Macross Frontier

By bluemist on February 5th, 2011

Macross Frontier

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I don’t normally watch mecha anime, it’s definitely not my genre. I apologize ahead for having no screens of mechas in action, because I don’t see the point. I do understand the fandom of fictional robot technology and how in the real world people are into plastic models and other mecha collection stuff, but somehow I can’t seem to be that audience. Music, on the other hand, in whatever shape or form it may be expressed, is important and appealing to me. Music drives my soul to various emotions. Everytime an anime appears to have great songs and background music, I would point that out front and center even though I am hard-pressed to describe it in words sometimes in my blog. Rest assured though, whenever I coin the music as having a “sense of wonder” or being “amazing”, it is an integral part of my enjoyment of an anime. And what an example I have right now here: Macross Frontier. My least favored genre in anime, but with some of the best music I have ever heard in an anime.

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Macross Frontier continues the Macross storyverse, almost a half-century after the original SDF Macross timeline. We join one of the many space colonial fleets (Macross Frontier), containing humans and Zentradi allies, in their journey through space trying to find a livable planet, until they face a new threat called the Vajra, mindless biomechas who attack randomly. And so we have the government hire a private military provider called the SMS, with their new weapons and technology, to defend and protect the colony. Enough about the mecha stuff, as we focus on a love triangle in the midst of the battles. Alto Saotome is a girly-looking man who was in kabuki but quit acting in favor of being a military pilot. Sheryl Nome is a very popular and established pop icon across the galaxies, bringing peace and understanding with her performances. Finally, Ranka Lee is a normal girl who started her rise to pop stardom throughout the series. As their love blooms, so does the danger of the new enemy, while some other antagonists are pulling strings from behind for political gain or world domination, but in the end “mecha-might” with an interestingly magical “power of songs” ingredient will win the day and make everything right.

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As the series progresses, I was surprised to find that Macross Frontier takes every kind of theme in the anime rulebook. We have big-scale themes like intergalactic exploration, culture (and deculture), war, and politics. We also have small-scale human themes like chasing your dreams, facing realities, and expressing your love. Heck, I don’t think I was lost in mecha or scientific themes in this show – there were either none or I didn’t care much about it in favor of the story. The story was definitely engrossing. One big plus about it is the fact that you already know which characters have evil intentions very early on in the series, but you just don’t know what they’re up to until the very end. All the while those ‘antagonists’ are supporting the rest of our heroes with seemingly favorable intentions as well, like continuing to research technology to upgrade and support the military defense. It’s certainly interesting and refreshing to have this kind of progressive mystery. The big reveals weren’t surprising, but they weren’t entirely expected either. All in all, how it came packed into a 25-episode anime is quite astounding. It’s like it has everything you wanted in an anime, even the things you never wanted (yes, there is a beach episode, but not quite the annoying fanservice type you’d expect.)

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In the same way, you just got to love these characters in Macross Frontier. We have an entirely colorful cast which I feel sad not being able to write about because I already have so much to say about the three main ones. Alto, Sheryl and Ranka are genuinely alpha characters with incredible charm and spirit. They may be prone to mood swings and vulnerability, but all of them are generally strong. Alto, being an excellent fighter pilot, stands to his decision of career change from being a kabuki actor because of his dreams and because of wanting to protect his two girls. He’s may be incredibly indecisive about them, but still has care and love for both of them. Sheryl, being the established star, may have an arrogant aura and/or confidence in herself, but she very well deserved the status because she worked hard for it. Ranka, being the new star, had the innocence at first, but once she started her rise she almost never doubts herself. It’s specially great that the two girls, rather than pulling each other down in order to gain Alto’s attention and affection, actually challenges each other even with unspoken words, trying to be a better person everyday. Possibly the most positive rivalry I have seen in an anime, whether it be for love, for popularity, or for the music.

And so we go to the most special thing in Macross Frontier… the music, as I try to write words to describe something that supposedly has to be heard rather than read. Everyone, listen to my song!

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I never expected the music to be this influential, both in the context of the story and in Macross itself as an anime series. Having not seen any proper Macross anime before, I didn’t know what to expect actually. Astounding that the theme of music overpowers the mecha element in a mecha anime, I guess this is a vital part of why Macross is well-loved for almost three decades now. The background music is both “amazing” and has the “sense of wonder” I have always yearned for in an anime. Everytime something major happens in a battle, or something wonderful happens in a scene, I get goosebumps because not only it is well presented visually, the audio factor is very immersive. The music drives the overall experience of war, surprise, pain, happiness, hope, love, and so many other emotions. I have known and heard Yoko Kanno’s works from many other anime series, but this is the first time she had a direct impact on me, possibly the most memorable anime soundtrack I heard from her.


