Monday, May 23, 2011

SDFM Series in Review: Episode 2, “Countdown”

I spent a good part of this episode having a laugh. It starts off with a lot more in the way of overt slapstick, which is just fine--watching Hikaru’s Valkyrie stumble around and crash into buildings never gets old, and later on there’s more of that darker Murphy’s Law humour, as the gravity pods rip away at the worst possible time.

We’re introduced to a lot of things in this episode, and the one that I most remember is Lynn Minmay. I’m not actually a fan of Minmay, in terms of holding any affection for her as an individual character, but I don’t hate her, either. The thing about me is that I love the human-allied male Zentradi, and their character arc, so I seem to have to hold some regard for Minmay on some level. I default to giving her the benefit of the doubt in most cases, and, as I said, don’t dislike her. This episode doesn’t really show much of Minmay’s characterization. So far she’s just the generic cute girl, but that will soon change.

Roy and Hikaru’s banter is pretty fun, though the exposition about how the Valkyrie works loses me. The Valkyries are great designs, but talking about their nuts and bolts just isn’t that exciting.

The animation in this episode is pretty bad. You see wonky character art, miscoloured bits, and so on. Bad animation doesn’t get to me that much, so I only notice it when I slow down (except in “Virgin Road”, where it’s impossible not to).

However, the shot of Minmay falling and Hikaru catching her is a wonderful piece of animation, especially when you think about the effort needed to create the rotating effect frame by frame. They way they fall tangled back into the cockpit is also a very natural-seeming way to cap it off.

For some reason, watching those Regults jump along amuses me. Regults in general are funny mecha, aren’t they?

The scene where the Zentradi soldier climbs dazed from his crashed Pod is an image that sticks. The characters are just as surprised as the audience, and it’s one of the key conceits of the original SDF Macross: that these Zentradi are, in the end, simply human, and that makes them far more interesting.

The ending of the episode is a nice subtle look into Hikaru’s shocked psyche. He’s got the survival mechanism to fight when danger comes at him, but afterwards, it sinks in, and it’s far more effective when the Zentradi looks like a king-sized, armoured version of a guy you’d meet on the street. The narrator says little, Hikaru says nothing, but the idea is conveyed clear and sharp. It reminds me of Shinji Ikari’s reaction to his flashback of Sachiel’s defeat: Shinji simply turns over in bed, but that small move speaks volumes.

I…don’t have much to say about this episode, actually. It’s a place-setter in a lot of ways, and while that doesn’t preclude it from being fun, going through the episode piece-by-piece doesn’t yield much material. We’re all still waiting for the payoff.

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