Not having watched SDF-Macross for at least 2 years, save for single-episode rewatches, I grabbed the opportunity to watch the show with a bunch of people who haven’t seen it before, along with a bunch of people who have (and are also big fans of the franchise, not to mention favoring the original series within it). We were able to watch four episodes and I’m here to share how not only the experience of rewatching went down, but also how I observed the reactions of the uninitiated.
I think there are several ways to split the hairs of the people who I watched with. Let me start with:
Youngest Newest Newfag of Newness
Here’s the guy who not only hasn’t watched the show, but has watched the least anime or the least anime shown in the 20th century (or at least shows considered foundational by people who tend to like sci-fi/robot shows).
During the watching, this is the guy who complained the most, and tried the hardest to make fun of anime physics (and a lot of other things), shouting the loudest: THAT’S NOT HOW [X] WORKS. WHAT THE FUCK!?!
This is the kind of viewer I wanted to win over the most. Unfortunately, despite the piercing analysis he brought to bear during the viewing of the four episodes, I asked him what he actually wanted to see, to which he replied: “I just want to see shit blow up.” My thing with cases like this is to not force the issue by getting all defensive and act like anyone should like Macross as if its lovableness is some self-evident truth. It’s already great that he’s watching, I’ll let the show work, or not. I’ll just be the person to talk to when he’s really into it.
Newfag Not a Mecha Fan
Despite not having seen SDFM, this guy has seen a lot of anime; a whole bunch of older shows, but not particularly big on robot anime though may have enjoyed a few of robot shows with crossover appeal (Code Geass, Neon Genesis Evangelion).
There was a lot of appreciation for the things seen, and how certain scenes, behaviors, tropes remind him of other shows. TBH it annoys me when old shows remind people of new shows as if the new shows were the source… but that’s just me. It can’t be helped that such newer shows were seen first.
As expected, the broader experience of this viewer contributes more interesting cross-references to many other things. More about this later.
Oldfag Watching Dubs
Hilarious. Having seen this show several times and in several forms (Robotech LOL). He just wanted a fresh experience – in this case a terrible dub. I think at some point he told us how the translation was taking pretty big liberties with the script. USA! USA!
Newly Minted Fans
Fairly recent viewers of the show who have varying degrees of affinity (from “man this is cool,” to “oh wow this is a favorite”). This would be their first rewatch of the show – which is quite important in my experience for shows I’m a fan of. I try to be an informative resource for these guys, confirming and validating some things they observed the first time, then offering perspective on things they might have missed.
As an advocate of the show and the franchise, these guys are my treasures.
At least one viewer with the fresher eyes took immediate notice at the level of violence in the show. Remember that episodes 2 and 3 involved a big battle fought on 2 fronts: the Earth Atmosphere perimeter defense line (ARMD carriers), then on Macross City on South Ataria Island. The level of violence didn’t just involve the graphic deaths of humans/humanoids but the scope of casualties. The Zentraedi probing attacks really pounded on Macross City (not to mention military units in space). Despite most of the population evacuated, a whole bunch of people were shown to get ripped into shreds.
I personally enjoyed the detail of damage throughout the city as it was consumed by what amounts to a mecha street fight. Units crashing into buildings taking out several as it plows through city blocks was very fun.
As expected, there was praise for the dogfight action. I know how it is. This is only the beginning. The Macross franchise is Dogfight Valhalla, because the planes actually turn into robots.
The SDF-1 Macross space battleship is an alien spacecraft that crashed onto Earth then was retrofitted for human use over ten years. In that time humans learned a fair bit about the alien “overtechnology” and did what it could to adapt the machine for their use, and create new machines taking advantage of the advances. However, the maiden flight of the SDF Macross shows how it is quite an untested thing.
Crititcal systems kept failing. The main gun fired not as planned. The anti-gravity systems tore through the hull instead of lifting the Macross to space. The fold system took them to Pluto orbit instead of the dark side of the moon. Executing an unprecedented fold maneuver in the atmosphere (not as planned) resulted in transporting a huge chunk of South Ataria Island and Macross City with it; before losing the fold system entirely.
On the micro-level, we have Ichijo Hikaru not quite fallen into his cockpit (a Gundam-inspired trope) but of course SEIZES THE REINS OF HISTORY nonetheless. Unlike Gundam protagonists however, he is not an instant expert of the Variable Fighter and pretty much takes out an entire neighborhood failing at controlling the machine. This is due to the unfamiliarity of the Battloid and Gerwalk modes. This is despite his own expertise as a (stunt entertainer) pilot.
As we’ll see, the survival of the human race persistently results from amazing luck because skill only gets one so far in this maelstrom of unfortunate breakdowns and uncertainty.
WILL YOU LOVE ME TOMORROW?
The noob was demonstrably surprised/dismayed by the melodrama. Perhaps like many viewers who came into the show at a young age (which means Robotech for most people outside Japan), he came for the sci-fi action. As a kid, this was what grabbed me. I didn’t mind the love story – I actually fell in love with love triangles (much to my own consternation when I became an adolescent) thanks to SDFM; it’s not something young boys would usually get into from a show like this.
Now there are very specific shows for boys that deliver the drama (those cry-porn things adapted from games), but love stories in robot shows aren’t the draw. This is despite recent shows laying it thick: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Eureka SeveN for example. I think SDFM was the first to really hit success with it (despite shows like Tosho Daimos with its Earthling x Alien Romeo and Juliet showcase as early as 1978).
But there are very few things similar to SDFM’s meet cute (Hikaru smashes through Minmay’s bedroom, flies her in the palm of a robot that gets shot off which resulted in a breathtaking mid-air rescue, floating through space in a propeller plane, then a two-week date in the belly of the whale FISHING IN SPACE, and that mock wedding).
It will be interesting for me to observe how these new viewers take the show with its love story set in the backdrop of great battles as the episodes roll by. The first four episodes flew by in a torrid pace. So much action made for a quick viewing experience, even the ‘uneventful’ episode mostly depicting Hikaru and Minmay lost inside the Macross.
My objectives in participating in this viewing are unclear, but I’m having lots of fun as expected. I’ve never marathoned Macross in a group environment so the experience is rather novel. I think more than anything I function as an advocate of the show and do less for my own viewing satisfaction as opposed to assisting some of the new fans of the show/franchise remember love.
In the scheme of things, as this hobby goes, this is pretty much just as planned.