Macross Zero Vol. #1 (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, December 28, 2002
Release Date: Friday, December 20, 2002



What They Say
20 years since the premiere of the original Macross series on TV, comes a brand new series directed by Seiji Kawamori. The production crew includes special fx director Ichiro Itano, production designer Kazutaka Miyatake, et al. Macross Valkyrie's sky action and transformation sequences are done in full CGI.

The Review!
To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Macross, Bandai does the right thing and kicks a new OVA series into gear and manages to create one of the most visually stunning OVA?s ever.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese and in the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that was made for it. With this being the opening episode, it?s much quieter than I expected and dealt more with dialogue and small sounds, but the 5.1 mix worked very well in creating an overall ambience, from the sound of the seashore to the directionally placed voices of people walking down halls. There are a few brief stunning moments during combat sequences, but overall this is a solid effective use of a 5.1 mix.

Video:
Freshly made, this transfer is a stunner. With an anamorphic print and the latest in animation, just about every frame of this show screams with gorgeous animation. The colors, particularly the beautifully painted backgrounds, are lush. The CG animation flows extremely well here with only a few areas that really felt out of place. Cross coloration, aliasing, pixellation are all non-existent. This is the best of the best coming out of Japan right now.

Packaging:
A bit subdued considering what?s actually contained inside, the front cover sports an image of a Valkyrie in full painted color while several of the characters ring around it in the background in pencil form. The back cover goes for the CG shots when it comes to showing off the actual program and provides a couple paragraphs worth of plot summary. The multipage insert provides a number of character design sketches and a few pages worth of commentary from Kawamori.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My love/love relationship with Macross forced me to purchase at the least the first volume of this series. With Macross being the show that got me really into anime, and having watched the movie raw for so many years, each new instance of Macross has been a tiny bit of heaven and youth revisited for me. I?m wondering if it?s the same for Kawamori, as he now returns to Macross with this five part OVA series.

With it having no subtitles, I?ve had to rely on simple web page translations and a few notes here and there, so my understanding of the episode so far is sketchy and I apologize for any errors. The gist of the opening episode appears to be that the story takes place several years after the crash landing of the fortress on Earth. During that time, the fighting severely intensified before things smoothed out and we went forward with the world we saw in the original TV series. But during this time, the technology of the fortress is being applied to conventional equipment and military ideas, so as to give one side an edge over the other. That alone is enough cause for some to continue the world wars that were raging prior to the fortresses arrival.

The show opens as we follow Shin Kudo flying a conventional fighter craft on patrol, only to end up in a spirited dogfight with the enemy. The enemy turns out to be much more than meets the eye when the red craft transforms into this strange humanoid looking shape and proceeds to shoot everyone down. Shin survives by ejecting in time, but ends up stranded on an island with a people whose ancient beliefs in flying gods is almost overwhelming. Shin finds himself being taken care of by the slightly young Mao, who has developed a strong crush on him. This sets off problems with her older sister Sara, whom Shin also eventually gets along well with.

The time spent on the island is mostly dialogue oriented, as we learn about Shin?s dislike of killing and being a military fighter, but the necessity of it. To contrast that, we get to spend some time aboard one of the aircraft carriers where we get introduced to Focker, a man and a character that is just instantly identifiable by the voice acting of Akira Kamiya. Focker?s not much different than when we see him in the TV series, but this time period is a serious one for him as he?s seeing out the closing of the war and dealing with the problems that come with it. But with the apparent competition of another transformable fighter out there, he?s more focused on dealing with that than anything else.

There is a payoff sequence towards the end of this disc, as Focker takes on the mysterious enemy pilot, where we see the ?first? transformation sequence of a Valkyrie. I know there are going to be a lot of people who will hate it due to the CG, but it was just so incredibly beautifully done and mixed with traditional animation styles that it had my heart racing. This prequel, providing an updated look and feel to the original Macross, makes me yearn for the series itself to be retooled and retold just to see what they could make this time. Watching how Focker plays the controls like a musical instrument as his eyes mark each of the targets brought back all the feelings of the original Macross series and movie with the number of one on one matches and the general style and feel of the pilots.

And never mind the brief but stunning fight sequence throughout the jungle between the two craft.

My original intention had been to just pick up the first volume so I could get that thrill and show my support for the Macross franchise. But after being so completely overwhelmed with what this first volume offered, I can?t avoid picking up the remainder of them as they?re released. This is the kind of anime I live for.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Japan
Released By: Bandai Visual
MSRP: �5,000
Running time: 30
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Macross Zero