Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Christmas Tree

My small three for 2011. nothing special, but it's the first time I ever thought about having one in my apartment, and bought decorations to match.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Opinions of Post-Macross Saga Zentraedi and Half-Zentraedi Characters: Robotech

I've changed since my early days in this dual fandom, but never enough to reject Robotech entirely. The reasons for this are complicated, and I don't entirely understand them. I know that objectively the old Robotech novels and comics suck, and nothing good about them was ever made that didn't derive from the three component series—but I keep coming back to them again and again, even when I cut all ties with Robotech fandom, and have rejected Tommy Yune's Robotech long ago. There are some small things I like in them, appealing moments arising from serendipity, as well as moments with potential. It's not about quality, per se.

Thus, when I discuss "Robotech" and Zentraedi (which I'll be spelling with that extra "e" for this part of the show), it is mostly dealing with characters from the obscure Robotech novels and comics--not canon anymore, but worth discussing. Robotech's portrayal of post-SDFM Zentraedi is more pessimistic than Macross, but there seems to be no real narrative thrust behind just kind of happens.

Therefore I don't attribute malevolence to the Robotech writers, rather just that they didn't think things through often enough. Furthermore, regardless of how I react to said plot points, because it is Robotech and not Macross, events carry less personal weight with me, good or bad.

For all these reasons, no matter how critical my writing below gets, none of it means I will break with Roboetch. The trends of Macross coincidentally manifest here, with most of the major new Zentraedi characters are female, as well as all of Miriya's children. Yet, somehow, there is less of a sense that female Zentraedi are being particularly prized, since there are large groups of mixed-sex Zentraedi everywhere, and the male characters still get attention. That doesn't make up for anything else, but it helps things.

Dana Sterling

I found Dana as unlikable a character as Robotech fans typically do. On reflection it was a colossal misfire to dub her as the Sterling daughter, since it leaves a need to explain how a teal bob became a blonde 'fro, and makes Max and Miriya look like deadbeats for leaving their daughter behind on Earth, or at least contradicts their willingness to bring their child into danger that other time. Of course, much of this could also have been solved by setting all Robotech characters and spinoffs entirely on Earth, an avoidance that came back to bite the production crew in the ass later. Alternatively, Dana didn't have to be their child at all, since the third part of Robotech lacks that generational link.

Furthermore, Robotech colossally misses the point when it comes to Dana's nature: she ought to be considered a normal person rather than a scientific wonder, since humans and Zentradi are genetically identical. Yet in the novels she remains a valuable piece of research, and very few children are born to the Zentradi for some reason. Some of this stemmed from the Robotech dub using Dana's heritage to explain the psychic experiences of her original Japanese counterpart, but the expanded universe took it too far.

Dana's perky, irreverent personality also gets on my nerves, but I will say it is actually a subtle and believable mix of her parents', which is more than most fictional children ever get. Her choice of different combat methods also helps to further distinguish her, which is important when writing children of pre-established characters.

Aurora Sterling

I do have a misplaced fondness for Robotech II: The Sentinels, but Aurora is a perfect example of the way that so much of it didn’t take into account the characters' personalities at any point, or created any truly viable new characters. Max and Miriya are unusually accepting of having produced a fragile psychic child, and Miriya even accepts being incapacitated by the draining gestation of Aurora, and even quits the military soon after her birth.

None of the potential cynical interpretations of this are ever followed up on, and it seems to entirely be the character's voluntary decision. Aurora herself is essentially a plot device, and a load of predictable messianic-child traits, including an unshakable personality and no flaws or nuance. No effort is made to give her uniqueness or distinction, and even her exact origins remain cloudy.

Maia Sterling

The bottom of the Sterling pack, since much less effort was put into making her even appear to be original. She is a pilot, just like her parents. Her mecha are trimmed in purple, a mix of her parents' red and blue mecha-- even her hair is purple (!). In short, Maia is the laziest kind of character-child, with almost no identity outside of her heritage.

Kazianna Hesh

It's so easy to think cynical thoughts about Kazianna Hesh and her creation, but they feel hollow to me. Somehow, after turning up my nose at every female Zentradi created by the actual people behind Macross, I love the one created for the Robotech novels first, and I still like her more than Veffidas. That is because of her character, not because she is the lover of Breetai.

Despite my usual contempt for any attempt by Robotech to create original characters (contempt for the execution, not the principle) I've convinced myself that Kazianna has a personality. She is determined, intelligent, bold, and a bit playful. Unlike Miriya, she was able to pursue her own goals and proceed on her own terms from start to finish, and unlike most of the other Robotech-only characters, she actually seems "alive".

I do still wish she had been developed more as a character, and that some of her actions had had greater explanation. Her name is also awkward-sounding, since her surname is exactly like a human one, and her given name sounds feminine to English-speaking ears, a tradition that Robotech barely ever averted when it came to female Zentradi, changing "Laplamiz" to "Azonia" and naming the female fleet advisor "Yaita", as well as "Kiyora" and "Vala" from some video games, and "Marla" from the novels.


Like Aurora, Drannin is another plot device, and he represents several flawed premises for the Robotech Zentraedi. For instance, it's heavily implied that he is the first biological full-Zentradi child. This is twenty years after the peace, so why would it take so damn long? It's never explained why, and it unintentionally suggests a bleak Zentraedi future. The novel never makes clear if he's simply the first giant-sized child or not, which would be more palatable.

Unlike Aurora, Drannin is apparently born without powers, but affected by the forces around him and develops psychic abilities, along with a bunch of other kids born aboard the SDF-3. He seems to be "grounded" unlike the aloof and mystical Aurora—yet Drannin doesn't seem to have any discernible personality. I want to go easy on Drannin, though; maybe it is only because he's Breetai's son, I don't know.

In that vein, though, I'm glad that Drannin wasn't played up as Breetai's "legacy". Sure, it's said once near the end that he's starting to look like Breetai, but that's about it. No bullshit about Breetai somehow being less than stone-cold dead just because he left a kid behind, or any need for Drannin to be like Breetai. He's just a kid like any other, albeit a giant kid who manifested psychic powers. However, this might only be because the novel ended with Drannin still young. Later series might have resorted to these cliches.

Breetai's Faction

What else do you call the handful of Zentraedi who went with the Robotech Expeditionary Force, and who may or may not operate under their own jurisdiction? Their exact legal status in comparison to the human members is never explored, which is another of the Robotech novels' flaws in world-building, despite them fleshing out the series backstory in other areas.

Except for Breetai and Kazianna, they're pretty much an undifferentiated clump. I was glad to see 'em having had enough with the megalomaniacal General Edwards and rebelling against him, and they as one take to Kazianna's son and mother-henning the later children that come.

However, though I once accepted it before actually thinking it through, the Zentraedi having a past life as giant miners on the planet Fantoma is a silly story point, and it's further disappointing that the Zentraedi (except Exedore and Miriya) are shuffled off to be miners for a good chunk of the early Sentinels comics and novels. There is a reason, but it's extremely contrived.

At the end of the Sentinels novels, only a small handful of Zentraedi are left, and they make a go of living on Fantoma, since they cannot be micronized again, due to their only having one chamber and it breaking down from multiple transformations, and now with no Protoculture to repair it. At least they didn't all die off, but it's unintentionally depressing when you think about it, especially because other novels show that there are no more Zentraedi left on Earth.

Seloy Deparra

It's good to see a female Zentradi character who is a genuine danger to humanity, which both series have lacked in since Laplamiz/Azonia, and she was obviously the second fiddle. Seloy is also fairly fleshed-out, with her anger at humanity small and personal, and her sentimentality a greater weakness, as she tries to bring Miriya back into her fold. However, her explaining her plans to Miriya, Bond villain-style, is hard to believe. Even if Seloy thought she could turn Miriya, she ought to have been smart enough not to give it all away that quickly.

Thankfully, her name is a break from the "Female Zentradi have names that end in 'a'" Robotech trend, but on the other hand, I am certain it's derived from some human term. The closest I've been able to find is Seloy-Oy, which is a glassware purchasing company based in Finland. The Zentraedi Rebellion implies that it's just the closest equivalent to what Seloy's name "actually" sounded like, but it's still not credible.

And yeah, because she appears in something written by Bill Spangler, she uses that ridiculous Robotech-Zentraedi language, a harsh, grating tongue that seems to be trying to ape Klingon speech, despite Zentraedi being the opposite of Klingons in some ways. I know I said I hate "Yack Deculture" and all its derivatives, but honestly, beyond that, the cadence of the Macross Zentradi language is much more appealing, and more consistent with the names of ships and characters.

Assorted Malcontents

They have names, many names, but they are pretty much interchangeable. The concept of the Malcontent Uprisings is still something that feels like it needed to happen, the final burst from the pressure cooker of post-Rain of Death Zentraedi unrest. I don't like the author trying to justify these events as the product an ingrained killing urge rather than individual psychological issues leading to mob mentality, more specifically even than Macross Plus does. Notably, though Michael Ling's comic art is terrible, the character designs feel like they could be Macross Zentraedi, with weird 80s hair and faces that run the gamut from normal to cartoonishy freakish.

Hosq and Hosq's Son

I have wiped most of the Hosq comics from my mind already, since they're poorly written and poorly drawn, even by the standards of the Robotech comics. They're a story about a male Zentraedi (whose name doesn't sound Zentraedi at all) and his half-human son, who fall in with a rebel faction. It's a flat and dull story, with inexplicable references to the Japanese Macross shoehorned in...all but for one fascinating notion. Hosq once led an independent Zentraedi settlement, which is an idea I would love to see explored. Just in a comic that doesn't suck.

