NHK’s Ultimate Macross Poll

(Photo from the Ultimate Macross Poll Official Website)

What is Macross to you?

“It’s something that surpasses time and space. It’s like music or passion or love, surpassing time and space in search of their true potential. Something like that.”
-Shoji Kawamori, Ultimate Macross Poll

On Saturday, May 4th, NHK BS Premium broadcast the results of its Ultimate Macross Poll.

Held over a period of two months, from March 1, the Ultimate Macross Poll received 254,131 entries, tabulating votes and comments from over a quarter million fans in four categories to decide the most popular songs, characters, mecha and overall series from the Macross franchise.

While the resulting 3.5 hour long tv special was structured around the unveiling of the poll results in these categories, it was much more than mere vote tallies – it was a celebration of all things Macross, gave the fans a voice, provided a snapshot of the current state of the franchise and dropped some interesting hints about what the future might hold.


But first, some translation notes.

The translation “Ultimate Macross Poll” came from Anime News Network’s coverage of the poll and is the one I will be using here for consistency’s sake. A more literal translation would be “All-Macross Poll”.

The poll covered all animated iterations in the Macross franchise. Videogames, radio dramas, novels, manga and other media were not included. How can any Macross poll ever truly be considered “ultimate” without including Haruka Chisuga, I ask!!!
All graphs used in this article came from the NHK Anime World twitter feed.
All other screen caps or photographs are my own unless expressly noted.

What is an “Ultimate Poll” and why do one?
This is not the first time the NHK has done a poll like this, in fact they held an “All-Gundam Poll” last year.

The purpose of such polls is two-fold. For NHK, they get to do a long tv special at minimal cost (since much of the special is lists, charts, and animation footage) that drives fans to subscribe to their premium service to watch and participate (some segments of the show include real-time viewer interaction as well as a steady on-screen twitter feed). The owner of the intellectual property, on the other hand, gets a bunch of promotion and a whole lot of marketing data regarding their fanbase and what it likes.

In short, everyone wins. Except those that don’t have ready access to cable.
Which is actually quite a lot of people. 

Accessibility
The one drawback to this whole poll setup is accessibility to fans. In fact, I suspect that the lack of accessibility may have even affected voter demographics in Macross’ case.
NHK BS Premium is Japan’s national broadcaster’s subscription-based cable service. It’s one that is increasingly irrelevant to younger fans and viewers used to Netflix, Hulu, AbemaTV and any other number of streaming options. While some living at home may have parents or grandparents that still use the service, young people aren’t exactly flocking to the service and tv specials such as polls are timed so that new subscribers get caught between billing cycles, thereby having to pay for installation and 2 months of cable to see a single show.

The good news is that NHK usually reruns these tv specials on their free to air channels months later after they’ve already monetized them. This happened for the Gundam poll and is likely to happen for the Macross one too.

Anecdotally, I was unable to find anyone I knew who had access to NHK BS Premium, and ended up contacting a colleague I hadn’t seen in a decade to record it so I could do this writeup. His old DVR only supported DVD recording, meaning it crammed 210 minutes of HD footage onto a single 4.7GB disc. The resulting compression looked like a VCD (Mpeg 1). This was less than ideal for taking screencaps, which I may redo after the special is eventually rebroadcast.

Presenters, Panelists & Guests
The format of the Ultimate Macross Poll was similar to many Japanese tv talk shows.
There were presenters, a panel of “experts”, special guests, and a few video messages.
With this sort of set up, there’s usually a few legitimate fans included in the panel, while the remaining members are made up of currently popular tv celebrities or idols who aren’t all that knowledgeable and are there to give a niche special more mainstream legitimacy.

In this case however, the panel was actually full of people that were legitimately fans – this made the discussion much more organic. Every single member had something meaningful to contribute to the hours of talk that followed, so they’re worth mentioning here.

