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Errinundra's Beautiful Fighting Girl #133: Taiman Blues: Ladies' Chapter - Mayumi


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nobahn
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 9:46 pm Reply with quote
I remember reading the novella -- I forget how old I was at the time. I remember comparing it with Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit and thinking that the characters were like faded parchment -- whereas LotR/Hobbit was comparatively more lively, if such a thing was possible.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 8:07 am Reply with quote
I'm writing this not long after returning from the screening so it's more an impression than a fully considered review. The images have been taken from the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) web page.

The Red Turtle

Warning: Because the story is so simple, discussing it without spoilers is pretty much impossible. That said, although there is one surprising development, the enjoyment of the film is, in my opinion, not highly dependent on it being spoiler free. I'll spoiler tag that particular element.



Reason for Watching: 1. After not showing any anime films in 2015 this is the closest the MIFF has managed this year. 2. It was co-produced by Studio Ghibli and its long time in-house producer Toshio Suzuki. And, yeah, it opens with the Studio Ghibli Totoro image, but with one big, big difference - you'll have to see the film to find out what that is. Also, I didn't know until the opening credits, but Isao Takahata is named as artistic producer.

Synopsis: A man is shipwrecked on a desert island, sharing it with crabs, seagulls, the occasional seal, and turtles. After watching in awe as hatchling turtles dig themselves out of the sand, and allowing them to return unmolested to sea, his subsequent attempts at escaping by raft are stymied by a giant red turtle. When he exacts retribution upon the turtle the man receives an unexpected gift. Thereafter he commits himself to a life on the island.



Comments: The Red Turtle, directed by Michael Dudok de Wit, is a slow moving, comtemplative, dialogue-free magic-realist fable about one man's relationship with a reptile. If you are a regular watcher of Folk Tales from Japan you will recognise the story as analogous to one of that series' most common tropes: a young man helps an animal, who repays his kindness by spoiler[living with him as a beautiful woman, bearing his child, then eventually returning to her own world]. There are differences, though. His kindness to the hatchlings is passive. You could even say that the act is separated from the red turtle by one degree. The two also assault each other: the turtle by sinking his rafts; the man by striking the turtle with a bamboo pole and worse. Alternatively, you could see the film as a counterpart to Wolf Children, spoiler[with the wolf changing genders and transforming into a turtle]. Don't get me wrong. This isn't a goofy film: it is replete with grace and poise.

Visually the film is very different from the anime you may be accustomed to. At first blush it may seem mundane. There is no deformation of the bodies - heads and necks are in correct proportion to the bodies, eyes are dark and small, noses are straight rather than concave, face faults are non-existent. The colours are, for the most part, muted, with greens, olives, greys, and pale browns pre-dominating, especially on the island. These more drab colours contrast with the occasional bright aqua-green of the sea along with the red of the turtle. The animation is also highly realistic. This isn't a high action film, but I didn't get the sense that animation was being spared by a budget. Highlight is a tsunami, with its destruction of a bamboo grove. The realism of the visuals, in turn, contrasts with the magic tale being told. The camera avoids the off-beat angles you get with the best anime, but, nevertheless, gives the viewer a godlike perspective by lingering on scenes after the actions are completed, as if providing a commentary or the opportunity for the viewer to reflect on what has happened. This is accentuated by a Greek chorus of crabs, who do a kind of dance routine after several of the scenes.



The characters are ciphers. None have names - well, the only spoken word is, "Hey!" Their role is symbolic, as much as anything. The giant, red turtle is ineffable with its silent, unwavering gaze. It's power terrifies and enrages the man until it enters his realm, land, where it is vulnerable. The man is straightforward, resourceful, determined and bemused; the woman loving and supportive; the son more ambiguous thanks to his dual nature. The combination of simple characters and story, omniscient camera, magic-realism and the crustacean commenary suggest, of course, that the film is a parable. Without any speech or text, whatever the message may be is open to interpretation, but that allows the viewer to take from the film as much as they wish. You can content yourself with a magical-realist mood piece or you could read into it an ecological message. The film is broad enough for both. I like both approaches so I'll briefly consider the "message".

