Friday, January 14, 2011

I Have No Heart to Lie – I Don’t Want an SDF Macross Remake

It seems I’ve had the bad luck to be caught in a fandom where the fans actually want a remake of the founding series. I’m talking about the fandom for the anime series Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, originally released in 1982 but with several spinoffs and a long continuity. In recent years, many hardcore fans have been crying for a remake of the original series.

Macross fandom is already in a rare position, because later works in the franchise rely on an ambiguous continuity. In 1984, a film adaptation called Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? was released, and this film changed a lot of the original series’ visual details and plot. Later Macross productions draw from a vague background which hints at elements from both the television and the movie, though the movie has also been declared an in-universe film on top of that.

In this new millennium, Macross fans largely consider this contradiction no big deal, with many also seeing DYRL to be the superior rendering, with the primacy of its visuals in later productions cited as proof. In the most extreme cases, it almost seems like the original Macross TV series is treated as a test run, with Do You Remember Love? being the concept’s ultimate refinement, perhaps Macross’ Platonic ideal. In a climate like this, perhaps a desire for an SDFM remake becomes inevitable.

Recently there have appeared two works which have further whetted fans’ appetites for a remake: Macross Fever and Macross the First. Macross Fever is a pachinko game featuring re-animated scenes from the TV series, in the style of the TV series, while Macross the First is a manga retelling of SDF Macross using much of the style of DYRL, though with many original or previously-unused elements.

I’ve seen many Macross fans be utterly certain that these retellings, as well as the recent wave of reboots and remakes in Japan and America, should herald a remake of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, with an adaptation of Macross the First often specified. It’s all very startling, when the traditional picture of fandom is that it is hostile to any such re-imaginings.
 As well as being startling, it’s a personal aggravation, since I just recently discovered Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and love it to pieces. To suggest that series is a problem that needs to be fixed, a mere aperitif, is unsettling, especially since I’m left almost entirely cold by the rest of Macross.

I certainly have more generalized objections to remakes, but there are also idiosyncratic issues I would have with a remake of Super Dimension Fortress Macross, or even this strong desire for one. In essence, I’ve been disturbed by the post-SDFM Macross’ transformation of some of my favourite characters into new designs and personalities without an in-story explanation, something which started with the film versions.

They are the Zentradi, and I go into more detail with the Zentradi re-imagining here, and here, and it’s been a bee in my bonnet for quite some time. While Macross Fever did stick with the TV series Zentradi, Macross the First has largely not, and it is the one everyone is asking for.

It’s anybody’s guess whether the portrayals of the Zentradi in this theoretical Macross remake would draw more from the old versions or the new ones, but I don’t have much confidence in the former appearing. This is why I’m not interested in a Macross remake: more than any other fiction, there’s a strong chance of my favourite characters being changed beyond what is normal for this sort of thing, and nothing else could compensate for that.

Furthermore, I feel something has “gotten into” the Zentradi portrayal since SDFM, creating a situation where the Zentradi are largely a set of broad archetypes based on simplified versions of the original characters, along with the belief that only female Zentradi characters are worth caring about. I also worry about seeing this new dynamic being reflected in a possible SDFM remake.

I’ll confess the appearance of the TV series Zentradi in Macross Fever, though you only saw them for a few seconds, was tremendously exciting when these designs had been all been but forgotten. I do have eyes, recognizing that modernized animation can be more electrifying than older works, and that the original Macross was plagued with animation errors, from painting mistakes to characters going horribly off-model. Yes, on a visceral, immediate level, it is thrilling to think of my favourite Zentradi animated in a slick contemporary style, even with minor tweaks to their character designs, which do not upset me the way wholesale redesigns do.

Yet that immediate thrill can’t become actual desire for a remake, and not only because there is no guarantee the TV series Zentradi would be used. I am so attached to SDFM that the thought of a remake causes immediate dislike. I’m stubbornly sure that all my favourite moments in SDFM, and their larger context, would not be replicated in a way that could be better than the original.

I’m probably trying to now compensate for all this remake enthusiasm by being more the typical nerd about it. It would be nice to see my favourite characters re-animated with the right look, but I just don’t disagree with anything so strongly in Super Dimension Fortress Macross that I would want it to be fixed with a remake.

Yet if I were to push myself to be more open-minded, what could a remake of SDFM gain for me? I have already said I see flaws in the animation, and those would surely be fixed, but what else about SDF Macross do I find imperfect? Lots of things, in terms of plot. I wish that Max and Milia’s getting together wasn’t so creepy. I wish there was a more explicit understanding of what kinds of lives Exsedol and Britai going to lead, instead of their virtually disappearing in later episodes, though beforehand their prominence was satisfying.

Yet I always come back to this: everything has flaws, and the perfect form of a work cannot be achieved. Whatever is fixed in a remake, new problems will crop up, and some good things will have been left out. For anything gained, something is lost. So, when considering the issue in a broader context, why bother remaking something when you can never perfect it?

No, I’m firmly in the camp that would rather see those of Macross make something new, than remake SDFM.

Of course, there are other reasons why someone might take interest in a Macross remake. There is Robotech, the series that combined the original Macross with two other series in dubbing, leading to a Robotech/Macross fandom rivalry today (though Macross has been far more successful). If handled a certain way, an SDF Macross remake could jettison Macross from Robotech, since the first Macross series would be de-canonized and left to “belong” to the chimera series instead.

Typing this sends chills up my spine. While I’m not upset by Robotech or feel it an infringement on the original Macross, the idea of exiling SDF Macross solely to Robotech, in order to either “save” Macross or plug up this fandom rivalry, is abhorrent. It’s the highest extreme of the mindset that SDFM was just a rough draft, if it can just be given over to Macross’ “enemies”.

In addition, while Macross fandom is mostly calm about issues of continuity, perhaps this theoretical remake could realize exactly what the modern Macross material is drawing from. I once had those longings for explanation, but I eventually understood that any such clarification would create a world where my favourite designs were made secondary, if not entirely non-canon. Therefore, I prefer to have SDFM sit in its position as an indefinite part of the continuity, as long as it meant the entirety of the TV series Zentradi were on some level canon.

I’m not saying every Macross fan has to like SDFM or even afford it any respect as “the original”, but it’s a great show, and is not in desperate need of a updated gloss in order to be respectable. In the end, I can’t understand this desire for a remake, even if I try to see outside my own knee-jerk response.

1 comment:

  1. Obviously, I agree with you. And yeah, I think the desire to get rid of the completely crappy sequences animated by Star Pro, and a general desire to harmonize SDFM TV and DYRL are the main rationales that have people clamoring for a remake.

    But, as you point out, the logic is flawed. Everyone has a conception of how to make the series "perfect" and when they imagine a remake, that's what they're imagining. It's worth pointing out that none of the people who want a remake have actually read Macross the First.

    To me, Macross the First is the remake. The art style used in it works well for comics but wouldn't, I think, translate well to animation. And just because it's a comic, that doesn't make it any less "official."