I’m not a particularly big anime fan for a variety of reasons (mostly petty snobbery). The only shows I’ve made an effort to watch are the “classic” ’70s and ’80s television series like Gundam — because it’s culturally relevant — and Macross — because it’s a goofy love triangle between an idol, a career woman, and a young, short Japanese teenage archetype trapped inside a mildly interesting space epic. Although somewhat marginal in Japan, Macross‘ U.S. release as Robotech was a huge milestone for Japanese cultural importation in America.
Before it hit our homes each afternoon, I doubt we ever saw a TV show where multiple main characters die-off in the course of the show. After enduring the depressing Buddhist saga of Gundam last year, I’ve decided to watch the original Japanese version of Macross to see what I was missing.
During my childhood, “Japanimation” was still considered a mildly retarded artform. My brother and sister used to crack me up by doing real-life impressions of Speed Racer‘s jerky motions. There’s something inherently hilarious about the fact that the characters never talk until they stopped moving. The other hallmark of this anime-bashing was that the characters’ lips never matched up to what they were saying. I had always imagined that this was simply because the English translation of Japanese dialogue would never fit the same mouth movements. Same problem with Kung-Fu: It’s just the nature of the beast.
What I’m noticing from Macross, however, is that the lips almost never matched the Japanese dialogue in the first place. In the worst cases, a character’s mouth will start moving a good second before the speech begins. Things have obviously improved in recent years, but I feel wiser now knowing that I wasn’t losing anything in the translation.