35 years have passed since Lynn Minmay had brought peace between the Zentradi and the humans in the events of Macross. Nekki Basara is a guitarist and a singer of the band Fire Bomber. Living in a less-developed part of the flying colony City 7 which is looking for a habitable planet, he composes and sings songs in the belief that music holds a greater power.
During its flight, an unknown alien race appeared and started laying siege upon City 7. However, its attacks are not conventional -- instead of trying to destroy them, they steal what is known as "spiritia", rendering victims unresponsive and zombie-like. During these battles, Basara always goes out into the middle of the warzone, singing his songs and expecting friend and foe to listen and be moved by his music.
I'm one of what is probably the most rare breed of western anime fans, those who will defend Macross 7. While not masterpiece of the anime art form, there is a lot to like about Macross 7. Since the series is so polarizing among fans, I'll take a pros vs. cons approach.
1. Music. While obviously a matter of taste, I find most of Fire Bomber's songs quite enjoyable. They're one of the few anime soundtracks I will listen to on their own merits.
2. Fun factor. Basara is genuinely entertaining to watch.
3. Nostalgia. There are numerous ties to the original series, and it's interesting to see
how things developed. Most notably, it's great to see Max and Milia again. Also, it continues the concept of the colony fleets introduced in Macross Flashback 2012.
4. Focus on characters. While ostensibly a mecha series, the focus of the story is on the characters. Fire Bomber's road to stardom, Basara's quest to move people's hearts with his music, Mylene growing up and understanding her own feelings for Basara and Gamlin, reconciling Max and Milia's relationship, etc. If you avoid mecha shows because they have too much technobabble and focus on the robots more than characters, this is not a problem here.
1. Music. Some people hate it. If you don't like pop/rock, especially of a Japanese variety, you will be assaulted by it for the duration of the series.
2. Use of stock footage. Especially early on, there is an extreme use of stock battle footage of VF-11's and Elgarzorenes fighting.
3. Lack of focus on mecha. Fans expecting to have lots of cool animation of all the new Valkyrie models introduced here will be sorely disappointed. I recommend you pick up the VF-X games for the Playstation instead to get that fix.
Macross fans should give the series a chance, and don't give up on it too soon. This is certainly one of those anime deserving of the time honored line "it gets better later." Just be aware of what kind of show this is you're getting into. Macross 7's greatest flaw is simply that it isn't what people expected of a continuation of Macross.
Macross 7 is so far the most different installment of the Macross franchise. While it retains the three main story elements of all Macross series (Love Triangles, Music and Variable Fighters), for everything else it tries to push the envelope of strangeness while trying to keep it within the confines of the Macross universe. For that reason, it may rub viewers, especially older fans of the franchise with certain expectations, the wrong way. As a result, Macross 7 is truly an anime that you either love it or hate it, no in between, and the only way one can tell which camp you fall in
is to watch the whole thing for yourself. Make no mistake, I for one am glad I did complete the show as I found myself enjoying it greatly.
At its core, the story of Macross 7 is about a rock singer (Basara) trying to find his way in the world (or Galaxy whatever) with his singing. Sounds fairly typical fare, but the show introduces so many far-out story elements that you might wonder if the writers were on drugs. Someone once described Macross 7 as "Rock singers flying around in transforming robot planes fighting space vampires with the power of music", and I find that description is pretty dead on, so if you have trouble swallowing that it is unlikely this show is for you. Most Macross series pride themselves in not taking things too seriously, and Macross 7 not only revels in it but thrives on its weirdness, and that is really the fun of it. The key to enjoying it is to accept the silliness and go with the flow. I do understand that may not be to everyone's tastes, it reall tests the boundaries of one's suspension of belief. The show does drag at times, especially in the first 10+ or so episodes where they just seem to repeat each other. At the end it is painfully obvious that they could have done the show with a lot fewer episodes. When the story does pick up in the middle to late episodes, depending on whether you've allowed yourself to be immersed in the show's strangeness, it can turn out to be a fun ride.
