Do You Remember Do You Remember Love?: Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?

If a recent Twitter post by the Internet’s Daryl Surat is anything to go by, modern anime fans don’t know about Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?. Not that you can blame them — as cynical as old-school evangelist…

If a recent Twitter post by the Internet’s Daryl Surat is anything to go by, modern anime fans don’t know about Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?. Not that you can blame them — as cynical as old-school evangelist as I may be, I fully understand why many fans of Macross Frontier have absolutely no interest in earlier Macross productions, no matter how often they may be referenced throughout Frontier.

Do You Remember Love? went into development shortly after production on the original 1982 Super Dimension Fortress Macross television series ended, directed by Noburo Ishiguro (Space Battleship Yamato, the original Macross) and Shoji Kawamori. With a substantial budget facilitated by the success of the show, the gorgeous, if ultimately flawed film saw theatrical release in the summer of 1984. While it is far from perfect, subject to not only the pitfalls common to television anime “rehash” films, but perhaps also due to Kawamori’s inexperience as a director, it remains as one of the most beautiful anime films ever made.

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Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam pioneered the use of clip show movies, footage culled from television animation and released theatrically; a great scheme to drum up popularity and cash in on a successful series. The same strategy is commonly employed to this day using both recycled animation (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann The Movie: Guren-hen) and entirely new animation (Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone). While the film didn’t pioneer creating entirely new animation to retell a televised story (see 1979’s Galaxy Express 999), Do You Remember Love? took advantage of the opportunity to take a drastic turn from the original, changing both the aesthetics and tone for a more stylized experience.

The original Super Dimension Fortress Macross television show is notable, to say the least. Not only was it an amazingly fresh piece of robot anime that felt years ahead of contemporaries like Fang of the Sun Dougram, but also helped usher in overseas Japanimation fandom as one third of the masterpiece Robotech. The production crew consisted almost entirely of young, inexperienced staffers inspired to get into animation after seeing Mobile Suit Gundam. While the film crew included many returning television series staff members, it also helped start the careers of a new group of fresh-faced animators, including one by the name of Hideaki Anno.

Unlike contemporary efforts like Anno’s Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone, which consisted mostly of reanimated scenes taken shot-for-shot from the television series, Do You Remember Love? changed not only the designs and style of the series, but made substantial alterations to narrative as well. While the changes made for a more interesting viewing experience for fans, presenting something definitively new and different while remaining familiar, it still suffered from the biggest pitfall of the clip show movie — trying to cram the events of a full-length television series into a single film. The result, as you’d expect, is nearly incomprehensible to those unfamiliar with the Macross story. For fans it works wonderfully as an addendum to the TV series, but for anyone else the experience falls flat.

The film’s pacing, despite feeling cramped and rushed, often manages to feel tedious and boring simultaneously. There are far too many scenes where exquisitely-rendered but unmoving characters stare at each other with sparkly doe eyes. After the film’s exciting first act, the second act drops off, never mustering the same excitement as the opening or closing acts. Despite Ishiguro and Kawamori’s shared credit as co-directors, one wonders how much involvement the experienced Ishiguro had and how much was left in the hands of the 24-year-old, inexperienced Kawamori. In any case, it’s certainly easier and more plausible to write off these pacing issues as being the result of Kawamori’s inexperience, but perhaps we’ll never really know.

Despite these shortfalls, it is easily one of the best-looking animated films of the 1980s, behind only Akira and Studio Ghibli productions. While not as lushly animated as Otomo’s 1988 classic (and what is?), the detail put into each cel of Do You Remember Love? is staggering, capturing not just the incredible detail of Kawamori and Kazutaka Miyatake’s mechanical designs, but also the finesse and style of Haruhiko Mikimoto’s characters. Maybe for all three designers — definitely for Mikimoto — their work has never looked better in animation.