The Zentraedi Colony of T'sencha

This is an obscure one, from the Robotech: Clone Special. It depicts a colony of crashed Zentraedi who have transformed themselves into a more humanlike mode of existence, with clear romantic attachments between some, and a micronized Zentraedi couple with a baby. I thought that was pretty cute, and though the art style is crude, as with the Malcontent comics, the Zentraedi characters feel like they could be Macross-saga Zentraedi designs.

I didn't like their chanting cargo-cult reaction when the comic's protagonist shows up, and again the Zentraedi are just window-dressing. The otherwise Zentraedi-free Clone series are some of my favourite Robotech comics: they're borderline original fiction with Robotech stuff spackled on, but they're also enjoyably esoteric, and are a lot more competent than the norm.

The Factory Satellite Remnants

Now this is just stupid. If it were treated with any seriousness, it would be horrifying, but as it is, it's thrown in completely from left field, and so is hard to rage about. Basically, when the Robotech novels were finished, author Brian Luceno, one half of the "Jack McKinney" writing duo, wrote a series of "midquel" novels trying to fill in gaps in the novel's timeline. I've read two of these books, and they feel too gritty and awkward to fit with the original books, although The Zentraedi Rebellion, like its original comic, had potential in terms of what it deals with.

However, I refer to Before the Invid Storm, in which a minor plot point is that all Zentraedi have re-located to the Factory Satellite, to live in what becomes squalor, and refuse aid from below. The males die first, and the females then in a kamikaze attack on incoming aliens. The only exceptions were the three ex-spies, Bron, Rico, and Konda, who choose to live on Earth, but died soon after of an inconsistently-explained illness.

This is all not explained. I don't see any necessity for it. From a writing perspective, why have a race be saved, only to internally self-destruct, and thus invalidate the entire plotline? Furthermore, what reason is there to try to eliminate the Zentraedi, when a benefit of the novels is supposed to be allowing all the elements from the three anime to exist in the first place?


Once again, I haven't found every Zentradi character there is to find. In Robotech's case, there are still some video games that I have avoided, and some comics I haven't read, and at this point, don't plan to read.


Robotech is worse in a lot of ways, with its Zentraedi-related flaws easier to argue. The lives of Zentradi in general are obviously better in Macross. Yet Robotech did manage to create a few decent Zentradi characters, and there is less of a sharp gender divide, though one that is still there.

Yet the honest truth is that, whatever Robotech does with the Zentradi, it feels like, on some level, none of it "matters". That these portrayals are somehow "fake" and can't be counted as a strike against Zentradi representation, not of any large concern. Even what I like about them I still recognize as less "honest". Yet they're not going to go anywhere.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Muppets 2011

Okay, I take it back. Movies made by fans, for fans, can actually be good. A list:

Beauty and the Beast theatrical re-release in January 2012! Yes, please, oh magic cardboard theatre cutout.

SO many commercials and previews. SO many. I wasn't bitchy enough to time them, but they seemed to last forever. They even included one short promotional interview for the very movie we were watching.

So, The Muppets is nominally a self-insert fan fiction, with a character named Walter, a puppet in a family of otherwise normal humans (it's best not to think too hard about that) who feels less alone when he discovers The Muppet Show. Walter becomes a total fanboy, never losing his enthusiasm even when he sets foot in the cobwebbed, decrepit mess that is the current Muppet Studios. When Walter overhears that human corporate overlord Tex Richman wants to destroy the theatre to drill for oil, he convinces Kermit to get the gang back together, and raise the money for buying the theatre back via a telethon, confronting the Muppets' supposed cultural irrelevance along the way.

Fortunately, except for the very early parts of the movie, the story becomes more about Kermit and the rest of the Muppets than about Walter. If a modern film about an older property has to display some self-awareness about various things, at least this time it's done pretty well.

Walter is obviously a stand-in for director Jason Segel, who also plays Walter's human brother and accomplice Gary. Segel is a huge Muppets fan and probably the reason why this movie feels so on-the-ball most of the time. Fans that make their professional way can get blinded by their own emotions instead of having distance from the material, and this film has been accused of just that, but I didn't find it too bad.

However, I cringed when they introduced Mary's character, Amy Adams playing Gary's long-suffering girlfriend who is worn out by the co-dependent relationship between the two brothers, and just wants Gary to propose. I expected her to be the standard fun-killing shrew that has concerns about boring old real life, while the male characters get on with the plot. She turned out to be nowhere near as bad as she could have been, because she actually does get invested in helping the Muppets and the role of the couple shrinks as the movie goes on, but Mary still was stuck in that role for a notable chunk of the time. Sure, anyone would get irritated at being a third wheel in their own relationship, but this has been done with female characters so many times that I'm sick of it.

Because the return of Miss Piggy was so climactic, they had to make her the only one who had a well-paying job, I suppose, but it seemed like she might be giving up the Vogue job for Kermit in the long run.

Both characters get the musical number "Me Time", where they sing about being happy to be alone, when they obviously aren't. Argh.

Tex Richman isn't very funny. I know he's supposed to be a parody, or maybe a parody of a parody, but he's just isn't a funny character--didn't make me laugh once. According to the extended soundtrack, he has a childhood grudge against the Muppets as well as an inability to laugh, which would have made him more interesting, at least.

I loved that after getting the major Muppets back together, somehow they just keep accumulating other Muppets in every new scene.

I hope the writers were being ironic with the line about Muppets not being enough for today's "cynical times". Because, wow, the Muppets could be pretty subversive, and subversion is bred partially from cynicism.

The film had a couple of nods to modern humour, with Camilla and the other Muppet chickens clucking to the tune of Ce Lo's "Fuck You", Tex Richman rapping, and a Barbershop Quartet version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", with the non-child friendly parts handled by Beaker. Richman's rap was probably the worst, the Ce Lo bit was shocking but hidden well enough, and the Nirvana one was so bizarre it was pretty good.

Uncle Deadly is still my favourite Muppet, above the more fleshed-out ones: face of a monster, voice of a ham, soul of a thespian: don't mess with him. I loved it when he turned on Richman and knocked him off the tower. (Were Uncle Deadly's feet and tail based off of the Palisades figure from a few years back? Also, does anyone else feel like re-interpreting the "Steppin' Out" figure variant as his business-suited self from this movie?)

All of the sound-alikes in this film are good. I probably was in that sweet spot of being aware enough of the Muppets to enjoy the movie steeped in Muppet fandom, but not enough that I was all that picky about characterization or the new voices.

I had not heard "The Rainbow Connection" in years, but during the scene I was just riveted. Wow. Actually, it characterized the whole movie experience for me: it made me feel a nostalgia I never thought I had, so that I left the theatre smiling. Also with "Mahna, Mahna" stuck in my head. Like that.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Sprout

Neo-Exsedol cosplayer at the 2010 Macross Frontier Super Dimensional Live - Merry Christmas Without You concert event--in layman's terms, a multi-artist Macross concert. As we all well know, I don't hate Neo-Exsedol as much as I should, and it would be cool if this guy was a fan as well as picking a costume he knew would stand out.

Posted by Tochiro at MacrossWorld

Friday, December 2, 2011

Twi-night Double-Header

In which we indulge in some immaturity and hyperbole

I guess it's finally time. Finally time to talk about…Twilight. No, I haven't read the books. I tried; I couldn't. I tried to read through Satireknight's text MST3Kings of the books, but even that defeated me.

Honestly, I couldn't get past Bella's stupid whining about her stupid little life. I know this is what a lot of teenagers do, but…it's not fun for me to read. It's cliché to say it, but seeing characters angst about nothing related to the plot or to do with actual pain seems vulgar, like being forced to witness someone's private life. I didn't even want to slog through this for the nastier stuff.

I witnessed the first merry-go-round of Twilight snark. At that time, I avoided saying anything because I wanted to be a good little girl and actually have read something before I talked about it, but now I guess I'll say a few things since everyone else is.

Then and now, I went with the flow as far as opinion of Twilight was concerned. I thought the stories sounded vacant or unintentionally creepy, as well as padded to all hell. Breaking Dawn sounded simply insane.

I also prefer my vampires savage, with Kouta Hirano's Hellsing manga being my favourite vampiric story of them all. Werewolves I have less of an explicit desire in mind, though I usually hate stuff with "alphas" "packs", and bullshit social Darwinism. Meyer's vampires and werewolves simply sound boring. It's not about vampires/werewolves being emasculated because they aren't out eating people, but that her versions have little apparent weaknesses or drawbacks to their status.

Weaknesses are good things. Sure, you can have your werewolves retain their minds, and your vampires be sexy if you want, but their lives can't be perfect. This is because, in a story that's aiming for conflict or drama, even if its roots are in wish-fulfilment or fighting over a teenage girl, imperfection means that things will actually happen. It means there can be danger and suspense, and, god willing, ambiguity. And if there are these things, it means the heroes can be tested, show their true characters.

There's supposed to be fighting in Twilight, right? Some attempt to tie the love triangle to the wider world of vampires fighting werewolves? So I can call it out on that level. Furthermore, it goes back to that voyeuristic aspect--if I'm forced to bear witness to a person's private fantasies, at least jazz it up with external and internal conflict so that it's easier to bear. Twilight apparently doesn't, and maybe it's the perfection in its monsters that's part of the problem.

