With how busy I’ve felt this year, I’m surprised that I’ve still managed to fit in some oldies among all the currently airing shows. Two notable series I watched this past year include Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Together, they sparked a hunger for more knowledge about their expansive histories, both canon and superfluous fun, as well as proved their mark on many works following their examples.
Super Dimension Fortress Macross
SDF Macross was always a story I meant to watch. I started in the Macross world with Frontier, later moving to Zero and the more recent Delta. Seeing the original in all its glory made me envious of the people who grew up with the series, even the Americanized Robotech. I can’t help but wonder if I had watched the show at a younger age, what excitement I might have felt with each subsequent addition to the universe.
As it is, I always look back on Frontier and the love triangle between Alto, Ranka, and Sheryl. In my mind, they’re the original trio and the standard I hold for Macross romances. Seeing the inspiration for their characters in Ichijou, Minmay, and Hayase created a kind of reverse nostalgia that made it easy for me to like them. Minmay, in particular, reminded me so much of Ranka. Minmay is the reason for Ranka having worked at a Chinese restaurant. They’re both young and impulsive, as well as the bridges between two races. Then there’s Sheryl, who approaches her career and personal life in a manner reminiscent of Misa Hayase. They may not have been my favorites at the start, but over time they steadily worked their way into my affections and respect.
You can’t not talk about Macross without discussing music and Protoculture, which established their significance from the very beginning with Lynn Minmay and the Zentradi. Music was always one of my favorite aspects of this universe, and Frontier gave me one of my most loved soundtracks of all time, anime or otherwise. Whether it was the vocals by Ranka or Sheryl, or standalone instrumentals, I always felt a rush of exhilaration listening to the music. SDF Macross showed me the origin of that push-and-pull relationship between music and humanity.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199
I was initially reluctant to watch Space Battleship Yamato. The setting and style didn’t seem like my kind of show, and the art looked dated. Never mind the fact that I adore American TV series like Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. The image of the same in anime form mixed with my early impressions of mecha series as not for me.
Thanks to shows like Stellvia of the Universe, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans, and Macross, I softened my stance towards space settings. Then I heard about the Yamato remake, titled 2199, and read the praise given it by several of my respected peers, and knew this was as good a time as any to jump into the spaceship and see where it would take me.
I should have known that a story such as this would be right up my alley, as I am a lover of adventure and suspense. Yamato has the full house, with not only a quest to obtain the salvation for a dying Earth, but also repeated battles with an alien race of superior strength and technology. Add to that masterful writing and the much needed improvements of 2199, and you have a show that I believe should be on the watch list of every anime fan. The story crosses multiple genres, as well as exceeds stereotypes while simultaneously using them in the best possible ways.
Suspense works only if the audience has genuine belief in the worst outcome. If they don’t think there’s a chance of the characters dying, then they can’t feel relief to the fullest when the heroes win. If there are never any visible consequences to mistakes, then the world feels fake. The Yamato knows pain and death. Characters we see at the start end up dying in battles later on. Those same battles leave scars, external and internal, on the ship and the crew. Characters make mistakes, and the results are always shown. We even find out that the entire reason for Earth’s suffering is from a mistake that might have been avoided if only a different action were taken.
A major difference in my feelings towards the characters in Yamato versus those of Macross is the depth to their personalities. Hikaru and Minmay usually acted in predictable ways, showing one side of themselves to others. Yamato characters, in turn, seem real. Take, for example, Kaoru Niimi. She’s ridiculously smart and cares for the mental state of the crew. Throughout the journey, we start to notice her tone of voice, questions that she asks, the glances she shares with specific people. Then she shows her hand and we learn of motivations counter to Project Yamato. Her character wasn’t even present in the original series, but seeing her now in the remake shows me how much the story has improved. There are plenty of examples other than Niimi of attention to human quirks and insecurities. They all work together to strengthen the purpose of the journey across the stars, and I’m more invested in the story as a result.
If you want to read a full review of Space Battleship Yamato 2199, then I invited you to visit this post.