Using a dark color palette with lots of dark greens, browns and purples, Do You Remember Love? stands in stark contrast to its brightly colored television predecessor. It not only sets the film apart visually, but also accentuates the film’s darker mood against the more lighthearted original series. Macross has always carried with it some degree of silliness, although that silliness is largely absent in this film — no doubt a large reason why it, along with Macross Plus, remains so popular with Western fans, while Western opinion on Macross 7 isn’t nearly as positive.

Among die-hard Macross fans, Do You Remember Love? remains one of the most popular parts in the franchise. In fans’ eyes it no doubt makes up for the often dismal animation quality throughout the original television broadcast, and as fans they view it as part of a larger story and are more willing to excuse its shortcomings as a stand-alone film. Non-Macross fans are likely to be far less generous — once you get past the visual spectacle and take it out of the context of the whole Macross franchise, the film fails to stand on its own. It’s certainly worth watching just for its visual spectacle and its importance to Japanimation history, but still remains an inherently flawed work.

25 Comments

  1. I remember watching this as “Clash of the Bionoids” in the states and was confused at how Robotech and this were related. Luckily I was insanely inquisitive and the curiosity lead me to discovering the Macross franchise without the crutch that was Robotech.

    I still watch this movie while working and it seriously brings back all the glory of first discovering anime as a whole to me. I love this film.

  2. I’ll say it again. The MAIN reason Macross:DYRL had any ‘street cred’ during the dawn of anime fandom in the US was those rwo constants from those days. Boobs and Blood. Minmay’s Shower scene ALWAYS got that ‘breathy silence’ watching porn in a group always gets,and I can’t count the times people cheered whenever someone got shot up real good.

    (and the people who just seemed to get off on some minor ‘throwaway’ bits, like “watch, watch, see that guy there? edging closer to Minmay? That’s Kawamori! and….SPLAT HAHAHAHAHAHA he’s dead!” )

    and then the Robotechies came along and spoiled everything.

    Macross:DYRL is a fine movie and plays with ‘worldbuilding’ that brings a smile to my eyes, but it’s no life changer, no SUPER EPIC WOW film.

    (it’s interesting to hear that fans of Macross Frontier seem to have no regard for it as visually and in style, I’d say Macross F is FIRMLY a direct continuity followup to the movie. Of course that might be a function of trying to keep Macross F out of the hands of Harmony Gold who seem to have an unbreakable lock on MAcross TV)

  3. What interests me, and I have no hard data to back this up, is “old school” mecha fans (it’s more or less redundant to use “old school” and “mecha” in the same sentence at this point) seem to be going through a collective unconscious reevaluation and reappraisal of the entire Macross franchise and where it belongs in mecha fandom’s unwritten, undecided Western Canon. Similar moves are happening with Gundam, especially Universal Century.

    Personally, I blame a string of horrible spinoffs in both franchises this decade. Of course, you can’t overlook the inherently self-hating nature of mecha fandom, especially intense amongst real robot mecha fandom. I’m sorry, but if you can bitch about X Season’s TV lineup having no mecha in the same breath you pan FLAG, MS IGLOO 1 and 2 and Votoms Pailsen Files, then you do not know what you want.

    As for DYRL, I was going to accuse you of presentism in your appraisal of it, but with the amount of reality distortion the movie wreaks on Macross fandom’s brains, a dispassionate, nostalgia-drained approach is what is needed right now.

  4. I don’t know how you can criticize this movie. DYRL is like opera, it can be long and boring while watching it, but it is rewarding and breathtaking after you are done no matter how many times you see it.

    It is what it is. Frankly it is, for lack of a better word, magical. The same FLAG or Jin-Roh is.

    Nothing has bettered DYRL in providing that feeling.

  5. I think a lot of anime fans of my generation take DYRL for granted, it was something we all started with, it was an easy introduction to “the real thing” for people who’d watched Robotech. But the fact is that it’s a beautiful film that in many ways has yet to be matched, and for people my age it’s like the best parts of high school all over again.

    Certainly not flawless, though; there’s a completely incongruous decapitation scene near the end that really takes you out of the mood.

