“Miss what? Macross? I wish you hadn’t entered that …”
Read my 365 Days of Robotech write-up on “Miss Macross” from last summer here.
WHAT HAPPENS: Lynn Minmei is just one of twenty-eight girls entered into the Miss Macross beauty pageant, held by Macross City’s MBS television network. The Zentraedi are confused by dodgy intercepted promos for the event and send a Cyclops scout ship to intercept and record these strange transmissions. As Rick Hunter cheers Minmei on, a call comes down from the bridge ordering him to suit up and investigate the enemy ship. Rick launches in an armored Veritech Battloid, but rather than listen to orders, he tunes into the pageant; the Zentraedi intelligence officers aboard the Cyclops are watching as well and are baffled. The war-minded aliens are surprised to see men and women together and can’t fathom what purpose this transmission might serve. Having been caught off-guard by a missile volley from the enemy ship, Rick unleashes the armored Veritech’s entire payload at the Cyclops. The Zentraedi are forced to eject without their recording, and when Rick bursts in and discovers they were watching the pageant, the ship explodes around him. He recovers just in time to flip on his screen and see that the people of Macross City have crowned Minmei Miss Macross.
THOUGHTS: In an age of reality television and overnight YouTube celebrities, the story of Lynn Minmei being chosen by her friends and neighbors in Macross City to be their media darling resonates even more than it did in the 1980s; indeed, during my interrupted viewing of the series last summer, I was surprised to find a lot of the business with Minmei from here on out felt like a microcosm (Macross City only has the one star) and echo of our modern celebrity-obsessed culture. Replace the electronic boxes the pageant announcer mentions with a code to text to from the viewers’ cell phones and you could tell the exact same story today, complete with Roy Fokker’s cynical belief that nobody but bona fide movie star Jan Morris could win because the whole thing’s a stunt to promote her career. At the same time, the Japanese production team wisely spliced in a super-cool mechanized missile duel between Rick’s one-off armored Veritech and an enemy scout ship to hold the attention of those who are more interested in robots than cartoon girls. It’s this juxtaposition that makes it one of my favorite episodes, best exemplified by Minmei’s inane beauty contest babbling playing in the background as Rick tries to avoid the enemy missiles. While “Blitzkrieg” is a better show piece for the series and its blend of ordinary and extraordinary drama, I’d wager “Miss Macross” would be a more unforgettable first episode; if a first-time viewer liked this one, I’d wager he or she would become a Robotech fan for life.
FIRSTS OF NOTE: We get our first inklings of the Zentraedi way of life when their intelligence officers are bewildered at the sight of a man and a woman together in the same room, and their attempts to piece together what they’re seeing are both interesting and amusing — is the girl wearing armor? Is it formal military dress? Maybe she isn’t what she seems — maybe it’s a weapon that just LOOKS like a girl. By the same token, it’s the first time we meet these three intelligence officers: Rico, Konda, and Bron, the real unsung heroes of the First Robotech War. They’re not big flashy characters, but without them and their curiosity things would go very differently from here on out.
RICK’S STATE OF MIND: Annoyed and flustered. Minmei couldn’t see him for dinner the day before the pageant, he didn’t want Minmei in the pageant in the first place, he didn’t get to watch the pageant live, Lisa got on his case about using the wrong equipment for patrol, and because he was trying to watch the pageant he got blown up and missed the finale. Definitely a day to put in the “lose” column.
DOES MINMEI SING? No, even though the first time we heard of the Miss Macross pageant was in connection with a letter regarding a singing audition back in “Transformation” (a connection invented by the Robotech writers, adding some foreshadowing despite the text visible in the letter).