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Anime / Macross Plus

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All you gotta do is cut the engines and ride the wind...

The first official sequel to Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Macross Plus is a four episode OVA series released in 1994 for the tenth anniversary of Macross: Do You Remember Love?, with a theatrical movie adaptation released the following year, which added around 20 minutes of new animation, particularly during the climactic battle at the end of the story.

Macross Plus forgoes the background of interstellar war present in the rest of the franchise for a more personal story based on the rivalry of two childhood friends — Isamu Alva Dyson and Guld Goa Bowman — both in their work as test pilots for the latest variable fighters, and in the central Love Triangle with their mutual friend Myung Fang Lone; as well as facing the obsolescence of manned pilots against artificial intelligence-guided, unmanned fighting craft.

The animation consisted of a then-groundbreaking combination of traditional cel animation and computer animation, and paved the way for much greater integration of CGI in Japanese animation. It also launched the directorial career of Shinichiro Watanabe (a lot of elements in this series show up again in next project, Cowboy Bebop) and the composing career of Yoko Kanno (her work for Please Save My Earth was released around the same time and didn't have as profound an impact.)

To this date, Macross Plus is still widely regarded as the pinnacle of the Macross franchise and one of the finest sci-fi anime ever made.

This show provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Myung lives and breathes the trope in the end.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Virtual Idol Singer Sharon Apple is fitted with an experimental military AI processor to attempt to mimic emotions more completely. This was not a good idea.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • Several of Yoko Kanno's songs for the film feature vocalists Speaking Simlish to represent the Zentraedi language. Official translations (into Japanese, natch) are available in the CD booklets (although "WANNA BE AN ANGEL"'s lyrics page only features the Japanese translation with no transcription of the Zentraedi.)
    • The film version explicitly credits "VOICES" as "Myung's song", while it credits nine to Sharon Apple: "Idol talk", "The Borderline" and "WANNA BE AN ANGEL", sung by Akino Arai; "SANTI-U" and "Torch song", sung by Gabriela Robin; "INFORMATION HIGH", sung by Melodie Sexton; "After, in the dark", sung by Mai Yamane; "Pulse" by Wuyontana and Mako Hyodo; and "A sai ën" by Raiché Coutev Sisters.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Reversed during Isamu and Guld's final duel when they start yelling at each other about things such as not returned CDV's and who bought who lunch the most before getting to the heart of the matter.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical:
    • The YF-21 interface. It allows for super fast maneuvering at the speed of thought, but stray thoughts from the pilot can make it do erratic things.
    • The YF-19 counts as well; six previous test pilots crashed it until Isamu finally came along and tapped into its full potential. Later material confirms that its serial version, the VF-19, only had a limited production run before being replaced with a new fighter based off the VF-17 Nightmare.
    • The Ghost X-9 drone fighter is possibly the most devastating air combat unit ever produced in the Macross canon, being more than a match for both of the above Super Prototype fighters at once even when both had an Ace Pilot at the controls. However Sharon hijacking it spooked UN Spacey so badly that the idea was shelved as too dangerous.
  • Batman Gambit: Potentially there was one, but never fully explained in the incident with the live round loaded in Isamu's gunpod. It's strongly implied that Guld did it, but why he did it is uncertain. Either he expected to blame Isamu for trying to murder him, or perhaps he expected the round would initially jam and Isamu would not keep trying to fire it, then when Guld wrestles the gunpod away and uses it to murder Isamu, it would look like Isamu had tried to do it, and Guld could have gotten away with murder. The latter qualifies, but this whole incident was literally swept under a rug, and thus we may never know.
  • Beam Spam: The Earth defense network is truly a marvel to behold... unless you're an invader or a random piece of debris. The YF-19 also has to navigate a Beam Spam from the Macross during the final encounter.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The entire population of Macross City during Sharon's Space War peace treaty anniversary concert. Sharon has an... effect on people.
    • While she always did, after the upgrade she most likely used her holograms to actually BAC everyone.
  • Broken Bird: Myung.
  • Canon Foreigner: The arcade game based on this series introduced a blue-haired unnamed female pilot. She never appears anywhere else.
  • Canon Immigrant: The telepathic helmet Guld Goa Bowman uses to control the YF-21 was originally a concept that debuted in the American Robotech tie-in novels in the late 1980s.
