This arc is the answer to the question: “What is Macross?” Kawamori Shoji, series creator described the show as a “love triangle set against the backdrop of great battles.” While this is only the creator’s own reading or claim about his work, and ultimately does not negate or deny any other possibility of Macross, it is what also happens to be the most satisfying answer as far as I’m concerned.
I can easily project my own reading upon this work. I can read it as an essay on the fallibility of public figures, from military leaders to pop idols. I can read it as a more authentic proselytizing against war/entreaty for peace via a violent anime for children. I can read it as an attempt towards a timeless entry in the space opera tradition. I will do none of these here. Instead I choose to prove Kawamori’s claim and in the process make it my own.
What I’m Not Saying
I’m not saying Macross isn’t any of the things I said I wouldn’t claim in this essay. I’m not saying Macross isn’t a space opera or a clever work of science fiction, or a solid entry in the tradition of real robot anime, or an exposé of the idol industry and the humanity of the pop idol. As far as I’m concerned, Macross is all these things to some degree.
What I do here is distinguish the love triangle, the love story aspect of the work as the primary offering of the whole thing. Viewers may value the different readings differently, but this isn’t about valuing as much as highlighting what’s so. Let us consider the episodes that make the case (I will be using the Wikipedia summaries for the episodes):
Episode 25 “Virgin Road”
Max encounters Milia in the park and a knife fight between them ensues when she reveals that she is a Zentradi. Max defeats her for the third time, sparing her life, and the two fall in love. Milia decides to join the Macross and their immediate marriage marks the first union between a human and Zentradi, causing celebrations everywhere along Macross City. Boddole Zer, on the other hand, doesn’t like the idea and plans to fix the ‘contamination’ that is human culture once and for all.
There are two side love stories in Macross, one tragic, one comic: Claudia x Roy, then Max x Millya respectively. One had to end to give way to the other in terms of narrative ‘exposure’ or ‘airtime.’ The love story of Max and Millya reaches its comic high point in their third duel (a knife fight in the park), which culminates in their wedding. Commodore Global shows his PR savvy by milking this wedding for all its worth, broadcasting it knowing that the Zentraedi are watching.
This, actually turns out to soak Global’s hands in the blood of 6 billion human beings, as the event convinced Bodolle Zer to stop faffing around and decisively exterminate all humans and all exposed to their (cultural) contagion. In this episode, the love story is in the foreground, the imminent destruction of humanity in the background.
Episode 26 “Messenger”
In a surprising turn of events, Exsedol Folmo is micronized and attempts to seek peace negotiations with the people of the Macross. During the negotiations, Exsedol reveals that the defection of the Zentradi soldiers could be related to a new cultural awakening caused by Minmay’s songs. Hikaru begins to long for Misa, who is still on Earth, trying to convince her father and the UN that the two races may have a chance of co-existing peacefully.
The Zentraedi ask for parley. I don’t think that they are genetically predisposed to negotiations, and Archivis Exsedol is too much of a scholar to actually make demands of the Miclones. Instead what happens is, highlighted by a terribad rendition of Watashi no kare wo pairotto how Exsedol practically established an accord by himself. It is notable that Britai’s command wherein which he belongs will be annihilated by Bodolle Zer, which makes them have to rely on the psychological power of the Minmay Defense, wherein which he requested she put on a show to accomplish 2 things:
- Rally the Zentraedi ‘fans’ in Britai’s command; and
- Administer a psychological shock to the Zentraedi yet to be exposed to not only her winsome vocal stylings, but also to her kissing Kaifun.
I appreciate how Exsedol greeted Millya, not without a tinge of envy or at least appreciation of what she’s been able to do (got married).
Episode 27 “Love Drifts Away”
A epic battle for the Earth takes place when Boddole Zer’s main fleet of over 4,000,000 warships fold above Earth’s atmosphere. Using the power of culture from Lynn Minmay’s singing, the Macross, along with its allied Zentradi fleet, attempts a daring last stand to Boddole Zer’s forces. Heroes will die, a world may fall, but will love prevail?
