ROBOBLOG III Archives

8.04.2010

DAY THIRTY-FIVE: The Messenger

Written September 14, 2010




(10) Another typical blunder by the narrator opens the penultimate episode of the pre-reconstruction era Macross Saga; he states that it was Breetai's plan to attack the SDF-1 to disrupt the wedding, while it was clearly a plan hatched by Dolza. As I noted yesterday, Breetai didn't even want to attack the SDF-1, though he did because he is a good and loyal Zentraedi.

Setting aside the unreliable narration, as is typical of these end-of-the-road-to-Armageddon Macross Saga episodes, it hits the ground running, opening with everyone on alert as a Zentraedi ship approaches the SDF-1. I can't help but notice Sammie back at her typical post as opposed to filling Lisa's chair; I guess she only takes the hot seat during combat.


(9) In stark contrast to yesterday's episode, this one is brilliantly-drawn. Lots of great character moments; Kim sticking out her tongue above is just one of the earliest examples. Moreover, there's a nice directorial touch in the opening; the split-screen effects used for the first thirty seconds or so, overlaying a member of the bridge crew in close-up overtop the SDF-1 as they report on enemy activity, create a sense of tension and urgency, ala the TV series 24 two decades hence.

One more reason to love Breetai: after his flagship destroys Khyron's meddling squadron of Fighter Pods, Khyron radios him demanding to know if he's gone mad. Breetai says, simply and coldly, "Your ships were interfering with a diplomatic mission, so I disposed of them." Once again, Breetai shows us how to take care of business. Are you taking notes, Azonia?

Rick, standing in for the audience again: when one of his wingmen remarks how weird it is escorting an enemy Battlepod, Rick thinks to himself, "And it's getting weirder all the time. Oh, brother."


(8) The emissary from the Zentraedi is, of course, Exedore; of those serving in Breetai's fleet, he's the most knowledgeable and linguistically gifted, and on top of that he isn't combat-necessary. Mark this down, too; last episode, "Wedding Bells," was the last time Exedore would ever be a full-sized Zentraedi in any version of ROBOTECH continuity. (In MACROSS continuity, of course, he would not only be returned to full size but further genetically modified to resemble his green, lumpy big-headed counterpart from the movie Do You Remember Love and would serve as Max's advisor in MACROSS 7 just as he did Breetai during the original TV series.)

Great exchange here:

EXEDORE: I am called Exedore among my people, Minister of Affairs.

COL. MAISTROFF: It sounds rather ... important.

EXEDORE: Not really.

Humility, or a simple statement of fact? You decide!


(7) One of the more memorable scenes in this episode is when the convoy ferrying Exedore to his meeting with Gloval and the other brass passes by a billboard of a barely-clad female and Exedore asks Maistroff to explain that to him. Maistroff doesn't even try, so Exedore nods sagely and decides it must be a military secret. "Yes," Maistroff says, clearing his throat, "a military secret, of course." It's a scene you wouldn't find in any other animated series of the 1980s, and one that points, once again, to ROBOTECH's relative maturity compared to other shows of its vintage. Of course, I think it got away with this moment because it was so brief and subtle; really, it plays out no differently than if a child pointed to a similar billboard and got a similar dismissive answer, like, "I'll tell you when you're older."

On the one hand, I assume they're probably serving Exedore something like orange juice. However, given that the server offers him another so quickly after he totally downs the first one, I can't help but think, say, maybe that's alcohol and the RDF is trying to get Exedore drunk. Yeah, probably not, but it's an amusing thought ...

Love Edie Mirman's embarrassed delivery when Exedore tells Miriya he saw the wedding. "Um, you probably wondered why we did it ..."

Also great is Exedore's creepy, creepy grin when Rico, Konda, and Bron notice him. They completely freak out, and he has to assure them he has no intention of harming them before they can breathe easy again. While presumably they fear him for his status within the fleet, it is funny to think of anyone being physically intimidated by Exedore. Does he possess some power we know nothing about? Could he go all Yoda in STAR WARS: EPISODE II on them if he so desired? Again, probably not ...


