Robotech, In Brief: Reconstruction Blues

“Unfortunately what I feared has come to pass. The aliens among us are reverting to their former ways.”

“I put down the rebels, sir!”

“Not really. You just put down a symptom, Commander.”

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

WHAT HAPPENS: Two years have passed. As Rick Hunter patrols the wastelands of North America, he spots a field of sunflowers in the shadow of a ruined Veritech Fighter. He’s so surprised that he touches down for a closer look. His wingmen fear the worst, as he’s not answering his radio. In New Macross City, the metropolis surrounding the crater where the SDF-1 touched down two years ago, Lisa Hayes is cleaning Rick’s home and makes the mistake of flipping through his photo album, which is filled with pictures of Minmei. Returning to his patrol, Rick hears a concert on the radio out of Granite City. Minmei and Kyle are on their “People Helping People” tour, stopping by cities on the mend to support their efforts. Rick’s wingman radios him and chides him for not bringing his transceiver when he left his plane. After assuring the squadron he’ll keep in contact Rick heads for Granite, where he catches the tail end of Minmei’s concert from afar. As Twilight sets on Granite, Kyle drinks and moans about being paid in food and supplies. Minmei is sick of listening to Kyle blame the military for the state of civilization, and reminds him that this was supposed to be a benefit, not an opportunity for a big payout. Rick is watching the drama from behind a pile of rubble when Vanessa radios him to head to New Portland; they’re under attack from Zentraedi renegades. The city is in flames when Rick’s squadron arrives, menaced by rampaging Battlepods. Rick is still en route; Lisa accuses him of dereliction of duty, as she’s got a fair idea where he was and isn’t happy about it. He touches down and quickly handles the situation, cutting down two Battlepods while a third retreats. When he returns to Macross City, Lisa’s asks how things were with Minmei; Rick assures her he didn’t get to see her. He’s ordered to see Admiral Gloval, and Lisa hands him an envelope of photos — pictures of Lisa for his album. Gloval tells Rick that things are passing as he feared; the aliens are reverting to their former ways. Consequently, he is assigning the aliens to work situations where the military can keep an eye on them. Gloval has Rick’s full support.

THOUGHTS: A low-key first chapter to the final stretch of The Macross Saga, “Reconstruction Blues” redefines relationships and implies that the past two years of rebuilding have passed mostly without incident. Rick is busy with patrols, while Lisa pines away for him without saying a word to catch his attention. The world is operating under a military government, and consequently anti-military Lynn Kyle is drinking himself stupid and lashing out at the only structure the Earth has, much to Minmei’s frustration. It’s sad to see Minmei like this, following around an angry drunk and singing on stages that look like something out of a small county fair. For that matter it’s sad to see Lisa so fixated on Rick but so hesitant about taking any action to reel him in. I guess the Japanese creators had to keep the love triangle going in some way after the show was picked up for another handful of episodes, but Rick dropping in on Minmei and watching her from afar like a stalker and Lisa keeping Rick at arm’s length while deep inside wanting to grab and hold him doesn’t look good for either of them. I do like the new setting, what little we see of it — pockets of normal broken up by long stretches of crater-marked desolation. It’s a relatable post-armageddon setting, allowing our heroes to continue with their normal soap operatics, but when they get down to business there’s a sense that the world’s more desperate than it seems from the cozy confines of Macross City. My biggest problem with the episode is that while Gloval’s decision at the end makes sense when dealing with forty-foot giants bred for war, what he’s saying is that his military government is going to clamp down on the freedoms of certain citizens based on their genetic makeup due to the actions of a handful of renegades. Yes, they were the aggressors in the war. Yes, their size makes them capable of great destruction. But many of them died for peace as well, and several even risked their lives to join in this society before the ceasefire. And now Gloval is telling them where they can and cannot live, what jobs they can and cannot have? Perhaps treating them like any other citizens isn’t practical, but true freedom never really is. That final scene leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: The tail end of The Macross Saga is full of firsts: there’s a new, more sprawling Macross City; Max and Miriya have a new baby, Dana; and our heroes are serving a new role, civil defense, so Battlepods are being disabled rather than destroyed. After all, the renegades piloting them aren’t enemy soldiers: they’re criminals,. Minmei has a couple of new songs, too, “The Right Move” (the only existing snippet of which we hear in this episode) and “It’s You” (later covered by piano bar singer George Sullivan).

