Cho Jikuu Yosai Macross (17-20) “Paradise Lost”

SDF Macross Episode 20 Remastered [Galaxy Network].mkv_snapshot_18.56_[2011.05.14_22.16.20]

I’ve marveled at how human beings across many cultures have accounts of Paradise – an otherworldly ideal, a place beyond what is implicit: the present world is filled with imperfection, which then implies dissatisfaction. Arcadia, Elysian Fields, The Garden of Eden, Avestan, Jannah, Goloka, Fiddler’s Green, Valhalla, etc. are the many versions of this ideal in the imaginations of humans in the infancy of civilization.

In the versions I am familiar with, I get the impression that the contents of Paradise are very worldly. It is filled with what is valued (land, presumably to hunt and gather in at one’s leisure and not for survival; precious substances such us gold; civilized abodes; the company of the worthy; willing and idealized sexual partners; etc.), and that there is plenty of it to go around. The only thing lacking is privation, and suffering itself.

I wonder at these versions, as they often occur in oral and written traditions as some kind of historical account. In the Judeo-Christian tradition at least, the first humans, (the protoculture LOL), were banished from the Garden of Eden. The contents of which, and the events that surrounds their exile are documented as history. Of course, I doubt the veracity of these accounts as they contain physically impossible events, as well as very suspect accounting (human life spanning hundreds of “years,” among other things). This is the root of my fascination for it.

We, as a culture, insist on describing things we have never seen or witnessed, and our descriptions are so limited by our familiarity with the things in our experience and memory. The elements of the Garden of Eden may not seem so appealing to me now. It’s great as a vacation spot, but I will pine for high speed broadband access and the internet there. Perhaps my version will involve an infinite area where in I can customize and build (and share my work via blogging and social networking). Point is, what Paradise will look like is subject to what is valued at the present.

This, in turn is why it’s not only sensible, but delicious to write the tragedy of losing it all. John Milton capitalized on this with much success, but we retell the story in versions big and small ways, making it more a narrative template or trope, because it works so well due to the operative power of nostalgia, remembering love. You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.

What’s amazing about Super Dimension Fortress Macross is that despite the constant conflict, the technological fuck-ups, and all sorts of messes the characters and the citizens of Macross City have gone through, they have pretty much had a heyday up to their return to Earth. Almost all the characters were on the up-and-up. But as I mentioned two posts prior, (nearly) everything was in place in terms of world-building by episode 12. The narrative was all but fully set up. We were due for stories to end and resolve, and by episode 20, some of them certainly did. In hindsight, they had it so good.

SDF Macross Episode 17 Remastered [Galaxy Network].mkv_snapshot_01.54_[2011.05.14_07.14.21]

Episode 17 “Phantasm”

The injured Hikaru suffers phantasms while recovering from his injuries. Him being a character in a (robot) anime, this means his injury involves something that threatened his cranium without threatening his hairdo. This makes for an interesting retrospective of his career and romantic trajectories… both of which are on the “shot down” side of a dogfight.

I seldom have dreams that recount past events, but I do recognize the feeling of living through very familiar events in a dream and yet feeling like a spectator, as if I have no agency in the matter. I end up saying things I wouldn’t in waking life, and I start thinking whether this is indeed my true feelings about things. Also interesting are what people say in the dream, and whether they are their true feeling about things – that I was only afraid to confront.

I’m no psychologist or dream interpreter. The things that stands out to me here is how close Hikaru was to that kiss with Minmay while they were still lost inside Macross, and how Misa ended up being an important figure in his life with him barely noticing it.

SDF Macross Episode 18 Remastered [Galaxy Network].mkv_snapshot_12.04_[2011.05.14_07.18.06]

Episode 18 “Pineapple Salad”

From a narrative, Doylist perspective, this is why Roy Focker died: Roy Focker died for the sake of Max and Millya. The cast was getting crowded, and Roy Focker as a character had no narrative upside. He was Hikaru’s senpai and he already got Hikaru flying again, he already saw him get promoted. He hasn’t seen him get the girl yet, but even there he helped him along.