Presenters:
-Yuki Sugiura (NHK tv presenter)
-Takanori Nishikawa (T.M Revolution)

Panel members:
Chiaki Kyan (TV personality. Macross Fanclub event MC). Favorite Macross: Frontier
Teruyuki Tsuchida (TV personality, mecha fan – owns every Macross on bluray except for passionate Walkure which he has yet to pick up). Favorite Macross: Frontier
-Tetsuo Sato (Comedian, plamo fan). Favorite Macross: DYRL
Kazuhiko Shimamoto (Manga artist – Blue Blazes). Favorite Macross: Macross 7
Kohei Tanaka (Composer, singer-songwriter). Favorite Macross: SDFM
Ryusuke Hikawa (Anime historian & academic)

Guests:
-Minori Suzuki (Freyja Wion)
-Megumi Nakajima (Ranka Lee)
-Hayami Sho (Maximilian Jenius)
-Nobutoshi Canna (Basara Nekki)
-Mari Iijima (Lynn Minmay)
-Shoji Kawamori

Video Messages:
-Yuichi Nakamura (Alto Saotome)
-Aya Endo (Sheryl Nome)

Demographics – So who voted?

Overall Voter Demographics

Male: 68.9%
Female: 31.1%

The overall voter demographics were surprising in that they actually skewed older than I was expecting – 67% of voters were above the age of 30. 

With Frontier and and Delta being so popular, one would expect the under-30 crowd to be better represented – until the medium is taken into consideration. Given how irrelevant cable television is to younger fans, voting for their favorite Macross in a poll they couldn’t actually access may have been a disincentive to some. Either way, adults and older viewers dominated the poll results.

Next, let’s look at the demographic breakdown by series/ova in release order.

SDF Macross Voter Demographics

Male: 82%
Female: 18%
Top 16 Rank: No.5
No real surprises here. With the original Macross having originally aired 37 years ago, it only makes sense that its fans would skew older – in this case a whopping 88.4% were 40y/o or over, with the combined 0-29y/o age bracket barely managing to break 10%.

Do You Remember Love Voter Demographics

Male: 89%
Female: 11%
Top 16 Rank: No.2
The Male to Female voter gap widens just that little bit more compared to that of the SDFM tv series, while average ages understandably remain largely the same. This illustrates how DYRL was largely made for existing fans of the original series and wasn’t necessarily meant serve as a stand-alone movie to bring newcomers into the franchise.

Flashback 2012 Voter Demographics

Male: 88%
Female: 12%
Top 16 Rank: No.15
Minmay’s final appearance is accompanied by similar demographics to both SDFM and DYRL.

Macross 2 Voter Demographics

Male: 85%
Female: 15%
Top 16 Rank: No.13
Given Ishtar’s popularity, one might have expected Macross 2 to have polled slightly higher than it did. With 5 years having passed since Flashback 2012 however, it appears that it didn’t pull in all that many new fans when it debuted – hardly surprising in retrospect considering the expense of the OVA format at the time.

Macross Plus OVA Voter Demographics

Male: 86%
Female: 14%
Top 16 Rank: No.7
Coming in surprisingly high at No.7 was the OVA version of Macross Plus. Despite its relative popularity and high penetration rate in pop culture consciousness outside of Japan during the 90’s, within Japan the expensive nature of the OVA format, lack of a broadcast and, anecdotally, its comparatively selfish and unrelatable characters meant that it failed to achieve the same mindshare of its contemporary, Macross 7. Among animation aficionados and those in the animation industry however, it quickly gained recognition for the quality of its animation.

Macross 7 Voter Demographics

Male: 68%
Female: 32%
Top 16 Rank: No.3
1994’s Macross 7 had a strong showing in all four categories of the poll. Voter ages peaked in their 30’s, which is about how old many kids that caught it on tv in the mid-90’s would be today. It is from this point onwards that we begin to see a major shift in the gender of voters. The Basara thirst is indeed real.

Macross Plus Movie Edition Voter Demographics

Male: 86%
Female: 14%
Top 16 Rank: No.8
With an identical gender split as the OVA version, Macross Plus Movie Edition did see an uptick in voters in their 20’s – most likely due to it being more accessible via theatrical screenings both when it was released as well as over the past 6 years since the remastered bluray release.

M7: The Galaxy is Calling Me Voter Demographics

Male: 74%
Female: 26%
Top 16 Rank: No.14
A slight gender swing of 6% back towards male voters compared to its tv counterpart. This could be due to the movie format. Or it could just be that Basara’s song was spreading to everyone.

Macross Dynamite 7 Voter Demographics

Male: 84%
Female: 16%
Top 16 Rank: No.10
Just barely scraping into the top 10, this Macross 7 OVA saw yet another 10% swing towards male voters. Like Macross Plus, this is likely due to the expense and limited accessibility of the OVA format.

Macross Zero Voter Demographics

Male: 89%
Female: 11%
Top 16 Rank: No.11
When it was released in 2002, Macross Zero was a calculated effort not only to appeal to the original fans of the franchise but also to prove the animation chops of the then fledgling animation studio Satellite Inc.
While it succeeded largely at both, the relatively large percentage of voters in their 20’s indicates that it also appealed to younger male viewers at the time (who are in their 20’s by now considering that the last episode of Macross Zero came out 15 years ago. Feel old yet?).

Macross Frontier Voter Demographics

Male: 53%
Female: 47%
Overall Rank: No.1
Just look at that swing of voters both female and in their 20’s. Look at it. Compare it with Macross Zero which wrapped up only four years prior. Frontier breathed new life into the franchise, appealing to both younger audiences and males/females alike.
Now 11 years old, its popularity has yet to wane as evidenced by how it took the top spot in the overall rankings and had entries in the top 3 rankings of every category. Not too shabby for a show that was released a quarter of a decade into the franchises 37 year history.

Macross F: The False Songstress Voter Demographics

Male: 46%
Female: 54%
Overall Rank: No.12
Demographics for the first Frontier move changed little compared to the tv series – understandable given how it told primarily the same story and was largely a clip show.
Female voters continue to outnumber male voters, something that, anecdotally speaking, was true at the cinemas I saw saw the movie at as well.

Macross F: Wings of Farewell Voter Demographics

Male: 49%
Female: 51%
Overall Rank: No.4
Both guys and gals loved this movie which was so well received that it was voted the 4th best Macross anime overall with its titular song “The Wings of Farewell – the end of triangle” coming in at no.5 in the overall song rankings.
While the age group best represented was in their 20’s, it’s interesting to note that 46.8% of those that voted for it were above the age of 30, a testament to just how well balanced a film it was across the board.

Macross FB7: Listen to my song! Voter Demographics

Male: 78%
Female: 22%
Overall Rank: No.16
Wait, someone actually voted for FB7? Well, not too many probably, given that it ranked at the very bottom of the overall anime rankings at No.16. Largely a promotional clip movie for the upcoming Macross 7 remastered blurays at the time (the footage from which looked gorgeous on a cinema screen), director Tetsuro Amino may have urged fans to see it as a rock show rather than a movie, but most were there for the final scene as evidenced by voter comments.
Intriguingly, while you might think that voters would skew female due to FB7 combining two shows with large female fanbases, this turned out not to be the case.

Macross Delta Voter Demographics

Male: 45%
Female: 55%
Overall Rank: No.6
This brings us to the latest addition to the Macross family. Like several other entries into the franchise, Delta appears to have been a little controversial among certain vocal segments of the overseas fandom, with some claiming that it was a failure or that it was an obvious effort to pander to male idol otaku. The results however debunked both these claims.
Macross Delta ranked at No.6 in the overall rankings, ahead of Macross Plus but below the original, M7, Frontier and DYRL. Age-wise it skewed younger than any other Macross series, with the 0-29 y/o demographic making up a whopping 67.4% of voters. Keep in mind, however that this age bracket only made up 24.8% of overall voters, meaning that a decent percentage of older voters must have voted for it as well in order for it to score so highly.
Similarly, in terms of voter gender, it beat out the previous record holder (Macross F: The False Songstress) by 1% and ended up with a majority female voter base at 55%. So much for pandering primarily to male idol otaku.
The large amount of positive discussion of the series, particularly among the panel guests and presenters, was also fairly telling.

