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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 BYUUTIFURU PUREISU IN MAI HAATOHaha no ude no naka omoidasu Yutaka na daichi yo Itsuka kitto kaeru darou Dakara sore made yasashisa mitashite BYUUTIFURU PUREISU IN MAI HAATO
If anyone can translate this, leave a comment. I’d greatly appreciate it.