But as far as personal goals and character trajectories, Focker had none. This is not to say he had nothing to live for. It’s just that there were no big goals set out for him by the narrative beyond getting Hikaru started. His worth now, was being his ace pilot status, and in a somewhat subtle deployment of the Worf Effect, Focker died to solidify Millya’s status as the second best pilot in the show and have her showdown with Max.

SDF Macross Episode 18 Remastered [Galaxy Network].mkv_snapshot_21.45_[2011.05.14_07.19.21]

I appreciate how it all played out, how Roy didn’t have a protracted dogfight, and was more like collateral damage. Not every fighter needs to flame out in a blaze of glory. Others can go in the confines of their love, strumming their guitar, each vibration sinking the shrapnel deeper in their bowels, the pain made into nothings in the face of all they’ve done in their brief but bloody lives.

Episode 19 “Burst Point”

Kamujin again plays the role of instant plot-mover, but I can’t complain about what actually happens. Defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory: The Macross got permission to disembark its noncombatant population in Canada, and it also developed an omnidirectional barrier. However, continued pressure from Zentraedi energy artillery caused it to overreact and destroy everything within 50 kilometers, including the city that would’ve provided succor to Macross’ refugees, and poor Kakizaki, who didn’t even get to finish his steak.

SDF Macross Episode 18 Remastered [Galaxy Network].mkv_snapshot_06.20_[2011.05.14_07.15.59]

The guy was doomed from the start. An affable but obnoxiously loud fellow, Kakizaki was the opposite of Max, including in terms of piloting skill. It’s a testament to the technological superiority of the Variable Fighters how Kakizaki’s managed to survive the combat engagements he lived through. This time though, it doesn’t seem like a lack of piloting skill did him in. I thought he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time, during when the narrative was dumping on Hikaru with tragedies big and small.

Episode 20 “Paradise Lost”

Or, Minmay’s gets a captive market. I may sound cynical, but that’s really how it is. I’m not dumping on Minmay though, this is part of what makes her as a character soooo interesting. Had the Macross City population disembarked, there’s a big chance that they’d disperse to be with their own families… as the city is populated by migrant workers – there are no native inhabitants in South Ataria Island. Minmay’s primary market would disappear, and she’d have to start from near-scratch if she wanted to be an idol in Japan. Not only did Minmay keep her audience, unbeknownst to her she’s growing a following by sheer word of mouth in the all-male Zentraedi horde.

SDF Macross Episode 20 Remastered [Galaxy Network].mkv_snapshot_20.50_[2011.05.14_22.19.18]SDF Macross Episode 20 Remastered [Galaxy Network].mkv_snapshot_21.00_[2011.05.14_22.19.58]

But as for the people of Macross itself, their resulting exile after the devastating battle was a turning point: they now begin to really think of Macross as their home; as opposed to being a city of transients, there is some cause to think of it as more permanent location. The ship itself “sails” into a space filled with even more enemies as Britai returns to the theater of war bringing with him over a thousand ships.

The past year now seems like an idyll for Hikaru, relative to the past few weeks he’s lived through. It’s easier to think of the Macross as some kind of Paradise now lost – as he’s grown farther apart from Minmay, and lost his best friend Roy, and both his wingmen – Kakizaki to death, and Max due to promotion. There is no one for him to rely on anymore. He has to be “the man” now for himself and for the Macross. It sure feels lonely, Hikaru. There’s someone just as lonely… someone who did you the courtesy and honor of bringing the sad news of Roy’s death personally.

The Macross leaves Earth, Hikaru leaves a big part of his life behind, and Minmay owns the moment, singing of Beautiful Days:

Hoshi no suna no michiru umi
Atatakai hi o terikaesu
Chiisana OASHISU
Waga kokyou midori no chikyuu yo
Itsuka kitto kaeru darou
Dakara sore made sugata o kaezu ni
IN MAI HAATOHaha no ude no naka omoidasu
Yutaka na daichi yo
Itsuka kitto kaeru darou
Dakara sore made yasashisa mitashite

If anyone can translate this, leave a comment. I’d greatly appreciate 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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37 Responses to Cho Jikuu Yosai Macross (17-20) “Paradise Lost”

  1. animekritik says:

    A sea brimming with the sand of stars,
    the warm sun reflected
    by a small OASIS.

