Fans of the Macross franchise have something fresh to look forward to, as a new anime series is on the way. The details of this anime, which was announced at the end of the current Macross concert series, are still mostly unclear, however it will be created by Sunrise, the studio behind a famous rival of Macross. While details are still being kept under wraps, there are two aspects of the plot that must be appropriately balanced.
Macross has always been a sort of mix between mecha and idol anime, with the latter being integral to the plot in many ways. Sadly, as the mecha genre has decreased in popularity, the idol aspects have taken over the franchise. The new series would be wise to correct this imbalance, especially with how Gundam has become a mainstream series again. Here's how and why the series should move away from such a "deculture" change.
Macross's Greatest Narrative Theme Has Become a Hindrance
Since the first Super Dimension Fortress Macross, the series has had one significant feature that distinguishes it from previous mecha hits. Throughout the series, imaginary pop culture idols sang, with their voices and melodies being weaponized against alien invaders like the Zentradi. This, paired with several fight sequences and aerial dogfights, made the films effectively music videos, with idols like as Lynn Minmay and Ranka Lee belting out tunes in the background. As a result, the experience was considerably different from series like Mobile Suit Gundam, which helped Macross stand out and carve out its own niche.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the franchise has delved a little too far into this well, with movies like Macross Movie 2: Zettai Live!!! focusing solely on the idol side of the equation. This was accompanied by a more cutesy look, further separating the property from its roots. Idol anime has risen in popularity, particularly as anime as a whole has expanded in popularity outside. The same cannot be said for mecha, with even the sturdy Gundam only recently regaining popularity. While idol elements should remain, Macross should return to being as hot-blooded as possible in order to reach a new generation.
The Return of Macross' Greatest Rival Issues a Challenge to the Series
Gundam is currently seeing something of a resurgence thanks to the success of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury. Especially thanks to its protagonist and art style, it's reaching audiences that might normally shy away from mecha anime. Macross is in a unique position to do the same thing in an even better way, but it needs to emphasize its mecha elements. Ironically, Sunrise is handling the new Macross series, even though it's always the studio behind the various Gundam anime. Thus, the differences between the two need to be showcased more than ever.
A definite strength that Gundam has is in the design department, with each iteration having its own unique Mobile Suits. Though many of the main Gundam are in some ways a callback to the original RX-78-2 from the first anime, it's inarguable that the Bandai franchise keeps things fresh with new designs every time. In many ways, Macross is stuck using the classic Valkyrie design (a design whose toy would be used for the Transformer Jetfire), and while it's an iconic design, a bit of variation would go a long way. After all, unique mechs and the toys they inspired were perhaps the only reason that the controversial AMAIM is getting a sequel. Model kits and similar merchandise actually have more staying power than songs, and they can elevate a forgettable series into one that's beloved, if only for the cool-looking giant robots. The military and mech aspect is what usually draws in the male audience in Japan, whereas the songs and love stories are used to bring in female viewers.
This is how most of the best Macross anime have had a wider appeal than other mecha anime, and using idol songs in the era of social media will only make this easier. There's a danger in focusing on this part of the series too much, however, and it's likely why the franchise hasn't been incredibly popular since 2008's Macross Frontier. Hopefully, the new series will be both different enough from Gundam and a worthy rival to it, using both microphones and fighter planes to launch Macross back into stardom.