Macross Frontier is the story of the love triangle between a tsundere Kabuki princess pilot, the greatest Asuka Langley Soryu impersonator of all time, and a girl with the universe’s greatest backpack, a cool cell phone, and living hair.
I want that backpack no joke! Just as much as I wanted a Guvava.
Macross Frontier starts 13 years after the events of Macross 7 and 40 years after the ending of the original Macross. Earth is still sending out colony fleets to settle new planets in hopes of spreading humans and Zentradi throughout the galaxy. On the Macross Frontier a pilot named Alto Saotome meets two girls before a concert that that will forever change his life. One is the insanely popular idol singer Sheryl Nome and the other is Ranka Lee the cute waitress at the local Chinese restaurant. What might have been nothing more than unimportant chance encounters become bonds off fate when a unknown alien force called the Vajra attacks the Frontier with living space ships. After Alto saves Ranka’s life he decides to join the SMS as a military pilot and Ranka decides to try to become an idol singer. This prompts Sheryl to becomes involved with both of their careers.
Alto has a desperate need to fly so much so that he abandons his family’s traditions, and his own personal success, in Kabuki theater, to do so. I found this endearing and admirable, something to really define you as a person. Alto is young and when he meets Ranka for the first time we see they both have dreams. This is a story about how a dream can lead down a very unexpected path. But throughout the series I felt Alto was rather underdeveloped, we learn little more than what I just mentioned about him. I also tended to swing wildly from episode to episode whether or not I liked Alto. I was really blown away at points by his stupidity. He does have a realization of what is most important that comes from moving out of youth but he still wasn’t a man by the end. He ended up being a somewhat of a side character in his own story.
Alto is a passionate soul that has come to repress his feelings over the years. He has passion for flying and for freedom it provides but most of the time he seems very subdued and straitlaced. Although Alto is the pilot of Macross Frontier’s love triangle his background in Kabuki theater gives him a unique insight into performing. Despite being the main character we don’t get a great deal of insight into Alto. He tends to be rather quiet unless promoted but outside forces. We mostly only see how he relates to other characters but rarely do we get insights into Alto himself.
Ranka is a super cute, optimistic, talented girl that is trying to make it as a singer. She really looks up to Sheryl since she is the biggest thing in the universe. This is just a random thought but if this wasn’t Macross, I think Ranka might have gone all single white female on Sheryl. Within the span of a couple episodes Sheryl overshadows Ranka’s entrance into the academy, basically steals her man, and gets her first television appearance canceled. However, things really start to shift in favor of Ranka as the story goes along. She certainly has a passion for singing, like when she gets up the nerve to sing in the middle of a mall. I felt her character slipping at some points nearing the end but her strong will shines through.
Ranka is super fun, super cute and supremely easy to root for but also has a moe vibe surrounding her. Up until the last few episodes they perform a careful balancing act between making Ranka an adorable moe character while still having her have moments of independence and strong character. She pulls it out in the end but I was worried there at points. I really enjoy her character because she is just instantly likable. You want her to see her become a star, you want her to find love with Alto, you want her to be happy. Due to a traumatic incident in her past Ranka has a good deal of amnesia about her early childhood. That could easily be the kiss of death into making her a bad character but they use it effectively and keep her an enjoyable heroine.
Sheryl is a loud, self-important, beauty who is the biggest pop singer in the galaxy. In any case I did not like her nor trust her from the moment she stepped on my screen. To me she always looks devious and no one can see it! Like when your friend is going out with a really manipulative girl, but everyone thinks she is great and wonderful. But you know the truth and no one will listen! She sometimes has the “EXACTLY AS PLANNED“ face. We get to see brief glimpses into what really makes her tick, maybe that is really how all people can be seen. There are two major moments that stuck out in my mind pertaining to this, moments where I was excited and rooting for her. And it can’t be denied that her music is beautiful and powerful. And she does scream out “LISTEN TO MY SONG!” I just found these moments of awe too few and far between for me to actually like her.
Sheryl is my least favorite type of strong female character. The full throttle bitch. This means that she is constantly in everyone’s face and doing whatever she wants to get what she wants. I don’t mind characters being assertive and confident but I do mind them having having an overinflated sense of entitlement at the expense of those around them. They often try and give her alternating periods of softness and vulnerability but I feel it can’t redeem her utterly despicable default attitude. Plus while half of her softer moments are genuine and make the character more tolerable the other seem artificial and sometimes for nothing more than plot convenience. Don’t get me wrong I would never have them throw Sheryl out of the show. It’s fun to have a love rival that is realistic competition but fun to hate.
Brera is kind of a wild card. I was super curious about him when he first showed up. I had high hopes. He is important but he is completely underused which I think is a tragedy. They just turn him into this unmovable cock-block. Now on to someone who is as awesome as I thought he was going to be, Ozma. Ozma is big tribute to Roy Focker, and I don’t think we minded one bit. Him and Cathy (the tribute to Misa) were two of my favorite characters to see on my screen.
Well, Ozma is a Fire Bomber fan. He is therefore automatically awesome and that is mathematically provable. I’m sure both of us would sign up to buy the DVDs of Macross Frontier: Ozma Gaiden. It’s a shame we don’t get to see more of Ozma and Cathy as they are awesome both individually and separately. You can keep your Michael Blanc and Klan Klan shrines. I’m a Ozma man. Brera on the other hand is merely there for me. I’m not anywhere as mean as the person who nicknamed him Kaifun Brera because you should never go there but I can’t say I feel any passion for him either.
