DAY THIRTY-SEVEN: Reconstruction Blues

Written September 14, 2010

(10) Two years later ...

I always remember this one as "the one where Rick gets excited about a field of sunflowers, then watches as Lynn Kyle drinks a lot and emotionally abuses Minmei."

(9) Yep, there are the sunflowers. Now, where's the purple-suited monster?

Something interesting that started in "The Messenger," Breetai brought up the dwindling supply of Protoculture. Now this idea continues to be seeded in the subsequent episodes, like right here in Rick's internal monologue. Amidst talk of mother nature beginning to forgive humanity for the part they played in the Earth's near destruction and flashbacks to running in a field of flowers just like this after Roy Fokker's old biplane, Rick considers that with the destruction of so many Zentraedi ships, humanity may have also destroyed most of the remaining Protoculture in the universe, and consequently accelerated or caused the fall of the Robotech Masters, whom until now only Exedore, and maybe (though I don't think so) Dolza has mentioned, and who we will meet for the first time in the next episode.

(8) In the shadow of the SDF-1, New Macross City has risen, and in the suburbs of that city, Lisa is tidying up Rick's home while he's on patrol. Beside Roy Fokker's old flight helmet, she finds a photo album filled with pictures of Minmei, and we get to enjoy every moment of Lisa's bitter, disgusted internal monologue. It really doesn't reflect well on her; she remarks on it herself, nobody asked her to come in and tidy up Rick's place, and here she goes, thumbing through Rick's stuff and fantasizing about throttling Little Miss Singing Star to within an inch of her life.

I love how Lisa's remark of "How can any girl compete with this kind of glamor?" is juxtaposed with a picture of Minmei sticking her tongue out.

With two years gone by it sounds like Melanie MacQueen tried to make Lisa sound older, but succeeded in making her sound TOO old. It makes her catty remarks about Minmei sound like a sad middle-aged woman trying to compete with a teenage pop star, when Lisa's only, what, twenty-seven, maybe twenty-eight at this point?

(7) Rick's in another one of his reflective moods, trying to remind himself why he's doing what he's doing -- the same place he was at back in "Battle Hymn" when he strengthened his resolve by standing next to a garish, oversaturated poster and thinking of Minmei. Only this time he thinks back to something Roy Fokker told him, that he's flying now for the sake of his home and his loved ones. Remembering that turns out to be just enough to give Rick a kick in the pants and get him back in the air. Rick spends an awful lot of time on reflection, wondering where his life is going, what he's doing with it. I think he needs a hobby.

Once in the air, he catches the end of "The Man In My Life" on the radio and discovers that Minmei's "People Helping People" tour has brought her, and Kyle, and Kyle's terrible purple suit to Granite City. After Kyle shuts up with his anti-military propagandizing, Minmei goes into "The Right Move," only heard this once and for which only the few lyrics we hear here were ever recorded.

As Rick flies towards Granite City, Minmei's moved on to "It's You," the last complete Reba West-sung Minmei song we hadn't heard until now. He runs to the concert, which seems a little ramshackle, like something out of a county fair, and catches the tail end of that song. He also almost catches a giant Zentraedi's hand on his head; them's the perils of having forty-foot guys just wandering around as part of society, I guess (and I almost forgot, one of Rick's green-trimmed wingmen actually quoted the more correct forty-foot figure in this episode).

(6) Things that have changed in two years: Max and Miriya had a baby, little Dana Sterling, who will grow up to be a more interesting character than either of them -- or, at the very least, a more fun character to watch. Lisa's watching them pass by, continuing to mope about how Rick's still hung up on Minmei after all these years. Two guys walk up with a boom box blasting out "My Time To Be A Star," and Lisa decides to up and leave, trying to escape from Minmei. Then we reach the halfway point of the episode, and whose voice tells us that ROBOTECH will be right back? Why, it's Minmei! THERE IS NO ESCAPE.

(5) We look in on Minmei's life these days and see it's in pretty terrible shape, though she's doing an okay job holding her own against her boozy, unappreciative jerk of a cousin and manager. I guess living in the shadow of a military-run government has taken its toll on the former peace movement activist and turned him toward the drink and made him even more hardline in his loathing of our valiant Robotech Defenders, to the point of nonsense and paranoia. Yes, certainly, if there was no military, the Zentraedi wouldn't have come and nearly annihilated the Earth. That makes a whole lot of sense, Kyle. I wonder -- Rick was hiding behind some rubble, watching the drama unfold as Minmei told Kyle to quit with the drinking and stop knocking the soldiers, and nearly told him to hit the road. If he'd stepped in, would it have made things worse? I think it probably would have; it would have given him a target for his anti-military hate, and he could have gotten more out of hand than just kicking glass bottles around.

