The following review comes from long-time SpeakerPODcast contributor, Richard. His excellent blog can be found here.
Gwyn, Adrian, and I saw “Macross – The Musicalture” today, and so I decided I’d write up a review.
Part 1 – Tokyo Dome City
So my friend Emi and I met Gwyn in Tokyo Dome City at a little after 9:30 this morning. For the uninitiated, Tokyo Dome is a baseball stadium, and there is a massive entertainment complex built around it, with lots of restaurants, shops, rides, and other attractions. First we went to the ticket counter and paid ¥500 for the stamp rally card, which also came with a Macross Tokyo Dome City clearfile. The stamp rally is in two parts, the first one lasting from Sept. 28 to Oct. 15, and the second one starting on Oct. 16 and lasting into the beginning of November. So the clearfile we got showed Ranka, with a Tenjin picture of the Macross punching the Daedalus through the Tokyo Dome City Ferris Wheel (called “The Big O,” funnily enough) in the background. Presumably the second clearfile will have Sheryl on it.
After that, we went off to get the stamps, which proved to be more difficult than we were expecting. We went to the Big O, and Gwyn rode it, but Emi and I hung back. Sheryl did the announcements for the ferris wheel, and (as you can see in Antibiotic
Tab’s video), some of the cars have pictures of Sheryl and Ranka on them. Also, according to Gwyn, there’s an mp3 player inside each car that can play a variety of Macross Frontier songs.
Unfortunately, when he got off, no one offered to give him a stamp, and he forgot to ask.
To get the prize at the end of the stamp rally (a small pin), you had to get a variety of stamps. There were two categories, “Free Stamps” (with six spaces) and “Event Stamps” (with three spaces). You needed to get all six of the “free stamps” (which, as advertised, were free) and you had to get one “event stamp” (which were things you needed to pay for: the Big O, buying something at the Macross shop, or getting a drink or spicy hot dog at the “Silver Moon Café”).
So after the Big O, we went in search of the free stamps. The closest one was easy: the log-flue-type ride, which netted us a stamp of “Ash Anderson,” from the Musicalture. After that, we crossed the street to the attractions, where we got stamps of Hikaru, Misa, and Minmay. Finding the stamp stand was not always easy, and we got lost a lot, prompting Gwyn at one point to exclaim, “They really don’t WANT us to get the stamps, do they?”
We also bought some stuff in the Macross shop, which netted us the Sheryl “event stamp.” (I bought two postcards. Gwyn bought quite a bit more.) (I regret nothing! – Ed.)
Then we wandered up to the second floor, and with no little amount of effort, managed to locate and get the “Vigo” and “Sakura” stamps (also Musicalture characters). At this point, we were hungry, so we went to a family restaurant called “Vicky’s” for lunch.
Vicky’s had three Macross-themed menu items: A “Kakizaki Steak,” a “Pineapple Salad,” and a “Basara Spicy Curry.” I got the Pineapple Salad, Emi and Tochiro each got the Basara Curry and a Pineapple Salad to split. This netted us Roy Focker and Basara coasters. Gwyn and Emi nearly choked on the curry. I tried it, and yes, it was DAMN spicy (it was nothing on Orochon Ramen’s “Special #2,” though). The Pineapple Salad wasn’t great, unfortunately (or, as Gwyn put it, “Man, Claudia’s a lousy cook”). It came with yogurt instead of salad dressing, and under the pineapple… potato salad. Potato and pineapple are an odd mix of flavors, to put it gently. It wasn’t inedible, and it didn’t kill us, but I wouldn’t order it again.
(Oh, and Gwyn and I took a few pictures of us “dying” over the pineapple salad, which caused our waiter to crack up. Emi seemed embarrassed to be with us at that point…)
While we were eating, we got a call from Adrian, who had just arrived in Tokyo Dome City (and had just arrived back in Tokyo a night before). We went off to meet him. Emi parted ways with us, since she wasn’t going to see the Musicalture.
Then we saw the musical. More about that in a bit.
(Oh, and food that we DIDN’T buy: Tuna buns, Alto and Sheryl Spicy Hot Dog, Klan Kranberry Parfait, Triangler (which looks like three small pancakes with blue, green, and pink whip on them), some kind of cell phone matchup featuring both Ranka and Sheryl’s phones, Hippocow Ice Cream, and two drinks: the “Seikan Hikou” and the “Pink Monsoon” (guess what color each one is.))
After the musical, we went back to the ticket counter and handed in our stamp rally cards. They pulled out a big box in which we had to reach our hands and pull out a badge. I got a Basara one. Gwyn got Sheryl. I don’t know what Emi got, but if it’s not Misa, she’ll probably give it to me next time I see her.
