Review: Macross Frontier
March 21, 2010 1 Comment
Since the movies have turned out to be significantly differently from the series, this review is long overdue – the rant I wrote after watching the final episode doesn’t count – but at least I’ve had some time to calm down and think about what I actually appreciated about the TV series in the first place.
Summary…well, it’s been way too long, so straight from the website:
An intergalactic love story where love, friendship and the fates of planets intertwine
or Anime News Network
Macross Frontier marks the 25th anniversary of the Macross anime franchise. It is a direct sequel to the first Macross series and Macross 7 and follows the lives of Alto Saotome, Ranka Lee and a pop idol named Sheryl Nome on board the Macross Frontier colonization fleet. After the war against the Zentradi aliens, Humankind has spread across the universe in order to ensure its survival. The Macross Frontier fleet is part of a effort to spread and maintain the culture of humanity.
I’ve seen smatterings of Macross before – Zero, which I loved, and DYRL, which…I could have done without – so Frontier is probably the first series where I’ve encountered the Macross framework in full. What do I mean by that? Well, that the focus is on transforming planes, the love triangle, and the idea that music conquers all.
Macross is one of those franchises that really bemuses me. Whilst the Valkyries are really cool – much more interesting than Gundams! – I’ll probably never be convinced that music can be so magically decisive in a battle or war. Whilst songs like Diamond Crevasse will be favourites for many years, and Aimo is a timeless, soothing ballad, most of the rest were just poppy drivel in my ears. I’m not sure what to feel about a franchise that’s so blatantly built to make money for its creators.
That said, Macross F has somewhat more to offer in various departments, such as politics. I wasn’t particularly interested until someone pointed it out recently, but the director Kawamori Shoji, apparently a fervant environmentalist, touched upon the importance of protecting one’s environment by obeying quarantine laws. I don’t know how big an issue that is in currently Japanese politics, but around the same time, I went over a flyer about things that we can take in and out of Okinawa. It had me wondering whether the Japanese, whose younger generations are generally found to be quite careless and complacent if other recent shows are to go by, aren’t particularly good at obeying quarantine regulations. However, I haven’t seen Kawamori-sensei actually bring this up in any of the media I’ve come across.
Admittedly, politics is rather thin on the ground, most likely because the majority of Macross F is seen from the eyes of the teenaged main characters. Kawamori-sensei could have done more with it, as others have lamented before, but such pointedness would have come at the risk of being preachy, like Gundam 00 ended up coming across as, at least to this viewer. The Japanese people seem not to like politics being pushed into their faces – a friend once told me that Mononoke Hime and Spirited Away aren’t loved here as much as in the West precisely because Miyazaki Hayao made his environmental themes too obvious. Perhaps I have been corrupted…one of the reasons I prefer Macross F over Gundam 00 is precisely because it’s not quite so politically inclined.
What I really did enjoy about the series were some of the characters. Admittedly, Klan and Michel were favourites for incredibly silly reasons, and I still appreciate a long email exchange about several characters with a real life friend, which taught me not only about the series but also about how some Americans at least, look at relationships. However, I particularly enjoyed Sheryl’s development. Although she was introduced as a diva b****, her cheerfulness and usually genuine support for Ranka’s dreams and wants (despite her own conflicting growing interest in Alto) eventually took the edge off her coquettish behaviour for me. Even more impressive was her growth from relying only on herself, a product of the path she took to becoming a star, to learning how to rely on others when she cannot stand alone. Sadly, neither Ranka nor Alto were developed quite as far as I hoped they would, for reasons that I will not go into here, but what the writers achieved with Sheryl Nome makes up for much of that disappointment.
Plotwise…well, I’ve already mentioned the issues I have with “music conquers all”, and ranted about why I’m upset that the love triangle was not definitively resolved…but those are features of the Macross universe that I’m probably going to have to live with. Or Kawamori-sensei may just surprise us with the second movie…but until then, I’m done.
Generally speaking, I feel a lot better about this series than I did immediately after it ended. Macross Frontier was one of the two big series that I followed in 2008. I started it late, really enjoyed practically marathoning half of it, thankfully missed the big catfights on various forums, but benefitted from a number of sensible discussions and opinions that other fans came up with. Nevertheless, it still remains my biggest disappointment from 2008.