Macross Plus – The Fun of Flight
I am a total pussy when it comes to heights, but I’ve always loved the pure sensation of flight. For whatever reason, I get the shakes going up slowly in a glass elevator, but put me a mile high, and I’ll look out the window and think, “Holy shit, this is awesome!” Too bad I’ve been on an airplane just three times in my life.
I can appreciate a work that loves flight to the point of fetishizing it; that’s a huge part of what drew me into Macross Plus almost immediately. It has been nearly 16 year since the original release of Macross Plus . . . and holy mother of god does it ever still look amazing. Not just the detail of the art and the fluidity of the animation (though both are fantastic), but also the pure joy that you get from everything when the creators allow the action to go crazy. There is some heavy, petty stuff in the relationship among main characters Isamu Dyson, Guld Goa Bowman and Myung Fang Long, so it’s always a welcome distraction when the animators let ‘er rip.
The sequence that stands out most to me is when Isamu tries out the YF-19 for the first time and goes bananas by pushing it as hard as he can (even though several pilots before him have been put in the hospital due to the strain of flying that jet). The force of Isamu’s takeoff, the edge of his climb, the single-minded push into outer space . . . and only after all that is he really convinced of the YF-19’s power, after which he has some real fun with his new toy. That whole time I couldn’t help but imagine myself in the cockpit, pushed back by the pressure of climbing so high in that deep blue sky, falling back to Earth and twirling and looping and having a fucking great time. It’s a real rush.
Isamu himself contributes a lot to the joy of flight in Macross Plus. He’s a lot of things: Selfish, hard-headed, eager to get into fights . . . but he has also worked and honed his ability to the point where he is exactly where he wants to be in life. When the audience sees him as a soldier in the beginning of the OVA, it is clear that while Isamu is a good fighter, he enjoys the pure act and thrill of flight more than anything. Most people would probably see his demotion to test pilot as an insult; however, Isamu is overjoyed. He gets paid to fly state-of-the-art equipment? Hell motherfucking yes!
Isamu is a competitive guy. He wants to outdo Guld and establish himself as the top dog among the pilots. But more than that, he wants to compete with himself — to push his flight as far and as high as it can possibly go. The outer reaches of space are not far enough as far as Isamu is concerned. When Isamu hops into the YF-19 and pushes it hard from the get-go, man, the happiness just radiates off him. The happiest moment in Isamu’s life is when he’s flying a jet, and the second happiest is when he climbs out after landing and starts thinking about the next time he’ll be flying in the skies. You wouldn’t want to fly with a guy like that? I’d be crapping my pants the whole time, but it would be awesome.
Yoko Kanno’s score should also be mentioned, too, since it seems like a crime to skip over that. Great blood-pumping flight music. I was always looking for the nearest flight helmet right after, until I realized that I mostly take the bus to work. God damn it.
There’s a lot to love about Macross Plus – I especially love that sense of cool that is similar to Cowboy Bebop, the most famous series from Shinichiro Watanabe, who made his directing debut with this OVA — but the joy and adrenaline rush of flight is what I will always recall first when thinking about it. Isamu is in a position most people will never touch in their lives, and he relishes every moment of it. How often do you get to see pure, unbridled joy like that?