Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mechanime: Macross Zero

This is a prequel to a 1982 anime. Better late than never, I suppose.

Original Run: Released piecemeal from 2002 to 2004
Number of Episodes: 5
Average Episode Length: 33 minutes
Subgenres: War
Dub?: No

Welcome back to Mechanime! Today we’ll be looking at Macross Zero, a prequel to the original Macross series brought to us by the same guys behind Aquarion and Nobunaga the Fool. This is a review of the entire OVA, since its only five episodes. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, since I believe this is worth seeing.

This OVA has no opening song. Move along, nothing to see here.

He's threatening her with a love letter.
...It makes sense if you've seen the OVA. 

In the year 1999, a strange alien spacecraft crashed landed on Earth. This kickstarts a war between the UN, who wants a unified world government for space exploration (among other things), and the anti-UN coalition, who wishes for sovereignty to remain with individual countries. In 2008, the war still rages, and a key battle rages in the South Pacific. During an air skirmish, Shin Kudou’s wing is attacked and destroyed by a mysterious transforming jet. Shin himself crash on Mayan (pronounced may-yan) Island, and quickly gets wrapped up in the lives of the locals.

An ancient alien with magic powers? In my real robot show? Its more likely than you think.

A key part of the plot is the concept of a protoculture. Because the evolution of humans is a relatively quick thing, some in-universe scientists theorize that aliens visited Earth an accelerated the evolutionary process. The Mayan people have a similar myth- many years ago, a Birdman visited from the stars and created all living things. As the story unfolds, the importance of the Birdman and the strange structures uncovered by the UN and anti-UN forces grows until it could possibly decide the fate of the world.

The story of Macross Zero is strong one, even if you aren’t a follower of the Macross series. It develops at a pace that is just the right speed. It manages to catch the tense and traumatizing nature of war, and handles many of its plotlines well. Not many things are left unresolved, and it is surprisingly easy to understand and follow. Macross Zero tells a great story in a competent way, and its contained enough to enjoy on its own.

From left to right: Sara, Shin, Roy, and Mao.

After the gigantic cast of Nadesico, I was relieved to see a relatively small cast in this OVA. Characters include Shin Kudou, a UN pilot and main character, Sara, the Mayan priestess, Mao, her sister, Roy Focker, a UN veteran, Aries, a UN anthropologist researching the protoculture, Nora, an anti-UN pilot, and “DD” Ivanov, an anti-UN commander. There are a few supporting characters, like Edgar, Shin’s radar intercept officer, and Nutuk, the Mayan elder.

However, unlike the cast of Nadesico, which I found hilarious and fairly well developed, I found the cast of Macross Zero to be largely derivative. Outside of Shin and Sara, none of the characters really developed, and I didn’t find myself interested in any of them. They felt like they were just there rather than being characters. While I can easily praise the story of Macross Zero, I found the characters rather lacking.

While I found the story to be excellent, I found the writing to be average. A lot of it is expository, but its fairly well written exposition. Its mostly serious, like one exchange between Roy and a mechanic on how most experienced pilots have died due to how prolonged the war has become. It handles itself well enough to not be boring, but most of the time, it felt like the story was carrying the writing, rather than the writing augmenting the story.

This is some fine looking CG right here.
This OVA’s animation is freaking gorgeous. Not only is the 2D animation well polished and clean, but it makes heavy use of amazing looking CG. The CG looks fantastic, even for today’s standard, and it looks like it came straight out of a theatrically released movie. It also blends the 2D and 3D animation very well. This is perhaps the best looking anime I’ve seen.

Mecha and Fight Scenes
VF-O in battloid mode.

The mecha of the Macross series, the Variable Fighters, are fighter jets that can transform into flying robots. They have three modes: the regular jet mode, gerwalk mode, where the jet utilizes the mech’s arms and legs, and battloid mode, where the jet fully transforms into a humanoid mech. There are only a handful of Variable Fighters in Macross Zero, but all of them are great, with slick designs and plenty of ammo to spare.

Nora's SV-51 in jet mode.

The battles in Macross Zero are also something to be praised. They feature missiles and bullets flying everywhere, with explosions aplenty and soldiers on both sides dropping like flies. It manages to capture the hecticness and destructive properties of actual warfare, to the point where Mayan Island is destroyed by the fighting. The battles of Macross Zero will keep you on the edge of your seat thanks to their intense nature.

Macross Zero is a beautiful anime with a great story and thrill filled battles. While the characters and writing aren’t as good, they are average at worst. I recommend this, as its a good jumping off point for the massive Macross franchise.

7.5- Really Good

Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to leave a comment. Constructive criticism is always welcome.

New Getter Robo is up next. Get hyped!

No comments:

Post a Comment