DAY THIRTY-FOUR: Wedding Bells

Written September 13, 2010

(10) I've spent so long staring at the forest that is the ROBOTECH universe that I've missed a whole lot of trees. I think I've caught a lot of them on this viewing, including the forehead-slappingly obvious point that right before an episode entitled "Wedding Bells," Kyle does his half-assed psuedo-proposal to Minmei in front of all those TV cameras. (That stretch there where he silently stares at her is so ripe for interpretation. My favorite take? The one where Mister Media Manipulator Chessmaster is staring at Minmei thinking, "Check.") It'd be a great fake-out ... except that the next episode preview pretty much tells you that Max is marrying Miriya.

Which, mind you, I'd known forever when I first watched this episode -- I'd already read the novels, though I'm not sure if I'd seen the comic adaptation as well at this point. It's about a fifty-fifty shot; I'd accumulated a lot of ROBOTECH comics before I had the opportunity -- via VHS, LaserDisc, or Cartoon Network -- to watch all the TV episodes of The Macross Saga. Whatever the case may be, from whatever all I'd read I knew this was a big deal story, a turning-point, especially for a character I'd grown to love -- Max, of course; even when I was a middle school brat, I didn't get what all the fuss about Miriya was all about. So I was really looking forward to seeing the TV episode, actually watching play out what I'd imagined moving in my head.

You can imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be one of the most laughable bad animation episodes of the whole lot.

(9) Right as the episode title comes up, the narrator makes a little laugh that's really, really creepy. Go ahead, run it back and play it a few times. Done that? Good. Now it's going to haunt you in your nightmares.

Speaking of the stuff of nightmares, remember what I was saying about what a nice character design Miriya has last time? Yeah, under the pen and ink of the fine folks at Anime Friend, or whatever other Korean animation sweatshop churned this one out, not so nice. As she hides out, waiting for the time to strike, her eyes are wide and her pupils are tiny, giving her a terrifying, mad look. Also, these guys don't do lips, so she just looks wrong.

Miriya runs at Max with a knife, and Max takes the time to go, "Hey, glad you could make it!" before realizing SHE IS COMING AT HIM WITH A KNIFE.

When she introduces herself to Max, she clearly says: "I am Quadrano leader Miriya Parina." Breaking this down: "Quadrano" is, as I'm sure most of you've figured out by now, an early romanization of the name of her powered armor suit, the Queadluun-Rau. The way the term's thrown around in ROBOTECH, it's been taken to be the name of the group she led -- the lighter green version of the Nousjadeul-Ger Powered Armor toy from Matchbox was (incorrectly) labeled "Zentraedi Powered Armor - Quadrono Battalion," and has her down as the "leader of the Quadrano Squadron." Which is fine, what's done is done. "Miriya" is a perfectly acceptable way of romanizing her first name from Japanese; I like the "y" in there, personally. As for that last name, "Fallyna" is the character's last name in MACROSS, and the shortest distance between that and what we have here is sloppy handwriting or a bad typewriter turning what was transliterated as "Farina" (an acceptable match) into "Parina." Perhaps the same thing happened when James Luceno or Brian Daley was taking notes for the novelization while watching the TV series and didn't jot down the bar on that "a," turning it into an "o." However that happened, it resulted in a decade's worth of ROBOTECH novels, comics, and other source materials calling her "Miriya Parino." (I think the Comico adaptations gave it as Parina, but quite often they did their own thing, or held fast to the TV series while sprinkling in non-contradictory stuff from the novels.)

Regardless, she very clearly says "Miriya Parina," which is why ever since I've gone with that.

(8) Oh, look at it -- it looks like one of those one dollar Korean knockoff robot cartoon DVDs I and my friends picked up at Wal-Mart a few years back, the ones that ripped off Inferno's design from TRANSFORMERS and stole music from XABUNGLE. When Max trips over a rock, a little comic strip "ow" star comes off his leg. That wouldn't happen in a non-cheap-Korean-studio episode of ROBOTECH.

It's a shame, because there are some great lines in here: I love the uneasy way Cam Clarke gives the line, "Well, there goes our first ... date." And later, Miriya: "You may be a great man, but what is a man compared to a Zentraedi!" But there are other times where it seems the actors are playing down to the crappy animation, that the lame animation is leaving them uninspired and causing them to give terribly awkward or equally lame line readings.

