Saturday, October 13, 2012

Super Dimension Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again Anime Review

Super Dimension Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again
Manga Entertainment
Complete Collection - 1 disc
160 mins. - 6 episodes
$29.95 (1998)
$29.95 (2000)
ISBN 660200405625
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Kenichi Yatagai
Studio - AIC

Synopsis: It has been eighty years since the human race was almost wiped out by an invading alien force known as the Zentradi in the first Space War.  Ten years prior to the war a mysterious ship crashlanded on Earth and was rebuilt by the unified world governments.  The rebuilt ship was called the Super Dimension Fortress Macross (SDF-1 Macross).  Its reconstruction was completed just in time to repel the first wave of Zentradi forces.  Over the course of the war the Macross executed a space fold to the outer edge of our solar system and contained a small city of civilians.  The Zentradi were giant humanoids and feared humans (called 'microns') possessed the secrets of the Protoculture (thought to be the creators and masters of the Zentradi).  99% of Earth's population was annihilated over the course of the war, but the crew of the Macross and its civilians were able to defeat the Zentradi through a combination of variable mecha fighters (transforming planes called Valkyries) and human culture.  The Zentradi race was consumed by war to the point where males (Zentradi) and females (Meltrandi) stayed in separate fleets and never mixed together.  They used cloning for procreation and had lost all aspects of culture to the point where a simple love song could irreparably disrupt their composure.
The SDF-1 Macross main cannon lights up to fire on the new alien threat
The human race has repopulated the Earth and the Macross is now considered an ancient relic.  It sits lifeless in the center of Macross City.  Renegade Zentradi forces still attack the planet occasionally, but the 'Minmay Attack' (where love songs are broadcast to throw the Zentradi forces off-balance) has successfully prevailed ever since the original war.  The U.N. Spacy forces have grown complacent and soft without a true threat to challenge them.   Hibiki Kanzaki is a young reporter for Scramble News Network (SNN) who is trying to make a name for himself.  He is critical of the government due to their tendency to censor any broadcasts which don't portray them in a positive light.
Silvie and Hibiki disagree due to their differing views of the U.N. Spacy 
Enter the Marduk - an alien micron race seeking to destroy every other culture they come into contact with in the universe.  They use enslaved Zentradi (both male and female) warriors as their main combat force through the singing of specially trained female Marduk called Emulators.  They sing songs of war and destruction to boil the blood of their fighters.  Needless to say, the Minmay Attack fails miserably and the U.N. Spacy forces are being crushed mercilessly by the Marduk.  Hibiki rushes out to cover the combat with veteran reporter Dennis Lone (who is drunk) who values seeing both sides of any conflict and urges Hibiki to break enemy lines to get more information.
Hibiki kidnaps the beautiful Ishtar, a Marduk Emulator
Inside a Marduk ship, Hibiki and Dennis discover Ishtar, one of the Marduk Emulators.  Dennis is killed and Hibiki steals Ishtar away to Earth.  He becomes obsessed with showing the truth after his footage of the initial defeat by the Marduk is censored by the U.N. Spacy government.  Ishtar is delighted by the rich human culture she witnesses with Hibiki because the Marduk only wage war.  Lord Feff is the Marduk commander in charge of Ishtar and attempts to get her back by invading Macross City.  He pilots a fearsome battle armor against the U.N. Spacy's current variable fighter - the VF-2SS Valkyrie II.
Hibiki introduces Ishtar to human culture
After being exposed to Earth's culture, Ishtar renounces the war-like ways of the Marduk and wishes to see peace among the three cultures (Marduk, human, and Zentradi).  Can Hibiki with the help of ace pilots Silvie Gena and Nexx Gilbert get Ishtar back to the Marduk to spread the word?  They had better figure it out fast as Lord Emperor Ingues, the xenophobic and despotic ruler of the Marduk, has ordered all of his forces to crush Earth!
The fearsome Emperor Ingues - more machine than organic being
Pros: Marduk are cool villains (except that bastard Ingues!), Ishtar is beautiful, Haruhiko Mikimoto's character designs are great (he did the original SDF Macross designs), new mecha designs for practically all of the original series' mecha (VF-2SS Valkyrie II is particularly striking along with the Macross Cannons), songs are slightly decent in the old J-Pop 1980s way
The VF-2SS Valkyrie 2
Cons: Quite possibly the worst anime dub ever perpetrated upon the American public, plot is so bad it was expunged from canonical Macross history, none of the original Macross characters are seen or referenced (except the SDF-1 Macross itself), original creators Shoji Kawamori and Studio Nue were absent from this production, characters are terrible - Hibiki, Silvie, Nexx, Mash, Ishtar, and Feff, death of Dennis Lone in the beginning was almost comical in its absurdity, mecha designs are very different from original Macross series
Marduk-controlled Zentradi/Meltrandi battle armors
Mike Tells It Straight: Macross II is almost universally despised by the anime fan community for being one of the worst sequels in history.  I see where the producers went wrong - the original movie Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (which was an original retelling of the Super Dimension Fortress Macross television series, i.e. original = no reused footage from the show) was a huge success and they wanted to capitalize on the franchise by creating a sequel.  Unfortunately the majority of the original creators didn't sign on for the sequel - writer/mechanical designer Shoji Kawamori, director Noburu Ishiguro, composer Kentaro Haneda, and the art studios: Studio Nue/Artland/Tatsunoko.
Ishtar implores Lord Feff to spare the humans
Only three original creators joined the sequel production team: character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto, the scripter, and the sound director.  The sequel had an all new writer, director, mechanical designer, composer, and animation studio with incredibly big shoes to fill.  Expectations were high and only perfection would be satisfactory to the fans.  I believe the creators did their best and produced a relatively good quality work, but nothing close to the cultural phenomenon of the first Macross.
Emperor Ingues supreme battle fortress closes in on Earth
The storyline itself was mildly compelling with the Marduk a clever foil to the established Minmay Attack of the first Space War.  This time around the love triangle felt forced between Hibiki, Silvia and Ishtar.  They should have focused on Hibiki and Ishtar by themselves.  The character of Hibiki himself was slightly dubious as he seemed to be more interested in breaking a story to make his career than truly caring about Ishtar.  The mecha designs were also highly controversial and a departure from the original series.  The VF-2SS and practically all the mecha are love-it-or-hate-it - over-complicated upgrades to the originals.  Ending was too similar to the first movie as well - final battle with alien fleet and finishing barrage to destroy the head bad guy (it was satisfying to see Ingues get his in the end).
Beautiful artwork by Haruhiko Mikimoto
Weak characters, horrendous dialogue and general plot issues combined with impossibly high expectations and the lack of original creative staff doomed this sequel from the beginning.  The voice acting and dub are particularly bad along with quite a few animation issues.  I wanted to like this sequel due to my absolute love of the first television series and movie, but the show was downright bad.  It had some good moments yet overall was a tremendous letdown.  It has since been relegated to alternate universe status and purged from canonical Macross history - that just about sums it up.

TO BUY and Recommendations: