Macross TV Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: AnimEigo
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Macross

Macross TV Vol. #1

By Jon Niehof     April 26, 2002
Release Date: December 20, 2001

The Review!
The only option here is the mono (but 2.0-encoded) original Japanese track, and it sounds good, very clean and understandable. Obviously the dynamic range isn't large, and occasionally there's some very slight distortion or clipping (probably from the original recording). All-in-all, this is an excellent presentation of the original audio. No dub unfortunately, which may be a turnoff for some but is understandable given the legal circumstances surrounding the show.

Here's where we get to the uglier side of this release, and a minor war of preference. For the most part, the video is very clean, bright, and vibrant. I noticed nothing in the way of compression artifacts, and the combination of progressive encode and only including the opening once on the disc (disc logic automatically branches to it at the beginning of each episode) allowed 4 episodes to fit on a single layer without any artifacting. Since the transfer was from the original film, there is no cross-coloration of any kind. Saturation is absolutely PERFECT, in contrast to the washed-out look of the unrestored footage. One or two tiny nicks or flaws occasionally pop up, but these are very few and easily ignorable.

However, there is grain, and lots of it. Some grain is a natural part of film, and AnimEigo made the right decision to reintroduce grain that had been cleaned out in the restoration process. Without it, the video would look very flat and lifeless. Unfortunately, they added a bit too much. Most scenes maintain a pleasing balance, but some absolute swim in grain and the worst are downright distracting. One thing to keep in mind (and part of what leads to different opinions on this matter) is that if your display's white level (contrast) is even slightly too high the grain will jump out at you. It might be worth running a calibration on your set if you find this overly disturbing.

The subtitles are excellent, highly readable, in AE's trademark three colours (optic yellow, pink, green). They're soft subs and can be turned off.

The package design is very simple: black Amaray case, black cover with orange and white art. The front is a line drawing of Hikaru and the back has a few shots from the episodes, episode summaries, and a listing of credits. All in all this is a very sharp though simple design. Unfortunately, the writing and front cover lineart are very fuzzy instead of sharp. This makes the summaries hard to read and ruins a bit of the classy feel to the art. The summaries also are summaries, rather than descriptions, so they spoil some of the main events of the episode.

The disc art itself is very sharp, with a Valkyrie in Battroid mode and an episode listing (again in slightly fuzzy type), keeping the same orange as a background.

The insert is discussed in the extras.

Overall design is nice and clean, with a Valkyrie cockpit forming the background and a list of episode numbers down the right. Selecting an episode reveals the title. At the bottom, on the buttons of the control stick, are options for setup, disc credits, and playing all the episodes sequentially. Hidden in the setup menu is an option for skipping the opening when playing the episodes. On the whole it's fairly easy to navigate, although making the "fire button" options a bit more obvious would help.

I have two major quibbles with the menus. First, the copyright notice and AE logo are locked-out; you can't skip or fastforward through them. Second, there's really no easy way to, for example, watch the last two episodes on a disc. Starting from the beginning and chapter-skipping episode to episode is fairly slow because of some of the branching logic. Selecting an episode from the menu returns back to the menu at the end of that episode. Obviously this is a matter of personal preference but to me the "right way" to do things is to use the episode selected from the menu as a starting point and play straight through from there.

The big on-disc extra is the music and SFX track, allowing Macross karaoke parties or other sorts of fun. Unfortunately the music is in one channel and the SFX in the other, so unless you have a receiver that allows you to force both channels to centre it's going to sound pretty weird.

Off-disc, of course, you get AE's liner notes. The first installment here is episode notes for 1-12 (obviously they spoil the episode they're written for, so you won't be able to read these all before getting disc 3). The notes are in their new "recipe card" format, with "Macross Episodes" on a tab at the top so you can hypothetically file notes from all the volumes together in some sort of order.

The notes are both interesting and informative, containing lots of information from the creators of Macross and a few interesting things to note in each episode, as well as a word or two on how they fit into the larger arc. Really, really good stuff, and nice to have on paper rather than on-disc so that it's handy while watching.

Traditionally the first episode of a series exists to introduce all the characters and get them all together somehow. Fortunately, Macross avoids this pitfall. Instead the episode begins by fast-forwarding the world from the near future 1999, when a derelict spacecraft crashed on Earth, through the resultant chaos on Earth, consolidation of power under the UN, and into 2009, when the spacecraft has been brought to operational status. All this easily fits into the first few minutes, setting the stage for the series. I'm sure there are a lot of good stories in that skipped decade and it'd definitely be ripe for spin-off territory.

A couple of the character pieces get moved into place too, with Captain Global and the bridge crew on the one hand and the duo of Roy Focker and Ichijo Hikaru on the other. It's a fairly interesting pairup as the two obviously have some long history despite holding very different perspectives on life. Their few early minutes on screen very quickly and skillfully sketch in their individual characters and interaction with each other before we (and they) get pulled into the larger events surrounding them.

Both in characterization and in one particular event towards the end of the episode, this all sounds fairly conventional and derivative. Of course, Macross started a few of these cliches, so here they feel fresh. Coupling this newness with the degree that characters go beyond their stereotypes and spring into life makes the whole business both believable and enjoyable. There's also another 35 episodes to build on this foundation and be more creative.

A lot of plot threads get started up throughout this first disc. Hikaru's personal story remains independent of the larger story for these four episodes; he's not just along for the ride, but his struggles are his own. Once Minmay's introduced the focus is very much on their relationship for the first little bit, and indeed the fourth episode is almost entirely them by themselves, ignored and forgotten by the rest of the characters. This provides opportunity to flesh out these two and their interaction in isolation, before the events outside begin to mold them.

Character introduction and backplot take a priority over action throughout these episodes, as the plot tension is just beginning to build, but there's still enough action to satisfy. The battle sequences themselves just plain work. They're tense, exciting, fluid, and full of motion.

Even today, parts of the animation are simply stunning. Watch particularly for one of Hikaru's first (of many) rescue operations: the characters, machines, and camera all spin crazily around, pulling the viewer into the scene. And all working together, of course, don't quite let you look up Minmay's skirt...

All in all this is good stuff. It's just laying the groundwork for the series, but sets a very solid foundation with some serious style.

Review Equipment
Panasonic RP-56 DVD player. Samsung TSL-2713 HDTV, Pioneer VSX-D509S receiver, random speakers


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