A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 15 – Macross Plus (movie)

Macross Plus – March 15, 2010

Yeah, screw 300. I needed something a little less grrrr tonight. Our heat and hot water are out, thanks to the flooding going on around here and I’m in a pissy mood. Not a mood to watch anything I don’t love, because I would pan it regardless of its merits or lack thereof.

So, this is Macross Plus, an anime movie that’s also got a miniseries that’s the exact same story and most of the same animation, but slightly different introductions for some characters, vastly different intros for others, and a few scenes swapped out. To be honest, even though technically the miniseries is longer, I like the movie version better. It’s got one of my favorite character intros ever and it feels tighter.

Macross Plus is science fiction. There’s a trio of main characters: Isamu (hotshot rogue pilot), Guld (straightlaced pilot who’s also an alien) and the woman they both love and have previously fought over: Myung (who wanted to be a singer but now provides the emotion/voice for an AI virtual pop star named Sharon Apple). They grew up together, then something happened with Myung and one of the guys and the friendship broke apart. It’s implied through the movie that it was Isamu’s fault, but memories are deceiving.

And then there’s Sharon. Turns out she’s not just a harmless virtual pop star. Her personality is supposed to be supplied by Myung, but her developer has gone and made her self-aware. And of course you know what self-away AIs in anime movies do, right? They go all monomaniacal and fun shooty times ensue. The shooty times are courtesy of Isamu and Guld duking it out in a pair of experimental space fighter jets over who gets to woo Myung and who was the total ass who attacked her. So you’ve got this kind of soapy love triangle going on, but with a fourth side: Sharon. Because since Sharon’s base personality was Myung, she fixates on the person Myung really wants: Isamu. Myung is a little frustrating as a character, mostly because she herself is frustrated. She’s given up her dreams of singing and the men who were her best friends are not only always at each other’s throats, but there’s the unspoken-of attack hanging between them all. Still, there are moments when I want to scream at her to get over Isamu and walk away from Guld and go record something.

Andy will probably do a better job recapping the plot, so I’ll leave it there. What I really want to talk about is Isamu’s introduction and the soundtrack.

Isamu’s intro in the movie is one of the best character intros I’ve ever seen. When you first see him, he’s standing outside the hangar where his experimental jet is sitting. He’s waiting to take it up for the first time and looking at the sky. To the sounds of a twangy guitar, Isamu raises his hand and waves it around, swerving one way, then around back the other way, seeming to just be playing airplane like a child. And then he gets up in the air and you see him driving the test crew nuts by whipping the jet around in a way that they don’t think should be possible, but interspersed with shots of his hand from before. And you see that he was mapping out his path, planning what he was going to do. Which was to create a gigantic piece of skywriting art, a bird made of his contrail. It’s a beautifully done scene and it’s not done the same way in the miniseries. I think it says far more about him as a character than all the talking and posturing does.

So then there’s the music. Macross Plus was our introduction to composer and musician Yoko Kanno. She also did the music for Cowboy Bebop, Wolf’s Rain and Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, amongst others. She did both the incidental music for this and the music for Sharon’s concerts. We own both soundtracks and love them. What I love about the music in this in particular is how different it all is. There’s Sharon’s pop songs, softer piano themes for Myung which echo a song she sang in high school, the twangy guitar for Isamu, orchestral music for several key moments and a dozen other distinct types of music for various moments and characters. In a movie with a plot that depends heavily on two musicians (Sharon and Myung) the music has to be good for that part of it to work. But the rest of it works too. It makes the movie for me, and not just because of the stuff you’d notice. Isamu’s introduction, for example, needs that guitar. It just wouldn’t feel right without it. It’s a beautifully done soundtrack, and probably one of the major reasons I love the movie.

Not that the music is the only thing I watch this for. The plot is truly engaging and I’m a sucker for a knight/rogue dynamic (I’m sure I’ll go on about this when we hit Star Wars). And then there’s the ending, which builds really well and definitely delivers what it promises.

This was nice to watch tonight. It’s been ages since we put it in and we both really enjoy it.

Maybe we’ll do 300 tomorrow. If our hot water is back on and I don’t feel like screaming.

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March 15, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Macross Plus: The Movie

March 15, 2010

Macross Plus: The Movie

It’s been several years since we last watched this movie, and man, it is a treat to be watching it again!  Macross Plus was an animated mini-series that was set after the events of the old Macross TV series of the eighties, but it really stands very well on its own.  What we’re watching here is the condensed movie version which cuts some scenes and completely changes others.  The movie is vastly superior to the four part show I think, primarily because the pacing is so much tighter.  It doesn’t feel rushed or compressed, but it is packaged so tightly that there’s hardly a moment that isn’t essential to the two intertwined plots at the heart of the film.  No knowledge of Macross is necessary at all, really, to enjoy this.  And I defy you to watch this masterpiece without enjoying it.

The two plots I mentioned before all revolve around a trio of friends from high-school who meet again mostly by chance years after they have last seen each other.  Myung, Guld and Isamu.  Guld and Isamu are now rival test pilots involved in the development of a new experimental fighter jet.  Guld is a tightly wound bundle of nerves who does everything by the book.  Isamu is a rogue who habitually breaks all the rules.  And Myung, who according to one character “used to sing in her sleep” has given up singing to be the producer of a high-tech A.I. that takes the form of a massively popular singer and idol: Sharon Apple.

At one level the movie is about Guld and Isamu’s rivalry, and the dangers of mechanization.  (It turns out that the government is going to drop both of their prototypes in favor of a computer controlled fighter that cuts out the human factor.)  Of course that part of the movie ends in a spectacular showdown and some great fighter-jet sequences.

But the movie is much more than an action adventure.  There’s a deeper plot, that involves closely held secrets.  There’s the mystery of the cataclysmic event that caused the three friends to fall out all those years ago.  And there’s the question of just what, exactly, Myung’s involvement with Sharon Apple is.When everything comes to a head it’s one of the most satisfying climaxes I’ve witnessed.

All of this supported by some simply amazing animation.  This was produced in the days before CGI became all the vogue.  Yes, there are some computer effects, but for the most part they support the hand-drawn animation and don’t supplant it.  The climactic fighter battle is really something amazing to witness.

The one true thing that makes this movie stand out more than anything else, though, is the soundtrack.  Oh, the soundtrack!  The music (both the instrumental score and the mesmerizing songs of Sharon Apple) is the work of composer extraordinaire Yoko Kanno.  Yoko Kanno, in case you don’t know, is the John Williams of the Japanese animation world.  If you hear something that sounds cool or there’s a song that gets caught in your head from some anime, it was probably written by her.  She is simply a musical genius.  And this is, as far as I’m concerned, her master work.  The music is an integral part of the movie and the plot, and Yoko Kanno provides the film with its soul.

Watch this movie.  Buy both soundtrack CDs.  You will thank me!

March 15, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment