In the year 2040, a U.N. Spacy VF-11 Thunderbolt squadron fights off a group of renegade Zentradi in an asteroid field. Thunderbolt pilot Isamu Alva Dyson steals one of his wingmen’s kills and gets directly in the line of fire of another. He then transforms into Battroid mode and fires above one of his wingmen to destroy a Zentradi Battle Suit flying behind him. Isamu’s teammates call him crazy, and he continues to fly around looking for action. He responds to a distress call and destroys a Battle Suit before it makes the killing blow on a Thunderbolt. Another enemy unit unleashes a missile salvo, but Isamu dodges it and is disappointed that the enemy was defeated so quickly. Later, Isamu’s commander reprimands him for his dangerous and reckless behavior. He lists several places that Isamu could potentially be transferred to, but none of those places want a reckless pilot. Instead, he plans to send Isamu to the New Edwards Test Flight Center on planet Eden. He tells Isamu that a test pilot’s only enemy is himself, and he says Isamu is already his own worst enemy. Isamu shakes his commander’s hand violently and sets off for Eden. One week later, Isamu arrives in orbit of Eden and begins to enter the atmosphere. At the New Edwards base, half-Zentradi pilot Guld Goa Bowman prepares to launch in the experimental variable fighter YF-21, which uses a revolutionary thought control system via BDI (Brain Direct Imaging). Using his thoughts, Guld launches the YF-21 and heads for the skies. Isamu has a narrow miss in midair with the YF-21, and when he reports it to the control tower he’s told not to worry about it.
After landing, Isamu reports for duty to Colonel Millard Johnson. Johnson begins a briefing and explains that U.N. Spacy is holding a competition to select the next generation variable fighter to replace the Thunderbolt. Two companies are part of Project Super Nova: the YF-19 by Shinsei Industry and the YF-21 by General Galaxy. Millard goes on to explain that the new fighters will be able to perform space folds on their own to quickly respond to problems in different areas. After the briefing, Isamu immediately butts heads with young YF-19 designer Yang Neumann and catches the attention of researcher Lucy Macmillan. Guld arrives to give Millard his report and is surprised to see Isamu. He tells Johnson that it’d be a waste to assign the YF-19 to someone like Isamu who lacks self control. Isamu punches a glass panel in anger and proves Guld’s point. Later, Guld examines Isamu’s service records and takes pills to quell his Zentradi anger. Isamu destroys himself in the YF-19 simulator and takes Lucy out for a motorcycle ride. He hears the music of Sharon Apple and thinks it might be an old friend of his, but Lucy explains that Sharon is a CG idol. In the city, Sharon Apple producer Myung Fang Lone holds a press conference with owner Reymond Marley and programmer Marge Gueldoa. Guld eats with his teammates and they discuss how they think they’ll easily beat the YF-19 team. Guld tells them not to underestimate Isamu, and he stops when he recognizes Myung’s voice on TV.
Myung arrives at the Atlantis Dome with Sharon’s computer tower and is greeted by a huge crowd of fans. Inside, preparations begin for Sharon’s concert. Myung watches the maintenance of Sharon’s emotions program and makes some adjustments. Later, Myung leaves the Dome and takes a taxi ride through the city. The taxi driver chats with her about how he tried to get Sharon tickets and was unable to. Myung comments that everything in the city has changed. The taxi driver says that there’s been a lot of development recently, but Star Hill hasn’t changed at all. Elsewhere, Isamu eats with Lucy and asks what the point is of listening to a computer sing. Lucy explains that Sharon is more than just a computer and asks how Isamu couldn’t have heard about her even in deep space. Isamu replies that even if they had Sharon’s music out in deep space, he wouldn’t care about it. Isamu places his arm around Lucy’s waist and suggests that they go somewhere more private where they can get back to nature. Lucy says that he isn’t much for subtlety and suggests going to Star Hill. Isamu doesn’t want to go there, but Lucy insists that it’d be perfect for what he wants to do. Myung watches the birds at Star Hill and is surprised to see Guld there. It’s been seven years since they last saw each other, and she tells him that she’s Sharon’s producer. Guld tells Myung that he’s a U.N. Spacy test pilot out at the New Edwards base. He asks Myung if she still sings, but she says she gave it up and changes the subject. Guld hugs Myung and tells her that he’ll help her forget the past.
Isamu and Lucy pull up to Star Hill, and Guld recognizes Isamu’s voice. Guld grabs Isamu by his shirt’s collar and tosses him back. Isamu gets ready to fight, but Myung jumps in and asks them to stop. Guld tells Isamu that he won’t let him have Myung or the project. Myung tells Isamu it’s best to forget about her because she’s not the same person. She then runs off, and Isamu tells Guld he intends to win the project. The next day, more tests begin with Guld in the YF-21 and Isamu in a booster-equipped Thunderbolt. Several Starwing planes launch remote Drone Fighters, which then unleash a volley of missiles. Guld calculates their projected attack angle and maneuvers quickly enough to dodge all the missiles. Isamu tries to keep up with Guld, but even the boosters aren’t enough to catch up to the YF-21. Isamu ejects one of the boosters when it overloads, but the other booster makes the Thunderbolt hard to control. Guld proceeds to destroy most of the drones, but Isamu gets in the way of the last one and ejects his booster. Guld is infuriated and asks Isamu what he’s doing. He suddenly has a flashback of Isamu crouched over Myung with her clothes torn. The YF-21’s brain control system shorts out and sends Guld into a freefall. Isamu follows and comments that the YF-21 looks great even when it’s going down in flames. Millard orders Isamu to rescue Guld or have his flight permit revoked. Isamu transforms to GERWALK mode and swoops under Guld to catch him. As they fly over the desert, Guld thinks to himself that if he applies downward pressure he can cause Isamu to crash. The brain control system accidentally carries out his command and causes the Thunderbolt to crash and flip over several times. In the hangar, Isamu yells at Guld and asks him what he was doing. He accuses Guld of deliberately causing the crash, but Guld shrugs it off and says it was just an accident.
After ten years, Shoji Kawamori returns to the Macross franchise with this OVA series. It’s got everything you want: gorgeous animation, great mecha designs and a fantastic score by Yoko Kanno. Macross Plus is often referred to as the “Top Gun of anime” and it’s easy to see why. The reckless Isamu is very much like Tom Cruise’s Maverick, and Guld is analogous to Val Kilmer’s Iceman, who is is of course Maverick’s rival. In fact, I think you can probably stick Kenny Loggins’ song “Danger Zone” into some of these action scenes and it would fit perfectly. The classic Macross love triangle is present here, but this time it’s two men and one woman. Myung has a dark past that is connected to Guld’s intense hatred of Isamu. That hatred nearly gets Isamu killed. That alone makes the case of why you don’t want to have a variable fighter controlled by someone’s brain.
Original Review: May 1, 2000