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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Macross Zero Episode 1

This is a revised review of my Macross Zero review for the now dead Animation Chronicles site. It was mostly some fixes to grammar. I have seen all 5 episodes, so I have hindsight advantage now that I didn not then, but I feel it still stands as it is.

Title: Macross Zero
Series Type: OVA
Episode Length: ~30 Min.
Total Episodes (at time of writing): 3
Episodes Reviewed: #1

Macross Zero is the latest installment in the twenty-year-old Macross saga. All of the series, OVAs, and features made thus far have all taken place during or after the original Super Dimension Fortress: Macross (re-dubbed and cut as Robotech in the United States); until now. Macross Zero tells the tale of what happened before S.D.F: Macross.

The classic series started off with a narrator’s monologue: “In the year 1999, an alien spacecraft of colossal proportions crash-landed on earth...” then he proceeds to speak of a global war caused by the SDF-1’s descent, which pitted the U.N. against a group of nations and terrorists attempting to claim the rights to the wreckage. Zero begins with a similar monologue, but this time by the main character of the series, Shin Kudo, about how the descent of the space fortress affected his life.

This monologue gives you a small taste of the well done character and background drawings, as well as some animated versions of some very familiar military hardware – especially if you know U.S. technology – in the form of video made to look like your run-of-the-mill Fox/CNN/MSNBC news channel broadcasts from the Gulf Wars.

The M1 Abrams is your friend

Fast-forward to 2008. Shin is now a pilot in the U.N. Navy, piloting F-14’s. His squad quickly runs across a flight of MiG-29’s and proceeds to lay waste to them in a spectacular CG dogfight. The use of photorealistic CG elements (the planes) and 2D elements (backgrounds and characters) usually is not my cup of tea. I did not like Blue Submarine No. 6 because of that mix, but it seems that the technology has progressed enough that the blending is more seamless now than it was then. The detail level of the drawings is more consistent with the detail level of the aircraft as they flit through the skies, leaving nice contrails and ripping each other into little metallic shreds. During the squadron’s return flight to their aircraft carrier the carrier gets destroyed, forcing the F-14s to duke it out with an insanely fast purple variable fighter –resembling an F/A-18 – that makes short work of the entire flight, including Shin’s fighter, forcing him and his REO to eject. Shin washes ashore on the island of Maya, which is inhabited by a relatively primitive people with a mysterious link to the ‘Protoculture’. I’ll leave the story synopsis at that so I don’t give away anything that could be a major spoiler.

Sv-51

The really nice thing for me was the strong connection to the original Macross series. I loved Macross Plus, but all the technology was about 30 years more advanced than the end of the original series; thus the only really recognizable core Macross object was the SDF-1 itself. Zero brings back the good old familiar, yet slightly different VF-1 Valkyrie in the prototype production unit VF-0. Roy Fokker, my favorite good-guy from Macross, also seems to be one of the pivotal characters of the series as well. I also suspect we’ll see Claudia before the end of the OVA, as Shin’s weapons officer has the same last name (her brother?).

Fokker and the Zero

"Oh yeah, just weave through the missiles!
What are you; nuts?!"

The only real drawback for me was the music. Overall I think it is good, however there is one track that just distracts me. During one of the dogfights, this music plays in the background…music I’d heard somewhere else before. It turns out that there are small samples of some of the music from the Starship Troopers (Verhoeven) movie included in this particular track. The fact that I recognized it was distracting enough to me, but added to that is that it did not fit with the rest of that track or the rest of the music.

Long story short; in my book good animation, mostly good soundtrack, and so far typical Kawamori storytelling set the first episode of Macross Zero equal to, if not a little higher than, Macross Plus. The biggest drawback to Macross Plus in my mind was the reliance on SDF Macross for some of the subtext to make sense. I don’t foresee that as being a problem with Macross Zero since it is essentially the beginning of the Macross story. I would recommend this series not only to Macross fans, but also to people new to the Macross universe.

Rating: 9/10

Related Links:

Official Webpage - http://www.macross.co.jp/zero/

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