DAY THIRTY-THREE: Showdown
(10) I would like to blame the interruption in writing this year-long look at the ROBOTECH universe on the fact that I wanted to put off watching this episode as long as possible because this is just a lousy stretch of The Macross Saga, but that's not true; the lousy stretch of The Macross Saga ended in the previous episode, with Rick more or less giving up on Minmei (again) for the time being (though he does backslide again, just a bit, at the end of the episode), and Lisa outgrowing her mind-boggling infatuation with Kyle -- which peaked last episode with her ludicrous "OMG IS KYLE OKAY, RICK, TELL ME NOW!" demands over the radio -- and finding a true, honest hope for peace to latch onto in the form of the Zentraedi defectors.
(9) This is the episode that introduces the Super armor for the Veritech Fighter, though the way it's drawn here -- stylized and awesome-looking -- and the way Gloval talks about it both seemed to lead ROBOTECH RPG author and publisher Kevin Siembieda to believe it's an entirely different fighter, slightly taller with better base performance than the regular VF-1. That wasn't the original MACROSS series crew's intention; this was just a mid-series upgrade to the main robot of the sort that robot shows have been doing since the very beginning; go all the way back to 1972 and look at Mazinger-Z getting the Jet Scrander attachment midway through his self-titled anime series, or just a few years before MACROSS, in 1979, the way the original Gundam Mobile Suit wound up with the goofy G-Fighter box that could turn it into a fighter of sorts. The new edition of the RPG swings this back around to the way it actually is.
The other silly thing worth talking about as regards the Super Veritech is how in August of 1998 Antarctic Press, whose figurehead Ben Dunn had talked up the fact that Antarctic would "do ROBOTECH right," and would carefully build new storylines and so on, published the first issues of two 2-issue mini-series that offered dueling takes on the development of the Super Veritech armor, both set in entirely different timeframes during The Macross Saga. (Gregory Lane's COVERT OPS took its lead from Dunn's own MEGASTORM and was set during the trek back to Earth, while Lee Duhig's WINGS OF GIBRALTAR was set at some unspecified point between the end of "Paradise Lost" and this episode.) Antarctic editorial clearly just didn't care and let their freelancers do whatever they wanted, even if it made editorial look lazy and stupid. Twelve years on (oh lord, it's really been that long?), I still roll my eyes at that one.
(One more amusing note regarding the pre-"Showdown" use of the Super Veritech: Rick specifically says to Lisa in this episode that "most of [these weapons] weren't battle tested at all before this fight." Uh huh. Sure, that's the sort of thing nobody was going to find a reference for back in 1998, but it is funny looking back on it now in 2010 and seeing the TV series lay down a trump card that reads, "You're BOTH wrong.")
(8) The departure of Lisa from the SDF-1 makes me glad that the apocalyptic finale is only three episodes away; she'll be back with all her friends and coworkers in no time at all. After all these years, doesn't she know her own father? Doesn't she know she's not going to get anywhere with him, and consequently nowhere with his commanders and colleagues? I guess she's riding an optimistic high in the wake of so many of "the enemy" defecting to the SDF-1.
Of all the people who are actually going to know Lisa is returning to Earth, Rick is the last one Lisa tells. Sometimes when you're watching ROBOTECH you have to ignore what characters say -- sometimes what they say is sheer gobbledygook -- and just look at what they do; those are the beats that ring truer. And in this case, this decision tells me that Lisa not only cares deeply for Rick, maybe even loves him, but also knows he feels the same. After all, why do you wait 'til the last minute to tell someone you're leaving unless you're afraid they're going to try and stop you?
(She proves to be right; catch how Rick is all calm one moment, then it hits him what's going on and he starts SCREAMING into the phone.)
(7) Notice that Max has been promoted to team leader and, from this episode forward, has his blue VF-1J -- you know, the one they exclusively made all the toys of up until about five years ago or so, unless they were doing Do You Remember Love toys, in which case you could get both the white -1A with blue trim and the white -1S with blue trim. Yes, I actually have my little Yamato action figure of the TV series -1A and it's STILL a sore spot with me.
From the moment the alarm klaxons start wailing, you know it's Khyron who's launching the attack. Who else would jump on an opportunity like this, without warning, from the midst of a period of relative calm? Khyron may be an annoying gnat, but dramatically he's incredibly useful. Need a random enemy attack? Hey, look, here comes Khyron again!
