Sacred Cows: “Robotech” (Part 2) (Spoilers)

agosto 16, 2012 at 10:49 pm (Animation, Anime, Sacred Cows) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The second cycle of Robotech, known as The Robotech Masters, The Masters Saga or simply The Masters, is often considered the black sheep of the series, and it’s not hard to see why: it takes longer to find its footing; its character and mecha designs don’t have the immediate appeal of Macross or MOSPEADA‘s; and the conflicts between the script and the footage are far more pronounced, since Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross‘ overall scenario–about the two-mooned planet Glorie, which was immigrated to and terraformed after Earth became uninhabitable,  and which is now being attacked by its previous inhabitants–had to be changed completely for it to fit Robotech.   Things like the nature of the antagonists and what the characters are supposed to know change from episode to episode; footage is rearranged in ways that contradict the established continuity (particularly in the first episode, a clip show made from scratch to tie the cycle with the one that preceded it), and in short, it just doesn’t make that sense a lot of the time.

Still, it’s not hard to see why it was chosen as a follow-up for Macross, despite everything.  It turns Robotech into a story that is not only multi-generational—The Masters stars the children of the first Robotech warriors–but cyclical, as events repeat themselves and allow for a deeper thematic exploration than was available in the original Japanese material.  Here we once again have romance between earthlings and aliens, unity through music, bellicose leaders whose belief that hard power is the only worthwhile power ends badly for them, and the near destruction human civilization, in ways that are interesting in their own right.  They suggest that even with The Macross Saga’s hopeful ending, humanity is still humanity, and happy endings are something you can only find after spending time digging in the rubble after the smoke clears.

Fifteen years after the SDF-1’s destruction at the end of The Macross Saga, Earth is still under the rule of a military government– specifically, the Army of the Southern Cross (ASC), under control of Supreme Commander Anatole Eli Leonard.  The heroes of the First Robotech War have long since left Earth as part of a diplomatic mission in an attempt to forestall future conflict, which means that they aren’t available when the Robotech Masters arrive, ready to retrieve the Protoculture Matrix which they need in order to replenish their own dwindling supplies of the power source and keep their civilization going.

While The Macross Saga was as much about the civilians as it was about the soldiers, this one is all about the latter.  Our three protagonists all occupy positions in the armed forces, and in fact, the only civilians we properly meet are all part of the attacking alien fleet—a reversal of the previous arc’s dynamic.  First and foremost is Dana Sterling, half-human/half-Zentraedi daughter of The Macross Saga‘s Max and Miriya Sterling, who leads the 15th Squadron of the ASC’s Alpha Tactical Armored Corps.  Cheerful, optimistic, and only vaguely acquainted with any concept of military discipline, she is a pain in her superior’s asses, a fact which she makes up for by being a crack hovertank pilot and a capable leader.  Attempting to keep Dana in line is GMP (“Global Military Police”–The Masters is awash in initialism) officer Nova Satori, whose basic competence would perhaps be more evident in a story in which she wasn’t set out as a foil, but whom I really like anyway.  Rounding up the triumvirate is ace pilot Marie Crystal, unit leader at the ASC’s Tactics Armored Space Corps, whose role is to give a face to the numerous space battles and to provide Dana with a friendly rival.

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Sacrificial Goat Review: “Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia” (Spoilers)

julio 31, 2012 at 8:50 pm (Reviews, Sacred Cows, Sacrificial Goats, Videogames & Vidcons) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve never had high expectations for the stories in Castlevania games. The series have never really been at home with anything more elaborate than instruction booklet blurbs, and it seemed to me that the best one could ever hope for, given the series’ gameplay mechanics was to get one that at least managed to be low-key and inoffensive.  So when I eventually went and got my used copy of Order of Ecclesia—with most of its secrets (including—YES!!– Hard Mode) unlocked—I wasn’t expecting a lot.  I certainly wasn´t expecting to be disgusted.

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On Robotech: Minmay X Minmei

julio 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm (Animation, Anime, Commentary, Sacred Cows, Tropes that annoy) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Content Note: Depression

Note: For the uninitiated, here’s a quick and dirty (and severely abriged) Macross-to-Robotech dictionary.  Japanese terms to the left, with Harmony Gold’s names at the right . 