Could the knife duel have been cool under steadier hands? I'm not sure. It comes off as really dumb, but if Max gave a few quick flicks of the wrist with the same tricky skills he uses piloting a Veritech, resulting in the same dramatic shot of the knife flying from Miriya's hands, I suppose that could have worked.

And then we get the cheesy weirdness. Miriya, having lost a THIRD time to Max, asks him to end her life, and Max's reason for not killing her is ... "You're so -- so beautiful." I can deal with flying Dana in her nightgown in the ROBOTECH opening sequence. But the power of love -- or, I'd wager more likely here, lust -- causing them to fly around and fall in love? Oh dear. I suppose if it had been painted up all fancy with airbrush effects, or a series of really nice paintings fading into one another, that might have worked. But it just looks like Miriya starts flying around the park like Peter Pan, and Max follows behind as her Wendy. Or vice versa, whichever way works for you.

(7) This is actually a pretty cool shot.

So let me get this straight. Max defeats Miriya the second time at the arcade. This is the first time he's actually met her, but he has seen her around, and every time he sees her he's all like, "Wow, she's hot." He asks her to meet him in the park. That night at the park, she comes at him with a knife, reveals that she's a Zentraedi warrior, reveals she's the one he fought one-on-one in the battle where Roy Fokker was killed, they have a really stupid knife fight, and he beats her a third time. Miriya asks him to kill her and end her shame, but he's all like, "You're too pretty to die," he spares her life, and, like magic, they fall in love, kiss, and he asks her to marry him. He then, of course, has to explain the concept to her. She, being a silly alien, doesn't fully grasp the concept, but says yes anyway.

Seriously, Robotech Masters does the human-alien love story thing so much better. But then, it seeds the relationship in early.

When Rick, who is not TOTALLY stupid, hears that Max is planning on getting married, he spits out his coffee and tells him that is "the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard." And this is coming from a man who was nearly crushed to death by a tuna fish in space, so you KNOW this is just off-the-wall bonkers. When Max tells Rick that Miriya is a Zentraedi, well good grief, Rick nearly turns red in the face, hearing that Max has decided not only to marry a girl he's just met and knows nothing about, but an alien at that. It's a good thing Max didn't mention that she tried to kill him, too, or Rick probably would have jumped across the table and started slapping him. When Rick tells him to at least slow down and think about it, Max starts hitting the table with his hand, insisting that he's in love, and that there's no problem love can't overcome.

So Rick just starts laughing like a nut, calls Max a silly idealist, and points at him very sternly. Max starts acting like he's talking to his dad. "I will marry this girl, with or without your approval!" Rick's like, "Okay, so you're attracted to this girl. How often does that happen to a guy?" And then, almost conspiratorially, Max says to him, "I keep trying to tell you, she's not just any girl."

His voice drops almost down to a whisper.

"She's SPECIAL."

Then Miriya walks up in a pink dress that doesn't look half as good on her as that brown jumpsuit did, but it does the trick anyway; Rick is utterly flabbergasted and changes his mind about the whole thing, calling all that stuff he told Max earlier "silly nonsense." Rick knows the score. "In fact," he says, folding his arms smugly, "in order to guarantee you have a great wedding day, I plan to be there to help you kiss the bride."

Cut from the final edit of the show is the moment right after that, where Max punches Rick in the face and then starts kicking him repeatedly while he's down.

(Now THAT'S the Rick Hunter that would have made that crack to Lynn Kyle about what's great about the military back in "Homecoming," that one line that was in the novelization.)

(6) Exedore always has the answers to these hard questions, and I keep wondering where DOES he do his research? Is he carefully studying the MBS broadcasts out of the SDF-1 now during his downtime? Does he have an itty bitty set of encyclopedias that Rico, Konda, and Bron brought back? How does he know what marriage is when all the other Zentraedi do not? I get that he's the archivist, I just want to know what archives he's been consulting.

As you can see, we cut straight from Rick's wisecrack to the ceremony itself; this episode is going just as full speed ahead as Max and Miriya's relationship. When we cut away from Breetai and Exedore, it's right to the cutting of the cake, and then to Captain Gloval making a speech -- one that starts with a reminder that Miriya, being the greatest ace the Zentraedi has ever known, killed a very large number of their fellow citizens and soldiers. You thought that conversation that Rick and Max had was weird? I remember the first time I saw Gloval start this speech, I started squirming in my seat. It was like when I watched "Boobytrap" for the first time and Gloval started laughing: "Oh god, the man has lost it." Once again, Rick stands in for we the viewers; his jaw drops, his eyes grow wide, and he's like, "Oh no. The wedding is ruined."

