Definitions of War: How Does a War Become ‘Total’? Macross Frontier 14

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.

Macross Compendium

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.

Further Reading

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!) [->]

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.
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24 Responses to Definitions of War: How Does a War Become ‘Total’? Macross Frontier 14

  1. X10A_Freedom says:

    Gundam Seed Destiny is lulz. Tiny mobile suits blocking the main beam cannon of the big ships etc. The Infinite Justice taking out the newest battleship with its tiny weapon which is equipped with tiny, standard-looking beam blades, yet cutting through all that armor of that ship, destroying the engines, and flying out cleanly through the other end…

    • Thank you for reminding me to never watch that show. It pains me enough to see capital ships in Z, ZZ (fuck this shit), and V Gundam head right towards each other shooting with everything they got and NOT TAKE ANY DAMAGE; THEY DON’T EVEN HIT EACH OTHER. This is such shameful fail.

  2. donkangoljones says:

    This post was hilarious and oh so true. Everytime you took a bite out of Gundam I had to laugh a little. I’ve always found beam weaponry in anime to be awesome, yet vexing in any series I’ve watched. It goes hand in hand with plot armor & some other tv tropes to frustrate the viewer by making things seem unfair, or “cheap”. Totally agree with everything you’ve said.

    As for the “reaction” or nuclear weaponry, it did frustrate me when anime made a big fuss of nuclear weaponry, in OUTER SPACE. What could kill a man more horribly and completely than space?! Planetes will shed some light on that if anyone needs a good anime reference. It took me longer than I care to admit, that there had to be some sort of cultrural signifigance to this. I hope that along with seeing more normal and realistic anime/manga with gay and straight relationships, I can see some other cultural taboos and cliches lifted.

    Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not advocating more nukes in my anime/manga. I’m just hoping for more progression.

    • Thanks; what’s interesting is how Stardust Memory already used a nuke… and then, we have Macross Zero, which was as recent as 2003. I think these shows being OVAs have something to do with it. Nukes on TV may still be tough.

  3. Crusader says:

    The VB-6 can probably use heavier payloads because most of the propellant is supplied by the vehicle itself using railguns as a method of delivery. A missile such as the ones Alto-hime and the VF-171s used probably had smaller payloads because a missile has to have room for fuel, guidance systems, where as a shot from a VB-6 doesn’t need it’s own fuel or targeting systems. Also a VB-6 could probably carry heavier shells since it’s not supposed to be an agile fighter on par with either the VF-171 or the VF-25. Just because the bombs that hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki were carried by B-29s did not mean that they packed the same wallop.

    Wasn’t Diamond Leader credited as Machida? There are Zentradi serving in NUNs Michael’s sister was half Zentradi and there were some ground troops when Klan made creative use of Valkyrie parts when macronized. Also NUNs being cheap (the VF-171 is a downgraded VF-17, right?) it’s probably be cheaper to micronize Zentradi and use them as pilots for Valkyries than spend more money supporting a group of macronized Zentradi who will be eating more and need more specialized equipment.

    Also it’s all voluntary right it’s not like those Zentradi farmers were spoiling for a fight…so after some time maybe they branched out and found that they had enough free will to choose not to fight. It’s not like Bilrer was breaking Vajra over his knee and he was one of the original Zentradi who were cultured by Minmay!

    Frontier was relatively peaceful before and it’s likely that martial skills waned as there were no enemies like the Vajira to fight.

    Still SHIT WAS AWESOME.

    • Indeed, SHIT WAS AWESOME.

      Did the VB-6 use reaction weapons in episode 7? That’d be weird. The only time I remember a Monster use a nuke was in Macross Zero ep 05.

      The only voice credit for ep 14 is for ‘pilot’ by Jun Konno, who is the voice of the NUNS pilot in ep 17. No indication if these pilots are both Diamond Leader and Machida (one character). He also did Joshua Edwards in Gundam 00, but I don’t even remember this guy.

      Oh I’m not saying every Zentran is going to be the ideal soldier, only that the ratio in the respective populations… we’ll find more Zentrans who will make for ideal soldiers than we’ll do among the ‘softer’ humans. Since they’re all on the same side, they’re gonna be strong!

  4. maAkusutipen says:

    This is tangentially related to your post but the original Macross is available on Hulu for the NA market… I guess copyright issues are being worked on already and just maybe Na will be open for anything Macross again and we can get now official English macross goods. XD

  5. Square says:

    Don’t forget ep 1! It seems like using Ghost fighters is the SOP for the first line of defense. While not as crazy as the Ghost from M+, they’re probably more than a match for any renegade zentradi fleets. It was because the Vajra naturally emit some sort of EM waves that ghost (aside from Luca’s and later the VX-9’s from Galaxy) were rendered useless and pilots had to take action.

  6. Pingback: Did Macross Frontier Open a Frontier for the Macross Franchise? | We Remember Love

  7. jsjsjs says:

    well, i first watched macross frontier and fell in love with the explosions and weapons, if we compare the size of the so-called reaction missile to a VF25, if the vf 25 is the same size as a modern fighter jet(F-16s, etc) the one reaction missile would be the size of a missile that they would need to launch from a vehicle(i forgot the vehicle’s name) and if the reaction missiles are just nuclear bombs, (assuming the VF stayed in the same spot after the missile was shot) the reactions missile have to fly at least a few kilometres to hit the target or else if it was any closer, the VF would be hit and possibly might end up like shin’s VF-0A if the VF ever dodge.

