Stephen reviews: Macross II (1992)

macross2Macross II [超時空要塞マクロスII Lovers Again (Chōjikū Yōsai Macross II – Lovers Again)] (1992)
AKA Macross II: The Movie, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: The Movie, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again

Starring Hiroko Kasahara, Tsutomu Takayama, Yumi Touma, Bin Shimada, Tohru Furuya, Ryotaro Okiayu

Directed by Kenichi Yatagai


Macross II is the black sheep of the franchise, and isn’t even considered a part of the real story. Partially this is because the company that owns the copyrights, Big West, hired a completely different studio to make it, thus leaving out the entire team responsible for creating the series in the first place. The other reason is simpler: Macross II just isn’t very good. Oh, if only we could brush the Star Wars prequels under the rug with the same ease that this one was forgotten.

It’s also rather difficult to call this a movie. It was made as a six episode mini-series, and while I always knew the movie version was nothing more than editing those episodes into one film, I had no idea just how lazy a job it was. All they did was hack off the opening and ending credits and string the episodes together in order. Hell, they didn’t even take out the episode titles or the eyecatch, both of which you’ll be seeing every half hour. But if they’re going to slap “the movie” on the packaging and market it as such, then I guess I can play along until the end of the review.

MACROSS_2This does give the “movie” a rather episodic feel at times. But it’s not as bad as you might think. Like many anime, the series was meant to tell one single story, so the episodes pretty much all end with a cliffhanger that leads into the next. This is not Star Trek, where almost all episodes contain their own complete story arc. Every episode of Macross II builds up to the series’ conclusion, and once the climax starts building, you will only notice the episode shifts because the titles keep appearing.

You might expect a 10th anniversary cash-in made by a completely different creative team to be nothing more than a low-quality rehash without any of the good aspects that made the first story so great. And that’s exactly what Macross II is. The characters are shallow, the animation is unimpressive even for a TV series, the action sequences are bland, and the plot is mostly redundant to the original Macross.

They did add in a few interesting bits of originality. There are some themes about government secrecy and journalistic integrity, but while that at least sent them in a slightly different direction than the original, it doesn’t mesh well with the existing themes of the franchise. Nor does it have any real effect upon the course of the plot, and it results in a much less exciting story.

What I liked a lot more was the idea to have the Zentradi enslaved by an alien race that used music to control them. This fits far better with the concept of Macross and added a little bit of depth to the story, although it was still nothing more than a more blatant version of themes the first Macross had already dealt with.

macross2_2As for the story itself, if you’ve seen the original Macross, either the TV series or the film, Do You Remember Love, then you already know everything that happens. Aliens are invading Earth, again, and they’re kicking our collective asses across the cosmos. Again. But wait! Instead of an ace fighter pilot fighting harrowing battles against the aliens in a desperate bid for survival, now our main character is a journalist in a desperate struggle to tell the civilian population that the aliens are kicking our ass. Wow. I’m so excited now. I don’t mean to denigrate the importance of journalistic freedom, but in a story about the imminent extinction of the human race I think we have bigger fish to fry.

Lots of other things in this film downgraded the cool factor from the original, too. We’re no longer following the exploits of the Skull Squadron, whose emblem is a badass looking skull and crossbones. The elite fighter squad of Macross II is the somewhat less inspiring Fairy Team. They’re not even good enough to be a squadron. It’s hard to get excited about a movie when all the coolness is gone.

macross2_3The action also had all the coolness sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. You could argue about whether the mecha designs maintain a consistent style to the original, or if they are nothing more than cheap knock-offs. That will largely be down to personal taste. But the the action is just bland. Gone is all the creative interplay between opponents. All we are left with is shots of people shooting and shots of people blowing up, or maybe flying really fast in a straight line. There’s not even a single instance of a pilot so awesome that he flies straight at missiles and shoots them down before they hit him. That’s one of the biggest hallmarks of the Macross franchise, and its absence is a huge disappointment.

They couldn’t even be bothered to put ace pilot Sylvie Gina in the final battle. She’s supposed to be the best in the world, but she leaves all the action to the minor characters while lounging around, making out with asshole — I mean ace — reporter Hibiki Kanzaki. We never learn what happens to her boyfriend Nexx either. Did she dump him, or did she, like the writers, simply forget that she was already dating somebody? And just why was she in a hotel room with her commanding officer at the beginning of the movie? We’re never told, so we’ll just have to use our imaginations. Maybe Sylvie is just willing to do anyone who’s interested.

macross2_1An alien girl named Ishtar is supposedly the third corner of the love triangle. When Hibiki finds her in a derelict enemy spaceship he brings her home. What else is there to do with an unconscious, half-naked alien babe? They hang out for the first half of the story, but she never seems all that interested in her supposed relationship. And when she finds Sylvie and Hibiki together, she seems happy rather than upset. I guess if I had been stuck with that guy I would be happy to pass him off too. It may strike you as odd that I’m spending so much time on the romance in a movie about alien invasions, but romance is half of what Macross is about. This clumsy and lackluster love triangle is perhaps the film’s biggest failure at living up to the Macross name.

Despite all my griping, Macross II is watchable. Even with a runtime over 2½ hours long I never got bored out of my mind, though it is certainly below average. Its biggest problem is that the original Macross is so much better. Why would you want to watch a cheap imitation when you could watch the real deal? If you’re desperate for some mecha action, or you’re a diehard Macross fan, then you might squeeze some small amount of enjoyment out of it. Just don’t expect anything else.

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