Robotech, In Brief: Transformation

“Join us, Rick. Join the Robotech forces and quit all this moping around.”

“I don’t want to be a fighter pilot!”

Read my 365 Days of Robotech write-up on “Transformation” from last summer here.

WHAT HAPPENS: At Minmei’s suggestion, her aunt and uncle reopen their restaurant, despite the fact that their hometown is now in the belly of a spaceship on the edge of the Solar System. As the citizens of Macross City start to get used to the new normal, Chief Engineer Lang reports to Captain Gloval that with the loss of the fold system the SDF-1’s main gun cannot be fired unless the entire ship undergoes a transformation that will leave the city in ruins. Speaking of ruins, having overheard Minmei assure a table of customers that she and Rick are “just friends,” Rick Hunter mopes over the wreckage of his fanjet racer. Roy recommends he join the military, and later, at a park overlooking the city, Minmei has the same thought. Meanwhile, under the advice of his aide Exedore, Zentraedi commander Breetai resumes his pursuit of the SDF-1. The Zentraedi up the pressure on the battle fortress until Gloval gives in and orders the full ship transformation. The firing of the main gun sends the Zentraedi packing, but as Lang warned, the city is left in shambles. Seeing the devastation, Rick decides he will join the defense forces.

THOUGHTS: A low-key, downbeat episode, with Rick out of sorts and a victory that doesn’t feel particularly victorious. The title works on multiple levels; on the first, Rick worries that Minmei has “transformed” — though if she has, it’s back to normal for her, to the way she was before they met. The second is the literal transformation that takes place on the sci-fi action side of things, turning the ship into something that looks like a robot and the city into a pile of rubble. In the end, what changes most of all is Rick Hunter’s life, as he decides to join the Robotech forces. Two things bugged me during this viewing. First, the battle felt short, and while the escalation of the fight is well conveyed, it still seemed to me that Gloval got fed up and ordered the transformation pretty quickly, despite the obvious consequences. Probably just a consequence of the fact that the focus of the episode isn’t on the action — it’s on Rick and Minmei. Second, I’m still not entirely sure why Rick joins the military. The way the episode is constructed it looks like he’s supposed to see the devastation and decide to join up, but Tony Oliver doesn’t play it that way, and neither does the script; sure, he sees the ruined city and then declares that he’s going to enlist, but nothing about the way the scene runs suggests that one occurs because of the other. From what he says, I think he figured there’s no reason not to. As I got on about last summer, Rick’s the one person aboard the SDF-1 who doesn’t belong; he just came to Macross Island to visit Roy. Now that Minmei’s “just a friend” and back to her normal life, and his plane is a wreck, he needs to find his own place in this world, and since flying is his one marketable skill, that doesn’t give him a lot of options — especially when the only two people he knows here are both telling him this is a good idea.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: We see our first Destroids, the Spartan (Gladiator, per 1986-1998 “canon”) and Monster (Mac II, likewise). We also see the aircraft carriers attached to the SDF-1 for the first time. Of course, the biggie is the first transformation of the SDF-1 to its humanoid attack configuration — and while I appreciate that the creators were trying to come up with a realistic excuse to turn the space ship into a robot, it does ring a little hollow. Really, moving all these parts around is the only way to connect point A to point B to get the main gun to fire?

RICK’S STATE OF MIND: Sullen, directionless and confused.

DOES MINMEI SING? No, but she hums the Wedding March as our story opens.


One thought on “Robotech, In Brief: Transformation

  1. By the time of the episode’s end, Rick decides to join the RDF. By the time he graduates, a certain someone who was once called ‘That Ol’ Sourpuss’ by him becomes frustrated by the fact that he made it into the RDF forces.

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