Robotech, In Brief: Bursting Point

“It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? Commander Fokker was always so proud of the fact he’d never been shot down, and now he’s gone and I get his plane: me, the guy who’s ALWAYS being shot down.”

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

WHAT HAPPENS: Captain Gloval tempts fate by ordering the SDF-1 over a populated area. He hopes that by making a big show and airing his grievances over the radio to headquarters, someone in government will overhear and take in the ship’s civilian population. Claudia and Rick are still mourning Roy Fokker; Lisa sees Claudia grieving alone and leaves her be, but chats with Rick about the civilians and the ship’s new omnidirectional barrier system. Meanwhile, heading backstage following a concert, Minmei faints in Kyle’s arms. On the bridge, good news arrives: the North American Ontario Quadrant will take in the citizens of Macross City. In orbit, Azonia asks Miriya for help keeping Khyron on his leash, but Miriya wishes to become a micronian spy; she intends to find the ace who bested her and kill him. Ben and Max find Rick checking out his new aircraft assignment, Roy’s Skull One. Khyron leads a frontal attack on SDF-1; they appear on the ship’s radar just as it’s entering Ontario airspace. Rick leads Skull Squadron to fend them off as Khyron’s aide Grel stages an ambush on SDF-1 with a fleet of cruisers. While the other fighters do battle, Rick spots the cruisers and Gloval orders the new barrier up. Khyron orders a laser bombardment and is furious when SDF-1 emerges completely unscathed. He orders his fleet to keep firing until he says otherwise. The pressure begins to overload the barrier and Rick is ordered to draw away the enemy ships, but it’s too little, too late; the barrier chain reacts and Skull Squadron is ordered to clear the area. Rick and Max hit their jets, but Ben’s Veritech is torn apart by the barrier overload, along with the Zentraedi fleet and the city below. SDF-1 emerges relatively unscathed, but Ontario withdraws their offer to resettle the civilians. Outside the hospital, the press needles Kyle about Minmei’s condition and he takes the opportunity to call for an end to the war. Meanwhile, Minmei calls Rick to assure him she was just tired from overwork and to ask him to visit, but without saying a word he hangs up.

THOUGHTS: Toshihiro Hirano (Megazone 23, Iczer) has his fingerprints all over the character art in this episode, and it looks tremendous; the girls especially are all lovingly rendered, there’s a lot of dramatic angles on the SDF-1, and the battle scenes all look quite nifty, with some quite fluid and flashy laser effects. Some of the dialog’s a bit awkward, most notably Rick and Lisa’s sort-of unnatural discussion of the barrier and Rick’s rambling about the irony of him getting Roy’s Veritech, but in an episode that looks this good and delivers so many brutal blows, it can easily be forgiven. And the blows are brutal: SDF-1 accidentally creates a 50-mile-diameter hole in the Canadian landscape, loses its only hope of resettling the civilians, and loses another one of its named defenders in battle, Ben Dixon. It’s a daring move, and the poor guy doesn’t even get a big flashy episode to telegraph his passing; just an uneaten steak, which is a clue, but not a big one. While I understand Rick hanging up on Minmei after the day he’s had, it is a bit unfair of him given that she was nice enough to try to make time for him when he was laid up; I guess she’s just lucky he didn’t snap at her. The only minus is the Zentraedi end of things, again, as Azonia once more proves her command incompetence, letting Khyron and Miriya both walk all over her. Is it any wonder Dolza makes the decision he does in the next episode?

FIRSTS OF NOTE: First appearance of the SDF-1’s omnidirectional barrier system. Also the first time Rick Hunter has flown Skull One. While not a first, this is also the rare moment where Rick flips down his helmet visor ala the opening animation where it isn’t just that opening animation repeated. Finally, we see the first overt religious reference, as Max Sterling makes the sign of the cross after Ben Dixon dies.

RICK’S STATE OF MIND: Melancholy and emotionally exhausted; while his physical wounds have healed, losing Roy took a lot out of him, and now that he’s taking Roy’s spot, he’s also filled with more self-doubt than he’s had since he first found himself in a Veritech cockpit at the end of “Boobytrap” — and this time Roy’s not going to swoop down and give him a pep talk. Losing Ben during his first time out in Skull One only makes matters worse, adding more weight to his burdened soul.

DOES MINMEI SING? “To Be In Love” is piped in over the public address system in the area where Claudia’s sobbing into her coffee and Rick’s staring out the window forlornly. She was obviously also just singing right before she collapses, but we are not privy to the performance.