Monday, March 2, 2015

Macross: Do You Remember Love? (Review)

Love triangles, J-pop & giant robots shouldn't normally work together, but...

Director(s): Shoji Kawamori, Noboru Ishiguro

Company: Studio Nue, Tatsunoko Production, Topcraft, Artland

Year: 1984

Country: Japan

Macross is one of the most iconic Japanese franchises. Over 30 years ago, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross debuted as a 36 episode television series. (It has since been followed with various other incarnations over the years, each along a different point within the fictional world's timeline.) As a result of its popularity, the show was rewarded with an expensive, high profile animated feature. The film follows the same plot, but is reduced to fit within a two hour runtime. Because of this, the film has a few chronological differences and is set in medias resMacross: Do You Remember Love? takes place in the future. Humanity has evacuated Earth and is in the midst of a war with the male Zentradi and female Meltrandi. The U.N. Spacy, a successor of the United Nations, is in charge of defending Earth and general peacekeeping. 

A young pilot named Hikaru Ichiyo is one of U.N's members. Despite newly joining, he is rather talented. However, his carefree attitude often gets him in trouble, particularly with his superior, Misa Hayase. One day, the Macross is attacked by a group of Zentradi. In the chaos, pop idol Lynn Minmei is rescued by Hikaru. After spending a couple of days together, the two develop a relationship. However, it becomes increasingly threatened by Minmei's busy life, Hikura's duties, and the impending pressure of the war

Lynn Minmei, the forerunner of Hatsune Miku.

This film is not like other franchise films of the era, which were often simply recaps using recycled footage or else made on very tight funding. Its animation and art direction is fully realized, and holds up remarkably well today, perhaps even looking better than the average anime put out now. (In fact, one scene had to be cut because the movie was starting to run over budget.) The amount of detail given in each frame is impressive. Backgrounds convey each scene's mood, and the character's clothes realistically wrinkle when they sit down or stand up. In this way, the film is a lot like Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Both were the first true big budget anime films of the era, and were coincidently released the same year.

Eat your heart out, Gundam.

The backgrounds are gorgeous, and often give off a melancholic feel.

Do You Remember Love? is, of course, also remembered for its use of pop music via Minmei (or rather her voice actress, Mari Iijima) and its tightly choreographed intergalactic battles. Macross's ability to easily switch between genres allows it to appeal to a wide variety of audiences. The film also makes great use of contrast regarding its narrative flow. The first half of Macross is a lighthearted romp akin to a typical teen romance film with some action a la Star WarsHowever, the later portion of the movie is more solemn and slow paced. The songs Minmei sings take on a sad, empty tone. Hikura and Misa are left searching for life on a seemingly abandoned Earth. When the action does return, it is more fast, more brutal. (Certain rather graphic scenes were even edited out of a recent Japanese DVD release.) Only by making peace with the Zentradi and Meltrandi can Hikura, Misa, Minmei and the rest of humanity hope to survive. 

The dogfight scene between Max and Milia.

The characters, while not as fleshed out as in the TV series, are likable and believable. Hikura is fairly levelheaded, unlike many other shonen protagonists who tend to be short-tempered or entitled. He shows a surprising amount of maturity after the plot takes a darker turn when his squadron is captured by the Zentradi. Hikura manages to escape with Misa, however, Minmei and her agent, Kaifun, are left behind, and Hikura's role model, Roy Focker, sacrifices himself to the enemy. Eventually, Hikura comes to realize that his infatuation for Minmei was merely puppy love and that he shares a more deep, meaningful relationship with Misa after they experience hardships together. 

Minmei and Misa are opposites in many ways. Minmei has a fairly cheerful personality. Her music serves as a morale raiser during the war and confuses the Zentradi and Meltrandi to no end, because they have never heard music before. (Not to mention, they find the idea of women and men existing together disgusting because they are separate species and mortal enemies.) Although seemingly naive, Minmei comes from a poor family and has become weary of all the fanfare surrounding her relatively new found fame. She sees Hikura as a way out of her chaotic lifestyle, a way for herself to return to simpler times. 

It's sort of refreshing to see a love triangle with two girls and one guy rather than two guys and one girl, as more common in Western media.

On the other hand, Misa is introduced as a no-nonsense military woman, hardened by the death of her first love. She and Hikura initially get along terribly. (Hikura would disobey orders or call Misa 'old lady' to irk her.) However, after they escape the Zentradi together and Hikura cares for Misa after she falls into depression, the two come to care for each other. Despite that Hikura ultimately chooses to be with Misa, Minmei, following a period of denial, takes the ordeal rather maturely and ultimately remains friends with the couple. 

All in all, Macross: Do You Remember Love? is essential viewing for anybody who considers themselves to be an anime or animation fan. Even though the film's soundtrack is dated and the plot sometimes requires a suspension of disbelief, DYRL is highly enjoyable and can be surprisingly insightful. Dare I say, as cheesy as it sounds, there is something sort of touching about a story in which love and music save the universe.

Yes, I do remember love.

Rating: 4.5

About the Dub:

Oh God, you're not actually planning on watching it are you? While not as infamous as Robotech, the English version of Do You Remember Love? is not good by any means. This was because the film was dubbed cheaply in Hong Kong, making the characters sound like they have come out of a bad kung-fu movie or else they have awkward British accents. (Poor Minmei.) Worse, the version released in the U.S. by Celebrity Home Entertainment's "Just for Kids" label cut out half an hour of the film and renamed it "Clash of the Bionoids." The result is similar to the transformation of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind into "The Warriors of the Wind." At least they left the songs intact in their original language, but that's literally the only good thing about this dub.

Speaking of Robotech, Macross DYRM is currently unavailable for purchase in the United States due to the infuriating legal mess that Harmony Gold has got itself intoThis is a shame considering that a Blu-ray edition of the film was recently released in its home country. Fortunately however, the film is fairly easy to find online and an unofficial 'fan import' can be purchased on Amazon for a relatively cheap $24. It will have to do for now.

Do I have to remember this dub?