  6. I don’t take Macross:DYRL for granted, nor am I undergoing some post-modern ‘hate on what I loved’ thing, I just don’t find the movie to be as major as some do, and I suspect it’s because I view it from a slightly different perspective. Or something.

    Ya know what it is? I don’t think the film overall, as a WHOLE, holds up to the promise of that very first opening scene. When the music is playing, and slowly the Macross is revealed, emerging from the shadow of Saturn, lights all over it blinking, detail on overload (and remember, all hand drawn), and then Haneda’s score just EXPLODES, the TV Macross theme in huge, bold orchestral arrangement, it IS a very WOW moment. (it’s clear that Ishiguro learned some new chops while working on Yamato)

    Then it goes on and it’s OK I get a bit annoyed at the ‘elf ears’ that everyone has and blah blah. But it IS a pretty movie. And of course it’s regretful that we’ll likely never see a legit R1 release on DVD.

  7. I dunno, I haven’t seen the original Macross TV series and DYRL made perfect sense to me.

  8. When I was fourteen, I suppose I had two problems with the Macross movie (which is what we tended to call it–just “the Macross Movie,” or perhaps, misunderstanding the ad campaign, “Macross Summer ’84”) Someone–Books Nippan?–had translated the film’s subtitle a bit awkwardly (by using Japanese word order) as “Love, Do You Remember?” and it probably contributed to us tuning that part of the name out.

    The first problem was the aforementioned reworking of the TV plot, which was far more interesting than that of the movie. To take just one example of this, the original series presented a crisis that develops gradually in the enemy culture over its encounter with our own, and which is also shown as not entirely resolvable, at least in the short term (if MACROSS had been made today, some of its parallels would have been seen as a commentary on the “Jihad vs. McWorld” thesis). In the film, they didn’t necessarily have time to show this crisis develop, but they also reduced the idea to more of a gimmick “secret weakness,” with Misa’s fortuitous discovery of the ancient lyrics.

    But the second and more important problem was that the film simply didn’t speak to me emotionally–it felt strangely vacant. The anime that genuinely changed my life when I was fourteen was MEGAZONE TWO THREE, which, of course, shares many of the same staff as MACROSS: DYRL. I think I did a comparison of the two in JAPAN EDGE, in which I said that there seemed something wrong with the people in DYRL, because they knew they were living sealed in a giant shopping mall suspended in outer space, and they didn’t care (in the TV series, the refugees tried to get on with life but certainly didn’t forget the abnormality). In MEGAZONE, they were happy, but they didn’t know their true situation. Perhaps the extreme level of slickness and glamorization the onboard Macross City received in the film, compared to the TV show, had the inadvertent effect of making its citizens appear even more brainwashed, and somehow less sympathetic, than the people in MZ23.

    I do want to say, though, that I was moved by A.W.O.’s show on MACROSS: DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE?, enough to feel my personal view of the film was perhaps missing a larger, important point. One of the things A.W.O. was trying to convey in their review (as Colony Drop has) is that this is what ambition, hard work, and artistic passion at a high level looks like in anime–and take a good look at it, to realize how rarely you see it now. Maybe the results didn’t work out for me personally, but many people feel the same about another film of this same era, ROYAL SPACE FORCE.

  9. Doods,

    I was under the impression that DYRL was a “movie within a movie” – that is, DYRL is a movie telling the events of Space War I made by the characters in the Macross world and that the audience in the real world were watching the same thing…and that explained some of the choppy pacing. Just my take. Classic film.

  10. > Carl Horn
    I regret not mentioning anything about Misa translating the ancient song as you’re absolutely right, its a poor substitute for something that was so important in the original series.

    Personally, I felt the same way about MZ23 as you did about DYRL. I never managed to find any connection to it. It’s half-brother Bubblegum Crisis on the other hand, was my life-changing anime at age 13.