RICK’S STATE OF MIND: Rick is again wondering what he’s doing with his life; certainly a world on the mend still has need for protectors, as we see, but wandering the wastelands watching the grass grow is getting old. He’s still thinking about Minmei, but that seems to be the extent of it; he’s not with Lisa, but that seems to be more her problem than his.

DOES MINMEI SING? Rick catches her singing “The Man in My Life” out of Granite City. She then goes into the aforementioned “The Right Move” and “It’s You.” In Macross City, “My Time To Be A Star” is the noise pollution that drives Lisa away.


One thought on “Robotech, In Brief: Reconstruction Blues

  1. The continuing love triangle is tiresome, especially considering the level of resolution that seemed to have occurred in the previous episode. I suppose Rick and Lisa could have grown apart over the past two years, but considering Lisa’s pining, its almost as if the events of Force of Arms didn’t even occur, much less anything in the past two years, which is itself seemingly contradicted by the fact Lisa has keys to Rick’s house. Before I re-watched this episode, I could have sworn they were shacking up together. The evidence isn’t quite as clear now, but in any case, the situation is really odd, and doesn’t reflect well on anyone involved.

    I think we have to take care in how we approach the Zentraedi situation. For example, your analysis is predicated on two assumptions which, as far as I know, are not substantiated in the animation. First, we don’t know anything about the legal structure of the new government, so we can’t rule out the possibility that even human “citizens” have limited rights in terms of their freedom of where to live and work. In which case, Gloval would be treating the Zentraedi as any other citizen. Second, and more importantly, even if we assume that the current UEG is a representative republic with a free-market economic system, we still don’t know the legal status of the aliens. Are they actually citizens? Immigrants? Refugees? Foreign nationals? This is not a trivial distinction.

    Refugees, for example, are often placed in specific locations and given specific job training, so their movement to a different location would not be unheard of in this context – even in a liberal Western democracy.

    Citizenship also presents a challenge as there would be an expectation for the Zentraedi to, at the very least, learn about human culture and government institutions prior to the granting of citizenship, and there would probably be a waiting period as well. More problematic would be the need to revoke previous allegiances. Would this be a problem? I don’t know. For people who have only known a military society, the explicit rejection of their previous allegiance to that society for an alien one (as opposed to simply allying with it) might be hard – although if done, they will probably be fiercely loyal to the new society. But if that can’t be done, then you definitely have a recipe for problems.

    My guess is that most of the Zentraedi on Earth are not full citizens (at least not yet) in any conventional sense. More likely, they exist as some combination of refugee/foreign national in that their presence on Earth is regulated by some sort of over-aching agreement between the UEG and a kind of quasi independent (transitionary?) Zentraedi “nation.” Basically, the Zentraedi are free to live on Earth, but the UEG reserves certain rights in regulating their location/jobs etc. Oversight of these regulations would occur at the inter-government level such that you could view the Zentraedi’s legal rights as being defined through “treaties” as opposed to a UEG constitution. Where possible, incidents would be handled by the respective governmental bodies.

    This framework actually goes along way in explaining the battle pod engagements. You noted how the battle pods are disabled rather than destroyed. But even if the Zentraedi pilots are classified as criminals rather than soldiers, the use of lethal force by “police” against and armed criminal would still be justified (at least under most legal systems). Indeed, to not use lethal force in such a situation arguable risks more lives. So why is the civil defense force going out of its way to avoid killing Zentraedi? This could just be good politics to avoid extra discontent, but it also might be actual policy – i.e. as part of the intergovernmental framework defining the regulation of human-Zentraedi activities, the UEG guarantees leniency toward malcontent elements. In short, the UEG reserves certain rights to curtain Zentraedi freedom of movement on Earth, but it is in turn limited in how it can use (ad hoc) force in small-scale or criminal incidents without consulting the relevant parties.

    I will say though that regardless of the alien’s legal standing, it might make more sense for Gloval to figure out where the Zentraedi are getting their weapons before jumping to isolation as a solution.

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