Some final comments on Macross Frontier part 2: As Good As It Gets

Aka, my review of the Frontier films. Theoretically, the few thousand words that I put out over the last two weeks should help me keep this entry short and sweet, right?

Absolutely beautiful...

Absolutely beautiful…

The Macross Frontier films, The False Diva (Itsuwari no Utahime) and The Wings of Farewell (Sayonara no Tsubasa), represent the greatest enjoyment that I’ve ever gotten out of anything in this franchise – of which I’ve now seen every animated production except for Macross 7 and Macross II. I wouldn’t claim that these films present the most fascinating story, the most rousing music, the best dogfights, much less the most intriguing conflict. However, and this is but my humble opinion, I contend that it is through them that Kawamori Shouji has truly realised the potential of his approach to the franchise that he has nurtured over the past 30 years.

"Open Ranka!"

“Open Ranka!”

To begin by looking at the films themselves, I enjoyed them immensely. Starting with the music, Sheryl’s extravagant concerts weirded me out at times, though I applaud their creativity, but it was Ranka’s major concert in Wings that completely blew me away. The lyrics and choreography to “Rainbow-coloured Bear Bear” (Niji-iro Kuma Kuma) reflected her growth from a shy, uncertain girl to the confident idol she was at the end, and it still brings a smile to my face. And that final medley and the title song sequence, right from the slow A Capella rendition of Northern Cross, is something I have returned to far more times than I can remember.

Determination

Determination

Moving on to the story and the way it was told, the plot was condensed and simplified well enough to fit within the confines of two films, but still managed admirably to cover the major arcs for each of the three main characters. Ranka’s growth I’ve already mentioned, but the films were also able to clearly depict Alto’s search for himself and what he believed in and Sheryl’s journey towards leaning on others. A change I found particularly important was how Alto became a lot more central to the resolution of the conflict, with his climatic dance in the YF-29 being the key to reaching understanding with the Vajra – supported magnificently by the song of the two divas as the wind beneath his wings. Though still a little indecisive earlier in the films, he really really manned up, so-to-speak, once he realised that there were things that he could and had to do.

 MacrossF_SnT_12
A heart-to-heart between rivals…and friends.

I will have to mention, I guess, the elephant in the room: the (love) triangle that shippers have, to my increasing despair, obsessed over for the last five years. As a Sheryl fan, I will admit that I loved the revamped date in the first film, as well as the outcome of the triangle. But I also adored the ways in which the films augmented the third link in the triangle – the relationship between Sheryl and Ranka. Unlike the series, which seemed to emphasise their growing interest in Alto, the fact that they invited each other to their concerts, and risked themselves to save the other, really demonstrated just how much each girl cared for her rival and friend.

MacrossF_24-01
It’s not just about what was similar; what’s different also carries an important message for us…

However, the one thing that I appreciated above all was how Kawamori Shouji truly explored the potential of his postmodernist approach to Macross. First, he used the two films to great effect in demonstrating what can be achieved with certain story-telling techniques. I was quite surprised by just how many times Sheryl and Ranka’s places were reversed between series and films, but whilst the parallels of the scenes in questions tell us something about the two girls, some really important differences tell us more about Alto. To be really specific, it’s the differences in Alto’s actions and reactions that tell you a certain point that Kawamori wanted viewers to understand from both iterations of the story, thus finalising the one missing piece from the TV series. This then helps validate the significance of Kawamori’s postmodernist approach, particularly after the VF-25 Masterfile was released a few months later. As I have often suggested over the past year, everything that we need to know about Alto, Sheryl and Ranka has now been revealed to us, and everything else has been left to our imaginations.

The wider implications of this are that each different version of the story informs us of the characters we have come to love – their origins, their struggles, their journeys over the course of the war. Importantly, it’s not just the trio who are rounded out, but also some of the side characters. Grace is a particularly fascinating example – was she just the cold-hearted manipulator of the series, or had she actually come to love Sheryl as her own child, before her task got in the way? The latter makes her a far more complex and interesting character than she would otherwise have been. That’s not to say that it’s completely perfect. Some of the versions may indeed have been unnecessary – I know that many Western fans in particular balked at how crazy the Sheryl ~kiss in the galaxy~ manga got at times. However, I contend that every single work has something to contribute to the overall story of the 25th Macross fleet, be it the broad brushstrokes that primed the canvas or the final touches of light and reflections. Kawamori will never tell us what happened – he trusts that we have the patience and dedication to uncover all those layers by ourselves. Personally, I have really enjoyed the expedition that eventuated from this trust, the exploration of the many paths through the jungle; I can only hope that others have as well.

