My first introduction into the world of anime was through the classic series Robotech. It wasn’t until much later, during my college years, that I discovered that Robotech was actually a bastardized version of several different series, including the Macross saga. However, that didn’t keep me from being captivated by the characters, mecha, and animation that was unlike anything else I’d ever seen. There are so many convoluted storylines in the Macross saga that it’s easy to get lost at times, especially for a newbie like I was. As it turns out, there were actually two distinct story lines in the Macross saga, and only one of them is the “official” one.
Macross Plus is the “official” sequel to the Macross saga, although “sequel” may not be the most correct term. The characters and mecha are different, though it takes place in the same universe, several years after the original series. The time is 2040 AD and the location is the human colony of Eden. Two of the main characters, Guld and Isamu, are testing new advanced fighters. At one time, they were the closest of friends, but now a bitter rivalry has formed between the two men, a rivalry deepened by the arrival of Myung.
Myung was once a talented singer, but has since turned into a hollow shell of her former self, scarred by the same event that destroyed the friendship between Guld and Isamu. She has given up her singing career to become the producer for the virtual singing star, Sharon Apple. However, we find out that she is not just Sharon Apple’s producer, but also her “voice,” providing the thoughts and emotions necessary for Sharon Apple to “live.” However, as Sharon Apple grows more and more, she soon becomes self-aware and threatens the lives of the 3 characters in various ways.
What follows is not so much an action/sci-fi adventure, but more of a human drama, as these 3 characters attempt to deal with the past and the event that tore their friendship apart. At times, it is quite moving and powerful as personal barriers are broken down and memories resurface. I think the thing that always struck me about the old Robotech series was that, even in the midst of the epic storyline, we never lost sight of the individual characters and their goals, failings, and triumphs. Macross Plus is much the same way.
That’s not to say there aren’t thrilling action sequences. The dogfights that take place between the fighters are exceptionally well-done, especially the final battle between Guld and Isamu as they weave their transformable fighters through a futuristic city. CGI is used throughout the film, and though it’s pretty noticeable at times, it’s still well-done. The mecha designs are incredible, and their transformation sequences (these fighters have the ability to transform from jet fighter to robot to something in-between) are smooth as silk.
The final touch is the musical score, courtesy of Yoko Kanno and the Israel Philharmonic. The music ranges from driving techno songs that jack up the intensity of the action scenes, to more intimate, classically-inspired songs that underscore the tension and sadness of the character’s lives. Through the film, the music traverses many genres, but always feels appropriate to the scene it’s used in.
All in all, Macross Plus is a fabulous anime, much better than the boring Macross II outing. It successfully combines high-tech action sequences with some interesting, if not moving human interest stories. Other issues, such as artificial intelligence, are also dealt with. But at its heart, Macross Plus, never loses its focus on the struggle between 3 characters who must try to forgive each other and themselves in order to salvage their friendship.