Shoji Kawamori had an idea one day. He’d wanted to do an anime about test pilots with incredible aerial battles, similar to the 80’s film Top Gun. However, he had no studio that would finance the project without a bankable name to guarantee financial success. At the time, there had been the recognizable franchise that was floundering due to the less than spectacular OAV series Macross II, so Kawamori wrote his premise into that universe and thus was born Macross Plus.
A few decades after the characters of the original series SDF Macross departed for space, we are introduced to Isamu Dyson, an incredibly talented fighter pilot who excels at killing Zentradi but not so much at following his squad leader’s orders. He’s sent to be a test pilot at New Edwards Air Force Base. The plane he’s assigned to, the YF-19, is to compete with the YF-21, a thought controlled stealth fighter, for the production contract. The opposing plane is flown by a half-Zentradi friend-turned-rival named Guld Goa Bowman.
To further complicate matters, an old flame named Myung Fang Lone has come to town to help with the Sharon Apple project, focusing on an artificially created idol singer based on Myung’s personality and vocals; a personality which harbors lingering feelings toward Isamu. This paves the way for some of the strangest storyline developments in Macross continuity.
However it also led to one of the best looking anime created during the 90’s. Many anime fans note Macross Plus for its stunning aerial battle sequences, some of which seem patterned after the 80’s Clint Eastwood movie Firefox (a movie about a thought controlled stealth fighter). Though the Zentradi appear briefly in the first OAV, they’re not really a part of this story, so the focus is primarily Valkyrie-on-Valkyrie combat. Kawamori’s trademark multi-missiles fly plenty of times in each battle, which progressively get more intense. Along the way we also get beautifully animated concert scenes of Sharon Apple’s different personas featuring some really good vocals and BGM.
It’s the story and characters, though, which make or break things at the end of the day. The characters are decent enough. Dyson is a hothead, but kind hearted; Myung is confused about her place in things even with her job position and singing abilities. The story, however, feels a bit like a forced attempt of being shoehorned into the Macross continuity. The rivalry plays out okay, as does the love story (or would that be stories?) but the bits concerning Sharon Apple feel out of place somewhat. They might’ve been better for a sequel to Megazone 23 or something.
However, considering the only other sequel produced at the time felt like a poor rehash of Macross: Do You Remember Love with characters and enemies I could’ve cared less about, I’d say Macross Plus did a good job of entertaining veteran and newer fans alike. Factoring in the incredible animation advances made for its time (much like the current Macross Frontier), Kawamori’s influence has probably been the best thing to happen to this franchise.