Wild Speculation and Crackpot Theories about Robot Anime Superfranchises: Macross x Gundam x Macross

gundam zeta star wars mashup char solo kamille skywaker fa organna
Disclaimer: nothing in this post is substantiated by research (or at least, citations). If you have links to posts, articles, and/or interviews that debunk or corroborate any of the things I mention here, please share them (in the comments, even if they’re in Japanese). I love you.

xoxo

ghostlighting

This is speculation on creative development, so in this kind of foppery, the authors aren’t dead, they’re probably what matters most. Tomino Yoshiyuki’s Mobile Suit Gundam started a revolution in robot anime back in 1979. The primary hallmarks of his new type of robot show are the following:

  • Dark dramatic story (with pyrrhic victory and/or ambiguously emotional ending)
  • Militarization of fighting (combat operations, as opposed to 1 vs. 1 pro-wrestling matches); also, more grounding in ‘harder’ science (relative to super robot shows prevalent at the time)
  • Mass production of robot types, and related to this is the popularization of enemy robot types

Personally, I think is a tremendous, if not the biggest innovation in terms of content in the tradition of robot anime.

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Shows that immediately succeeded in this style include Tomino’s own Space Runaway Ideon (1980), as well as Heavy Metal L-Gaim (1984), Armored Trooper Votoms (1983), Fang of the Sun Dougram (1981), etc. But the big series that became a (super)franchise after Gundam is Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982), by Kawamori Shoji and his gang of Gundam fanboys.

While Gundam isn’t the only obvious inspiration for Macross, though it does have the three hallmarks of Gundam mentioned above in varying degrees. both Gundam and Macross (and Ideon) pay due homage to Matsumoto Leiji’s Space Battleship Yamato (1974), in having their protagonist’s ships (arks in some cases) make odysseys through space.

As much as the Yamato-esque odyssey became part in varying degrees of many robot/science fiction anime that followed, and as much as Gundam’s hallmarks became staples in what would eventually be called “real robot” shows, SDFM had its own pervasive influence on robot anime in the 1980s: the mass-produced transforming robots.

image
SDFM didn’t invent transforming robots. IIRC Reideen the Brave (1975) did, though my first experience of such is the truck-to-robot transformation of Tosho Daimos (1978).

But the influence that concerns me in this post is Macross’ impact on the Gundam franchise. Lo and behold, the next titular Gundam robot now transofms!

Mobile Suit Z Gundam (1985), while being the follow-up to its tremendously successful predecessors (The original series and its theatrical releases) is also a response to the very successful Super Dimension Fortress Macross, and its incredibly successful theatrical release Do You Remember Love? (1984).

Gundam had to top Macross. I can’t imagine the people behind it thinking any other way. Even if I consider SDFM my most favorite anime ever, I have no problem seeing Z Gundam as the superior show. There are many things to appreciate:

  • There are more robot variants.
  • There is more intrigue and complexity in the conflict.
  • There is already a very interesting history and context that Z Gundam draws from and builds on.
  • Iconic characters re-appear and play important roles.
  • It doesn’t have lolicon shit (Mineva x Char is just trying too hard).
  • Jerid > Qamzin (I don’t care what anybody says).
  • Had solid animation for TV (SDFM had a lot of shitty animation).
  • Colony Laser > SDF-1 Main Gun > Alaska Base Grand Cannon >>>>> Argama Mega Particle Cannon (rating for coolness, not power)
  • Had more episodes (50 vs. 36).

image
However,

  • So many robot models and ships are crap or butt-ugly
  • Beam weapons, such decisive things in the OYW become commonplace and nerfed
  • Transformation feels tacked on. Even the Z Gundam itself is ass.
  • Macross has lolicon shit (in 1983, Minmay was considered loli).
  • Macross has Minmay and her music!
  • Battles are MUCH bigger.
  • Aces (Max, Millya) have much higher kill counts than NTs.
  • Macross: Do You Remember Love? >>>>>>>>>>>>> Mobile Suit Z Gundam Movie Trilogy (despite being 24 years older).
  • Z Gundam had Katz Kobayashi.
  • Z Gundam had crap episodes (Rosamia Badam arc near the end is a festival of facepalm).
  • SDFM’s post-war arc is exemplary and outstanding. Z Gundam’s post-war story is Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam.

