A Dichotomy of Protagonists: Kawamori Shoji Presents Something to Chew On

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[SPOILERS FOR MACROSS]

Kawamori Shoji, creator of the Macross franchise said that in Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Macross: Do You Remember Love? “(Hikaru is the hero) Misa is the heroine, Minmay is the star.” I always thought of this as rather brilliant. It was a great way to set up the resolution of the conflict, which really was that of a love triangle (set against the backdrop of great battles).

Misa pilots the Macross itself, takes the lead in negotiating against the Zentraedi under duress, and wins the triangle. Minmay, on the other hand becomes the pop idol that is the fulcrum by which the lever of the war was pulled over; she also became the symbol and most recognizable character of the show, if not the franchise itself. It divvied up the spoils to be had in and around the show, in a manner of speaking, which resulted in both characters leaving strong impressions on the viewers; each having her own set of loyal fans.

This is NOT a Misa vs. Minmay post.

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Misa saves the day, or at least a very big part of an active life of saving the day. As mentioned, she takes command of tough situations, and makes innovative tactical decisions. But just as important, is how it is she who basically straightens Hikaru out. Minmay was the reason why Hikaru enlisted, but it’s Misa who makes a soldier out of the pilot. Hikaru’s growth, maturity, and responsibility are things I willingly attribute to the contribution of Misa in his life (along with Roy and Claudia).

Minmay, on the other hand is the star from which the show cannot be stolen from. The show depends so much from the success of her rise to stardom, and the effect of her stardom on history itself. Yes, she sang during the greatest of battles. But remember, it’s Hikaru’s idea that she do so, endorsed by Exsedol. But as far as Minmay was concerned, that time, she sang only for Hikaru.

With all the fail that happens in her life, and what she accumulates for herself, Minmay is the shining star of the show. She is the music of Macross itself.

Or does the line mean something else? [DigitalBoy’s Interpretation]

In dating sim/harem games, the girls that will potentially end up with the main character are often called “heroines.” (See, for instance, merchandise for ef, which tends to focus on this word in describing the female characters.) Whether or not this is a common phenomenon of the Japanese language, or how far back it dates, I do not know, but my reaction to the word “heroine” is “the girl whose story path you’re on.”

What exactly does it mean, and why is it special, that the heroine and the star are two different girls in this case?

The way I see it, more often than not, those two are one and the same, where identifiable. Take any show that has the heroine’s name in the title, and in which there is competition for the affections of the main lead. For instance, Shakugan no Shana, Yumekui Merry, or even Toradora. In these shows, Shana, Merry, and Taiga are the obvious stars of the show respectively, and each quite clearly is the favorite or eventual winner of the lead’s affection.

miki14

Minmay has the obvious star quality. She’s the one who goes beyond normal—who is spectacular in some way. Misa is more of the childhood friend or unlucky tsundere girl that will put up a fight for the lead’s affection throughout the show even though she obviously won’t win. Or even, since she isn’t exactly boring, you could consider her like the Nagato Yuki or Asahina Mikuru to Minmay’s Haruhi. It isn’t obvious that Misa would win Hikaru’s afffection, even though it was a persistent option, because she isn’t the star.

—end of digitalboy—

This is why I think Digiboy’s interpretation of this is interesting: again, SDFM is a love story—a love triangle at that. It makes perfect sense to me to bring onboard a more traditional romance anime perspective to Macross. I do think that Misa is far less interesting character, despite all her virtues. Her failings, including that time when she got shit-faced in a bar (classic) seem so much less remarkable than the many obvious, and spectacular failures of Minmay.

(G_P) Macross - Do You Remember Love v2(x264)(9C45E807).mkv_snapshot_01.23.30_[2010.07.05_08.04.25]

There is a kind of ‘star’ phenomenon that I’ve taken notice of. However this has to do with supporting characters or antagonists who ‘steal’ the show. Granted, protagonists who are ‘heroes’ tend to be less interesting than their counterparts. Some examples:

  • Nausicaa/Kushana
  • Amuro Ray/Char Aznable
  • Simon/Kamina
  • McNulty/Omar
  • Jin-tan/Yukiatsu

Mind you, this is distinct from the trope called ensemble darkhorse, who may have examples of characters who don’t necessarily do things that steal the show, and yet become wildly popular anyway… maybe like digiboy in this post?

