Blog version here, much fancier.
This ain't your daddy's Macross. Released in 1994 at the same time as Macross Plus, M7 is a bit of a departure from what has happened in the Macross productions that came before. Now what I'm going to do in this is no more plot summaries, at least not long ones. I'm going to split this up into the story, the characters, the mechs and misc. So here we go.
First off, the story. As short as I can do this, the story takes place in the year 2045, five years after Macross Plus and thirty-five years after the end of the Space War in the first Macross series. The YF-19 prototype is now being mass-produced and is the VF-19 Excalibur, although the older VF-11 Thunderbolt still far outnumbers the -19 in the fleets of the UN Spacy. Instead of focusing on a single ship, Macross 7 is focused on the fleet of the same name. The colonization plan that we saw outlined in the last few episodes of SDF Macross and the launch of the first colony ship, SDF-2 Megaroad-01 in Flashback 2012, is expanded upon here. The Megaroad ships, which could only hold about 25,000 colonists, give or take, have been replaced with the New Macross-class ships, which can embark roughly a million colonists. The Macross 7 fleet in particular consists of the central colony ship City 7 and its escort battle carrier, Battle 7,
seven main ships that fulfill different functions such as the recreation ship Riviera and the factory ship Three Star, and an entire flotilla of frigates and carriers to protect the fleet. This fleet is the seventh of the New Macross-class colonization fleets, as the name implies. We see some old standbys from SDF Macross show up here. Max Jenius is now the Fleet Captain of Macross 7 and the Captain of the Battle 7 carrier in particular. A funny little anecdote here: Max is 52 by the time Macross 7 starts but he looks like he's only in his thirties. The character designer explained it, I believe, by saying, "Growing old is a state of mind... and Max Jenius is a genius, so it's not an issue for him!" We also have Max's Zentradi wife Milia, who's basically his opposite number as the Mayor of the City 7 main colony module. She also doesn't look too much older but that has more to do with her Zentradi DNA than anything else. We also see the Zentradi advisor Exedore Folmo. Unfortunately we find out that not all is well with the Jenius family since we saw them last. Max and Milia's relationship has gotten to the point where they're pretty much separated and Milia's even wondering if it was the right thing for her to have gotten involved with Max.
We're also introduced to all the new cast members as well. We have the rock band Fire Bomber, which consists of members Basara Nekki, Ray Lovelock, Veffidas Feaze and Max and Milia's youngest daughter Mylene Flare Jenius. There's ace pilot Gamlin Kizaki and the pilots of Diamond Force, and bridge operators Sally Ford and Miho Miho. Why her last name is the same as her first, I have no idea. Another little anecdote here: The long running joke about bridge bunnies continues here or, that is to say, that the ships in UN Spacy all seem to have a 90% female bridge staff. Har har.
So the basic story of Macross 7 is that the fleet has been searching for an Earth-like planet to colonize for the past seven years until they encounter the Protodeviln and their Varauta army slaves. The Protodeviln need this energy called Spiritia to survive. It's never explicitly stated what Spiritia is but it seems to be some term for a person's lifeforce. The Varauta find the Macross 7 fleet and realize that the people onboard can regenerate their Spiritia, so they decide to make a kind of farm out of the citizens of Macross 7. However, some people like main character Basara Nekki, produce a kind of Spiritia called Anima Spiritia that Varauta mechs and the Protodeviln can't absorb. We eventually find out that the Protodeviln are responsible for the destruction of the ancient galactic Protoculture and the Macross 7 fleet takes the fight to the ice world where the Protodeviln are imprisoned. At the eleventh hour, Basara and Fire Bomber's music, enhanced by some nifty techno-wizardry is able to show the Protodeviln that they can produce Spiritia on their own, the destruction of the galaxy is averted, the day is saved, hooray!
A simplistic take but Macross 7 is still the longest Macross series so far at 49 episodes so I didn't want to make this too long. Now, as I said at the beginning of this entry, this ain't your daddy or your grandaddy's Macross. Though plot points from the previous productions are filled in, Macross 7 has a style that is definitely all its own. The overarching story could lag at times but there were many episodes with a lot of character development that made up for this. The concept that music is a form of (possibly psychic; they're very vague on this point) energy and can be used to bring understanding and an end to conflict may seem pretty far fetched even in a sci-fi setting but it is one of the primary themes of Macross, just taken to a new level here. Personally, I feel that when stacked up against the other Macross productions it doesn't really jive but that's a minor gripe at best.