    Our homeland, green Earth!
    Surely I shall return some day
    so please don’t change till then
    IN MY HEART it reminds me of being in mother’s arms
    Oh great rich Earth
    Surely I shall return some day
    so please fill me with your kindness till then

    That’s my translation. Does it make sense in context?

  2. Reid says:

    This post and the song at the end make it abundantly clear to me that SDF Macross is probably the single best mecha-centric space opera ever conceived. You’ll never find something to compete with good sci-fi anime for effective use of music to convey themes in an enduring way, but Macross probably does it best. Bubblegum Crisis, the original Area 88 and Megazone 2-3 are all top contenders, but none of those are operatic in the way Macross is.

    I knew I was in for trouble as soon as I started following this blog: one day Macross will replace Gundam as my favored mecha series…that day is not far off.

    • WhatSht says:

      lol, Macross replaced Gundam as my favored mecha series the moment i finished Macross Frontier

    • Thanks, though I gotta say I don’t really intend to change people’s allegiances from Gundam to Macross. The truth is that Gundam more often than not gets the best work out of me in terms of blogging anime. I mean, I’ve written 7+ posts on 3 episodes of Gundam Unicorn!

      I just want to share more of the love. Macross wasn’t even my first love in anime, that’d be Chodenji Machine Voltes V, but I loved it more and it was a love that grew more and more throughout the years.

      We never had Gundam in the Philippines until the 1990s, starting with W and G. But I wasn’t able to watch a lot of TV at the time so I only really got into Gundam in 2009, starting with 00 after dropping 9 previous shows over the past year. But when I “got it” I got Gundam in a big way.

      But for the reasons you say: space opera histrionics, melodrama, melancholy, and of course music… Macross is the master.

  3. animekritik says:

    You’re welcome. I missed one more “BEAUTIFUL PLACE” in the next to the last line..

    • The context was that the Macross was becoming an “ark” to the humans aboard it. It would be the last time they’d get to see the Earth as we know it.

      • WhatSht says:

        the funny/ridiculous thing is that the…….nevermind, i’ll be spoiling.

        I felt the sadness of the Macross having to leave the Earth, though Beautiful Place sung by Minmay, thats the importance of music in anime, without the music, it would be just a bunch of moving pictures which we do not understand.

  4. WhatSht says:

    Music is important to convey emotions. Macross did a great job in that, and that is why i prefer Macross to Gundam, although Gundam do have some parts with good music(part where Junius Seven falls on Earth, with Fields of Hope playing)

    • Gundam has excellent music, top-notch stuff, but often it doesn’t strike a balance.

      SEED and GSD has excellent music, but my god did those shows suck.

      Turn A Gundam had brilliant music and brilliant musical moments. I freely admit that they are every bit equal to SDFM’s and DYRL’s if not better.

      What Macross does better, is have musicians at center stage at key moments. You can’t match that with the likes of Meer Campbell/Lacus Clyne and Marina Ismail. It’s just fucking embarrassing.

      • WhatSht says:

        duh, singing and dancing on the palm of a pink zaku, thats shit. i rather the singers take part in battle, that would boost morale more than anything, but still, Gundam sort of mistaken the idea and made Lacus captain of the Eternal, now thats fucked up.

        • Yeah, though if you really want to discuss disgusting Gundam shows, you can start here (Gundam SEED), and then continue here (GSD).

          Lacus was an utter moeblob when she met Kira for the first time in the Archangel, then HOLY WTF HAPPENED TO CHARACTERIZATION, the next time she shows up she’s this Lafiel meets Nausicaa clusterfuck of Mary Suefication.

  5. Rob says:

    If only they’d fought over Sudbury – they would’ve been thanked:

  6. megaroad1 says:

    I can still remember, oh all those years ago, how the death of Roy Focker affected me. Now I recognize that he had to die for narrative purposes ( Hikaru needed space to grow into a leader as well as your excellent point about Max/Miria), but back in those old days of VHS and crummy reception on tv, I remember nearly dropping the series in frustration. The coolest character in the show gone in such a seemingly random way! And yet now it makes so much sense. I didn’t care too much for Hikaru before this episode. Only now he really begins to appeal to me as a character.

    • I didn’t know how to talk about death back in 3rd grade, though by then I’d have witnessed it first hand at least twice (my great grandmother dying of old age, and her daughter dying of diabetes). The deaths I knew were protracted things filled with quiet moments and silent suffering. In that sense Roy’s stoicism wasn’t surprising to me… but I didn’t know what to do with it anyway.

      I suppose I didn’t know how to talk about it in school, and I guess it was the week when nobody really talked about Macross LOL.

  7. Pterobat says:

    Sadly, the death of Roy wasn’t so impactful for me: I had already grown up in a world where death in TV cartoons was on the menu, even if often only theoretically, and Roy had never really clicked with me as a character (that particular type of boisterous “manliness” has never been my favourite thing, though I can name affection for many characters that would qualify as traditionally masculine).

    But my way of thinking is that Roy “had” to die because it was part of Hikaru’s maturity storyline. Of course in the real world it’s a horrible thought that a loved one dying has anything to do with one’s personal growth, but apparently it’s a fairly robust notion in fiction. Roy “had” to die so that Hikaru could be seen to be a man, instead of living in his senpai’s shadow.

    Not much to say about the Zentradi this time, but even as the seeds of their transformation are being planted, it’s still always nice to see Exsedol and Britai return to the cast. Laplamiz and Milia certainly can’t cut it for entertainment value, and while the Minmay-obsessed grunts are fun to watch, they lack that distinctive personality that both Exsedol and Britai have.

    • Matt Wells says:

      What sort of cartoons did you grow up with? Cause here in merry old Blighty we got the usual treatment America did: nobody died, they were sent to the “Dark Dimension”, or they were poorly edited out and never mentioned again, in the case of dubs. Sorry I’m off topic, just asking out of interest. The first time I ever saw someone definitively die in a TV cartoon was in Batman: The Animated Series, around 1996 on a rerun.

      • Pterobat says:

        I’m Canadian, born in 1984, but I’m talking more about my perceptions after becoming active in animation fandom, a process which has either coloured or eclipsed whatever preconceptions of cartoons I might have had growing up.

        So it’s hard to remember a time when a death in a cartoon series would have struck me as a revelation, rather than something that should be a normal part of storytelling but is unfortunately held back by silly executives. It’s part of being in an environment of nerds where everyone agrees that there should be more deaths in cartoons that are dramatic, and when TV executives are finally relaxing their death grips.

        Besides that, though, it’s not like the cartoons of my youth were devoid of death: watching a Disney villain fall off a cliff might not have the same impact as other things, but it was still death.

        It should also be noted that I saw SDF Macross only about three years ago, so any chance of Roy’s death having a larger out-of-narrative effect was pretty much impossible.

        • Pterobat says:

          I also wish to point out something I neglected in my earlier post: I love love love “Phantasm” because it’s one of the few times that it feels as though fiction is adequately capturing dream logic. Per the rule of dreams in fiction, Hikaru’s sequence much pass on information to the audience, but the dream experience still feels authentic.

        • Matt Wells says:

          Thanks for the response! I’m with you on the whole Disney thing, but TV animation was very coy about the portrayal of death. When I finally saw instances of it, what registered more was the very fact that they HAD done it, rather than sweeping it under the rug. I can see how as a kid, watching Macross (or even Robotech) would have left me shocked, more for the fact that they had the balls to do it.