    > Anthony Goodman
    The film within a film idea wasn’t brought up until well after production of DYRL, I believe. And even if it was, I fail to see how that would excuse its shortcomings.

    For what it’s worth, a recent interview with Kawamori suggested that he viewed all parts of Macross as films within films or TV shows within TV shows.

  11. Anthony, I can dig it, but as Sean says, it still has an obligation to be a good movie, and also, so much effort and so many resources went into making DYRL–it’s not like it was Macross’s Gekiganger 3–that it’s not satisfying to me, living in reality, to be told “well, the people who live in the Macross TV series thought it was great.” ^_^

    Again, though, I would urge people to listen to A.W.O.’s show about MACROSS: DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE and definitely not pass it by simply due to my opinion. Most anime fans at cons today weren’t even born when the film came out; they have the right to form their own opinions on the 1980s; anime can be reassessed by later generations just as other media are.

    Personal connections to anime are necessarily just that–personal, and not predictable or explainable according to rules. I think it’s good, however, if a fan truly does discover at least one work that makes such a connection for them–an anime that can change their life, just like a certain album or live-action movie might. Maybe one of the problems of moe is that it sets the creative bar lower, by asking only that the audience make a connection to a particular character, rather than to the work as a whole.

  12. Carl, I am ALWAYS glad when you post somewhere because you manage to make clear things I fumble around discussing, and bring clarity to things and trigger new thoughts.

    That’s my problem. Macross:DYRL, the characters are COLD. There’s no real passion, no real fire. Hikaru chases after Minmay because that’s what he did in the TV series. Misa shares a rather creepy domestic moment (on a ruined, dead Earth) with Hikaru and so now she’s painfully in love with him because she was in the TV series.

    But so much is changed, we don’t know what we can ‘keep’ from the TV show and what’s all new. Was Macross City built into the ship from the start? Did the ship have a fold accident or are they just cruising to Saturn? I’m sure some of this was covered in aftermarket extra products (and I should go thru the Gold Book) but I don’t recall anything in the movie that covers these things.

    So, with no knowledge of ‘what came before’, we have no guideline as to the significance of the changed events.

    I mean, the fact that Minmay is ALREADY an idol star as the movie starts changes so much of the dynamics of Hikaru chasing her, to point out one element.

  13. I’ve always felt DYRL suffers from what every Macross incarnation has suffered from since episode 27 of the original series.

    Prior to that episode the plot was centered on the war and the overall situation of mankind adapting to the new reality they’ve been thrown into. The love triangle between Hikaru, Misa, and Minmei was an interesting subplot.

    After “Love Drifts Away” Macross shifted it’s axis to the love triangle and the war and setting became the subplot.

    PS: Subplot might be too light of a term now that I think about it. Ah well.

  14. DYRL is very, very pretty. And aged so well I can’t believe it was from 1984.

    I was kinda sad they glossed over many parts of the original TV series, like Max and Millia’s recockulous romance, the love triangle being nothing more than BAMF! RELATIONS! rather than painful human interactions graudally turning into something else, Earth being written off as dead (the original series had Earth being orbital bombarded, but EARTH GETS A PARTING SHOT.), etc… Deus Ex Machina notwithstanding.

    There’s a lot I feel could have been done to better the experience, but the reduction of Kaifun into a bit character was probably the best thing.

    The last scene of Macross: DYRL, I feel, should have been included in the original show, simply because that felt more satisfying than what they did for episode 27 for the original.

    Personally, I feel that the original series did a far better job of telling the story than the movie, but you have to admit, the first scene and the last scene can be integrated into the TV series with little to no problems.

    But FUCK, let’s ditch all the criticisms and agree on one thing: DYRL is pretty, prettier than most modern anime movies to date. (Kara no Kyoukai notwithstanding. Those movies take pretty cinematic visuals to a whole new level)

  15. And just to add, I was born 4 years AFTER DYRL aired in Japan and knew about it through what information I could gather. And I think Plus was the best Macross, followed by 7 (ALL OF THEM, including the movies, OVAs, etc.), SDF, DYRL, and then Frontier and Zero.

