Macross Plus revisited

Around ten years ago, I got my hands on a copy of Macross Plus: Ultimate edition DVD, and spent a couple of evenings watching the OVA and movie. This was my first exposure to one of Japan’s biggest mecha franchises, but also the only part that had made it across, unadulterated, to the UK. I knew that Macross was all about mecha and singing, but I was watching it out of context, with no other knowledge of that universe. And whilst it is meant to be a standalone story, it did suffer for being watched on its own. Who or what are the Zentradi? What are the importance of variable fighters? What even is the titular ‘Macross’? None of these are addressed in the OVA, so if you don’t already know, all of that is lost on you. As you can imagine, therefore, I didn’t rate Macross Plus very highly.

Fast forward ten years, and I’m now much more familiar with the Macross franchise as a whole. I watched Macross Frontier when it aired, and over the last year I’ve managed to get through all of the original series, Macross 7, and the Macross Frontier movies. And, now that I understood the universe and all of its unique and iconic facets, it seemed as good a time as any to get those old Macross Plus DVDs back down off the shelf.

This time around, I just watched the OVA instead of attempting the OVA and movie retelling back-to-back, and indeed, this time round it was a far more enjoyable experience. The story itself revolves around the reunion of three former friends – rival test pilots Guld and Isamu, and their former love interest, Myung. Myung once longed to be a singer, but she has now given that up in favour of being the producer for ‘Sharon Apple’, the galaxy’s first AI singer. With space battles, unresolved tensions and the classic love triangle, all the elements are in place for a gripping and enjoyable story.

My only gripe with the whole thing was the resolution of the love triangle – of course Myung ends up with ‘bad boy’ Isamu, whilst poor Guld sacrifices his life. Throughout the OVA, Guld struggles with his natural Zentradi fighting instincts, but because of that he got a bit of a bum deal overall. Whilst Guld is generally portrayed as a proud and honourable man, he tries to frame Isamu in the second episode, only to accidently shoot his rival with the very live ammunition he was using to frame him. This definitely felt out of character – would Guld really stoop so low? He deserved his own happy ending – perhaps the movie version should have been a retelling in which Guld survives and gets the girl.

Ultimately, it’s easy to think of Macross Plus as a good introduction to the franchise, especially since it’s so much shorter than any of the TV series. But without that crucial context and understanding of the Macross universe, this OVA simply fails to shine as it deserves. Watch it after the TV series, not before.