Available from Hobbylink Japan: http://hlj.com/product/HSG65830/Sci
A Heavy Load, and a Long Road Home: SDF-1 Macross
Take a trip with me, back thirty two years, to the Summer of 1983, and the fading, provincial town of Skegness…
Only Brits will, in the main, recognize the name I am sure, and they will no doubt be rolling their eyes to the sky at the mere mention.
Still, it does not matter that this shabby, beloved seaside resort had been my summer haunt for years, nor that its nooks and crannies were as well known to me as a wee lad as were the back of my hand. What matters is that, halfway down that game arcade, bingo hall, and restaurant filled street – which is still colloquially know as Chip Alley – I discovered Macross in August 1983.
Here, in a tightly packed little model shop, rather imaginatively called ‘The Model Shop‘ (if for no other reason than it was the only such shop in the town in those years), I discovered a wall of strange, Japanese model kits which had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. I knew that they were Japanese thanks to the few gifts and books which my uncle had brought home with him over the years, and I vaguely knew that ‘giant robots’ were something of a ‘thing,’ thanks to the few Super Robot toys I had owned in my youth. But here were things that seemed to leap right out of my dreams, and were beyond even the mechanical designs which I had seen hinted at in the little literature I had seen about the 1979 series called ‘Mobile Suit Gundam.’
It is hard to suggest in the second decade of the 21st Century how revolutionary these designs were to a chubby chappy who was just beginning to break out of the parental fold and discover – thanks to friends who know who they are – realms of fantasy and science fiction bound in gaming, media, and modeling.
These alien, yet ‘real,’ designs pulled me in, won me over and, to the horror of my poor mother who had made the grave error of giving my brother and I all our holiday money in one go, the day we arrived in Skegness (assuming we could be trusted with such wealth) I walked from the shop utterly broken down, and totally happy.
I picked up the Glaug (left above) as it reminded me of a mechanical ‘gunfighter,’ and I could not imagine a more alien looking design – it was perfect in my view, and still remains a favorite today, thanks to the 1/48 version I was able to secure via the Macross World Forums.
You never knew the Glaug was such a beast! 😀
I also chose the VF-1J Valkyrie (center above) as the very idea of a transforming fighter blew my tiny mind (though I was very unhappy to discover that the kit I bought only represented the Battroid, infantry version of the mech.
I then picked up the Nousjadeul-Ger (above right) armor suit (still not grasping the fact that the Zentraedi were giants) as it seemed to represent an ‘updating’ of the older super robots which I had so loved in my more tender years.
There were many more kits in the shop to be sure, of all shapes and sizes and styles…
However, with only a limited amount of money left in the wallet and no understanding of the series from which all these models were derived, I was buying things partly on whim, and partly on sheer hyperbole… And when I clapped eyes on the model below – especially its scale – I had to have it, because… Well… reasons. The 1/5000 scale SDF-1 Cruiser Fortress.
I had no idea why it appeared to have ships strapped to its side at the time. Indeed, I can remember envisaging a vaguely ‘Thunderbird-esque’ idea of the spaceship entering a planet’s atmosphere and ‘dropping off’ a carrier/assault group to do their thing.
The actual story of course, was much cooler…
Still, standing in that shop, contemplating the incredible design works of this ship, there was nothing more to be done or said – I bought it, I walked out with it, and I walked into a world of pain the likes of which I have rarely encountered. In the end, Mum took it on herself that it had been a bad idea (a *very* bad idea) to give a nascent geek ANY money in striking distance of a mech filled model-shop.
The compromise was I surrendered the kits until my birthday (a *whole* month away as it was then), and I was given some more pocket money, under pain of the fires of Hell if i so much as *looked* at the model shop.
The Great Schism
I built (badly) and admired the models for the following few years, but as happens to young minds (especially being distracted by the closing days of the Star Wars craze) mine became distracted by other things: Dungeons and Dragons, Runequest, WRG, RC cars, Sheffield Wargame Society and so on…
However, one day in 1986, I wandered into the local branch of Games Workshop and behind the counter, one of the senior staff who also had a passion for mechanical stuff, waved a copy of an interesting looking book under my nose.
It was a new one on me.
It was straight down to the immortal Sheffield Space Centre to discover the truth, for they, I was told, were one of only a very small number of shops which had an interest in things Japanese in the 1980s. Over the years there, I encountered a cadre of similarly minded chaps who had likewise been hooked by Imai’s kits and further fired up by this recent US version…
And that was the beginning of a great thing for many people.
No matter what one thinks about the way in which Macross was handled by Harmony Gold, how the relationship between the Japanese and US arms of the whole mess (HG themselves, ad company Big West, and Tatasunoko) unraveled and how everyone seems to have spent the decades kicking sand at each other, the truth is simple.
Robotech did open the doors for many who now know anime (and Macross specifically) far better than they might if this odd little show had not been stapled together in the first place.
And before the purists get their panties in a bind, EVERYONE is, to one degree or other, in the wrong here just as the presiding judge in the latest Tokyo Tussel over the rights issue declared in his summing up – and I maintain that all three main parties not being willing (or able) to come to a compromise is hurting Macross fans across the World.
My only hope, now that Bandai has taken a serious interest in classic Macross (not just Frontier, Delta, and so on), is that they might be able to bang some sense into the other parties and show them all what sort of fat cash could be made with a little compromise…
Head on over to Macross World if you want to know more. I’ve had thirty years of this nonsense, and I’m not best pleased that the mess still seems as murky as ever.
1/4000 SDF-1 Macross Cruiser Fortress w/ Prometheus & Daedalus by Hasegawa – unboxing
We’ve had a number of kits and toys in the past, but this Hasegawa offering – essentially a re-release of the movie version with added sprues to give it the TV series outline – has been far too long in coming. This does lead to a few issues, of course. The main hull and guns have some elements from the movie type (especially with regard to the underside of the gun booms) and the bridge, though split, as it should be does not look ‘quite right’.
Hasegawa has been responsible for a number of excellent anime kits in recent years – especially its Matsumoto Leiji series – and with new tooling and molding facilities added to its main plant, this SDF-1 is perhaps the best tooled SDF-1 model of the cruiser version so far released – with the caveats above taken into account, which to the purist will be a real sticking point.
I know that the lack of a transformation has stalled some interest (especially in the wake of Arcadia‘s own transformable Movie SDF-1. However, I appreciate it. I’d rather have a more detailed cruiser than one that has to sacrifice material build for mechanical function (and Hasegawa has already hinted at a Storm Attacker version to come, anyway).
At 30cm, it’s not a shabby size and packs in the detail well enough – including Valks and destroid monsters for the flight decks of the Prometheus (though, I do wish the Daedalus was also served with some monsters and Tomahawks, for the famed ramming attack).
Since I lost my Yamato SDF-1 in the move south this year, this is going to be an interesting build for me, and I am not sure if I want to have this lady pristine, or space-worn and grubby…
How about some Zenty love for us too though, Hasegawa?
In part two, we’ll take a look at the man who brought this all about, as well as take a deeper look into what made Macross the gem it is.
Its on, like a Daedalus Attack!