Robotech, In Brief: Season’s Greetings

“ALL WILL BOW TO KHYRON!”

WHAT HAPPENS: In the jungles of South America, Khyron’s battle cruiser is being repaired. However, the reflex furnaces won’t work without additional Protoculture. Khyron knows where to find some, and orders his men to prepare to move out. On patrol, Rick thinks Lisa is deliberately avoiding him, while Minmei sits alone on a park swing, wondering what’s next for her. That night, as Rick makes dinner, he hears on the news that Minmei’s gone missing. He’s surprised to find her waiting at his door, and invites her in to warm up. She tells him that she keeps thinking of what she’s lost instead of being grateful for what she has. Rick tells her it sounds like self-pity. Minmei doesn’t want to sing anymore. He wonders if it has to do with Kyle. She says it doesn’t, but explains that they were too close, that it killed their relationship. As Lisa approaches Rick’s quarters, hoping to patch things up, she overhears Minmei telling Rick he’s the only one who really knows her. She begs him to let her stay. Rick agrees, and Lisa runs away. Claudia finds her in a bar, drinking and singing “My Time To Be A Star” quietly to herself. Christmas morning brings a squad of Battlepods to the industrial section of Macross City. Fighters are scrambled and the streets are evacuated. Khyron’s men are searching for the Protoculture. Exedore tells Gloval this is probably the case, and Lisa orders the Veritechs to defend the storage warehouse. Max and Miriya’s squadron does battle with Azonia’s Quadronos, which prevents them from interfering. Watching the news, Rick wonders why he wasn’t notified and rushes to headquarters. Skull One takes to the skies again as Khyron finds the Protoculture. Rick, Max, and Miriya try to cut off his escape, but they’re too late: he boards a Cyclops recon unit and orders his operative on the ground to set off bombs planted all over the city. Rick and the others are forced to give up their pursuit to begin putting out fires blazing across the city streets. As grateful carolers sing “Silent Night,” Minmei worries about Rick. Rick finds Lisa and demands to know why he wasn’t notified of the order to scramble. She tells Rick she knows about Minmei. He arrives home to find a Christmas dinner and a crying Minmei, overjoyed to see him alive and in one piece.

THOUGHTS: The penultimate chapter of The Macross Saga plays strangely when you’re watching it on a warm, summer-like spring day. It’s also a little weird to see the priest looking up at the image of Jesus in the battle-ravaged city, and to hear the people in the streets singing “Silent Night” of all things outside the church. How often do you see icons of Christianity in your anime Christmas episodes? Usually you see Santa — and what a Santa we have here, a Zentraedi terrorist bomber! — and Japanese traditions like Christmas cake, and those are present as well, as is the classic message of being grateful for having each other even if all your presents have been, say, destroyed by legions of mechanized troops or a terrorist bombing. (So Khyron is like the Grinch, only with more explosions at his beck and call.)

It’s a dramatic half hour, well directed with loads of atmosphere. I’ve always been impressed with how they manage to evoke the warmth of the Amazon to the point that you can almost smell the Zentraedi sweat. There’s also lots of interesting and tense editing tricks, as in the moment when Rick finds out about the enemy attack being intercut with him manning his fighter, or Minmei running home with her groceries as casualty figures come in intercut with her dropping a pineapple at the market — which then cuts right to an explosion in the industrial section.

The relationship drama is a bit frustrating and obvious, but it makes sense. Rick thinks he’s lost his shot with Lisa thanks to the picnic incident, Minmei has nowhere else to turn after Kyle walked away, Lisa wants to patch things up in the spirit of the season — and, to be fair to Rick, it’s obvious he’s still convinced nothing’s going to happen with Minmei. Yes, even with the kiss at the end. He’s too much like Lisa now, too practical, too mature. The picture she begins to paint at the end, him leaving the service because she’s so worried about him not coming home, it’s not something he can honestly entertain, not in a world that still needs him and people like him. Rick knows this.

I was really happy to see so many characters we haven’t seen in a few episodes get their moments, including the former Zentraedi spies (running a toy kiosk and failing to attract customers; I especially liked how they managed to, off-camera, get kicked out of the mall, which leaves me wondering exactly what they did), Max and Miriya, and Exedore and Gloval. The show teases a fight between Miriya and Azonia, which would be visually exciting, that red VF-1J against one of the deadliest craft in the Zentraedi arsenal manned by the Zentraedi’s greatest ace’s commanding officer. A shame their relationship was so underdeveloped that it’s profoundly uninteresting from a character standpoint. Did Miriya even like Azonia? She certainly didn’t seem to respect her authority at the time.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: After the newscaster reports that Minmei’s gone missing, if you listen carefully you’ll hear the first mention of the Southern Cross, stating that they’ve reported the sighting of a Zentraedi cruiser in the Amazon.

RICK’S STATE OF MIND: Ever helpful to his friends and a concerned professional in the field, Rick’s just trying to do well by others and do his job to the best of his ability, and Lisa’s jealous snit isn’t helping matters any.

DOES MINMEI SING? She’s still refusing to sing. Lisa, however, warbles “My Time To Be A Star” under the influence.

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3 thoughts on “Robotech, In Brief: Season’s Greetings

  1. “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Rick.”
    “May we have a million more like it.”
    Say WHAT?!? Okay, not exactly what I’d be wishing for after a Christmas like that…

    The scene with Lisa drinking and sadly singing Minmei songs to herself always breaks my heart.

    Also, one year (I think in 1986) WGBS-57 in Philadelphia actually aired this episode on Christmas. It wasn’t intentional; that’s just the day the episode landed on in the cycle!

  2. Damn, I’ve been away for a while.

    It’s wonderful to see the secondary characters again, when the lens of the series has narrowed to the main characters’ love triangle, and Khyron being a dick. They are the most necessary parts of the story, but the series loses some of its richness for this.

    This is a wonderful, sad poignant episode.

  3. Getting caught up…I’d forgotten how good this episode was, and it is rather interesting to see Christian imagery beyond Santa in a TV show, let alone one originally from Japan.

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