Posted by psgels on 5 May 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews


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.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 9/10

10 Responses

  1. helen says:

    “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.”

    couldn’t have said that better myself

  2. loran16 says:

    One thing macross the original series did especially well was the fact that the love triangle seemed to come about naturally, and wasn’t something expected immediately. Upon first watching the show, its not until roughly 13 episodes in that you even get that the show is going to set up a love triangle including Misa. And it’s believable. As opposed to Alto-Sheryl.

    (Of note, the pacing concerns had to do a lot because of the budget of the show…the show was originally going to be 30+ episodes, then they told them to cut it down to 25 episodes and then after it started to succeed they put the episodes back in the schedule. So rather than flush things out and end with the victory over the large zentraedi fleet in episode like in episode 25, they added a post victory arc.

    :-/ Great series nonetheless, and i’m glad you went back to it. Sure Minmay’s songs are abit dated, but that’s kind of to be expected.

  3. steveberry says:

    Yeah, loran16 beat me to it– the original ending was the defeat of the zentradi, thus the very rushed Max romance. Supposedly there were a whole bunch of other scenes planned, in general– Rick setting his circus jet on fire, etc etc.

    IMO, the last 10 eps are not bad, but not quite up to the quality of the first 25, which are largely stellar. During the 1 or 2 times that I rewatched the show over the last 5 years or so, I have just stopped at the end of ep 25. That’s the emotional high point for me.

    As for the music, the pop has not aged well at all, but there are few tunes she sings that I liked– the one, for example, when ::spoiler:: the SDF-1 is leaving earth ::spoiler::.

    Still, I agree that what’s really kept the show alive is two things– 1) the social complexity and moral ambiguity of the Zentradi, and 2) the romance between hikaru and misa.

  4. Dan says:

    I disagree with you regarding the animation quality. Despite the poor image quality, an aspect that was recognized by the masses even back in the day, the animation itself is quite detailed and excellent. To this day, watching Roy failing to hold up the microphone stand in the first episode is one of my favorite scenes to watch simply because of how well executed and realistic it was, little else compares. I’m even willing to say that it’s better than Frontier’s 2D animation. The only thing that the latter really has going for it is crisp picture quality and an extremely large pallate of colors.

  5. Howling-kun says:

    Macross F sucked. And I like J-pop.

  6. Shippoyasha says:

    The weird, rushed feeling of the original was a bit strange. Pacing really was all over the place, ESPECIALLY when crucial things happened. And that triangle romance was as stock as it can be, even if it was decades ago.

    As for Macross Frontier, I loved and I love J pop. lol. But strangely, it followed the bit of the rushed and scattered pacing of the original. At least it lived up to the tradition.

  7. Chris says:

    I grew up on this show when it aired on tv back in the 80’s. As a kid, watching Rick’s plane transform into a robot for the first time was one of the most amazing things I had seen. Haha! Good times!

  8. Ana Coppola says:

    Have you watched the “Do You Remember Love” movie? If you didn’t then I strongly suggest that you do.

  9. psgels psgels says:

    Ana Coppola: Do you remember Love? Wasn’t that supposed to be a recap-movie, or am I confusing things right now?

  10. Ana Coppola says:

    It’s an alternate retelling of the story. Totally worth a watch, in my humble opinion.

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