masters arrive, as they're not as susceptible to such frivolities.

But the spies rushing the table to get a Minmei doll -- given that they apparently still have no cash, or are at least saving whatever they've saved/borrowed/stolen for necessities -- isn't even the best part of this interlude. It's when Rico, Konda, and Bron try to act natural around the bridge girls and fail miserably. Of course, given that the bridge girls are always on the prowl for any unattached man they can find, the fact that these three smelly weird-looking guys they've never seen before who claim to work at the disco they frequent are playing with a Minmei doll ("What? Adults don't do it?") doesn't deter them from dragging our intrepid Zentraedi spies into said disco.

"Do you suppose this disco thing is some sort of Micronian method of torture?" Bron asks. Well, it depends on who you ask ...

(6b) I love better-drawn and animated episodes of ROBOTECH because they're full of weird crap like THIS guy. Who is this guy? Why is he mugging for the camera? (Also, notice the ASTRO BOY and GIGANTOR toys up there on the shelf by the VF-1J. Oh, I long for the days when this stuff was just there in the background for you to notice.)

(5) Dueling egomaniacs. Khyron's ego makes him a solid and entertaining villain; he's always going on about how he'll be regarded in the history books, and he talks a good enough game and is just unpredictably dangerous that he can always bring his men around to his way of thinking, one way or another. But his ego is based on his delusions that one day he'll make everyone pay and be regarded as the greatest of all Zentraedi. Miriya's is based on the simple reality of her skill; as Khyron says, she's never faced a worthy foe. Her entire sense of identity is wrapped up in the fact that nobody has ever beaten her in her entire life.

So, who is Khyron talking about? Sure, Max debuted in the battle where Rick scored a few hits on his Glaug and tore his men to blood-soaked scrap metal, but -- well, Rick IS the one who scored those hits on the Glaug. He's the only pilot who's managed to give Khyron any grief on the battlefield. It's almost assuredly him. However, Max has so surpassed Rick that even if Rick WERE on the battlefield today, Miriya would surely have noticed Max first anyway.

There's a lot of silly Hollywood-parodying dialog from the director as Roy approaches the movie set. For instance: "Can we get some gaffers over here?" Yeah, that's in there probably just because it's a funny-sounding word.

Look at Kyle when Roy's talking to Minmei. Man, that guy just hates those military guys. Heyy, I see what's happening here -- two episodes ago he put Lisa under a spell that nearly got Rick killed, now he's doing the same to Roy! It's all Kyle's fault!

(4) Another male subordinate voice responding to a female superior.

Last episode we saw the entire sequence from the opening theme of Rick taking off used in mid-episode. In this episode we have a properly repainted version of that sequence used for Max's VF-1A; I even took a close look and there's only the one -1A laser on the fighter's belly. That's attention to detail.

And then for some reason Ben's dressed in white with orange highlights instead of the usual yellow. Then Roy's in Rick's colors when talking to Ben and Max, both pictured on his displays. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

Max sounds like he's got helium coming into his cockpit ventilation system when Roy relays the order to retreat. There's that weird inconsistency again. You don't see that when Cam Clarke returns to the series later to play Lancer. Then again, Lancer DOES get a lot more screen time than Max does.

One thing I've been noticing a lot doing frame-by-frame to snag the screen grabs is that there's an awful lot of minor video tape drop-outs in the old masters ADV used for the original DVD release. Years after the fact I'm coming around to the idea that the Remastered version was probably necessary, especially since more than half of the episodes I've watched so far have been weirdly zoomed in, to boot. But it would have been nice if it was just a proper remastering as opposed to an opportunity to splice in  additional footage from the Japanese shows, throw in goofy new sound FX, update the title effects, etc. I'd have preferred it to still sort of look like a product of its time, because, well, it is what it is: a military sci-fi action cartoon taking place in a future that's already past. No amount of print cleaning, overblown stereo sound FX, and cluttered titles are gonna make it any more contemporary.

Roy was right. Minmei dropping by, even just to crash on Rick's bed for a second, raises Rick's spirits. However, listen to Rick's internal monologue. He's getting to this point where he's like, "Well, as long as she's happy and safe, I'm cool with that, even if she's no longer a part of my world." He's taking his first steps down the long road of "we'll always be friends."

(3) I had forgotten how brilliant Max and Miriya's battle actually is. (I only ever think of the final stretch, where Max finally tags her in the streets of Macross City; it's the first time she stops moving the whole while, so Max getting a few shots in doesn't actually seem that impressive. Clearly she's not used to urban combat. Certainly well animated, but not a dazzling display of combat.) The animators put an amazing amount of detail into every sequence of the fight, from the crazy close-up of the -1A's head looking up early on (gorgeous translucent effect showing all the workings behind the clear green cover, intricately consistent from frame to frame), to their high-speed aerial dance. There's even one cool blink-and-you'll-miss-it little detail as Max skids along the streets of Macross City where he casually tosses the gun pod from one hand to the other before locking onto his target. Likewise, blink and you'll miss the poster for Minmei and Kyle's movie that Miriya passes as she speeds down the Macross City streets, and the red race car that's doing a good job keeping up with her, until the blast from her engines tips it over.

Speaking of Miriya's engines, when she fires them up right in front of the hospital, I always think, shouldn't Rick be incinerated by them? Certainly he should wind up with some extra wounds from the shattered glass.