I think Twilight is sexist. Hardly a new opinion, but I also don't think of Twilight as a source of moral corruption. That is, it won't make girls think someone like Edward is okay, or being a twit like Bella will get them places and make them loved. However, the popularity serves as a mighty good demonstration of some fucked-up things about our culture. Even though it's inspired by Mormonism, there's got to be something in Twilight that taps into that wider female culture, or it wouldn't be this popular, especially with adult women.

Mass culture doesn't express the deepest and unchanging truths of the human psyche--and thank god for that. We simply live in a culture that makes Twilight an appealing narrative for a lot of women. Society has changed over the years, but there are still many places that believe that women should "wait" (to be chosen, to be bedded), that women love "bad boys" and must forgive flaws in their mates, that women can never imagine themselves as the powerful monster, and so on. All of this, and more, is embodied in Twilight. And what is considered normal is often felt as desirable, so the audience is captivated.

There's blurred lines between individual desire and social conformity, between "guilty pleasures" and desires that come to dictate one's life. For this, I won't judge anyone for liking Twilight unless they're insane about it, not knowing from where their interest springs, and it may be impossible to know. I judge Twilight itself, partially for what it says about female culture.

Bottom line: Twilight only taps into that culture as it is now, not as it will forever be, and where it creates the worst obsession, Twilight works on something in its fans that was unfortunately there before. To say otherwise, that entertainment can corrupt the innocent, is the path to censorship and self-regulation. And I don't want that to happen because of fucking Twilight.

Some claim that hating Twilight means putting down female desire, female fandom, and female values. Look, I won't deny that fandom has a problem with women, and female-targeted entertainment is looked down upon, and that men are allowed to voice their displeasure and bewilderment at what women find attractive in popular culture, in a way that can get annoying and insulting. But you know, Edward sounds like such a vapid and creepy character, and Bella's love presented as consuming and all-controlling (such as the part where she's without Edward, and the book literally goes blank) that I continue to feel comfortable in hating what Twilight represents as love.

Twilight isn't the answer to marginalizing female viewers. The franchise just exposes those same ugly attitudes about women that already exist, instead of offering something new and challenging. There is no culture of entertainment so desperate for female consumer recognition that Twilight would be hailed simply for existing, especially since plenty of women also don't like Twilight.

About "female values" well, there's been a backlash in some nerd circles, one that considers it highly important for a female character to be able to prove she doesn't have to "act like a man" to be strong. I still find it hard to take a passionate stance for a mainstream value (and women acting "like women" is still very much that), and maintain that positive traits do not need to be divided by gender. Being driven by love and family is an admirable thing for both male and female characters, when applied with complexity and intelligence--if that's what you're into.

Yet from what I've seen and heard, Bella's anything but a positive example of "female" values, as her choices would be horribly foolish if she didn't have Plot Armour. That goes double for Bella and her demon baby. Maybe that can be read as the part where Bella finally sticks up for herself, says that despite the thing killing her from the inside (death by bad world-building, imagine that) and everyone telling her to abort it, she'll carry it to term.

However, when women's power has been said to lie in our self-sacrifice since time immemorial, and when the rest of the series has been that bad, I don't count it as any kind of sudden agency for Bella, nor even a proud expression of the right to choose, since putting the baby first is always what fictional women choose.

Secondly, I hear her baby, once born, bypasses a lot of the messiness that comes with raising a child by being super-intelligent and fast-growing. It's more of that wish fulfillment, that removal of flaws and conflict so any chance for the characters to face challenges are removed

Also, fuck, Jacob falling in love with the baby, who will speedily grow up into an acceptable mate, after being babysat by her future beau. Ew ew ew ew. Thanks, for finding a way to make predestined love even creepier.

So much of criticism depends on individual taste, what pushes our buttons and what doesn't. The best of us try to hide this, couching our objections in some kind of wider ideal, a platonic image of the Good Story. But since I've already thrown- any pretence to legitimacy or neutrality, let it be put out there: I find Twilight distasteful through only hearing about it. I don't care that it's written to satisfy the id, or that a lot of fictional romances can have creepy subtexts if you think about it--I just don't like this.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Night Terrors

I'm not the hugest Muppet fan. I enjoy re-watching segments of The Muppet Show where they busted out something notably bizarre (even by Muppet standards), and I love The Dark Crystal and what Henson's Creature Shop has done for the world of puppetry...but it's not a big thing with me.

However, I both enjoy and find disturbing the blue creature known as Uncle Deadly, who is kind of a cult classic among cult classics, for his few appearances in The Muppet Show. Something about his eyes, I think, awakens a weird childlike terror in me, even if I normally love lizards and dragons and things like that--but at the same time, Uncle Deadly has an awesome and distinct character design, so I like him, too. In that way, he falls somewhere between Skeksis and G'Mork from The Neverending Story, in that the Skeksis are also disturbing-but-lovable, but somehow not quite as unsettling, and that while I love werewolves, G'Mork scared the stuffing out of me with no disclaimers)

I just found out a few minutes ago that Uncle Deadly actually has a role in the new Muppets film, instead of, as I expected, being a background cameo as in the earlier Muppet movies. His voice is also different, which bugs me a little, both in principle and in actual quality, but I can't complain because the original performer, Jerry Nelson, is over 70 years old, and has mostly retired for health reasons.

I'm on the fence about seeing the new Muppet movie. I have to try to be open-minded, but I still have that knee-jerk fear of trying to revive old properties for a new time period. I'll see if the other nerds like it, and maybe I'll go to celebrate my liberation from schools.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Discussion of Post-Super Dimension Fortress Macross Zentradi and Peace Children Characters

I cut this discussion from my original Reflections on Macrophilia essay, because that essay's main focus was why I was drawn to the Zentradi of Super Dimension Fortress Macross, and the opinions I developed in relation to that. Compared to this, any other Zentradi are an afterthought. However, on thinking it over, better explaining why I don't find the newer Zentradi characters to be all that appealing is a potentially interesting topic, and one I'd like to get off my chest.

Whenever I consider the issue, it is always first as a Macross issue. Robotech did indeed create new Zentradi and part-Zentradi characters, who will come under discussion shortly, but as Macross created the Zentradi, my reaction to their portrayal in that universe is the strongest and deserves the deeper consideration, not only because of perceived "authenticity" but because I had higher expectations for Macross' portrayals.

As I've stated before, I don't have any very strong attachment to any Zentradi character introduced after the original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. I used to consider this a sign of my being unable to see past my love for the first series to be truly open-minded about any successors to it, but eventually decided to presume my own clarity.

When it comes to the Zentradi, I feel like something has "gotten into" their portrayal, a certain I-don't-know-what. To oversimplify, it seems that Zentradi are squeezed into a set of narrow archetypes which are rarely deviated from, and that these archetypes are often weak derivatives of the original SDFM Zentradi. Furthermore, they are usually comic relief, fanservice, or plot devices instead of major characters, and never seem to get much compelling characterization. They just don't seem to pack the same impact as the original characters, even once you make allowance for the fact that these new Zentradi don't have a race-wide character arc.

The main exception is that a female Zentradi may be picked out of the pack and treated with more weight and sympathy than most others. I usually don't find these characters compelling, either, but this kind of thing makes it seem that female Zentradi have somehow become more significant, while the full-Zentradi male characters get the worst end. Peace children of both genders also tend to fare better. I know I preferred the original Zentradi male characters, but the real ideal is to have parity among the Zentradi genders when it comes to quality of characterization. Alas.

There are indeed some Zentradi characters I do like, but they are tertiary characters, and thus my attachments are never so strong. There is a certain level of depth/development a character must have for me to get a strong attachment to them, and none of those newer characters have it.

With that:

Guld Goa Bowman

I know viewers are supposed to feel sympathy for Guld, but I just can't like him. Guld is
volatile, creepy, and abrasive, off-putting far before the secret of his past is revealed. Sometimes harsh characters can be entertaining, but Guld is only grating. I don't believe he raped Myung, but what he did was bad enough.

All that would be enough to dislike his character. But he's also used as to demonstrate that Zentradi can be difficult and unmanageable. Obviously there have been internal problems with the Zentradi before, and no freedom is gained without a price...I like that Macross can show that. But to attribute any issues with Zentradi to a wide-scale racial corruption is too destructive a notion, too contradictory to the nature of Macross.

Why blame Guld's activities on Zentradi heritage, when humans have done similar things in real life? I don't feel sympathy for Guld because he "just can′t help it", because everyone has a reason for what they do, and it's impossible to justify an action simply on the grounds that a character had a "reason".

However, when looked at in light of other "peace children" characters, Guld also seems to be cut from a wholly different cloth. Not only is his appearance more overtly "alien" than the others, but he is the only one whose heritage gets any negative press or really any large narrative relevance.

Because of this, one could say that Guld was simply a bad seed among the peace children, about as definitive a representation as a bipolar or a schizophrenic would be of human nature. This is the explanation I prefer, rather than treating Guld as a representative sample. In that vein, his alien features are also unusual.

Out-of-universe, Guld is likely so different from the other peace children characters because Macross Plus didn't start as a Macross production, and so Guld's heritage was chosen arbitrarily. Even if this wasn't the case, it'd be very hard to believe Guld's actions were intended to make a dark statement about Zentradi/human relations, however.

Still, even when coming up with a more palatable interpretation of Guld, I don't like him anyway. It's not that Guld is a flawed character, either. I love many other flawed characters, but Guld's presentation of such just doesn't interest me. He is apparently flawed because he is half-Zentradi, and not because he is Guld Goa Bowman, and this further pushes me away from him.

