It’s sometimes hard to believe, but I once was a kid as well. (Although some might argue that I’m still a kid, but hey no argument from me there). Growing up in the 80’s one of the most fun things to do back then was watching cartoons, and in my case playing with my Transformers toys. Luckily those toys were supported by a hugely popular animated series, and for me that was the greatest thing on the planet. I mean robots which could transform into planes, cars and other stuff? And kicking the crap out of each other on a weekly basis during the animated show? Ah…life was so good back then. One day though I came across another cartoon that featured transforming robots, but they were piloted by humans. My young mind could not really comprehend that series fully back then, and even rejected it at first. But then an episode aired which had the Earth surrounded by a fleet of over 4 million alien warships. As if that wasn’t enough to sent my mind into overdrive, those same ships blasted the Earth back into the stone age, and it was at that point I became an instant fan of that show. It was called Robotech, and I didn’t know it at the time, but that was actually my first encounter with the Japanese art form known as anime.
You see Robotech was an American production that took three totally unrelated Japanese anime series, and combined them into one show with a totally rewritten script. The first part, also known as the Macross saga, was always the most popular segment of the series. Now, 35 years after seeing Robotech for the first time, I have finally been able to experience the original Japanese version of that first section. Not only am I very happy to report that it has withstood the test of time remarkably well, it also gave me the opportunity to see what the original script had been about. And of course make some comparisons as well. Super Dimension Fortress Macross (yes that is quite a mouthful) is a 36 episode science fiction epic that has also been very instrumental in defining the so called Mecha genre of Japanese animation. So what then is the story about? I’m glad you asked. In the year 1999 a gigantic alien spaceship crashlands on South Ataria Island. Over the course of the next 10 years, humanity finally comes together as the threat of alien invasion far outweighs all the petty wars that the human race had been involved in.
In the greatest endeavor mankind has ever been involved in the ship has been fully rebuild and given a new name: SDF-1 Macross. Granting huge technological advances including the transformable fighter planes known as Valkyries, the ship seems to have been a gift straight from heaven. On the eve of the ship’s maiden voyage, ten years after the crash, young civilian pilot Hikaru Ichijyo is invited by his friend, the brash and cocky military fighter pilot Roy Focker, to take part in the festivities. But little do they know that a fleet of alien warships has appeared on the edge of Earth’s solar system, after having searched for years for the alien ship, that was build by their greatest enemies. These aliens known as the Zentradi are a race of giants that were bred for just one purpose: war! The brave but inexperienced crew of the Macross, under the command of captain Bruno J. Global, are all that stand in the way of the total annihilation of the human race. Young Hikaru soon finds himself in the middle of the greatest conflict in the history of mankind….a conflict that will leave him changed, and one he may not even survive….
It’s hard to believe that a series which is now almost 40 years old, is still such an incredibly fun watch. One has to wonder why that is. For sure one major selling point for this series is the cast of incredibly memorable characters. Singing bird Lynn Minmay is pretty much an icon and probably one of the most recognisable characters ever designed for an anime series. I have to admit though: I never liked her. Not in Robotech, and also not in this original version. Her selfish personality, and the way she uses Hikaru often made me furious. Especially considering the fact that the heroic SDF officer (and much more sympathetic) Misa Hayase was often hurt in the process. Confused? Let me explain one of the central themes for which Macross is known: love triangles. Yes Hikaru was the love interest of both Minmay and Misa, which often resulted in Hikaru making a fool of himself with Minmay, and not realising that his true love was Misa. Now before you think this anime is heading into soap opera theatre, let me put your minds at ease, as that is really not the case. Macross has something for everyone: humor, action, sadness, love, hate, it’s all blended together in an almost perfect cocktail of epic proportions.
It’s also a show that’s unpredictable as not everyone makes it out alive. There are some episodes that will leave you in tears and this series doesn’t shy away from showing the true horrors that war creates. It also does it’s best in convincing us that war leads to nothing but pain and suffering, not that we needed to be convinced of that in the first place. Having now seen both the Robotech and original versions, it’s interesting to see the differences. For one thing I noticed that in Macross most of the characters had much less dialogue. During some scenes I expected something to be said, only to hear total silence. Sometimes that was more effective, and sometimes it was a bit of a missed opportunity. There were also quite a few scenes that didn’t make it into Robotech, either because they were too brutal or too sexy, or because they simply didn’t fit. And at certain points the storyline was very different from it’s Robotech counterpart, but that wasn’t a big surprise seeing how Robotech needed to seamlessly fit together three unrelated animeshows.
So what about the look of this anime? I think for a show that’s now almost 4 decades old, the animation still looks pretty spectacular. Sure, when compared to modern standards it’s certainly not as good, but that doesn’t mean that it’s outdated. The same can’t be said for the music, which is another very important part in Macross. I think that’s pretty much the only thing of this anime that doesn’t hold up too well, but then again it also gives it a certain charm. Since the original show aired in 1982, there have been countless sequels, and if you would like to know more about them, you might want to check out an overview post I once wrote. Just press this link for that one. Macross is simply put a must watch for anyone who loves classic anime, or would like to see the beginnings of one of the most influential animeseries ever made. It tells a timeless tale, and contains a group of wonderful characters that I guarantee you will fall in love with. A true classic, this is a fine example that showcases just what make Japanese animation so incredibly good.
I give Super Dimension Fortress Macross a 10 out of 10 score.