(6) Gloval and Exedore obviously have differing ideas as to who all should be present for the first diplomatic meeting of the two races: while Gloval calls in the Zentraedi defectors and the two remaining members of the crew who were held hostage aboard Breetai's flagship, Exedore requests the presence of, guess who, Kyle (whom he still think harbors amazing powers) and Minmei (who, well, really DOES seem to harbor some sort of amazing power). Maistroff quickly figures out that Exedore is referring to the wire-fu and CG effects trickery of "Small White Dragon," but I find it amazing that nobody present makes the leap from "female at the core of a psychological assult" to "Minmei," especially given that Rico, Konda, and Bron already told our heroes that one of the key reasons they defected was Minmei's song. I expect the writers keep our heroes in the dark simply so we can be serenaded by Exedore's take on one of Minmei's standards. (Somewhere around here I have an MP3 of Japanese-language Exedore's complete rendition of "My Boyfriend Is A Pilot," though I seem to have misplaced it ...)

The best part about it is how long it's allowed to go on while all assembled stare at Exedore in slack-jawed shock, amazement, and presumably a bit of horror. Gloval really says all that needs to be said: "I don't believe this ..."

When Kyle grumbles that he's tired of being pushed around by the military, all I can think is, "If there were a pull-string Lynn Kyle doll, I'm pretty sure that's what it would say." And when Minmei asks what she's doing here, he overplays it by a fair margin, shouting that she shouldn't expect any answers out of them. Bless Captain Gloval for shouting back, "Enough of this nonsense!" Someone should really have been shouting that at Kyle since day one ... or at least day two.


(5) Admit it, Admiral Hayes, you're just saying you doubt the negotiations will result in a full fledged cease fire because you're just jonesing to blow some stuff up with that Grand Cannon of yours, aren't you?

Exedore is intelligent and humble enough to realize when he's wrong, and it doesn't take much to convince him he's wrong about Kyle's powers and the terrifying power that was unleashed on those poor folks in Ontario, but he remains undeterred as regards the power of Minmei's song. He explains that long, long ago the Zentraedi encountered another open society like that of humanity and it nearly destroyed them; Dolza will not allow this to happen again. Exedore reveals that his mission was one of observation, and once his report is filed, Dolza will likely order the main fleet to launch an all-out assault on the Earth, "after he recovers the Protoculture Factory." As with so much of what is shoehorned in as part of the ROBOTECH story, that detail is left sitting there, and Gloval remarks, "The main fleet, eh?"


(4) And yet, Breetai clearly doesn't know the whole score, because when Azonia tells him the main fleet is on its way he's surprised. On the other hand, he obviously knows more about the big picture than Azonia does, because by the sound of it if the main fleet is on its way, Dolza has decided the matter is too urgent to bother with seizing the Protoculture Factory; he's skipping right to the final solution, the annihilation of humanity. The problem with this is that according to Breetai, without the additional Protoculture supply that would come from seizing the Protoculture Factory, the Zentraedi race is doomed. I suppose Dolza assumes that death from energy starvation is preferable to the wholesale transformation of the Zentraedi people -- death before "dishonor," perhaps?


(3) Four million, eight hundred thousand battleships: a number like that has an effect on people. Well, not really much of one on Kyle, he just continues on with the same defeatist anti-military nonsense he's been spewing the whole while. Max gets all cheesy and romantic, holding Miriya's hand and calling her "my darling." Rick looks over at them and gets depressed and mopey, again. That is the interesting thing about Max and Miriya's "fairy tale" romance: it serves as a contrast to Rick's hopeless romantic situation and makes him even more frustrated with his lot in life for a few episodes. He's just lucky that the pre-reconstruction MACROSS storyline got compressed the way it did; from the looks of things, if he had to put up with listening to Max and Miriya any longer without the distraction of planetary armageddon, he'd hang himself.

While Exedore assures his new friends that they'll surely succeed because the SDF-1's proven indestructible so far, back on Earth Admiral Hayes tells Lisa that the ship will surely be destroyed, as they're planning on ordering it to act as a decoy so they can use the Grand Cannon to destroy the incoming enemy fleet. Lisa, naturally, wants to stand with those she's fought beside for so long in this final battle, but the Admiral won't allow it, because ... well, because he's her dad. It's selfish, but it makes sense.


(2) Breetai checks in with Azonia and Khyron to see where they stand. Azonia, realizing that she is now Dolza's enemy due to "contamination" from Earth culture, decides to stand and fight alongside Breetai. Breetai nods and wishes her well in battle. Contestant #2, though, scratches his head, won't look Breetai in the eye, and remarks that he will not fight if he cannot win. "As I expected, Khyron. I wasn't depending on you anyway."

Khyron: YOU WILL BE DESTROYED!

Funny how the one-note characters get even more one-note in the face of the threat of annihilation; if Khyron were a pull-string toy, that's what HE would say.