With there finally being benign male peace children, I at least can′t attribute Guld's portrayal to double gender standards anymore, though at the same time, I doubt a female Zentradi with similar problems or facial features would ever appear.

Veffidas Feaze

I am often tired of female Zentradi and peace children being either the sexy pilot or the cute young girl—these aren't bad types, just overused. Veffidas is very different, and for that I like her, although not as much as I want to.

You see Veffidas, though appealing, strikes me as less a character than a prop. The stoic, near-silent cast member who may occasionally speak wisdom is a valid character type, yet Veffidas takes it too far. Her few words are needless statements of the obvious rather than profound insights, and beyond that, one doesn't get a sense of real personality from her.

She is obviously a driven person, if she's drumming (or in the case of her past, brawling) morning, noon, and night, but it's taken to the point of silliness when she can′t stop it for anything and offers very little individual reaction to what's going on around her, simply drumming away in the background unless she's forced to stop. It makes her look mechanical rather than determined, empty rather than stoic, lifeless rather than quiet.

I can see how this might add up to a full characterization in the minds of writers and viewers, but to me it just doesn't. Even if Veffidas does get some backstory in some supplemental animated shorts, it has no impact on her in the television series, and therefore can't counteract the blandness of her longer appearances. It's a sad story, but only a fleeting moment of anything deeper for Veffidas.

Does Veffidas, then, fit my assertion that female Zentradi are given larger roles, post-SDFM? She does and she doesn't. On one hand, she doesn't seem like a full character to  me, but on the other, she is prominent, and seems intended to be a full cast member equivalent to the rest of Fire Bomber, even if they all get better characterization than her. With Milia and Mylene to back her up, Veffidas is assuredly part of the trend, with all of them more active than Neo-Exsedol, the series' main male Zentradi character. In addition, the Protodevlin don't make her act like a nutbar, giving her the advantage over Neo-Exsedol.

It doesn't bother me, however, that Veffidas behaves the way that some might imagine a member of a stereotypical "warrior race" to act like: a soundless, unflappable creature that is committed to a single action. There's room in my worldview for Zentradi who are like that, just that it's not the majority of Zentradi, and that if it were, the race wouldn't be as interesting.

However, the way Veffidas is portrayed doesn't make her an effective example. She's just kind of...there. It's also laughable when Veffidas of the past acts as if she came from a fighting game--it just looks really cheesy. There are other elements of absurdity in Zentradi that work well, but those particular things just don't. I do like Veffidas, but at times it seems to be by a narrow margin. The type of character she represents can be appealing under the right circumstances, but here it just doesn't click.

Macross 5

Super-disappointed that a full-Zentradi fleet, a fascinating concept, is attacked and enslaved by the Protodevlin, instead of being explored in a different story. Thankfully many are rescued, but it's still wasteful in the sense that such a fleet could be used to tell a different kind of Macross story, and it ties in with the sense of Zentradi disposablity and irrelevance that I sometimes get from the material.

Commander Chloré

I have much nerdrage against Basara Nekki for being an obnoxious twit that gets the narrative to warp around him rather than actually growing and changing, but I can′t fault him for turning an entire fleet of female Zentradi to the side of humanity in an OVA. It's just a gender reversal of what Minmay did, only with the subtext made more explicit. It's short and not as awesome as SDFM's long version, but that's because it's just one OVA.

Certainly the way that fans interpret this image, with Basara as a "pimp" who manages to seduce all the female Zentradi at once because of his huge sexual prowess and no other reason, does bother  me. However, this isn't the interpretation I get from the OVA itself.

Of course, that doesn't make Commander Chloré anything to write home about. She is pretty generic, the prickly female enemy who can easily be swayed by something nice. In serving as a catalyst for this genderswap of the original series she is effective, but other than that she's just not an interesting character.

Her character design, while it's a decently consistent extrapolation of the "Meltrandi" aesthetic from Do You Remember Love? to commander uniforms, is just awfully ugly to me. The blazing pinks, greens, and blues, with the long cape and peaked shoulder harness, just make me think of a circus tent.

Advisor Tranquil

A rather silly-looking character, with huge mask/sunglasses/helmet covering her head, and the same circus-tent uniform as Chloré. She does not have a huge swollen brain like the male advisors in Neo-Macross, and so I find it harder to see the giant-brained advisor retcon as a neutral or even, to some, essential use of a sci-fi cliche. If it's just applied to the male characters, there's nothing neutral or essential about it.

Other than that, there's not much to say about her, because what little screen time Tranquil has makes her out to be the same kind of flat, submissive character as Laplamiz' unnamed advisor, as opposed to the reciprocal relationship between Britai and Exsedol.

The cherry on top is that Tranquil is another female Zentradi with an Engrish name, though it is only a fansub-derived Romanization and may have been intended to be something else. Still, I feel a little bit drawn to her because of the title "Zentradi advisor" having a positive link. Without her characterization, however, this is just a knee-jerk impulse and not actual interest.

Mylene Flare Jenius

Nothing really to say. I like Mylene in my own vague way, but her characterization doesn't really say anything about Zentradi portrayal, except she is another example of the tendency to throw in some Zentradi heritage for the main female characters, perhaps to give them an "exotic" touch. At least she is her own entity, rather than an extension of her parents.

Emilia Jenius

Can the ways that Emilia suggests similarity to Milia be justified by their parental connection? Actually, this time I'll let most of it slide because of that, except for the part where she's defeated by Basara and she then starts to come onto him. Jeez.

I'm still disturbed by the fethshization of giant female Zentradi or part-Zentradi. It's the weird sci-fi apex of the belief that women can never be threatening no matter the circumstances, not to mention making me feel like an involuntary voyeur when I see it. It's not that hard to believe that a giant woman can be a genuine physical threat or a neutral figure instead.

Ranka Lee

Ranka is cast in the Mylene mould: a cute girl with Zentradi blood which is barely mentioned except in small moments. Thus, she offers nothing to think about on those terms. As a character I find Ranka too saccharine and calculated, and was on Team Sheryl pretty much from the start. There's nothing particularly wrong with a Zentradi-blooded character having these traits, I just dislike them in general. She was more tolerable in the Frontier movies, though.

Brera Sterne

Cyborg or not, quarter-Zentradi or not, Brera at least levels the playing field when it comes to the portrayal of male peace children, and makes Guld easier to see as a neutral creation, and not the product of double standards or cynicism about the themes of SDFM. Also, "Quarter-Zentradi Bishounen Cyborg" just sounds awesome, even if Brera is pretty bland.

Elmo Kridanik

Characters who exist purely as comic relief are difficult for me to like, but I like Elmo Kridanik, to the point of not being very cynical about him at any point in time. This acceptance may be because he is a tertiary cast member and so easier to accept as what he is.

A Zentradi being a hyperactive talent agent who dresses like a preppy is also pretty awesome. The best evidence of the Zentradi becoming "real" after human contact is that they adopt jobs that would have been impossible for them before, and their descendents continue doing it. There is no badass Zentradi "image" to keep up, but instead the world is, in theory, entirely open to them.

I did wonder why Mr. Kridanik had a human name. It probably wasn't meant to state anything, but it's interesting to wonder what it could mean. I did also wonder if he was related to Britai Kridanik, but I thought not, since it would have been said somewhere. It also seems too impossible for the hideous retconned Britai to have a child, too contradictory to the new image that has been created for him.

Klan Klang not like Klan Klang. She's a completely ludicrous character, and can't be saved by any attempts to give her poignant scenes after the fact. It's about what she is: a character who embodies several fanboy fetishes at once, but whom the plot then asks us to take seriously.

When reduced to human size, KIang essentially transforms into a child version of herself—a lower-than-expected height, cartoony eyebrows, huge eyes, and a more immature manner. The series tries to wring angst out of that position, but it's eclipsed by the very likely proposition that Klang was created for guilt-free f pedophilia, since she has several nude scenes and is still technically legal. Beyond that, at her natural size she's a huge-breasted giantess, whose gargantuan casual clothes look suspiciously like a schoolgirl uniform.

Instead of being an ostensibly neutral creation, Klang is therefore defined first of all by what she's designed to cater to, rather than who she is. When contemplating Klang's midget status, her fetishistic nature is the first thing that comes to mind, rather than her angst over that position. It doesn't feel like an organic part of her character, but something Klang is there for.

Klang simply looks and acts so silly that observing her engaged in earnest, serious action can't compute. When she cannot save Michel, who might have loved her were he not concerned about looking sleazy, because she herself is helpless in a miclone chamber, it's supposed to be a tear-jerker, a poignant moment that ensures Klang transcends her pandering status. But it just can't be. It's simply impossible for me to take Klang seriously.

Nor can it be said that Klang was meant as an ironic take on the fanboy obsessions she is based on. Nothing about her circumstances suggest any subversion of conventions; her physical status is merely used to tug at the audience's heartstrings in a straightforward manner, and thus increase her attractiveness to viewers. It doesn't even inhibit her in battle in the end, as she's eventually shown piloting mecha in her tiny form.

Besides that, I just don't like Klan Klang's character design or name. Her "loli" outfit is a garish mish-mash of colours and layers, while her space suit has garter belts. Along with her floor-length blue pigtails and apparently size-changing eternal headband, somehow Klan Klang looks designed by someone with the worst stereotypes of "anime character" in mind. Her name, no matter how it's Romanized, doesn't sound like a Zentradi name at all, but a piece of Engrish. It somehow communicates the image of an anime character who is cutesy-poo and a little wild, but not to be taken seriously.

