Macross Zero is a prequel to the entire Macross franchise. Macross Zero starts after a strange alien space craft lands on earth sparking a gigantic the UN Wars over those who feel humanity should rally under one world government and those fighting against a world government. Shin Kudo is a fighter pilot for the UN who is shot down by the enemy’s newest transformable fighter. Shin is found by the inhabitants of the Mayan islands who are unknowingly hiding a world shattering secret.
This rendition of Macross has more of spiritual/mystical and environmental feel to it than other incantations. It also really plays with the idea of colonization and how advancement can bring destruction to native peoples. This isn’t a new concept and has been explored in numerous mediums. Macross has always used the cultural differences as a conflict but never quite in this way. It has sort of that Pocahontas mythology feel to it.
Well, it was directed by Shoji Kawamori who is rather well known for doing Earth Girl Arjuna which had even more emphasis on mystical and environmental themes. I have never seen Earth Girl Arjuna, but I know it is a show that many people find very heavy handed with its ecological message. I felt that while there was a distinctly environmentalist theme to this series it was never too oppressive. That is not to say Macross Zero does not give off a tree hugging hippie vibe now and again but I never felt overwhelmed by it.
Shin is a bit cocky (but only a little) and reckless, a popular choice. But this series is short so his personality develops rather quickly into something much more grounded. He is caught off guard, understandably, by this island of very primitive people. But he starts to see their way of life differently the more he stays. He has a quirky friendship with a girl, Mao, who really starts his education of the place he has crash landed. Her older sister Sara and him immediately clash and so starts a shaky relationship. Being closer to nature is definitely a big part of the story and Shin starts to understand the lands importance.
Shin is a mostly cocky and reckless guy when he is in the cockpit but is mostly sullen and withdrawn when he is outside his plane. He starts the series detached from everyone but slowly warms to certain people. When it start he goes out of his way to mention that he has no attachment to his fellow pilots including his copilot. As the series goes on we see that Shin is less emotionally guarded. I also think he loses a good deal of his cockiness after switching from a normal jet, which he was an ace at, to piloting a variable Valkyrie fighter that he is totally unfamiliar with.
Sara and Mao Nome, this last name may ring a bell with you if you have been watching Macross Frontier. Mao is spunky, carefree and also extremely curious what lies past the ocean surrounding her home. Whereas Sara resists the ideas of the outside world but she recognizes the violence that can come with progress. Each of these sisters move and shape Shin’s path a the series goes along. Mao breaks open his shell, children can really connect with adults on a different level sometimes and they aren’t so guarded. I saw that in their friendship. Sara helps Shin to realize that old ways and customs aren’t meaningless. They grow close and love blossoms.
Oh and Roy Focker is running around hitting on the ladies and being an awesome pilot for the UN as well. Although Macross Zero is a prequel, it could be more accurate to classify it as a side story that makes places before the original series. It shows us some back-story on Roy Fokker that had only been hinted at during the original Macross series while giving us a new story of some new characters.
I was really pleased to see Roy! His relationship with Aries Turner was actually a high point for me. He is flying around being the MAN and giving out advice on about the opposite sex. So I liked the cameo and I liked even better than it had some relevance.
Very unexpected music choices for a Macross series considering the production usually centers around selling the latest single. It has a tribal feel, nothing near the normal pop and rock songs the series is famous for. However, these songs tied in much more with the themes of the series.
This is the only pre-Minmay Macross so there was no way to work in My Boyfriend is a Pilot or any of the classic Macross songs. I am sure you were broken up about the lack of Planet Dance but somehow you found a way to trooper on. I think this Macross was supposed to have a fundamental almost primitive feel therefore they used a very tribal soundtrack.
The battles are top notch. Nice cuts and angles, fluid animation, suspense, and well done aerial views. This is also Macross’s first foray into the world of CG animation. I was pretty surprised but they did a nice job especially considering this OVA came out about 5 years ago. The robots looked sweet and the fights were a high part of the series.
According to rumor it is the most expensive OAV series ever made. When you sink that much money into something it darn well better look good. I did feel that the fight scenes were very well done and it generally looks like people spent a good deal on the animation all around. The fights are well choreographed and rather intense including the standard Macross Missile Massacre. I did note to myself that I was never worried about Roy because you know he has to live to see the original Macross.
Like I said the fights were cool, but I never really understood what the hell was happening. Was I supposed to care about those Anti-UN pilots? They did at least give some more backstory with Roy but it seemed glossed over and thrown in. The climatic battle that culminates was just off.
Macross Zero does tell a complete story but I have to issues with the pacing. First, there is almost no falling action to the story. You go from climax to end credits. I suppose it’s better than dragging out a long and uninteresting conclusion but I would have like to have a little more insight into what happened to the survivors. Secondly, the episodes often started right in the middle of some sort of event. While it makes every episode start on an interesting note, it also means you have to fill in the gaps yourself. Example, one episode ends with the characters looking for an artifact, the next episode begins with them having already found the item, it being stolen, and several characters being kidnapped all within the the first shot of the episode. I suppose this is partially due to the fact that they are trying to tell a complete story within five very expensive episodes. This means you are never bored with filler but also means they don’t let you digest everything.
I never felt the playfulness that can be seen in other parts of the franchise. Not all the renditions are Macross 7 for sure, but this one never connected with me that it was Macross. However, the series on its own was decent but not memorable. That being said, I think it has to be compared to Macross as a whole since it is riding on its name. If the series wasn’t called Macross it might have had a better reception minus the whole weird ending. But as a part of the franchise it sort falls flat as far as the story goes.