Macross '84: Do You Remember Love?

There are very few things that I know of on this earth that I consider to be true treasures, but I consider Macross '84 to be one of them. You're not likely to find many other reviewers who think this--in fact, I've seen several sites that have completely panned this picture--but it's likely they've never seen the movie the way it was intended. In its original, untouched form, Macross '84: Do You Remember Love? is truly a beautiful, magnificent film. Those who only know Macross from its butchered inclusion in Robotech will be in for a great surprise, for this is truly one of the misunderstood classics of anime.

Macross '84 is a cinematic retelling of the 37 episode series of the same name. Although it essentially covers the same ground as the television show, it does so with superb animation and an incredible score. For those not in the know, Macross is the name of a spaceship that crashlands on the earth in 1999. Ten years later, the actual owners of the craft, the Zentraedi, come to reclaim it, and they are willing to destroy all of humanity to get it back. What they don't expect, however, is the power of protoculture--that is, human culture--and music in particular stops them in their tracks. Mankind's only hope is to wage war not only with its armaments, but also with the very things that make us human. Although this conflict is central to the plot of the show, it would be nothing without the love triangle that defines the core of Macross. Lynn Minmei, a young girl destined to become an idol singer, falls for the handsome young pilot Hikaru Ichijo. However, there's also the dutybound lieutenant Misa Hayase, whose harsh exterior masks a deep longing for Hikaru's love. The three lives intertwine against the backdrop of intergalactic war that may require their ultimate sacrifice.

The first thing to know is that this film really isn't for the uninitiated, though anyone can appreciate it. The television series gives us plenty of time to learn who the characters are and what motivates them, and relationships develop at a reasonable pace. However, there's only two hours to get the movie done, and so the timeframe is incredibly compressed. For example, in the series, Hikaru and Minmei meet before she's ever really picked up a microphone; in the film, Minmei is an accomplished singing star well before Hikaru comes on the scene. Viewers will also find that certain characters aren't developed at all but show up anyway, and the plot goes by very quickly--again, another reason to watch the series first. Finally, if you're not familiar with the show, you'll also find the scads of music a bit surprising...for an action-oriented film, there's a ton of Japanese pop. (It's very good Japanese pop, too, but this will throw off some viewers.)

Nevertheless, what the movie does is nothing short of amazing. The relationships in the film are not only more adult, but more compelling and realistic than those in the original. In the TV series, Minmei is played as a bit spoiled (and this is very true in the incarnation most are familiar with through Robotech). In the film, Minmei is free-spirited, but she isn't nearly as coy or annoying--she's simply more grown up. This makes the triangle more poignant in that you can't help but feel sorry for whoever gets left behind. The film captures the essence of the series very well. The animation itself looks clean and refined, and though it comes from the 80s school of realistic (if muted) colors, it is perfect for the setting and tone of the storyline. The characters look absolutely beautiful, and the designs from this film remain my favorite character designs to date. What's more, the score is absolutely superb. It's fully orchestrated, and the sweeping grandeur of the music is an unexpected compliment to Minmei's songs through the show. There is a combination of drama, action, and music that is simply perfect. As a personal aside...I became a fan of anime through Robotech, but Macross '84 was the first real anime title I ever saw. When I first saw it, I was absolutely stunned. Not only did it meet my wildest expectations, it shattered my perceptions of what animation could be. This film was and still is a big part of the inspiration that has led me to collect anime seriously for over twelve years, and indirectly gave me reason to create an anime review in the first place.

There is a prime reason why this film has not received the acclaim it deserves, however, and that is because it is impossible at this point in time to find a licensed version of the film with English subtitles. There are English-language versions available, but the only known dub was done in Australia as an instructional tool to help Japanese viewers learn English. It is by and large considered the worst anime dub ever created. The most well-known distribution of this film in the English-speaking world is a recut version called Clash of the Bionoids. Not only does this travesty use the Australian dub, but it removes over a half hour of footage from the film. There is a ten second shower scene that could have been removed without trimming the plot. However, this version removes every single section of action from the movie as well as some longer dramatic portions, leaving it almost completely unintelligible--and perhaps even more boring than Odin. Meanwhile, the Japanese laserdisc includes the full film with the Aussie dub as a second language track. I've seen the entire film this way, and although it is certain better in that the film itself is intact, the delivery of the dialogue is so stilted that one can't help to concentrate on it. It tends to ruin what is a magnificent show...and from what I can tell, most web reviewers have only seen one of these two dubbed versions.

Here's the bottom line: if you saw and liked the Macross television show, or even its counterpart in Robotech, you should see this film, hopefully with good fansubs. Even if you haven't seen Macross before, it's well worth the effort if you can find a subbed copy. I've shown this movie to science-fiction fans with no knowledge of anime or the TV show whatsoever, and they've enjoyed it a great deal. No matter your background with the Macross universe, it is a piece of anime history that you should see in its unadulterated form.

Macross '84: Do You Remember Love? -- brief nudity, violence -- A+