Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
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- Age Rating: TV PG
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.99/39.98
- Running time: 150
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Macross
Macross Vol. #1 (also w/box)
December 21, 2005
Release Date: January 10, 2006
Please note that this review is of a screener release; the final release will have four episodes on the first disc and two on the second. The screener release only contained the first three episodes so this review is looking at it purely from a content angle.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
So... Macross. It's hard to believe that anime fandom has reached the point where there are probably hard-core fans reading this who got to be fans without ever having seen this series or its Robotech cousin. For those who need it - or who just want a refresher on what these review episodes cover - here's a quick summary.
In the year 1999, an alien ship crash lands on a small island on Earth. Earth scientists discover that the ship is far more advanced than anything mankind has yet created and, more disturbingly, it seems to have been created for a race of giants many times the size of an average human. The scientists set out to learn what they can from the ship and also rebuild it along the way to allow it to be manned by a human crew. Ten years later, the ship - the Macross - is ready to launch under the command of Captain Bruno Global, with support from his all-female bridge crew: First Lt. Misa Hayase, Claudia LaSalle, and the "bridge bunnies" (Vanessa, Kim, and Shammy). On the day of the ship's triumphant launch, the celebration is interrupted by the arrival of an alien fleet who want to retrieve the ship at all costs. The Macross and its crew are forced into battle before they've even gotten off the ground, and many civilians on hand for the launch are caught in the crossfire.
One such civilian is Hikaru Ichijyo, a hot shot young pilot who was invited to the celebration by his friend, Major Roy Focker. After making an eye-catching entrance by upstaging military fighter jets with his own fancy flying, Hikaru accidentally winds up in combat against the invading aliens. He finds that the combat aircraft are very different than the normal planes he's used to, especially in the fact that they transform into two other forms, including a giant-robot style mech. In the chaos, Hikaru encounters Lynn Minmay, a teenage girl who was also on-hand for the launch celebration. Although he is a bit over his head himself, Hikaru takes Minmay into his protection when she becomes separated from the rest of her family, who have fled to shelters on the island.
Hikaru and Minmay are aboard the Macross as it lifts off, but being young and stupid...errr...impetuous, the two of them head out in Hikaru's plane to return Minmay to her family. Before they get very far, though, Captain Global executes a "fold" event, intending to escape to a point behind the moon. Unfortunately, this move is done using untested systems, and the maneuver unexpectedly transports not only the Macross, but also a large sphere of space around it - including Hikaru's plane and most of the island, including many civilians in their airtight shelters. Luckily, the Macross is able to retrieve most of the civilians unharmed, but Hikaru and Minmay are not as lucky. Unable to get much control of the plane in space, Hikaru is forced to crash land in an abandoned section of the gigantic ship. The third episode ends with two big surprises for the bridge crew. First, the fold event has overshot the moon by a gigantic margin and the Macross is actually somewhere in the vicinity of Pluto. Secondly, the fold engines have somehow disappeared in the course of the maneuver, leaving the ship and its civilian refugees stuck at the outer reaches of the galaxy with no way home.
These episodes, of course, barely scratch the surface of this series, and the big news here is really the new dub and soundtrack. Overall, I would say that ADV has executed an excellent English version of this series so far. The casting in most cases is spot-on, the acting was overall excellent, and the script seems faithful while still managing to give the series a fresh, contemporary feel that should have a lot of appeal even for newer fans who might not normally go for such an old title, classic or not.
This “contemporary” feel is also on display in the soundtrack. I'm not sure whether the promo disc I viewed was the final audio mix, but the new 5.1 surround soundtrack was definitely making its presence known - most notably in the fight sequences, with jets and bombs streaking across the sky, but also with some ambient sound in less flashy moments. The soundtrack was actually a little jarring for me at first - not in a bad way, but in the anti-nostalgia of it all… moving the series away from its “old school” flavor in a way that I wasn’t expecting, but which definitely serves to showcase how enjoyable the story and characters still are today.
I was also impressed with the obvious care put into this dub, and the casting of even the smaller characters shows some excellent judgment. There was only one character who I felt was a bit miscast (more on that in a minute), but in all cases, the actors really sold the material and I found this dub to be one that manages the difficult task of becoming truly transparent to me as I was viewing. There were several times where I had to go back and rewatch a notable scene because I was so involved in the story that I had completely forgotten that there were human actors behind the voices that I was supposed to be commenting on. This, for me, usually indicates a great match-up between character and voice quality, with some talented acting in the mix, too.
