Macross 1-3: Who the Hell is Hikaru and What the Shit is a Valkyrie?

Six years ago, I was a huge fan of a show that I thought was Macross called Robotech. Now, I’m unveiling the truth, and learning the difference.

First, a dose of perspective. While I’ve recently gotten back into the habit of getting REALLY into a series, I haven’t done it as much recently as I used to (with Ranma putting me back on the course a bit.) I would research a show to the extent of my ability (i.e. I wasn’t great) and obsess over it. I even had a geocities fansite to a Rurouni Kenshin character – I got that kind of into a show. And I was that into Robotech, even if it wasn’t among my top 5 favorites or anything.

I only ever saw 24 episodes of Robotech, because back in the day, I never had any money, and when I did, I would tend to start buying new shows and never finish old ones. I bought the first two ‘Robotech Remastered’ packs, the first of which I got with the little Veritech toy (which is now broken to hell). But even though I never finished the show, I knew it beyond what I’d seen.

First of all, I owned Robotech Battlecry for the Nintendo Gamecube, which had levels that went through all of the combined ‘Robotech’ universe. This game was fun, though I really sucked at it. I would replay the levels I liked most over and over since I could never get farther, and my brother and I would play multiplayer dogfights a lot (in which the jet mode alone was of any use whatsoever.) I did eventually sell this game. I also owned Robotech the Macross Saga, a side-scrolling shooter for the Game Boy Advanced in which, once again, only jet mode was of any use. This game was a ton of fun and I beat it a number of times since such could be done in a couple hours. I believe I sold this game as well, unless I lost it.

So, I was pretty into Robotech. In my early days as an anime fan, I pretty much liked anything that had action of any kind, to the point that my enjoyment was largely governed by exactly how much action the series contained. However, Robotech was one of the first shows where I ever really felt like I cared about the characters. I remember it was my first interest in a romance, since I at first loved Minmay and hated Misa, then slowly warmed up to Misa, then started thinking Minmay was becoming a bitch, etc. and in retrospect, my frustration towards former-favorite Minmay might have a lot to do with why I hate love triangles so much later in life (lol).

I did, however, find out about Macross later (and felt incredibly betrayed by the Robotech website for telling me so much about Robotech and yet hiding this from me.) and as such, I sold my Robotech collections (not knowing at the time that Macross was not yet buyable in the US). Then came the years of wanting to watch Macross but being unable, and then finally having the series at my disposal but taking till now to get around to watching it.

And so I watched the first 3 episodes, so far. And, well, nothing has changed so far! Maybe it’s because my Robotech Remastered DVDs were ‘uncut’ (including the “Famous Minmay shower scene, never before on a US release!”) but it’s all there just like I remember it. However, this time I am certainly able to appreciate it a lot more, not getting bored whenever someone isn’t dying.

As a mater of fact, I haven’t had time to be bored, because these three episodes flew by! I was really surprised, because the hardest thing for me about watching older shows has always ironically been that so much happens in a single episode that it feels like it lasts forever (this is part of why 161 episodes of Ranma was often mindblowing). And while a lot happens in Macross, it is paced superbly, thanks to the series’ all-around excellent writing and direction.

These first three episodes should be the envy of every military anime director. Never once was I overloaded by exposition, or thrown into slews of technical terms, or sucked into overlong dogfights crammed into one part of the episodes. Frequent cuts to different situations and atmospheres keep you on your toes, and keep things from ever getting stale. The spicing of subtle comedy and lightheartedness keep things from becoming overly dramatic or boring, but the intelligent dialog and careful characterization prove the show’s maturity and excellence of plot.

And there is sure some great characterization here, however subtle, especially among the Military personnel. Captain Global is instantly lovable, given as he is like the drunken fist captain of the ship who’s burly exterior and military genius shadows over his mild clumsiness, tendency for the lighthearted, and immense desire to just smoke his damn pipe. Misa is a lovable hardass with a purity of femininity that I guess I find a lot more attractive than I did when I was 13 (and she was ‘the bitch’). Then there’s Roy Fokker, who is the kind of badass anyone has to love. The only character who doesn’t really get any personality development early on is Hikaru, though I guess that’s because he’ll have plenty of time for it later.

Which brings me to the question – who the fuck is Hikaru?! I’m joking of course, but it’s kind of funny how all of the character names pretty much remained intact with the exception of main character Ichijyo Hikaru whom I have known my whole life as ‘Rick Hunter’. This is one of those things that will REALLY take some getting used to. There’s also a matter of machine names, such as ‘Valkyrie’ which was named alongside a very detailed naming definition in English as a ‘Veritech.’ And it had a ‘Guardian’ mode. Luckily, Ghostlightning has already been conditioning me towards this one.

I didn’t really expect it to happen so much, but I found myself feeling really nostalgic when I watched those first episodes. I remembered the scene where the huge laser fired off of the Macross and annihilates the two enemy craft as being one of my alltime favorite scenes back then. I remember more than anything in the first episode, when Hikaru’s ship is crashing through buildings as he transforms into mecha mode, that feeling of anticipation as you knew the robot was coming and the complete ‘KITA!!!!!!’ reaction when it arrived.