I liked how they showed that after 35 years, Max and Milia are experiencing a lot of relationship problems. It even gets to the point where you think Milia at least just doesn't love Max at all anymore and then it slowly starts to change, starting with an episode where Mylene gets her parents to sit together at one of her concerts. By the end of the series they're not back together but I believe they've pretty much fallen back in love with each other, which is nice because, even with the bad knife fight and the almost instantaneous wedding in SDF Macross, I liked Max and Milia's relationship and was glad that they reached an understanding at the end of Mac7.
No Macross show would be complete without some kind of love triangle but the one in this show is kinda weird. It could even be said that there are two triangles in the show. First of all there's the "triangle" with Basara, Mylene and the Diamond Force pilot Gamlin Kizaki. I put "triangle" in quotes because I really don't know if this qualifies. Mylene is set up with Gamlin because Milia wants Mylene to marry him. She eventually develops feelings for Gamlin BUT she also has a crush on Basara. Basara for his part really doesn't give a damn. As far as he's concerned she's a kid (which she is). But having all that said up, nothing really happens. Mylene waffles between Basara and Gamlin, Gamlin kinda-sorta-awkwardly proposes to Mylene which she doesn't say anything about. Considering the triangle between Hikaru Ichijo, Misa Hayase and Lynn Minmay in SDF Macross, this doesn't quite measure up. In my opinion, the actual triangle with more punch should have been between Basara, the Protodeviln banshee Sivil and the Protodeviln Gigile. Why? Well because the sexual desire that Sivil has for Basara could be cut with a chainsaw! And Gigile is so devoted to her that he actually betrays the other Protodeviln. He even ends up sacrificing his own life to prevent Basara and Sivil from being killed. You know what? I'm going to declare it right here: Basara should have ended up with Sivil at the end of the series.
One part of the story that was well done was when they discover a sunken Protoculture instalation/temple thing. The murals inside reveal a lot of what happened to the Protoculture, which was never explained in SDF Macross. One of the best touches was that to access a holographic data cache, Mylene's blood (she had got cut on the arm earlier) which is half-human and half-Zentradi opens the cache. Seems some of the Protoculture thought that their creations might meet in the future! Basically the story that is revealed by the murals and the Protoculture AI is that the Protoculture had an ancient galactic republic and they were peaceful... UNTIL (you knew there had to be a but or an until in there right?) some of the Protoculture dissented from the rest and formed the Supervision Army. The Protoculture genetically engineered the giant Zentradi warriors to fight in this war and then, as most people probably would, created even more powerful bio-weapon creatures. But then (and I might be messing this part up) either some Protoculture drew the Protodeviln into our universe or they just showed up, but the Protodeviln posses the bio-weapon creatures and pretty much trash the Protoculture completely. But just before the Macross 7 crew can find out how the remnants of the Protoculture imprisoned the Protodeviln, they attack and destroy the installation. Figures.
Overall the story was enjoyable enough to keep me going to the last episode. And it's unusual but somewhat satisfying to see the villain of the series get a happy ending whereas usually they are slain by the hero. There are some aspects though which lessened my enjoyment of the series, mainly that with a lot more focus on the music and the "power" of music, there isn't as much of the high-flying adventure or space opera as there was in other Macross shows.
Now to the characters. Basara is likable enough as a hot-blooded rocker and Valkyrie pilot but he can be a jerk a lot of the time. He also doesn't have a lot of dramatic change in the series. When you look at what Hikaru went through originally, especially with Roy dying, not too much happens to Basara and he's pretty much the same character throughout the whole series. This would certainly be a big minus if the series was plotted differently, but the way Macross 7 is, it's thankfully minor.
Mylene can be likable enough but she just doesn't quite do it for me the same way characters like Minmay, Misa, Ranka or Sheryl do. Also the sexualization of Mylene, especially in a lot of the end credits can be kinda disturbing when you remember that she's supposed to be 14. I ain't a Pedobear dammit!
Ray, I think, actually gets some more character development than Basara does, in that we learn he was once a special forces pilot that made a bad call that got his wingman killed. Ray almost became a hopeless drunken loser until he met Basara and started a band with him. Veffidas the Meltrandi drummer is mysterious. We never learn much about her and she doesn't talk much at all except to say mysteriously profound things. Also, her habit of drumming on EVERYTHING can get a little annoying.
Gamlin is one of the best characters of the series and I would actually rate him a little higher than Basara inasmuch as he starts off the series as a by-the-book pilot with an iron rod up his butt and later mellows out some, falls in love with Mylene and gains a belief in Basara's music. He grows as a character.
His old boss Lt. Docker gets points and a mention simply by being a pimp and dating Sally and Miho at the same time, something that the ladies in question don't mind one bit! (Which really makes me wonder about those two... you know what? better not go there.)
Dr. Chiba gets a mention as a creepy Minmay fanboy and being the resident Egon Spengler of the fleet.