As in Princess Mononoke, the Red Turtle could be viewed as a commentary on the relationship between humans and the environment. Both films present a conflict between the two. The older Ghibli film examines the conflict through the prism of Yin and Yang - one can only be defined in reference to the other. Wilderness is the absence of civilisation; the two are mirror images of each other. The Red Turtle takes a different approach. Humans live in, are part of, an environment. The man's island, along with its oceanic littoral, is his entire world. When he fights his environment or tries to abandon it, he fails. Only when he finds a harmonious place within it will he find security and contentment. Notably, the characters always sleep without shelter, in the open, subject to the elements. At their most innocent, most vulnerable they are fully part of the landscape. There will, naturally, be grief, caused by things outside their control, such as the tsunami or when his son leaves to pursue his own life spoiler[(as a turtle?)], but the man will live his measure, then die when his time comes. Princess Mononoke's labile duality is replaced by The Red Turtle's pastoral harmony. There is a joyful serenity to the film: running with the wolves has been replaced by swimming with the turtles. The music, by Laurent Perez Del Mar, is, for the most part, appropriately understated but swells into luscious, driving climaxes that could be straight out the Ghibli musical box. It does the job nicely.



Rating: very good. Don't watch this because you love anime. Don't watch this if you prefer fast paced, action films. Do watch this if you love thoughtful, beautiful films that engage your feelings and, if you are so inclined, your intellect. (That's not to say fast paced, action films can't engage your feelings or intellect. Good ones do.)


Last edited by Errinundra on Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:05 pm Reply with quote
I've just received and watched the backer download of Under the Dog. It's violent, loaded with action sequences and somewhat unsatisfying. I'll have a full report later in the week.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 2:39 am Reply with quote
A two year wait is finally over.

Under the Dog


Shunichi & Hana: preludes to the "real" story and protagonist.

WARNING: the thread comes with a general spoiler warning; this review is no exception.

Reason for watching: I was keen to back this project on Kickstarter. The makers' avowed aim of pitching a girls with guns anime to a western audience was right up my alley, while the image of the putative protagonist, the icily intent Anthea Kallenberg, brought to mind some of my favourite anime heroines: Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell), Mireille Bouquet (Noir), Robin (Witch Hunter Robin), Clare (Claymore), Balsa (Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit) or even Homura Akemi (Puella Magi Madoka Magica). Director Masahiro Ando (Sword of the Stranger, Canaan, Hanasaku Iroha, Blast of Tempest and Snow White with the Red Hair) had proven himself a superlative action director while also displaying an empathy for his female characters. Finally, I was also intrigued by the original producer - Hiroaki Yura. I saw him some years ago as the concertmaster and violinist with the Eminence Symphony Orchestra, which he founded, at the Melbourne Town Hall playing music from Studio Ghibli and the Final Fantasy franchise. For reasons never explained, he left the project after the Kickstarter funds were successfully raised.

Synopsis: Hana Togetsu is a schoolgirl assassin working with others like her - named Flowers - as part of a secret organisation within the UN. They have extraordinary powers so, to control them, their masters have implanted explosive devices in their parents' skulls that will detonate should the girls rebel or fail in their allotted tasks. Hana is sent on a mission to locate a schoolboy whose genetic makeup suggests he may be the long sought after "light of humanity". When the US army intervenes and a monstrous creature - a Pandora - appears, Hana will rely on help from other flowers, including the most notorious among them, Anthea Kallenberg.


An old trope, but why I love this genre so much: the image is simultaneously erotic, appalling and tragic.
Roles are reversed and subverted: she is the action hero brought undone; he is the impotent damsel in distress.


