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Anime / Macross Zero

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Macross Zero is a five-episode OVA released from 2002-2004, set as a Prequel to the popular Macross series. The story takes place in the year 2008, nine years after an alien ship crash-landed in the south Pacific, in the final days of the Unification Wars mentioned earlier in the series. It involves Shin Kudou, a Japanese-American UN soldier who crash lands on a small island after a fateful encounter with one of the first of the series' transforming Humongous Mecha.

On the island, he meets Sara Nome, a priestess of the island's religion, and Mao Nome, Sara's Genki Girl little sister. Thanks to Shin, the island is drawn into the war for the unification of Earth, as well as the fight to posses the various pieces of a strange alien corpse called a "Birdman"/"Bird Human" which figures into the island's religion and may cause untold destruction if allowed to be put back together again.

Like the Macross Plus OVA before it, Macross Zero eschews the usual Space Opera setting for a more personal story. Like the rest of the Macross series, it involves Transforming Mecha, a Love Triangle and the Power of Music saving the world. Unlike the rest of the series, the usual J-pop/J-rock has been replaced with a much earthier soundtrack, reflecting the setting in the South Pacific.

This show provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Roy Fokker.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Shin is told about the island's mating ritual, which involves the men crafting a spear and giving it to a woman they like, he realizes that he had essentially threatened Sara with a love letter and breaks down laughing.
  • Ambiguous Robots: It is really hard to tell just where the machinery ends and living technology begins with the bird-human.
  • Artistic License Geography: The fact that the island, implied to be somewhere in the South Pacific, is named "Mayan" Island has confused a lot of people, since the Maya lived in Central America. It seems the name is a coincidence, as there is little similarity between the islander's culture and that of any Central American culture.
  • Awesome Underwater World: The underwater world in Episode 3 is just visually stunning.
  • Beam Spam: The bird human does this whenever something gets close.
  • Beta Couple: Roy and Aries.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: First between Shin and Mao, then Roy and Aries, and finally Shin and Sara.
  • Cassandra Truth: Shin invokes this to deflect Aries's investigation about the power of the priestesses's bloodline.
  • Continuity Nod: A prototype Destroid Monster shows up near the end. Iris' death is what causes Roy to sink into depression until he met Claudia, Edgar shares the last name with Claudia.
    • Retroactive Continuity Nod. Sheryl Nome's earrings were retconed into the scene where Mao looks at her parents' picture in the Blu-Ray release.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Sara's trauma revolving around the incident where Dr.Hadsford manipulated her into giving her blood is depicted as a similar form of PTSD that a survivor of sexual assault might experience.
  • During the War: The OVA depicts the UN Wars alluded to in Macross.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The bird human singing the song of death is a bad thing.
  • Episode Zero: The Beginning
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: By the end, the only principal characters who aren't dead, are destined to be dead within the next year, or ascended to... somewhere, are Edgar and Mao.
  • Family Extermination: Shin hates anti-United Nations groups and sympathizers because his family was assassinated by anti-UN fighters when he was young.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: It's Macross. You expected something different?
  • Funny Foreigner: In the first episode, when Shin wakes up on the island with no idea where he is, he grabs a carved stick to use as a weapon, and later threatens the natives with it. He cannot figure out why onlookers are giggling so much while he's doing this, and one old man amusedly says "You really shouldn't be pointing that thing at another man, son." Later, when the romantic implications of the carved sticks are explained to him, he bursts out laughing at how stupid he must have looked, threatening the island's religious leader with the cultural equivalent of a love letter.
  • Gainax Ending: Sara, inside the Bird Human, tanks the explosion that would render Maya Island uninhabitable by Folding into space with the exploding nukes. Shin's damaged VF-0, which is glowing blue for some reason, almost sinks into the sea, but surfaces just in time to... follow Sara into foldspace? Maybe? Did the Bird Human grab it using its magic telekinesis? We don't know. It's strange.
  • Genki Girl: Mao Nome.
  • Godzilla Threshold: When the Bird Human appears and seems unstoppable, the UN forces deploy a Destroid Monster equipped with reaction weapons.
  • Harmful to Minors: Of the violent kind. Children get to see what a battlefield looks like first-hand.
