This episode had everything. Death flags, naked Ranka, Sheryl piloting a VF, Skull pilots shot down, shit got real for Macross Frontier citizens, dramatic rescue, an armored VF-25F, alien armadas, DIAMOND FORCE, and NUUUUUKES!
Needless to say, I enjoyed this episode immensely. It felt like a tremendous payoff after episodes of romance-building, small skirmishes, lulzy battles, and at times horrible animation and off-model designs. Now that I’ve cleared that up, I want to comment on several things that bug me (like a Vajra-sized kind of bug) about combat in mecha anime.
Perhaps there’s nothing that bugs me in mecha anime more than variable damage. It’s just terrible. Gundam has the excuse of energy weapons and beam spam. The RX-78-2 in 0079 was a big deal because it actually had a beam rifle. This meant that it had the firepower of a capital ship for its relatively small size. At that point, capital ships were already especially vulnerable to mobile suits.
This kind of power ratio persisted throughout 0083 in the Stardust Memory OVA (actually more of a retcon), same with the MS Igloo OVAs (also retcons) wherein damage yield of kinetic and beam weapons are pretty much consistent.
However, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam ruined all of this. In the OYW Char shot down 6 capital ships in the Battle of Loum with what amounts to a tommy gun. In Zeta he hits a Baund Doc FOUR TIMES with a beam rifle for ZERO DAMAGE. No shields, no barriers, nothing. The Baund Doc even swats one of the beams away with one of its ugly arms. Worse, atmospheric transports — giant airplanes for crying out loud — can’t even be shot down with beam rifles, missiles, christ — ONE WAS FLYING EVEN AFTER BEING SKEWERED WITH A FUCKING GINORMOUS PSYCO GUNDAM.
I hate this. I really do.
So when I see the barest hint of this in Macross Frontier, I get pissed off. Macross 7 I can easily forgive. I knew that thing was a fucking mess in terms of combat dynamics coming in. Basara’s VF was nigh indestructible; capable of just standing there and taking shots. This is not consistent with anything in Macross before or since. The freaking beauty of inconsistency (my ass).
Here is the scene (and combat dynamic) in question:
For some reason, the use of Reaction Weapons (equivalent to nukes — anime has rarely crossed the nuclear weapons taboo; see the N2 Mine in Eva as another example, but Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory used one and awesomely too, and so did Turn A Gundam. Those shows had hueg ballz) need a distinction of ‘Total War’ in the laws that govern the Macross universe. I can onlys speculate that this is for the reasons that involve immanent extinction of the population.
System which diverts the enormous energy produced by Overtechnology-based thermonuclear reaction for use as a weapon. Protoculture had also formerly used similar systems, but because Protoculture stopped their use and production in the distant past, they are known as the “long-lost weaponry” among the Zentradi. By 2045, the term reaction weapon is used to refer to weapons employing pair-annihilation reaction by Overtechnology. Like the strict controls exerted on twentieth-century nuclear weaponry, permission by the highest authorities is neccessary for their use.
Production Notes: The intentionally vague “reaction” concept was used as an euphemism to avoid mentioning the words “nuclear weaponry” on-screen. According to Shoji Kawamori, the use of nuclear weaponry by the “good guys” was considered taboo by Japanese television stations. When it was noted to him that pair-annihilation reaction (“currently” being used in the Macross universe) is even more destructive than thermonuclear reaction, Kawamori observed that since pair-annihilation weapons don’t exist (yet), there are no protestors.
In Macross Frontier, there is no distinction between Reaction Missiles of any kind. The missiles used are designated as:
- 4 x outboard hardpoints for 4-8 large-size anti-ship reaction missiles
This is from the technical readout of the VF-25S APS-25F/MF-25 Armored Messiah, which Alto was authorized to use. Alto launched four such missiles to hit four separate area targets — so as to destroy fielded Vajra fighters. The thing to note here is the size of the explosions. They were pretty huge. I can easily speculate that a single bomb can take out a single ship.
Alto doesn’t use these missiles on any of the Vajra ships however; his mission is a rescue one. When Ranka’s singing confused the Vajra, the NUNS VF-171 Nightmares assaulted the Knight Class Vajra carriers with their own reaction missiles.
- 6 x underwing hardpoints carrying missiles, multi-missile pylons and missile launcher pods
We can assume that the reaction missiles are carried on one of these underwing hardpoints. In this battle, each Nightmare carried a pair of the large-size anti-ship reaction missiles.
Given the name ‘large size’ we can surmise that there is a ‘small size’ and perhaps these are the missiles the Nightmares carried. But this is fluffy speculation. There is no evidence for the existence of such, and the actual size of the weapons are the same with what Alto used. Why so weak? The rail guns of the VB-6 Konig Monster seem more powerful.
- 4 x rail cannons (mounted dorsal section in Destroid/GERWALK modes, stowed rear dorsal section in Shuttle/Bomber mode)
But I suspect that the big explosions these guns demonstrated in episode 07 will significantly shrink by episode 25. This variance is what bugs me so much. I don’t think I’m asking for too much, just consistency within the ‘rules’ of the fictional universe. I think it’s too late for Gundam, especially with all 00s super-powered mega-beam weaponry; it’s a trend I don’t see going away.
But with Macross threatening to follow suit with the VF-27 Lucifer‘s 1 x BGP-01β 55mm heavy quantum reaction beam gun pod / beam grenade (16.85m in length and 3 metric tons in weight, (mounted center ventral section in Fighter mode, carried in manipulator in GERWALK/Battroid modes); the gun pod has both a rapid-fire mode and a hyper-grenade firing mode), and now variable damage creeping into kinetic and explosive ordnance, I’m not very optimistic.
It’s not like the Macross Class cannons aren’t variable. The Super Dimension Energy weapon has been seen to have destroyed multiple ships in one shot way back in SDFM, but only partially damage Kamjin’s cruiser at very very close range. This is why I am very suspicious of beam weapons as a whole. They work hand in hand with plot armor.
But enough of my grousing! On to more pleasant things!
It’s a pleasure to see how the NUNS aren’t complete losers in this episode. In the first episode they are significantly inferior troops, nearly devoid of veteran pilots, and have been shown to panic during battle. Not here. It’s suggested however, that we are shown a special command group — at least a reference to Macross 7‘s ‘Diamond Force’ by virtue of a nameless and faceless pilot only identified as ‘Diamond Leader.’
It disturbs me to think how the majority of the whole army is green — not that these things don’t happen. There are more than enough examples in history (basically, conscripts among civilians during a long peace time) not to mention Gundam and its Universal Century continuity. What I find significantly weird is that since most of the present population is a product of mass cloning (perhaps a few generations removed from the primary wave of clones), is how so few Zentraedi serve NUNS.
The ‘provincial’ malcontents in Gallia IV aside, there are enough precedents of Zentraedi in the military: Guld Goa Bowman in Macross Plus as well as Klan Klan’s Pixie Squadron in the SMS. It makes more sence to make Zentraedi citizens conscripts, being genetically predispositioned to combat anyway. I think the franchise is missing a rich vein here.
The founding generation of anime and manga remember the Second World War only too well, and have been sensitive in depicting superweapons that remind them too much of the ones that killed many of the people they know [->]
A slideshow involving Macross Class weapons is in this post [->]
As a counterpoint, a definitive portrayal of how mecha can rule the battlefield (Gundam did it!) [->]