Macross 7 has a rather memorable set of characters. They may not be especially deep, but everyone from the main cast to the smallest side character are each built around a unique quirk which allows them to play off each other pretty well. From Gamlin's relative squareness to Miriya's hot headedness to unnamed Flower Girl's unending quest to present flowers to Basara, each of them helps breathe life into Macross 7's environ giving it a rather organic feel. The only real problem for most is the main character, Basara, who like so many things about the show, you either like or not. A lot of people are turned off by his seemingly pig-headed and abrasive personality, he does not go out of the way to make himself likable. But for me personally, I find that is what makes him rather interesting in the way he effects change in those around him. A welcome change to the standard type of main protagonists we've been seeing in other shows in the same genre.
As expected, Music is very integral to Macross 7's story. The soundtrack mainly consists of Japanese Rock so if that's not your cup of tea, well then steel yourself for 49 episodes plus plus worth of it. Even then, early on, it does not show much diversity with Basara repeating the same two songs over and over again for the first few episodes until you are sick of them (afterwards he then repeats them so many times you end up liking them again) However this actually makes sense within the context of the show as Basara is still trying to find his voice early on and eventually as the story progresses, each time he achieves some self realization, he gets newer and better songs to play with.
As for the animation, well, you can tell that their budget was rather limited, even for an older show. There is a noticeable lack of big dogfight sequences that characterize other Macross shows, so if you are a fan who is in it for the Itano circuses, you might end up disappointed. Recycled cels means you end up seeing the same Valk being blown up every other episode even till the later end of the show so there is a certain sense of laziness in this department.
As I said, Macross 7 is a show that you need to watch in its entirety to give proper judgment on it as the early episodes do not do it justice. Even I admit that it took me 3 tries before I could move past the first few episodes, but I found myself rewarded with a rather enjoyable and surprisingly engaging ride by the end. Its 49 episode count may seem rather daunting, but I do encourage you to not give up so easily and try to endure it to the end. It is a show you either steer clear or watch all the way to the end. It is Macross at its silliest, and the show knows it. If you acknowledge this, Macross 7 might end up surprising you with a rather fun, and atypical Macross experience.
So, since I'm hell bent on watching all the macross series I thought I'd start on Macross 7. For a while I thought I'd made a big mistake.
It took a LONG time to finish this series which already indicates at first glance it's not all that exciting. It's all about Nekki Basara, guitarist and lead singer of the band Fire Bomber (what a great band name). The band starts unknown, living and practicing in a hovel on City 7, joined to Battle seven. They're the mainstay of the colony fleet Macross 7, searching for a habitable planet to live on.
First part deals with character
development (boring) then the protodeviln appear. Instead of getting exciting it's a wash-rinse-repeat of Nekki using his songs to save the day. There are a few plot twists but overall this series though keeping with the Macross themes of Love Triangle and Power of Music ... is not done very well and honestly could have been squeezed into 26 episodes. There is a LOT of filler (1 min flashback at the start of every episode) and too much "Basara is a rebel" for my taste. Wakate, wakate, we get it, Basara is a rebel. Luckily the story picks up towards the last 10 episodes but it took a really strong will to continue watching this series!
Dated animation and TONS of frame reuse. Like every episode there's frame reuse. I hate when it's done badly enough that I felt like fast forwarding through the same old animation of the same old battles with the same old songs. The mecha look nice but that's about it.
Shoot me now! The first 25 episodes I *hated* Nikki's singing. Oh god he's singing the SAME old song. Again! and Again! and Again! Ugh! Hate hate! Play something else dammit! I don't know if they did it to save money by reusing the same songs/frames but somewhere around episode 35 I started enjoying the songs and found myself singing along at some parts. Ack! Insidious! So ... that was their evil plan! Repeat the song until the viewer starts liking it. Well, I hate to say but it worked. I guess I now have to go download the soundtrack. Grrr!
This is a mish-mash. There are a lot of characters, all with different personalities. I really started to feel for some of them towards the last 15 episodes so I guess you can say this series "grew" on me.
The lead protagonist is Nekki Basara, the cool tough rebellious guitarist/lead singer who has a huge ego and doesn't care what other people think. He's also a pacifist who sings instead of blowing up enemies. Of course while he's singing there's plenty of innocent people getting blown up by the enemies he won't shoot. But somehow no citizens protest his peacenik ways getting others killed. I hated this character.
