Mospeada: Love Live Alive

Reality check: though I loved Robotech as a young teen, I've never watched the three series that made up that seminal show in their uncut Japanese versions.  While I own them all and have watched bits over time, I've never found the opportunity to sit down and get through them. Part of that's due to their age; I mean, does anybody besides me want to see reviews of properties created 25 to 30 years ago? Another issue is the whole thing of revisiting one's abortive attempt to watch Robotech with my wife a couple of years ago ended when I realized just how silly some of the early parts really were.

All that said, there have been times when revisiting that universe has been worthwhile. While I liked Robotech, Macross: Do You Remember Love? and Macross 2012 were revelations. Not only was Macross more adult in its film incarnation -- and the edited TV version was still plenty violent and romantically thorny -- but the music was stunning. Not to say the Robotech music was bad; the soundtrack still plays in my brain at times, even though the Minmei songs are just OK. But Macross had a fully orchestrated score in many spots, and the tracks sung by Mari Iijima are still a treat to hear. Most of them are timeless, which is something not much music from the 1980s can claim.

I was hoping that perhaps I would have the same kind of experience with Mospeada: Love Live Alive. Like Macross 2012, it was an OVA created for fans of the show centering on the most musical character: Yellow Belmont, the cross-dressing singer whose feminine alter ego was a cover for his exploits against the Inbit. It is filled with lots of Yellow Belmont songs; if you've ever wanted to hear them, this is the place to find them. And like Macross 2012, there's a small amount of new footage that continues the tale. But when a music video's music is only passable by today's standards, it can be a little disappointing.

Love Live Alive follows Yellow Belmont as he heads to a concert. The Inbit invasion is over, but the world is still filled with folks surviving the best they can. As Yellow travels, he reminisces about his time with the gang of friends with whom he traveled to Reflex Point, leading into clips from the television show. During the show and the inevitable interview afterwards, Yellow is melancholy. But perhaps his friends are not as far away as he thought...

This OVA follows a pattern that is all but unnecessary today, but it served a vital function for fans in its era (and made some additional profit for Tatsunoko Productions). Back when Mospeada: LLA was released, VHS was just starting to take off at a consumer level, and absolutely no one was marketing previously broadcast television programs for home video; those few shows that made it onto tape were incredibly expensive per individual episode. OVAs like this one made it easy to remember your favorite scenes and songs from an enjoyable anime at a reasonable price and even included something extra to enjoy, whether it was an extra scene or two or the OP/ED sequences. It's incredibly unlikely that we will ever see this sort of thing re-emerge from a professional company today for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is this: really good fan-made AMVs today outclass this. Aside from the extra scenes, there's very little to make this marketable, and that's why this piece surfaced as a bonus feature on the Mospeada release here in the US.

For those who have fond memories of the "New Generation" segment of Robotech who haven't seen the original version of the series, there are bits here that you haven't seen, mostly some very brief nudity and violence. There's also the new footage, but it's strangely off-putting, at least the majority of it. This animation was done on the dirt cheap, with Yellow Belmont looking strangely emaciated and off-model most of the time. When he's not looking like the poster boy for bishounen Weight Watchers, he's drinking soda and throwing the cans away over his shoulder. (Yes, in less than five minutes of new footage, he does this twice. Guess our hero isn't an environmentalist.) However, the footage at the finale of Love Live Alive is nevertheless very sweet and brought a nostalgic tear to my eye. It's worth sitting through the whole to see this if you've ever finished any version of the series.

But for me, as for many who haven't yet watched the Japanese incarnation, this is a quick way to get introduced to the songs of Yellow Belmont in comparison to those of Lancer AKA Yellow Dancer. In Robotech, while Minmei gets tons of accolades, the songs by Yellow Dancer are clearly better written and more capably performed (though certainly marked by their era). Does the same hold true for the Japanese counterpart?  Not even close. I was surprised to find that not a single song in Love Live Alive is memorable, and this is from a guy who taped OP/ED theme songs off onto cassettes back in the day. They aren't bad, but they aren't melodically or lyrically sticky. What makes this even more surprising is that the tunes were written by Joe Hisaishi...yes, that Joe Hisaishi who went on to write memorable soundtracks to virtually all of Hayao Miyazaki's films. Mospeada was one of Hisaishi's earliest works, but the timeline generally coincides with the material he wrote for Nausicaa. At best, I can guess that Hisaishi's goal was to create a "pop" soundtrack for Mospeada that reflected its era, but it has just become sorely outdated. Then again, I enjoy 80s Japanese pop even now, so I just can't quite fathom it.

So is it even worth tracking down on YouTube? Sure, if you've become a fan of any version of this show. This still qualifies as a cultural artifact more than a piece of entertainment today, but that doesn't mean it's a total loss. Quite honestly, I had forgotten much about the show until watching this OVA, and I truly enjoyed watching a number of the sequences from the program in the music videos. It reminded me just how much this show and Robotech as a whole shaped my middle school years. And the "new" ending worked for me. So what if the music isn't all that great by today's standards? It's not something I can recommend to most of my readers, which explains my rating. But for those looking to relive a little bit of the past or wanting to finally hear what Yellow Belmont actually sounded like in a short package, this works.

Mospeada: Love Live Alive -- violence, brief nudity -- C+