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  Superdimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? Sing, Minmay, Sing!
Year: 1984
Director: Noboru Ishiguro, Shoji Kawamori
Stars: Mari Iijima, Arihiro Hase, Mika Doi, Michio Hazama, Noriko Ohara, Akira Kamiya, Osamu Ichikawa
Genre: Musical, Animated, Science Fiction, Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  10 (from 1 vote)
Review: Imagine elements from Star Wars (1977), Moulin Rouge (2001), Quatermass and the Pit (1967), Transformers (2007), and A Star is Born (1954) blended into one epic space opera. Hollywood borrows a lot from anime nowadays, but it would take a bold producer to mimic the mind-blowing Macross saga. The original television series became an Asian phenomenon, spawning toys, soundtrack albums and sequels that continue to this day, but reached America in the drastically altered form of Robotech, shorn of its musical and satirical elements. Enough of the original spirit survived to make the feature film adaptation a popular bootleg during the early days of anime fandom. In Japan, SDF Macross: Do You Remember Love? was an honest to goodness event movie, with audiences queuing round the block.

1999: a giant spacecraft crash lands in Japan. Alien technology transforms human science, but ten years later the giant, green skinned Zentraedi attack planet Earth. Humanity settles its differences and takes to the stars aboard the continent-sized space fortress/transformable robot SDF Macross. Led by stalwart Captain Gloval and fun-loving, veteran flyboy Roy Fokker, teenage space pilots Hikaru Ichijo, Misa Hayase, and Max Jenius fight daily duels with Zentraedi fighters, using their amazing Valkyrie robot-jets; while inside Macross, the young populace inhabit a bubble economy dreamland of shiny shopping arcades, idyllic parks and futuristic wonders, and worship 17-year old, Chinese pop chanteuse/movie star/messiah babe, Lyn Minmay. Plucky Hikaru saves her life during a Zentraedi attack and finds himself living an adolescent fantasy: trapped in a mall with the beautiful star.

They emerge one week later, after an innocent, zero-gravity romance (Minmay sings: “Zero-G Love”), floating down into a media frenzy. Gossip spreads, while the lovestruck teens continue courting in secret. Hikaru tries to impress with a dazzling night on the town and steals a Valkyrie for a joyride across space (Minmay sings: “My Boyfriend is a Pilot”). An angry Misa, Roy and Minmay’s older brother/manager take off in pursuit, but the whole gang wind up prisoners aboard the Zentraedi mothership. Studying the humans like bugs under a microscope, the Zentraedi are baffled by signs of friendship and romance, and fascinated by the mystical power behind Minmay’s voice. A power they call “Protoculture”. It seems the Zentraedi are waging a centuries-old war with the all-female, Meltran race. A sudden Meltran attack enables Hikaru and Misa to escape, but Minmay remains trapped and Roy dies heroically.

Hikaru and Misa land on a desolate planet they’re shocked to discover is actually Earth. Tokyo, Paris, New York, all lie in ruins, leaving the globetrotting space teens heartbroken because their families are long dead. A long-lost, alien civilisation resurfaces amidst the devastation, where Misa uncovers the root of all Protoculture: an ancient CD with a magic song. Misa’s courage, resourcefulness and compassion stirs Hikaru’s heart and they fall deeply in love. Their distress signal summons Macross, where Hikaru and Misa share an awkward reunion with Minmay, whose miraculous voice foils a Meltran attack. The now-friendly Zentraedi and Meltrans join the Macross crew in battle against the evil space emperor, Gorg Broza, wielding their new super-weapon: “Do You Remember Love?”, the song deciphered by Misa for Minmay to sing. Can Hikaru persuade heartbroken Minmay to perform the song that could save the universe?

It must have been a blast watching SDF Macross: Do You Remember Love? on a great, big, cinema screen. Gorgeous animation conjures a wondrous universe with luminous planets and swirling stars, breathtaking space dogfights and robot-fu. Vast armadas clash in cosmic battles, missiles streak across space like fiery serpents, and Minmay’s musical numbers are a swirl of dancing lights, dreamy holograms and dazzling editing. Veteran animator Noboru Ishiguro wields his box of tricks, but the superstars were co-director/screenwriter/mecha designer Shoji Kawamori, whose robot creations were both beautiful and believable, and co-screenwriter/character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto, whose boyish heroes and ethereal heroines graced many a student’s wall. Their big concept was “Protoculture” - the idea that music, art and communication can stir our latent humanity and provoke a positive social change (in an amusing scene, Zentraedi cower before a singing Minmay doll). It isn’t science fiction for the cynical, but viewers can easily get swept away in the sheer romance of it all.

The movie captures the feeling of being young, idealistic and in love at a time when Japan seemed like the most futuristic place in the world. Inside Macross is a Never Land where Hikaru and Minmay - in her fluorescent dress - fly across panoramic portals to the stars, and a first date involves going wild in utopia, tap-dancing through a magical costume shop, and space joyride to skim the rings of Saturn. The creators (especially Kawamori who stuck with the series through sequels: Macross Plus (1995), Macross 7 (1995) and beyond) envision a pleasingly multiracial future with some satirical touches. Characters essentially inhabit a giant shopping mall while the war rages on in outer space. Ishiguro went on to expand the concept in Megazone 23 (1985), which was ripped off…er, I mean inspired The Matrix (1999). The Apocalypse was a reoccurring theme throughout anime’s golden age, not as humanity’s end but a catalyst for a new beginning. The poetic, beach scene casts Hikaru and Misa as Adam and Eve. Their youthful dreams birth a new universe into which Minmay breathes the spark of life.

Characterization isn’t as in-depth as the television series, but rich nonetheless. Hikaru must have been the envy of every teenager in Japan, flying a transformable robot-jet and with not one, but two gorgeous girls madly in love with him. Plus with his gravity-defying hairdo, he’s a bit of a style icon. Gung-ho perhaps, but no cocky, Top Gun (1986) clone; he’s a dreamer, struggling with his family’s expectations, who finds fresh purpose when he commits to real love. Misa is buttoned down workaholic, driven by the ghost of her dead brother. Frightened of happiness, of standing out, and letting her talents shine. When Misa embraces life amidst the alien city, Hikaru finally sees she is beautiful woman. Minmay isn’t just a Disney heroine in space. A Chinese immigrant who loves to sing, her stardom supports her family and is the only thing she knows. Minmay wields tremendous power, but is shallow and immature. A Casablanca (1942) moment teaches her the meaning of sacrifice, and she winds up alone, but universally loved as a messiah figure.

A climactic space battle is like nothing you’ve ever seen before: Return of the Jedi (1983) meets Fantasia (1940). Laser-fire paints the cosmos rainbow colours. We follow Hikaru and Minmay amidst the slam-bang, psychedelic shootout as they hurtle towards the space-emperor’s lair. Minmay, poised atop the SDF, in spectacularly sexy frock leads the armada in a symphony of light and song. Even the silent coda lingers in the memory: an exhausted SDF crew fall asleep at their consuls, a silent gesture between Misa and Minmay seals their friendship. It’s out of this world.

Click here for the trailer
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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