    • It is more likely this detail was taken from the novel/film Firefox which features a brain-direct interface that more closely resembles the system seen in Macross Plus than the 'thinking caps' from the Robotech novels do.
  • Central Theme: Emotion. Consider;
  • Character Depth: Surprising huge amounts of it with the given length of the show.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the concert in ep2, it's shown that Isamu isn't as affected by Sharon as the rest of the audience is. Comes in handy during the climax, leaving him one of the few unaffected and thus able to fight back.
  • Come Back to Bed, Honey: Lucy, to Isamu when he gets a call right after they had sex in the movie. Bad thing? It was from Myung Sharon, impersonating Myung, who was in huge danger. Good thing Guld decided to answer the other call.
    • Sharon was attempting to either bring Myung and Isamu together, instigate a fight between Isamu and Guld when the both showed up to save her, or kill Myung outright; Sharon was the one who overloaded a circuit and started the fire, then attempted to kill both Myung and Guld when Isamu didn't show up.
  • Cool Plane: Here.
  • Da Chief: Colonel Millard Johnson spends much of his day chewing Isamu out for his recklessness, though he eventually reveals that he was much the same when he was younger and covers for Isamu when he steals the YF-19 prototype to follow Myung to Earth.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: In-universe, the YF-19 itself is an extremely high-performance VF, but it is also incredibly difficult for normal pilots to control effectively. This ends up making the YF-19 into a specialist Ace-only VF variant. The YF-21 has incredible response to its pilot's will, but requires their pilot to keep calm and focused, as their thoughts straying can cause unusual performance hiccups due to the machine responding to their subconcious thoughts.
  • Don't Say Such Stupid Things!: Isamu snaps at Myung's self-pity by telling her that sometimes life isn't fair and that she needs to deal with it, instead of feeling sorry for herself.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Isamu. Oh, like you're surprised.
  • Epigraph: The anime ends with the words, "Dedicated to you, our future pioneers..."
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: Sharon Apple's performance of "SANTI-U" features a full screen of this for ten straight seconds.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Isamu is quickly shown to be a hot shot Ace Pilot who drives the rest of his flight squad crazy with him going One-Man Army on their enemies. At the same time, he's quick to jump to the aid of another pilot in danger.
  • Expy: The planes featured are strongly inspired by real world fighter jets.
  • Future Music: The second OVA (and film) dedicates seven minutes to a Sharon Apple concert sequence on Eden. Her second concert on Earth is intercut with the final battle of the series. Sharon's music consists of ethereal dream pop (including a Twin Peaks homage), 90's downtempo and trance, and 80's-tinged synthpop, with "SANTI-U" being the only song that foregoes this trope: it can only be described as "ethereal-cum-tribal trance-via-musique-concrète" and there remains, as of 2019, little music like it.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: The rivalry between Isamu and Guld gets so bad they just resort to this. Being Macross, at one point they do it with Giant Mecha twice.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Guld Goa Bowman.
  • Heroic Sacrifice / Mutual Kill: Guld. He disables his craft's limiters to crash into the Ghost. He suffers fatal injuries due to the extreme G-Forces involved, literally crushing himself to death before crashing into X-9...
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Guld is quite a bit bigger than Myung.
  • Humongous Mecha: it's a Macross series, after all.
  • Hypno Fool: Sharon is able to mesmerize the crew of the Macross and the crowd watching with her music, and manipulate guards and even Yang into hostile actions. She even manages to lull Isamu into a trance only for Myung's countersong to pull him out. It is unclear if she was responsible for Marj's high dive.
  • Idol Singer: Sharon Apple. Myung wanted to be one, but it was all a Tragic Dream
  • Insufferable Genius: ISAMU. The man shoots off enemies that are grappling his squadmates, sketches a giant bird-monster with his thruster exhaust on his first flight with the YF-19, and can fly inches from the ground, at top speed, while upside down, with his cockpit literally nearly scraping the floor, all to outdo Guld. He often gets called out for endangering lives and equipment.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: It's a very close contest between Isamu and Guld. They're not the Nova Project's top test pilots for nothing.
    • Guld has the Justification in that he's using a computer and literally piloting by thought.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Lucy's reaction after seeing the depth of Isamu's affection for Myung. But not before she calls Myung out via telling her that Isamu loved her all along. "It was you... it was always you!"