Comments: At the time I had felt, and I still do, that the genre had floundered in the wake of the GFC. Titles like Strike Witches, Kill Me Baby, Girls und Panzer and Stella Women's Academy, while breaking new ground in their post-GFC schoolgirl way, didn't satisfy my preference for stories with deadly serious heroines. The genre has always had a moe element, but these newer shows' emphasis on school life, along with their embrace of the absurdity of the girls with guns concept, failed to pique my interest beyond first episodes or, more importantly for the industry, failed to prise open my wallet. More tradional style shows such as Black Lagoon, with its emphasis on action over thematic exploration, Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~, with its dreadful last third, and Canaan, whose adolsescent elements undermined its underlying story, were more appealing, but didn't push the genre in any new direction. In fact, they were retrograde in that the beautiful fighting girl became secondary to the protagonist - a male in two of the three instances. Probably the best of them, the Mardock Scramble trilogy, had been marred by its incoherent gender ruminations

In the ANNCast of 28 August 2014, Hiroaki Yura set out his ambitions for the project: to repudiate the current trends in anime by making a philosophical girls with guns anime with a grittier, more realistic setting (albeit a science fiction dystopia), while exploring the tragedy inherent in the genre. He boldly expressed his hope it would save the world from the stereotypical moe-only industry. (For what it's worth, I think change has already happened in the interim.) The structure of this episode - for it surely implies more are envisaged - puts that ambition into visual and aural form. We are introduced to the cute schoolgirl, Hana Togetsu, and her family, then accompany her on her first day at a new school as a mysterious transfer student. We also meet Shunichi Nanase, the shy boy who takes an immediate shine to her. The OAV quickly establishes that she is a beautiful fighting girl whose job is to save him from the US military. From that point on Under the Dog relentlessly, unsubtly, and unashamedly goes after its moe target. Despite all the nods to older series, the anime that came immediately to mind when I finished my first viewing was the first episode of Ga-Rei Zero. There the creators mischievously lead the viewer into believing they were watching an action show. We meet a team of para-military jocks, and get to know their personalities and their relationships, their goals and their enemies. By the end of the first episode they are all dead. In the second episode we will be introduced to the real protagonists - two girls. Under the Dog uses the same strategy, but reverses the stereotypes. We meet moe Hana and the milquetoast Shunichi and get to know their relationships, their goals and their adversaries. By the end of the OAV they are both dead. When Anthea makes her belated appearance we meet the true protagonist of the series. Under the Dog has made its intent very clear.


Hana is set up as a moe archetype in order to be demolished.
That eye infection is contagious - it's spreading throughout anime.


There are other signposts. The opening sequence is a parody of Cardcaptor Sakura and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, where the magical girl introduces the viewer, via a voice-over narration, to her loving family. Except that Hana's is dysfunctional for reasons not of their own making. It's a neat reminder of the parallels between the girls with guns and magical girl genres. One is transformed by a gem or a jewel; the other by a weapon. Both, at their best, have the female subversively, and entertainingly, wielding the phallus. Both can trace their lineage to Osamu Tezuka's Princess Knight.

There's a problem, though. The Kickstarter campaign, while warning us that the episode was to have Hana front and centre, clearly implies that Anthea will be, in the future, the protagonist. Anthea has a presence redolent with possibilities. Hana is a moe dead-end, figuratively and literally apeaking. Her moment in the spotlight is intense, violent and desperate, but I'm not invested in her. She is pitiable to Anthea's tragic. Get her off the stage! Bring on the real star of the show! My fear is that the creators may never again get the opportunity to do so. For his part, Shunichi is the victim to be rescued - or not, as it turns out - so doesn't need a personality, hence little effort is made in giving him one. No one else has a significant role to play so their characters aren't fleshed out. Besides, the episode is only thirty minutes long so, in fairness, there isn't much scope for penetrating character analysis.


Anthea comforts Hana. More Anthea acrobatics, please.

Anthea's and Hana's roles within the over-arching story aren't the only issues brought about by the expectations created by the Kickstarter campaign. The other comes from the original, striiking, promotional animation, especially its beautiful Kevin Penkin music and the acrobatic Anthea action sequences in the second half. The Australian composer provides an adequate, and sometimes poignant, soundtrack to the OAV, but it lacks the impact of the trailer. Similarly, the action is mostly explosions or weapons going off. Masahiro Ando displayed in Sword of the Stranger, Canaan and the trailer that he is a master of fluid character movement in three dimensional space. There's not much wrong with what there is, it's just there isn't much of it. I was hoping for thirty minutes of having my mind blown. I suppose I should blame my expectations, not the anime.

