Macross Plus

September 23, 2007

I’ve been playing A.C.E. 3, which I will be posting thoughts on as soon as I’ve worked through the story mode. Playing the game has prompted me to rewatch one of my favorite shows featured in the game, Kawamori Shoji’s 1994 sci-fi opus Macross Plus.

Macross Plus fits into continuity shortly before the start of the Macross 7 TV series. It has been many years since the end of Space War I (shown in the original Macross series). Humanity is spreading itself across the stars with massive colony fleets, fearing the all too real possibility of Earth’s population being wiped out (again) by a Zentradi fleet. The current backbone of the UN Spacy’s forces is the aging VF-11 Thunderbolt variable fighter, a descendant of the venerable VF-1 Valkyrie. Two new variable fighters are being tested at New Edwards Flight Center on the colony world Eden: the YF-19, a highly advanced direct continuation of the variable fighter tradition; and the YF-21, based on Zentradi power armors and featuring the radical new Brain Direct Imaging and Brainwave Control System.

Freshly transferred from the frontier, where his hotshot antics were no longer welcome, is Isamu Dyson, now assigned to test pilot the YF-19. Piloting for the YF-21 team is Guld Bowman, a former friend and rival of Isamu. The two men seem to have a deep grudge with each other relating to mutual childhood friend/crush Myung Fang Lone. When Myung also returns to Eden as producer of the computer generated pop idol Sharon Apple, the two men begin a fierce competition over both Myung and the project.

As tensions between the former friends escalate, it seems there’s something dark brewing in Sharon’s AI, fed by Myung’s unstable feelings for Isamu and Guld. When Sharon’s AI finally goes out of control, taking over the Macross’s main computer during a celebration of the end of the war in Macross City, only Isamu and Guld are in a position to stop her. That is, if they can stop trying to kill each other and put an end to the incident from years ago.

Macross Plus shows off the Macross franchise and the talents of Kawamori at their absolute finest. Combining breathtaking aerial sequences with heavy character drama and fantastic music (provided by the brilliant Kanno Yoko), Macross Plus was everything the Macross fan could have hoped for in an OVA. Tomino Yoshiyuki should take lessons, his attempts at short OVAs and films like The Wings of Rean or Gundam F91 are a disaster of trying to cram way too much story in a short format. Kawamori knows the limitations he’s working under, and focuses on weaving a tight narrative about three people and their feelings for each other.

The story was originally conceived as a movie, but the studio decided to move to a 4-episode OVA. The script was reworked to maintain drama in 40 minute chunks. Later, it was remade into the originally intended movie format with some extended sequences (especially toward the end), massive reordering of scenes and some stuff left on the cutting room floor. The movie’s sequence of events is more logical, and the extended battle between Guld and the AI-controlled Ghost X-9 fighter soundly surpasses the OVA. Some of the cuts made leave minor characters sadly lacking development in some cases though, and unfortunately the quality of the R1 DVD for the movie quite frankly blows.

Either version is great though, something every anime fan needs to see and people who like good films probably should see. The story is self contained enough that familiarity with the Macross mythos isn’t required, but those who do know will get a little extra out of it. Highly, highly recommended.

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