(5) See, it looks like he's gone off the deep end, doesn't it?

But no, he quickly turns around and says they have to learn to forgive the Zentraedi for all that they've done -- not blindly, or ignorantly, but because they understand that until now the Zentraedi have known no other way of life. As he speaks out for a day when the war will end and human and Zentraedi will live together in peace, Admiral Hayes flips off his TV. He can't listen to any more of this peace talk, it'll ruin his war hard-on. Wait, Lisa's in the room with him, I really shouldn't say that ... or think about it.

Anyway, Admiral Hayes can't listen to another second of that. Notice that Admiral Hayes is smoking a cigarette. Recall that Senator Russo smoked cigars, as did Colonel Maistroff. So I guess that puts cigarettes in the middle of the "who can you trust" smoking continuum, with a fine pipe on the far "trustworthy" end, and cigars on the "oh, hell no" end.

(4) Minmei comes on and sings "The Man In My Life." Breetai hears it and states, profoundly, "This woman has a voice that can make a man feel sorrow." He is then immediately given orders to destroy the SDF-1; there are to be no survivors. He is willing to do this thing, but he doesn't like it. He is, as always, a good, loyal soldier.

Some of the guys under his command, ehh, not so much. Even with all the soldiers who deserted during Exedore's brilliant little operation a few episodes ago, there are still many within Breetai's fleet who don't want to fight against the SDF-1 -- probably even more now, since they are now aware that they will be attacking a ship inhabited by many of their forner comrades. While we observe Zentraedi across the fleet losing the will to fight against the Micronians, guys clutching little Minmei dolls and refusing to report to battle stations, one guy we see just appears unwilling to get out of bed, which amuses me.

The stock footage they use of Rick flying Skull One into battle is from "Bursting Point," and consequently shows him without his space visor on.

(3) Always liked this shot of Gloval. You may remember it from the Toonami ROBOTECH opening sequence.

Max's wingman in the green jumpsuit told him to stay behind, but Max has enough pull now that he can insist on going into battle with his comrades, unlike that one time with him, Rick, and Ben after they returned from Breetai's flagship. Miriya, likewise, insists on going along, so the two of them hop into that blue VF-1D they flew in the ceremony and join the battle.

HOWEVER ... Miriya tells Max not to shoot to kill; rather, she points out a safe spot to hit, which I guess disables the Zentraedi Battlepods without killing the pilot. When Rick discovers what's happening, he joins in as well. This is juxtaposed against the sight of the SDF-1 taking serious damage. I guess if the Battlepods are, in fact, disabled this isn't a problem, but it seems to me if this is the path to peace, then that's a path you're going to ride in a coffin. They would have, too, except that so many Zentraedi from aboard Breetai's flagship refused to fight that he threw up his arms and issued a recall order.

"Look at him run like a trall, with his tail between his ears!" This, apparently, is a thing Zentraedi say.

(2) Not even ROBOTECH is safe from the obvious turning-one's-life-upside-down gags related to having an alien in the house trying to do domestic things. Entire TV shows have been created worldwide based around this concept; thankfully, this is only one of a couple of times we see this card played in The Macross Saga.

Rick listens to Max's domestic ... err ... bliss and muses upon his own romantic entanglements. And thankfully, for all of us, he thinks of Lisa.

(1) He almost admits to himself that he loves her (PROGRESS!), but he's too tired to think about it too hard -- I guess from listening to the misadventures in the Sterling quarters next door -- so he just dozes off.

I'm not a fan of generically happy Max & Miriya. It's ridiculous, like something out of a fairy tale, and juxtaposed against Rick, Lisa, Minmei, and Kyle, it seems too neat, too easy, too ... unrealistic. I may want to slap Lisa upside the head for staring at Kyle with that glazed-over expression, but that's a thing that happens in real life. People do, in fact, obsess over other people who won't even give them the time of day. Sparks fade. People you hate wind up becoming people you like, and then people you love. But in real life, you don't just suddenly marry a super-hot alien warrior who tried to kill you with a knife. Even Lancer and Sera's relationship comes off as more real than this, because actual time is spent building the relationship part, hackneyed though it may be.