  • Helmet-Mounted Sight: The helmet of the prototype VF-0 Valkyrie tracks the pilot's eyeballs in order to acquire targets for the mecha's head-mounted cannons. Presumably, this later became a standard feature, but this is one of only two times in the entire Macross franchise we actually see how it works, with the other being a blink and you'll miss it moment with Ozma in Macross Frontier.
  • Humongous Mecha: Valkyries... or rather
  • Idol Singer: Averted. In a notable departure for the series, Sara and Mao are singing shrine maidens rather than idol singers.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Sara, who Shin walks in on performing some kind of ceremony in the nude. A flashback shows Sara as a younger girl receiving religious instruction from her father, wearing a traditional island outfit which apparently does not include a top.
  • Just Plane Wrong: VF-0s are powered by Turbofans (that is, NORMAL JET ENGINES), yet are able to 'dive' underwater. But the VF-0 also has a few rocket motors, shutters for the engine intakes, and massive capacitors. It's noted that spending at least a couple minutes underwater isn't going to harm it (the thing is meant to be space-worthy, so one would expect it to be airtight).
  • Love Triangle: Sara/Shin/Mao
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Don't leave home without it!
  • Magical Native American: Sara. Also Mao although she initially ignores many of the traditions.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Nora claims this of her group and the UN, saying that they would have used the thermobaric bomb themselves had they brought one. Falls flat when it turns out they've brought reaction weapons-and kept them on hold until anything less had failed stopping the Bird Human.
  • Nuclear Weapons: But actually not a nuke this time, but a fuel-air explosive. Actual nukes are launched in the final battle, and stopping them from annihilating all life on the island leads to a couple of Heroic Sacrifices.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Played straight. Macross Zero continues the tradition of using the ambiguous term "Reaction Weaponry" for things that are almost-but-not-quite nukes.
  • Nuke 'em: Fuel-air bombs
  • Point Defenseless: The carrier Asuka II's battle group. It's just more dramatically tense for the battroids to be able to attack rather than be destroyed before they even get there by an AEGIS system (or whatever overtechnology equivalent).
  • Power of Rock: Actually, Power of Religious Island Music.
  • Precursor Worship: it's suggested that the natives of Mayan Island in the Pacific worship the Protoculture, now extinct, as divine beings. They were also responsible for the creation of the human race.
  • Prequel: To the Macross franchise as a whole.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Nora and DD of the anti-UN forces.
  • Retcon: Sheryl Nome's earrings get added in a shot at the Nome beach house in the Blu-Ray release.
  • Ripping Off the String of Pearls: Sara does it after Dr.Hadsford draws her blood.
  • Scenery Porn: And not just landscape. The Destroid Monster near the end practically oozes sex appeal.
  • Shout-Out: the carrier Asuka(ASCA) II might be a homage to Asuka Langley Soryu whose middle name is the name of two US carriers.
    • Later on, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny had a protagonist called Shinn Asuka. It doesn't help that he had Shin Kudou's japanese VA...
    • The animation in the opening scene with F-14 Tomcats launching from an aircraft carrier at the crack of dawn is a homage to the opening scene of Top Gun, one of Kawamori's favorite movies.
  • Spell My Name with an S: There is some minor disagreement over whether the aliens should be referred to as "Birdmen" or "Bird Humans."
    • It probably stems from Pronoun Trouble, as in the islander legends the Bird Human sacrificed its wings and became the wife of the first human being, symbolizing the way human evolution was guided by alien technology.
  • The Squad: Skull Squadron.
  • Story-Breaker Power: The Bird Human. It levitates a half a dozen naval warships, including an entire aircraft carrier, merely as a side effect of being turned on. It also has a Wave-Motion Gun that can turn said warships inside-out in an instant, and has a barrier that can completely block the combined effects of four tactical nuclear warheads (although this obviously strained it).
  • Transforming Mecha: Series staple, although the jet form is emphasized much more than usual.
  • Underwater Kiss: Shin and Mao have one in episode 3. Serves both purposes of Mao giving Shin some air and also a romantic gesture on Mao's part.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: Used by the Bird Human after it goes One-Winged Angel
  • You Monster!: How Nora describes the UN military to Shin, held captive, when she shows him the scar she got from a knife wound made by rogue UN troops. To be fair, we don't know if there were UN troops with Shin's unit who went rogue and committed war crimes. Nora tells this to Sara when she believes the UN Air Force could have bombed the island. On the other hand, Nora could be trying to shift blame from the Anti-UN force doing the exact same thing earlier on.