Macross Delta Passionate Walkure Voter Demographics

Male: 63%
Female: 37%
Overall Rank: No.9
Last but not least is the recently released movie Macross Delta: Passionate Walkure. Intriguingly, this release saw a significant increase in male voters compared to its television counterpart. This could be due to the continuing popularity of Walkure, although at least some of it is again likely to be attributable to the extra barrier of entry to watching a theatrical release as opposed to just watching something as it airs on tv.
Before we get to the ranking lists, its worth mentioning some of the points brought up by the shows panelists. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, all members of the panel were various minor tv celebrities or industry folk who were all dyed-in-the-wool Macross fans. Chiaki Kyan, for example, has been on Macross panels, livestreams and at fan club events for over a decade now.
In typical Japanese panel talkshow style, the conversation got a bit raucous at times, with people talking over each other, but on the whole everyone had some important points to make.
Manga artist Kazuhiko Shimamoto (Aoi Hono/Blue Blazes) brought in a recent chapter of his manga which depicted his shock when first seeing the opening to the original Macross on tv in the 80’s.
He also gave an impromptu demonstration of how the way Hikaru and Roy’s hair was drawn made them both seem visually like main characters to the viewer (ie, this increased the impact of Roy’s eventual and sudden death).
Composer/singer/songwriter Kohei Tanaka (Gunbuster, G-Gundam, Sakura Taisen, One Piece) discussed the idiosyncrasies of the various Macross composers and did a personal breakdown of how he sees the musical career of Yoko Kano – in short, he considers her career to have there distinct periods:

(1)”Sense Period“: Music that was based on her own inherent sense of musical style and composition.
Examples: Please Save My Earth, Card Captor Sakura, Lodoss War TV., etc.

(2)”Sound Period“:  More focused on purposefully creating unique melodies and complex arrangements.
Examples: Cowboy Bebop, Turn A Gundam, GitS:SAC, Macross Plus, etc.

(3)”Sophisticated Mainstream Period“: Focused on making high quality lyrical music that would also be well received by mainstream audiences.
Examples: Macross Frontier. 

Kohei Tanaka explains the “Macross Magic”

Takanori Nishikawa: So what is it that’s so special about the Macross series?

Kohei Tanaka: It’s gotta be the music, of course! The idea of stopping a war with music. It’s not something that you normally see. And each of the singers is unique. There’s a virtual idol, there’s (Yoshiki) Fukuyama, who’s career post-Macross has been amazing, Hiroko Kasahara is also terrific, Mari Iijima is great too and more recently May’n and (Megumi) Nakajima been doing really well. So Macross is a show that continually gives rise to these artists. I’m a bit jealous of it.

Tetsuo Sato: Many of the staff of the original Macross were fans of idol music so they wanted a way to include that music in battle scenes – that’s where it all started. Regardless of the era, idols never fade away.

Kohei Tanaka: At first I always think that (idol music) won’t fit certain scenes, but then I listen to it for a bit and think “hey, it works!” …it’s like magic. That’s the Macross magic.

Chiaki Kyan gets passionate about the hot tub scenes in Passionate Walkure.

Chiaki: (Passionate Walkure) has a lot of bathtub scenes.
Yuki: Wasn’t that sceen great? You could see how their friendships blossomed.
It was really an emotioinal high point!
Ryusuke Hikawa: The special thing about Macross is that it’s made by people that enjoy anime. So there’s not much of a gap between those making it and those watching it. So if a tv series is popular, then they give back to the fans by making a theatrical version that goes all-out.

Several cast members from various Macross series also made an appearance during the Ultimate Poll tv special’s 3.5 hr run time. Minori Suzuki (Freyja Wion), Megumi Nakajima (Ranka Lee), Hayami Sho (Maximilian Jenius) and Nobutoshi Canna (Basara Nekki) all made appearances and did live line readings based on scenes chosen in real-time by the viewers. Hayami Sho proved that he could still do both younger and older versions of Maximilian Jenius with ease. At one point he and Nobutoshi Canna did a Macross 7 scene together, noting that this was the first time they had done so in 25 years.

Blank spaces in the script where character lines would normally be.

