Macross Zero is set two years before the launch of the SDF Macross. The UN, which has taken custody of the Macross and is busy rebuilding it, is still locked in a fierce battle with the anti-UN. The main character, Shin, is a young F-14 pilot in the service of the UN airforce. During a patrol, he is shot down by a transforming fighter from the anti-UN forces and crash-lands on a tropical island. The inhabitants rescue him and nurse him back to health.
The natives have some interesting creation myths involving bird-people and fish-people, and their priestess, Sara, guards the traditions of her people fiercely against the perceived incursions from both UN and anti-UN forces. Normally, the island wouldn't draw anyone's attention, but there have been some anomalous energy readings near the island. The bird-man the UN forces recovered some time ago (thereby proving the 'seeding hypothesis' (the UN's name for 'protoculture')) reacts to those readings, so the island finds itself being a hot-bed of UN and anti-UN activity.
Throw in the VF-0 (precursor to the VF-1, the valkyries people fly in SDF Macross) and Roy Focker (and his inevitable romantic interest that goes nowhere), and you have an amusing series. Amusing, but not great. I want to like the series and to poke at what the story does for the larger Macross continuity, but that was a bit of a let-down. The bird-man seems to be an artifact that is sent to 'clean up' any failed seeding experiments, and of course Sara, who has been attuned to it, decides towards the end of the series that it all isn't worth it and hence the purging begins.
This does nothing to further the protoculture angle, or even to set the stage for the launch of the SDF Macross two years later -- it just is a self-contained OVA series with a weak plot and cool mecha. Sure, there is the 'music as weapon for war or peace'-thing perpetuated here, but that seems only an afterthought instead of a deliberate decision.
Whereas the original SDF Macross was all hand-drawn (which certainly showed in some of the lesser episodes!), Macross Zero is a very modern animation: the looks are upgraded, and, more importantly, all of the mechanical designs are animated with CGI. This means that you can actually see the Valkyries making the tight turns, or dodge missiles. The dogfights are really gut-wrenching exciting, you can almost feel the G-forces looking at the fighter planes go.
It seems the OVA had quite a big budget, and it shows in all aspects of the series: designs, colors, animation, voice acting, music... It's all there, and it's all good.
- One of the highest quality releases I've ever seen;
- It's Macross and it has Valkyries. What's not to love?
- The story is dissapointing. I had hoped for so much more.
If you're at all interested in mecha, do yourself a favour and watch this!