The secondary singer/bassist of Fire Bomber is Mylene, daughter of Maximilian Jenius and Milia Fallyna. Supposed love interest who spent most of the episodes in teenage angst. Mylene is cute, young (14 years old) and spoiled. She treated her suitor, Gamlin, not too well. I hated her too.
The other 2 members of the band are Ray, the ex military guy and 3rd guitarist, and Veffidas the zentradi drummer. Ray was ok but Veffidas was just big and must have had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to drum everything in sight when she isn't at her drums - car windows, tables, chairs, other people's bodies etc. Veffidas is the strong, silent type. When she showed her strength and spoke it was with great impact. I loved Veffidas.
Then there's Max and Milia, the first human and zentradi love connection from the original Macross Series. Max is older and handsomer, Milia got all straight laced. Estranged in this series (he's the military commander and she's the civilian's Mayor) I spent the whole series waiting and hoping for them to get back together. If only Macross 7 was about Max and Milia this series would have scored much higher. I loved them both!
Lt. Gamlin is important and such a nice, honest, man. That's not good when you start falling in love with a 15 year old girl with no brains and who will likely choose the "bad boy" thus giving birth to the saying "nice guys finish last". I was 15 once and liked bad boys then but now that I'm more mature I wouldn't marry one. Gamlin is really likeable and he is the only human of 3 characters that really develop over the course of the series (other 2 are protodeviln). This was a well written character and I loved him too.
There's a whole slew of other side characters. Mylene's ecchi fan. Basara's fan who is always trying to give him flowers. Take the damn flowers Basara! Learn how to treat your fans better! I just pitied some of the side characters.
Well I wasn't enjoying this series at the start (it sucked) but it started changing around episode 33 and by episode 40 it was fun. Just takes a lot of time and patience to get to the good parts, so overall I can't say it was much more than mediocre.
The original SDF Macross and its sequel Macross Plus are two of my favorite anime of all time. I was properly warned, but it was still destiny for me to watch Macross 7 as well. Not only was it the next in a franchise that had yet to do me any wrong but it's the first and only true sequel to the original SDF Macross. I had to watch it, despite Macross 7's reputation of being a huge departure for Macross.
The first series was one of the pioneering works of the "Real Robot" genre along with Mobile Suit Gundam. It combined the aesthetic appeal of
mecha with more ambitious storytelling that focused on character drama and more plausible science. Macross 7 unabashedly goes towards the opposite "Super Robot" genre, featuring absurd plot devices, supernatural powers, and a lighter tone. Macross 7 refers to the ship fleet that's one of many Macross fleets traveling the galaxy in search of habitable planets. The fleet is comprised of several domed ships that completely replicate Earth life inside of them. Eventually the fleet comes across the Varauta army, an alien race with their own technology that survive on draining the life energy of humans, "Spirita". When traditional weapons don't cut it only the civilian Nekki Basara and his band Fire Bomber can defeat the enemy using the almighty power of... rock music.
Things won't be easy for him, though. The military refuses to believe in the power of his singing, and his irritable personality causes him to clash with his own bandmates. Regardless, he's Macross 7's only hope to defend against the Varauta as they travel aimlessly through space. Joining Basara are his bandmates Mylene Jenius, Ray Lovelock, and Veffidas Feaze. Only three SDF Macross characters return for this installment, notably Max and Milia who command the fleet and govern the city, respectively. Got it? Let's rock this series.
I once heard someone call Macross 7 the "G Gundam of the Macross Franchise". That's true for many reasons. Not only is it two real robot franchises introducing a super robot series, but they also both lighten the known serious tone considerably. Also, they're both mediocre and considered the dark horse of their respective franchises. Macross 7 isn't lacking because it's different from the other series. Take it from me, who thought the concept sounded awesome and went in incredibly optimistic. Macross 7 fails because, as anything would, it poorly executes basic story writing principles and undersells its own original ideas. With the basic plot out of the way, let's break this down starting with the main cast of characters.