Megumi Nakajima brought along her copy of the infamous script for The Wings of Farewell where the final lines were left intentionally blank until the very last minute of recording when they were rushed into the booth on separate pieces of loose paper. There was some debate over whether this was done intentionally so that it didn’t influence the voice actors or whether it took until the last minute the staff to decide the final end of Frontier’s love triangle. Most seemed to believe that the latter scenario was the more likely of the two.

Mari Iijima (Lynn Minmay) herself made a surprise appearance towards the end of the broadcast to sing Do You Remember Love. Apparently she had flown in the night before and her sound checks had been done before the rest of the guests arrived at the studio to keep her appearance a secret.

Alright now. Let’s have a look at those rankings, shall we? Below is the top 10 results for each category. Translations of the full Top 50 can be found in a gallery at the end of the article. I’ve chosen to cover the combined/overall voting results for those categories that originally included multiple entries by series. the full results can also be viewed in Japanese at the Ultimate Macross Poll Official website.
Top 10 Mecha
1) YF-19 (Macross Plus, OVA)
2) VF-1S Valkyrie (Focker) (SDFM, TV)
3) YF-29 Durandal (Alto) (Frontier, MOV)
4) VF-19 Kai (Basara Sp.) (M7, TV)
5) VF-1S Strike Valkyrie (Focker) (DYRL, MOV)
6) VF-1S Strike Valkyrie (Hikaru) (DYRL, MOV)
7) YF-19 (Plus, MOV)
8) VF-31F Siegfried (Messer) (Delta, TV)
9) VF-25F Messiah (Alto) (Frontier, TV)
10) VF-1J Valkyrie (Hikaru) (SDFM, TV)
The YF-19 comes out on top as a surprising winner, especially considering that the highest that Macross plus ranked in the overall anime rankings was at No.7. Also surprising, when looking at the overall top 50 results is the fact that the tv version of the SDF-1 (No.11) beat out the DYRL version (No.16) by a whole 5 places despite that DYRL itself ranked higher in the overall anime rankings. This runs against the excuse that toy manufacturers have been saying for years that they don’t make the tv version of the SDF-1 because it isn’t popular enough. Does this mean that we might get more tv SDF-1 toys in the future? Fingers crossed.
There’s also been some confusion as to why some mechanisms had separate entries for each appearance in an anime. This was due to the structure in which the results were presented. The core of the show was the overall series rankings. With each entry announced, corresponding entries populated the mechanical and character entries. This meant that the No.1 ranked mecha (YF-19) was revealed relatively early while announcing  the No.8 ranked show (Macross Plus Movie Edition). In the YF-19’s case, combining the two would push it further to the head of the pack, making it No.1 regardless.
Top 10 Characters (Overall)
1) Sheryl Nome 
2) Basara Nekki
3) Ranka Lee 
4) Lynn Minmay
5) Roy Focker
6) Kaname Buccaneer 
7) Misa Hayase 
8) Freyja Wion 
9) Isamu Dyson 
10) Alto Saotome
The overall Top 10 character rankings demonstrated clearly that one of the most popular elements of Macross Frontier was its characters, taking two of the three top spots. Basara’s popularity also appears to have only increased in the 25 years that have passed since Macross 7 hit the airwaves, with a solid showing at No.2. The original Macross idol, Lynn Minmay, just missed out on the top 3, coming in at No.4. She was, however, one of only two characters that ranked twice in the top 10 before the results were consolidated, the other being the Galactic Fairy herself, Sheryl Nome.
Roy Focker’s appearance in the top 10 was a surprise, as was the fact that he beat out Misa Hayase who was down at No.7. Still, an impressive showing overall from the original Macross cast.
Looking over the list also raises the question – just who on earth was voting for Alto? 🙂
Top 10 Songs (Overall)
1) Do You Remember Love? (Lynn Minmay, DYRL)
2) Lion (Sheryl Nome, Frontier)
3) Totsugeki Love Heart (Fire Bomber. M7)
4) Axia (Walkure, Delta)
5) Seikan Hikou (Ranka Lee, Frontier)
6) Sayonara no Tsubasa (Sheryl & Ranka, Frontier)
7) Diamond Crevasse (Sheryl Nome, Frontier)
8) Angel’s Paints (Lynn Minmay, FB2012/DYRL)
9) Iteza☆gogo kuji Don’t be late (Sheryl Nome, Frontier)
10) Ikenai Borderline (Walkure, Delta)
DYRL slides into No.1 spot here, proving that some classics never fade. Lion’s No.2 ranking was less surprising considering that Lion is still one of the Top 10 ranked karaoke songs among some demographics even 11 years after Frontier aired. Considering Macross 7 and Basara’s popularity in other rankings, the presence of only one Fire Bomber song in the top 10 was unexpected. Overall, Frontier blitzed the competition, taking out 5 of the top 10 spots.
Top 10 Anime
1) Macross Frontier (TV)
2) Do You Remember Love? (MOV)
3) Macross 7 (TV)
4) Macross F: The Wings of Farewell (MOV)
5) Super Dimension Fortress Macross (TV)
6) Macross Delta (TV)
7) Macross Plus (OVA)
8) Macross Plus Movie Edition (MOV)
9) Macross Delta: Passionate Walkure (MOV)
10) Macross Dynamite 7 (OVA)
The overall anime rankings don’t stray too far from the music rankings when it comes to the Top 3 spots. Frontier’s popularity continues to overwhelm, making the fact that more wasn’t done for the show’s 10th anniversary to be a little disappointing. Delta also had a strong showing, despite being a newer entry in the franchise.
It’s important to note that OVAs tend to have smaller fanbases in Japan due to their traditionally lower exposure and barriers to entry for would-be viewers. While a tv series can be seen by anyone in Japan, OVAs such as Plus and Zero required a commitment of hundreds of dollars to acquire on VHS/LD/DVD. and were primarily advertised in anime magazines, targeting existing fans.
This highlights how the anime media cycle in Japan during the 90s was often the opposite of that in Japan where it originated.
A peek into the future?
The final guest of the evening (actually well past midnight by this point) was none other than Shoji Kawamori himself. When asked about future possible projects, he had some very interesting answers. The following was couched in a vague language as possible, so it officially confirms nothing and should be taken with a grain of salt. None of which makes his comments any less intriguing.

