Self-reference is a frontier that the Macross franchise is always exploring. The very idea of “remembering love” is a core concept within it, and is something that I’ve taken as an ideology of appreciation. Subesequent installments in the franchise pay tribute to the original series and the other shows in the continuity that precede them. The manner and execution of this homage is, to me, a seperate form of entertainment itself. Fanservice? Yes. It’s my favorite kind.
In this episode, the ‘innovation’ is that there is a Kawamori self-insert, an avatar of the series creator himself acts within the narrative. ‘Legend of Zero’ is the behind-the-scenes look at the filming of a movie, a biopic of Shin Kudo: Bird Human (Tori no Hito). The depiction has its similarities with the notable/controversial ‘documentary’ of the making of the ‘Legend of Mikuru’ film by the SOS-Dan, directed by Suzumiya Haruhi.
Within the context of the Macross Frontier narrative, this movie is the discovery of Ranka, her star turn playing a side in the Macross Zero love triangle. The principal change here is her coming to terms with two things: She loved Alto, and that She’s willing to compete against Sheryl for him.
Cleverly, the Macross Zero reference is used to full effect. Ranka was offered the part of Mao Nome, a principal character in the referenced work. Her concern was that she didn’t fully understand how Mao felt. Mao Nome was in a love triangle (surprise). She had feelings for Shin Kudo, who had a mutual attraction with Sara Nome, Mao’s sister. Bobby Margot, Ranka’s guardian (and make-up artist) asked her if she had never been in love.
Alto at this point was cast as an actor double for Shin Kudo’s part, since the original actor did not agree to do underwater scenes. However, Alto said yes not taking into account that there’s a notable underwater kissing scene between Shin and Mao (Shin Kudo ran out of breath underwater, Mao gave him oxygen via kiss — a clever workaround the fact that Mao Nome is a very loli 15 year old). This meant he and Ranka would be kissing.
He showed visible reluctance and embarassment, which created an opening for Sheryl to troll him. What’s the big deal about kissing? She kisses him, putting on an act of sorts that she was acting; very reminiscent of the scene in Do You Remember Love? berween Minmay and Hikaru. All this happened in plain sight, and sure enough Ranka saw it go down. She found her resolve to play Mao: as much as she idolizes/looks up to Sheryl, Ranka’s certain that she wants alto badly enough.
Just like in Macross Zero, Sara was not overtly attracted to Shin; Sheryl isn’t overtly attracted to Alto the way Ranka is, the way Mao was to Shin.
In the thick of all this is this unnamed Director character, who never spoke to anyone directly during filming. If he needed to communicate something, he would whisper to an assistant who would pass the message along. The matter of the Director not having a name I read as an insertion of Kawamori himself in the show. I’m not saying that the character is Kawamori Shouji, but rather an avatar playing up to a perceived role of the franchise creator.
I imagine his avatar playing up to his part in the discovery of Iijima Mari, who became a pop idol in the early 1980s at age 17 after playing and singing Lynn Minmay, similar to how 17 year old Nakajima Megumi got her start in the idol buisiness playing Ranka Lee in Macross Frontier (or even Sakamoto Maaya at 16, for playing and singing Kanzaki Hitomi in 1996’s Vision of Escaflowne). I obviously think it’s exaggerated, especially in how he finally talks: directly to Ranka, saying,
Yesterday you were nothing… The legend will begin today!
This episode is the most complex, the most layered piece of self-reference I’ve seen, even for Macross, who has been meta-referencing itself since Do You Remember Love? I suppose Macross 7 did something very close when it had an episode whre they filmed (production story and all) a bio-pic of Lynn Minmay based on Do You Remember Love? which itself is a fictionalized movie within the Macross universe of the events narrated in the original series.
As for the subject, Macross Zero I feel is an overlooked part of the franchise. While it involved more fantasy (which was comically introduced in Macross 7), it also went with a very gritty depiction of military action that fans of such will appreciate. The atmospheric dogfights involving prototype variable fighters is a wonderful treat.
A Note on Remembering Love
I mentioned in the about page that We Remember Love, not just the blog, is also a concept not unrelated to fanservice.
It is fanservice of a specific kind, similar but not limited to the following ideas and tropes:
- Continuity nod
- Continuity porn
- (Affectionate) Parody
As such, We Remember Love also exists within subject works and not just fanboy reactions. Creating original content I imagine would be a very high We Remember Love activity. As such, long-standing franchises are the most common examples of this idea in play (e.g. Macross, Gundam). However, it is particularly enjoyable to observe this phenomenon accross shows and across creators. Here are shows that best represent this idea:
- Martian Successor Nadesico
- Eureka SeveN
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Within these shows you’ll find a rich source of love for the shows that came before them, while wholly creating something beyond the referenced works, and are astounding in their own right.
I’ve previously written about expressive and amassing behaviors in relation to one’s hobby (anime and manga in particular), and now I’m going to contextualize it within my idea of ‘remembering love.’ So if I were to rank such behaviors, this is how it would look like:
If I could someday make a Macross show that’s really part of the canon, that would be THE dream come true. But if I could make a show like Martian Successor Nadesico, Eureka SeveN, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann then that would be just awesome, since it’s an original work that can remember love for a whole mess of things.
I think that Turn A Gundam, and interestingly both Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still and Shin Mazinger Z are great examples of the kind of remembering love this episode, Macross Frontier: The Legend of Zero does well. It just happens that Kawamori’s self-insert created a further layer of meta reference that keeps him on the bleeding edge of this activity that I’m so very fond of.
Macross Zero is a peculiar prequel, but it does something for me that most shows don’t [->]
The conceit in this episode includes straight up re-use of animation from Macross Zero. This post exposes in detail which frames were re-used. It’s really good work worth checking out (Darkmirage 2008/06/06)