It's cute, when the new Super Veritech is ordered up and Sammie asks who they're going to get to pilot it, Gloval immediately asks for Rick by name, the same way that Fokker was always his go-to guy before his passing. Yes, Rick's the main character and the leader of the Skull Squadron now, so it's not like it's a sudden shock, but with that line it feels like the torch has finally fully been passed. Rick is now truly The Guy, y'know?
Poor Max, the finest flying ace of his generation, finally gets a mission of his own and winds up being overshadowed by superior technology; Rick arrives in the Super Veritech and ends the battle decisively with a couple of missile volleys. I assume, though, he was probably going through the same issues Rick was back when he got his first command: learning on the fly how to bounce between watching his own back and taking care of the men under his command. While he and his men are overwhelmed by the numbers Khyron brings to bear, you can see for yourself Max hasn't missed a beat when it comes to handling a Veritech Fighter; he gets a few dazzling sequences of zipping his Battloid about in space, tearing Battlepods apart. All of the mecha art and animation in this episode is pretty phenomenal, and considering it's both the debut of new equipment and home to one of the truly iconic battles of the entire Macross Saga, it's a good thing it is!
(6) Pity poor Sammie. Max's wingman complains that she had him doing loop-de-loops around the control tower last time she was subbing for Lisa, Gloval tries to make sure everything's alright and the poor frazzled girl jumps down his throat, and then ultimately she is revealed to have failed to deliver Rick's copy of the new coordinate codes to him in a timely fashion, since -- as she says -- he wasn't supposed to be working today, so when she gives him the coordinates to join the battle, he has no idea what she's talking about.
But then, what did Sammie expect when she took this job? There's a reason they normally have Lisa in that chair. It's because it takes someone like Lisa to do the job effectively. Once again, thankfully Lisa's absence from the SDF-1 is going to be short-lived. On the other hand, if I remember right, Sammie does get much better at this job between now and "Force of Arms."
Probably my favorite scene in the entire episode is Rick and Lisa's conversation, ending with Rick flashing the morse code message telling her how much he'll miss her and to come home soon with his running lights. Apparently this is one of someone else's favorite scenes as well, because there's a very cute nod to it in the final issue of PRELUDE TO THE SHADOW CHRONICLES (one of my two favorite scenes in that series, too -- yeah, go ahead, call me an idiot, I LIKED Edwards turning into the big pseudo-Invid monster). It continues their little dance around one another, which would be a lot sweeter if it didn't involve all these relapses into "Oh, Minmei!" on the one side, and staring off into space dreamily at a man who's never said a kind word to you just because he looks kind of like your dead fiancee if you squint at him a little on the other.
(In case you haven't noticed, while she's nicer about it than this outside observer, Claudia's obviously been thinking the same thing for several episodes, and continues to speak her mind about the matter to both parties throughout the rest of the series.)
(5) The big thing everyone remembers this episode for, of course, is the video game duel between Max and Miriya. It's the big focal point of the second half of the episode -- which honestly feels like a whole other episode. This episode really feels like "just the facts" digest versions of two episodes glued together in the middle -- which, given how poorly served everyone who isn't Rick or Lisa has been since "A New Dawn" and how quickly the status quo from "Battle Cry" flipped to the status quo of "Paradise Lost," and the way Azonia comes off like a vestigial tail or an appendix of a character, it seems entirely possible. You can see that they're trying, but there's a lot of stuff that just isn't very well built up during the second half of pre-Reconstruction MACROSS.
It's also probably why, on this viewing, I've come to just roll my eyes at the whole Max and Miriya story. I know, I'm tipping one of the sacred cows of MACROSS, but the whole thing is just badly developed. The storyline has a great concept, Miriya has a great character design (but then, it's Haruhiko Mikimoto -- the man doesn't DO bad character designs), Edie Mirman's performance is pitch-perfect for the character -- and she even manages to make the alien assumptions not sound dumb, which is no mean feat. Unfortunately, due to the time crunch, Miriya winds up being a one-note character who bounces from one note to, in the next episode, another, and while Max assures us he's "been seeing her everywhere," this is only the second time we've seen him lay eyes on her. (Then again, like I said, anyone who isn't Rick or Lisa's been poorly served, so he could have passed her on the street every day for the last week and we wouldn't know.) And, well ... my next complaint, I'm saving for the next episode, because that's when it's going to apply, but you can probably guess it.
The Minmei with the gong thing is actually how the Famicom (NES) MACROSS side-scrolling shooter game starts -- I assume based off of this, since the game came along the year after this aired.
I love all the weird-looking guys hanging out at the arcade. During one pan, you'll notice there's a giant wrestler guy just flexing in the background. The sad-sack arcade owner with the crazy glasses and the mohawk is also great.