By the third viewing the strengths of the OAV had begun to penetrate. The pacing is terrific. There is a steady ratchetting of the action until there are, simultaneously, assassins, soldiers, snipers, mobile rocket launchers, helicopter gunships, a multiple warhead bomb, a cruise missile and a monster that's a cross between King Kong, the eponymous Ergo Proxy and one of the EVAS, all fighting in or aimed at one locus. This exhilirating bombast makes it abundently clear that Under the Dog is not only targetting moe stereotypes but also their most common setting - the school campus. If the destruction of the moe girl has some pathos - and it does - the destruction of her habitat is done gleefully.

Animation aside, visually the OAV is disappointing. Other than the moe appeal of Hana, or the commanding presence of Anthea, the other characters are uniformly uninspiring. Stand-out offenders are the pink-haired assassin, the African-American soldier - why does anime almost always draw their mouths so offensively? - and the Pandora. Facial close-ups aside, the character designs are flat, simple and too often off-model. The mostrous Pandora is ridicilous until it starts hopping around like a giant ape. It's still ridiculous but, by that stage, the action had become so over the top - and that's not a criticism - that it finally seemed appropriate.


The Pandora was mostly daft, but it had its moments, such as its attack of a passing helicopter.

One oddity was the use of American voice actors for the US soldiers. Their speech was so precisely enunciated that it came across as unnatural. I encountered a similar problem with the Japanese dub of the Australian episode in Free! Eternal Summer, where the accents of the Australian voice actors were suitable but, again, the speed was wrong. Perhaps Japanese producers are being overly cautious? Perhaps they fear that Japanese viewers with some English mightn't understand what is being said? Why bother? There's a Japanese subtitle option.

Rating: Decent. Although Under the Dog ultimately disappointed, it shows enough promise that it could develop into a rewarding franchise. It has a great action director who hasn't yet fully flexed his animation muscles, a charismatic lead character in Anthea and a premise that could throw up diabolical ironies. It could be the first episode of a memorable series and, while Hana's story is complete, there simply isn't enough explored in the OAV to rank it higher. Its technical merits are mixed, at best.


Last edited by Errinundra on Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:24 am; edited 2 times in total
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CoreSignal



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Location: California, USA
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 12:14 am Reply with quote
^Great review of Under the Dog. I was also a backer and though the final product didn't blow me away, I was still satisfied with what we got. I also really liked the subversive gender role reversal of Hana and Shunichi. Personally, I found Hana to be less of a moe archetype than you did. Other than the schoolgirl look and her meek personality, she didn't exhibit much of the cutesy behavior that's typically associated with moe characters. And although a lot of people were upset with Anthea's scant screentime, to be fair, they did say that Hana would be the main character of the OAV. While I don't think that's a great excuse, I wouldn't necessarily accuse the staff of false advertising like some of the more upset backers have been doing.

I liked the general art direction for the most part. The characters aren't particulary unique, Hana's character design looks very typical, and even Anthea's doesn't stray far from typical anime tough girl designs. I actually liked how the background art and most of the characters (excluding pink haired sniper girl) have a subdued, desaturated look. I feel it matches the serious, bleak nature of the story better than if they had went with a something more colorful.

I was definitely more forgiving with the animation quality as well. The animation quality outside of the action sequences is inconsistent for all the reasons you mentioned but there are a couple of non-action scenes that looked good. For example, I liked the animation for the scene where Hana has to reload a gun with one hand (from your 2nd screenshot). Otherwise, I thought the action sequences were great and the staff wisely used most of their budget on those parts.

Agreed, Masahiro Ando is a great action director. He has a great eye for staging action scenes and fight choreography in general. The shootout on the stairs and Anthea's battle with the Pandora beast-thing were my favorites. As for the action in the OVA not being as good as the trailer, I think it's more a matter of preference. Most of the action in the trailer is hand-to-hand combat, with Anthea jumping around, kicking, and punching whereas all the action in the OAV are gun battles. So if you prefer pugilistics over gun fights, then I understand the disappointment, otherwise I thought action scenes were really good, probably the best I've seen this year so far.

