[This posts does not use spoiler tags, but provides sufficient warning]
I don’t believe it tells the story of how everything begins. If anything, it introduced or complicated the mysteries of the extended narrative; in particular that of the Protoculture, the mysterious ‘first race’ of beings that spawned galactic civilization. I used to recommend this show as a starting point of the franchise, given its place in the narrative chronology. After my rewatch (my first since I saw it 5 years ago), I’d actually recommend this show to people who have seen most if not all the other shows in the franchise. In any case, this is a beautiful anime.
One thing that the show provided interesting and entertaining background history on, is the development of the Variable Fighter. The VF-0 ‘Phoenix’ is a big star in this OVA. The show goes into the portrayal of the precursors of the signature mecha of the series, a nuanced presentation noting not only performance challenges eventually overcome (in the other shows), but also an appreciation of the design philosophy via analogs with biology.
Macross Zero had the task of not only providing additional history to the overall narrative, it also had to provide fans of the franchise the tropes and elements as a ‘reward’ for waiting that long; it had been around four years (2002) since the release of the last installment in the franchise: Macross: Dynamite 7 (1997 OVA sequel to Macross 7 TV). Furthermore, fans like me were clamoring for anything about the characters of the original series. This meant the show features:
- Backstory involving a charismatic secondary character (Roy Focker, and despite the tropical setting there are ZERO pineapples [->]).
- Backstory involving the signature transformable mecha. This is gold. I’d watch the show for this alone. I’m a real sucker for mecha development stories.
- Amazing dogfights; the stuff shown here are the best CG dogfights I’ve ever seen. Overall it rivals those in Macross Plus.
- A love triangle (not that big a deal here, but charming in its own way).
- Songs and music (there are no idol singers, which is interesting in its own way — making Zero unique in the franchise).
And Macross Zero is unique. In Dynamite we are introduced to a concern for ecology, and nature scenes begin to feature in the narrative. There have been snippets of it in Plus and perhaps 7, but in Dynamite it begins to be a big deal; in Frontier it’s quite woven through the themes. Macross Zero is unique not only because it underscores the concern for ecology, but for it’s efforts to produce moments with it.
Having seen this again and found an overwhelming appreciation for it, I look forward to the upcoming Macross Frontier movie. The Macross Franchise has historically scored high points for me quality wise in its non-TV works:
- Macross: Do You Remember Love (Movie): This is probably how Frontier will be made. The significant improvement in terms of animation quality and character design will be very much welcome, resolution of the love triangle too.
- Macross Plus (OVA and Movie Edition) A very mature show relative to the whole franchise, I find its tone to be a very welcome variation on the Macross tropes.
- Macross: Dynamite 7 (OVA): A vast improvement in terms of production values compared to Macross 7 (TV), as well as an interesting direction in terms of theme (ecology and nature).
- Macross Zero (OVA): I now think that this show is at least as mature in terms of tone as Macross Plus, despite having characters who are younger than Plus’ main cast.
I note two important changes when Macross chooses to leave the TV show format: a jump in production quality, and a shift towards a more mature tone. I approve of these highly and I do wish that the Frontier movie will benefit from both.
It may be just my subjective experience, but I do feel that Zero is a perfect bookend for the franchise. Or at least, it’s best watched before Macross Frontier which heavily referenced it and will spoil it for the viewer. Here I felt a tremendous effort to make a show that is beautiful, and in my book the effort is rewarded.
In a discussion on how difficult long-standing franchises are to boil down in a single thought or theme (The Animanachronism, 2009/03/20) I made an observation in how the Macross franchise approaches music, one of it’s distinguishing features.
In Macross, music is weaponized as much as the mecha:
-Redemptive in SDF Macross, and Macross 7
-Not so much in Macross Plus, and Macross Frontier
Basara plays along and submits to the weaponization of his music in the defense against the Protodevlin, but part of the wild rush in watching Macross 7 is how he attempts to subvert the whole exercise aligned to his pacifism/purity for music (whatever it is that runs that nutbag).
In light of all that, I can still safely assume that Macross says that ‘Music is Love!’ as much as one can assume that Gundam says ‘War Sucks!’
The Animanachronism then responds with,
Would you say that in Macross Zero music’s opposed to the technological weaponry thrown around by both sides? I’m thinking this partly because it’s tied into the whole tribal/organic/environmental stuff that’s going on, and partly because specifically at the end of the final episode when the hero’s plane has given out, music has to step in.
While I had intended to rewatch Macross Zero, his question gave me a little more incentive to do so sooner. In response, I think that the music in Macross Zero is not necessarily opposed to the technological weaponry, though its singer most likely is. However it is quite interesting in that the music here is the ‘purest’ in the sense that it was never weaponized, nor had any destructive or disruptive consequences. It was completely redemptive and regenerative (literally causing plants and flowers to grow).
That said, there also exists a song of destruction — which one never hears in the narrative as musical notes arranged in a particular form. Rather the ‘song’ takes on the form of an organic, yet mechanical being that directly causes destruction through a variety of weapons [Images (1) (2) (3)]. I find it interesting how the destruction isn’t arranged as a song, despite being named or at least categorized as ‘song of destruction.’ It tells me of an apparent inability of the franchise to present music in any way that isn’t pleasant to listen to (as far as intention is concerned). [End Spoilers]
Macross Plus and Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory are excellent examples of shows that feature mecha prototype development. [->]
While Macross Zero is technically a prequel, I now feel like I should revise my favorites in the Macross franchise. [->]
Here is a collection of the best resources on Macross in the blogosphere and beyond. [->]
This show is a sterling example of the ‘Itano Circus.’ [->]