ROBOTECH REWATCH 4: Welcome to the First Chinese Restaurant in Space

robotech rewatchThis weekly rewatch of classic animated space opera Robotech is brought to you as bonus content for the Musketeer Space project. Thanks everyone for your support!

Previous episodes:
1 – So Much For World Peace
2 – Who Put Pluto There?
3 – To Be In Love

Episode 5. Transformation

Living on a spaceship under siege is hard work! Minmei’s aunt and uncle bemoan the tight rations, and that gives Minmei a bright idea: let’s reopen the restaurant! She points out that there was food rationing during the last war, and her family kept the restaurant open then.

“But even though we’re lost in space, life can still go on as usual, can’t it?”
Minmei, Queen of Denial 2009

Minmei dresses up in formal Chinese costume and welcomes their first customers, a gang of pilots who set about sexually harassing her. (“So you and that guy stuck in space on your own, hurr hurr, did you ‘fall in love’ or what?”) Rick, staying in a room above the restaurant overhears Minmei shutting down any romantic speculation about her time in captivity. Not realising she was diffusing an uncomfortable situation, Rick’s feelings are hurt by her insistence that they are just good friends, and he pouts for the rest of the episode. Oh, poor sulky baby.

Not content with a Russian sea captain commanding the SDF1, it turns out they also have German scientists aboard. This particular scientist, Dr Emil Lang, tries to talk Captain Gloval into experimenting with the ship’s own modular transformation in order to get access to their main gun, and Gloval acts like he’s never heard of such a thing before, despite all Robotechnology being based on this premise.

(Further evidence of my theory that he was shipped in from a 19th century Russian novel)

Roy takes Rick for a walk to show off their aircraft carriers, now locked on to the side of the ship, and attempts to seduce him into the military on the grounds that being a fighter pilot is healthier than mooning over Minmei. And might possibly help Rick’s romantic chances, because multitasking.

Rick pouts and sighs about how much Minmei has changed now that she’s not literally trapped with him alone, and he has to share her attention with other people.

Roy confesses that Minmei was actually the one who noticed Rick was depressed and sent Roy to give him a kick up the backside. So maybe she’s not as uninterested in Rick as he imagines? Roy then undoes all this good work with the following:

“Girls like her can be sort of fickle sometimes, know what I mean? You’d better make sure some guy in uniform doesn’t come along.”
Roy Fokker, Chick Expert

Rick and Minmei hang out in her bedroom, and she shows him what she really went back for when she ran away from the shelters that day – not her diary at all, but a letter saying she made the finals of the Miss Macross beauty pageant. Her dream is lost now, of course, with them stuck in space. Rick’s dream is over too, with his beloved plane reduced a pile of junk. Oh, moody teenagers who think your life is over. I have no patience with you now!

Meanwhile, the aliens have finally found the errant Micronians. As the Zentraedi attack the SDF1, Rick continues to be a sulky baby, happy to leave the action to Roy and the others. He is miserable about Minmei’s lack of attention even when she is actively flirting with him, and complimenting his flying skills.

“Thundering Asteroids! Another direct hit.”

Captain Gloval sums up their military position.

Damage, casualties… the aliens are kicking their butts all over space. If only they could fire the main gun. Okay, fine, Gloval is finally convinced.

TRANSFORMATION MODULATION INITIATED!

Back in teen drama land, Minmei convinces Rick he will be happiest if he joins the military using the ancient art of passive aggressiveness. He responds to this interest in his wellbeing by acting jealous of the soldiers she has been “entertaining” at the restaurant. Neither of them are smart enough for this conversation, which seems to confuse them both.

The animation of Robotech has always fascinated me – it’s very simplified and stylised at times with the beautiful battles a great example – most explosions are conveyed as a bright circle, and so on. But it also uses some deliberately filmic techniques, clever touches like Captain Gloval’s hat tumbling off his head in slo-mo during a particularly rough battle. They were reaching for the stars, and often conveyed some real emotional resonance through animation that seems clunky by modern standards.

We also get some clever meta direction, such as when the battle comes directly into the SDF-1, and the Zentraedi pick up the feed via their own spyware drones.

“I’m okay, but what about the hull?”
Lt. Lisa Hayes takes her job more seriously than anyone else on this ship.

So, remember that city that they let the civilians rebuild? They apparently didn’t put a lot of thought into where they put all those buildings. The city cracks apart as the SDF1 initiates its modular transformation. Cars crash, walls buckle, and everything starts ripping apart.

Minmei of course falls into an instant ravine, possibly because she is hoping she will get more screen time and/or sympathy from Rick if she goes the Full Damsel. It’s a working theory.

“So that’s the transformation.”
Roy, making sure everyone has noticed the giant space gun in the room.

The SDF-1 takes on a robotic form with a big gun in its chest, which destroys the aliens. Foooom! Rick and Minmei turn out to be fine (he obviously rescued her during the ad break), and in a great position to survey the ruined city with big sad eyes.

Public service announcements ring out across the rubble, assuring the civilians that the damage was regrettable but necessary, and thanking them for their co-operation.

Proving that he is actually capable of learning from experience (I didn’t have high hopes), Rick finally decides that it probably is the responsible thing to do, to join the military. Minmei swoons at the thought of Rick in a sexy uniform.

PLEASE REMEMBER IN FUTURE THAT THIS DECISION CAME AT HER INSTIGATION.

ep5_soldiers_order_ramen

Maintain communications on this channel! The Robotech Rewatch will return next week! Find out more about the Musketeer Space project and how you can support it here at Patreon. Or just check out Musketeer Space, a space opera web serial with swashbuckle and style, starting from Chapter 1.

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