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.
This entry was posted in analysis, SDF Macross and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to A Dichotomy of Protagonists: Kawamori Shoji Presents Something to Chew On

  1. Unlike in Frontier’s rather lop-sided yet memorable love triangle (it’s too easy to point out for me that Sheryl had a lot of cards in her sleeve even in the earlier episodes, despite Ranka’s charms of youthful, childlike innocence), in SDFM these two great women, Misa and Minmay, gave us a unique conflict we became witness to, competing in a way that’s more on the beneficial side, giving strength, wisdom, maturity and texture to Hikaru (and something for him to ponder upon) as his character development is shaped over time through his interactions with either girl in between skirmishes, compared to heated love triangles in a standard romance drama (or, say, LOL in those old local action movies where Eddie Garcia’s cop/judge/hoodlum character has both a wife and a mistress, as he tries to balance his attention between those ladies, and eventually leading to a hair-pulling, face-slapping, scandalous tussle right before their man).

    At the same time, despite trying to win Hikaru’s heart and their differences, both women try to help each other, in one way or another, to keep themselves and the whole fleet in one piece, with the unassuming Misa on the tactical side, directing her forces across the chessboard, while Minmay provides the rousing, morale-raising battlecry of song and a burning reason for every pilot to fight (and live or die) for humanity’s survival.

    Indeed, to paraphrase a classic phrase, behind every great VF jock, there are two great girls, giving him wings to fly onward.

    • That’s a nice laying out of different kinds of love triangles. In SDFM indeed we have what we could call a virtuous spiral — at least for Hikaru — who ends up being a better person thanks to his interactions with the two female leads.

      I don’t know if we can say the same for Isamu Dyson, or Gamlin Kizaki. I certainly won’t say that for fricking Max LOL.

    • Xard says:

      I don’t think you can bring Frontier’s triangle into the scheme of the original show *at all* even as a comparison. Because to put it simply they’re all the “Stars”, even Alto. Ranka and Sheryl are self-explanatory as Minmays but Kawamori has said reason why Alto was given the background he has was because he felt that in order to give more equal footing among the idols he had absolutely no choice than to make the protagonist a diva too. And Alto sure is one diva pilot, LOL (yet he still ended up completely overshadowed by the girls…). But if one really wants to make the distinctions here it’s pretty clear that after tv series’s turning point Sheryl and Alto are protagonists with much more room to interact and exercise their will while Ranka is the “star” by virtue of becoming the most central character for the whole story (like Minmay) while simultaneously being stripped of much of autonomy or control over her life and choices for majority of second cour. Her stardom and following situation also makes her drift farther and farther away from Alto and others (like Minmay from Hikaru) excluding Brera onii-san (Kaifun onii-san) who in turn becomes more and more important character for her.

      I really don’t see much of the “try to help each other” part with Misa and Minmay – at least not intentionally. Both did their jobs you could say, I doubt Misa did anything particularly for Minmay or vice versa. For the most part they don’t interact that much and for Minmay Misa is practically a nobody. Misa’s opinion on Minmay is a bit harder to gauge in my opinion and I won’t say anything definitive apart from the fact Misa had come to respect and Minmay’s musicality by the end of it all. Whether she likes her as individual is another question entirely.

      As for other triangles in Plus no one is the star and they’re all protagonists – the star of course is Sharon Apple. Zero has no “star” at all. Macross 7 has Basara (uniquely? Depends on if we count Alto or not) double as protagonist and the star. Perhaps Mylene counts too, not sure. I guess you could call it a twist by having two musicians and one soldier instead of two soldiers and one musician…

  2. megaroad1 says:

    I think it’s been posted here before by someone, that a large part of Minmay’s lack of popularity in some circles, (despite being the star of the SDFM), is that many of us saw Robotech before we got the chance to see Macross. In Robotech, the script and dialogue, together with a most annoying voice and horrible music, kinda made her seem less sympathetic. She comes off as more immature and childish. And Misa (or Lisa as she’s called in Robotech is given a much better treatment and her tsundereness is toned down). I remember that when I saw SDFM for the first time in japanese, the first thing that struck me was that Minmay was a much more altogether interesting and sweet character.
    Just my two cents.

    • Robotech Minmay is a lot more annoying; this is true. However, that never bothered me as I watched the show over and over and over and over again back in the 90s. My primary problem with her then, was that she didn’t get to sing her awesome discography (which I had remembered thanks to “Macross: the Movie” — Macross: Do You Remember Love? as it was labeled on VHS tapes and laser discs). But definitely, the Robotech Minmay annoyed an entire fandom for the most part.

  3. 2DT says:

    You guys are teaming up on posts! It warms my heart. :)

    Re: Heroes being less interesting than their counterparts, the examples you choose take advantage of the allure of villainy. We think about them more and allow ourselves to like them by asking that one extra question: Why do you stand against the star?

