De culture! A beginner's guide to the Macross metaverse


For most people, Macross is a series about fighter jets that turn into planes, and somehow, singing becomes involved. While many got their first taste of De Culture with Macross Frontier, there is obviously a lot of depth to the series, spanning close to 30 years.

As part of today's Macross celebration, after the jump is a beginner's guide to Macross. You'll find a quick synopsis of each series in the franchise and some other fun things thrown in, like why you should totally hate Harmony Gold.

Follow the jump to get the full rundown on the Macross Franchise.

Basic Premise

Let's not lie here. This is a show about singing and fighter jets that turn into robots that fight aliens. For a more in depth premise, Macross is a series that tackles the various natures of human emotions. Like Mobile Suit Gundam 3 years before, Macross takes the space opera and focuses on how the characters relate to their combined experiences of war.Powerful human emotions, such as love, can overcome the most dire of odds and make an alien you just had a knife fight with marry you that same day. Love is like that.

Since its premiere in 1982, Super Dimension Fortress Macross has spawned a number of sequels and OVAs. Below you'll find a brief plot summary of each.

Series: Super Dimension Fortress Macross

Year: 1982
Episode Count: 36
Availability: On DVD in the US from AnimEgo and ADV (I suggest getting the AnimEgo version, as it has the original soundtrack and is only $40.)

Story: In the far-off fantasical future of 1999, a spacecraft the size of a city crashes to earth. In response, humanity fixes it up for their own needs, and 10 years later launch the SDF-1 Macross. Of course, shenanigans ensue, an alien race invades to attack the ship, the Macross takes off and disappears to the edge of space. Once entering space, they are confronted by the giant humanoid race known as the Zentradi. The Zentradi believe humanity to be their creators, the Protoculture. The Zentradi test mankind and their theories through multiple battles, eventually being confused and enticed by the most powerful of human emotions, love. Humanity is then seen as a threat to the existance of the Zentradi, and the first Space War occurs.

Series: Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?

Year: 1984
Episode Count: Movie
Availability: It was originally released in the US in two versions. The first is a Toho dubbed titled, "Superspace Fortress Macross," released in the late 80s on VHS. It was also released in a highly-edited dubbed titled "Clash of the Bionoids." Take a guess as to which version you should track down.

Story: Commonly abbreviated as DYRL, the feature film is a retelling of the original Macross series. There are a couple of changes to the series, specifically dealing with the origins of the SDF-1 and the backgrounds of characters. While it was originally described as an alternate storyline, it is later featured in Macross 7 as an in-series popular motion picture.

Series: Super Dimension Fortress Macross II: Lovers

Year: 1992
Episode Count: Movie or 6 episode OVA
Availability: Even though it had been released in 1992 in the US, it was the Manga Entertainment release in 1995 that became widely available. Currently, you can find the movie available on DVD (released by Manga in 2000) as well as on the iTunes Store and the Xbox 360 Marketplace.

Story: 80 years after the original Macross, humanity continues its expansion to the frontiers of space. The Zentradi threat is still being countered by the use of Minmay's music, but a new race of humanoid aliens, the Mardook, wish to subdue humanity to their control. Much like humanity fought the Zentradi with the songs of Lynn Minmay, the Mardook employ their own singers, Emulators, to enhance their own soldiers' fighting will. The story revolves around Hibiki Kanzaki, who finds himself with the Emulator Ishtar while covering a battle between humans and the Mardook.

Other Notes: While the series was originally produced as a sequel to the original Macross, Macross II has since been removed from official canon. Macross II was not produced by the original studio, Studio Nue. It is now referred to as an alternate storyline.

Series: Macross 7
Year: 1994
Episode Count: 49
Availability: It's current state is what I like to call, "Harmony Gold legal hell." Go find a fansub.

Story: Macross 7 takes place just 35 years after the events of the original series. The story revolves around the members of a rock band, Fire Bomber. Its members live aboard the Macross 7, which is commanded by ace pilot and pimp of Zentradis, Maximilian Jenius. The ship is actually composed of two parts, Battle 7 and City 7. Just like the original SDF-1, the Macross 7 also has a city component. City 7's mayor also happens to be Max's estranged wife, Milia Fallyna Jenius. Oh, and they have a daughter. Her name is Mylene Flare Jenius, she pilots a Valkyrie and she happens to be a member of Fire Bomber. See where this is going?

As you can probably guess, there's a new alien race called the Protodevlin. Unlike the Zentradi and Mardook, most are non-humanoid, resembling a giant devil-like creature. They seek out an energy that humans and Zentradi posses, spiritia. They are highly affected by song, but in the sense that its the energy of the sounds, not the emotion behind it. Through literally the power of their music, the members of Fire Bomber combat the Protodevlin with their song.

