Self flagellation, or corporal mortification, is a practice associated with some religions and disciplines where the individual causes physical pain to oneself for the purposes of showing their devotion to the faith or to come closer to its source. As a member of the super-conservative, may-be-plotting-to-take-over-the-world Catholic sect Opus Dei wrote, it “helps a person overcome both psychological and physical weakness, gives him energy, helps him grow in virtue and ultimately leads to salvation. It conquers the insidious demons of softness, pessimism and lukewarm faith that dominate the lives of so many today.” Watching Macross 7 is self flagellation in anime form. Some may have watched it when it was new and they were desperate for mecha, any mecha. But watching it long after it aired, and being forewarned by those who have survived it, is only for those who wish to test their fan faith and their determination. Macross 7 is a bad series. It is the one blemish on the otherwise excellent Macross franchise. It is the ZZ Gundam of its universe. While it’s definitely not the worst anime I have ever watched, it may be the worst mecha series I have ever watched to completion. Even Gundam Wing gave me more to enjoy. But I wanted to complete the Macross franchise in its entirety. This is what I found.
I don’t normally write reviews, but I wanted to complete the franchise and there was no way in hell that I was going to blog this every week. I love the Macross franchise, but even I have limits. Mostly this is going to be my comments on the series as a whole along with several moments that I felt must be brought up. There will be spoilers, since this is more me getting all these thoughts and notes off my chest before those who have suffered equally and those who wisely wish to skip the show and just have a good laugh. First, a quick breakdown of the show.
The plot in three sentences: UN colony fleet Macross 7 runs into ancient demons of the Protoculture and an obnoxious rock singer/guitarist insists on playing music to them. While he has absolutely no way of knowing that it would work, it ends up chilling them out with the aid of sound enhancing technology. Meanwhile plenty of people die while he figures this out and sings instead of fighting back.
How I think this show got written and directed:
“Fans, you really must try this because it’s amazing. It’s my classic mecha story of love and war, nothing fancy. It just happens to be your favorite, and I created and directed it myself. And honestly, it’s the best mecha has ever been up to this point. In fact, it’s too good. It’s so good that when I’m finished, I’ll collect my royalty checks, walk straight into the studio and make Macross 7. Because that’s what I do. I restore the balance to this franchise.” -Shoji Kawamori, Once Upon a Time in Macross.
Gamlin Kizaki: The real hero of this show, if you define your heroes as those willing to do what it takes to protect others, go up against immense odds fully aware of the risks, and show both intelligence and raw determination. You know, those heroic qualities. Gamlin is a VF-17 pilot in the elite Diamond Force flight, the go-to pilots when the Macross 7 colony fleet is threatened. He can be pretty uptight and tense in his personal life, but over the course of the series he manages to relax a little. He’s also part of the love triangle of this series, such that it is, with Mylene and Basara.
Nekki Basara: The supposed main character, lead singer and lead guitarist (much of an ego there?) of the cheesy, 80′s rock band Fire Bomber, which I guess is popular aboard the Macross 7 fleet because no other musicians happened to be selected for the crew. He shows up late to his own shows, making his bandmates cover for him in the meanwhile, mopes around about people not understanding his music and actions when he fails to EXPLAIN anything about either, and when an unknown alien force appears he…goes out in his bastardized VF-19, gets in the way of the defense forces, and sings to them. Yeah. He obstructs the defense of the fleet to sing to them. Eventually his songs start having a jamming effect on the enemy, an effect only really utilized with the research and inventions of Dr. Chiba to amplify and transform the music into energy. Once he’s actually useful to the fleet I was able to tolerate him slightly, but only because he eventually became the only weapon the fleet had.
Mylene Jenius: Daughter of Max and Millia from the original Macross series, she’s also the bassist in Fire Bomber, a natural pilot when she puts her mind to it, and often the voice of reason in the band. She has some pretty great moments trying to reign in Basara’s crappy attitude or his unfounded pacifism, and for the most part I liked her. Millia has set her up with an omiai arranged matchmaking deal with Gamlin, and she seems to take to him in a very playful way. But she’s also really indecisive on the love front, having some sort of feelings for Basara that she won’t let go of despite them not being reciprocated. This indecisiveness will be discussed later.
These are the principle characters. I’m not going to go through all of the supporting cast since this isn’t a full review, but most of the plot revolves around these three. Of note, Max and Millia are back as the fleet commander and mayor, respectively, but sadly have split up (but not divorced) at the start of the show. Though thankfully by the end they seemed to have reconciled their differences. Also returning from the original series is Advisor Exedore, still in maclone form and serving on the bridge through a custom designed space where he can fit his head through the floor from the deck below. Macross 7 does feature some of the best bridge bunnies of the franchise, Miho and Sally, who are definitely quality over quantity for this role. They have fairly different personalities but are still friends, and produce some great moments of banter and gossip between them. And then there’s the Flower Girl, a character with no name and no lines other than some exasperated sighs and grunts. She’s always trying to chase down Basara and give him a bouquet of flowers, usually getting pushed aside or having others think the flowers are for them. But at the end she finally gets her moment.
My Problem(s) with Macross 7
Oh, there are so many, so many. To prevent myself from going into long, ranting paragraphs that may descend into rambling streams of consciousness and get off track, I’ll break it down in bullet points.
Heavy use of recycled animation
You’ll probably see this poor VF-11 destroyed about 50 times.
- Most of my problems have to do with the writing, pacing, and other creative elements, but let’s get the technical one out of the way first. There were many, many instances of recycled animation sequences in this show. I think I can count on one hand the number of battle scenes that didn’t feature reused animation sequences at some point, sometimes right after another was just used. The original SDF Macross had a little bit of this, but it wasn’t anywhere near as much as was used in Macross 7. In SDF Macross you could notice it now and then. In Macross 7 it was glaring you in the face.
I said it once before, but it bears repeating now…
- Basara almost instantly earned his spot in my top 10 most hated anime characters ever list. He’s obnoxious, selfish, and inconsiderate. He won’t tell anyone what he’s thinking or doing and then gets pissy when they don’t understand what the hell he’s doing. But all these just make him a dick. The reason I hate him is because when the fleet was threatened he would get in the way of the UN forces trying to defend it just to sing to the Protodeviln. Even if he thought he could pull a Minmay and convince them to join the human/Zentradi fleet, he had no effect on them for the longest time and yet still went out to cause the same problems time after time. When he started encountering the actual Protodeviln (and not their thralls) he actually had an effect, so my judgement of him got a little less harsh. But even then it was more about him, about having someone listen to and understand his music, than about protecting the fleet.
I hated most of the music
Omae no uta wo kikenai!
- This is not good when the music is such a central, and overused, part of the show. Totsugeki Love Heart was badass, and Holy Lonely Night and Light the Light weren’t bad, but I couldn’t stand Planet Dance, Power to the Dream, or any of the rest. Compounding this was how Planet Dance was played in repetitive, recycled sequences for what felt like the entire first 15 episodes or so. I actually started muting my TV when it would come on because I just couldn’t take it anymore.
Macross 7 is yaoi
No, not literally, Mafuyu.
- Now that I’ve got your attention, let me elaborate. I mean this in terms of the origin of the word: no climax, no point, no meaning. I suppose the story technically had a climax, even if it wasn’t a very believable or satisfying one. Though the love triangle completely fit the definition, more on that in a later point. But on to no point and no meaning. There was no point in making 49 episodes plus extras and sidestories to tell us a story that had nothing to do with 99% of the rest of the Macross universe. What impact has Macross 7 had on the rest of the franchise? Unlike the war with the Zentradi in SDF Macross or the Unification Wars and Protoculture history of Earth explored in Macross Zero, Macross 7 had little to no impact on subsequent developments. Even with how much Macross Frontier loved to make references, the impact of Macross 7 was superficial: a song in the background in Ozma’s car, a passing reference to the Protodeviln by Klan, that’s about it. It was a big deal when Luca released his Ghosts to auto-control, a technological and ethical problem derived from Macross Plus. The Protoculture connection to the Vajra and the Galaxy Fleet’s research came directly from Macross Zero and Dr. Mao Nome. What point or meaning did Macross 7 have? Everything it had, variable fighters, the power of music, colony fleets, was already there in SDF Macross.
Worst antagonists ever
- Worst antagonists ever. The Protodeviln were like Power Rangers villains. Cheesy looking, cheesy sounding, and cheesy acting. You could switch them out with the villains from any sentai series and someone who hadn’t already seen Macross 7 wouldn’t know the difference.
Macross 7 is yaoi, part 2
What Kawamori, your own scripts and storyboards didn’t spell out the ending for you?
- COMPLETELY unresolved love triangle: I don’t expect a series to tie everything up in a neat little bow for me, but when the main story is such a let down I expect to at least get something out of the subplot. If you thought the dragging out of the love triangle in SDF Macross was bad, wait until you see Macross 7. For one, it really should have been resolved since it was barely a love triangle to begin with. Basara was really uninvolved in all of it, there was no actual competition, just Mylene’s indecisiveness. Everything seemed to go Gamlin’s way in the show, Mylene really seemed to be falling for him, but then the whole relationship remains unresolved through the show AND into the Dynamite 7 sidestory.
I see him trollin, I’m hatin’…
- Not only does my favorite character get a troll ‘death’ late in the series where it was very well possible for him to have died (he’s not the official main character after all), but it wasn’t even a good one. Having the furry villain guy trick Gamlin into crashing into his VF was a sound strategy if you’re that sort of invincible, boring villain that can just pass through matter and escape. But the troll didn’t even feel like it had much purpose, like it was done just to do so. There are two kinds of trolling: the kind that make you go “aha, you got me, gg” and the kind that make you hate the writers and can sour the viewer on an entire show or franchise. This is one of the latter. The troll sucked, but I realized that Gamlin not being dead was one of the few good things I would get out of this show so I just kind of grudgingly accepted it. At least it meant I still had one main cast character to root for. Though at least he came back in style:
To the tune of everyone’s favorite printer beating song: Back up in yo ass with the resurrection/
comes the ace pilot with the kill collection that shows no affection/
they wanted to off him for the cheap thrill/
but it’s die motherfuckers die motherfuckers still.
- Oh yes, and what Macross 7 overview would be complete without mentioning musically induced spiritia orgasms? Not to be crude, but there’s really no way around it. So yeah…that’s…yeah…
What I *gasp* Did Like About Macross 7
Well, this is a much shorter list, but there were a handful of moments and one whole episode that were actually fun. Not, you know, enough to have made it worth watching other than to say that I managed to watch it all, but at least there were a few things.
The VF-11 and VF-17
Some respectable VFs, not like those Sound Force ones.
- I can never decide if the VF-1 or the VF-11 is my favorite out of the franchise, but I was happy to see more Thunderbolt IIIs even if they were just cannon fodder. The VF-17 was not a design I initially liked, but it became kind of an acquired taste. At first I didn’t like the F-117 inspired design, but as time went on I started to like it more, especially in gerwalk mode. It also helped that Gamlin made it cool with his skilled piloting, especially once he took over as the leader of Diamond Force.
Max and Millia
Making up by the end.
- Here, at least, Macross 7 delivered. I was pretty heartbroken to see the two of them had broken up at the start of the series. It seemed like the two ace pilots didn’t manage to hold together their marriage, and Millia seemed especially recriminating about it while Max seemed hurt and conciliatory. They had several moments where their personalities and professional responsibilities clashed, and to be honest I think Millia let her personal feelings get in the way of parental and professional duties just to spite Max on some occasions. Having to work together to fight the Protodeviln and raise Mylene seemed to bring them back together by the end of the series though. When one was in danger the other got worried and started to remember why they cared for each other. While the ending wasn’t explicit about it, I think it’s safe to declare the OTP re-established.
Millia rides again!
Mama to the rescue.
- Seeing Millia break out the old VF-1 from her younger days was badass, and I was so impressed by her stopping the Protodeviln infiltrators that for a time I had hope that the series would improve. That ended up being a false hope, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of seeing Millia get back in her old DYRL fighter and kick ass like the days of old. And at the end of the series she even got her of VF-21, as did Max, recreating their blue and red VF-1s from the final battle in DYRL.
Macross 7 Encore ep 02
I’d be terrified to have her as my mother in law.
- This episode was the only episode in all of the expanded Macross 7 series to actually be through-and-through good. A comedy sidestory episode where Millia gets a cold, and because of her amateur self-diagnosis thinks that she’s dying due to her miclonization shortening her lifespan. So she sets off to accomplish the four things she wants to do before she dies: get her daughter married, find a bride for her basically adopted son Gamlin, fly her VF-1 once more, and sing. And she’s short on time so get married NOW! She’s still bitter about Max so she pressures Mylene to marry Basara since he’s not an ace pilot like Max, then tries to set up Gamlin with Miho in a very not subtle mix of salesmanship and pressure. I loved seeing Millia as the tiger mama to her daughter and Gamlin, and then get all overdramatic, singing to the entire fleet while Max just sighed and facepalmed. She’s also become very self-promoting too, which was hilarious to see.
Oh Millia, you just get better with age.
Well, when you started off your courtship with a knife fight anything else will look tame in comparison.
My thoughts exactly.
Selected Miscellaneous Moments
Basara gets tentacle raped by Sybil.
Adding -美 to the end of everything doesn’t make you elegant, you mangy furry.
The Flower Girl finally got her flowers to Basara. Despite not having a line in the entire series, I liked the Flower Girl and her never ending attempts to get noticed.
Quite the cute moment. Though it doesn’t make much sense to have a 17 year old propose to a 15 year old, unless this takes place in in the distant past. Oh anime and your insistence on teenage characters.
Exedore and Miho get implied-shipped in Encore and at the end of the series. That would be an odd couple to say the least.
Haha, Millia is too much.
Mylene takes after her parents, and her judgement takes after the more sound sort found in SDF Macross.
Another sweet Mylene and Gamlin moment when she uses her amplified singing to force the Protodeviln out of Gamlin’s body. But noooo, with moments like this and the birthday party we just can’t have a relationship develop by the end of the series.
Mafuyu approves of this tabloid photoshop.
Basara the secret love child of Hikaru and Minmay? In Ghostlightning’s dreams.
Well at least one design element that made it into later series was the purple flower shape of Protoculture-designed superweapons.
Best bridge bunnies ever. I especially loved their fussing over a sleeping Max, with Sally trying to steal a kiss, in the Macross 7 Plus: Seven Bridge extra.
Dynamite 7 starts off by showing you exactly what Kawamori was smoking. Subtle *rolls eyes*. As if his signs for pipe shops in the background of cities in Macross Plus and Frontier weren’t enough evidence.
This guy just screams damn dirty hippy.
Space whales. Yep, space whales. Macross has always had a bit of an environmentalist element to it in drawing attention to nature and ship’s environmental support systems, but Dynamite 7 is this tendency taken to a preachy and obnoxious extreme.