I'll restate what I said in the review thread, I was pleasantly surprised with Under the Dog's lean storytelling. There's no heavy info-dumping, flashbacks, or long exposition to bog down the pacing. I also like how Hana's characterization was handled in a similarly lean and subtle way without dragging things out. The end result is the excellent pacing and consequently, the OAV is very rewatchable.

I feel a lot of complaints about the story and characters are bit harsh. There's only so much story and characterization that you can fit into a 28-min feature so I felt the story was fine for what it was. In the end, I think it was realistic to expect the action to have precedence over the story. I think a decent rating is about right. (I give it a 7/10). I think Under the Dog is a good watch but there's just not enough to warrant anything much higher than that. That said, the overall story, character cast, and staff have a lot of potential and I really hope we get more.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:08 pm Reply with quote
^
Thanks for your comments. While I was hoping for the OAV to be better I agree that expectations have much to do with it. Kickstarter projects seem to require hype to succeed, but, as we've both already said, you can only do so much in ½ an hour.

The gun fights were indeed good, especially the staircase sequence. I was hoping for a combination of acrobatics and gunfire, a la Canaan swinging around the pole and shooting up the bad guys in the first episode of CANAAN. Again, expectations.

I didn't mention it specifically but the first screenshot also subverts gender roles by reversing behaviours. The girl has her palm on the wall while staring at the alarmed boy. And, yes, both images are playing with our expectations of the moe girl.

Your comments about the tautly effective storytelling are spot on.
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CoreSignal



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2016 12:58 am Reply with quote
You're welcome. Most of the Under the Dog reviews I've seen on blogs or MAL and Hummingbird are pretty superficial for the most part. Your review and ANN's are the only in-depth ones I've seen so far.

And yes, if we ever get more Under the Dog having the action scenes more like CANAAN would be ideal. I agree, the action sequences in the CANAAN have a perfect mix of acrobatics and firearms. It's too bad we only got a glimpse of it in the trailer so the disappointment with the action in the OAV is definitely justified. I was certainly let down that the cool, transforming bike was nowhere to be found.

I just noticed the role reversal in the first screenshot as well. I know that type of scene is typically the boy cornering the shy girl with his hand on wall. It's a nice touch on the director's part to flip it around. Your take on the subversive element is something I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else so I enjoyed hearing your thoughts about that..
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 1:00 pm Reply with quote
The Super Dimension Fortress Macross

Reason for watching: Part of my project of watching milestone (and other) anime from the past. This was an obvious title to investigate, though I must admit to being put off by its mecha elements. In addition, the unappealing protagonists in Macross Plus Movie Edition along with its sexist treatment of rape discouraged me further. (More on that next week.) That said, I couldn't ignore something so essential in the history of anime, so here we are.


Clock-wise from top left:
a) proto-tsundere First Officer Misa Hayase, whose irritation towards Hikaru Ichijyo blossoms into love;
b) Hikaru is the average Joe whose simplicity and decency get him into, and also out of, various scrapes;
c) the Super Dimension Fortress Macross is about a kilometre high; and
d) what happens to a Zentradi warship when it is fisted (seriously!) by Macross.


Synopsis: In the near future a gigantic, abandoned space battleship, soon to be called Macross, crashes onto a Japanese island. Now aware that humans share the galaxy with technologically sophisticated aliens - clearly belligerent ones at that - and fearful that the spaceship will attract one or other of the warring factions, the UN scrambles to restore it to working order. Sure enough, on the day of its launch the war fixated Zentradi arrive to neutralise this formidable weapon that once belong to their perpetual enemy, the Supervision Army. The chaotic launch is the start of an ongoing sequence of skirmishes and full blown battles with the Zentradi. Young aerobatic pilot Hikaru Ichijyo finds himself aboard the Macross and reluctantly drawn into the war. He is also drawn into a love triangle involving career soldier Misa Hayase and Chinese schoolgirl Lynn Minmay. For her part, Minmay quickly establishes herself as a pop idol phenomenon, not only for the tens of thousands of refugees who have made the Macross their home, and not only for the remaining inhabitants of earth. She has an even greater impact on the Zentradi, who, in their dedication to war, have eliminated any form of peaceful culture and sexual association. With the Zentradi destablised by her appeal, their more insightful leaders wonder whether humans are, unknowingly, the last remnant of the legendary Protoculture that created, and was thought to have been destroyed by, the Supervision Army and the Zentradi.