THE TITLE ALONE, says so much. It’s not called the final battle, or some such. It’s called “Love Drifts Away.” True to form, it starts with Hikaru’s overdue confession to Minmay. The odds of winning against 4,000,000 capitol ships are too much mathematics for me to determine, and he just had to say it now. And while Minmay was turning Hikaru down, Bodolle Zer’s Grand Fleet destroys the entirety of the Earth’s surface in a great extra atmospheric barrage.
There was no further negotiation, no desperate defense mounted to save the Earth. Bodolle Zer didn’t dick around. He never let the Miclone-Zentraedi rebel alliance mount any kind of defense on time. One would expect the Earth to be saved by the good guys. No, not in Macross. This silly love story doesn’t mess around with its climactic battle. It was only after the Earth got scorched, and with the realization that the citizens of Macross city may be among the last survivors of humanity that the alliance gets to counterattack.
Hikaru in fact, contributes this strategic counterattack involving Minmay. Structurally, what Macross was able to do here is to involve Minmay in a military operation, which puts her on the same stage as Hikaru and Misa – she’s actually the STAR of that very stage wherein a soldier would normally play the leading role. As such, the love triangle is set to be in the foreground of the great battle.
And great indeed it is, while the alliance forces are preparing their counteroffensive, UN SPACY gives Earth its last (and only gasp) when the Grand Cannon fired, destroying an entire section of the Grand Fleet (I can imagine about a quarter million ships lost in that one attack). This attack threw the Bodolle Zer fleet in disarray which created the opening for the alliance forces to begin its counteroffensive.
Another noteworthy thing that happens here is that Hikaru, the main protagonist in the series gets shot down in the middle of the battle. He will not be involved in what would be the victorious barrage against the final boss. He’s not part of it at all. When does this happen in robot anime? NEVER.
Why does Macross do this? Hikaru piloting his damaged VF-1S to Earth allows him to move on (or, away) from his rejection by Minmay and rescue Misa from the wreckage of the Grand Cannon and put her on his lap in the single-seater cockpit. As Minmay sings “Love Drifts Away” (only for Hikaru, just for today), the battle approaches its climax, Hikaru bids her goodbye in his mind and he finds Misa.
The Macross punctures Bodolle Zer’s asteroid-sized ship and fires hundreds of reaction warheads, taking it out and the surrounding section of the Grand Fleet. The Macross lands on Earth triumphantly, albeit to find the Earth barren and punctured with holes. Still, with its back against the sun, Hikaru and Misa ride towards it and into the sunset. For now, the triangle is undone, resolved against the background of the greatest battle the Earth has ever seen.
Episode 28 “My Album”
Two years have passed after the final battle with Boddole Zer. The Macross is now a relic of the conflict known as Space War I, and sits in a large lake in barren Alaska. Earth is still a desolate wasteland, and small towns and forests are located miles around Macross City.
The allied Zentradi fleets, along with the citizens from the Macross, maintain a nervous peace. The work to rebuild Earth by both sides is in full swing. Hikaru looks back on the times spent with Roy Focker for advice on what do about his feelings for both Misa and Minmay.
I had always thought that the best way to end a most awesome, feel-good ending is for it not to end. Maybe I started thinking this way when I first saw Macross in 1984 but I doubt it. Now every Macross episode, including “Love Drifts Away,” ended with the ED “Runner” wherein a live action photo album turns to reveal 2D photos which are pin-up-like illustrations of the main cast.
I thought it only fitting this episode is called “My Album” as it works as the transition to the extended story. It’s both the ED and the preview to the next (arc) episode. A lot can be said about the post-war storyline that very few anime outside of Macross do take on, but I’ll deal with those fun things in the succeeding posts. But for now, it’s enough to acknowledge that 2 years after the great battle, the love triangle is re-forming. Will you love me tomorrow?