Friday, February 18, 2005

The Weight

A few days ago, I bought The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s film about The Band’s last concert. With performances from Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Diamond, it’s a really great concert film, provided you’re into great music, rather than the modern-day equivalent of such, which is good looks, lip-syncing and lots of dancing. Put simply, these aren’t good-looking fellas, but –like Live Aid- it’s a lot of great music with a minimum amount of self-aggrandizing.

More importantly, I am now the proud owner of the entire Robotech series on DVD, having spent a hundred and thirty dollars at Best Buy on the last six box-sets of the remastered discs. Like the platinum series of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the visual quality isn’t quite on par with Japanese animation that’s been coming out over the past few years (such as Cowboy Bebop, or Ghost in the Shell), but it’s still a far cry better than the videotapes I have from twenty years ago. The audio has been remastered in 5.1, which I can’t really take advantage of, lacking a sound system for it, but the sound is crystal clear, and I can say that the stereo separation is phenomenal.

I’ve been waiting for twenty years to finally have a complete archive of this series. I had about half of the last (of the three distinct) series on VHS, until one day the channel that was running the show decided to drop Robotech and start running Centurions in its place. No goodbye, no aloha, they just yanked it off the air with three episodes left. It’s only tonight that I finally got to actually watch the last three episodes, and I have to say that my reaction is completely different than it was when I was a kid, reading the comic book adaptation of the end of the series. Back then, I thought it was great that Scott Bernard launched into space to go find the remainder of the fleet, but today I think that he’s an idiot for leaving his friends (and his alien girlfriend) behind.

The first series (henceforth referred to as Macross, the Japanese series the first third of Robotech was adapted from) plays like a soap opera with transforming robots, and was my first experience as a kid with the notion of how war inevitably leads to the deaths of good people, whether that death is heroic or not. Upon watching the show today, I have become convinced that one of the characters was killed by his steak dinner. In any wartime situation in a film or television show, steak equals death. It is the military equivalent to television dramas’ propensity for killing characters in convenience store robberies. Steak is only given to troops before they go out on high-risk missions, and being given steak in the field is an absolute guarantee that you are going to die. If this doesn’t make sense, I still hold to the belief that constipation killed the dinosaurs, so take my words with a glass of Metamucil.

In 1985, the Cold War was still raging, and I’m not sure that this series could intentionally be said to be drawn from the inherent differences between American and Soviet cultures, but –looking back- it seems almost obvious that Macross was an allegory to trying to bridge that gap between east and west. The series shows war-hawks on both sides, fully intending to keep the war going, in spite of the fact that peace is possible, and both sides also have more rational individuals who believe in the peace process and cultural exchange. In fact, the Zentraedi (giant alien warriors, bred only for war) have their morale eroded by this cultural exchange and many end up defecting to the human side, which they feel will provide them with more satisfying lives.

I’d go into greater detail, but I already spent quite a bit of time writing about the subtext of the first Xenosaga game, so I’m pretty tired. I’ll get back to bullshitting about Robotech later, because I’m not even a third of the way into the series yet, though I plan on watching the entire thing by the time I have to go back to work on Sunday. I'm 25 episodes into a series of 85, so I think it shouldn't be too hard.

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