When Grel asks Khyron where they're headed, his response is, "Anyplace else in the universe but here." Despite this, you'll notice he is lurking about during the final battle next episode.

While there's a big complicated chart behind him when we return to Exedore and our heroes aboard the SDF-1, Exedore explains that their best chance for victory lies with a very simple strategy: destroy the leader. Wipe out Dolza's flagship, and the rest of the fleet will fall into disarray. As usual, Exedore proves to be right ...


(1) At Exedore's request, Minmei sings for all gathered, choosing "To Be In Love" for whatever reason. The song fades out as space surrounding the Earth is blanketed in a sea of green. With the exception of the narrator, Exedore gets the last word in:

"Well, I'm afraid this is it."

"Be watching for 'Force Of Arms,' the next action-packed episode of ROBOTECH!"


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6 Comments:

  • Others have "Force of Arms"; I have "The Messenger".

    It's a slight exaggeration, of course, but this *is* my favourite episode in the series, and the one I've viewed the most. So I'm glad that it got the good animation. ;)

    It stands as a wondrous pivot point for the aspect of the series which was the most compelling to me: the transformation of the Zentraedi, primarily as seen through the male characters.

    And yes, I love Exedore. In a strictly platonic sense, of course, but he's my favourite character in the series, for a variety of reasons ranging from his comical nerdiness to the strength displayed underneath.

    He shines pretty well in this episode, managing to serve as both comic relief and a credible emissary. The "silly alien" schtick also seems to be coming naturally from his character, rather than just being an empty cliche.

    My own fangirlism aside, though, it's no surprise to me that Miriya, Rico, Bron, and Konda seem to show Exedore reverence or fear. He's a figure of high authority, and with all the information he's been providing, there's no reason to think he *wouldn't* be valued by the Zentraedi simply because he couldn't fight. Personally, I've never understood the idea that the Zentraedi *wouldn't* value their information officers as also-important cogs in the machine.

    I don't find the funny face Exedore makes to be creepy at all: part of it is Ted Layman's awkward chuckle, and the fact that he looks like a living anime emoticon. It's cute, really. So is the infamous "Exedance".

    And, I just have to say, the idea that the Macross version of Exedore was modified in-story into his DYRL body is a bit of misguided fanon that has been, though not explicitly debunked, had a generous amount of counter-evidence against it.

    Nothing clear has arisen in its place, however, so it is best to think of the new "Exedore" as a jumbled retcon rather than anything clear-cut.

    In that vein, the MP3 your'e talking about is probably based on his Macross 7 version singing the whole song, not the original incarnation of the character.

    Back to other things, I always read Azonia's lines here to suggest that she "snitched" to Dolza about the events on Earth, and then was surprised when it seemed to mean her fleet's death, too. It makes Azonia look like an utter idiot, and far from Breetai's equivalent in command. Ugh. The female Zentraedi really should get better characterization than they're given.

    I really do feel sorry for Lisa, trapped in the role of a princess in a tower.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 14 September, 2010 13:17  

  • It really is a great episode, and rather cleaned the palate after the one-two-punch of the disjointed "Showdown" and the nonsensical and rushed "Wedding Bells."

    Yeah, pretty sure the MP3 is of the flatter, less emotional MACROSS 7 Exedore, off one of the several kajillion MACROSS 7 CDs. (Which honestly makes the performance more gratingly amusing.)

    Shoji Kawamori's ACTUAL explanation for Exedore's changed appearance seems to be along the lines of, "It's all equally fictional, leave me alone." I love it when creators get like that, but then I can be kind of awful and, by and large, have very little love these days for the sort of fanboyism that used to be my stock in trade. (I still enjoy connecting the dots, but if they don't all line up right it doesn't bend me completely out of shape. It's a damn shame if they somehow break the ROBOTECH that exists in the real and tangible world, but I'll always have the ROBOTECH that exists in my head.)

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 14 September, 2010 16:58  

  • Fact is, it's much easier to leave twisty-turvy continuity alone if it doesn't zip straight at the heart of my personal interest in the series like a big ol' heatseeker.

    I don't care about solving Robotech's continuity issues and largely ignore them, but when it comes to Macross' handling of the Zentraedi characters, I'm left deeply unsatisfied. I don't expect anybody to conjure up any nerdish empathy for me, but I won't go along and pretend it doesn't bother me, either. I'm an Exedore fan, and the whole thing bugs me, the end.