Other Notes: There is a lot debate revolving around the series, mainly dealing with its seriousness. Macross 7 can be best described as a light-hearted mecha series. The reason I say this is because the main pilot, Nekki Basara, fights the enemies not by shooting a gun, but by firing speaker pods at them and playing the guitar. If you're looking for a serious tone, this probably isn't for you.

Series: Macross Dynamite 7

Year: 1997
Episode Count: 4 episode OVA
Availability: See legal hell

Story: Taking place a year after the events of Macross 7, Nekki Basara leaves the crew behind to discover the universe with his only true companion, a guitar. He finds himself on the planet Zola, which is populated by the Zolan. Basara finds himself in a struggle between the Zolan and a group of whale pouchers. I'll just leave it here.

Other notes
: The series was produced in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the original Macross.

Series: Macross Plus

Year: 1994
Episode Count: 4 episode OVA and Movie
Availability: Released on DVD by Manga Entertainment in 2000

Story: 30 years following the original Macross, Project Super Nova seeks out the next valkyrie to be selected for production, the YF-19 and YF-21. The two test pilots are former friends, Isamu Alva Dyson in the YF-19 and Guld Goa Bowman in the YF-21. Their relationship is strained further as they attempt to settle their grudge through the test flights and direct combat.

Unknown to them, the project is cancelled to the development of a new valkryie, the Ghost X-9. The origin of Isamu's and Guld's strained relationship revolves around their mutual friend, Myung Fang Lone. Myung is the producer of the most popular singer, Sharon Apple, who happens to be an advanced AI program. Sharon's AI develops a conscious and takes over the Ghost X-9 as well as the SDF-1 Macross.

Other Notes: By far my favorite mecha designs in the Macross Franchise. The YF-19 and YF-21 is about as good as it can get. YF-19 & 21 > YF-25. Its soundtrack is also composed by Yoko Kanno. The series also has my favorite song of the franchise, Information High.

Series: Macross Zero
Year: 2002
Episode Count: 5 episode OVA
Availability: Did I mention I hate Harmony Gold?

Story: Zero is set as a prequel, taking place in the year 2008. The story details the end of the war between the U.N. Spacy and anti-UN forces. Shin Kudo, a UN pilot, lands on Mayan Island, which holds ties to what would become the SDF-1 Macross.

Other Notes: Like Macross Dynamite 7, Macross Zero is an anniversary series, this time commermorating the 20th Anniversary.

How Should You Watch Macross?

For many of those reading this background piece, your introduction to Deculture was through Macross Frontier. While the series is a good way to be introduced, I make the recommendation that the series be watched in its entirety starting from the beginning at Super Dimension Fortress Macross. You will grow to appreciate a lot of the nuances in Frontier, as they are direct references to the original series, such as the Chinese restaurant Nyan Nyan.

Why You Should Hate Harmony Gold

Harmony Gold is the company responsible for how many of us were introduced to Macross, the American series Robotech. Robotech was a combination of three different series; Super Dimenson Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Calvalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. This was common during the early days of anime and is not the reason they should be hated. It comes down to the licensing and the attitude taken to Macross appearing in the States.

The original licensing deal was signed between Tatsunoko Productions and Harmony Gold in 1985. This deal has prevented many Macross productions from coming to the states, although several productions were able to literally sneak in, as Harmony Gold did not pursue the productions until after their release. However, with Macross receiving a higher profile due to anime's rise in popularity at the early part of this decade, Harmony Gold has resurfaced to protect the Robotech franchise. To date, this legal action has prevented Macross 7 and Frontier from becoming licensed in the states.

The legal action even has stepped into the toy area, as domestically released toys must use the Robotech terminology. Ironically enough, the Transformer Jetfire, cannot be released in the Transformers series due to the fact the design of a VF-1S Valkryie was licensed for use from Big West, and not Tatsunoko.

Not content with interfering with animation and toys, Harmony Gold recently ordered a cease-and-desist to the makers of MechWarrior 5. The mech design of the Warhammer closely resembles the Destroid Tomahawk of Macross. Harmony Gold sued and won a case against the series creators citing copyright infringement. Oh, this is also a reason why we can't have Super Robot Wars in the States.

The best part of this whole copyright fiasco? Japanese courts have ruled that the true license rights for the Macross Franchise belong to Studio Nue and not Tatsunoko Productions. Even though this is the case, the cost of the legal proceedings to secure said rights in the US make it financially unfeasible to pursue the license.

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Andres Cerrato
Andres Cerrato   gamer profile


Filed under... #Macross



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