Nekki Basara is our hero and a truly odd one. Almost always silent except when he sings and almost always shouting otherwise, he rarely has the most spoken lines in an episode despite his important role. Though in some ways a typically hotblooded shonen protagonist, Basara is a surprisingly abrasive character that's practically antisocial. He's completely dedicated to the power of music as a means of emotional communication and flies out into battle with his custom Valkyrie unit where he can play his songs and control the mech with the same guitar. Basara is an extreme pacifist who goes out in the middle of dogfights alone to sing at the enemy while dodging countless attacks, hoping that the enemy will be moved by his songs of love and peace and will stop fighting. Basara's catch phrase is yelling at everyone to "listen to my song!" whether it's in public or after he's shot speaker pods into the enemy mechs.
Yet, we get the least backstory of Basara out of any major character. He's the leader of a rock band, believes music can influence people, and never lets anyone stop him from singing at the expense of his own life. Why he does this, why he thinks like this, where he came from, what influences him, why he's a good pilot, etc., none of these things are ever explained throughout the entire series. Though this would normally be a major slight against characterization this may actually be perhaps what I find so charming about him. Basara is a main character who's a genuine eccentric and not at all like anyone else, but over time he succeeds in reaching out to others despite his attitude and normal communication problems. For all talk of Tomino's Gundam protagonists possibly being "autistic", I'm surprised I never hear that lodged at Basara who fits the bill much more realistically. Despite the total lack of depth to Basara's personality due to little insight into his head and not really developing as a character ever, I have to say I'm pretty fond of him and still think he's the best Macross 7 character simply because he has a strong distinctive personality that's entertaining to watch and stands out among anime protagonists. When Basara does anything at all you're interested in him because you want to understand anything more about the weirdo, but in the end the only context you have is his songs. Though he probably wouldn't have it any other way.
To fill the shoes of generic lead chatterbox is Fire Bomber's female vocalist, Mylene. Vain, whiney, and dull, Mylene is a typical 14 year-old and it makes perfect sense that she's the only person stubborn enough to stay in the band after putting up with Basara's self-centered spontaneity and rudeness. Mylene apparently has no life or personality prior to the events of Macross 7, and her character arc revolves around her being lectured on the true heart and soul of music by Basara acting as her borderline mentor, as well as learning about the dangers and seriousness of war when she eventually joins Basara on the front lines. I don't really hate Mylene, but she's a very annoying and typical character who's given far, far more lines than anyone else in the series despite having little interesting things to say. Her character progression is incredibly obvious, so to see her continuously resist and repeat it as she argues with Basara and acts like she isn't attracted to him is very tiring and boring. Whenever something bad happens she cries and whines despite the fact she's got shit to do.
Mylene is a weak character because she's essentially a complement to everyone else. She's a link between her parents, Max and Milia, she's the token confounded reaction towards Basara's strange actions which also prompt the majority of Ray's dialogue, and she's the object of affection and source of motivation for Gamlin. Her fight for autonomy ends with her being a generic hero without the eccentricity of Basara. Mylene is what we call a "resource character", and it's an easy one for the necessary female lead to fall into. But it should never be such a major character, and she's focused on far too much in storyline plots at the expense of developing pretty much anyone else.
The keyboardist Ray is the odd duck of Fire Bomber: he has to be at least 30 making him the oldest member by far, and he's black. In fact, he's the only black character I remember seeing in Macross 7. There are more aliens in Macross 7 than black people. Anyway, Ray is the voice of reason in Fire Bomber. He's inspired by Basara's passion and believes in him to the very end, often defending him when Mylene complains about him doing something on his own accord. Ray has acceptable backstory detail but it's all delivered in very unsatisfying short asides. There are one or two episodes tops that are devoted to him, and I find this a shame. He's perhaps the most all-around likable, sane person on Macross 7. He never denies the obvious fact that Basara's singing has an effect on the enemy but is reasonable in his negotiations with the military and others. Ray is super cool, but unfortunately he's so busy trying to make up for everyone's insanity that he never gets enough time to talk about himself.