Then we said our goodbyes, and that was that…
Part 2 – The Musicalture
First, the good news: the musical was good. Better than any of us were expecting. Act I was great. Act II was somewhat disappointing.
Now, the bad news: the theatre was only about half-full, and one of Gwyn’s friends, who got tickets for ALL EIGHT performances of the show, said that every day has been much the same.
The broad, spoiler-free overview: it’s a side story, much like Macross Generation. Nothing of any serious consequence to the Macross universe happens, but there are some interesting ideas that could be developed further. As I’m sure everybody knows, the story is set on the Macross 29 Fleet, which is a pacifist fleet (i.e. no Valks), and is having serious economic problems. A nationalist Zentradi group called “Neo-Zentran” is gaining prominence, despite their violent tendencies. The main characters are Sakura Crawford, a girl who dreams of being an idol, Ash Anderson, a delivery boy at Nyan-Nyan, and Vigo Walgria, leader of the Neo-Zentran group, and formerly friends with Ash and Sakura.
Other characters are Serge Corban Glass, the Mayor of Macross 29; his spoiled daughter Charlotte Marion Glass; Vigo’s sister Daryl; the Nyan-Nyan manager Sonia Dosel (granddaughter of Loli Dosel, who, according to the official program, fathered three children on Vanessa); El, a “female-type robot” (!!!) found in a junk heap and repaired by Ash; A-fro, the “Bobby” of the group, who wears tie-dye, works at Nyan-Nyan, and is gay in a really homosexual, Oscar-Wilde-reading, Noel-Coward-listening, Wizard-of-Oz-watching kind of way; Zegand, the second-in command of Neo-Zentran; and Bodom, a homeless Zentradi guy. Oh, and the winner of the “Actress Wing” of the recent Miss Macross contest shows up to do Ranka commercials every once in a while.
I think we all agreed that Sonia was the hottest, although Adrian and I also liked Charlotte, and Gwyn seemed rather partial to Daryl and her camel-toe.
There were two original songs: the Neo-Zentran anthem (which you can hear in the Youtube clip), and El’s introductory song. The rest were all culled from various Macross shows (but mostly Frontier).
Also, we were effectively watching the show with two understudies. The actor playing Vigo dropped out a few weeks ago, and Sayaka Kanda (playing Charlotte) left the day before performances began, due to gastroenteritis. Despite this, Save said that he thought Charlotte’s actress was the best cast member, and both Tochiro and I noticed how much bigger her breasts were than Sayaka’s.
The set was really good, and very versatile. Pieces of scenery would pop in and out as needed, and the two-level set was used effectively. The costumes, likewise, were excellent…up to a point. The Neo-Zentran soldiers had great uniforms, but when it came to the battle scenes, they looked very “Tron,” and were wearing simple bicycle helmets. And Sonia didn’t wear her black midriff-baring top and short-shorts NEARLY enough for my liking.
(Oh, and although we had almost front row seats, I wish we hadn’t been so far on the right side, and right in front of the speakers. Every time a gun went off, I shuddered.)
I have no idea how (or even IF) this musical will be preserved for posterity. We only saw one camera, and it wasn’t very big. However, if they were to release it on DVD, they probably would’ve recorded one of the rehearsals (as they did for the Youtube clip). I hope that one way or another, it gets some kind of release. It was good, and deserves to be placed among all the other Macross stories.
So now…the nitty-gritty. Spoilers abound.
Mayor Glass introduces the story, tells us to turn off our cameras and stuff. Then he said he would perform a transformation. He laid down on the steps and then proceeded to get up and swivel his arms around. By this point, he’d won over the crowd, and he proceeded to steal the show as it went on. Then the five main girls (Sakura, Sonia, Charlotte, Daryl, and El) come out and sing “Welcome to My Fan Club’s Night” (ending it with “I’m on stage,” which indeed they are). Then story starts.
It’s 2062. The Macross 29 Fleet is in serious trouble. We first meet Charlotte (singing “My Boyfriend Is a Pilot”) and her father. Then we see Vigo and his Neo-Zentran group of militants. Ash is working at Nyan-Nyan (and Sakura drops by, ostensibly because she likes the ramen, but really because she wants to see Ash), and then goes off to see El, a robot that he found in a scrap heap and fixed up. El seems to like Ash as well. Then it’s back with the Neo-Zentran group, as Daryl sings “Holy Lonely Light,” which captivates everybody, especially Zegand, who TRIES to tell her he’s in love with her, but ends up telling her brother Vigo instead (he had his eyes closed. She walked off-stage, Vigo walked on. Hijinx ensue).