I already mentioned Max and Milia and as another thing concerning them, I would have liked more info on their family. They have eight daughters (7 natural, 1 adopted) but we barely know anything about them. We know Moaramia was adopted and is a pure-blood Zentradi, Milia almost died giving birth to Miracle, Komilia was the first Zentradi/human hybrid, and Mylene and Emilia are singers, but that's about it. What about the twins Muse and Therese? What about Miranda? Where are the rest of the Jenius daughters during Macross 7 (besides Emilia, who we'll get to in the Mac7 movie)? Also, Max proves that he's still the best pilot in the fleet, even at 52, by doing his own version of the Death Star trench run and Milia also kicks butt in a (by then vintage) VF-1J.
I also felt sorry for the un-named Flower Girl. She only could get that bouquet to Basara right at the very end!
And Colonel Barton gets the award for being the military #$^&wad of the show.
The rest of the secondary and background characters on the fleet, like Rex and her biker gang, Sally and Miho and others all look like they have a story to tell, but don't get a chance because Fire Bomber's in the spotlight with others.
There's also the Protodeviln villains. The head boss man Gepelnitch might be a little confused as to whether he's a man or a woman (joke joke) but it's pretty obvious that if anyone interferes with his plans he'll kill them and not even blink. Funnily enough I think he's the only villian that I know of that gets a happy ending.
Gigile was kind of annoying at first but he grows on you and its kind of touching how he sacrifices himself and betrays the other Protodeviln to save Basara and Sivil, especially when you're not entirely sure if she returns his feelings.
Sivil herself was kinda cool, mostly for being a hot alien chick but for being the first of the Protodeviln to realize that something more can be had from the hapless humans than Spiritia. The long and short of it is that I think she goes from being creepy alien seductress/vampire to actually falling in love with Basara (and if I had my way she would have stayed with him in the end. Check it.)
As for the other Protodeviln there's not much to say. Except for those two really annoying twins. I WANT THEM TO ROAST ETERNALLY ON THE SPITS OF A FLAMING HELL!!!!!!!!! And they were only in five episodes or so. Think about that.
Now there are some cool mechs in this show but unfortunately they are seriously underused. I don't know what the exact reason is but most of the fights between UN Spacy and Varauta variable fighters largely consist of stock footage for at least the majority of 2/3 of the show. You have the VF-11C Thunderbolt, which is the old workhorse and looks cool but is made completely useless. Seriously, the way the Thunderbolts are depicted in this series they seem even more fragile and useless than TIE Fighters! And even with other designs like the F-117 inspired VF-17 Nightmare and the mass-production VF-19 Excaliburs and the Sound Force custom VFs all mostly operate on stock footage. One of the rare exceptions ar Max and Milia's VF-22S Sturmvogel II planes.
Sexy. If you've seen Macross Plus, you'll recognize that the VF-22S is the re-tooled YF-21. Even though the YF-19 won the competition and was mass-produced, the YF-21 was adopted by SpecOps and was produced in limited numbers as the Sturmvogel. Milia only gets to fly hers at the very end but she's still brilliant and Max pulls of the most awesome Death Star Trench, as I said.
The Varauta mechs look nice enough but don't really float my boat. *sigh* It's just such a pity that almost all the combat footage is stock. that is one place where this series truly fails.
There is one fun scene in an episode where Mayor Milia throws a festival and asks the citezins to donate their privately owned Valkyries/battroids for "exhibits." Actually it's a little plan for her to find some good pilot candidates after City 7 becomes separated from the rest of the fleet, but results in hilarity when some old farts bring a Monster mk. II Destroid and try to use its quadruple cannons, which results in devastation. They really should have known better than to fire warship-killing cannons near a city!
Last thing to talk about is the misc. which means music in this case. And quite appropriate because music is a VERY big thing in Macross 7. The one unusual thing though is that Mac7 has no score. Instead the entire soundtrack is Fire Bomber songs. This is good and bad because while Fire Bomber's songs (featuring the vocal talents of Japanese Rock god Yoshiki Fukuyama) are early 90s rock and very catchy, some of them, like Charging Love Heart and Planet Dance get way overused while other gems, like Diamond Calling, barely get used at all. Also, I don't think that Mylene's singing voice, Chie Kajiura, doesn't actually sink up well with Fukuyama. They're still worth a listen and be honest, nothing matches up with space fighters charging into battle quite like rock.
In the final analysis, I don't think Mac7 is the strongest entry in the Macross franchise but despite the fact that it can seem like Power Rangers meets Star Wars, it's a Macross series at the core and is worth a watch both on its own and as part of the franchise itself. On the MAHQ scale it gets 3 1/2 stars. BOMBA!!!!