Saturday, January 29, 2005

Macross 7

Genre: Mecha / Space Adventure
Parental Guidance Recommended
1994-1995 Shouji Kawamori, Tetsuro Amino, Ashi Production, Tokyo Broadcast System

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MarkPoa's Description:
The year is 2045, 30 years after Lynn Minmay halted the Zentraedi invasion of earth with her music. Mankind and Zentraedi have lived in peace. A new wave of Macross ships were built to explore space for suitable planets to be colonized. The seventh fleet to bear the name, Macross 7, is home to the new band Fire Bomber. However, a new enemy appears: the Protodevlin, beings that can be stopped by neither strength of arms or firepower that even the Zentraedi fear them. During the fight against the Protodevlin, a lone fire-red Valkyrie appears, bearing Nekki Basara of Fire Bomber, singing for everyone to listen to his song!

(49 episodes)

Listen to his song! >>> by MarkPoa (written ??.??.2004 posted 01.29.2005)
I was never a very big Macross/Robotech fan. However, I have memories of seeing Lynn Minmay singing "Stagelights flashing, the feelings smashing..." in English and "Shao Pai Long" in Japanese. And I've always loved the Macross robots as toys. They were great transformers and great-looking robots, particularly in their half-transformed Gerwalk stage.

Fast-forward to the late-nineties and I've heard of a less well-known spin-off of the Macross universe: Macross 7. Unlike its OAV cousin, Macross Plus, Macross 7 was a 49 episode TV series. The show features the exploits of the band Fire Bomber and life in the Macross 7 fleet.

The story is set in 2045, a few decades after the first Macross saga. During this time, humans and Zentraedi have lived in peace and have continued to explore space for worlds that could sustain both their civilizations. The Macross 7 fleet is the seventh such sent to explore. It is composed of ships including the residential ship City 7, the main fighter ship Battle 7, science ships, recreation ships, and the like. City 7 serves as the home of most of Macross 7's civilians, four of which have formed the fledging band, Fire Bomber.

Fire Bomber's members include: Ray Lovelock, a former U.N. Spacy ace pilot and the leader of one who brought the band together; Veffidas Feaze, the quiet Zentraedi drummer; Mylene Jenius, bassist-vocalist and youngest daughter of City 7's mayor Millia Jenius and Battle 7's captain and former Macross jet jockey Maximillian Jenius; and Nekki Basara, the wild guitarist-vocalist who wants everyone "to listen to his song!" The love triangle angle that is a staple in every Macross series is also present here, though a bit underplayed due to the other events. This time around, it's a love triangle between Basara, Mylene, and U.N. Spacy Diamond Force commander Lt. Gamlin, whom Millia Jenius is eyeing as a fiancé for her headstrong daughter.

The antagonists this time around are the Protodevlins (Proto-devils in some translations), a force that even the Zentraedi fear. The Protodevlins are after something they call Spiritia, something akin to the lifeforce of people. Conventional weaponry are not effective against this new enemy. But the antics of Nekki Basara in his fire-red Valkyrie made the people realize something: music has an effect on the Protodevlins. Sound Force was thus born.

Characters are a strong point for Macross 7. Aside from the Fire Bomber band, a host of supporting characters provide good stories and personalities to the show.

I'll have to talk a bit about Basara because he's the focus of a majority of the series. Nekki Basara is an intriguing character. He has the makings of a great Valkyrie pilot, but is so much a pacifist that he doesn't want to use any of his Valkyrie's weapons. Rather, he flies around in the middle of the battle field singing. He totally believes in the power of his music, believing that it can end wars and fighting, even using it to try to awaken the Protodevlin Sivil. Slowly, both friends and foes alike are influenced or completely changed by Basara's attitude and music. One major example, the Protodevlin Grabil actually died while singing.

Heck, it's hard to resist a guy who is enthusiastic about his beliefs that much.

One other character viewers might notice: there's this girl carrying a bouquet of flowers that appears throughout the series, evidently intent on giving them to Nekki Basara. However, something always keeps her from giving them to him. Yet, she still keeps appearing. I liked this running gag. It sort of parallels Fire Bomber's steadfastness in its climb towards stardom with this fan always there supporting them. Suffice it to say, that subplot adds a quirky touch and its eventual resolution was quite touching.

Fans of the original Macross series would also appreciate the references to the old series. Aside from the presence of old characters Maximillian, Millia, and the Zentraedi Execudor, references pop up within the series that would bring a smile to the old fans. Personal favorites: a tabloid article asking whether Nekki Basara is a lovechild of Lynn Minmay and Hikaru Ichijo (Robotech's Rick Hunter) and Max and Millia reenacting the Hikaru-Misa Hayase kiss on the Zentraedi ship in one special episode.

Animation and art was pretty uneven within the span of the 49 episode series, but that might be expected with any TV series that's this long. When compared to its sharper OAV cousin, Macross Plus, Macross 7's animation looks outdated. However, there are still instances when the animation becomes smooth and flashy. This is evident particularly in the space dogfight and battle scenes.

As with any other Macross show, music is the show's centerpiece. Unlike the original Macross though, the music mix of Macross 7 is not limited to ballad and j-pop idol songs. Songs such as "Planet Dance", "Totsugeki Love Heart", "Power to the Dream", and "Try Again" will have you tapping your feet to Basara's energetic singing. There are also mellow sentimental tunes such as "Remember 16" and "Pillow Dream" for a contrast. The fact that these songs were performed by the real-life band Hummingbirds gives them the substance and energy of a live performance.

The space battles mecha fans yearn for are also not lacking in this installment of Macross. The frequent attacks of the Protodevlins serve as the set-up for a multitude of dogfights and action. Plus, it allowed us a glimpse of Basara's unique piloting skills. I mean, Basara pilots his Valkyrie while singing AND avoiding all those missiles and shots, without throwing a single shot back. Now, that's style!

I should also point out that Macross 7's creators obviously had a lot of faith in their story and allowed it to play out slowly, without all the bells and whistles of mecha. Aside from Basara's Valkyrie, the rest of the Sound Force Valkyries and weapons weren't even unveiled until the middle of the series. The story itself is quality science fiction. The mystery of the Protodevlins plague the protagonists of the show throughout the series, certainly, but parallel to it also runs the story of Fire Bomber and its travails as a band, so there's a character-driven side to it as well. The pacing is a bit slow, though, and a few questions are still unanswered by the end of the series (such as any resolution to the aforementioned love triangle).

Macross 7 is a pretty interesting mix of anime styles. It's a science fiction mecha show, a band anime, a love story, and an adventure story... all rolled into one. I recommend anyone looking for something different to try this series. And, like the girl with the flowers, I will continue to listen to Basara's song.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 6; Story 8; Characters 8; Sounds 10

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