The backstory emerges, thanks to a flashback from Sakura: five years before, Vigo and Ash were working together to become professional dancers. Then the previous leader of the Neo-Zentran group attacked them. They tried to disarm him (and Sakura sang “DYRL” to him, which definitely weakened him for a little while), but he managed to fire a shot that took off Ash’s leg, ruining his dreams. He has a cybernetic leg now, and is still very active, but it can’t be the same. But now that Vigo has joined Neo-Zentran, Ash hates him.
Sakura visits Vigo, and discovers that he has a plan: he initially wanted to join Neo-Zentran to destroy it from inside, but he realized that if he demolished the group, another one would just spring up in its place, so instead he’s been slowly introducing culture to the group and making it less militant.
However, a homeless Zentradi guy with a gun (Bodom) attacks Nyan-Nyan. Neo-Zentran shows up and captures him. Zegand tells him to escape, winking that they’re really on the same side. Bodom pretends to deck Zegand and makes a run for it. Zegand then shoots and kills him, which raises Neo-Zentran’s standing in the public eye, as they can get stuff done.
Meanwhile, Mayor Glass is coming upon election time, and he’s very unpopular. His daughter Charlotte suggests that if they held a Miss Macross Contest, it could boost morale and raise his popularity. And of course, she would have to be the winner, right?
The Contest is announced and everyone’s excited about it. In the Neo-Zentran group, however, everyone’s despondent because it seems like it’s just another victory for culture over militarism. Vigo, though, says that they can use this opportunity to show the fleet that Neo-Zentran has culture, too, so Daryl agrees to join the contest. Zegand, meanwhile, privately thinks that this is a perfect opportunity to disrupt the contest, kill a bunch of people, and show the Fleet that Neo-Zentran means business.
Daryl and Sonia, it turns out, have a long history together, and Sonia is always nattering on about her grandfather and how he helped bring culture to the Zentradi. Sonia and Daryl talk, and Sonia decides that if Daryl’s joining the contest, then SHE’LL join it, too.
Sakura wants to be a singer, so OF COURSE she’ll compete. El wants to understand what real singing with real passion is, so she joins, too. The five girls all sing “Diamond Crevasse.” End of Act I.
Mayor Glass comes out into the audience, chatting with them, asking them to vote for him, refusing to shake hands… Again he was AWESOME.
Oh, and he also gives all the finalists (besides his daughter) some “Starlight Natto.” He tells them it’s in “thanks,” but he’s clearly trying to bribe them in some way… whatever is inside those husks, I’m betting it ain’t natto…
The Miss Macross Contest starts, and everyone sings a song. During Daryl’s song (“Obelisk”), the Neo-Zentran group moves in, taking the whole audience (i.e. us) hostage (and yes, they came off the stage and into the crowd, and one of them was pointing his gun right at me). A power struggle ensues as both Daryl and Vigo try to convince Zegand to abandon his tactics. Zegand, predictably, declares that Vigo is soft, and names himself the new Neo-Zentran leader. The girls come out and fight the Zentradi. Ash shows up and says that HE’LL kill Vigo. Zegand likes this, and lets Ash have his gun. Finally, Ash turns the gun on Zegand, only to find that the safety is on. An all-out brawl erupts (to the tune of the “Sayonara no Tsubasa” medley), but when Zegand tries to shoot Vigo, El gets in the way. Her arm is shot off, and she’s clearly dying. She tells Sakura and Ash to love each other, and then short-circuits or something. The fight continues (for far too long). Finally, Sakura starts singing “DYRL,” which weakens the Neo-Zentran troops. They are defeated, and Zegand is arrested.
Mayor Glass decides to postpone the Miss Macross Contest until the following week… but he decides that whoever the winner is, she’ll do a tour of the galaxy. And Vigo and Ash will have to be her back-up dancers. And of course they’ll sell merchandise, which will fix the Macross 29’s economy.
And then El comes back, right as rain.
Everyone sings. Everyone comes out for the curtain call. And Charlotte was TOTALLY checkin’ Gwyn, Adrian, and I out.
Conclusion: The first act was great because it introduced all the new characters and made us care about them. The second act was kind of let-down because it resolved itself in a way we’ve all seen before, using even the EXACT SAME MUSIC from the end of “Sayonara no Tsubasa.” Everyone else thought the final fight lasted too long. I don’t quite agree, but I see where they’re coming from. All in all, though, it was really good, and (as I said) much better than any of us were expecting. I’d like to see these characters again, and I still fervently hope that this performance doesn’t vanish after the final performance on Monday.