It Ain’t Over Until It’s OVA: Macross Flash Back 2012

For fans of a certain age, the summer of 1984 is likely to stick out — if not for the actual season, then because of the Macross movie and all of the marketing and merchandise for it that bore the ’84 SUMMER branding. Macross: Do You Remember Love? was released on July 21, 1984, and with it came the fanfare and mountains of toys, models, books, and other goods you’d expect from any big budget film produced at the height of excess animation in the ‘80s. There was a lot of stuff that said ’84 SUMMER is what I’m getting at.

Three years later, the summer of ’87 saw yet another Macross project, but one decidedly more low-key. Released directly to video, Macross Flash Back 2012 didn’t have the same merchandising hype juggernaut as Do You Remember Love?. Instead, it was a short, bittersweet project that relied on a lot of recycled animation and chroma key video effects to wrap up Macross as fans knew it. Most of its 30-minute runtime consisted of animation from the TV show and film set to Minmay’s music. Flash Back 2012‘s story, what little there was, centered on Minmay reflecting on the past few years as she prepared for her final concert on Earth and her departure on the Megaroad-01 deep space colonization ship. Both Hikaru and Misa make brief appearances; Misa as captain of the Megaroad and Hikaru as a squadron commander flying an all-new variable fighter. While it relied on its music and visuals more than a story, it managed to pull off the feat of wrapping up both the TV show and the movie.

Hikaru is seen flying the all-new VF-4 in Flash Back 2012, the successor to the VF-1 Valkyrie. Based on the VF-X-4, the VF-4 became something of an enigma because its “official” transformation wasn’t revealed until a decade later when it appeared in the PlayStation game Macross VF-X (1997). Prior to that, there was even unfounded speculation that the design may not have been transformable. The battroid and gerwalk modes seen in VF-X were the work of the VF-4’s original designer, Shoji Kawamori, but five years earlier other artists took a stab at the variable fighter’s then-unseen transformation for the PC-Engine game Macross: Eternal Love Song (1992).

Having just debuted a few years earlier, by 1987 the original video animation (OVA) was becoming established as a viable product capable of capitalizing on fans in a way that TV shows and films couldn’t. Many of the early OVAs were original projects that couldn’t quite work as a film or TV show – many were animator showcases or pornography. Some were sequels or pseudo-sequels, like Flash Back 2012, designed to be marketed at existing fans of a popular show that might not be able to justify a proper TV show or film sequel.

Flash Back 2012’s finale (the part with new animation) drew from planned endings for both the TV show and film that never made it to production. The launch of the Megaroad-01, albeit with different designs, was originally developed to end the TV show, while Minmay’s final concert had been intended to wrap up Do You Remember Love?. As brief as these final scenes were in Flash Back 2012, this was chronologically the last fans would see of Minmay, Misa, and Hikaru in animation.

The initial design of the Megaroad-01 colonization ship, an SDF-2 Macross class warship.

Macross creator and helmsman Shoji Kawamori is notorious for his refusal to revisit the characters of the of the series’ original love triangle and canonically the Megaroad-01 was lost in space. Say what you will about Frontier and Delta, but Kawamori seems intent on keeping the franchise moving forward. In the age of prequels, reboots, and Han Solo spinoffs, that’s refreshing. But even if a direct sequel had been, or ever is in the works, it wouldn’t feel right – the voice of Hikaru, Arihiro Hase, tragically passed away in 1996.

Short length, recycled animation, and a thin narrative make it easy to overlook Flash Back 2012, but you shouldn’t. For a series that never needed a direct sequel, it does an admirable job of letting Minmay, Misa, and Hikaru ride into the sunset without overstaying its welcome or overreaching. At worst it was a half hour of music and memories for fans willing to shell out 8,500 yen. At best, a subdued finale to a story that captivated otaku for half a decade. Either way, it was the end.