Comments: The Super Dimension Fortress Macross quickly allayed my fears that it would be a mecha fest with military jocks fighting for the future of the human race as we know it. For sure, the titular machine can transform from a Yamato reminiscent space battleship into a kilometre high robot looking thingy, and the fighter planes - I'm not sure if that's the right term for them, as aerofoils can't work in the vacuum of space - regularly transform into mecha for hand to hand combat, but these elements aren't essential to the story telling. Nor are they laboured. While the occasional tranformation of the Macross is indeed dramatic, the others are presented to the viewer and treated by the pilots as routine. Once the three configurations of the fighters are demonstrated, the series subsequently avoids the tedium of other series' repetitive and extended fanservice. SDFM has other things on its mind.


Clockwise form top left:
a) Claudia LaSalle keeps her cool in battle and dispenses romantic advice to Misa;
b) Captain Global might look serious but is a bit of a clown;
c) meganekko, average girl and airhead; and
d) Zentradi archivist Exsedol Folmo begins as an enemy and becomes an ally.


The abandoned Macross is a hook in its own right, but the first hint that SDFM is doing something different is Captain Bruno J Global's female bridge crew. Wow! A harem in space, ten years before Tenchi Muyo!. Even the relief crew are female. The near contemporary Space Runaway Ideon has a mostly male crew, while the previous decade's Space Battleship Yamato has a token female whose main purpose was to have her skirt lifted by a randy robot. First Officer Misa Hayase has tsundere elements; Navigation Officer Claudia LaSalle is the worldly one; there's a meganekko, an airhead and an everyday Sue. Global treats them in a platonic, fatherly way, allowing them - especially Misa and Claudia - to make most of the decisions. Their feminine presence in the midst of battle undermines what might have been a macho depiction of the conflict. I use the word feminine intentionally. SDFM isn't making any sort of feminist argument that women can be just as effective warriors as men. The bridge officers display quite girly behaviour for the most part, although all are competent at their jobs. It seems to me their main role is to establish a degree of absurdity so that the franchise's most ambitious innovation and its signature feature - the idol singer as weapon of mass destruction - can be put before the viewer without being laughed off the stage.

It has taken two instalments of the franchise (and the first episode of Macross Frontier) to get what Macross is truly about: the idol singer and her songs in a military setting. (In fairness, Macross Plus Movie Edition pretty much sidelines Sharon Apple in favour of the rivalry between Dyson and Bowman.) It is worth pausing to consider how ridiculous Minmay's kawaii assault on the Zentradi might have been. The video of her first hit, My Boyfriend is a Pilot, is broadcast to the Zentradi fleet, where the men have never met a woman in the entire lives. Her voice, her body and the music have them revolting en masse. Many try to defect to the Macross. When the Zentradi see Misa and Hikaru kissing, the effect is electric. Minmay sings on the bridge of the Macross as it ploughs into the hollow, planet-sized headquarters of the Zentradi, who don't know what has hit them. The whole thing is deliriously absurd yet the series gets away with it. SDFM nicely juggles its dramatic and absurd elements, partly for the reasons I gave above, partly because all the characters in the large cast have some degree of clownishness about them, partly because the battles are quite the spectacle, and mostly because of the three central characters. It also allows the anime to put its pacifist message without labouring the point and despite the avowedly pacifiist character, Minmay's cousin Lynn Kaifun, being the (deliberately) most unpleasant character in the series.


Minmay Deliciae. Stitched image of the idol singer moments before the great assault begins.