Veffidas is the full-blooded Meltrandi drummer. Veffidas drums. That's it. Veffidas's gimmick is that she is almost entirely mute, and although she's in every single episode she probably speaks less than twenty words the entire series. At first this is very cute, but there's several issues. One, it's disappointing that the only identifiably Zentradi character in the series does practically nothing. Yes Milia is Meltrandi also but looks and behaves like any other human in Macross 7. Veffidas has the distinctive pale skin look and super strength but her role is so minor. It's like anime whitewashing. A much bigger problem though is that she further unbalances the team dynamic. She's a member of Fire Bomber, and it's a waste of such a large role to keep her silent when she's such a constant in the series and could offer a greater range of dialogue and personality. Ray is already overshadowed by Basara and Mylene, and Veffidas's insignificance drags him down further since they're paired together in battle but neither are ever the center of attention. If this strong silent gimmick had to be used on someone it shouldn't have been on a character with a natural relation with the main characters that could've been exploited.
Next to Basara and Mylene, the most important character is the military pilot Gamlin Kizaki. An ace pilot and member of the special Diamond Force, Gamlin is extremely strict about duty and protocol. Naturally he's very irritated by Basara's presence on the battlefield and even finds his songs annoying. This makes him the only character in the series who doesn't think Fire Bomber's music is the best thing ever. Gamlin is not only a sour sport but also pines for Mylene's jailbait ass even though he's certainly in his 20s. This is very strange, but what's stranger is that it's Mylene's parents that hook them up. Anyway, Gamlin is a good character by Macross 7 standards. His progression is also incredibly obvious but it's done with a gradual subtlety that makes it surprising when you realize he actually has changed. Eventually I began to appreciate him for being one of the characters who has sense, and his relationship with Mylene can be slightly entertaining and offer some of the more decent downtime between the main plot due to the fact their meetings always end up with him reflecting on himself for the entire duration. Macross 7 fails the Bechdel test hard.
The beloved SDF Macross characters Max and Milia make their return as adults here. Their relationship has becomed strained and the two frequently clash when it comes to authority over Macross 7. It should come as no surprise from the above that Milia is always the instigator of their conflicts, but I know I can't be one of the only fans very happy to see them come back. Though they're both very popular characters they weren't that important in the original series. This gives them proper time to shine. Max behaves just how you'd expect an adult version of him to, and although Milia's hotshot personality has been compromised in her old age her elitist nature has remained. I'm glad that though Macross 7 changed so many things the franchise established it didn't lose sight of what it kept. I appreciated this moderate connection to the original series and I rooted for their character development because I already had an attachment to them.
Side characters include Mylene's squeaking pet hairball Guvava that mimics all her emotions; an unnamed silent flower girl who's used as a running gag in every episode as she attempts to give Basara flowers but is interrupted every time; and lastly.... You know what, screw it. Those are the only side characters in Macross 7 who consistently appear, let alone have some kind of role. The rest are almost never seen except for when the writing explicitely uses them for the sake of another character, like the female biker Rex to make Mylene jealous of her and Basara. Because she is never used in any other context it's impossible to care when she does show up because she's just a plot device. Macross 7's side characters suck and barely exist, but what can you expect from a series that didn't even make its four main band members important in 49 episodes?
But the real characters Macross 7 drops the ball on are the villains. The Varauta army aliens are awful. Every one of them has an obnoxious speaking trait that's drove into the ground endlessly because they never die and show up in every episode to provide the token action segment. The leader, Gepelnitch, speaks only in obtuse metaphors to convey the simplest of thoughts which makes him look like an idiot instead of condescending. Gavil is a hairy bird-man-thing whose every sentence contains the word "beauty". I HATED this character. His manner of speech is incredibly repetitive to the point he speaks the same sentences constantly even though he's the most common villain in the series. He's an irritating bastard who is constantly a wedge between the series and any plot progression, as well as my patience. Sivil is some flying pixie girl who multiple characters are inexplicably obsessed with and most of her spoken lines are just her making high-pitched screams or yelling "Spiritia!". Goram and Zomd are telepathically connected for some reason and finish each others sentences while sporadically teleporting around and laughing annoying modulated laughs for no reason. God, my fucking ears. I hate these villains and they're as completely shallow as their goal to drain Spiritia from humans for food. Very compelling.