    I don't think I'm taking away from Kawamori's right as a creator to say and do what he wants if I complain about things, though I do feel that asking for consistency isn't entitlement, either. Even if this whole retcon-of-Exsedol deal genuinely upset a very few, it confused a lot more, and I don't see the reason why something that would so confuse viewers would need to be done.

    Back to "The Messenger", and one point I forgot to mention which may be entirely subjective: I always felt there was good chemistry, maybe even a potential for friendship, between the five earthbound Zentraedi at this peace conference. It's difficult to exactly say *why*, but it's an idea that's lodged in my brain, Phineas-Gage style.

    The novels seem to pick up on this to a very small extent and with various combinations, but these connections seemed a little weak insofar as the extent and depth of their interaction went.

    At the very least, Miriya having other Zentraedi friends (who remained so, unlike Seloy) might have helped to develop her character a bit.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 14 September, 2010 17:18  

  • "I can't help it, I really like that guy," is certainly a valid excuse for getting twisted into a pretzel over what a franchise has done to a particular character; heaven knows pretty much every MACROSS work after the original TV series has dumped some kind of indignity on the Zentraedi, though at least in the case of 7 (with the exception of Exedore, who I'll set aside for the moment) it matched the tone of the show, which was, err, offbeat, let's say. I remember when my pal Levi sent me the screengrab of the Zentraedi with the nosebleeds from FRONTIER (still haven't watched past first episode, probably never gonna) I stared at it in a kind of transfixed horror for about thirty seconds.

    I would understand the Exedore-in-MACROSS 7-thing if Miria had been flying around in her red VF-1J wearing a DYRL flightsuit. I appreciate that they DIDN'T have her wearing it, because I have an emotional attachment to the old TV series flightsuits and like seeing them actually pop up from time to time (which pretty much never happens), but if she had been wearing the DYRL flightsuit, then you could just go, "Okay, movie iconography. Got it." (It would then also match pretty much everything MACROSS that's been drawn, published, and produced since 1984.) But they do no such thing. They split the baby. In the end it probably just came down to the creators' personal preferences. Not the first time that's screwed up a good thing, nor will it be the last.

    Back to the episode at hand: I can sorta see where you're going with the five here, based on their dialog, and your remark about Miriya honestly reminds me of my core complaint about SENTINELS -- namely, that they introduce two, count 'em, two new young characters and just have them bounce off the older cast, who are now all hovering around ol' Roy Fokker's age when The Macross Saga started. (More where that came from later.) But honestly, the problem with complaining that there need to be more characters in The Macross Saga is that the idea is a little nuts; obviously the creators of MACROSS had a terrible time juggling the characters they had, especially in that final stretch before the reconstruction era. You add another character, then they need to spend time having that character interact with another character, which cuts down time for this character or that character ... in an ideal world, they would have gotten the episode bump before they plotted out and scripted that stretch of episodes leading up to the final battle, which would have left them room to give Miriya a more fleshed out personality, some comrades to lord her mad skillz over, and some more chance encounters with Max that help give them some sort of relationship that isn't on its face fairy tale stupid. It probably still wouldn't work 100%, but it would have to be better.

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 14 September, 2010 18:05  

  • Yeah, there was a point where I just threw up my hands and said, "Dammit guys, if you just established DYRL as the backstory for the main Macross continuity, this would be a hell of a lot easier on me!" But as usual, no go.

    I dunno, I *like* the portrayal of "domestic" Zentradi in Macross Frontier and 7, but then you have this stupid crap about all male Zentraedi being goofy otaku caricatures, and all female Zentraedi being fanboy bait, rather than characters in their own right, and it bothers me tremendously. It's as if they took some of the original SDFM characters and made countless bad xerox copies.

    I'm not sure what you're saying about the Sentinels or Macross here: I agree that SDFM should have been plotted and spread out better, and I don't think anybody's asking for *more* SDFM characters...or do you mean more *of* them?

    I don't mind further adventures with the Macross cast being slightly older, especially when the writers involved with The Sentinels can't seem to create a good character on their own

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 14 September, 2010 23:17  

  • there's a historical parallel here with christmas eve 1914.. world war 1. the night germans and brits invited each other over no man's land for plum pudding. later, when command finds out they try to discourage this from ever happening again and up the brutality and bring in more artillery so that the no man's land gap is widened.

    so gloval is to admiral hayes as breetai is to dolza... being pushed towards destruction by their commanders, but they'd rather survive.. also a parralel to JFK and kruschev... uh.. this all came up in some podcast i was listening to yesterday

    By Blogger James, at 26 September, 2010 20:52  

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