(Summary) Macross Frontier Episode 1 Staff/Cast Commentary

EPISODE 1 (Yack Deculture Edition)
with Nakamura Yuuichi (Alto), Nakajima Megumi (Ranka), Kawamori Shouji (Chief Director*)

*To be honest, “Producer” seems to be the best description for his role in this series, but there are other producers too…

Note 1: This summary-translation is completely my own work. Please DO NOT reproduce it anywhere else, though you are quite welcome to link to it if you wish.

Note 2: Don’t take these as translations, but as paraphrases of what the commentators say. I simply don’t have the time to note down everything that they say. Furthermore, I’ve probably misheard or mistyped something somewhere, but well, sue me. (^_^)

Note 3: These summaries are for Macross (Frontier) fans and seiyuu fans. I tend to use nicknames when referring to the seiyuu because that’s how I refer to them, and also because they’re generally a lot easier to type. Though I don’t use Kawamori’s nickname because it is rather…impolite. But just keep in mind the following.

You-kyan = Nakamura Yuuichi
Megumi-chan = Nakajima Megumi (she’s also known as Mamegu amongst fans)

Nakamura: What I’m curious about is how the broadcast edition, the Deculture edition, and the Yack Deculture edition differ…
Kawamori: The first special screening was the Deculture edition, then we made the TV version for the TV run. This one (the Yack Deculture edition) is an amalgamation, the best of both of the former editions.
Nakamura: So this is the complete ‘Episode 1’?
Kawamori: Yup
Nakamura: When we did the recording in December, I did think that some of it didn’t flow very well.
Kawamori: Well, there were little things we wanted to do, like, show what Alto, Michel and the other pilots are doing, juxtapose the fight scenes with the live scenes, and because we’d shown Sheryl as a work demon, we wanted to how her softer side. There was a lot of material that we – myself and Director Kikuchi – wanted to put in. We went something like 7-8 minutes over (so we cut the special and broadcast editions differently, and this is the complete one).

Nakamura: the recording for the Deculture edition was the time when Nakajima did her first work as a seiyuu, right? How did you feel about it?
Nakajima: I had no idea what to do. I actually came in heels that time.
Nakamura: Ah, so you had no idea what it was like.
Nakajima: My legs were shaking so much the whole time, I couldn’t stand properly, so I ended up taking them off halfway through. I really had no idea what a ‘recording session’ involved.
Nakamura: So you were like: “Ah! we’re standing!”
Nakajima: Yup, I didn’t think we’d be standing in front of the mikes.
Nakamura: Or that everyone takes turns (standing up to them)
Nakajima: and I was really surprised that there were only 4 mikes.
[Kawamori and You-kyan then note that she looked a little nervous and unsure at the time.]
Nakajima: Even now, I get nervous, like, my fingers start shaking
Nakamura: And because you were still in high school when you started, besides the special recording (in Dec), you always recorded your lines in a separate session
Kawamori: so all of you didn’t really record together until April (after she graduated)
Nakamura: and you’ve grown a lot since then (i.e. her seiyuu ability). I was stunned.
Nakajima: Ah, thank you. That makes me happy.
Nakamura: Ah, so you’re someone who improves when you’re praised.
[Other than her legs shaking, Megumi-chan doesn’t really recall those first recording sessions or how she went. She remembers learning from what the others did when she came to observe them, and would like to try this episode again, because, as You-kyan said, it’d be totally different now.]

