Those who followed my blog about a year ago probably know that I wasn’t exactly… ‘pleased’ with the way Macross Frontier turned out. Even taking the upcoming movie into account, it never really seemed to know where it wanted to go and while it definitely had some good points, it also just kept getting stuck at an endless love triangle with a bunch of unimpressive lead characters and villains.
Still, it did inspire me to go after the early Macross-series, in order to find out why the franchise got its fan-base in the first place. And I must say, I’m glad that I did. While not perfect, the original Macross does a lot of things right at which Macross Frontier screwed up. As probably one of the first series to combine serious love with mecha action and doing a really good job while at it, I can see why this series had such a big influence on the later anime to come.
The thing that struck me the most about this series is how interesting the villains actually are. At first, when I learned that this show would be about a mysterious alien race called the Zentradi attacking Earth, I was fearing lots of “Humans rock!”-themes, combined with an ending at which the aliens suddenly turn good like how Macross Frontier pulled it, but it was actually much more clever than that. A large part of this series is actually focused on analyzing why these Zentradi fight, how their society is created and how Earth’s society impacts them (which provided some of the most entertaining scenes of the series). It also shows what would happen if a race would be suddenly forced to a totally different life style, and how hard it is to adapt to these new life conditions.
The three lead character are also much more capable of carrying this show. There again is a love triangle, but it’s pretty well built up and this series uses its episode length of 36 very nicely in order to let everything gradually play out and the show evolve. This really gives the love triangle between them the chance to sufficiently develop and close off with a pretty satisfying conclusion, although near the finale the romance can get a bit cheesy at times. I also really appreciated that it didn’t try to stuff all of the meat of the series in the final four episodes or so, though going into detail why would perhaps be a bit too much of a spoiler.
Unfortunately, at other points the show does have some pacing issues. Some episodes really give events the time to flow naturally, but a few episodes really move way too fast, with the most notable being ‘the wedding’. It just comes way too bloody fast and before you know it the involved characters have completely shifted their personalities. The ending also felt like it could have used half an episode extra.
And obviously, the production values aren’t as good when compared to Macross Frontier, but that’s not going to surprise anything. Compared to the other shows of its time though, the animation looks very capable. Most of the time it’s very rough around the edges and the hand-painted cell animation definitely feels jerky, but the whole look matured just as well as for example Matsumoto Leiji’s character-designs did. The music however, is beyond rescue. Lin Minmay(one of the lead characters, an idol)’s songs mostly consist out of very cheesy J-pop from the seventies, and even though the rest of the soundtrack serves its purpose, every time she started singing the sound got more and more on my nerves.
Overall, if people are wondering which Macross TV-series to check out first, it basically boils down to this: with Macross Frontier you get a shallow story with a godly budget, and with the original Macross you get a series with dated production-values through a fascinating setting. Just take your pick. Personally I definitely prefer the original.