Yuki Sugiura: We’ve been getting a lot of questions from viewers, with many asking, “When will the next Macross come out?

Shoji Kawamori: *Laughs* I’ve got more ideas for new Macross than I know what to do with. The problem is what order to do them in. At the moment work is ramping up on the new Macross Delta. We’re in the middle of making a new movie so there’s a lot that needs to be done… I’m excited though. Seeing programs like this one really gives my courage a boost.

Takanori Nishikawa: As Hikawa-san said earlier, the opinions of the fans really do have an effect on what goes into each successive installment.

Shoji Kawamori: That really is the case, yes. This could be taken as self-promotion, but I have a 40th anniversary exhibit coming up where we’ll be displaying my story and character concepts from the original Macross as well as story boards like the ones I mentioned earlier from Macross Frontier where I had more than one story board laid out for a specific scene and had to choose between them. Thinking back over things like that it’s… hmm, I’m not sure how much I can say about the new project… *laughter*… Actually, I’d be really interested in doing a sequel to Macross 7. I even have a concept in mind.

Epilogue
During the course of the broadcast, Macross started trending on Japanese Twitter. Over the span of the show there were often 5 or more various Macross-related terms trending such as “Axia”, “Minmay”, “Lion”, or “Macross F”, and the term “All Macross” remained at No.1 for a good 4 hours or so.
A week afterwards, also Shoji Kawamori made a special appearance on “Macross Won’t Stop” to promote the upcoming Shoji Kawamori Expo. He discussed the “legendary 5 seconds” of Itano Circus in Macross Plus with Nao Toyama (Reina Prowler).
Minori Suzuki (Freyja Wion) had the most fitting final comment though, when she noted how difficult it was to sit up-straight in front of the camera on set for over 3 hours. “I think it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced back pain!” she exclaimed with a laugh.
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Gwyn Campbell

Project Manager, Macross fan, Podcast host, Anime nerd & sometime-gamer. Here in Akihabara we don't just 'like' Macross, we LIVE IT! 龍が我が敵を食らう!

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