[Characters from SDFM appear, just for one second near the beginning of the episode. But whilst they were little treats for old fans to spot, they were included in such a way that to the new viewer, it just appears as ‘history’. You-kyan himself didn’t spot them the first time, but it didn’t detract from his enjoyment. Rather, he just found it all really cool. Though he also found exclamations like “Deculture!” a bit weird because he had no idea what they meant.]
Kawamori: Ah, I should have passed you all the glossary.
Nakamura/Nakajima: that’s right, you really created the language, didn’t you?
Nakamura: Yeah, otherwise we’re all just saying ‘deCULture!’ ‘deculture?’ ‘DECULTURE!’ [i.e. he says it in several different ways, sending Megumi-chan into a giggling fit]

[This scene, in the TV version, was a bit confusing because it started from here, with Alto flying off suddenly. So they made it a bit easier to understand in the Deculture edition by including the scene where he’s folding the paper airplane.]
Nakajima: he really likes paper airplanes, doesn’t he?
Kawamori: It’s actually a hobby of mine, or it was. When I was in junior high, I used to go to the roof of my school and try flying paper airplanes to the neighbouring elementary school.
Nakamura: Did you retrieve them?
Kawamori: Well, no. Sometimes, they caught the wind and flew beyond to elementary school buildings.
Nakamura: Wow. You really know lots of little tricks.
Kawamori: It’s more like “knew”. I can’t do this anymore.
Nakajima: Oh, but why? I thought I’d ask you to teach me.
Kawamori: I’ve forgotten how to fold them. If it doesn’t fly, I’d look really bad…
Nakamura: Ah, but that does happen. You do forget how to fold paper airplanes when you grow up.

07:50 The Opening
[There was no opening in the special edition, and they didn’t know that Sakamoto Maaya would sing it, so You-kyan thought that Megumi-chan would sing it. Kamiya Hiroshi actually saw the episode/opening sequence before You-kyan, and told him that “It was really cool!”, so the latter was really looking forward to it, and…]
Kawamori: it turns out to be “So who are you going to kiss?”
Nakamura: Yup, and then I also thought about it: “so who will it be?” Of course, he might already have kissed someone before this volume goes on sale.*
Nakajima: No, we don’t know, huh?
Kawamori: and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a girl…
Nakamura: What? You mean it’ll be someone of the same sex?
Kawamori: Or it might be a non-human.
Nakamura: Well, you never know, huh?

*NB: the commentaries seem to be recorded about 6 weeks before the DVDs/BDs are released…

The scene @09:20, where Luka mentions Alto’s kabuki past, was in the original storyboard and was reinstated in this edition.
Nakamura: Just from the 1st episode, it’s hard to know why Alto snaps when he is treated as or teased about looking like a woman. If you keep watching, it’s revealed soon enough, but the letters I received (from fans) after the first episode kept asking “Why do they keep teasing him about that?”
Nakajima: About kabuki you mean?
Nakamura: Yup, and I was like “Even if you ask me…(how would I know?) Ask Kawamori instead!”
Kawamori: But if we reveal everything at the start, it’s boring…even now, we reveal things a lot faster than we did in the past.
[But with this series, there are still a lot of things that the seiyuu don’t know at the time they recorded this commentary. E.g. something had just been revealed about Ranka in the TV series which surprised even Megumi-chan. But Kawamori also observes that there are people who can take it apart and figure things out just from the little clues that they are given…]

[Megumi-chan was surprised at this scene. Frontier represents the first time that Ex-Gears have appeared in the Macross universe. Kawamori tells them that such exoskeletons (power suits) have actually been developed in the real world, though not for flight as Alto et al use them in this episode. (NB from the Japanese Macross wiki entry on power suits: the PR of Japan’s Ministry of Defense states that they’re “aiming to develop machines/units in the vein of those of the famous anime “Gundam” in the future”.) Within the Macross universe, the Ex-Gear makes it easier for pilots to control their units – and also enables them to eject if in trouble. Furthermore, since they can use these to learn how to pilot even without an actual plane, Alto was able to operate Gilliam’s VF-25 in this episode.]
Kawamori: Without this, it would have been impossible.

[Whilst making Macross Plus, Kawamori had the chance to pilot a training (fighter) plane, and “the feeling of the sky at the time was amazing”. The instructor sat beside him, and after training for an hour to learn the basic maneuvers, he was able to operate it himself. He even participated in a 20-min mock battle against Itano Ichirou (of ‘Itano Circus’ fame). This experience really helped them with making Plus and all other series after that.

p.s. read this for a ‘real’ account of the dogfight.]