You know what I DO like? Separated-and-squabbling MACROSS 7 Max and Miria. For one thing, the minute Miriya is defeated here, she suddenly becomes a generic "oh, please teach me the ways of your world" alien girl. Okay, she does get Max to stop killing her people, but that itself is a complete 180 from the ruthless, arrogant, ego-driven warrior she was before. In MACROSS 7, she's her own person with a political career all her own, she's got her ruthlessness back, but she also has a warmth about her that comes from having a family, and having citizens who depend on her. The neat thing is, over the course of the series, Max and Miria get closer again -- they actually, over time, rebuild that relationship. Over forty-some episodes of MACROSS 7, we get that development that their relationship originally never had. Again, it's something real, it's something relatable, it's something that feels like a thing that actually happens to real people. I can take all the lasers and robots and aliens you can throw at me, but if the people aren't acting like people, there's nothing there to emotionally get attached to.

(Don't get me started about SENTINELS Miriya. I only hope they were PLANNING on getting Edie Mirman back if they actually had gotten the entire series produced. I wouldn't have been able to stand sixty-five episodes of that vocal characterization of Miriya.)

"Be sure to stay tuned for 'The Messenger,' the next thrilling chapter in the amazing story of ROBOTECH!"

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  • On the one hand, I think the fairy-tale quality of Max & Miriya's relationship is exactly why it appealed to so many people. I agree it's out of place in contrast with the rest of the romance in the series, but Max always was the too-good-to-be-true character.

    On the other hand, I am a firm believer that one never takes marriage lightly, and my God, it can't bet taken any more lightly than it was here. Rick's arguments were all perfectly valid and to just throw them all away because she's hot was terrible. But this is the guy who spent forever mooning over Minmei, so hey.

    I actually think the best take on this episode was in the novels, because it told it from Miriya's point of view, and revealed how she was attracted to Max but didn't understand what she was feeling, because it was new to a Zentraedi.

    As to her last name, I always thought she was saying Purina, which was just silly. (Maybe they make Purina Trall Chow?) It was my guess that Daley & Luceno thought it sounded too much like Purina as well, thus changing it to Parino.

    And yes, hands down, this is the worst animation in Robotech e-v-e-r.

    By Blogger Fer, at 13 September, 2010 08:04  

  • I skip this episode. I skip it for reasons mentioned in the previous post: I know what's being sold to me, but I can't see Max/Miriya as anything but creepy, abrupt, and somewhat nonsensical.

    It would take a lot of work to salvage this "courtship", and the novels were far from up to the task. The sticking point truly is Miriya's vendetta against Max, which darkens the entire concept of what happened later. How it plays out from start to finish strikes me as incredibly chauvinistic.

    That SDF-1 wedding cake is pretty awesome, however. As Bron and Rico hugging their human girlfriends, though I wish they would have shown a shot of Konda and Kim, too.

    Mm, well, Max and Milia's portrayal in Macross 7 comes out of left field precisely *because* it was so against what SDFM had tried to instill into us.

    My feeling still is that if you want to present a sickeningly idealized marriage between two former foes, you don't backtrack on it in a later series...*especially* since Max and Milia's tiff adds almost nothing to the story and is never fully explained. Not to mention how poorly those two were characterized in the process.

    And voice, nothing. All of the Sentinels works seemed to have no idea what to do with Miriya as a character, so she gets tossed from one incongruous role to another.

    The Malcontent Uprisings comics are the only works that really effectively try to give Miriya more of a personality but make her still recognizable as the same character. And even then, there are problems.

    Macross is, however, very good at making those alien cliches effective. I'm surprised you didn't mention the spy trio, since their expression of cliche is just as good as Miriya's, in the sense that it feels like "real" characters doing "real" things suitable to them, rather than just following a script. The spy trio may be comic relief, but it feels like character-driven humour than a blind attempt to follow the old story.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 14 September, 2010 12:57  

  • A.J.

    The reason I don't bring the issue of dealing with the "I don't understand this crazy culture" cliches up as regards the Zentraedi spy trio is precisely because they on the whole are so well handled throughout. Which leads me to an odd thought: is there any worthwhile Macross Saga character who was introduced after "First Contact"? I believe that may be the demarkation line; Miriya, as I said, veers from one note to another one note, Azonia is ragingly incompetent, Kyle is a self-centered fakey-fake peace activist twit, Admiral Hayes is a straw man warmonger ... am I missing anyone?