    • Well, watching Voltes V where a major character died in the second episode(!!!) should’ve prepared me for this (as did other significant deaths throughout the show), but I suppose Roy was different in that he was so goddamn cool. I’m as progressive as the next liberal arts graduate student when it comes to gender politics, which also means I have a healthy appreciation of antiquated types of manliness. Though at 7 or 8 years old, growing up around boisterous and macho soldiers and policemen, this was very, very cool.

      You are also correct about Hikaru; it’s another part of the narrative reasons for Roy’s death.

      The more I think about it, the more I realize how wasted Laplamiz was as a character.

      • Pterobat says:

        Well, I do like Britai quite a bit, whom most would think of as a “manly” character: but male or female, I don’t have much of a taste for characters who have that kind of “look at me!” boisterousness that Roy does, even if they can back it up with skills. In fact, it was Britai’s lack of such qualities which drew me to him–Britai doesn’t need a showy attitude; he is what he is and just gets it done.

        Laplamiz pains me in part because she does have genuine character flaws, which could make her complex and interesting, but the narrative doesn’t seem to be aware of these flaws, nor really have a handle on what drives her. There’s a lot of potential there, but no follow-through.

        • No doubt Britai is a manly guy, and us dudes like him for being so. Sorta like Clint Eastwood’s Cowboy without a name in the Sergio Leone films, more stoic than loud. Stoic “let their deeds do the talking” kind of men are stereotypes too.

          Yeah, there wasn’t much for her to do for her own sake, beyond the initial “prove to the boys/Britai” the girls’/her own superiority. Tactically however, she did nothing except that blockade that was undermined by Kamujin.

  8. Vendredi says:

    “I appreciate how it all played out, how Roy didn’t have a protracted dogfight, and was more like collateral damage.”

    I think these are the sort of character deaths that impact the audience the hardest – the random byblow that really reminds us war can be a grim affair, whether the setting be science fiction, modern day, historical, or fantastic (Sturm Brightblade from the Dragonlance series, for example). It’s definitely a tough tightrope to walk, though. Without it, there is no sense of danger or risk for the protagonists, but if it is laid on too thick the audience quickly becomes inured to the suffering of the characters. I really think Macross as a whole certainly has one of the best track records I have seen (even the important characters that eat the metaphorical pineapple salad in Frontier, Plus, Zero, etc. always manage to carry some gut-wrenching impact).

    “The Macross got permission to disembark its noncombatant population in Canada”

    You know, I’m sure I am not the only viewer who gets amused by portrayals of the country I live in across various media… I have to say, there seems to be a recurring stereotype of the country as either as a refugee drop-off point or a place to immigrate to/from.

    • I dunno man, the deaths in LotGH are pretty dramatic, and at times telegraphed. They fucked me up reaaaal good. Also Sturm’s death was this ultraheroic duel between dude on foot who didn’t even use the Dragonlance vs. a lance wielding Dragon Highlord mounted on frickin’ Skye.

      Also, goddamn Gigile singing (terribly) Power to the Dream in Macross 7. MANLY TEARS, etc.

      LOL half my extended family is in Alberta LOL.

  9. Marigold Ran says:

    LoL. Now that I know the lyrics, the song is rather ironic.

  10. d3v says:

    This is why, to this day, I insist that all my pineapple based deserts to be baked in an oven and not tossed in a bowl with other fruits.

  11. Pingback: Finding Authenticity, or at least Resonance, in the Presentation of Dreams | We Remember Love

  12. Matt Wells says:

    Alright, halfway through and we’re still getting to the real meat of the story. I liked how different a recap episode Phantasm tried to be, presenting stuff we’ve already seen as a cue to all the emotions and events swirling around in Hikaru’s head. I also liked how Minmay changed into Misa for a scant seconds before the kiss, tying in with how prevaleant she’s becoming in his heart.

    Pineapple Salad was a surprisingly sombre end to Roy, like the posters above me mention, its rare to have a beloved character die in such a meaningless but happy way, not in a blaze of glory but in peace with his loved ones. Stings a lot more than Gundam’s usual tendency of sticking supporting characters in mobile suit kamikaze runs, or dramatic pathos in a can, as I call it. Liked the visual of Hikaru’s model plane being an exact replica of Roy’s stunt plane, way back from the first episode. Very nice (if cheap) thematic metaphor.