    • Been doing this since 2008!

      In the examples, only Char Aznable is the true villain, and even he spent an entire TV series playing a hero (if only a side character who stole the whole show in Z Gundam). It’s his time as a hero that I became a hardcore fan — compared to others who remain fixated with his villainous turn in the original Gundam, and perhaps put-off by his smallness of being in his ultimate film Char’s Counterattack.

      • Reid says:

        ” It’s his time as a hero that I became a hardcore fan — compared to others who remain fixated with his villainous turn in the original Gundam, and perhaps put-off by his smallness of being in his ultimate film Char’s Counterattack.”

        That’s me to a T.

        I think part of the allure of villainous characters in fiction is that we so often feel like we play second string to the “heroes” in our own lives, who may be a family member with all the athletic abilities or all the brains, a friend who always picks up the hottest girls or a co-worker who seems to always do the best work or gladly take on the toughest assignments. It’s easier, by far, when viewing our own lives through the lens of fiction, to exagerate our positive and negative traits, diminishing positive things about ourselves by comparing them the “superiority” of others while emphasizing our negatives and making them “reasons” for the way our lives turned out. Often what happens is that we view ourselves as an anti-hero, an archetype that, in intself, was created to better reflect the multi-faceted nature of a real person, whether they are basically good or bad.

  4. Aorii says:

    Well, I’d say that depends on the series approach to heroes. Black and white heroes do tend to be more boring, possibly even annoying (darn you Shirou!), but Gray heroes? Just wait till Fate/zero when Kiritsugu badassery hits Px
    Great post btw~

    Also, if a girl isn’t a heroine unless she’s potential pairing with the male “hero”, does that also go vice-versa for female main character heroines? =P

    • Reid says:

      I like what you brought up at the end about a girl not being a heroine “unless she’s a potential pairing with a male ‘hero.’” I always thought this situation applied to Leon McNichol and Priss in “Bubblegum Crisis.” Because he was a potential romantic interest for Priss (they had an extremely antagonistic relationship as she’s what might be called a pretty serious “tsundere” – I hate using the japanese terms, by the way) he later went on to get his own spin-off show and manga of sorts, which was “A.D. Police.” I’m sure there are other examples of this.

      On the other hand, one example that comes to mind when I think of a time this situation didn’t play out for a male “hero” is the case of Tuxedo Mask in “Sailor Moon.” Despite the fact that he regularly saves the Sailor Soldiers throughout the first seasons of the show, Mamoru almost felt tacked-on half the time, even given that his role in a manga/anime primarily intended for a female audience was to be “the fanservice.” However, as a guy that watched the show (yes, even though it was initially the terrible English dub), I always identified with Tuxedo Mask and always wanted him to be the hero that, by rights, he probably should have been had the whole story not been made mainly with female readers and viewers in mind.

    • Thanks!

      You know what’s a great example of incredible balance? Reinhard vs. Wenli — neither character is shortchanged by the narrative in any way, and both enjoy massive followings. They were heroes AND stars. I’ll let digiboy respond to your question.

      • I’m not sure how to respond: in this case I’m using heroine to mean a specific thing instead of another thing, so I don’t know how those two things could both be true or where to go with that.

  5. Matt Wells says:

    That does it. Megavideo’s asinine time limits and my desire to own and watch a physical copy of this show has finally broken past me cheapness. There’s a cheap, used but good copy of the Animeigo edition on Amazon, I’m getting it. Its either that or pay £20 a disc for the ADV edition.

    • Xard says:

      and then feel bitter that it isn’t the absolutely incredible looking recent remaster which has been fansubbed apart from last two episodes

      feels fucking bad man.jpg

      • Matt Wells says:

        I just REALLY like the feeling of owning a show, in the form of something you could pass down to your grandchildren. I saw most of Votoms online, yet I watched it alll the way through on CPM’s official DVD release. The picture quality was awful, but it had far more of a positive influence on my viewing experience. I can’t really define or articulate why, it just did.

        I’m also one of those guys who has trouble sitting down to the computer to watch a 50 episode show; with a DVD I’m a far more urgent viewer and more willing to marathon a show. And besides, I don’t have the capacity to download the show, and the only online sources I could find it were on fucking Megavideo. Two episodes every three hours! Woo fucking hoo!

