On 3rd October 1982, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross made its debut on Japanese TV. I love this show for many, many reasons. Here are five of them.
1) A giant transforming robot.
Go Nagai’s Mazinger Z manga and anime were already ten years old and Mobile Suit Gundam had re-popularised the concept of the pilotable robot weapon in 1979, but the Macross version doesn’t just need a pilot, it needs a complete bridge crew. It contains an entire city plus enough space to get lost and risk starving to death.
It redefined the possibilities of the giant robot, and set new standards for scale. There have been several larger ones since, including Getter Emperor, a galaxy-sized 2007 entry from that man Nagai’s universe, but the SDF-1 Storm Attacker is still a stunner, and seeing it transform for the first time must have been astonishing.
2) An idol singer
Lynn Minmay is Chinese, sixteen, pretty, talented, infuriating and loveable in equal measure. Still almost a child, trying to cope with emotions and situations far beyond her experience, she is pitched into an epic adventure and ends up helping to save the world. With the crystal voice of teenage Mari Iijima, she charmed a generation. Iijima is still singing.
3) Kids who can do stuff
For much of human history, people we regard as irresponsible children were fighting in wars, bearing children and working for a living, competently and successfully. (They still do, in many countries.) Macross is all about real teens – giddy, unformed, reckless – stepping up to the mark and showing they can make a contribution. From the hotshot wannabe pilot to the giggling, gossiping bridge crew, they earn our respect.
4) Claudia LaSalle and the UN Spacy
A black American woman in a position of respect and authority, with a happy and equal relationship with her man, Claudia reflected the reality of the black women I knew, but that wasn’t widely represented in the media then. Or now. If any guy had called Claudia a bitch or a ho, he would have been on the deck – or in the brig – before he knew what had hit him. The UN Spacy concept meant that, although the Macross scenario was set in Japan, it was a world effort. Claudia, and her boyfriend Roy Fokker, were there to represent the community beyond Japan. They did us proud.
5) A song can save the world
It’s a sappy idea. It was a sappy idea then. But when Lynn Minmay dries her eyes and sings her heart out as the cannons roar, then fall silent, it still makes me smile, and cry, and fills me with hope. There is so much more that unites us than divides us. If we approach others with openness and creativity and the intention to share and learn the best of both sides, we can live fairly and peaceably together. We may not have done very well at it yet, but Macross helps me to believe we can do better in future.
Happy 30th birthday, Macross. Keep on singing.