On the other hand, it makes Rick look like an ineffectual idiot to just stand in the shadows while this drunken kung-fu twit goes on a tear at the girl he claims to love. Earlier in the episode he described good ol' Roy Fokker as "a real hero;" by leaving Minmei and Kyle behind to continue to bicker, and Kyle to continue to drink, he proves that in at least one way he completely failed to follow in his big brother's footsteps.

(4) Then again, it's not like Rick just ran off to avoid dropping in on one of his oldest friends and her piece of work of a cousin/manager -- he received word that Zentraedi mecha were attacking New Portland with a handful of Battlepods and powered armors. Switching from the all-out space combat of the war to the civil defense actions of the reconstruction era, it's a shock to see just how much damage a few of what used to be cannon fodder enemy troops can do to a defenseless city. Visibility is low due to the hard rain, but when Rick's wingmen get close enough, they find the city ablaze.

(3) Rick's men are taking a bit of a beating from the Zentraedi, and while Rick is en route, he takes a bit of a tongue lashing from Lisa for not staying with them, which does seem a bit irresponsible of him. Then again, because we've been listening to Lisa's jealous internal whining all episode long, she doesn't come off particularly well either. One gets the impression from the bridge girls' chatter that this has been going on for some time -- Lisa in the "isn't this a relationship?" Rick Hunter role, and Rick as oblivious Minmei, being hung up on and not entirely sure why.

(2) When Rick tears apart two of the three Battlepods, why doesn't anyone move to detain the pilots, or pursue that third one that seems to be escaping to a highway tunnel? The immediate danger is over, but shouldn't the guilty parties be locked up so they don't pull something like this again? Or are Rick's wingmen going to do just that off-camera, between the fight and the next scene back at the SDF-1? It sure doesn't LOOK like anyone's making any effort to stop them ...

Handing Rick an envelope full of photos "to remember me by" is kind of a weird passive-aggressive move on Lisa's part, isn't it? But then, that seems consistent with the rest of her behavior this episode, and by all appearances consistent with her behavior for some time before. We see them smiling, flying towards the rising sun at the end of "Force of Arms" and we assume they finally got together; we see what they're up to two years later, and they seem anything BUT together. Rick keeps wondering what he's doing wrong, and Lisa keeps biting his head off basically for not being her boyfriend yet. Certainly not as dysfunctional as Minmei and Kyle, but at least those two seem to each know where the other stands.

(1) How recently did order start to return from the chaos? How bad were things immediately after the fighting stopped? I'm curious, because Rick, Lisa, and Gloval all act like this is the first time in a while that violence has sprung up among the Zentraedi, that this is the first time the war-like aliens have returned to their "old ways." But I'd think it had to have been a bit like the Wild West for a while out there, lawless and violent. I say this because of what Gloval proposes here -- in the wake of one incident of renewed violence, Gloval suggests clamping down on the freedoms of the Zentraedi, issuing them jobs where they can be monitored by the military establishment. I wonder if they've been letting them just go freely because they felt the need to show trust, or because they just let things go due to the fact that the RDF had to focus on getting other parts of society rolling again.

It's a tricky thing, clamping down on the freedoms of forty-foot-tall men. I can see why you would do it, but you run a terrible risk of angering and radicalizing law-abiding new citizens who left their old ways BECAUSE of the freedoms our society offered. And doing such a thing to a whole people because of the actions of what appeared to be three dissidents -- why, that would be playing right into the hands of rabble rousers and anarchists. Can we name any rabble rousers or anarchists in the ROBOTECH cast for whom this will be catnip? I think we can ...

"Be with us next time for 'The Robotech Masters,' the newest chapter in the amazing story of ROBOTECH."

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  • Again the question: were these episodes really necessary? And again my answer is that I just don't know. Marginally, the series could live without them, but there are some good moments that would have been missed, some plot threads left dangling.

    Though how Macross handles these leftover threads isn't always the most elegant. Continuing the love triangle with the main characters pretty much had to be done to fill these episodes, but it gets grating and tedious very fast (even more when I had to review the Macross versions of these episodes for my blog).

    I always found it really interesting, the way that Macross portrays its post-apocalyptic world. My initial impression is always that the quiet, virtually wantless urban areas that we see are, even after two years and some token mentions of poverty, highly unrealistic.

    Robotech does try to shoehorn several rugged, Mad Max-ish areas and scenarios into this new world, perhaps in order to make it more believable, and I'm always torn. While such things *could* be happening off-camera, it doesn't feel quite right. Not because it's Robotech-original material, but because it conflicts with the atmosphere that we get.