    While there's never a reason given for Max & Miria's breakup in MACROSS 7, I always assumed based on their on-screen pissing matches that it was work that drove them apart. Alternatively, given the assumption someone makes in one episode that Mylene is his date and not his daughter, he could have stupidly cheated on her -- which, given the one-day courtship-to-marriage nature of this relationship originally, doesn't seem to me to be wildly out of character. Clearly Max has no impulse control.

    I think the reason I like Max and Miria in MACROSS 7 is precisely because it shatters the fairy tale facade of the relationship. We come back to these two decades later, in their middle age, and the fairy tale is over. Reality has finally set in. I find that appealing.

    As for the chauvinism of the whole situation ... it's The Macross Saga, the show where, while in captivity, Rick blamed Lisa for their situation and told her that some jobs are just too difficult for women with a straight face, and Lisa ultimately let the issue drop and wondered what was going to happen to them. Worrying about things. LIKE A WOMAN WOULD. *facepalm*

    (Also I can't help but keep flashing back to that awful Miriya pin-up-style cover off of the second issue of LOVE & WAR. I think LOVE & WAR is actually where I actively started to dislike Miriya; I noticed things in there that just struck me as stupid and unoriginal and groan-inducing, and then I looked back at the TV series and finally realized, after all these years, that many of those things were native to the character's original concept.)

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 14 September, 2010 16:30  

  • We're probably going to end up going around in circles on most points, but I do have a nagging sense that Miriya isn't quite "fleshed out" in the same way the trio are, *even though* Miriya is a more prominent character, and the writers have difficulty in giving Rico, Bron, and Konda separate personalities. That strikes me as really awful.

    Yes, of course, Miriya's fate is one example of the sexism running around in the Macross story, but I just had to say something anyway, partly because M/M's story is one thing I'm "supposed" to like, as a Zentraedi fan, and because it *does* seem worse than anything else the series had in that vein.

    (Though I still don't believe that Lisa was meant to "become like a woman" in the run of the series.)

    About Macross 7, what I was trying to say is that it doesn't seem, well, Macross-y to write a story of intense idealism and then to throw realism back into the mix when the characters are in their 50s.

    That, and the older Max is frequently a flat, wooden character, and the older Milia was written by someone who thinks a sexual and strong-willed older woman is inherently hilarious.

    The problem with SDFM Miriya, though, is that she's difficult to pin down as a character--as you suggest, everything about her disappears to as she goes through major life changes, and practically becomes a new character. She is easier to describe in terms of what happens to her, rather than who she is.

    And when she first appears, in full fighting mode, she is a completely insufferable character, an arrogant you-know-what, which just further suggests she is being "tamed" by Max, and makes her more unlikable.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 14 September, 2010 23:28  

  • See, now this is why I like the idea that Robotech and Macross are just parallel universes created by the Regiss ascending to a higher plane and breaking the dimensional barrier. I can have my "happily-ever-after fairy tale" Max & Miriya Sterling in ROBOTECH, and my realistic "that's what happens when you propose to someone on the first date" Max and Miria (or Milia) Jenius in MACROSS 7, and even my "Giant Max has run off with Miriya 639 and joined the Meltrans, wonder how THAT worked out" in DYRL!

    By Blogger Fer, at 16 September, 2010 12:18  

  • @ Fer:

    Hahaha. Whereas my favourite characters keep getting screwed over no matter where they are, 'cept for Sentinels Exedore in the McKinneyverse, though you don't know where he ultimately decides to live....

    Thinking the Macross portrayal over some more, though, I'm not sure if you can really call the tiff between Max and Milia an injection of realism. After all, if it was really just about showing what happens when you marry someone spontaneously, it probably would have taken a lot more than thirty years and all those kids for that truth to manifest.

    Rather, I think it's another instance of Macross doing things to their older characters *just because*, regardless of how much sense or dignity is involved.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 17 September, 2010 10:55  

  • I used to joke with my wife that I wanted an SDF-1 cake for our Wedding. "Cruiser mode" probably would have been more manageable, but no dice :P

    By Blogger Niff, at 27 September, 2010 16:31  

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