There is an irony here, since I have praised my favourite Zentradi characters for combining absurdity and genuine emotion to effective results. Yet when it comes to Klan Klang, I can't embrace her particular fusion of absurdity and seriousness. There's just too much wrongness all around.

Her being a gorgeous female Zentradi who pilots a red Queadluun-Rae also makes Klang seem like a Milia derivative, especially when you add Michel's equally superficial Max-like traits. Though Klang's personality is different, there are still so many possibilities for a character, so why go backwards?

I'll admit she looks pretty fucking awesome attacking Vajra with the FAST Packs, and seeing a Zentradi live a casual human life to that open extent is cute, but that's really it for me.

Klan Klangs' appearances in the Macross Frontier films made her more tolerable and her bodily affliction seem more neutral, but only through reducing her role. I still can't like her, even then. Now she's just inoffensive, rather than interesting.

Michel Blanc

He's a tiny bit of a Max expy, with a cocky attitude, a blue mech, and glasses (in this case, actual glasses), but I like him a little. His "tragic" relationship with Klan Klang still can't make me bat an eye, though. His heritage manifests as no special traits, but again he is, thankfully, another benign male peace child.

Richard Bilra

Here is finally a Zentradi character with true gravitas, with highly individualized dreams and goals, the epitome of the freedom his race has gained. He is doubly notable as a male character with those traits, and one who lacks similarity to other characters. I don't even mind that he partly resembles the ugly male designs of DYRL, because he's an original character so there's nothing to ruin, and he looks more human than they did anyway. Also, he has an awesome life-sized train yard.

In short, Bilra is one thing I want to see more of with Zentradi characters. Characters with significance, desires, treated with at least some level of seriousness, who, in short, feel like they matter, like they are vivid beings.

And yet, it was revealed that Bilra's entire grand dream, this desire for a galactic communications network, was only because he wanted to find Minmay. I still have difficulty articulating my objection without seeming as though Minmay isn't important to the Zentradi. She certainly is, and I could have accepted Bilra's search for Minmay to be a bonus that he intended to capitalize on while meeting a larger dream. But it's then clarified that finding the lost idol is his one and only motivation.

If it's all just for Minmay, it lessens Bilra's individuality, his distinction as his own character. Minmay can still be a legend, a partial motivation, but not the whole definition of his character. True freedom would not be defining oneself by one's heroes, but pursuing one's goals for their own sake.

As with Elmo Kridanik, I also wonder about his human name, whether it's to symbolize his new life, or he changed it for appearances. We'll likely never know, since such political concerns aren't Macross' prerogative, but it's interesting to speculate nonetheless.

The Shoppers of the Folmo Mall

Completely adorable. I about hit the roof when I saw the name of this thing, and it's wonderful visual. Sure, it's completely impractical and improbable to have giant Zentradi living normal human lives, but Macross has never been about physical realism, and if one can believe the Zentradi can exist without collapsing under their own weight, then being able to live like this is quite easy to accept.

Everybody from Galia 4

I'm really not happy with anything about "Fastest Delivery". I like the idea of Zentradi living in different tiers when it comes to relationships with humanity, but here it's just transplanting Zentradi who somehow act just like the original series into a modern setting, and then having them be passive and disposable.

In fiction, there will always be characters who just there to get the axe, but since this is the largest group of Zentradi with speaking roles that we have seen in a long time, it makes the treatment of these characters more disquieting than it would otherwise be. There's nothing really to counteract something like "Fastest Delivery" at all.

Just as in the original series, these male Zentradi are charmed by the arrival of a cute female pop star. Yet it feels out of place for them to act exactly like the original series, since decades have passed in between, and these Zentradi are supposed to have dealt with humans before, to the point of wearing their emblems. Perhaps it only works if one believes that male Zentradi characters are inherently "otaku".

Major Ogotai's advisor apparently believes it, but it's far too limiting and silly a concept. If it is true, it means the male Zentradi were parodies first and characters second, held to different standards than the rest of the universe. That is obviously not true when you look at SDFM's portrayal of Zentradi fanboys, whose infatuation made sense in theme and context, and they were shown capable of loving real people and having sympathetic moments. Such a portrayal does not lead to the notion that male Zentradi are all goofy otakus no matter the situation.

One can look at the events of "Fastest Delivery" as not a fanboy infatuation, but the mere fact that it might get lonely out on this barren rock, and these Zentradi, who haven't seen a female in a while, might just get some normal stimulation out of even someone like Ranka. That could fly, but the fact that Major Ogotai calls attention to it as a specifically retro trait makes it hard for this interpretation to stick.

That the major Zentradi roles in "Fastest Delivery" all belong to apparent clones of earlier characters is also disquieting. In theory it is possible to run into clones of pre-established Zentradi characters, since they were all supposed to be clones, but by not following this to the letter, by giving each significant Zentradi an individual appearance, they were made more distinct and sympathetic, and therefore improved the story of Macross.

Thus, it is difficult, emotionally and intellectually, to go backwards and now accept true clones as distinct characters. An explicit cloned Zentradi could become a likable character in the right hands, but it doesn't work out here, as these are all essentially disposable. I'm also really hoping Major Ogotai and his advisor's appearance wasn't intended to show that the high command of the male Zentradi fleets are all supposed to look exactly the same, either.

In addition to the empathic difficulties, it seems lazy to not create new character designs instead. Temujin is a particularly bad offender, since he is essentially the same character as Kamjin: same appearance, same personality, same actions, and all.

It's also harder to consider this issue neutrally when there aren't any clones of Milia running around, and put in this same disposable position. This group is entirely male, which does reinforce their archaic nature (before undoing that internally with the Queadluun-Rae thing), but the end result suggests that male Zentradi characters are somehow less favoured.

For example, compare this episode to "Fleet of the Strongest Women", which does have an all-female group of Zentradi falling suddenly for the actions of a star of the opposite sex, but these were "uncultured" Zentradi, making it easier to understand, and their ending was also positive. Furthermore, because that episode existed in a universe where female Zentradi get the better roles, I go easier on it.

Major Ogotai also comes off as a rather weak person who needs humanity to save his troops. I's not about ruining Britai's image, but about Zentradi in general needing to be rescued by humanity rather than working alongside them as equals in the future.

His advisor is so unimportant that he does not receive a name. Much of my complaints against Ogotai, and the related justifications, can be applied to him. And note his appearance suggests that Neo-Exsedol was not a physical modification, but has, in terms of the new Macross continuity, always looked like that.

The rebels are easier to accept in that it seems more plausible for latter-day Zentradi to go rogue than for them to act the same around humans that their ancestors did. However, the use of a pop star's appearance as their ultimatum is too silly, even if Temujin really intended to go and fight anyway.

However, their rebellion, as I mentioned, is presented with a thin explanation, which makes it seem just a device to set up the huge reference to the original series. However, I do get kick out of the rebels being attired in DYRL armour, even if it was likely not a slam against DYRL.

Finally, these Zentradi, saved and rescued in various ways, safe from danger...are destroyed in the next episode by the Dimension Eater. Yeah, it's a case of needing to show Shit Getting Real, or just Grace's own evil, and the Zentradi can be thought of in the same terms as horror movie victims: establishing just enough characterization so that the audience is shocked, but not hit so hard, when they bite the dust. Yet when none of the main characters react at all to the massacre that just occurred, and a similar thing already happened to the Macross 5, it falls flat.

Arguably this isn't really the point. These Zentradi act the way they do in order to facilitate a homage to the original series, going the extra mile by even having characters who look like the "original" Zentradi. Yet there's enough danger and peril in this story that it can be studied as an earnest representation of Zentradi, rather than the need for homage serving as justification for everything.


Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with any other Macross-era Zentradi characters outside of these. I know of certain names from video games or Macross the Ride, but I haven't seen any of these characters "in action", so to speak, and so cannot offer my opinion on their portrayals.


With the Zentradi's character arc from SDFM in the past, the greatest desire I would have is to see new Zentradi characters who "click" with me, in different ways than the original ones, but who possess the sense of being fuller and more significant characters than Elmo, Richard, and Veffidas.

I'd also like to resolve that weird gender disparity that, boiled down to its most simplified terms, is that full-blooded male Zentradi are for comic relief or distant command figures, while female Zentradi and both genders of peace children are presented in a much more well-rounded way--even if I don't like many of them, they're obviously intended to be sympathized with. This generalization gets more complicated when the characters are looked at individually, but it's an impression that's impossible to shake.

It's still possible that the Zentradi tropes shown here, when they are inevitably revisited, could at last become likeable to me. Even if they did, however, I would still wish that Zentradi characters had the same range of personality as the human ones. The archetypes of Macross human characters are repeated nearly as often as the Zentradi's are, but from an objective standpoint, that is still something to take issue with, just that I don't do so as much, because I have a certain sentimental attachment to the Zentradi. This is also the reason I'm interested in their portrayal, now that the character arc is over and my favourite Zentradi characters are gone.

Reflections on Macrophilia Appendix 1: Further Reading

Watch this space.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Macross Frontier: The False Songstress

So, I walked myself backwards and decided to watch the first Macross Frontier film, a move I was not expecting to want to make. As I said, it was only the second film's promise of surreal concert visuals which got me up off the couch and willing to give Macross Frontier another shot.