    • Lucy nothing, this was Sharon's motive too, but she was completely insane.
    • In all fairness, that wasn't actually her fault. That's the fault of her template's issues, Neumann's hacking and Gueldoa's illegal chip. Those are sort of beyond her control.
  • Jerkass: Both Isamu and Guld, until near the end.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Guld's barbs at Isamu wouldn't be as effective if some of them weren't hitting close to the truth.
    • Later Isamu directs this to Myung with his Don't Say Such Stupid Things! speech; his words are harsh, but he's got a good point to make especially since how Myung has been "handling" things is a major part in things going horribly wrong with Sharon.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: What both Guld and Isamu ultimately are. Isamu even gets upset about Neumann joining him on the way to Earth due to him risking execution.
  • Kick The Wrong Dog: When Isamu and Guld get into a huge fist-fight in the parking lot, Myung throws himself between them to make them stop - and Isamu punches her right in the face by accident. Just when you thought the bad blood between them couldn't get any worse ...
  • Life Isn't Fair: Isamu snaps at Myung's self-pity by telling her that sometimes life isn't fair and that she needs to deal with it, instead of feeling sorry for herself.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Sharon Apple ends up being the main antagonist for the Grand Finale because of her love of Isamu.
  • Love Triangle: Once again, it is a Macross series.
    • Which also warps into one weird Love Dodecahedron; Sharon's AI is based of Myung, so she 'inherits' her affection for Isamu ... just a lot more intense.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Can't have a Macross series without them as well, can we?
  • Madness Mantra: Sharon Apple's emotional programming, once complete, is discovered to simply read, "ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU ISAMU", endlessly.
  • Manchild: Isamu and Guld both have this problem when it comes down to it. When they finally fight it out, they're trying to kill each other with paint bullets and arguing over who bought the other one lunch more in school.
  • Manly Tears: One has to be a real cynic to not shed even one for Guld.
  • Meaningful Name: The planet it's set on is called Eden, and Sharon Apple's name is a two-for-one Biblical reference: "apple" as in the one from the Tree of Life and Death, and "Sharon" might be from Solomon 2:1: "I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley."
  • Multilingual Song: "Voices" is mostly sung in Japanese, but the chorus kicks in with a full verse in English halfway into the song before going back to Japanese to finish out.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Sharon Apple was designed this way.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Subverted (with several strongly implied attempts). Guld's YF-21 tries this when the Brain Direct Interface picks up on his idle thought of knocking Isamu's VF-11 into the ground at high speed, it's never made clear who loaded the live round into Ismau's gunpod (it was probably Guld, as he looks at the gunpod as if knowing it was loaded, though it could have been Sharon's attempt to murder Guld for whatever reason), and finally subverted again when Guld very consciously tries to blow Isamu straight to hell in one of the most epic dogfights ever depicted. Would have been played straight if not for Isamu's skills.
    • Sharon also tries to do this to Myung over Isamu. Myung goes Action Survivor and escapes..
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: Sharon's 'gift' to her beloved Isamu is to give him a variation of one of these, killing him so he could have one perfect moment of pre-death euphoria.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Guld's attempted rape of Myung resulted in his Trauma-Induced Amnesia and the breakdown of the friendship between Guld, Isamu and Myung.
  • No Endor Holocaust: The climax fight between Isamu and Guld takes place in a city full of empty buildings; maybe they all went to the next town, to watch Sharon's concert.
    • The greater Macross timeline actually provides a perfect explanation for why there would be an entirely abandoned city for them to fight in. Specifically, it has only been thirty years since the total population of Earth was reduced to less than a million. Using Zentradi cloning technology and captured factory satellites, Earth consistently sends out at least one colony ship with a million+ colonists every single year. The deserted city is likely where the cloned colonists were housed prior to the launch of the colony ships. By the time of Macross Plus, the cloning has been discontinued, so the city is currently unused.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Aside from the usual Reflex/Reactive weapons bit, one of the stated goals for Project Super Nova is to deal with problems without having to use them. Current weapon technology effectively renders nukes irrelevant anyway - they have the same basic effect without the radioactive fallout.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Guld after his stray thoughts of squashing Isamu while piloting the YF-21 are turned into actual commands by the prototype's Neural Command interface.