Super Dimension Fortress Macross –> Robotech

Hikaru Ichijou –> Rick Hunter

Misa Hayase –> Lisa Hayes

Lynn Minmay –> Lynn Minmei

Lynn Kaifun –> Lynn Kyle

In case it wasn’t obvious from my previous post on the subject, I’ve been thinking a lot about Robotech lately, rewatching the entire series on DVD and consuming whatever additional material the internet machine can provide, including material from its source material.  Among that is Macross Flashback 2012, the charming OVA featuring Lynn Minmay’s final concert before her departure from Earth in the SDF-2 Megaroad 01.  It’s cheery and optimistic, and it presents some interesting contrasts between the approaches Tatsunoko/Studio Nue and Harmony Gold’s took to the character. 

While Macross and Robotech both tell the same basic story, the come at it from different places, and both take different things from it.  While determining these differences presents some difficulties when they both share the same footage (although not impossible—see “protoculture”) it becomes a bit clearer when you look at what each company produced afterwards, particularly as they relate to the character of Minmei. 

For the bulk of both series, Minmei is characterized is the brave, cheerful, inspiring woman whose spirit proves to be greatest single factor in the transformation of the SDF-1’s civilian population from a collection of refugees to a vibrant community, and whose fame helps bridge civilizations and end the war between the human and the Zentraedi.    Without firing a single shot, Minmei became as great a war hero as Max Sterling, Lisa Hayes, or Henry Gloval.

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Sacred Cows: “Robotech” (Part 1)

junio 17, 2012 at 1:35 am (Animation, Anime, Sacred Cows, sexism) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Back in MY day we localized the hell out of Japanese stuff. We took three different shows, jammed them together, called it “Robotech”, and we LIKED it!Youtube commenter TheGreatLordZedd

Robotech is easy to appreciate but hard to like.  On one hand, it’s a decade ahead of its time, featuring a level of complexity, realism, and ambition that Western Animation wouldn’t even begin replicating until Batman: TAS and which still hasn’t been equaled in some aspects.  On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that it’s held together by nothing but duct tape and passion, and a level of amateurishness permeates the whole production, which prevents me from calling a lot of it “well-made” a lot of the time.

But damn if I don’t love it anyway.  It’s got charm and guts and heart, and the way it came about was so unlikely that I can’t help but be impressed.  Here’s a story composed out of three completely different–yet thematically similar–anime, stitched together to form an overarching narrative.  And it works.  Oh, sure, you don’t need to look very hard to find the (many, many) seams, but if you squint just right, it’s a fantastic story.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead)

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Sacred cows, vidcon edition: “Dreamfall: The Longest Journey”

mayo 11, 2012 at 12:10 am (Reviews, Sacred Cows, Videogames & Vidcons) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Warning, there be spoilers ahead. Earlier last month, the forums for the videogame website selectbutton.net hosted a conversation about the one game we would champion, if we could only champion one game for the rest of our lives.  While there are lot of vidcons I like, my choice was easy–not because its perfect, but because its flaws don’t stop it from being one of the most affecting pieces of fiction I’ve ever experienced.

The facts are these: released in 2006, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was the sequel/spinoff to 1999’s The Longest Journey.  While the original game was an adventure game in the traditional point-and-click sense, Dreamfall is more actiony; there’s some combat, there are stealth portions and in general, the game seems much more in your face than its predecessor.  It’s also a lot more ambitious. Not that ambition helps make it a good videogame–it isn’t.  Its action segments require more fluidity than a keyboard can provide, and its various puzzles are brain teasers only in the sense that they suggest a challenge that they don’t deliver.  Large stretches of the game consist of walking from cutscene to cutscene, which is as close as you can get to a capital crime in any videogame. And yet…

In its thirty-something year history, videogames have become rather good at telling enjoyable stories.  It’s not something everyone can do, but there’s a pretty established template of things to do vs. things to avoid.  And thus, we have videogames with fun stories, entertaining stories, exciting stories, and stories that make you go “hell, yeah”.  I would say, however, that there are very few stories that could be considered moving–stories that get deep into your soul (assuming you believe in one) and stay with you.   Before Dreamfall, I could name two, and they belonged to the same franchise. Lee el resto de esta entrada »

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