Once again, I’m superficially adding something into this Anno August blog event just to have an excuse to talk about it. I haven’t talked about anything Macross on here yet. What kind of sin is that? Seriously. I’m technically not breaking any of my own rules that I’ve set for myself with this post because Hidealo Anno was an animator on Macross Plus, but this OVA and film was another anime production crossroads for some other industry greats to make more awesome works later. Those people being the great Shoji Kawamori, Shinichiro Watanabe, Yoko Kanno, and probably some others I don’t know about. I’m sure you must of heard of some of these people. If you haven’t, Shoji Kawamori and Yoko Kanno worked together on The Vision of Escaflowne and Shinichiro Watanabe and Yoko Kanno worked on Cowboy Bebop and so many other works together. Instant anime classics we are still talking to this day in some form. Isn’t it strange how some industry greats just somehow work together sometimes and just want to continue doing it?
Macross Plus takes place thirty years after the original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. The year is 2040 and the war with the Zentradi and humanity have long since made peace with each other. On the colony world Eden, UN Spacy is running a fighter competition to choose a prototype jet to mass produce on military service. On one side is the half Zentradi pilot Guld Bowman who pilots the YF-21. A transforming mecha that is completely piloted by mind control. On the other side, Izamu Dyson pilots the YF-19. It’s piloted by standard hand controls, but it’s airframe is more experimental. All of these competitions are happening on Eden’s New Edward’s Air Force Base. It’s a very heated competition not only in terms of mecha piloting and testing, but also the pilots are also butting heads. They’ve known each other since childhood, so it’s a personal conflict.
The most important component attached to any Macross series is the music and that comes from the third person in this love triangle. Finding herself on Eden again, Myung Fang Lone is a former singer who finds herself at the supervisor of the coming idol, Sharon Apple. Sharon isn’t human because she’s actually an A.I. On a physical and public level, she’s just a box. When she’s in concert, she forms all sorts of holograms in a hot female form and people can’t get enough of her and her singing. Sharon Apple has Myung’s personality and requires Myung’s mental capabilities to do anything because Sharon Apple isn’t a complete A.I. Well, in the beginning of Macross Plus at least. Later on, a mad scientist makes his presence known and causes untold amounts of chaos and damage when Sharon Apple becomes completely unrestrained and does whatever it wants.
These two plot threads belong together because these three used to be high school friends. In fact, the best of friends until an incident of sexual assault toward Myung happened in high school that completely broke their friendship with each other. You know it’s going to be about Myung, right? She lost all sense of self confidence in herself that she can’t sing anymore, while Izamu and Guld are up in arms about who actually did it. Unlike Royal Space Force, Macross Plus knows that this is a negative experience and treats this more seriously. It’s so powerful of a moment that Myung lost all confidence in herself and refuses to sing anymore. Sharon Apple is how she expresses her music now. All while Izamu and Guld fight over a military contract with jets which just literally adds more fuel to an already sprawling fire. It doesn’t help that Sharon Apple has Myung’s memories and plays around with the two as much as it wants to make the conflict bigger. It also doesn’t help that an A.I. Piloted Jet is being tested at the same time and has higher performance then either jet. Macross Plus is just a massive pressure vessel. I bet you can imagine what happens at the end of this film. You have to watch it to find out if you are correct. Please do.
This film’s love triangle is built out of three very simple but relatable characters. Myung is the broken song bird that just can’t anymore. Her arc of finding herself is helped when she interacts with the boys individually only a little bit. It really starts with a more confident form of herself, Sharon Apple, takes Myung’s role in the relationship with the others. While it’s not perfect, Myung over coming the A.I. is what helps her push forward. Then there are the other two character’s arc. Izamu is a care free try it for yourself playboy that wants to fly faster and faster and Guld is the silent, thoughtful, cunning person who plans for every occasion, but has a complete anger streak sometimes. Their arc is not focused on Myung herself, though she is apart of it, but it’s finding a way to rekindle their friendship. It finally happens when all negative emotions are released physically (missiles and bullets) and mentally, allowing clear heads to prevail.
