krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
I resolved that in 2009, I would take the time I put towards rewatching anime series (always in part to reassure myself I'm not so completely mastered by the large quantity of DVDs I buy that I never get back to anything, thus defeating a purpose of buying rather than at least trying to rent them) and return to the series put together to make Robotech. After viewing Macross at the beginning of the year, deciding to rewatch the Megazone 23 OVAs (which have a more or less tangential connection to Robotech as most know it) seemed to open up a fair-sized pause in my project. Now, though, I've once again seen the anime series put in the middle of Robotech, but also the one most dismissed in a breath both inside and outside that composite series, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross... and yet, both even before starting into that specific anime again and in the process of watching it, I kept thinking that I'm at least interested in Southern Cross "more than I'm supposed to," and at times contrasting that to other mecha anime series from the early 1980s that receive wide praise but, when I have seen them, I've wound up thinking "I'm supposed to like them more..." Maybe it's just a case of "sympathy for a frequent target" carried to bizarre lengths, as opposed to heaps of praise making me elevate my standards in some subconscious way until nothing can meet them. In any case, I can identify "flaws" in Southern Cross, and yet in acknowledging them they don't seem to bother me as much any more; they're just something to be thought about.

It does seem often said that Southern Cross was cancelled early when it aired in Japan, either forcing a hurried conclusion or just plain leaving out a reconfigured continuation, and in any case bringing to a stop three series in the same time slot with "Super Dimension" in their titles. In Robotech Art 3, Carl Macek boasted about having managed to improve it in the process of including it in Robotech. However, in an "official PDF version" of the first issues of Protoculture Addicts I once bought, there's an interview with "Jack McKinney" (still claimed to be a single author) where it's declared that additions of the novels to the "second generation" fixed the problems this time... I've still run across comments that "even the novels couldn't help" "Robotech: Masters." (I have to admit that to me, working in new scenes where a "mad scientist" suppresses knowledge and encourages apocalypse so as to evoke mysterious psychic powers in Dana Sterling, whereupon his scheme blows up in his face and the "powers" that were the presumable point of it all aren't much mentioned afterwards, seems "a solution worse than the problem.") As far as the plot goes, though, I've thought that other mecha anime series from the early 1980s that I've seen take their own deliberate time to develop beyond the setup of their first episodes, and they run longer than Southern Cross. To be sure, one thought I started having this time was that as the war escalates around the midpoint of the series, the "central characters" are safely behind the front lines. I can imagine interpreting this as an attempt to comment on "what'll really end the war"; I can also imagine it being dismissed as "just not exciting."

In any case, the characters in Southern Cross take a lot of lumps. One thing about the anime that's struck me as somewhere between "peculiar" and "problematic" is that it seems to use its opening and closing sequences to present three female soldiers as significant characters, and yet those three are the only female soldiers we ever see in the series itself. A crucial problem to many seems to be Robotech: Masters calling the main character of those three "Dana Sterling," her impulsiveness and flighty nature apparently making her unworthy of being the daughter of the "cool" characters Max and Miriya. In Southern Cross, "Jeanne Francaix" may not be weighted by her family name, but if anything she might start out even more shallow... all I really seem able to say is that I seem to have an exceptional tolerance for that sort of thing, based if on anything on the general feeling that it's not really worth getting worked up over a fictional character or story. Not that long ago, I saw a "Buried Treasure" column on the Anime News Network site that looked at Southern Cross and made the suggestion that the series could be seen as a sort of "mecha comedy," and while that intrigued me in part because I hadn't really thought about it before, it still seems to be just a part of the story to me.

I'm also sort of interested in two other "character reconfigurations" between Southern Cross and Robotech: Masters. Robotech turns "Seifreit Weisse," a human captured by "the Zor" and burdened by having been brainwashed into fighting his own people, into "Zor Prime." I've imagined that this idea might have been eased along by the character having long, curly violet hair (although there's a nameless human character in one scene with a somewhat similar hairstyle), but I have also noticed he's not pallid like all the other characters identified as "aliens." As well, all his flashbacks to unfortunate events in his past put him in human uniforms... In Southern Cross, the character who became related to someone from the Macross Saga as "Bowie Grant" was in fact "Bowie Emerson," apparently the genuine son of the doomed general Rolf Emerson; with the connection established, I can convince myself there's a "family resemblance" to their character designs. I do have to admit I've wondered about the ramifications of what would have been an implied interracial marriage being written out of the series, though.

I once saw a counterargument to one lamentation that the middle of Robotech could have just been left out, responding by saying it's really the core of the work, presenting the tragic figure and genuine villains who set up the other two, "popular" segments behind the scenes, and giving them their comeuppance. (He also proposed that the Macross Saga was really an "introduction" that could be summarized and then otherwise left out, although he wasn't actually recommending that.) As well, Southern Cross seems to inspire the most interesting parts of a reconfiguration of a term from Macross, that "Protoculture" is made from plants and it's running out.

It's long been pointed out that Southern Cross was set on a planet other than Earth, and while "barren rocky planets" seem somehow common in science fiction anime series, it may have inspired thoughts of passing it off as a "post-apocalyptic Earth" to go along with what we see in the final episodes of the Macross Saga. Once upon a time, it seemed to be conventional wisdom that this planet had two suns, and one of them had been retouched out of the video when making Robotech, but now it's easy enough to see that it just had two moons, and the scenes showing both of them were cut out. The thought's occurred to me, though, that for a "frontier planet" everyone lives a comfortable urban life in a city, and that seems somehow connected to great effort going into designing many varieties of military uniform and body armour but not quite creating a really memorable setting for them... the better, perhaps, for the world to be passed off as another. At times, I do think that the particulars of the story's escalation do fit it better for unknown assailants arriving at a minor world than for "the Robotech Masters reach Earth," but perhaps I can dodge that mood by starting to dream about a "real crossover" between "Macross technology" and "the Zor"... although thoughts of crossover plots that are really driven by what the author likes better do begin warning me at that point. Too, there are moments in Robotech: Masters where the motivations of the characters seem very elusive, and they're a little more clear to me in Southern Cross... although it still takes an effort at just figuring things out that I can suppose other people don't make.

For all that I may have had vague misgivings about some elements of the Robotech novels from the start, so that when I was told those elements didn't exist in the series itself I turned to a downplayed, "realistic" interpretation a small and dedicated group encouraged, I've at least stuck with the thought that the novels try to play up "unifying themes" in all three "generations." From that, I may have started thinking that the romance bridging sides in Southern Cross can be seen as an alternative take on romance bridging sides in Macross. I suppose it would be far too much to call it "unsuccessful" as opposed to "successful," but the conclusion does seem to lend a more tragic feeling to it... but I've also decided to at least my own satisfaction that there's at once uncertainty and hope in the way things end. Maybe that's what helps me keep interested in Southern Cross.

Date: 2009-07-25 04:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] incisivis.livejournal.com
Funnily enough, I managed to both despise Dana and be happy that she wasn't the cool-as-ice legacy character who would bring greatness to the family name. Given the other problems with Robotech at the time, I can't quite call it an intended subversion, but rather a serendipitous result of wanting the main character of the next segment to be a legacy character, and trying to be semi-faithful to what the SC narrative offered.

Still, it's a good sentiment: however obnoxious that Dana is on a personal level, I still don't see why one has to live up to their parents' names or be like their parents rather than some strange alchemical combination of the two with a few surprises thrown in. It's not like a child is the same person as the character what spawned them.

Also, Dana was refreshingly free of "hybrid angst", I could at least say that.

Writing Lantas made me think more about the Tirolian clones/the Zor, and curious about how their lives played out in the original--but not enough to actually pick up the unedited series, I'm afraid. :P

As to Bowie and Musica (what was her original name? Muselle?) it's again one of those moments of serendipity: she's one of a triad of green-haired alien women who fall for the pretty male hero, even if they're initially on opposing sides. Such a coincidence is kind of scary.

I'll concede that Musica's (I'll just use her dub name here) falling for Bowie is much much less objectionable than Max/Miriya for a lot of reasons, but Musica also seemed to fit the "shallow female love interest" mode, while at least Miriya had some drive, even if she were to be constantly thwarted in those drives at every turn.

I'd bet that Southern Cross made more sense than Robotech Masters, and I don't think any adaptation of SC really improved on it, including the novels. Some of the notions ported over from SC to RM certainly helped build a backstory for the RT universe, but sometimes it was difficult getting them to match with the animation, as you said.

Which NOW has me wondering about another adaptation of Robotech, one that still used the basic anime elements, but also was done in novel or comic form to alter anything, visually or otherwise, that didn't mesh with the re-made story. And also had more proofreading.

In particular, I'd like a much more detailed understanding of how the Tirolian society arrived at its present state and what part of the planet's society is on the ships, also something that tried to match up all the inconsistent opinions on their nature that the RM dub offered. (Androids? Clones? Clones of the original Masters? Who the hell were the original Masters?!)

[Maybe I should finally review my "Legend of Zor" comic scans before the month is out]

[Also note that I often thought that Louie looked like a human teenage version of Exedore]

And finally, I'll have to say that another point of serendipity in Robotech's melding, that I always thought others missed, was the message of "you can become more than what you are", a message that becomes consistent through the generations, with the Zentraedi, the Tirolian clones, and the humanized Invid (though that last one is a flimsier case, with only two "converts" to work with).

Date: 2009-07-25 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krpalmer.livejournal.com
Funnily enough, I managed to both despise Dana and be happy that she wasn't the cool-as-ice legacy character who would bring greatness to the family name.

I had picked up on the second part of your opinion from things I'd seen you post, but not the first... oh well. Maybe traces of "hybrid angst" crept into the novels at points, but they also worked in a good bit of "separation issues" as well.

As far as "how their lives played out in the original," I did find myself wondering a little as I rewatched Southern Cross if I was getting a sense of "things suggested but not quite developed," specifically whether there were hints of that classic science fiction idea of "emotions denied!", but no more, and noticing how members of "broken triads" were being stuck in out-of-the-way places, but again no more delving into the idea.

