Saturday, November 14, 2015

Macross Plus

With rumors of Macross Delta floating around the anime world, I decided it might be time to actually watch some of the Macross series. It's always been on my list of "things to get around to watching someday," and this seemed like a good excuse to do something about that.

I already knew most of the original series story from when I read the Robotech novels way back in the day. I poked around the Internet a bit so I'd know what was different, and asked around about what else made sense to watch. I certainly wasn't going to watch all 100+ episodes of the various series/movies/OVAs! The first thing on the list of recommendations was Macross Plus.

I was a bit surprised to find that it's not very easy to watch any of the Macross videos legally in the US. Macross Plus is available on Hulu, but according to wheretowatch.com, there's nothing for Macross 7, Macross Zero, and Macross Frontier. Hunting down DVDs is possible, but likely expensive. Fortunately, I know some anime fans with extensive libraries and was able to borrow the shows from them.
Macross Plus is fairly short, around 2.5 hours divided into 4 episodes. (At least, that describes the subtitled Japanese version I had. There's other versions.) Considering that it was created in the early 1990s, the animation quality and production values are very good. The character art is a little angular for my taste - does every side-profile nose need to look like Pinocchio? - but that's a pretty minor complaint.

The first three episodes accomplished the rare feat of causing me to actively dislike all three of the major characters. Usually it's pretty easy to pick at least one character that you actually like and want to see succeed (though often they don't). But these three are all jerks. The totally irresponsible thrill-seeker who should be dead a dozen times over just from what we see him do on-screen, much less everything else he's supposedly done previously. The uptight by-the-book soldier who seems to have no scruples about cheating his way to victory, and is prone to bursts of uncontrollable rage. And the girl from their past who has apparently sold out her dreams for career success, and can't make up her mind which guy she wants.

On the story front, the first three episodes felt slow, which isn't a great shock for a four-episode series. There's a big project going on to decide which new fighter mech will win the military's seal of approval, with our two male jerks as the pilots. Our third jerk is working with a team bringing an artificial-intelligence singer to life, which is mildly interesting but doesn't seem to be a big deal in the grand scheme of things. It all feels like setup, which in fact it is, though not necessarily the setup I was expecting.

In that fourth and final episode, everything is turned on its head. All three characters have reasons for how they've been acting; perhaps not such jerks after all. The AI singer isn't so harmless. It turns out that it doesn't matter who wins the military contract. And of course, the world (or galaxy) has to be saved via sacrifice and heroism.

For a short series (basically movie-length), Macross Plus crams in a good amount of character development. While I wouldn't exactly call the events in that last episode an unforeseen twist, it's not the most obvious ending, either. Well worth the few hours to watch.

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