Macross TV Vol. #1 (of 9) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, December 28, 2001
Release Date: Thursday, December 20, 2001
What They Say
The opening of the series takes the viewer right into the action. In fact, the show doesn't focus much on characters at all until the fourth episode when we start to know some of our leads. Thankfully the action doesn't disappoint and does do a fair job of getting some background out about the people who we'll come to care quite a lot about.
Originally recorded back in the early 80's, anyone expecting much from this mono soundtrack is going to be disappointed. The Japanese language soundtrack is pretty good overall. There's no noticeable hiss on our system even with it cranked up. Everything feels pretty center channel based and the sound does a good job of filling up the forward soundstage. Dialogue is clear and undistorted though some segments, such as the next episode preview, are curiously louder than the main program itself.
In some respects, this is a really hard to grade section. Having seen the evolution of the transfer over the past couple of years at conventions and image images posted to their company site, the overall look and feel of the show practically surpasses its origins. When it was released, it was truly a state of the art piece of animation. Those who've seen Otaku no Video will remember how the fans there (who were essentially animated versions of the people who founded Gainax) were going through the shows animation frame by frame with awe and reverence at the skill used to create it and to make it seem so real. It falls short of today's animation expectations of course, but the job done here to make it come alive again is amazing. The only thing I can really see people having an issue with is the grain throughout it, but I have to say, on our HDTV with a progressive scan player, I've fallen in love again with the look of this show. With all the restoration and color correction efforts that have gone into it, this is a superb looking transfer of a classic.
It's been interesting to see the reactions to the cover art used for the series. Since there have been so many releases of the Robotech version of the years from different companies and on different formats, the artwork that had been used really became old and tired. The completely black covers with neon-like sketches of the characters gives the show to me something of a real collectors style image, something that's unique in that it's not trying to sell itself to the market in general, but just standing there for the person who knows what they're getting into. The first cover contains an orange lined image of Hikaru in his amateur pilot gear. the back cover provides a few animation shots and summaries for the four episodes. Production credits are pretty minimal overall though. Also included is a set of liner notes as written by Egan Loo. These notes are a wonderful bit of extra information and tidbits about the shows production and intentions of the creators - intentions that don't always come across.
Nicely laid out, the menus are done up as the interior to a Valkyrie cockpit. Episode numbers are listed along the right with the episode title showing in the main screen as you scroll down (with no discernable lag thankfully). The buttons along the bottom bring up a play-all feature, disc settings and translation video of the end credits for each disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The tale starts in 1999 when the kilometer long space fortress folds into our solar system and crashes into the remote island of South Ataria. The arrival of this beast gives a clear warning to mankind that there are other civilizations out there and that they use space as their battlefield. Over the course of the next ten years, nearly all countries unite together to pool resources and efforts to rebuilding this ship to human standards while learning of the alien technology.
Of course, not every nation saw it fit to join in, and a good part of those ten years are termed the Unification Wars, where blocs of nations were brought under heel for the long term survival of mankind. It's with this in mind that we see the story really unfolding with the launch day of the ship and we meet many of the soldiers who are crewed aboard it. Many fought in those wars and have their views radically changed by it.
The launch day has a fair amount of festivities; over the ten years of rebuilding, a city of close to 50,000 civilians has built up around the ship on the island, with schools, stores, restaurants and the whole works. So when the ship has its activities planned for the big day, a large number of people are in attendance as well as many people flying in for it. One particular guest is Hikaru Ichijo, an amateur ace barnyard style pilot, who has come at the invitation of his old flying buddy Roy Focker. Roy left the air circus he used to work in to fly and fight in the Unification Wars and then signed on for the Macross duty when it became available.
Hikaru's your typical mid-teen though whose got all the confidence in the world. Flying right into the celebration activities where the Angelbirds are showing off their super shiny jet fighters, he mixes it up with them and outdoes them for style. But that's his gig while they're the professional flyers. This does give a good insight into how young Hikaru is when compared alongside Roy as they talk about old times and why Roy never returned to the air circus.
The entire event takes a drastically different turn however when outside of lunar orbit, a small fleet of alien ships folds into local space. The rebuilt fortress on South Ataria detects this through a 'booby trap' system planted in it by those who sent it to Earth, and the ship's main section splits into two and launches a devastating beam attack into space, eliminating several vessels. And this happens just a day after the captain of the ship had been told to avoid confrontation with any aliens that they may meet.
It's through here that we meet a number of the crew of the ship in the command section. The older gruff Captain Global is one of those stereotypes used many times since he became popular, with his world weary look and love of the pipe. Misa Hayase and Claudia LaSalle also figure prominently early on as the two women who run most of the operations within the ship and dealing with the pilots, as well as three other women who handle various aspects of radar and communications.
With their recon ships destroyed, the mysterious alien enemy sends a beam barrage down onto the island area while it launches armed shuttles with ground troop vehicles to the far side of the island. The battles rage both in air and on land as the Valkyries take out the ships and then fight with the ground troops that got through. And mixed up in all of this, Hikaru ends up in a fighter and forced to launch and forced to fight. He manages fairly well to avoid getting killed or killing anyone, but eventually finds himself forced down into the city, where Misa quickly tells him to push the B lever in his craft, as she's amazed he doesn't seem to know anything.
And this is where the transformable mecha enter the show - something that was strictly avoided during the opening animation of the first episode, leaving it as a surprise. Hikaru now finds himself piloting a battloid in the middle of the city. Things get worse when he can't figure out how to make it walk and ends up crashing into a variety of buildings until Roy comes and helps him out. The battles and action only continues from here as Roy tries to make sure Hikaru is safe and that he can carry out his mission.
There are a number of scenes throughout that still get me after all of these years. One involves one Minmay, the young civilian girl that Hikaru helps to save from the enemy at one point. Acting quickly while being chased, he uses the ships hand to reach out and pick her up and then flies off to avoid a barrage of missiles. The sequence causes him to rocket upwards, only to have the arm that's holding Minmay to fall off. In probably one of the more fluid animated sequences of the early episodes, we watch as she hurtles down alongside the Valkyrie and Hikaru opens the hatch, reaches out to grab her, and pulls her in before he falls out himself. It's a stunt in one sense, something only the young and stupid will do in a moment without thinking. And it's just Hikaru to the very core.
The other is the moment of desperation that Captain Global finds himself in when he's unsure of a way to get away from the enemy without racking up countless losses. He opts to take the fortress just above the island and initiate an untested alien piece of technology - the space fold. The attempt actually works, but with disastrous results; it pulls up practically the entire island and a lot of the surrounding water and ships, only to transport it all out into space. Hundreds must be dead before they can bring everyone inside and try to recapture various pieces of necessary equipment and supplies. But the image of the island folding into space and then freezing over is quite vivid.
Equally vivid is the more naughty side of Macross, with many fans seeing scenes for the first time. One thing people will notice is throughout the first couple of episodes just how many times that Focker and Hikaru end up checking out Minmay's rear end. We also get the infamous naked shower scene with Minmay, which helps keep the seriousness of the situation down and not make it as heavy war-weary as it could be. The show in general does cast a rather mature feeling to it outside of these fun areas though, and that feeling makes you connect with the cast in a much deeper way.
It's been a number of years since I've seen an uncut version of this show for a variety of reasons, and now being able to go back to it after so long, I'm again rediscovering my love of this cast and their performances. Macross is the show that set me on the path to being an anime fan and with it being nearly twenty years since its original release, I'm finding it to hold up very well against today's shows. Highly recommended.
Japanese Language,English Subtitles
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AnimEigo
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2