[You-kyan has looked up to fighter pilots ever since he saw Top Gun (“I’ve been told not to say the title, but it’s that movie with Tom Cruise playing the main character who pilots F14s and engages in dogfights and whatnot…”). The first Macross series dates from before that, and Kawamori was actually told that Top Gun was really similar to SDFM in terms of the character relationships (had no one like Minmay, but there was an instructor…)]

[You-kyan is a mecha-fanboy. He went out to get a valkyrie as soon as he found out that he’d passed the audition. He wanted one from the original series, but there weren’t many – he didn’t want a blue one (“it’s Kamiya’s colour”) – he ended up getting Shin’s unit from Macross Zero because that was the only ‘hero unit’ he could find.]

[The Nyan-Nyan song (which became really popular once the episode came out) was actually part of the audition, one of the judging criteria – no music was provided, and they were told to sing it as they wished. All up, about 5000 girls auditioned for Ranka, out of whom ~20 had been directly invited to audition for the role. Many of them were around the same age as Megumi-chan (who would have been ~17) and a number were accompanied by their middle-aged fathers – it really surprised her to see them all lined up there! And the audition took place in a large room with the orchestra. Singing “Ai, Oboeteimasu ka?” was another part of the audition. => “it was really nerve-racking, but loads of fun. I just couldn’t stop talking until the end when I said ‘Thank you very much!'”. And her enthusiasm was one of the reasons she was chosen for the role.]

[You-kyan notes also that the lyrics for “Sagittarius: 9pm – don’t be late” actually have a deeper meaning when you consider them more carefully. At this point, he and Megumi-chan thought that this song would be the opening. Then they saw the episode and were a bit taken aback by actual OP’s lyrics i.e. “who are you going to kiss?”…Kawamori had asked for a song fitting for a love triangle, but never expected the lyrics to be so direct! The animators for this live sequence were amazingly hard working in creating something with this much movement – same for the Nyan-Nyan scene earlier. Kawamori, You-kyan and Megumi-chan were all really impressed. And You-kyan gets Megumi-chan to say that she’ll do the Nyan-Nyan dance at any lives!]
Nakamura: Any chance of the opposite? To see how Nakajima dances at lives and bring that to the anime?
Kawamori: Oh, I would like to try that! Because you do dance (Nakajima: yup, I’m learning how to dance for that), so I’ll ask next time.

[Bobby’s first line is actually in the first episode: he’s the one who announces “Code Victor” to the whole crew. The commentators actually go silent as this point, with just Megumi-chan showing a bit of anticipation: “Bobby is coming!” At this point, the audience has no idea what Bobby looks like, i.e. that he is an okama. Nakamura remembers that the direction sound director Mima Masafumi gave to Miyake Kenta was to make it sound more “okama-like”, or everyone would just think that he was just doing a second, uncredited role. (In most anime, the background voices are typically done by the main cast, usually only when they don’t appear in the scene. If you have good ears, some seiyuu are really easy to pick – e.g. Kamiya Hiroshi…but I don’t think this happens all that much in Frontier…)]
Nakamura: (Mima told him that) “If you don’t make it more okama-like, everyone will think you’re just doing a second role. This is your main role, so please make it a bit more obvious.” But even if he makes it more obvious, you can’t tell – you’ll just be thinking “why is there someone who talks like this?” That’s what I thought when I watched this the first time!
Nakajima: In the first Frontier radio show, we did a lot of “Let’s find Bobby!”
Kawamori: Like, “which character is that?”, since his voice is detached from the character in this first episode
Nakamura: If viewers had looked at the character info before watching the series, then they might have been able to guess.
Kawamori: We’d actually planned to show a lot more of his relationship/interactions with Ozma (Megumi-chan: What? Really?) but we somehow couldn’t fit them in.
Nakamura: It really doesn’t have anything to do with the main story after all. But I’ve love to see that – it’d definitely be interesting!
[Kawamori and some of his staff actually went to San Francisco to get inspiration, and they also visted The Castro. Apparently 1 in 7 people there are gay, and GLBT education is part of their ‘sex education’ classes at school. (Here, You-kyan and Megumi-chan expressed some surprise at how accepted GLBT culture and people seem to be there.). According to Kawamori, the number of people who turn up to (the Mardi Gras(?)) parade in SF are around the same as the number of people who go to Comiket.]
Kawamori: It’s really like “Deculture!”
[You-kyan then brings up a discussion about how Macross really is something that appeals across cultures – especially since it has people of different ethnicities in it, like Claudia, though he only noticed that “it’s not just Japanese people” when he had grown up.]