        • Reid says:

          I agree, Matt. I also like to “own” a show. While I won’t deny that I did watch most of Macross online (and only recently finished it up), I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it all on DVD or bluray if it could be done, or, if like you said, the video quality was better. Then I encounter things like the Gundam Unicorn bluray disks, which are practically cost prohibitive since each one costs around $45 US. It’s just ridiculous. I’ll end up having to wait until all the episodes have been out for six or seven years in discount racks before I ever get to see more than the first episode.

          • Xard says:

            Unless you get access to japanese second-hand stores in, uhh, Japan it’s pretty futile to hope for the BD prices drop much, unfortunately. The pricing of anime BDs/DVDs is crazy in Japan because industry depends on their sales. There isn’t much room to drop them, or will when Unicorn gets crazy sales no matter what.

        • Xard says:

          I understand feelings of you two really well and I was considering purchasing the DVDs in near-future myself (finally) but then I just HAD TO stumble upon the remastered episodes and I honestly can’t put my money in it knowing all too well how much better it could look like. I own Mangle’s End of Evangelion DVD so I have past experience with owning inferior quality products when superior releases are easily obtainable, if not legally… and it does not feel nice.

          This is the same reason I’ve never got Macross Plus. I’m sorry but VHS rip quality just does not cut it on DVD when beautiful japanese remasters exist in this case too. *sigh*

          I’ve been considering getting it all on japanese releases, but that’s really expensive option and it pains me I wouldn’t be able to introduce people to Macross with those DVDs due to lack of subs so they’d only have value for me as a collection…

          I did however buy Flash Back 2012 and DYRL on DVD while in Japan (DYRL’s packaging is just epic, looks like vinyl in terms of size and form. They also included the film poster too!) as well as Utahime and first two MF volumes on BD. Since I already own two I might as well slowly but surely gather remaining seven MF BDs, but that’s going to cost a lot and I don’t particularly want to sink money even more by starting to collect japanese BDs/DVDs of other series…

          But if you’re okay with DVD release then sure, go ahead. I just felt like I should mention that there’re better quality versions going around the net :)

          • Matt Wells says:

            Did Macross Plus really have that bad a conversion? I own the UK DVDs of Plus, and for an early 2000′s remaster, the quality is pretty decent. Lots of detail and colour, though the picture on mine was a little soft. Now, the Manga DVD release of the Macross Plus MOVIE was absolutely terrible, nothing more than a lazy VHS rip. Fucking dreadful it was, especially since the movie version is the definitive ending of the series, unlike the truncated Episode 4 version.

            From my research, I understand that the Animeigo DVDs are pretty decent too, loud and sharp Japanese soundtrack, and pretty good picture. Not quite as good as the recent Japanese remaster, but it makes the official VOTOMS release like like a steaming pile of shit (admittedly not hard).

          • Xard says:

            I’m only familiar with the atrocious film release but I heard it said that the western OVA release wasn’t that good either…so you might be better informed than me about the OVA, actually.

  6. Mo says:

    Been chewing on this, too. I never thought of it before, and after I read this post it began to bother me and bother me. Why indeed is the heroine not the star, and vice versa?

    I thought of a few answers, but here’s the most coherent. My definition of a heroine is someone who saves other people. And in order to do that, a heroine has to make full use of the capacities given her (the “Goth-given gifts”, if you will).

    Minmei was interesting in that she was what many aspire to: beautiful, talented, effervescent. And yet, she didn’t understand, as Kaifun told her in the episode in which he left her, that her talent wasn’t hers alone. Her talent, like everyone else’s, is for the betterment of humanity. That, I think, was why she cannot be called the heroine. When she sang at the battle with Dolza, she was an instrument of war, like the main gun or the Grand Cannon. She wasn’t consciously singing to save the world. In the end she ended up looking for Hikaru because things went south with Kaifun, rather than seeking out her answers for herself, alone. She didn’t know her own inner strength yet, and that’s also what makes her tragic. So, to sum up this rather incoherent post, she couldn’t be the heroine because she had yet to save herself.

    Misa, for all her “blandness” (and I say that relatively of course, because everything looks bland next to Lovely Minmei ^.~ ) was fully following her calling. Even when she tried to resign at the end, she couldn’t, because it was her destiny, and she meant to follow it, even if it meant she had to say goodbye to Hikaru. Sure, she wasn’t the star, but she was definitely the heroine.

    This is not a Misa vs Minmei post. I love them both, and felt like slapping them both at alternate moments during the series ^.~ (and I still don’t understand why anyone would want Hikaru….)

    • Very good analysis, and it’s something I want to view a show like Magical Girl Madoka Magica with. I don’t want to spoil this show for you if you haven’t seen it yet. Suffice to say your theory makes for an interesting reading of it.