Protagonist Hikaru Ichijyo is typical of his time. The design template for his type goes right back to the earlist versions of the eponymous Cyborg 009. You can also see him in the design of Joe Yabuki from Ashita no Joe, though he altogether lacks Joe's animal streak. I find it interesting how particular character designs can be overused in one era then evolve into something different at a later time. I wonder what overused character designs we'll be complaining about 35 years from now? He's a simple guy, brash, means well and gets himself in quite a tangle emotionally with Minmay and Misa. The strained voice of his seiyuu Arihiro Hase is unusual for anime, but, for that very reason, I came to like it. Sweet but occasionally coquettish Minmay is, in important ways, the central character. She embodies the main philosophical thrust of SDFM, that culture is the most effective weapon against militarism. Never mind that militarism is part of culture and never mind that whatever the appeal of her songs in the early 1980s, they haven't aged well, being only midly tuneful fluff. Yes, the songs can be earworms, which I suppose is their intended purpose against the Zentradi. Minmay's self-centredness is a prop against the setbacks she has endured but also the cause of her occaional estrangements from people. My favourite is Misa who, with her Zentradi countepart Exsedol, has the sharpest mind in the show. She is irritable and sometimes flustered socially, but most often presents a calm, self-controlled persona. She is clueless in matters of the heart, so relies on Claudia for support. She has an Irish look about her that I find nigh on irresistible, even taking into account her peculiar hair whorls.

Among the best of the human support characters are the aforementioned Claudia LaSalle and Captain Global. There's also an ace fighter pilot Roy Fokker who charms the women, while taking HIkaru under his wing. Once he gains experience Hikaru becomes the senior to two pilots of his own, one of whom - Maximilian Jenius - becomes a superstar fighter who so impresses a female Zentradi adversary that she defects to the human side, marries him and has a child. The broadcast of their marriage is just another weapon in the culture war against the Zentradi. For their part, the Zentradi are difficult to like, thanks to their ugly designs and aggressive behaviours. Their confusion when confronted by culture or sex is invariably amusing. There's a demented fleet commander with blue hair who just wants to create as much mayhem as possible, even if it's among his allies. There's three ingenue defectors and Minmay fans whose given names spell out the sentence, "I am a lolicon" and a sadistic female fleet commander who, once they discover culture, has a relationship with the blue haired guy.


Parallels between Macross and other anime.
Top: Milia Fallyna and Anthea Kallenberg (Under the Dog)
Bottom: Milia again, with daughter Comilia; Ashura's last moments in The Ideon: Be Invoked.


One of the odd consequences of coming to this series so late is that I've watched other anime oblivious to the influence Macross has had on them. Martian Successor Nadesico borrows its plot from the older show, while the signature musical motif of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is a riff on Macross's. Both of the newer shows have entire episodes referencing Macross. In the image above I've shown a couple of other shout outs. Had I not seen Under the Dog while part way through Macross I might not have made the connection between the scenes. The parallel between the images of the famous last moment of Ashura from The Ideon: Be Invoked, which was released on 10 July 1982, and Comilia (from episode 30, which was broadcast on 15 May 1983) is tantalising. Ashura is reacting in horror at the destruction caused by battle, while Comilia is rejoicing in it. The Ideon portrayal is visceral yet Macross's is more disturbing. What mother would take their child into battle with them? I guess that demonstrates her confidence in her ability. It's tempting to think that the Macross staff had the Ashura scene in mind as they created theirs. Speaking of music, while I didn't like the idol songs, the orchestral incidental music is a feature of the series, appropriate for the battle scenes and romantic scenes alike. Beyond the battle scenes, which are dynamic and eye-catching, the general appearance ranges from ugly to mundane. Misa and Minmay aside, the character designs are a negative, with the men, in particular, ugly. I did, however, like the whale-inspired designs of the Zentradi warships. Backgrounds are simplistic and the animation sloppy. Too often grit on the cels could be seen, something that was painfully obvious with multiplaning.

The tone and pacing of Macross shifts after the confrontation of episode 27. According to Wikipedia the success of the series opened the way for more episodes to be funded, so the last nine are a what-happens-afterwards arc that examines the difficulties the Zentradi have in assimilating with humans and finally sorts out the Hikaru/Minmay/Misa triangle. The conflict never attains the dramatic levels of the earlier battles while one of the likeable women must end up disappointed, which is an unavoidable shame.

Rating: Good. The Super Dimension Fortress Macross is a fun romp with an absurd premise - an idol singer can save the human race from alien invasion - that it carries off with some aplomb, a worthy pacifist sentiment, three likeable central characters, some episodes of genuine power, and a standout orchestral soundtrack. On the downside it looks dated, or worse at times, while the pop music likewise hasn't aged well.