One character stand out head and shoulders as creepiest person in Macross Frontier and that is Leon Mishima. This is a minor spoiler but it turns out he is not on the side of the angels. I don’t really feel bad saying that because everything this guy does screams he in not a good human being. In fact Narutaki and I have nicknamed him Creepy Kiss Guy after his first scene with Cathy Glass.
I shudder at the thought! How dare they engage Cathy to him. EWWWW! I actually found a screen shot of the kiss but I refuse to reproduce that terrible moment here. Most of the time he spent with Ranka was I afraid he was going to try and creepy kiss her, too. The bigger villain is a little harder to spot, but atleast has an interesting connection to Ranka and Sheryl. However they never really develop them beyond I’m-bad-because-I-am status. It was wasted potential, there was plenty of backstory to work with but instead Snidley Whiplash emerged.
While I always found Minmay to be a dumb bimbo who was selfish and emotionally manipulative, Sheryl is at least intelligent and cunning. So I can enjoy disliking her. I wanted her as a rival, she is a perfect rival. Sheryl and Ranka are very different people though I do think they come to together in a nice way as we learn about their pasts. The love triangle really keeps you guessing from beginning to end. This could account for a few moments that seem rather out of character. There are definitely scenes of dramatic BS that in the grand scheme of things make little sense. Though I can understand the need to desperately keep us on our toes and not have fans be lulled into a sense of security.
In episode eight, High School Queen, we see Sheryl visit Mihoshi Academy and cause an uproar. In this episode the homage to Asuka Langley Soryu is subtle but obvious if you look for it. The scene where Sheryl is talking to Alto by the pool while all the male students look on from behind a fence in a clear reproduction of almost the same scene from episode ten from Evangelion. Clearly it is to make reference to the similar personalities between the characters and to give a nudge and a wink to the fans of both franchises.
Lothos, who is probably lurking around here someone where, doesn’t watch Macross Frontier. But he is my Eva expert so I sent the episodes off to him and said “Just watch these and tell me if you noticing anything. I don’t want to say anything else to influence you.” He did just that and he came back with more than a couple of Evangelion references, he saw them right away. But I think you are supposed to. Homage is fun!
Macross Frontier is filled with winks, nudges, and references to other Macross series. We have Ozuma’s love of Fire Bomber and several references to Basara, Fire Bomber, Song Energy, and the Protodeviln. We have several references to Mao Nome and insights into what she has been doing since Macross Zero. There is movie that is made with the story of Macross Zero much like how Do You Remember Love is a movie about the original Macross series set in the Macross universe. At one point Alto saves Ranka using a Valkyrie in almost the exact same way Hikaru saves Minmay. The Zentradi warrior Tehmzin that instigates a rebellion in episode twelve is a clear homage to Kamjin in character design and philosophy. There are even some dread Pineapple Salad references.
Macross Frontier starts off with incredible looking battles sequences and great music, two things essential to the Macross franchise. And while the budget for the epic space frays stays high possibly as nice looking as Macross Zero, I feel that the character animation starts to get slop pretty early on. It then picks up quality at the end.
There are some real Yashigani scenes in this anime. They really seem to put the A team on the space battles so they look gorgeous. They are well choreographed and beautifully animated with the best CG. They seems to farm out the character animation to the B and C teams and in some episodes the Z team. There is a sequence so horrible in the TV broadcast of the 10th episode I can only assume that they will clean it up to something watchable on the DVD release. If nothing else Wataru will have another rarity for his video store.
I thought the music got better as the series continued. The first opening grew on me, I enjoyed all the insert songs, and the endings were always good. I loved the second opening song, but have little to say about the actual opening animation besides that I thought it was poor compared to the first. Some people think Yoko Kano to be overrated, but I always find her music to instill something in me. For someone who is not very musically inclined, I always remember her music and the way she portrays the moments in a series uniquely.
Like I mentioned in the Macross Plus article when you put Yoko Kanno together with Macross you have an unbeatable combination. The great thing is how artistically they dovetail the animation with the music, like when they use music to enhance a fight sequence. A perfect example is in episode four when they cut back and forth between Alto fighting in a training mission and Ranka singing My Boyfriend is a Pilot during the Miss Macross competition. Both sequences match up so well with each other that they harmonize into a great whole while still having a infectious sense of whimsy. Also despite how much I dislike Sheryl as a character her songs are quite catchy. I really liked Diamond Crevasse with it’s strong refrain in a otherwise soft reflective song. But I would be remiss to forget super cute Interstellar Flight is.
I would be lying if I said the last episode didn’t excite me. It was beautiful, suspenseful, melodramatic fun. The battle was stellar and the music was grand! And it was certainly better than the few episodes of lead up. But it didn’t hold up its end of the bargain in telling us what the heck was going on. It really should have been spread out over a few episodes and not crammed in these meager 30 minutes.
I feel the last third is the weakest for various spoilerific reasons but the finale while rushed is definitely enjoyable. I guess I was upset with parts near because of people making decisions and events seem to happen more for emotional impact that for common sense. The ending delivers even though I feel some people are going to be rather upset and others are going to demand more. It was a mixture of action and melodrama and definitely in the spirit of Macross. I would have been a little happier with the standard 26 episodes rather than 25 with content of 25 and 26 spread out over the two episodes. There was more than enough material for it and it could have given time for some set-up and revelations. I am eagerly waiting to see what the new Macross Frontier movie will be about. Will it be a Do You Remember Love style re-imagining of Macross Frontier or will be be a new story? Either way I am excited.