We’ve entered a new phase of the story – and the one that I really think of as mine. I was a sporadic watcher of Robotech when I first discovered the show. Hey, remember the days when if you missed an episode you couldn’t just jump online for a catchup? It was years before I saw a lot of the early parts of the saga. But the New New Macross era (no it’s not called that) marks the stage where I was watching religiously and, let’s face it, obsessively.
Later when I got into the novelisations, the first one I owned was a collection of books 4, 5 and 6, which is the second half of the Macross-Rick-Lisa-Minmei story, and gave me an even more intense familiarity with these particular scenes and storylines.
So it’s this world-weary Lisa and shellshocked Rick who first made a strong impression on me, not to mention drunk and abusive Kyle, and the older, sadder version of Minmei.
Jack McKinney’s novelisations, by the way, are some of my favourite space opera novels of all time. They’re based on a cartoon, and yet he invests them with a great deal of gravitas, building up the storylines into something that feels tailored for an adult audience. I particularly love the chapter headings which are matched with snippets from “historical” documents, giving a larger sense of the history that these characters are making, and the story still to come. This includes academic texts, pop culture essays, and snippets from Lisa’s memoir.
The fact that she’s gonna be an Admiral someday doesn’t make the thing where she does Rick’s dishes any less weird.
It’s two years later.
Rick, now Commander Hunter, is on a general patrol when he discovers a tiny patch of flowers and grass growing among the rubble. It’s an amazing sign of hope, that the brutally damaged Earth is renewing herself and has maybe forgiven them.
He recalls his first sight of a pilot flying (Roy, of course) and himself as a child chasing the plane, trampling wildflowers underfoot. He also muses about Exedore’s theory that almost the whole universe’s supply of Protoculture might have been destroyed in the war that is now over, and that it would be their fault that the legacy of the Robotech Masters was lost.
Hmm, Robotech Masters. Wonder if that will be important.
The narrator introduces us to New New Macross City, a massive metropolis. The SDF1 is now retired from air duty, settled in the middle of a lake, but still used as a central military hub. It’s like an office with legs.
Cut to Lisa, doing housework (unasked) at Rick’s portacabin. It’s… distressing because as it turns out, she and Rick have not yet cemented any kind of romantic relationship, but she’s sort of acting like his girlfriend in the hopes that he will notice her. (for years I thought that the novelisation implied they were actually sleeping with each other at this point but I suspect that was a misreading based on teen shipping angst) In the midst of her chores, Lisa finds a photo album dedicated entirely to pictures of Minmei. She turns his Minmei poster upside down and leaves, shaking her own head at herself for being so foolish to try to compete with the glamorous star.
I didn’t realise that this was a test of my parenting until I saw Ms9’s reaction to this scene. She checked with me that Lisa and Rick weren’t living together now (nope, she just lets herself into his place to do his dishes even though she outranks him) and Ms9’s eyes widened with horror and disappointment. She could not imagine any circumstances under which this was okay.
That’s my girl.
Rick is feeling maudlin about the fact that he only ever wanted to be a pilot, not to be in the military, and he avoids checking in with his team. When he hears Minmei on the radio, he goes into a personal tailspin. He then hears Kyle and his pacifist rantings as he introduces Minmei at a concert in Granite City, who are apparently embracing their independence.
Rick tells his men about the flowers and then goes on an unscheduled trip to see Minmei in concert.
There’s another new song from Minmei (well we would hope so after two years, but never take anything for granted). And I’m going to admit at this point that I genuinely like this one. It’s the one I find myself singing most often in the kitchen. It also fits the new Minmei, since it’s all wistful instead of bubbly and vapid.
It’s you I miss.
It’s you who’s on my mind.
It’s you I cannot leave behind.
And oh yes, it’s kind of blatantly about that boy Minmei likes.
Lisa is holding a pity party for herself at a cafe because Rick is not her boyfriend. She daydreams about she and Rick having a baby when she spots Max and Miriya with their new little scamp (HELLO DANA YOU ARE GONNA BE MY FAVOURITE AND MY BEST) and then rolls her eyes when she hears Minmei on the radio.
So the good news is that the show is no longer trying to hide the fact that Kyle is a complete jerk. He has turned into the most unsubtle caricature of a drunk and abusive partner. He’s furious that Minmei was only paid in supplies rather than cash, despite her being supposedly on a benefit tour.
Rick eavesdrops as Minmei and Kyle have what looks like a painful, ugly break up – but is it a break up as agent-star or boyfriend girlfriend?
He then gets a call to deal with Zentraedi rebels, and leaves Minmei with her drunk asshole cousin/boyfriend. I kind of feel that makes him a bad friend. Yes it would have been an awkward moment, but would it have killed him to ask her if she needed a lift somewhere?
But let’s talk about the Zentraedi, because one of the most interesting aspects of this shiny new society they are building is that they have a bunch of humans and a bunch of Zentraedi trying to co-exist – and not all of the Zentraedi are micronised. There’s actually some interesting exploration (more in the books than the show) about the political implications of changing (or not changing) your physical size to fit in with society.
It’s very clear that the Zentraedi are being expected to modify themselves in other ways, too, and that many are struggling with the change. It’s an expanded, more complex take on the question of how veterans soldiers cope during peacetime, when their military skills are no longer needed or indeed valued as highly.
So couple of the ‘rebels’ are tearing up a city in their Battlepods, and Rick was sent in because he was the closest. Which is fine except that he was somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be, and has now been busted.
Lisa and Rick have a tearing domestic over the comms about his disappearing act – she’s already figured out the “coincidence” of him just happening to turn up near the city where Minmei is performing.
The bridge crew gossip about Lisa and Rick. Sami reveals that Lisa cleans Rick’s apartment, and he doesn’t even take her places. They are shocked that someone as smart as her has been roped into such a dodgy arrangement.
Lisa, even the eyelash-batting bridge crew think you’re letting the feminists down. Just saying.
Rick faces a furious Lisa back at the base. They must have some kind of relationship, surely, beyond being ‘just friends’ because he knows he has stuffed up. She tells him she knows she went to see Minmei, and shoves some photos of herself at him “to remember me by.”
Honestly, this whole plot makes so much sense if they are sleeping together but not technically boyfriend-girlfriend, but what do I know?
Rick is super confused about why Lisa wants him to have pictures of her looking cute. He is so bad at this.
Minmei, meanwhile, caught in her own personal misery, thinks about Rick and wonders where he is.
NO MINMEI, YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM, I’M SERIOUS ABOUT THIS. FOCUS ON YOUR CAREER, GIRL.
This weekly rewatch of classic animated space opera Robotech is brought to you as bonus content for the Musketeer Space project. Thanks to everyone who has linked, commented, and especially to my paid patrons. You can support Musketeer Space at Patreon.