However, I enjoyed the second film enough to try the first one. The real proof of this enjoyment is that it's been over a week since I saw Wings of Goodbye and I can still remember it, still think about it. This probably means it's become a non-SDFM Macross that I've truly enjoyed, moreso than Zero, which I enjoyed, but did not feel like talking about.

The False Songstress is not as engaging as Wings of Goodbye, but nonetheless feels like something that's going to stick with me, if just as a companion piece to get the "full" story embodied by these two movies. Like the second film, it managed, in some way not quite definable, to tone down the aspects that put me off the first series, and make them seem organic. Ranka isn't so cloying, Sheryl's artistic passion is more memorable, Klan Klang's role is so reduced you almost forget that crazy lolicon crap, etc.

Klang is a little worse here because she takes just one childish action: stealing the fishcake from Michel's ramen and running away with it. But, you know, I'll take that over the much longer version of Klang's story, with its failed attempts to wring angst from her position.

There are lots of scenes directly ported from the TV series here, and I couldn't tell which of them had actually been re-animated. None of the concert scenes were as striking as those of the second, and I was a bit uncomfortable with the virgin/whore roles that Sheryl played in one of her songs, though the robots were pretty cool, as was the ending where she is one person with elements of both characters. Ranka in her bikini at the construction site was also a little suspect, too.

While characters usually need conflict, I didn't really buy that Alto wanted to stop being an onnagata because he was losing his identity in his female roles. It makes it seem like piloting was not an individual desire for flight, but just for a fear of not having that most thin and capricious of concepts, "manliness". Come on, Alto…you're better than that. The conflict that rose from doing something different than his family was far more effective. It also wasn't very fleshed-out in the TV series, either, so I guess I don't miss much of Alto's story arc either.

(And Alto still don't look all that girly when not dressed up, either…I think the teasing's more about the roles he played, rather than his looks off the court)

Yay, the Folmo mall scene is still there! (Don't care that it's called "Folrmo" or somesuch thing…Exsedol fans get screwed enough without losing this). I like the way that Michel told Ranka to "come on, prove yourself, instead of moping," which is almost anti-moé in its sentiment, although I think Michel did the same thing in the TV series. Mr. Kridanik is still hilarious, though the animation when he sticks his face in Ranka's and starts chattering at her is a little bit disturbing.

(I still wonder whether that oni-looking Zentradi who also works for Mr. Kridanik has a name or not. He shows up several times here.)

I'm pretty much spinning my wheels with the commentary here, but I did like it. Most of the time I don't think a TV series can be improved by trimming it down to its barest of bones, but in this case, Macross Frontier was so one-ear-and-out-the-other for me, that I find myself going after the film version with a new vigour. I don't really miss anything that was lost, and that's only out of what I can actually remember of the TV series.

It doesn't change how I feel about the rest of Macross (and I still wince whenever someone says "Deculture!"), but it's nice to have something to enjoy. I think I'm even getting ready to declare myself a fan of Sheryl Nome.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Macross Frontier: The Wings of Goodbye

Okay. Okay, okay. Before I go on and say what I feel about Zentradi characters created after SDFM, and thus depress myself, I have to point out that I enjoyed Macross Frontier: The Wings of Goodbye, which puts it next to Macross Zero as the only non-SDFM Macross I enjoyed, though never for lack of wishing there were more.

Wings of Goodbye was pretty to look at, and toned down many the things which put me off Macross Frontier. Furthermore, without any deep emotional investment in the original series, I wasn't bothered by seeing it stripped down to its bare bones, then sometimes choppily recapped through admittedly fantastic animation.

I was open to Macross Frontier, eager after the very pretty and very exciting first episode. Yet, it started to feel so…slick and so calculated, with this choking saccharine quality. So much didn't feel organic, but simply manufactured for a certain appeal. Yet there were story aspects that I thought I could have liked, under other circumstances, and The Wings of Goodbye made me remember some of those things.

Sheryl Nome, is one of those characters who leaves me wondering why I don't like her. She was pretty fanservicey, but again, it felt toned-down enough to be natural and tolerable. But more than that, I realized she was a very passionate character. Not obnoxious like Nekki Basara, just…she knows what she wants, is playful, smart, and focused, but it's not as a loudmouth Canon Stu/Sue. Cool, in short. She's not just here because a Macross casts "needs" an's a fundamental part of who she is. She's writing song lyrics on the prison wall with her own blood---now that's hardcore!

Her previous concert sequences are also impressively, wonderfully surreal. It starts with a wedding where Sheryl is both the bride and groom, and turns into Sheryl as a nurse, surrounded by giant test tubes, flasks, and…vines? And more holographic Sheryls grown in these huge test tubes. There's even a Pink Floyd moment where both bride-Sheryl and groom-Sheryl's heads turn into flowers and twine together. Between the weirdness, the flowers, and the cross-dressing, I was seeing some Utena here, and that can only be a good thing. I was never expecting an anime concert sequence to be this imaginative and exciting.

Alto Saotome, another character I thought could be a jackpot, is less bland than I remember him being in Macross Frontier proper. Sadly it's missing much of his conflict over transitioning from a Kabuki onnagata (performer playing female roles) to a pilot, which was a very Macross concept: a character moving beyond their pre-ordained role to get what they want.

He's about as passionate in Sheryl in his desires, which is part of the reason why, though I wasn't tremendously invested in the story, I was in favour of AltoxSheryl. (Though having them meet as children was pretty cheesy)

AltoxRAnka was merely the typical romantic pairing where the man only falls in love with the woman because of her fairy-like qualities, rather than anything they actually have in common. Sheryl asking Alto to stop flying thus seems entirely contradictory, when their mutual passions could be a source of their strength, and when she would balk at being asked to give up her own dreams. The story needs conflict, but….it doesn't work for me. It's also a callback to the original Macross.

Ranka was one of the things I disliked about Macross Frontier. I believe everything bad about moé despite never seeing a moé series, and so Ranka has always been pretty stomach-turning. Yet here, though Ranka was still pretty cutesy, she seemed…organic. Her sugary sweetness was brought to tolerable levels, and felt "natural" to the character rather than just going overboard to reach a demographic. Also, I liked her fairy tale-inspired concert sequence, especially the design of "dapper" Ranka with her pastel waistcoat and top hat. The concert's English catchphrase "Open Ranka!" still sounds like creepy innuendo, but it can't spoil the whole thing.

Naturally being a film adaptation, the roles of the secondary characters are truncated, some to the extent that they would seem pointless to a viewer who didn't know about the TV series (and even so...). Once again, this trimming actually works for me, because I see less of Michel and Klan Klang, and Michel doesn't die.

Not that I had any particularly strong feelings for Michel, but at least no one's trying to make a poignant character out of creepy fanservice character Klan Klang. In fact, we see so little of Klang here, that at least in this second film, her transformation to a childlike version of herself when micloned seems like a more neutral quirk, rather than a source of lolicon. Even seeing her in a bikini, one can imagine she's just short rather than childlike. I don't know what exactly makes the difference here, but it does...somehow.

I did miss Richard Birler, but he's just a C-lister for me, and nothing to get too upset over. Elmo Kridanik would be harder to get rid of, and I'm glad that he's there for a few scenes. I really thought they we going to kill Luca off, but I guess not. No big deal.

I can't think of anything else to say much about the secondary cast. Mishima was as graspingly evil as before, so that I cheered when  his head was blown off, not being of the school of thought that it's wasteful to actually dislike characters so obviously designed to be disliked. It also struck me how much his hairstyle looks like it could belong to a Yu-Gi-Oh! character.

I was surprised that the film attempted to humanize Grace. It worked a bit better, mostly because it toned down that silly "cybernetics are evil" theme. I was surprised how much gore went into her destruction, and how creepy the "tank" holding her co-conspirators was, kind of techo-Lovecraft.

I must also add that Ai-Kun is still the cutest thing on six retractable legs, especially because he never moults. While it's still questionable that giant space bugs would start life as tiny marketing-friendly monsters, I can't deny the result is effective.

I did love the image of Macross Quarter in battroid mode "surfing" its way to the ground. While there are certain times when Macross takes its absurd aspects too far, this scene went down easy, because the franchise is, at best, a mixture of the absurd and poignant in the smoothest fashion.

Because I did not grow to like Alto enough, I wasn't bugged by the unexpected ending where he disappeared. The same with Sheryl in the hospital, though her fate was even less ambiguous. I, at least, feel safe in believing that both characters are likely to return at the end, because otherwise it would be too bleak.

Among the other plot points I don't miss are the high school angles, and the panty-chase, which I'm told have also disappeared from the first film. Joy of joys, instead of "Fastest Delivery" we have the prison scene, where Ranka stages a concert with some other characters who are dressed as Fire Bomber, in order to provide cover for Sheryl's rescue. It's that kind of blatant callback to earlier series that usually make me wince but here it was…unnecessary, but tolerable. It's not Fire Bomber that I had a problem with, after all, but Nekki-friggin-Basara, the frontman.

A purple-and-blue coloured Zentradi appears for a minute, watching Ranka from the prison crowd, and he's obviously meant to be Temujin, a one-shot antagonist from the original series who was an apparent clone of Kamjin Kravshera (Khyron) and acted almost exactly like the original character. Here, as just a random prisoner enjoying a concert who happens to look a bit like an older character, he's palatable.