What do you think Rick is thinking when he sees the pilot jump out of the cockpit in the red and white pilot's uniform and get a big hug and a smooch from what is obviously Minmei? C'mon, for a split-second there he's gotta be thinking, "I wonder if I could sue ..."
(4) While Miriya has her problems as a character, you can't help but like Max, if not love him. He's one of the coolest geeks of the 1980's, with those big glasses, the cool shoulder-length blue hair (which seems a little shaggier this episode), and the crazy battle skills; he's polite, usually humble, but after a big win like this he can get a little awkwardly loudmouthed about his own abilities. But you catch his demeanor, and it's not like he's trying to be a jerk about it, he's just stating the facts. It really was no sweat for him.
And then he turns around and asks out the girl he inadvertently insulted on a date. Should he be surprised when she tries to bolt, and says to him, "Oh, whatever you want, just let me go," before storming off? I love how the pilot hovering over his shoulder makes the same remark we're all thinking here at home, "I hope she plans to show up," like it's a long shot. Which, in real life, it would be -- if not for the fact that, after two humiliations, now she intends to just ambush and stab the bastard.
(3) While Max is trying to get Rick's mind off of Lisa -- with Rick insisting his mind ISN'T on Lisa, though we all know Max is right -- and meeting the love of his life, Lisa arrives on Earth. Her father is singing a far different tune than when they last met; he's the one breaking decorum and enthusiastically shouting, "My little girl's come back to me!" while Lisa soberly salutes and officially reports in. When she presents the report, he leads her on, offering to present the proposal for negotiations -- but he's got his own twist, his own spin. It's a little sad seeing how the two are warming back to one another all the way up to the point where Admiral Hayes brings his daughter into the maw of the Grand Cannon, where he explains that before entering into negotiations, they're going to fire this baby up and blow a significant number of them all to hell.
The shame is, the Admiral is right. Lisa and the crew of the SDF-1 are certainly being naive. All of us across the globe have the same genetic makeup, and heaven knows we've shown a distinct inability to get along without killing one another. He also earns points for the argument about not knowing what factors in the Zentraedi's history led them to the point they're at. On the other hand, history will prove her out regarding the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the Grand Cannon ...
The scene between the two of them inside the Grand Cannon is a pretty darned perfect moment, from the Admiral's almost sinister grin when he describes their plan, to Lisa's two-frame quake of anger, all the way to the final moment, where Admiral Hayes tells her there's nothing more to discuss, and Melanie MacQueen nails that last, softly-spoken line, "Yes, I can see that."
(2) Oh hell, we have to put up with another scene of Kyle and Minmei being vapid and surrounded by gossip-mongers? Shame is, the SDF-1 turns out to be a perfect microcosm of the real 2010 in at least one regard -- there's wars going on outside, but all the civilian populous seems to care about is the love lives of dim little pop stars. (Though to be fair, Minmei comes off as a hair smarter than our real-life pop stars.) I like to think the only reason Rick's still watching this nonsense is because it's the only thing on, like when you're up at two in the morning and you have a choice between Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, and TMZ. (Pity poor Rick -- he's getting name-checked on the TV, and it's so that Minmei can almost nastily say, "Oh, he was just a friend.")
Meanwhile, the Zentraedi are watching it because, well, they're Zentraedi -- watching Minmei is just what they do.
So Kyle says he's been thinking of proposing to Minmei -- who wants to bet HE'S the one who fed the reporters the rumor that the two of them are getting married? -- and Rick gets all mopey about how he thought, once upon a time, that he and Minmei had something, and in wanders Max, asking for Rick's advice about whether or not he should wear this tie to go meet Miriya. Yeah, Max. Ask Rick for dating advice. THAT'S a good idea.
(1) Having escaped from Max and his clothing coordination issues, Rick finds a nice bench to sit down at and watch the stars go by. Claudia finds him, and since she doesn't have Lisa to slap some common sense into anymore, she decides to slap some into Rick. Remember what I said earlier? Yeah, she hits him with a little bit of that. Although between playing coy about his remark that she's talking about Lisa and hitting the "those people are around, so close you might miss them" angle so hard, it almost sounds like she wants Rick for herself, which might explain his baffled expression at the end.
Well, that was more or less painless. Shame I probably won't be able to say the same for the next episode. There's bad animation episodes, and then there's LEGENDARILY bad animation episodes.
"Be sure to be watching next time for the action-packed story 'Wedding Bells,' the latest chapter in the amazing story of ROBOTECH!"