Alongside Macross Plus’ great characters is its great world building. It only takes place in a small amount of areas like Planet Eden’s Air Force Base and airplane testing areas, the city streets, or the concert hall, but I can’t help but feel all the atmosphere from these locations. Part of this involves a combination of Yoko Kanno techno music alongside all sorts of Sharon Apple Holograms in real feeling and looking concerts. Yoko Kanno music plays a part in a lot of those aspects because she knows how to give a location and a series it’s own feel through her music. I mean, she’s only a genius and knows how to connect her work with the show’s visuals and it’s characters at the same time. It also comes from the realistic environments and how character interact with them. You know, characters just flying around on high speed on top of motorcycles, hanging out around wind farms, or flying around cityscapes that make you feel how much depth they have.
Macross Plus’ art is just beautiful. I don’t just mean just the mid 90’s character design with the big noses, though I like those too. I mean just the backgrounds and the skylines and the cityscapes and the New Edwards Air Force Base and even the wind farms on Eden. Everything has that feeling of “this could be real” and there is a reason for that. Macross Plus’ production team took a tour of The Edwards Air Force Base and San Francisco and designed different locations off of them. The New Edward’s Air Force Base is obviously based on Edward’s Air Force Base and Eden is Based off San Francisco. It’s honestly stunning that so much thought was put into this show to make it feel real even if the animation isn’t the best sometimes. There are great cuts of animation here and there on a character level and technical level from the fist fights to motorcycle races and such, but most of the show is still frames of locations and audiences in crowds and such. Still worth it to give us the great animation for the mecha.
Maybe it isn’t obvious because I’ve been trying my best to hold back from talking about Macross Plus’ mecha, but I really love them. Shoji Kawamori’s mechanical designs are always so innovative and wonderful to look at and that is absolutely the truth here. Each design major mecha is meticulously designed from their airframes to their walking modes, though walking modes don’t show up too much. The YF-19’s sleek white design airframe with it’s forward facing wings is just so cool and feels innovative even if it isn’t. So much more cooler then it’s human form which is just alright to me. I don’t think the humanoid forms are bad, but the white washed out design is sort of boring and generic. I guess it’s also very military too, because most military’s don’t have jets full of color like Gundam’s mechs. I suppose this is more realistic.
I have the same sort of feeling for the YF-21 with it’s blue, wider air frame and it’s thicker humanoid form. A form that I like better because blue is a more interesting color and has more personality to it. I feel like I would be just fine with them just being jets, but I do realize that there are purposes for the humanoid forms. Toys and models kits, but also more flexibility with what they can do in combat. There is going to be a time when they are on the ground have to fight, right? Well, at least the animation for them flying in the air and transforming from one form to another, and firing too many missiles are well detailed. One of the rare times where I will not advocate for robots in capes, because these aren’t super robots.
Before ending this review, I need to at least touch on the difference between the OVA and movie edition of Macross plus. In general, there are no differences. It’s the same story with the same characters. The OVA is 4 episodes, so a little longer, has a lot more mechanical testing sequences, and has a dub with Bryan Cranston as a main character. The movie isn’t dubbed, is streamed line because it takes a lot of those mecha testing sequences and puts them in montage form, and has one additional scene in the end for more character cohesion. Which version would I recommend watching first? Depends on whether you want slightly more mecha testing sequences, or slightly more character focused stuff. I just used the movie version itself for this post, because that’s the edition that I own and can watch whenever I want to.
Would I recommend Macross Plus in any form you can find it in? Yes. Yes I do. Not just because it’s a science fiction piece of media or because it has the cool fighter jets flying around and firing tons and tons of missiles, but because it’s a very human story about adult characters in their twenties trying to understand their rage and grief from years pasts. A horrifying event separated these three friends and you see how it still affects their lives and how they still haven’t completely coped with it yet. All the space stuff, Macross jets, and A.I. are just extensions of all of that. People who don’t know better say “this mecha show actually focuses on the characters” to some shows, but those people have not seen enough mecha to see that ALL OF THEM DO. Mecha are piloted by humans with feelings and struggles and thoughts and this film is a great example of that. So yes, please watch Macross Plus. You don’t have to watch Super Dimensional Fortress Macross to understand it either, but it greatly enhances the experience.