And of course, I don’t remember having stored it away when I was young as much, but I will definitely not soon forget the incredible scene of Hikaru catching Minmay in mid-fall and tugging her into the plane. Gorgeous. I’ve gotta say, while Macross doesn’t have the best animation for a show of it’s time, it utilizes it’s budget well by focusing on dramatic scenes and through little experimental tricks like the robot’s cockpit view in episode 2, or the warp segment in episode 3.

Overall, I’m very much enjoying this restart of the series, and look forward to telling you all about it when I’m done.

Related Posts:

Almost everything Ghostlightning writes involves Macross, and he has some definitive posts about it, which he should, having been watching it obsessively since long before I was born.

8 thoughts on “Macross 1-3: Who the Hell is Hikaru and What the Shit is a Valkyrie?

  1. I tried to watch this recently, too, but only lasted two episodes. It was way too camp for my tastes, lacking in the real grittiness of a proper “military anime director” like Ryƍsuke Takahashi, while I wasn’t feeling the unrealistically comedic reaction to an alien invasion either, with even the “Hikaru catching Minmay” scene seeming a bit random and pointless. I probably need to rejig my expectations or something, because I was anticipating a fairly serious sci-fi series, but it’s more just a really light space opera.

    • Your head was certainly in the wrong place, as Macross broke the mold thanks to the fact that it isn’t a serious military show, but it way more about characters and love drama. Personally, I can’t stand military anime, so this is my perfect cure.

    • I think I died a little when I read your comment.

      Then I realized that I sound exactly like you when I first started watching Gundam shows.

      It is light space opera, a romance set amidst great space battles. I don’t watch it for the things I get out of VOTOMS or FLAG. It’s really love my good man, it’s good to remember this. ^_^

      • It wasn’t that I was actually expecting a Takahashi-esque anime, I was more just disagreeing with 21stcenturydigitalboy’s point that “[t]hese first three episodes should be the envy of every military anime director,” which I found a bit perplexing given Macross is totally different to the likes of Votoms and LOGH et all.

        Anyway, I think I’ll give it another chance, it’s too important a series to pass off than that; I really adore Plus and enjoyed Frontier, it’s just something about the direction and tone really put me off. It felt its age, and that’s not usually something that bothers me at all.

        • It’s important to take D-boy’s quote in context–he really hates technical jargon! Macross doesn’t go the way of UC Gundam in trying to explain the plausibility of mobile suits through an imaginary branch of physics. They’re just planes that sprout arms and legs and transform into humanoid forms, yet Kawamori’s attention to transformation detail shines through.

          Casually speaking, I really enjoyed how the Valks were presented in the first few episodes, too.

          • I don’t necessarily agree with Justin Sevakis on this comment from the Buried Treasure column on Gundam 0080, but it has some stuff to do with my general feelings toward a lot of political or military anime that gets influence from Gundam.

            “I think very little of Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino. His storytelling style is muddled and distracted, depending almost entirely on expository dialogue. I get no sense of dramatic timing or emotional gravitas from his tales, but thanks to good timing and a formula that became successful years ago, he’s one of a small handful of anime’s naked emperors. However, not all Gundam is mediocre, or suffers under the burden its creator.”

  2. Yes, Robotech confused the hell out of me too.

    I saw SDF Macross in ’84, DYRL a little later, then nothing for about a decade. Then, Robotech showed up and started airing. I had actually thought that this was the ‘canon.’ I just got really confused how the songs were reduced to three, and sounded um, A LOT LESS EPIC than my distant memory of Minmay’s discography. I got soooo obsessed with Robotech (I was in college already) that I must have rewatched the whole thing (including the Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospaeda parts) like 7 times over. Then I read all the Del Rey books, all of them (as was available at the time, about 17 books) just as many times.

    I too called Variable Fighters Veritechs, and Hikaru as Rick Hunter, and oh god Lisa Hayes. IT WAS LIKE RELIGION for me (well, it still is; I used to be a sacristan then, now I’m the freaking Bishop).

    Then Macross Plus happened and oh my goodness I was sooooooo confused. I didn’t know what to think! When ‘My boyfriend is a pilot’ played in the karaoke scene, IT ALL STARTED COMING BACK. I had to remember! This was when I searched and found “Macross: Do You Remember Love?” and suffered my way through withdrawal from Robotech for the next decade until Macross Zero, which I hated when it first came out.

    It wasn’t until Macross Frontier Deculture edition in December 2007 that I put my foot down and re-watched the original series and started to really, really, really remember love.

    You’ve given these episodes pretty effusive praise, even more than I’m willing to give it (not that I’m complaining). The animation does suffer from repeated scenes (especially battles), and off-model character designs. Luckily the show was a hit and DYRL was green-lit, allowing Studio Nue to realize Macross in the most gorgeous animation of its time.

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