I was, in particular, pleased with most of the secondary characters. We don't hear a lot from the bridge bunnies (played by Nancy Novotny, Kira Vincent Davis, and Hilary Haag) in these episodes, but all three of them fit their parts well - nicely competent when the situation calls for it, but also comfortable with the girlish silliness when teasing Misa. Christine Auten added to this, as well, and was just about pitch-perfect for Claudia - older and wiser than the other girls, but sassy in her own way. (As an aside, I wasn't quite as pleased with Auten as the narrator, which I thought came across a little overdramatic...but I guess this is in keeping with the usual anime announcer tone, so that's only a minor quibble.)
Rounding out the bridge crew, I was very, very impressed with the handling of Captain Global (John Swasey). With the whole Russian accent thing in Robotech and his being Italian in Macross, I was half-expecting Global to be given some silly accent that would have killed the aforementioned "transparency" of the dub for me. Happily, they veered away from any significant accent (there might be a hint of something there, but it's nothing placeable) and I found the character to be delightfully entertaining - gruff at times, but not to the point of caricature, and with a vocal quality that put me in mind of a salty old sea captain - complete with occasionally colorful language.
...And speaking of colorful language, we get that in spades from Roy Focker, played by Brett Weaver. After Global, Roy was probably my hands-down favorite role in this batch of episodes. Like Global, it was a nice, natural performance with some excellent layers to it. Brett pulls off the skirt-chasing flyboy elements of the character without making him come off as a flake or a sexist lout, and without losing the integrity of the seasoned fighting-ace wisdom when he's being serious.
This brings me to the big three of Hikaru, Misa, and Minmay. Truthfully, I do have a few concerns in this area, but all three characters are so iconic that it would've been more surprising to me if I didn't have concerns. Additionally, Minmay and Misa don't really have a whole lot of meaningful dialogue in these episodes, so that may be a factor as well.
As Misa Hayase, Monica Rial is definitely getting a chance to show off her range a bit. The (comparatively) lower voice she's using fits the character quite well, though I did think she tended to get a bit more shrill than seemed appropriate for Misa during high-stress moments. I did really like her tone in the calmer moments with the character, so hopefully this is something that will sort itself out as the character gets less shrill along the way.
I'm similarly hoping that I'll warm up to Vic Mignogna as Hikaru. I hate to say that, because I'm a huge fan of Vic's, and he gives an excellent performance here - I can certainly see him carrying the series. Unfortunately, this just happened to be one of those times where, for me, the character design and voice of the actor just don't mesh very well, and I had a tough time matching the two up. Still, as I mentioned, it's a strong performance and Vic seems to have a good handle on the character, which can go a long way to making even a mental block like this one become less of an obstacle to enjoyment.
Which leaves us with Minmay... and... hmmm... Public reaction to Mari Iijima as Minmay in English is going to be interesting. Her vocal quality still fits the character beautifully, and having grown up wondering what the heck "Rick Hunter" saw in that whiny "Minmei" chick, I'm happy to say that I found Mari's Minmay to be quite sweet and charming and much more palatable than her Robotech counterpart. The big question mark here is whether Mari's accent affects one's enjoyment of her performance. After these three episodes, I honestly don't know myself. On one hand, there were several times where her lines were difficult to understand, or where the different emphasis on certain words impeded my involvement with a scene. On the other hand, though, the accent gives Minmay a unique sort of appeal that, if used well down the road could give a slightly different spin to the character's development. It's definitely a role that I need to see more of before I can form a final opinion one way or another.In Summary:
Judging from this preview, this release of Macross seems like a sure-fire win for fans of the series who have been waiting for an English dub. With its talented cast and well-adapted script, the English version should also be a nice draw for newer fans who may have missed out on the series due to its age. ADV has definitely made the effort to do right by this classic, and they've done an admirable job in honoring the original material while giving it a fresh new flare. This release looks to be a worthy addition to the Macross library.
Marantz DV4300 Progressive scan DVD player via HD component connection, Marantz VP-12S3 DVI/Component HD DLP Projector, 110” 16:9 Stewart FireHawk Fixed Wall Mount Screen, Marantz SR9300 7.1 A/V Receiver 140 watts/discrete channel (7), DTS/DTS-ES/DTS Neo: 6, DD, D-PLII THX Certified 7.1 speaker system