(I do am not necessarily being disparaging when I say “lolicon shit”)

Having said all that, this I think is the decisive thing (Minmay aside, which all of Gundam would never ever ever have a chance with topping): Roy Focker is cool. He is so fricking cool. The coolest aniki, the baddest bad boy of the skies. Nobody hates Roy Focker. If these people exist, I think they’re just trying too hard. I’d understand indifference, but hate? Roy Focker is one of the best things about Macross.

So what does Gundam do?

They make a Roy Focker character of its own: an older, mentor type figure to a 15-year old protagonist pilot. But they made him cooler. How could they possibly do this? Instead of building a Roy Focker clone, it repurposed the most iconic character in its mythology, giving it a Roy Focker role.

Roy Focker is in Z Gundam played by Char Aznable
That Roy Focker, HE IS CHAR.

God. Dammit.

It’s as if, Tomino thought: I can do better. I turned fucking Char Aznable into a Roy Focker figure. I’ll show them.

And he sure showed us all. Char Aznable was already the baddest badass who is also cool, and a villain to boot. He was the coolest villain in robot anime, often filled with buttmonkeys and caricatures. For many fans of UC Gundam, Quattro Bajeena is their favorite incarnation of Char Aznable.

“Thank you Roy Focker”, says Char,”I’ll be sure to stay away from the pineapple salad.”

And yeah that ending; Mobile Suit Z Gundam’s final eps and its un-retconned end (and innocence of knowing ZZ Gundam will be made) is just one of the very best ever, and certainly superior to the lame Misa x Hikaru end of Super Dimension Fortress Macross.

Haven’t seen any Gundam shows yet but want to try? Find your Gateway Gundam!

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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44 Responses to Wild Speculation and Crackpot Theories about Robot Anime Superfranchises: Macross x Gundam x Macross

  1. animekritik says:

    The Minmay comment is interesting. According to some site I saw she was 15 years old. Yes, this is definitely not a loli by present-day standards. Why is the age dropping? Is it that tastes are changing, or just that what’s permissible is expanding?

    Also, as a historical note, there is a universal perception in Japan (and for all I know it’s probably a true one), that Gundam destroyed Harlock, i.e. that realistic robot anime destroyed romantic spacecrew anime. Matsumoto was later on persuaded to do some robot anime to go with the trend but he was never into it.

    • Matt Wells says:

      Ye GODS, I just remembered the lolicon trio stalking Minmay. Back in 1983, Minmay was loli-fodder. How times change…I defy you to find a modern loli fan who can look at Minmay and get an erection. “NO FLAT CHEST?! What the hell is this chick, 16? That’s practically legal!”

      Having not seen the original Macross, I always thought the only aspect Tomino was specifically trying to top were the Valkyries with Waverider transformation. My biggest problem with that (aside from the fact that Valkyries are the sexiest planes on two legs under the Sun) is that it calls into question the elphant in the room with UC Gundam: if warfare’s limited to line of sight, why not still just use planes and tanks?

      What is the inherent adavantage of using humanoid robots, other than “it looks cool”, which sums up Zeon’s entire expenditure on military research. The One Year War uses all manner of ships, planes/space shuttles, tanks, AND MS’. So how come in seven years Mobile Suits automatically replace EVERY form of warcraft, except for transport purposes? How is a humanoid figure better able to navigate space than a GODAMN SPACESHIP/PLANE?

      At least Alternate Universe series cut past all those bullshit excuses of Minovsky Particles by saying “These are robots, we fight wars with them, they kick ass.” Its the illogicality of it that hurts my brain, far more than Lol-Tomino and the pretension of realism. They go to all the trouble of justifying warfare with giant robots, only to forget they have a dozen other methods of waging war.

      And having Gundams that turn into planes only compounds that. At least with Valkyries, they have an adequate excuse: they ARE planes most of the time, and the robot model is used whenever it presents a tactical advantage. I’m hardly the biggest Gundam fan, so if I’ve made some basic error or missed some vital information, please inform me.