Misa Hayase: chestnut hair, heart-shaped face and green eyes.
A precursor of the 90s/00s icy heroine that I like so much.


Last edited by Errinundra on Thu Sep 23, 2021 11:51 pm; edited 5 times in total
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nobahn
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 2:21 pm Reply with quote
I would be remiss if I failed to mention Robotech. If I recall correctly, I have not seen the Japanese dub of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross; it has been a while since I last saw it. Errinundra, have you seen the Japanese dub?
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:47 am Reply with quote
I watched the Japanese dub with subtitles, nobahn. In my review I mention Hikaru's seiyuu. I haven't watched it with the American dub.
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Alan45
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Joined: 25 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 8:06 am Reply with quote
This was one of my first exposures to anime before my first purchase of tapes. Sometime in the mid 1990s Joy and I were shopping in a toy store for her Barbie collection. We came across some dolls on sale from Matchbox Toys. They were Barbie sized and really cheap so we picked up a couple of sets and a full set of the extra outfits for them. The dolls were, of course, those put out when Robotech was a thing. Joy had the idea of using the male doll as a boyfriend for her Barbies but never got around to it.

It was obvious that they were from some sort of cartoon show so we checked the TV listings. If Robotech ever showed here it was gone by that time. Fast forward a couple of years and I got into anime and shortly thereafter found out about Robotech. On one of our visits to Florida to visit Joy's mother I found a retail store from the old Anime Nation people, they had some 1/6 figures of the Macross people and I picked up the basic romantic triangle.

When AnimEigo put out the subbed version of Macross, I picked it up and later for contrast bought the ADV version of the first Robotech season. I think I managed to watch the first three or so episodes of the AnimEigo set before I moved on to something else. That was before I got comfortable with watching subbed only shows. I suppose I should get around to watching the series.
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yuna49



Joined: 27 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 10:58 am Reply with quote
Kawamori continued his obsession with idols as weapons in his AKB0048. Here they fight against a galactic forces trying to enforce a ban on entertainment (cf. the "Tenpou Reforms" of early 19th century Japan). It's one of my favorite scripts by Okada Mari.
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Zin5ki



Joined: 06 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:08 pm Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:
The whole thing is deliriously absurd yet the series gets away with it. SDFM nicely juggles its dramatic and absurd elements, partly for the reasons I gave above, partly because all the characters in the large cast have some degree of clownishness about them, partly because the battles are quite the spectacle, and mostly because of the three central characters.

Errinundra, I applaud you. This statement conveys the very quintessence of Macross.

Before I became an anime fan, I came across some character biographies of the main SDF cast. I found them to be utterly ridiculous and jejune. "Singling bubblegum pop music to fight aliens? Who is this marketed for?", I asked dismissively.
It is not until I realised how innovative its themes were within its medium that I came to accept it as the classic it is. This involved taking into account the fact that the show makes a statement about the comparative fruits of combat and popular art, which you have so neatly summarised, but also the fact that it lets its smaller-scale character dramas outweigh the spectacle of total war. Indeed, the grand battle against the Supervision Army becomes an afterthought in comparison to the later strains that arise in Hikaru and Minmay's relationship.
As a mecha series, Macross was eminent in its observation that personal affection is so often eclipsed by epic conflict in the genre, something it successfully strove to amend.
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Beltane70



Joined: 07 May 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 11:05 am Reply with quote
Ah yes, Macross, my gateway anime and the one I hold most dear!

If I remember correctly, the series was actually planned to be some forty or so episodes before being reduced to 27. However, the show proved to be popular enough to get extended to the 36 that we're familiar with.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 5:16 pm Reply with quote
It's funny how my innate understanding of anime has grown over time. There's a nudge nudge wink wink self-deprecating absurdity in most anime. It's as if that some level of self-aware silliness is a prerequisite. If I ever get around to watching Neon Genesis Evangelion for a third time I might bear in mind, as I do so, that perhaps, among other things, it's taking the piss.

Had I seen SDFM nine years ago I would have thought it was daft, thereby missing the point.
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