    Kaifun remains a hypocritical dick. Enjoying your starring role in a violent martial arts movie, Mr. Holier-than-Thou, Bishie-Jesus Pacifist?

    19 brought back the first instance in a while of overdependence on Overtechnology coming back to bite the Macross crew in the ass, something that I would have liked the series to keep up a bit more. When you play around with tech from an Ancient Supercivilisation, fuck ups are a natural reaction. I also laughed at how in the future, North America has just outright taken over Canada. Poor Kakizaki was just too comical to have any real impact on me when he died. The scene in the very next episode with Hikaru writing to his subordinates’ parents, now THAT was surprisingly moving. Kakizaki; more developed in death than in life.

    20 was memorable to me more for its depiction of Minmay and Hikaru’s relationship than the Macross leaving Earth. Where as once her collapse would have prompted him to come running, now Hikaru has seen so much death and loss he can’t bring himself to give the merest shit. Narrative inexorably pushes the Macross Hero and Heroine together, while the Star takes her spot in the limelight. I have to ask why Global felt it necessary to have Minmay on standby, her little ballad seemed too spontaneous to be a propaganda ploy. And Global’s too much a military man to have planned it that way regardless.

    The lolicon trio continue to amuse, especially their tallo brief disco date with the Bridge Bunnies. Oh, to be the fly on the wall as three of the Zentradi fleet’s finest confront the ultimate enemy: SOCIAL INTERACTION

    • Matt Wells says:

      Sorry, my keyboard went weird at the end there. Lost controll for a while. Last thoughts, love Milia, and the dogfight bewtween her and Max was fantastic stuff. Those few frames of animation when they fought inside Macross city were glorious, near feature animation level. Brief scenes like that are almost enough to make up for the overall spotty animation, and the odd case of the character designs going all creepy cross-eyed. Wish the subplot between the Spies and Bridge Gals went on for longer, and I’m glad that Minmay is finally expanding her song catalouge. A man can only take so much KYUUUN KYUUN, KYUUN KYUUN before he has to murder small animals. Zero G Love was catchy.

    • All excellent observations that would have made a pretty good blog post on their own. I really enjoyed how you found Kakizaki becoming more impactful postmortem than he was when he was around. He was a comical character that played as much tsukommi as he did attempt at boku.

      I like your turns of phrase “pathos in a can” and I will definitely steal this.

      If you got tired of KYUUN KYUUN… wait until you get to Macross 7 and PLANET DANCE.

      • Matt Wells says:

        Thanks as ever for the praise. Considering how much I’ve stolen from you in my writing style, feel free to take whatever you want from mine 🙂 I use the phrase in a derogatory fashion, its a rather cheap tactic often used in series to build up development for charcters who suffer from a lack of it. In the reaction of main characters who are distraught at their deaths, we are meant to feel a greater attachment to these people than their screentime or personalities warrant, or deserve. Tomino is pretty fond of using this technique, naturally.

        I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Macross 7, much of it is how for a guy all about making people hear his songs, Basara plays a lot of fucking Planet Dance. That said, Fire Bomber is probably the greatest musical act in any given Macross series, with all due respect to Ijima Mari, Sharon Apple (specificaly the woman who wrote her songs, a friend of Yoko Kanno I think) and Maaya Sakamoto. Seventh Moon, Holy Lonely Night, Try Again, Charging Love Heart, the list goes on and on…

        • Macross 7 is pretty terrible, but it is my favorite sequel in the whole thing and Basara is my favorite character in all anime. I can only tell you to watch all of it, and then you’ll understand.

          The show is spectacularly divisive, splitting the Macross fandom between those who like it up to Macross Plus (the grimdark crowd), and then those who like it up to date. I certainly love everything. I love 7, Zer0 and Frontier.

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