    • Yes, this makes sense, and the thing is that the VFs continue to move towards the direction of the explosions.

      • jsjsjs says:

        so if the reaction missiles are purely nukes, the entire NUNS army would be wiped out just cause they fly towards the explosions, in fact, the reaction missiles should have smaller explosions than nukes, or else its because the VFs are so far away from the enemy that they need to shoot nukes just because ordinary missile can’t fly for long distances. And one more thing, if reaction missiles were nukes, the NUNS wouldn’t bother shoot tons of reaction missiles just to take a ship down, one would be enough to take down maybe even 5 ships.

        • That’s exactly the thing. The damage potential is very unclear and suited mostly to the whims of the creators/producers.

          I would like things to be clear and the rules be followed… because for a show like this it makes it far more enjoyable.

          • jsjsjs says:

            actually, we can’t really blame the producers, since the parts where they shoot the reaction missiles(******* sh*t so long, i’ll call them RM) are from different directions and distance from the VF, they can’t really keep to size the explosions, so they just try to keep to a reasonable size(not too big, not too small, at least they try), i agree with the varying damage you say in gundam, i once saw the destiny gundam took down a destroy gundam(which is more than 3 times the size of a psyco gundam, and the first time it appeared, it took a while before kira took it down with a stab from his freedom gundam’s beam saber) in 1 slash with its anti ship sword, and kira taking down rey’s legend gundam(with his phrase shift armor on , i don’t know) with a multi direction attack and rey survives that attack, and how mu la flaga even survived blocking the minerva’s tannhausser(the akatsuki gundam survived and even shot the minerva’s tannhausser with a beam) or even the dominion’s lohengrin(the strike gundam blew up in this case, but somehow he survives)

          • I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make about not blaming the producers.

            Variable damage in Gundam has been there at least since Z Gundam (the Original Movie Trilogy, didn’t have noticeable problems IIRC). But when the alternate continuities came with their super weapons, all sense went out the planet.

    • HatsuneLovezxs says:

      Ya i agree . But i haven’t finish watching yet . Love Macross Froniter .

  8. jsjsjs says:

    a good “super weapon” to be mentioned is the genesis in Gundam seed, its huge, i guess, perhaps the size of a colony? maybe. i was wondering, how come the armor of the genesis, can block a lohengrin blast(main cannon blast) but can’t even stand 2 beams(tiny beams) hitting it, before the armor breaks and the justice gundam went in and self destructed itself in it(its nuclear-powered) then it can be destroyed. but, the genesis controller(that evil chairman who wants all naturals(original human) dead), didn’t even shoot the Earth with it, wasn’t he a dumbass? he got pwn by his own people later when they couldn’t take it anymore. second super weapon, neo genesis, a smaller genesis attached to a colony sized base, it was destroyed along with the base. third, the requiem, a cannon attached to the moon, capable of bending its beam with abandoned colony bits, destroyed when the justice gundam(Infinite Justice gundam) just shot its backpack(i think so) into it, along with akatsuki’s DRAGOONs(also known as bits in UC and fangs in 00). Varying damage, i would say, depends on luck, whether your the main character or not, and oh yeah, i forgot, i saw a Ginn(some sort of MS) shoot a colony wall and theres a hole there, but that same beam couldn’t even harm the strike gundam’s shield.

  9. Bigmilkjugs says:

    Reaction weapons aren’t Nuke, at least as of Macross 7 era, the large anti ships one are 10 gigatons anti matter bomb as stated by the Macross Chronicle. This bomb scale all the way up to anti planet level, when they go full scale war, they bring out the Reaction warheads. There is even a anti fleet version that consist of 24 x 10 gigatons warhead pack into a single large missile that is fired by Ship. And this is all Macross 7 era, Frontier era they have MDE of course. Macross Chronicle goes a lot into the techs side of the franchise. In Macross Reaction weapon as of Macross 7 era refer to weapons that are anti matter in nature. Just like the Macross cannon is the general term for large macross vessel’s main batteries. The guns of New Macross class and Quarter are both macross cannon, but they are vastly different type from each other..

  10. blind51de says:

    I thought about this before and reading this article brought it back to mind: Wouldn’t the Spacy or the UN or any colonial force want to avoid conscripting Zentraedi despite the combat breeding?
    I mean, sure, maybe there are Zents and Melts genuinely wanting to live as civilians. But there’d have to be political pressure keeping a certain ratio of humans in the armed forces to keep the Zentraedi numbers down and to keep too many of them from spazzing out at once.
    I don’t even want to know how many more of them there are integrated into human society, after Earth was devastated.
    Not to mention the immorality of turning around and using them as combat units just like how they were before when they worked for the Protoculture.
    If anything, there’d be shitloads of propaganda encouraging humans to enlist and for zentraedi to do everything else.

    I’m not very well-versed in Macross canon, but that to me is a rich vein.

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