    • Xard says:

      I think DYRL Minmay would fit your definitions of heroine though.

      • Mo says:

        She does indeed. That’s why she’s so lovable in DYRL! (at least, for me ^.^)

        But she still didn’t get the dude. My two theories on this:
        1.) Minmay didn’t really love him as much as she _thought_ she did; being with Hikaru was an escape from her idol lifestyle.
        2.) Minmay is the symbol of the new Japan, Misa the symbol of old. Think of it: Minmay is *gasp* a child of mixed ethnicity. She wants to be a singing star, against her parents wishes. She *gasp* succeeds at this new-fangled idol thing, meanwhile riding a new-fangled spaceship thing. Misa is (duh) Japanese. She is a woman commander (innovative) but really she followed in her father’s footsteps (she picked the career her daddy wanted). Vanessa, Shammy, and Kim often call her old-fashioned for not just telling Hikaru her feelings. So in the end when she gets the guy, it’s like the Macross creators saying, “hey, Ipods are great, but these Victrolas? Nothing like them.”

        • Reid says:

          Or maybe, “Dang. These F-22s are sick. If we had passive stealth like that on our variable fighters, the Zentradi probably wouldn’t even see us coming!” “Yeah, but nothing is cooler than a freakin’ F-14, dude. Gotta love dem Tomcatz! They have swept wings, bro, and the radios always play ‘Highway to the Dangerzone’.” “Yeah!” “YEAAAAAAH!”

          Seriously. Macross is teh 80s. And that is awesome.

      • Xard says:

        I prefer the relatively conservative theory that Hikaru just happened to love Misa :P

        Especially if we pull Oshii angle on it with his babbling about how Macross really is about wanting to date older girl, hahahaha

  7. Xard says:

    Nausicaa/Kushana is interesting case Speaking of manga version at least, according to Miyazaki himself Kushana is essentially a “broken bird” version of Nausicaa. I think what attracts people to Kushana is that Nausicaa is closer to the ideal while Kushana is more flawed and thus relatable version of the same heroine. Plus she’s simply undeniably cool.

  8. MarigoldRan says:

    Minmay is the girlfriend.

    Misa is the wife.

  9. MarigoldRan says:

    Succinct.

    (Yes!!!)

  10. LOSUN says:

    Hello! I have been paying attention to this blog for months but this is my first post. After watching episode 27 (and memorizing the whole dialogue) I always thought that when Hikaru is falling towards the Earth and remembers Minmay, that that was purely his imagination, just as he always thought that they are closer to eachother than they really are. So that Minmay is not singing for him at all, he is only thinking that.

    • You think that was entirely his imagination? Why would it be so? The only time we couldn’t “trust” Hikaru’s POV was when the show clearly spelled it out: “Phantasm” — when he was dreaming, etc. I see no reason for him to be unreliable in relating the immediate past.

      • LOSUN says:

        I think that Minmay never loved Hikaru or liked him enough to kiss him unless it was in a situation where she was totally alone and he was her only help (for instance when they were trapped, or when she got rid of Kaifun, both times she was totally lost and she could only count on Hikaru). I say that it was his imagination because it was mostly his inner desire at that moment, even though I am sure he realized that she is not for him at all. Minmay lost her mother and father and seemed pretty shocked to make being friendly to Hikaru her top priority. I also think that she was only shocked by his “be happy with Kaifun” confession at the beginning of the episode because she is a stage performer and those people need the unconditional love of everybody and not because it was Hikaru personally. Then again the evidence against my theory is that she thinks “goodbye Hikaru” before kissing Kaifun. But somehow I like the idea that only he is playing with the thought that she is singing for him, it fits perfectly with the fact that she has always been a thousand times more important to him than he was to her.

        • This is all speculative. There’s nothing here that suggests that what we are seeing is Hikaru experiencing imagination and not memory.

          That said, everything else about it is interesting.

  11. Mo says:

    Found something interesting: scanlations of Macross the First…in Spanish! Only the first two books though, but still great and can be found here:
    http://submanga.com/Super_Dimension_Fortress_Macross_THE_FIRST
    Funny how in the opening, you literally see Minmei’s thighs, and a couple of pages later, it cuts to Misa, wearing her uniform…and a pair of tights! Talk about opposites, eh? I won’t ruin too much for those who haven’t “read” it yet; I just look at the pictures. (Lucky for those of you who can read Spanish ^.~)

  12. Pingback: Humanoid Data Integration Thought Entity, Yuki Nagato to the Rescue~ « Simply Hobbyist

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