The essence of Macross: cool dogfights, rousing music, and an intergalactic love story...

The essence of Macross: cool dogfights, rousing music, and an intergalactic love story…

In conclusion, the Macross Frontier films, along with all the other works related to the one event in the history of the Macross universe known as the Vajra War, gave me everything I could possibly want. I really could not have asked for more: how about you?

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

3 Responses to Some final comments on Macross Frontier part 2: As Good As It Gets

  1. Matts says:

    I agree 100% with this part ‘It’s not just about what was similar; what’s different also carries an important message for us… ‘. Well, I agree with everything you wrote, but this needs to be mentioned as it’s the part that most fans miss. Yes, there were parallels and characters were put in different situations, but they acted in a way that was consistent with every other version of Frontier’s story and Alto’s reactions make this clear. Sometimes it comes down to some fans ignoring Alto as a factor in the Triangle, looking only at the girls, when all three are needed, and not just their romantic interests but their bond in general.
    Personalities were not changed (switched, as some would like to think), characters were placed in different situations.

    The movies made a better job with the trio. I never understood why people shipped Ranka and Sheryl, aside from a couple of scenes here and there, the focus was more on their developing feelings for Alto and each characters personal journey. While I liked the scene in the last epsiode, where Ranka acknowledges the support Sheryl gave her, it could have been done better. And it was, in the films. I adore the prison scene, I really do. I still don’t ship SheriRan, never will, but at least now I see where their fans are coming from. I like their friendship, the way it’s built up and how it culminates at the very end of the final better, and during the final scene, which is also the sequence with which the Official Complete Book ends.

    Grace is a good example in showing the audience that in historical fiction, actions of characters can be altered depending on what the storyteller wants to focus on. The Drama CD/Nyan Dra manga is once again consistent with every other story in that Grace did grow to love Sheryl. The difference in the series is that she had to get rid of her love to complete her goal. The movies give a different perspective when she tries to involve Sheryl in the plot instead. We see them react differently, but the bond they share, at least up to that point, exists in every story.
    Similar to how Michael needed to die in the TV series to push Alto forward, but could live in the movies.
    I don’t know if this needs to be spoilerfied, I still can’t get around the codes.

    We’ve talked about the rest in other posts so I can’t add much more to it. Being a long time Macross fan I enjoyed the ride that was Frontier, I enjoyed the debates, though wish the hate would die down, as it’s been so long since the story ended. The show brought a lot of songs and excellent BGM, made May’n a huge hit, something she deserved after her failure the first time around. It also launched Megumi’s career, I’ll keep supporting her too.
    I also agree to your view on how Frontier gave us to full potential of the type of storytelling Kawamori chose for Macross. I will always have a special place in my heart for every addition into the franchise, and Frontier’s trianlge will hold an extra special place after the movies.

    Like

    • karice says:

      Sometimes it comes down to some fans ignoring Alto as a factor in the Triangle,….

      That is a very good point, and as you suggest, is probably related to how everyone sees it primarily as a love triangle. Perhaps this also explains why some fans much prefer the TV series, because all they are concerned with is the rivalry for Alto’s heart, as opposed to everything else that is going. Along with Plus, Frontier’s is one of the more fascinating triangles I’ve witnessed in fiction. (I suppose I’ll have to wait until I see 7’s?)

      As for SheriRan…I’ve been so tempted to join that ship just to get away from the neverending circular debates! Otherwise, completely in agreement ^^

      That back story about Grace, from what I understand, was actually developed quite early in the evolution of the story – they just couldn’t fit it in during the TV broadcast, hence it’s inclusion in the drama CD and manga. One of the interviews in the 2nd volume of the Sheryl manga really made me reflect on it – Endo Aya mentioned that, for her, Diamond Crevasse is more about Sheryl’s relationship with Grace…which completely made sense to me when I considered the period in Sheryl’s career during which it was probably written.

      Surely everyone who’ll read this has seen both the TV series and the films?!
      Actually, I really can’t be sure of that…I know that I watched DYRL once long before I saw SDFM…

      I will always have a special place in my heart for every addition into the franchise, and Frontier’s trianlge will hold an extra special place after the movies.

      Same here. I’ve already popped the films onto my iPad for quick and easy viewing whenever I want, even though I know I really can’t spare the time for that, given all the other Macross-related things I want to read, watch and translate!

      Like

  2. Pingback: For the record: Yack Deculture! | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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