In fact, I liked the whole removal of the "Fastest Delivery" episode. More on that before this, and after this, but I don't want to clog up this particular review. Suffice it to say, it's now not about Zentradi being disposable victims/comic relief in a way that makes no sense, but just mixed-race prisoners enjoying a concert, and that's good.

(Klan asking the Zentradi in the crowd to "stir up [their] blood" is probably only something a young whippersnapper like her could say--it'd be easy to think of modern Zentradi as having some special fighting quality when you've only seen them fight voluntarily and perhaps then with true passion. Silly girl.)

Although I only picked up this movie for the promise of cracked-out concert scenes (and boy, did it deliver!) I ended up enjoying it on a larger level as well. It still feels rather clunky, not fully surrendering itself to the pacing and stylistic conventions of a film, but I've enjoyed it more than I have anything Macross in a long time.

I think…I will try to watch the first one, too.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It Cannot Be Sweetened

The Nostalgia Chick reviews The Lion King

Now, normally I love The Nostalgia Chick, and the rest of this website. But c'mon…it's not that she inadvertently disagrees with part of my critique of The Lion King, namely the hyena-based bits of that whole "the natural order cannot be changed" thing, but that she does it in that particular way. It's the theory that the legitimacy of complaints about a film's unsettling subtext is measured by whether or not said subtext actually drives people to commit similar actions.

Naturally, that would make The Lion King SOL, since of course nobody was driven to support racial segregation because of its positively-portrayed analogue in The Lion King, or to dislike hyenas even more than they already would. But discussing the progressive values of films, or their lack thereof, isn't about literal goals or literal expressions…it's a discussion for its own sake. If it serves any political purpose, it's about calling attention to tropes which reflect rather than create the attitudes of society, and these tropes often don't reflect things literally.

Hence why I agree that pointing to the hyena's VAs as evidence of the "racial segregation" subtext is pretty flawed, because Simba's parents are portrayed by black actors, too, and Jim Cummings was white. Instead, the hyena plot is part of the film's larger theme that there is a natural order that should not be changed, and the hyenas living where they did, and apparently being unable to better themselves, is part of that natural order--it's the unspoken dark side of the "Circle of Life". These kinds of themes aren't expressed maliciously, or intended to refer to anything in the real world: this is all about subconscious, nigh-universal themes that are, sadly, expressed in stories all over the world. Nobody at Disney wanted to use this as racial propaganda.

However, I was in a different way uncomfortable for what's basically an argument from popularity. Hyenas aren't as liked by the public, so nobody would go to see a movie called "The Hyena King" (or wouldn't it really be a "Queen"?). …and? So? It serves as a justification if you're asking why a film that wanted to make tons of money went with "majestic" animal protagonists, but this argument seems to be more about storytelling--that if an animal stereotype exists, there's no complaint to be made against using it.

Even if this logic is restricted only to animal stereotypes, it's still trying to justify a formula solely by its longevity, and often these issues are just a matter of presentation. After all, look at Ratatouille. It took mammals that were as much maligned as hyenas and made something that was a mainstream success out of it. This fits with the video's notion that Pixar is more risky, but the issue isn't discussed in terms of the stuido's willingness to take risks, but just that no one would be interested in a film about hyenas. Come on, what if the hyenas looked like this? Or if you want to just go to Disney, think about Gaston from Beauty and the Beast--he was an intended subversion, and it didn't hurt the film at all.

Also, also, also, my interpretation was that Scar's reign was meant to have caused the drought somehow. Over-hunting by the hyenas (it would fit the rest of the movie so well if their desire for food was from greed rather than starvation) or whatever you want to say, it's meant to be symbolic. This isn't just the dry season, this is Fisher King territory.

Timon and Pumbaa are still annoying.

The Kimba thing isn't just about rhyming protagonist names and lions on cliffs. It's the fact that many of the TLK characters have Kimba counterparts in terms of species/role/appearance, and that Disney is keeping its lips zipped about the idea. Still quite a shame.

Dammit, Scar, you used to be so cool, slithering around and snarking on the pomp and circumstance of the kingdom, but you turned out to be a moron.

I've gone over and over on it in my head, and I still can't accept that the later plot hinges on the entire cast doing absolutely nothing until Simba grows up.

Finally, I did see the film in 3-D, too, out of nostalgic value. But I had watched it just prior to making my blog post, and of course nothing changed between that viewing and the theatrical one. My heart soared at the beginning, but my rational mind soon set in. Things have changed with me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hill House, Not Sane

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has become a personal icon of mine, one of my all-time favourite novels. It is unconventional in a way that I like, restrained admirably but layered with irony and still genuinely creepy, and overall a wonderful piece of literature. I'm a fan of Jackson's work in general, but this is the top.

However, I had the grave misfortune of seeing Jan de Bont's 1999 film version of The Haunting of Hill House before anything else. Fortunately, it didn't stick with me, didn't colour my later interest in the novel and the first film.

In fact, it's a pretty blessing that I forgot about 1999 version, because this recent review by The Nostalgia Critic shows me what I couldn't recognize before: not only is it a genuinely bad movie (all I remembered that the house looked bitchin' cool and nothing else was memorable), but it is horribly contradictory to the spirit of the original book, having big scares and a main character who becomes an actual heroine.

Besides that unknowing blunder, my history with Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House began when I took an interest in Stephen King's non-fiction book Danse Macabre, a book I'd picked up in the tornado of King obsession when I was a kid, but never read because I had discovered it was non-fiction. As an adult, though, it's a great read, an overview of the horror genre that is part informal criticism, part memoir.

King makes much of Shirley Jackson's book, coming back to it several times when discussing haunted house stories. Yet what stood out to me above everything else was his excerpt of the book's first line: "No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream." It's such a wonderful line, expressing, in Jackson's excellent style, that fantasy is intrinsic to existence. It also composes part of one of the most effective openings I've ever read, engaging the reader while giving away so little. We are left to wonder how this relates to Hill House, which then is described as "not sane".

The entire book is fascinating. Firstly, it is an interesting take on the haunted house story: slow and introspective, but it works so well, better in that form, in fact, because it is more unusual. I'm not a big horror reader, but I love brooding stories if the characters are compelling. The Haunting of Hill House is also layered with irony: while the scares are genuine, there is little real sympathy for the mousy protagonist.

The Haunting of Hill House offers no such easy paths, of course, but if we were to measure things in degrees, Eleanor just feels like she is less meant to be loved than simply pitied, or even perhaps hated. She is a child in an adult's body, and easily taken (figuratively and literally) by the house, which she is convinced loves her. Her immaturity and her giving into the house is not tragic but blackly comedic. It is clear that her personality is the result of her terrible home life, but nonetheless, she is at fault, and cannot escape. We just watch Eleanor, a bug inside the terrarium, with a clinical tilt of our heads. I don't love Eleanor, but I enjoy watching her self-destruction.

It's a fascinatingly different way to handle a protagonist, and it's what makes the 1999 Eleanor's transformation into passionate heroine so painful to see. It's completely a misfire, turning her into something crass and...uh, "common", especially when nobody seems to realize the stupidity of a woman who's been crushed by her own family unironically using the force of familial love to banish the horrible father-demon.  Jan de Bont can't even make Eleanor's spine-growth convincing, either. This is why we have people who hate adaptations, folks.

Robert Wise's original 1963 version, however, is far better. It is elegant and effective, complementing the book perfectly, not only through faithfulness, but in simply being good. I've been able to track down a DVD copy, and look forward to watching it, in the spirit of the season.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An American Werewolf in London

For some reason, I waited years to see this movie. I don't know why, when I'm a werewolf buff: maybe I thought my delicate appetites would be too disturbed by the transformation sequence that this movie is famous for. Turns out that it's like John Carpenter's The Thing: on a deeper level you realize it's gross and the reason you can't make pasta for dinner afterwards, but the sheer coolness overwhelms that impression and you're going right along with it. This is why I prefer practical effects: so much more visceral.

Actually, I found the nazi-demons and David's monster-face in the dream to be more disturbing. The werewolf itself was awesome, because while quadrupedal wolf transformations have been done before, freakish quadrupedal werewolves are less common. I love the forefeet: at first I wondered why the middle part of David's hand became longer, then wow. And the face, and the very un-lupine bulk and shaggy mane.

An American Werewolf in London also got me back in touch with a part of the werewolf mythos that maybe has gone underfed in recent times: werewolf transformation as tragic, uncontrollable, and confined to the full moon. While I'm decided on a preference for savage vampires, I can't decide whether I prefer this interpretation of werewolves, or the idea of a voluntarily-transforming "werewolf species", or any of the ones in between.  Both have their cons, and their thematic resonance, and neither are a guarantee of bad storytelling.

An American Werewolf in London, however, is pure transformation tragedy, because it's meant to be an old-fashioned horror movie in a contemporary setting. The presentation is effective here, when the film's being serious, and when it's being funny. As we all know, An American Werewolf in London also is a horror-comedy, and damn does it work well. The film doesn't feel indecisive or lopsided, the two aspects blending seamlessly, and I laughed aloud at several points. I laughed, and enjoyed that the film cuts out so fast; It might have spoiled the film's irreverence if the tragedy of David were dwelt on for so long.

I liked the addition of a new wrinkle of the zombie-ghosts, the restless spirits caused by the werewolf's killing spree. The movie would be distinct enough without it, but it's nice to see it reaching even farther beyond the same horror convention it's trying to pay homage to. I got further laughs out of Jack's casual dialogue as he keeps appearing in more and more decomposed states. His exclamation of "It's boring!" strikes just the right note of despair and whiny hilarity.