As to Bowie and Musica (what was her original name? Muselle?) it's again one of those moments of serendipity: she's one of a triad of green-haired alien women who fall for the pretty male hero, even if they're initially on opposing sides. Such a coincidence is kind of scary.

Actually, she's "Musica" in the Southern Cross subtitles as well, but her fellow clones are "Muselle" and "Musiere." To some extent, this difference from Robotech had me thinking her fellow clones were somehow "less important," but I then wondered if this was more just my reaction to two names being changed and one not, and originally it was just supposed to mean "they're all supposed to be just the same." (And I do get the impression that both Musica's fellow clones are shot in the last episode and she's only able to talk to one of them, but maybe that plays off of a feeling I had in reading "The End of the Circle" that there was a bit too much of a sense of the two survivors now being "parts of a broken whole.")

I suppose I can think Bowie seems to become quite smitten with Musica, and also gets into trouble with his own side for it, but it still may not be the same thing. Maybe this amiable interest is just the result of looking into the booklet in the DVD case, and noticing that Musica's Japanese voice actress also played the lead female role in the baseball anime "Touch," which I've seen... then, I also saw (http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/people.php?id=282) she played the lead role in "Gunbuster" as well.

So far as I've figured things out, my personal theory about Robotech: Masters is that the "ordinary" Bioroid pilots are "androids" and the "citizens" are "clones." Now, a number of ideas about "the original Masters" are bouncing around in my head...

The novels also made the point of resemblance between Louie and Exedore at one point, suggesting it was a deliberate effort on Louie's part. I suppose it's easy enough for me to remember that now...

Date: 2009-07-26 12:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] incisivis.livejournal.com
Well, my Dana-hate was flaring when I first watched the Masters Saga on Space last year, but it's toned down now because I'm just writing about Zentraedi all the time and haven't watched Masters again (except for a few episodes to get some art references for the Tirolian clones), and apparently whenever I write her in my fanfics, she doesn't come off as badly as I actually find her, since nobody's said I'm writing Dana badly.

Although, I think you could make a case for Dana fusing some of her parents' traits in a complex way: Miriya's impulsiveness, Max's idealism, friendliness, and optimism, and both their vigour.

But I did find her incredibly annoying on her own terms, not first thinking about her legacy one way or the other (except for the usual: "Teal hair to blond hair, nope, I don't quite buy it" thing), but just, "My GOD, shut UP!" :P

Yeah, the novels mentioned her getting into fights over her heritage, and the separation issues were something I thought worked really well. The failure of Max and Miriya should have been dwelt on more, but I liked that they thought to do that with Dana, and the mention of Rico, Bron, and Konda being her "godfathers" had my wheels turning (though I wonder if the McKinney duo would have done that if they had known what their original Japanese names were....).

Well, for what it's worth, I think the Robotech version is pretty clear that the Tirolian clones are "programmed" to a degree, from their robotic voices to the confusingly-explained "reprogramming" chamber/area Dana goes into before she figures out what's going on, but that theme might not be present with the Zor since they are apparently a natural race and their triumvirate state is also natural (and related to their psychological functioning, correct me).

Well, the names of the three Muses in Robotech do rhyme, which might communicate that same sense of sameness. (whoa, alliteration). Maybe the other sister did die, I don't know, but it would still be important to tell a story of a sundered Triumvirate managing to live despite that, which is what I was going for with Lantas, and also what I hated about a minor subplot in the Invid War comics. Because I like being a rugged individualist (tm)

But I know the commonality between Max/Miriya and Bowie/Musica and Lancer/Sera is very very superficial, but in the very most basic commonality, visually and in terms of each lovers' set of shared occupations (except for Lancer and Sera), there is still a surprising moment of similarity.

When I think of the nature of the Tirolian clones and the mystery of it, I'm meaning that there's also various Robotech EU things rattling around inside my head:

"The Legend of Zor" comics which suggest that the elder Robotech Masters started out as ordinary Tirolian senators, and the "Sentinels" which are vague on what the "old and the sick" means on Tirol, when those Tirolians appear to be of a very different physical/visual nature than the Masters and Clones...and further muddlling the issue is referring to the lone Cabell as a "Robotech Master", or indeed using that term as a synonym for "Tirolian" when it's pretty obvious that some of the residents haven't benefited from the fruits of the Masters' empire and are indeed "Masters" of nothing...though it's also possible that this sorry state is due to a general degeneration of the PC-fuelled society, and it might have made for a more complex story if the Masters actually were good rulers of their native civilization until the PC started to run out....

Anyway, the novels make a few vague explanations about how things work, but nothing that's satisfying, in my opinion.

Re: Louie:

Yes. *cackles* I only read some parts of the TV series novels, so that bit completely escaped me. I found it in the .txt transcript I downloaded after you mentioned it, and it makes me smirk because it's the kind of connection-making and injoking I'd do, which might be a bad sign, I'm not sure. :P I've even had similar thoughts on ways to poke fun at the Louie/Exedore visual commonality, though the novels' idea is one that escaped me.

(Or maybe me and Louie could high-five each other as fellow Exedore devotees)

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