      I also realise I’m bitching about suspension of disbelief in a cartoon series made to sell toys to children/man children, but hey, at least I care right? :) Clearly not about other people’s opinions though. Otherwise I would have never posted this.

      • schneider says:

        You know you’ve lost the game when you start claiming that Minovsky Physics hampers your ability to enjoy UC Gundam. It’s an attempt at verisimilitude, not an attempt to write a doctorate thesis on “why we went with goddamn robots instead of planes or tanks”. Go read an Arthur C. Clarke novel instead.

        Think about it though, humanoid robots are superior in space than plane-type spacecraft, which only bring the banking-and-turning conceit to the table. You can’t bank in space, there’s no wind! Robots have a better field of view and more shooting angles. If you want, you can read up on common misconceptions about space travel, which more or less debunks 90% of all science fiction with space travel.

        And why not tanks? Tanks don’t jump, tanks don’t punch, kick or have the ability to equip different handheld weapons (unless you strap arms into them). Not only are they boring, they’re also impractical in UC. There’s no surprise that they disappeared from view, because tanks always lose to mobile suits! If the Feds insisted on using tanks because “they would make more sense”, then they’re even dumber.

        But you don’t see me bashing Valkyries because they act like X-Wings. Because mecha anime is inherently absurd, I don’t call out a mecha franchise for its insufficient justification for biped robots (what’s sufficient, anyway?). It’s entertainment, and Minovsky pseudoscience is there to augment it–grumpy scienceheads will have a field day with it, but I think it’s an admirable effort because these people take their humanoid fighting machines SRSLY.

        Why Gundams turn into planes:

        It’s the same as you pointed out with Valkyries. Transforming Gundams ARE robots most of the time, and the plane model is used whenever it presents a tactical advantage. Zeta Gundam can’t achieve atmospheric flight in robot mode, it has to transform to a more aerodynamic mode to do so. But in space? Yeah, I’m with you…

        • karry says:

          “You can’t bank in space, there’s no wind! Robots have a better field of view and more shooting angles.”

          Which is bull. But also which makes completely amazing the fact that Ball exists in UC, likely the most realistic space combat vehicle we’ll ever see in anime.

          • Matt Wells says:

            Speaking of Clarke, so that’s where the design of the ball comes from! The space pods in 2001: A Space Odessy! How did I miss that?

        • Matt Wells says:

          Fair enough. Its just that their line of thought went “Minovsky= no radar= BUILD GIANT ROBOTS!= BUILD MORE GIANT ROBOTS!” I’m not asking for Clarke level world building or researched scientific fact in my robot anime; my problem is that the whole Minovsky thing is so integral to UC Gundam, and as convoluted pseudo-science goes, it is a pretty crappy excuse for mecha warfare.

          Trust me, I would not be bitching if Minovsky Particles weren’t built up as a serious viable reson for combat mecha suits. Erase MP, and I have no complaints with UC Gundam (aside from the usual ones). In fact, the whole orbit positions of the colonies is a wonderful compromise between real science and imagination.

          Its just how my suspension of disbelief works. Giant Rbots dominating the battlefield? I can accept that, no problem. Giant robots for some downright confusing magical science bullshit, THAT I take issue with.

      • I’m with schneider here. I spoke at length about this in comment form: http://ghostlightning.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/super-dimensional-fortress-macross-my-boyfriend-is-a-nimrod/#comment-14226

        You watch robot anime for the humanoid spectacle in great scale. It’s why Gundam is still the best, or at least the show that best represents the possibility for this. Unicorn currently carries this burden, though I maintain that MSG is still the apotheosis of real robot anime. I make at least part of the argument here:

        For All My Sophist Coordination, My Love for Gundam is All Natural

      • vendredi says:

        Gundam is certainly not the place to go if you’re looking for an in-depth look at the philosophy of humanoid weapons and the development thereof (although maybe MS IGLOO comes close). I recommend you check out Gasaraki, or F.L.A.G.

        • JoeQ says:

          Gasaraki starts strong, but like FMP it fails due to inclusion of supernatural elements and teenage pilots that destroy most attempts at verisimilitude (see episode 24). The ending almost manages to out-Gainax NGE.