    • Yang's reaction to seeing the Macross under Sharon's control.
  • Omniglot: Sharon sings in English, Zentraedi, and (gramatically incorrect) French. Justified given that she's a computer.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In a bizarre example, Sharon Apple's singing voice fits this trope, as her songs are sung by seven different women. While Akino Arai and Gabriela Robin (who sing the bulk of the songs) have similarities in their singing voices, Mai Yamane's dusky voice and the soul stylings of Melodie Sexton, a black American, are very different in comparison. Again, justified and for the exact same reason: as Sharon is a computer, her voice doesn't have to remain constant.
  • Playful Hacker: Jan, the designer of the YF-19, has this as a hobby. Causes considerable trouble for all involved when his attempts to hack Sharon during a concert first get her to notice Isamu.
  • Product Placement: Heckler & Koch exists in the series as a major contractor of small-arms for the U.N. Spacy.
  • The Rival: Isamu to Guld and vice versa, in nearly every aspect of their lives.
  • Short Film: Averted. The movie edition runs about 2 hours.
  • Shout-Out: Main characters Isamu Dyson and Guld Bowman take their names from SF author Freeman Dyson and David Bowman, the main character of 2001, and Sharon's AI casing bears an uncanny resemblance to HAL 9000's red eye. Sharon herself has striking similarities to the work of Patrick Nagel, whose most famous piece is the cover art to Duran Duran's album Rio.
    • Thomas Alva Edison and John von Neumann.
    • Project Supernova is a shout out to the USAF's Advanced Tactical Fighter Project in name (Advanced Variable Fighter) and implementation: the Real Life ATF project also involved a flyoff between two competing fighter designs.
    • The YF-21 is also a shout out to the YF-23 Black Widow. Both also lost their competition in favor of the more conventional fighter (YF-19/YF-22 Raptor).
      • The YF-21's name "Sturmvogel" is also a shout out to another plane, the World War II era Me-262, the worlds first operational jet fighter.
    • New Edwards AFB on Eden is based off Edwards AFB, the USAF's primary testing facility (and the site of the ATF Project).
    • There's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it nod to Aphex Twin: an ad for the fictitious Selected Ambient Works Vol. 23 2038-2040 appears for a split second on a bus stop before turning into an ad for Sharon.
  • Shown Their Work: More than a few.
    • Isamu playing airplanes with his hands before flying, while this may seem like quirky character trait, real life aerobatic and test pilots often do visualize their flights this way before actually going up.
    • Guld removing the limiter on the YF-21 seems like just a cool way to show how good the plane is, however real fighter planes do have this, it's called an "Alpha Limiter" and it's meant to prevent pilots from doing maneuvers that will pull more Gs than their bodies can handle.
  • Speaking Simlish: Some of Sharon Apple's songs are in Zentraedi, to represent the culture of Macross. In actuality, the "language" is all nonsense words, chosen only for their sound and the emotional tone they conveyed.
  • Super Prototype: Both the YF-19 and YF-21 are this, as is the Ghost X-9 for autonomous drone fighters.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: Sharon manifests three different holographic forms, each echoing one of the faces. That said, they are all controlled by the same unified personality.
    • Alternatively: Lucy is the Child (youngest of the group, youthful, carefree), Myung is the Wife (Broken Bird, the link between Isamu and Guld), Sharon is the Seducttress (wishes to seduce Isamu and give him the ultimate thrill even if it kills him)
  • Translation Convention: Played with. All dialogue is in Japanese (or English, if watching the dub), even though everyone is "supposed to" be speaking Zentraedi on Eden. Working against this is Sharon Apple's music, which is sung in English and Zentraedi, untranslated in the animation (though translated into Japanese in the soundtrack booklets.)
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Guld spends most of the story being unable to remember (the full version of)a traumatic incident from his shared past with Isamu and Myung for which he blamed Isamu. It was, in fact, his own attempted rape of Myung during a berserk rage, only remembered during the climactic battle, at which point he breaks off combat with Isamu to sacrifice himself to stop the unmanned fighter under Sharon Apple's control.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: One of the more emotionally complex (if not complicated) executions of the trope. It doesn't help that they used to be tight before it all went to hell.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Guld is prone to this. It's his Zentradi blood acting up. It's worse when he's not on his meds.