    (And I managed to watch all the Macross shows save for Macross II. Power of Internet, etc.)

  16. I like the part where the planes and ships flew around in space and turned into robots while firing a ton of missiles with crazy twisting smoke trails and explosions. To allege such a thing is “no life changer, no SUPER EPIC WOW film” is to exhibit onset symptoms of mad cow disease.

  17. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer. That’s about it, at least if you’re talking about movies. I personally strongly prefer Do you remember love? over Megazone 23 or any other meha movie.

  18. So what y’all are saying is that DRYL is the Vertigo of Eighties anime: historically important and spectacular in a very stylized high-art sort of way, but emotionally empty and structurally problematic?

    Personally, I’ve always connected better with the movie than the series. DRYL just feels so much more *primal* than the slightly goofy-ass tv show. It might have something to do with having watched Robotech after school. I subconsciously associate the TV series with the Smurfs, G.I. Joe, and Jem.

    There’s just more bass-tone to the movie. I feel it in my chest, instead of my head. It *rumbles*.

  19. Steve Harrison your comment about Dougram makes me cry.

    I submit that you are a troll, and a harlot.

    Good day!

  20. 1984 was definitely a great year for anime!! Urusei Yatsura, Macross, and Nausicaa!!

    Thoroughly enjoyed both the TV and Movie. Have one main complaint namely, Hikaru’s sudden switch from Minmay to Misa in DYRL. His “devotion” seemed so weak and frankly we did not like his movie portrayal compared to his TV portrayal. Minmay in DYRL seemed considerably more grounded and likable compared to her TV version. This made the movie love triangle feel very disjointed; it felt uncharacteristic to see Hikaru fall madly in love with Misa.

    Don’t get us wrong we prefer Misa over Minmay in the TV series but not in the movie. Misa’s character was too COLD and flat. Frankly the creators could’ve replaced Misa with Noriko from GunBuster (or any other female anime character) and it would’ve had the same effect. Lol! In DYRL the whole “sudden love” between Misa and Hikaru was forced. Most people who’ve taken the time to watch the TV series agree how Hikaru gradually fell in love with Misa made sense. The TV series developed Hikaru’s personality better and showed the tipping point when he realized he cared for Misa. The movie as beautifully lush as it was, condensed unnecessarily far too much character development into the film.

    Overall, when we introduce the Macross franchise we use DRYL first and then the TV series. Many newer fans get turned off of the inconsistent quality in animation and character designs. Frankly it just is not worth the time to try, DYRL is treasured by older fans but remember even one of the most popular anime series of all time, the grand daddy “Urusei Yatsura” series has long since been forgotten. Only time will tell if Macross will go the way of UY or reinvent itself and gain new fan followings. We hope the Macross franchise survives but mecha by and large just is not popular anymore, which is why we saw so much of the annoying moe elements in Frontier. Only time will tell, but for now… Macross to us is just DYRL, TV, FB, and Plus.

  21. This is still a fine film, even with its flaws (and look, every bloody film ever made has flaws!). I just re-watched it recently and I’m still blown away by the _quality_ of the animation–to think that this was all hand-drawn, hand-painted cels still boggles the mind.

    And yes, it did make quite the impact on me. I am fine with the story being a condensed version of the MACROSS series–it happens every time a multi-episode TV series is turned into a two hour film.

    @Carl Horn–both this film and ROYAL SPACE FORCE are personal faves of mine, but you can use them as what happens when you put the talent, passion, and craft to good use. They should definitely be shown to fans today, many of whom have no clue about them. Then again, it’s a good thing that CD does exist to remind us that anime has a long and honorable (well, sometimes NOT so honorable) history, and that it did not pop into existence five or ten years ago.

    It is curious, though, to see the Macross universe today utilize the designs from DYRL, whether it’s the uniforms or the mecha designs.

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