By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
After catching the livestream of Macross Delta Tactical Sound Unit—1st LIVE in Zepp—Walküre Attack! last month, I was curious. How has the music of this fond anime franchise fared over the years? Mari Iijima defined everything that is the sound of the 90s series, and maintained it! The talents who would take over in the sequels adapted to the times and generally honour this singer’s original legacy. From Sharon Apple to Sheryl Nome, the sound has changed. It sometimes transcend pop and become something that we can equate to Lady Gaga’s shows in our world.
This concert shows why music is important to this franchise’s success. The nature of these performances plays on a musical theory I believe is at the core of the series. Boethius is a Roman philosopher who once said music can be broken up to three components. They are musica mundana (a universal appeal), musica humana (the internal sound heard by the human body) and musica quae (the harmonies projected by singers and instrumentalists).
Other Greek philosophers agree that music is more than just a thing of nature. There’s a metaphysical and mathematical component to it that transcends simply singing for the pure joy of it. In space, sound can propagate. It’s been proven, in the article “There Is Sound In Space, Thanks To Gravitational Waves,” by Ethan Siegel of Forbes. It can also be weaponized with the right technology. Or in this series case, through broadcasting to an enemy’s comm system and they get affected by it in one way or another.
It’s hard to say if series creator Shōji Kawamori knew these concepts when he first drafted up what would become the Super Dimension trilogy (Century Orguss and Cavalry Southern Cross were the other two). Only one was heavy with its music of the sphere-like influence. The concept is refined in Macross 7 and is known as “Song Energy,” a hokey name for what the Greco-Roman world named with a poetic fleurish. The ideas this creator introduced with Macross made this series a runaway hit than the others.
Overall, I have to admire this producer and the studios involved–Studio Nue and Big West Frontier–in mixing up the musical genre with science fiction soap operas. The fact there exists a live-action musical says it all. Every new series under the Macross banner has a media personality who often performs in concerts and visits the troops often in order to keep the troops happy. Anyone not familiar with this person is often thrown for a loop because they never heard music before.
But for the newcomer, where should they start? The answer is easy, watch the series that started it all. For that matter, how is any of this material legally accessible?
I’ve kept tabs on the legal dispute over this intellectual property between Harmony Gold USA, who claims rights in North America due to a “grandfathered” contract with Tatsunoko Production. This Japanese company is still running strong, but they can’t waste time with what some people see as American Capitalism. The issue is in which corporate entities have rights to this visual and intellectual property in the known world.
Harmony Gold is notorious for suing any company using anything that looks close to their “property.” The legal battles made them the talk of the town. The other problems they faced has me surprised they haven’t decided to close shop after all to the money spent on lawyers. They are steadfast. Anyone who was introduced to anime from the rewrite Carl Macek did to create Robotech remains loyal. He brought three unrelated works together by coming up with a macguffin, known as protoculture, to tie the series together. But in the original series, the meaning is something entirely different. Anyone new to this franchise will get confused with those titles that don’t involve this mysterious fuel cum flower which powers transforming jet fighters.
During the pandemic, Harmony Gold and Big West reached an agreement to see the release of both Macross and Robotech internationally. Japan is an exclusion zone. Also the American company can continue to develop that live-action adaptation of Robotech. As for whether that will finally gain traction, there’s been no official word since the announcement five years ago and after April 2021 when they finally shook hands.
Anyone interested in seeing the original material may see proper home video releases by late 2022. Part of it is on YouTube and has been available for four years now. The legality is in question. This channel looks official, but it’s really hard to say given how long its been around. New legal battles over streaming rights will no doubt be coming.
As for what the viewing orders are, I’ve managed to figure out the essentials by chronological order. They’re categorized into source material, condensed versions (theatrical cuts), and side-stories. I don’t think everything needs to be watched. Another criteria is whether Studio Nue and Big West, the current rights holders, are involved.
Television Series / OVAs to Watch
- Macross Zero (5 episodes)
- Super Dimension Fortress Macross (36 episodes)
- Macross : Flashback 2012
- Macross Frontier (25 episodes)
- Macross Delta (26 episodes)
Condensed from the TV Series / Movie Compilations
(when sitting through 90+ episodes proves difficult)
- Macross, Do You Remember Love?
- Macross Frontier: The Galaxy is Calling Me!
- Macross Frontier: Wings of Goodbye
- Macross Delta the Movie: Passionate Walkure
(Unessential. They are like “Solo” to the Star Wars ennealogy)
- Macross II: Lovers Again
- Macross Plus
- Macross 7 (TV Series Sequel)
- Macross Dynamite 7