Even by mecha standards, Macross 7's pacing is so poor that it's practically devolved into a Saturday morning kids show. The majority of the series has every episode structured as such: Basara does something to annoy Mylene, Mylene complains at him, Basara says Mylene doesn't know what he's talking about and storms off, Mylene complains again, Ray defends Basara, Gamlin is shy around Mylene, the enemy is shown as Gepelnitch says some shit that means nothing, the writers realize the arguing between Basara and Mylene has gone too far and calls the enemy in, Basara deploys and sings until the enemy decides to leave after doing what they want, Gamlin complains about Basara, and then everything is back to normal. You might think you saw a hint of character development or plot progression, but rest assured any of that will be pushed into the background and ignored as long as that's possible. Even when the plot does move it's in no way that's impressive because it ultimately comes down to a plan to seriously hinder the enemy failing or succeeding but not actually in a significant way, and either the army or enemy gets a power up that doesn't change their relationship or the circumstances. Characters will rarely show growth, but it will be in the most predictable ways.
Possibly the biggest letdown of Macross 7 is its focus on the culture of music. This is the biggest role music has ever played in a Macross series and the step from pop idol to a full band is a good and natural idea. Yet Fire Bomber are apparently handled by writers that have no idea what it's like to be musicians. There are several anime focused on music, and these look into the thoughts and ideas people have about music and how they create it. We see Fire Bomber practice in a studio constantly but we never see them actually discuss writing songs, lyrics, talking about other bands, even mentioning other bands, or what music means to them beyond an extremely simple pleasurable nature. This is the biggest waste of potential in Macross 7. Making a story that's seemingly about a band, but not their relation to music. This would've created far more interesting subplots and character development than what's currently in the series while establishing its theme on a deeper level. But something like that would probably require too much intimacy, something that's not really demonstrated in the series as is.
Though there's nothing much behind the music, Macross 7's songs are pretty good. And they sure as hell better be for how much you hear Fire Bomber's songs. The entire soundtrack is composed by the actual fictional band and everything has vocals. If I had a particular complaint here is that there aren't enough songs and you end up hearing the same ones over and over. I got sick of Planet Dance extremely fast but I had to wait for Basara to write more songs. What sense does it even make that he's performing live at the start of the series but has only written one song? I would've liked a more even spread. Some songs are barely played, and some are played way too much. The opening and ending theme songs, "Seventh Moon" and "My Friends", are among my favorite combinations of opening/ending themes ever in anime. I never got tired of hearing those ones, even though both ending animations creepily sexualize Mylene.
There are some odd inconsistencies with the sound design, however. In some cases I'm impressed, like how if Basara happens to speak in the middle of a song the vocals actually will stop while the other instruments continue. At other times there are too many instruments playing for what's going on onscreen, which makes the music dangerously impersonal from a series that's supposed to be stressing the opposite. I don't know how Mylene can just start singing by herself and all of a sudden a bunch of instruments start backing her up. And who the hell does their backing vocals? Ray and Veffidas don't sing at all. Do they use pre-recorded backing tapes? Where are they? I at least want to see them in the act of making them.
Because only one major character isn't a pacifist, action scenes in Macross 7 tend to have extremely little weight to them as it's just grunts fighting in generic mechs. Badly choreographed fights and stock footage galore. Macross 7 definitely skimps the budget frequently. Reused stills are everywhere as well and pretty noticeable. Though cheaply drawn and animated, I still like the way Macross 7 looks more than anything else about it. It's full of extremely bright colors and you can often get a full rainbow in every still. Macross 7's visuals could put me in a good mood and engage me in the show when I very well might not have been otherwise. I just love to look at those colors.
For 49 episodes I have very little to say about Macross 7, but that's because it has very little to say about itself. The show would have benefitted greatly by having its length cut in half, but the show's main problems aren't just in its incredibly poor pacing and lack of pay off. Macross 7 isn't a show ruined by bad ideas, it's a show full of good ideas that apparently isn't conscious of any of the reasons why they might be good. Crossing the music/band genre with super robot mecha was a fantastic idea full of fun and the potential to combine rock music and action to create some truly memorable moments, but instead its just endless frustration as it focuses on weak characters, generic relationships, and a simple yet overextended plot. Macross 7 could've been a classic if it just had more conviction.
It's time to plug in those electric guitars and shred 'em like there's no tomorrow. We'll be taking Hell's highway on a journey through a rock music compendium of some of the most rockin' anime shows out there! Get ready for some hardcore rock anime!