Reviewby Theron Martin,
Super Dimensional Fortress Macross
DVD 4: Fallen Angels
As the Macross searches for an Earth nation to take in its civilians, it continues to face both known military and unknown espionage threats. Against the military threats it offers a new defense: the Omni-Directional Barrier, whose use has an unusual side effect.
Life on the Macross is also taxing on its people. While recovering from injuries sustained in a previous battle, Hikaru suffers from disturbing dreams and misses a deadly battle. Minmay's popularity soars to even greater heights as she releases more singles and finishes her first movie, but the demands of her schedule exhaust her. Unbeknownst to her and the Macross inhabitants, though, her music has an unexpected impact on the Myclone spies and starts to resonate through the rank-and-file Zentreadi. Meanwhile, Hayase gradually finds herself being drawn more towards Hikaru and a female Zentreadi guns for Max, who's firmly establishing himself as Macross's ace pilot.
This volume, which covers episodes 17-21, begins with the second of two review episodes before delving back into the meat of the story. Plenty of tasty meat can be found here, too, as there are no shortage of dramatics or different subplots to follow. Past supporting characters die, a new one rises up, Max gains a rival, and the Macross's situation becomes more tenuous as it increasingly finds itself trapped between an Earth that doesn't want them and an enemy which is inexplicably (from their viewpoint) still toying with them. The key subplot concerning the influence Minmay in particular (and Macross culture in general) is unknowingly having on the Zentreadi also finally starts to thicken, but the full scope of its importance is yet to come.
At this point the most substantial subplot is still the Minmay/Hikaru/Hayase love triangle, and this volume does show some big developments on that front. Here we see a subtle but definitive shift happen as Hikaru's experiences open a gap between him and Minmay but draw him closer to Hayase. Though he's always had an antagonistic relationship with Hayase, she's someone who can ultimately relate better to his battle experiences. The writing has gone to great pains to set up this situation over its first 21 episodes, and now it's finally starting to come to fruition. What makes the situation even more intriguing is that Minmay, who is still fully in love with Hikaru, is clueless about the extent of the changes going on him. This sets up some juicy potential for the next volume.
It's in these subplots, and the character development they entail, where the core of Macross's appeal lies. The battle scenes tend to get repetitive after a while, and their woefully lacking technical detail doesn't help. Granted, the storytelling does get a bit cheesy at times and lacks the refinement of later series, but it's also the series' greatest strength. It's ironic that Macross has proven over the past 23 years that the best, most popular, and most enduring anime action series are also supported by great storytelling, yet innumerable anime script writers have failed to heed that lesson.
Although the animation has improved a little since the earliest episodes, both it and the artistry still clearly show their age. The frame rate is too low for the action scenes to feel smooth, the lines aren't as sharp and clean as more modern productions, and the colors lack the vividness of modern digital coloring. Despite some remastering, the artistry isn't completely clean of dirt and specks, either. It's actually not a bad-looking series once one gets past the age-related technical issues, though, and the character designs are respectable if one ignores the dated hairdos.
ADV's reproduction of Macross fares much better in its sound for the English dub, where the remastering beautifully enhances a soundtrack and sound effects that weren't shabby to begin with. Matched to the vastly improved sound are solid English vocal performances. The actors often aren't good matches for the original performers, but that's a Good Thing since the original casting is questionable on several roles. What matters more is that ADV's stable of regulars are, with only one or two exceptions, cast well for their roles and turn in more lively efforts than the dull and thick-sounding Japanese cast. Even discounting the extreme differences in audio quality, ADV's English dub is a distinct improvement. The big gimmick here continues to be Mari Iijima reprising in English the role she originally recorded in Japanese, but her heavy accent does give Minmay the foreign feel she was always supposed to have and her singing, which is still done in the original Japanese, is as great as ever.
ADV's production of this volume includes standard extras like company previews, a clean opener, and a Next Volume preview, but it also has a handful of more distinctive ones. The biggest highlight is arguably the on-disc Liner Notes, which elaborate on various production issues and storytelling goals. Also of interest are the character stats/bios for each of the four main characters, which include notes on such things as where their names came from and/or how they changed during preproduction. Fans of Mari Iijima will also appreciate part 2 of “On Stage With Mari Iijima,” an in-depth commentary about her career from her point of view. Included in the actual liner notes are the translated and untranslated lyrics for two of the songs Minmay sings during these episodes.
Despite its age and the technical problems that come with it, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross still stands up pretty well as an engaging story about people who also happen to be regularly involved in aerial mecha battles. This volume shows off the strengths of the series better than any previous volume, making it a must-see for fans of old-school anime and a worthy pick for newer fans who may be looking for something different. Given what's shown here, it isn't hard to see why Macross became one of the most popular and important mecha series in anime history.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : C
Story : B+
Animation : D+
Art : C+
Music : B
+ Excellent sound reproduction, improved dubbing, good storytelling.
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