The film's biggest sour spot was the bit with the nurse, and how she would just take home a mentally disturbed and traumatized man to be her boyfriend, one that she's just seen to in the hospital. It felt like this was a completely earnest subplot, without irony or humour. Thus, it's hard to really believe in. About the only part that seemed mocking was her inability to calm the transformed David, which was wonderfully nasty.

Indeed, there's a black undercurrent in the film beyond the fact that the guy will become a monster and kill people. The movies lied, nothing can stop this but a bullet, and in "real life" the hero, David might be too cowardly to do it himself, just like he ran when Jack was attacked. Love is also useless.

Because horror movies don't have to explain everything, but instead are to focus on the terror and tension, I wasn't begging for more explanation about the werewolf on the moors, but I was still curious about him. The locals know him, but won't do anything but stay away—why not try to kill him before now? Where did he go when he was human during the rest of the month? Or was he simply stuck in the wolf state after long enough time had passed? Could David have become a permanent wolf in time?

Overall, while I prefer more esoteric werewolf movies like The Company of Wolves and Ginger Snaps, An American Werewolf in London is pretty damn fun. A great monster, and an excellent blend of humour and horror.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What is Beautiful, and what is Bestial

Like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast was another of my childhood Disney obsessions. However, when rewatching Beauty and the Beast as an adult, I found it to be much more appealing than I did The Lion King when I also rewatched that recently. Both have a nostalgic cachet that prevents me from rejecting them entirely, but I was sour towards The Lion King because it was a film that said everyone should know their place or they're stupid, evil, or misguided. Beauty and the Beast, though it also has elements that make me uncomfortable, was much more appealing.

The characters of Beauty and the Beast are well-crafted and defined, even if they are big ol' Disney clichés. The viewer wants to follow them through their adventures and to believe the film is a good one. For one thing, I like Belle. A three-dimensional female lead with an iron will doesn't erase any uncomfortable elements in the film, but I was enamoured with her bibliophilia, determination, and desire for adventure and still am now. In short, Belle is still pretty damn cool.

Even without my thinking the Beast is attractive (see below), his character design is still great. It's a little top-heavy, and his muzzle seems to get about twice as long when he roars, but the way it combines so many different mammals into a single refined whole is a great look. The silhouette he cuts is appropriately minotaur-ish, and the human eyes just add more uniqueness to it. Robby Benson also has an amazing voice, deep and terrible.

Gaston is a great villain. He portrays a very human evil through his unappealing traits and simple desires, yet it makes him no less threatening. Also, unlike Scar, Gaston never loses that villainy when being exposed as a weak coward and a fool, therefore taking the easy way out and giving the audience no threat. Gaston is a jackass, and the early parts of the film try too hard to show what a boor he is, but Gaston is still a dangerous one when he's crossed or defied.

The castle servants aren't as annoying as they could have been. The three main objects have motivations and intelligence, so it's less easy to brush them off as things designed for merchandising and/or ensuring the film doesn't get too dark. Me, I was always the fondest of Cogsworth, due to my weakness for fussbudgets.

On a minor note, it was a treat hearing the late, great Tony Jay as Monsieur D'Arque, the corrupt asylum keeper that Gaston bribes. I had completely forgotten about that role of his, but it was wonderful to hear one of my favourite voice actors from childhood in one scene. Tony Jay only had one voice, but damn it wasn't a good one.

However, D'Arque reinforces another disturbing element that doesn't have anything to do with gender politics: that Belle's village and the surrounding country seem to be full of assholes. Some people are nice, such as the elderly librarian, but most of them seem willing to support or follow Gaston in everything he does, jump to mob violence, and find Belle and Maurice suspicious simply for being eccentric. No wonder Belle dreamed of something else.

However, yes, despite that I like the film a great deal, there are elements to Beauty and the Beast which make me uncomfortable. There’s been a backlash towards criticisms of Beauty and the Beast's themes over the years, with it being just as likely to find someone who says the film was totally not about Stockholm Syndrome, abusive relationships as fixable things, or anything even remotely like that. But these things can't be confirmed or denied outright, especially in a way that would put an end to the debates.

Here's what I think: Beauty and the Beast tries really hard, unintentionally or not, to try to defuse the more disturbing elements in its premise. That doesn't make it immune from criticism, but it makes it more palatable than The Lion King, which embraces its subtext without question.

To start with, it's Belle who makes the choice to stay in the Beast's castle, so she is not, in a direct fashion, falling in love with her captor, since she chose to be there rather than being abducted. The bargain also ensures Belle will stick around without coercion or violence, since she's the sort of character who honours her word. Because of this, it makes the Beast appear less monstrous.

However, the sweetness of their falling is love is tainted by the fact that not until after the ballroom scene does Beast give Belle explicit freedom, meaning that all their sweet moments took place when Belle was still a prisoner. On the other hand, it's still easy to be moved by his willingness to let Belle go free, because of the depths of sacrifice it means for him. It makes the audience more inclined to believe the best about the central romance.

Secondly, the more obvious point: Gaston is a worse beast than the actual Beast could ever dream of being, which ensures that the audience sympathy is routed to the even hairier male lead. Not only is Gaston violent, conniving, vain, callous, anti-intellectual and slowly becomes clear that the Beast is more bark than bite.

While he appears terrifying at first, and throws Maurice around like a chew toy, in many  later scenes Beast come off as all bluster,  a spoiled brat with claws that he'll never use. It's only because Belle softened him, by both standing up to him and then loving him, but the impression nonetheless colours any later viewings, solidifying the viewers' sympathy towards Beast.

That said, I still can't transcend my distaste for the fantasy convention that female humans can fall in love with male beings that are physically monstrous/alien. All progressive ideals have been leeched from the trope due to it nearly always being a female human and a male watchathing, so that it seems more like male wish fulfilment than anything else. The trope can still be enjoyable in the hands of a good writer, but it is not subversive or inspiring.

Beauty and the Beast plays that aspect entirely straight: Belle is beautiful and human and learns to love Beast despite his monstrous exterior and initial harshness, and in doing so, civilizes him. The villagers describing Belle as "funny" might be an attempt to make her seem at least a little more level with Beast when it comes to overall strangeness (or maybe just to show that the village sucks). However, it's not unheard of for stories like this to add some quirk to the female human to make it more plausible that she'd fall for a male whatchathing-- it doesn't really change the trope.

It's also because of this that Gaston can be both a subversion and a conventional character. On one hand, he's "handsome" while the Beast is "ugly", and so it's a subversion of older stories and epics in which the heroes and heroines were equally beautiful, something which Disney does with gusto even today.

And yet, in the modern era, male beauty is treated with suspicion and scorn, with the female lead often ending up with the grubby guy instead. Male vanity, too, is treated with more derision than female vanity, without the related contradiction that we expect women to care about looks anyway. Though Beauty and the Beast was made twenty years ago, this sort of backlash was already in full swing then, so in some ways it's entirely unsurprising that the more conventionally handsome male lead is the villain, and is exaggeratedly concerned about his looks.

On top of that, Gaston isn't really interchangeable with a Disney Prince in terms of his looks. There's a comical quality to his design, and he seems to veer slightly more towards men's image of their ideal body, rather than what is attractive to female viewers, although as with all things, viewers vary in their response, and some female fans do find Gaston as handsome as the other characters do. In short, the role-reversal that Disney is trying still manages to hold up, but it's not as cut-and-dried as it first appears.

(Incidentally, whenever I hear talk about "manliness", I think of someone like Gaston, whether or not that was the person's intention.)

Perhaps in relation to this, I've seen many nerds decrying the ending where the Beast transforms into a human. Human Beast is apparently "ugly" and it undermines the message of the film to have him transform—if the writers were really liberal-minded, they would have kept him a Beast, and have Belle go all the way with him! However, when genre fiction is already full of romances like this where the male being never changes his form, I'd rather have them both end up as humans at least intended to be attractive, rather than continuing this overdone theme. Also, I don't think the prince is that bad-looking myself. Nicer than Gaston, certainly.

Besides, it's abundantly clear that being the Beast sucks. Despite the shaggy badassery, he lives in the middle of nowhere in a decaying castle and can't really go anywhere or do anything. The writers have also suggested that he was becoming more and more bestial as time went on, degenerating mentally.  That's even without factoring in the poor furniture-servants whose lives must suck doubly.

About the only return to form that I did mourn was that of the castle—all those wonderful lions and gargoyles were replaced by cherubs and pastels; yuck. I've felt that way since I first saw the movie in 1991, and haven't changed my feeling. I recognize the symbolism involved, but it's not so hard to believe that the castle could have had that shape before the transformation, and just gotten dirtier and more decayed. After all, the interior was always luxurious enough.

My issues with some of the themes prevent me from considering Beauty and the Beast my favourite animated film, and besides that, the pacing is a little too fast. I'm glad the extra "Human Again" number was left out of the theatrical cut, because it corrupts that same pacing, but my impression of the film was still that it was so fast. At least it doesn't have that huge gaping timeskip in the middle that The Lion King does.

There are also a few possible logistical errors which have been brought up before: was the prince really only eleven years old when cursed, as anyone who does the math can figure out? Then where are his parents, and who’s in that torn picture? Were there really enough servants to be every object in the castle, including every dish, and what happened to the actual objects? Also, a French cast with largely American accents...again.

Still, Beauty and the Beast is a great movie to have, and I was glad to watch it again. If the promised theatrical re-release happens, I'll be there with bells on.