    The baby is cute; I liked her original design with teal hair, before the Macross artists decided it would be dark green in later years.

    Deciding to create the character of Dana Sterling always felt questionable to me, though, since not only did it open up the Hair Question, but it also made Max and Miriya look like deadbeats for leaving her behind on Earth, no matter how much the novels and comics try to justify it.

    Robotech would function slightly better *without* the relatives to tie the two generations together, a lesson perhaps learned by New Gen (though the comics undo this by making Scott Dr. Lang's godson....). They are three originally disparate series, and should try not to strain the point too hard.

    The internal conflict with the Zentraedi is something I like to see, since it does add a dash of realism to strengthen all the idealism going around, which could otherwise have become a little cloying.

    I've always thought, though, that it's not ingrained "fighting urges" that are driving the Zentraedi to do this, but more of a failure to adjust that would have afflicted humans in a similar situation. Think of a man leaving prison to go to the "outside", or a shell-shocked combat veteran returning home, and you have some idea. It's far more interesting to consider parallels between human and Zentraedi, than the differences that we've already been over.

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 14 September, 2010 17:44  

  • I don’t know; I somehow of got the impression that Rick and Lisa were practically “shacking up” together. Even if they weren’t technically sharing the same house, the comment about Lisa doing Rick’s laundry seemed to suggest a similar type arrangement. Plus, as you noted, the events of Force of Arms seemed to cement the feelings of the two and suggest a more permanent relationship.

    Then again, after re-watching the episode, it does seem like Lisa is still pining for Rick, so I guess you are right, they aren’t actually an item. Having to replay this love triangle almost from square one feels (to me) gratuitous - Ricks’ revelation in To the Stars is basically a repeat – albeit a more dramatic one – of his thinking/actions in Force of Arms. Of course, this whole situation makes Rick seem like even more of an idiot than before (and to a lesser extent Lisa) – something I never really noticed as a kid. Oh well, at least Rand still remains one of my favorite characters from childhood.

    I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with A.G. Wells about the Dana situation. I don’t think there is anything deadbeat about parents leaving behind their children in the care of close friends if they intend to embark on an extended voyage into space (of perhaps indeterminate length) where they fully expect to fight a war if diplomacy fails. That actually seems quite reasonable. If anything, it is probably too reasonable – since we are talking about the same parents who took their infant into battle to use as a psychological weapon. Moreover, even if we ignore the safety issue, it is also possible that they simply wanted their daughter to grow up on an actual planet – to have some semblance of a “normal childhood,” to be able to know and make a connection with her home world and not be stuck on a warship. That last bit may be a bit of a stretch, but it would be prescience based on the apparent indifference toward Earth that we later see of Scott’s space-born generation.

    I also think Dana provides a valuable connection between the two sagas. We all know that on-screen character and setting continuity is impossible, but having a familial connection across sagas is probably the next best thing in terms of providing a firmer cast connection across the story arcs. This assumes, of course, that greater connectivity is something to be desired. I personally think so. For me, Robotech is about the synergy between the 3 story arcs. If we focus too much on the arcs as disparity entities, we run the risk of falling into the purist trap of viewing Robotech as just a weird dub of 3 robot anime series (one reason why I think Jonathan made an excellent point about the re-mastered opening segments in an earlier post).

    I will say though that this “small world” mentality of having everyone related can get out of hand very quickly – especially if it is done retroactively. The Star Wars universe is a great (read: bad) example of this trope in action as well as the foolishness of Scott Bernard being the godson of Dr Lang. Of course, the godson business is ridiculous for a variety of reasons aside from the problem of having to make everyone related. It’s a trope I usually don’t like, but I think its use in moderation was necessary for Robotech.

    By Blogger Niff, at 23 September, 2010 20:29  

  • i think these made robotech/macross seem more like something that really happened, and somehow make rick and lisa and minmei more believable.. especially when they're being frustratingly weird.

    i also think this is what gave macross its staying power, and made robotech seem less like 3 cartoons stapled together.. they're my favorite episodes

    mad max's premise is peak oil.. too many people, not enough oil causes the breakdown of order. robotech has the human race practically wiped out from space lasers, but there's still a protoculture powered space navy around to help. there is no reconstruction era in mad max.. just a second dark age that gets worse and worse.. in robotech, things get built up and smashed by succesive waves of invading alien races.. so i think that can explain relative poverty levels and the weird people we see at the time of new generation

    By Blogger James, at 26 September, 2010 12:58  

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