[Kawamori really wanted to put a battle scene on TV, something like “until we do the TV series, we won’t include this”. (I’m guessing that this means they didn’t include it in the Deculture Edition? so the first time it was seen was on TV!) Megumi-chan was amazed that something like this could be seen on TV! Note also that the valkyries have minor differences each episode, which also differ from those in the opening, because they were drawn by different artists. Whether they’re done with CG or not also changes depending on who the person-in-charge (of the key frames) was. You-kyan apparently noticed this and chatted about it with the others during one of the recording sessions. They’d decided to leave those little differences in (because they’re a reflection of the efforts of the many people involved).]

[The character sketches of Alto sent with the audition package/request made him seem even more feminine and cute (very thin neck apparently).]
Nakamura: …it was so girlish that I really thought “There’s no way I can do this character!”, so I told my manager, “Er…I know it’s what I was nominated for but I’d like to decline if possible…isn’t there any other option?!” like, I pointed at other characters like Michel and Mishima, saying “I’d much prefer this one!” But they told me that I’d been requested for Alto, so I was like “huh…?” (laughter) But then I read the manuscript, and based on that, he’s quite masculine (in character)
Kawamori: I wanted to emphasise the gap between his appearance and his personality.
Nakamura: And when I was thinking about how to depict him – you wrote in his character settings that he’s got a complex about being mistaken for a girl, and one about having been a kabuki oyama, that he’s running away from. So I figured that since he loses his temper when he’s mistaken for a girl, I had to take care not to depict him in line with his appearance.
Kawamori: I thought that, even with those looks, if we got his voice right, if we gave him a voice that could show his ardour, especially with all those battle scenes, we’d be fine.
Nakamura: the voice of a guy who’s no longer a child, but becoming a young adult. Well, once I realised that I was fine. But when I first saw his character design, I was a bit depressed – “No way!” was all I could think!

[“Poor Gilliam…you’d think that he’d be able to show off his heroic side having come out, but…” You-kyan notes that everyone thought they’d never be able to beat the Vajra, because even a gatling gun doesn’t work against them! But Kawamori observes that having a strong enemy, one that it doesn’t seem the characters can win against, is better for having everyone on the edge of their seats.]

[The gerwalk form of the valkyrie took Kawamori and Miyata Kei(?) two years to come up with. They simply couldn’t think of a design that wasn’t a plane or a humanoid. Then on just about the same day, they both came up with something that was in between. And it gave the valkyrie something that would distinguish it from all other robots out there.]

[They finish off with thoughts on how the series will progress with respect to their own roles (the recordings for the TV series hadn’t been completed at this point), with You-kyan looking forward to seeing how Alto would develop and become more mature. Megumi-chan reflects on how viewers might puzzle at the optimistic/thoughtless(?) Ranka at the start (thinking “what’s with this girl?”) and how she’s certain that Ranka will become stronger and change, saying that she’ll do her best both in singing and voicing that. For Kawamori and the other staff, having battle scenes, songs and the triangle makes things really complicated, but he’s confident it’ll be very interesting => they all ask for the support of viewers from here on too.]

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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