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Super Dimension Fortress Macross Vol. 2 - Under Crimson Skies
The first story arc of Super Dimension Fortress Macross, or just Macross for short, is well underway and going strong in this second volume. If you're a fan of Robotech, the English edited version of this show, you'll know that there are some great episodes included on this disc including the Miss Macross competition, landing on Mars, and Hikaru getting captured by the enemy. With a restored picture and 5.1 audio in both English (for the first time) and Japanese this is the version to pick up if you don't have the OOP Animeigo set.
The story starts in 1999. A giant space fortress, heavily damaged, warps into our solar system. Hurtling uncontrolled through space, the unmanned ship crashes into a small island on Earth. This triggers the Unification Wars that end with all of the nations of Earth under one flag that studies the ship and its strange technology. A city is built on the island where the ship crashed.
Over the next ten years, the ship is studied and repaired. Using the newly discovered knowledge a fleet of jets is built that can transform into giant robots. Then, on the day that the rebuilt space fortress, named the Macross, is to take its maiden voyage, the Zentraedi attack. These aliens have been searching for the damaged space fortress because they too want the technology that it contains. And they are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way.
The show centers on the adventures of Hikaru Ichijyo, a young pilot who grew up doing stunts with his father's flying circus. On the day the Macross launches, Hikaru ends up in the battle for the island thanks in part to his idol and best friend is Major Roy Focker. While in the battle, the hot-shot pilot rescues a young girl, Lynn Minmay, who has aspirations to become a singer. The two end up living on the Macross together, but their relationship is anything but clear.
The disc starts off with one of my favorite episodes in the series, Bye-Bye Mars. The Macross is getting closer to Earth, fighting all the way, and has reached Mars. Picking up a distress signal, Captain Gloval lands his ship outside of the colony Earth set up on the red planet and sends Misa Hayase out to investigate. Misa had a boyfriend who was stationed on Mars, he's the reason she joined the military in the first place, she had hoped to be stationed close to him. She desperately wants to see if there's any chance that he's still alive. Unfortunately it turns out that the whole thing was a trap set by the Zentraedi, one that ends up backfiring on the aliens.
The show starts developing characters at this point, giving them a background and making them more than just one dimensional caricatures. It doesn't do this by sacrificing the plot or action elements of the show however, as this episode illustrates. A touching and exciting episode and one that will have a big impact on the rest of the story.
Lynn Minmay is well represented in this volume too. She turns 16 and enters the Miss Macross competition. (When the Zentraedi tap into the televised signal of the pageant it has an unexpected effects.) The new popularity that she's gaining has Rick a little worried. He's happy for her, but he also wishes that she's pay more attention to him.
Hikaru is also promoted because of the events that transpired on Mars. Not only does he have a higher rank, but he obtains two subordinates: Max and Kakizaki. The volume ends up with Misa, Hikaru and Kakizaki getting captured by the enemy, with little chance of them ever escaping.
This is a classic show and with good reason. It's a lot of fun to watch. The show is full of action and excitement, just about every episode has a battle scene with laser cannons blasting and ships exploding. The program isn't just combat, there is a good deal of interpersonal relationships and a touch of romance. It's a well rounded show that manages to balance the fighting with drama.
The volume contains the next five episodes of the series on a single DVD. It comes in a single width keepcase. There is an insert that has the lyrics to the end song in both English and Japanese.
For the first time the original Macross has an English dub. This disc offers the choice of either the original Japanese track in stereo or a 5.1 English dub. Both soundtracks are very good, and the English 5.1 is particularly impressive. The sound during the frequent battle scenes is very cool. They make full use of the sound stage, with planes swooshing from the rear to the front and all over the room. There are laser blasts coming from all corners. This part of the mix is very dynamic and exciting, the audio track really puts you in the middle of things. Unfortunately, after the battles end, the sound collapses to what is basically a stereo mix. The dialog is centered over the screen, and rarely moves about. Even the music is piped to the front speakers most of the time. The audio quality is good too. There is no hiss or hums, and the dialog is clear and clean. There are English subtitles available too.
Since this series has been already released in Japanese with English subs, the reason most people will want to get this edition is for the English dub. ADV is one of the better companies when it comes to creating dubs for their titles and they did a very good job on this one too. While the voices are different than the Robotech voices that we are all used to, these new voices fit the characters very well. Everyone is voiced by pros who know how to bring a character to life, and they really go the extra distance to make these nearly iconic characters seem real.
The only problem I had with the dub was with Mari Iijima and Minmay's voice. It just doesn't fit at all. First of all Mari sounds much too old to be the young and bubbly waitress/singer. Her voice has matured over the years and you can tell by listening that Mari is no longer a teenager herself. Also she has an accent that is fairly heavy. Ironically the accent sounds out of place when the rest of the cast are native English speakers. Sometimes this accent also makes it hard to understand what she's saying. Whenever Minmay opens her mouth I'm taken out of the moment and reminded that she's just a cartoon character. While I can understand why ADV wanted to have Mari on board for the project, she just doesn't work.
This show was previously restored and released on DVD by Animeigo, and ADV is almost certainly using the same elements as the earlier release. It looks very good. The lines are tight and clean, and the colors are bright and solid. There were a few spots and other imperfections in the image that looked like they were on the cells themselves , but they were not a major problem. The 1.33:1 presentation is overall very good.
This disc has another good set of extras. It starts with The Legacy of Minmay: An Interveiw with Mari Iijima. In this 10½-minute interview the actress who originally voiced the plucky singer in the series talks about how she first discovered that the show she was working on was a big hit, and how this effected her life. The commentary track for this volume is on episode 9 and features Mari Iijima (Minmay) and Vic Mignola (Hikaru.)
In addition there are a series of liner notes (the same ones that accompanied Animeigo's release of the series) a clean opening. There is also a five-minute interview with translator Javier Lopez who worked on the script for the dub. He talks about some specific scenes where the translation was either difficult or where the visual were showing something that viewers might miss. I never really caught the fact that a group of guys walks through the red light district that's been rebuilt on the Macross.
Should I upgrade?:
Probably not. The only reason to upgrade from the Animeigo set (if you're lucky enough to own their out-of-print boxed set) is if you want the English dub. I actually enjoyed the original English Robotech voices that I've known for years a bit more than this dub, so if you have that I think you're covered.
On the other hand, if you've never seen the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross this is a fun show and you might want to pick this up. It depends on how much of a Robotech fan you are. The changes aren't drastic, but there are some and it's nice to see this seminal series the way it was meant to be viewed.
Super Dimension Fortress Macross is a classic series that every anime fan should see at least once, and this DVD really fits the bill. With a restored image and soundtrack, the show has never looked better. This volume in particular is a great one, with some great episodes that develop personalities and also have some exciting action sequences. If you've been holding off buying the original Robotech, this would be the set to get. Highly Recommended.