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Super Dimension Fortress Macross Volume 1
Reviewed by Kevin Pezzano, © 2006

Format: Anime
By:   ADV Films
Genre:   Sci-Fi
Review Date:   March 04, 2006
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

"You're that civilian, aren't you!"

"And you're that old lady!"

"WHAT?!"

"I mean, excuse me, ma'am!" — Hikaru and Misa meet face to face for the first time

Most anime available in the U.S. gets one release, usually a dual-language DVD, and that's it. Some anime manage to get two separate releases, usually an unedited and/or redubbed version of a previously-released anime, such as the first two seasons of Sailor Moon, or the uncut and redubbed Nausicaa. By my count, this is the third release of Super Dimension Fortress Macross, which has to be some kind of record.

Macross has been previously available on our shores as the classic 1985 adaptation for syndicated TV Robotech, and a sub-only, remastered, hard-to-find AnimEigo release. ADV's latest reissue uses AnimEigo's remastered original footage and Japanese soundtrack mix, so if you missed out on uncut subtitled Macross before, you don't have to feel left out any more. If you DID purchase it the first time around, ADV has made enough changes here to keep you from feeling too ripped off. Not only is there an all-new subtitle translation and a boatload of DVD extras, but for the first time ever, ADV has produced a full English dub of the unaltered original story.

For those anime fans who have never seen Robotech, Macross, Macross Plus, or any of the innumerable spinoffs and references to them, that story is deceptively simple. In 1999, a gigantic alien battle cruiser crashlands on a small Pacific Island. The entire globe unites to rebuild the ship into the flagship of the new Earth space fleet, the SDF-1 Macross. On the verge of that ship's maiden voyage, however, a race of warlike 50-foot-tall alien humanoids shows up to get their ship back. One chaotic battle later, the Macross and her 50,000 civilian refugees find themselves alone against the alien menace, with only the brave crew's resourcefulness, their transforming mecha, and the oddly effective power of Japanese culture to defend themselves. Basically, this show is Battlestar Galactica with giant robots and J-pop.

Despite the often-goofy story (and some really annoying characters), Macross became one of those genre-defining shows that all anime fans should see at least once in their lives. Sure, the animation is dated, but this was the first anime to really turn the classic genre trope of giant robots in anime and make them generic war machines. Even more importantly, it made the characters and their soap-opera antics the main focus, with the giant robots almost as an afterthought. Most modern anime owes a gigantic thematic debt to Macross for that very reason.

The dub is as good as you'd expect, considering the cast of ADV vets lending their talents to it. It is, admittedly, a little jarring for those used to the Robotech version, especially the actress for Misa, but the excellent performance of Fullmetal Alchemist alum Vic Mignogna as Hikaru should win over all but the most ardent dub-haters.

The biggest casting news, though, is ADV's decision to have the original voice actress for Minmay, Mari Ijima, reprise her role for the dub. Unfortunately, her acting is a bit inconsistent, ranging from "touchingly emotional" to "I don't know the language so I'm just gonna read this phonetically-spelled cue card here". While some of this can certainly be excused by Ms. Ijima not being a native English speaker, she certainly came off as rather fluent, if heavily-accented, in the interview and commentary segments on this DVD. Considering that this is her first anime acting role since the original Macross twenty years ago, I think we can be charitable and ascribe this to simply being a bit out of practice, and I'm sure she'll get better as the episodes progress.

ADV has packed this disc with extras, and most of them take advantage of Mari Ijima's involvement in the original Macross project. There is a brief but rather insightful interview with her, where she talks about how she originally came to be cast in the series and her often-touching relationships with her castmates. She also contributes to one of the two episode commentary tracks on this DVD, though it's not really a commentary so much as her and Misa's dub actress having a friendly chat about voice acting. Fortunately, it's even more interesting than the interview, so the lack of substantial comments about the episode itself can be forgiven.

The other major extra on this disc, the original failed 1980's-era pre-Robotech English dub of the first Macross episode, is pure joy. The voice actors are basically the same crew that went on to do Robotech, and most of the dialogue will be instantly familiar to Robotech fans. However, there are just enough differences between this version and what would become Robotech to make this a fascinating experience for old-school fans. Most of the other extras (like a mini-documentary about the digital restoration of the original series footage) are nice to have but aren't nearly as interesting.

If you're a Robotech fan, missed out on AnimEigo's release, or just like the idea of giant alien invaders being defeated by the power of cheesy 80s pop music, than you definitely need to pick up this DVD.

Anime Editor Kevin Pezzano's boyfriend is a pilot. Wait -- I mean girlfriend! Girlfriend, definitely.

 
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