The anime industry is absolutely loaded with space opera series. Some can point to Super Dimension Fortress Macross (超時空要塞マクロス, Chōjikū Yōsai Makurosu, more well known in America as the first third of Robotech) as the series that started it all.
The Earth has been united under the United Nations after years of bloody conflict. A mysterious giant ship has crash-landed an island in the South Pacific. It isn’t long before an alien race known as the Zentraedi attacks and the young pilot Ichijyo Hikaru is caught in the thick of it. Things get complicated as Hikaru has to sort out his own feelings as to why he fights.
What is obvious at first glance is the animation. Unfortunately, the visuals of Macross have not aged well at all. The art generally looked decent, but there were episodes that cropped up where the character designs looked noticeably different from the rest of the series. Even at that time, there were series that looked far better, such as City Hunter.
However, if art and animation was really that important, then Macross would not be the timeless anime classic that it is. Superficially, it would appear to be a mecha series where human pilots fly airplanes that can turn into giant robots, but it is very much a romantic drama where every single character gets their fair share of development. Even the Zentraedi are complete characters.
However, the series very much is centered around Hikaru and how he deals with the characters he meets, from the confident wise-ass Roy Focker to the uptight Hayase Misa to the beautiful idol Ling Minmei. Hikaru is still in his teens at the start of the series, but he is forced to grow up and do his share by joining the military in the fight against the Zentraedi. Aside from a few episodes in the final stretch, Macross never stops building up steam with its characters. Despite being a mecha series, the battles were actually were not at all a central focus of the series. It showed that even soldiers don’t constantly fight and intentionally placed lulls in the action to allow for character development.
As I couldn’t find the original Japanese-language version, what I wound up watching was the 2006 ADV (non-Robotech) dub of Macross. Overall, I was actually happy with the dubbing aside from a few characters being a bit over the top. I felt at certain times, Vic Mignona sounded a bit too much like Spongebob when voicing Hikaru. The late Hase Arihiro, who sadly committed suicide in 1996, received praise for his performance as Hikaru in the original Japanese language, and it’s mainly for that reason I wish I heard the original voice acting. Ironically, the weakest performance came from Iijima Mari as Minmei. Iijima was actually Minmei’s original Japanese voice actress and she came back to voice her again in English. The problem lay in the fact that Iijima still spoke her lines with a pretty thick Japanese accent and it seemed that there were times where Minmei did not really seem to believe what she was saying. Let’s just say there is a reason Iijima Mari is more well known for being a singer than a voice actress.
On the subject of Iijima Mari’s singing, Macross featured some of the most memorable songs to have ever appeared in an anime series. Minmei’s singing was an important part of the series, and it is for that reason I will say that bringing Iijima back to sing the songs was a good decision after all. What Iijima is most well known for is actually the title track of Macross’ companion movie, Do You Remember Love. After hearing some of Iijima’s songs for the series, I decided to listen to “Do You Remember Love?” and I will say it has its place in my personal favorite Japanese pop songs.
Macross is best described as being much more than the sum of its parts. The animation was a little crude, even for its time, but it featured what remains to this day one of the best stories to have ever been made into an anime series with some of the most fascinating characters. Few series have engaged me emotionally as much as Macross and for that reason I definitely recommend giving it a watch. Because the story was so good, I feel I can forgive the animation and give the series a perfect grade.
Also, I suggest you pretend the songs Minmei sang in Robotech don’t exist as they were really terrible, and buy some of Iijima Mari’s albums.