          Flag (no acronym) fares far better, but it could just as easily been about a regular commando unit on a top secret mission. The central gimmick of the show works great, but it detracts from it’s value as a mecha show.

          Still waiting for Takahashi to make the definitive real robot show. (Tactical Armor and HAVWC still should have made it to the tournament, fucking gundamfags flooding the nominations with their BS MS…)

          • Good take on FLAG. One thing for sure, I do want more robot anime taking on that kind of treatment (combat) — more like Tom Clancy movie adaptations and less like 80s Stallone/Schwarzenegger cheesefests, or AU Gundam.

            No way HAVWC should’ve made it, given what you just said about FLAG.

          • JoeQ says:

            Maybe, but it’s still a great design and it scores extra points with me for being a transformable mecha that’s almost plausible. Better than DEATHSCYTHE at least.

            Also, watch Gasaraki. It’s failures are many, but it has enough things going for it (including a great OP) to merit at least some recognition. Would be very interested to read your take on it.

    • I have no idea how it is with lolicons, but by 1987 ZZ Gundam had really young girls: Elpeo Ple is 10 years old and according to the voice actress was meant to appeal to an older audience. Even further, ZZ cloned her TWELVE TIMES (featuring many scenes of stark nakedness, as well as being in the bath). See http://gundam.wikia.com/wiki/Elpeo_Ple

      I think the creators were just waiting for opportunities to push the salacious content involving pre-teen female characters, so it may just be a permissiveness thing.

      I’ve never heard of the idea that Gundam killed Harlock, though it is a spiritual successor to Yamato (I really believe this, or at least Gundam, Macross, Eureka SeveN etc. all follow Yamato in a significant way. See: http://ghostlightning.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/anime-operas-in-space/)

      Macross is romantic spacecrew anime in that it’s more romance than mecha, if at least in stated intention. I think what did die was planet-hopping exploratory space anime… but not really since Macross 7 AND Macross Frontier are part of this tradition, though not strictly in the mold of Harlock.

      • animekritik says:

        There’s a specific reason for the “Gundam killed Harlock” notion. Apparently the second Harlock series was cut short in the early 1980s due to terrible ratings, which people in the industry blamed on fans’ delight with Gundam (though technically there wasn’t a Gundam show running at that same moment, I don’t think).

        I agree, Yamato has had a thousand times more influence on later developments than Harlock. This is likely a bit upsetting to Matsumoto, since Harlock is his little baby and Yamato was a project he came into later.

        Elpeo Ple being 10 years old in 1987, well, that surprises me. It’s definitely a permissiveness thing then.

        • It’s a strange thing for me to hear, since the first run of Gundam in 1979 was cut short due to terrible ratings.

          But by 1980 the re-runs were experiencing record-breaking ratings or something like that so yes, Gundam may have had something to do with Harlock’s “death” albeit the target was always Yamato, with Yamato’s (film) chief key animator joining the Gundam team at Sunrise.

          • animekritik says:

            In 1979 Matsumoto’s stuff was still going on strong. I guess what happened was Gundam came just a bit before its time (or, it took a while for fans to digest the innovations).

            The industry misread this and started a brand new Harlock series in 1982-3, but by this point people were hungering for more Gundam not more Harlock..

            Mind you, Harlock SSX is kinda awful so it wasn’t all robot anime’s fault :)

  2. karry says:

    “So many robot models and ships are crap or butt-ugly”
    They were ugly in Gundam to begin with. Most of Zeon’s arsenal are Mazinger enemies rejects. And i just cant forget that one shot of Zeon capital…*cue hysterical laughter*

    “There is more intrigue and complexity in the conflict.”
    Well, in case of Zeta, “complexity” is interchangeable with “total chaos”. Many forces just fail to lay out the proper motivation for the viewer to understand.

    • Matt Wells says:

      Think of that as Tomino commenting on the lack of real communication between humans, which in turn causes these wars in the first place, and that which Newtypes are supposed to circumvent by SEEING THE TEARS OF TIME. Or killing thousands of grunts with psychic powers, I’m not sure which.

      Or you know, making the plot up as he goes along to fit Bandai’s quotia of toy designs per episode :) I personally regard it as Tomino misjudging his prozac dosage, and getting his body stuck on the switch between KILL ‘EM ALL, and Lol-Tomino.

    • 1. That’s why they were removed in the film version, which is great because we’re not distracted from some of the aesthetic high points of the franchise notably:

      Big Zam
      Elmeth
      Zeong

      2. Your “criticism” is interchangeable with “baiting.”

      • karry says:

        “Big Zam
        Elmeth
        Zeong”

        Are…are you serious ? Or…

        “baiting.”

        Yeah, okay, fine. I realise there is nothing to change a fanboy’s mind over.

  3. Matt Wells says:

    Great speculatory article, and that image of Mark Hamill Kamille will haunt my nightmares. It will give my NIGHTMARES things to look under the bed for. And is that second image Zeta Gundam through Baccano…?!

    Speaking personally, my favourite icarnation of Char is Harry Ord. Yeah, you heard me! The OYW lolicon comet comes a close second though.

    • Bumphgb says:

      I’m with you on the Harry Ord part their, especially compared to Quattro! Harry is a talented badass throughout where as Quattro made far too many mistakes and outright failures.

      • Matt Wells says:

        To Harry Ord…the only Char clone worthy of sharing a drink with the original.

        • Reid says:

          Also, he has a pimp gold-plated ace-custom mobile suit that owns all comers with a HEAT FAN. No beam sabers for this guy…nooooo he uses a fan and the power of the UUUUUUNIVEEEEEEEERSE to beat the heck out of you. And Harry gets the girl in the end instead of using every woman he comes across to further his insidious machinations.

      • karry says:

        Hey, if you ask me, Quattro was incredibly lucky to just not get shot in the face, with his “disguise” and long history of betraying everyone he ever knew.

        • Matt Wells says:

          Quattro’s idea of a disguise: lose the huge, awesome helmet he wore everywhere for a pair of sunglasses. Which he wore anytime he wasn’t fighting. So literally anyone who saw Char on leave could identify him as Quattro in a heartbeat. Oh, and sleaveless jackets.

    • Thanks. I forgot what the second image is referencing. Harry Ord is not a Char impersonation unless, he’s the Char that continued to serve Haman but ended up with her body double… or something.

  4. WhatSht says:

    i forgot where i read it, but if i remember correctly, Macross was originally meant as a parody to Gundam and come on, Macross has the SDF -1 Macross transforming to punch enemy ships or fire the Macross Cannnon, the reason why i prefer Macross over Gundam(although i’m a fan of both) are below
    -in Macross, main characters get the same machine as other soldiers, this proves their piloting skills rather than Gundam having main characters with machines with superior techology, of course they would win.
    -Macross’ songs are better than Gundam’s
    -Macross ships can transform
    -Gundams don’t get to wrestle with 18 metre tall giants
    -Macross missiles have nicer trails, unless Gundam’s, which just go and hit/kill the enemy
    -Macross has Roy Focker, Ozma Lee, Nekki Basara, Ichijo Hikaru, Maximillian Jenius, Alto Saotome, Michel Blanc(must be in this list) and other pilots
    -Macross has more singers(as far as i know), Lyn Minmay, Sharon Apple, Nekki Basara, Mylene Flare Jenius, Sheryl Nome, Ranka Lee.
    -Gundam’s singers are either, Captain of a ship(Lacus Clyne), Leader of a nation(Marina Ismail), [insert types of singers in Gundam here]
    -The only one thing in Gundam able to counter a Macross Cannon is God Gundam/Master Gundam with their Sekiha Tenkyoken and Devil Gundam

    -

  5. Pterobat says:

    You know, I’ve started to think to myself that Macross was the Gundam I was looking for all along.

    Once up on a time, I cut my teeth on Gundam Wing, the first “mature” anime that I ever viewed. It was the start of a lot of firsts for me, but ultimately faded from my fannish landscape. I tried several other Gundam series, both UC and AU, and enjoyed them, but they always faded from my mind. I found no deeper resonance in their stories and characters, so they never stuck with me.

    Then I find Macross, SDFM specifically, and finally here was a “giant robot” show that I would follow avidly, and as a franchise, that I felt a strong connection with (I also did so with Evangelion, which I dearly love even more than SDFM, but it’s not a “franchise” in quite the same way Macross and Gundam are).

    I’ve not sampled any more Gundam material for a very long time, and sometimes I might have been, for whatever reason, trying to force myself into following a franchise I only had fleeting interest in.

    Though I am jealous as to how well Zeta handled its older/returning characters in comparison to Macross’ debacles in that category. ;)

    Also, wow, I had no idea that a teen was considered “loli” in 1980s Japan. Here I was, freaking out a bit because some of my favourite Macross characters I liked had names that implied they were pedophiles, and the real explanation was right there. Warera, Rori, and Konda’s attachment to Minmay has an obvious sexual text, IMO, but it’s not perverted stalker-ness, either. I always thought the gag was they had perverted names but weren’t really all that perverted.

    • karry says:

      “I had no idea that a teen was considered “loli” in 1980s Japan.”

      It was always teen, everywhere in the world. Thats the definition of the term. You know, the novel and all that ? No ?
      Nowadays people just use loli when they meant to say pedo. Whitewashing, pure and simple.

      • Pterobat says:

        I’ve absolutely read “Lolita”, but since we’re talking about anime, hearing the term and the derivative “loli” used I would naturally default to the way that modern anime fans use the term, or at least the way most applicable here (as opposed to Loligoth clothing, for example).

    • Yeah, as I responded to animekritik above, I think it was just a matter of permissiveness at the time. If the times were more permissive, Kawamori would’ve put in more salacious content — I feel strong about this.

      After all, he would eventually show a very nude Mao Nome, as well as that little girl who joined Basara in an onsen in Dynamite 7, as well as Ranka who is older than Minmay I think, but whose proportion are closer to 12 than 17.

      Yes, the first arc of Z where the orignal cast got integrated so carefully and sure-handedly was so well done!

      • Pterobat says:

        “Yeah, as I responded to animekritik above, I think it was just a matter of permissiveness at the time. If the times were more permissive, Kawamori would’ve put in more salacious content — I feel strong about this.”

        Yeah, but to me that would just mean more overt Minay fanservice, a la her showing off her goodies in DYRL. It might not have lead to any changes in Warera, Rori, and Konda’s characterization, which would be for the better, IMO.

        I admit I’m still worried about the way that Macross the First will portray them, but as far as SDFM goes, I take my interpretation of what’s on the screen and run with it, and any later iterations wouldn’t necessarily represent what the Macross staff wanted to do in 1982 but couldn’t, or the “true” versions of the characters. For obvious reasons, I don’t want to think of them as proto-Mr. Kimuras.

        I had no idea about Elpeo Ple, though. Yikes. D:

  6. megaroad1 says:

    Agree on most of the above. For me, one of the biggest differences however is that SDFM is just better directed than Tomino Gundams. Don’t get me wrong, Tomino is an awesome creator of worlds and characters; probably the best in anime. But the dialogue and character interactions of SDFM are just more believable an have less face palm moments.

    Oh, and yes, Zeta has Katz Kobayashi…

  7. Jack says:

    Well, apart from Zeta kind of being a bad show, I can certainly agree with what you’ve written about Roy Focker and Quattro-whatever. I’ve just watched both shows recently, so the comparison between this two popular leads makes a lot of sense.

    • Jack says:

      Wait, you don’t like Misa x Hikaru? I need to go re-read your earlier entries, I imagine.

    • You speak of Zeta being a bad show as if it’s self-evident. It’s awesome. I too did not like it at first, but a subsequent viewing after a year or so gave me a very different experience.

      I do not dislike Misa x Hikaru. I like both characters a LOT, and Misa indeed for me is the heroine of the show, while Minmay is the STAR.

      I just root for Minmay so much harder LOL.

  8. Jandroid says:

    Mecha conspirancy theories???

    OMFG!!!

    Great job, changes my vision about the eternal: GUNDAM vs MACROSS.

    But, something crash in my mind.

    If Roy Focker is a “son” of Sleggar Law (Gundam 0079). Char becomes his grandson???

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