Why exactly does Miriya take off when the opportunity presents itself? That's the part that doesn't make sense to me. I realize this is all about pride, but you'd think she'd relish the opportunity to get back at him then and there. Has he damaged her craft too badly? Is she out of ammo? I don't think so; she launches one more missile barrage as a parting shot. For someone whose key personality trait is bloated pride, running away after getting a few bullet holes in the back seems contrary to her character. I get that she thinks Max is crazy for continuing the battle once she reaches the city streets. I get that she's frustrated that there IS someone clearly better than her out there. But I'd think she'd turn around and lash out in anger, not flee like a whipped dog. The only thing that makes sense is, well, this is the only way to build the story arc they wanted. And if Max had done any more serious damage, it would have impeded her getting away.

Minmei's manager is wearing lime green flip-flops. What a ridiculous man.

(2) "It has never been a game, Claudia. Maybe someday you'll understand that."

We've all talked about this time and again, but one last time -- for me, at any rate. Roy gets mortally wounded in battle. We all know the shot; a couple of Queadluun-Raus get some good shots at him from behind, he winces terribly, and then we see the burn marks on the plane. By some miracle ("You're losing altitude, Comm. Fokker ...") he gets Skull One back aboard-ship, gets changed out of his flight suit without anyone noticing the bleeding wounds on his back, switches back into his regular uniform, and makes his date with Claudia. He knows his time is up, he's made his peace with it, and now he's spending his last moments strumming his guitar with the woman he loves, a little selfishly since he has to know Claudia's going to get the shock of her life when his clock stops, but certainly he dies on his own terms.

Except, if it was blood loss that got him, as the doctor suggests, if he'd actually gotten to the hospital in time, maybe he could have been saved. Then again, maybe he couldn't have. I guess that was the calculation he made. Maybe he played his cards wrong, but I guess that's life for you. Sometimes that final decision is the wrong one, and everyone suffers for it, just because you had to go for that pineapple salad.

(1) Claudia is never the same after this. Go back to the start of the series, the argument we see between Lisa and Claudia on the bridge, that late dinner Lisa got on her case about. Roy was everything to her. All she's got left after this is her duty, her alcohol, and -- oh yes, getting Lisa and Rick together once and for all. If she can't be happy, SOMEBODY has to be, and she sets her sights on those two. That seed's planted early on in this episode, and pretty much goes on through the rest of her off-duty appearances for the rest of the series.

The episode opened with a grim-faced Lisa visiting Rick because she felt guilty about nearly killing him with that missile barrage. "Have you come to bury Caesar?" he quipped at the time. It ends with an equally grim-faced Lisa visiting Rick to give him the worst news of his life so far, that his oldest and closest friend -- his "big brother" -- is dead. This time her expression doesn't even register with him; he's too busy playing with the model biplane Roy got him. Or maybe he's just happy to see she reneged on the whole I'll-be-too-busy-to-see-you thing she said earlier. In either case, once the words leave her lips, his expression doesn't change from one of wide-eyed shock through the fade to black at the end of the episode; the last thing we see is Rick staring at Lisa, his mouth agape, without words to express what he's feeling. You know how the narrator said Rick was in a state of deep shock at the end of "Countdown"? That wasn't deep shock. THIS is deep shock. This is a sit-there-for-an-hour-with-tears-welling-up-in-your-eyes-not-knowing-what-to-do-or-say moment.

And the worst part of it is, Rick doesn't know it yet, but there's another one just like it coming around the corner.

"Don't miss 'Bursting Point,' next on ROBOTECH!"

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  • This episode has a very special place to me.

    This is the first episode of Robotech I ever REALLY watched. Back during it's first Toonami run, my BROTHERS were actually the ones who liked Robotech. I thought it was a cheap Japanese knockoff of Battletech. (OH IRONY!)

    But I sat down one day and watched this Robotech show with my little brother during this episode when the seemingly cool and mature Roy Fokker guy dies. But he dies in such a pogniant way... it's that old American Western scene where the mortally wounded cowboy rides off into the sunset... the character and viewer knows hes dead... but he's dying HIS way.

    Man, I was sold. Started to watch this Robotech thing... then borrowed some novels... found out there was a role playing game....

    Man, this Robotech thing just got into my blood or something... I dunno.

    By Blogger Tolarin_Skylar, at 25 July, 2010 06:47  

  • I first saw this episode in 2008, which somewhat deadened the impact of seeing a character die for realz in an American cartoon; I'm a little bothered that simple character deaths are considered revolutionary for our cartoons, when death is a natural part of storytelling.

    However, Roy's death is still a well-written death. It's hard for me to say anything about it, when I'm not that interested in Roy as a character, but it gives you a jolt as he falls from the couch.

    Yeah, you know, I *don't* really see the reason Miriya fled after her battle inside the city, nor do I see a real decisive victory for Max (which the dub script calls attention to). The battle just kind of...stops. I accept the scene's intention well enough to remain unsettled by what happens later, but it is head-tilting all the same.

    "Smelly?" Come on, JLS, I'm sure those guys found showers *somewhere*. :P Also, Rico's weird-looking but the other two aren't: I'd put Konda up with Max in the looks department, as long as he's on-model. Vanessa apparently considers Bron "handsome", despite his weird hairdo.

    I never thought of the Bunnies as becoming the Trio's One True Loves in the same way that Miriya achieved a quick and impulsive relationship, but it's cute to see them all hanging out together, and sad to remember that the Bunnies are going to die in the Robotech dub.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 25 July, 2010 10:08  

  • I know what a big deal many people seem make of this episode, but I have to admit I managed to miss it myself back during the original TV airing, and I don't know if it was glancing at the back of the comic book issue (even though I never seemed able to save enough of my allowance to afford them before a sort of "well, why start now?" feeling set in) or reading the novels that pointed out to me at last why there were some episodes with Roy in them and some without him... Still, it was easy enough to tell there was something different about Robotech as compared to G.I. Joe and Voltron from what I had managed to see.

    By Blogger Keith Palmer, at 25 July, 2010 20:39  

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