And the songs, oh my God, the songs. They may be typical anime fare, but they are so good, they may very well be modern classics that I imagine the Japanese would sing to someday in the future in karaoke bars for fun and nostalgia. I tell you, even the silly Engrish/Japanese hybrid lyrics of “What ‘Bout My Star?” is fashioned with a wonderful catchy tune. While both have similarly cheesy lyrics, the first OP “Triangler” has effective melody, while the second OP “Lion” has that wonderful intensity of power anime songs. There are a multitude of Sheryl and Ranka’s character songs throughout the series, and each one of them is very likeable. As we all know by now, Ranka’s “Seikan Hikou” is a massive hit, and coined the “kira~*” gesture which I bet will be mimicked and remembered for all time. Sheryl’s “Diamond Crevasse” is quite reminiscent of 80’s anime and j-pop music. Speaking of which, classic Macross songs also gained revival renditions here. I may not have watched the original Macross, but I did know and loved the song “Ai Oboete Imasu Ka” during my early anime fandom. I do remember love!

The final battle in the last episode, along with an incredible medley of these songs and more, will forever be etched in my memory. In hindsight, and when you really think about it, isn’t it so silly to have girls sing pop anime songs while characters are dying and a hard battle is being fought? In Macross Frontier, it may seem silly, but it WORKS, and it really works well. When I watched it, I really prepared the best sound system in our house for the experience, and I was totally floored with emotion. It was epic, it was emotional, and it was entertaining! I repeated the whole episode twice and it still had me in goosebumps, it was that good. The series as a whole was a visual and aural masterpiece. Although they had the usual problems of inconsistent art and animation, the pace is engaging enough for you not to care about the nitpicks. CG mecha action wasn’t annoying and boring by my usual standards being a non-mecha fan, that’s because it had the music and song with it. I also have nothing particular to nitpick about the voice acting, their performances were wonderful.

For some reason, I don’t feel the need to have a repeat viewing of this anime. This is not a negative towards the series, because from now on the music of Macross Frontier will be included in my media playlist. As long as I listen to each wonderful song, I would continue to relive the emotions of the series’ stories and their characters. With that, I give Macross Frontier my highest recommendation, a must-watch, especially if you are a fan of anime music in general. All the more if you are a mecha fan, look at me, I don’t normally watch these stuff. Some will say that this is a proper “gateway to mecha” of sorts, but somehow I don’t feel this way. Macross Frontier is a “gateway to anime and anime music”, a well-balanced culmination of all the best of what anime has to offer.

BONUS:
Nakajima Megumi and May’n are awesome!

5 Comments

Posted By: Chad On: April 05, 2011 At: 7:17 pm

I just started watching Macross Frontier a few days ago 😀

I’m no fan of mecha-anime myself (well, except for Dual! and Vandread to be honest) but this and Gundam 00 somehow got me hooked more.

Aside from the wonderfully ecstatic ops, eds and insert songs they provide, and AGAIN the wonderfully ecstatic ops, eds and insert songs they provide, what took my interest were the somehow hard-to-predict things to take place while the stories progress.

Though I noticed Macross Frontier adapted some of the elements present in the original series (love triangle, foreign alien enemy – Zentrandi at the time, singer in peril and protagonist rushes to an coincidentally unmanned mecha to save her, etc.). I guess this is some sort of fanservice in one way or another.

Have you watched Gundam 00? Please do 😀 Ignoring the mecha-theme (just think of them as tanks, nuclear weapons, scud missiles, or whatever in the real world), the plot does touch a sensitive spot in the theme of war and how people are struggling to eliminate it, but doing so just creates more war, just like i the real world. Humans are in search on their resolve for eternal peace.

Anywho, it’s nice to find a fellow Pinoy anime blogger online. I just started this January but am planning to keep it on for good.

Posted By: rincewind On: April 07, 2011 At: 12:24 am

Macross Frontier is truly a masterpiece.
Good characters, good story, great action and wonderful music. You cant ask for more.

And if you watched the original is full of small eastereggs. Plus for nostalgia! 😀

Posted By: SquareSphere On: April 08, 2011 At: 6:28 am

MF was great for non mecha fans and for Macross Lifers it pays a LOT of homage to the older Macross series. It does a lot of things right making it way more accessible to a wider audience, while never selling out on what makes Macross, Macross (ie singing, transforming planes, and love triangles).

Now go watch the MF movie “The False Diva” 😀 it’s basically a retelling of the first half of the series in movie form, but with much better direction, new concerts/music, and of course battle scenes.

As for Gundam OO… as a mecha fan I say DON’T WATCH IT. It’s terrible what they’ve done to the Gundam franchise in recent years. Gundam O is tolerable but the OO is just drivel. For the love of Mecha gods, DON’T watch the last Gundam OO movie.

Posted By: Chad On: April 08, 2011 At: 1:57 pm

@SquareSphere

Though I wholeheartedly recommended watching Gundam 00, I agree with you not watching the movie. It was a load of crap. The direction, the flow, and the storyline itself is terrible. And the ending was rather hastily finished.

Any other Gundam you can recommend? 00 was my first.

Posted By: Xard On: June 10, 2011 At: 6:29 pm

Glad to hear you enjoyed this fantastic anime. Be sure to watch the first film too! The second film won’t be out in a while but I saw it in Japan few months ago and it completely blew my mind 🙂

Of other Macross titles I recommend Macross Plus. It too has phenomenal music by Yoko Kanno. In addition to music from first film I also recommend checking out Cosmic Cuune, the MacrossF “Christmas album” from last fall. Great CD and it has two absolutely brilliant songs in particular, Ranka’s Songbird and the duet Tablet. Well worth getting 🙂

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