Macross Frontier: Suggestive Tuna Buns & Clever Character Development

I am showing a clear Ranka bias here. Go, Nakajima Megumi, go!

I’m still extremely technically impressed with Macross Frontier–it’s got everything going right for it at the moment (more later). I’m not quite feeling the Macross oomph, but we’re essentially still in plot setup, so I’m not too terribly worried about that. And on that topic, it’s always been said that Kawamori tries his best to make every Macross series something totally different from the other Macross series, which is something I can respect (and already do, since I’m a Macross 7 fan, which is probably the least Macross of all the Macross series. Or the most Macross. Or something). Since that’s the case, it might just be a case of getting adjusted to Frontier’s particular brand of Macross, which, again, isn’t really a problem.

The absolute best thing about this episode was the confinement in the shelter, where you lock the three major personalities of the series in the same room and have them bounce off each other, with repercussions that reverberate across the rest of the episode. The first is Alto, who spends the entire time frustrated that there’s nothing he can do to help either Sheryl or Ranka. In fact, he’s spent most of the previous two episodes busy being confronted with how useless and superfluous he really is. Even when he gets out of the shelter, he finds out that his acrobatics partners are secretly piloting Valkyries on the side, which just reinforces how useless he feels. On top of that, Ozma (who similarly thinks himself useless) constantly saves him, whether he’s in a Valkyrie or just a hapless bystander. I expect that he’ll be contending with his perceived uselessness for several episodes to come, or even throughout the entire series.

Sheryl, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be useless, but she certainly seems to be forced into the useless role due to her popularity as a singer. And speaking of her popularity as a singer, she’s embarassed about Alto catching a glimpse, despite the fact that she goes onstage in highly revealing virtual constumes, a point which Alto brings up (The nifty virtual costume thing was the best part of episode 1. No longer do stage performers have to hastily change outfits in a green room while everyone else stalls for time!). It almost seems to me, from just that small tidbit in the shelter, that she’s resentful of being shoehorned into the role of useless yet famous pretty girl. I don’t know what she would have done had her rescue crew not shown up, but she was certainly determined to do all she could. And she fights against this forced uselessness in small ways, too: telling Ranka about the Miss Macross contest seemed to be ever so slightly more about her than altruism for Ranka, although I can’t define quite how.

Ranka has probably the harshest situation in the series yet, with her entire family dead without her knowing it. In the shelter, she simply does whatever she can to make Alto and Sheryl feel more comfortable and at-ease, including providing dangerously suggestive tuna buns which lightens the tension between the other two some. She’s genuinely friendly and helpful to just about anyone, and is certainly cute as a button. This all belies her agonizing mental pain whenever reminded slightly of the death of her family, which says something about her tenacity. For her to keep a positive attitude despite the trauma means two things: one, Ozma’s plan to shelter her from harm is working; two, she’s much stronger than she looks. In her obvious function as a Lynn Minmei for the modern day, she’s already showing a more depth than I recall Minmei having at this early phase (or possibly at all, but I’m tempering that statement with the fact that I haven’t seen SDF Macross in over three years and specifics are fuzzy, and surely there’s a diehard Macross fan who’ll point out the error of this statement).

Macross Frontier could be, in some ways, a rethinking of the original SDF Macross, in much the same way that Gundam 00 was a rethinking of the original Mobile Suit Gundam in terms of themes. That doesn’t mean I expect Frontier to be a perfect SDF clone (it can’t be, there’s no Captain Global), but it’d be interesting to see Macross revisit the basic themes of SDF and update and reshape them for the modern day. It’s too early to tell for this, but whatever it is, it’s certainly showing all the signs of being well-done. Hoping for a year-long run, as I don’t think it’s paced like a 26 episode series at this point, but it might be. I don’t think we quite know the length yet, though.

11 Responses to “Macross Frontier: Suggestive Tuna Buns & Clever Character Development”

  1. 1 blissmo 23 April 2008 at 2:12 am

    i love ranka, especially her voice and singing :D

  2. 2 cclragnarok 23 April 2008 at 3:08 am

    You are a Macross 7 fan? I thought I was the only one that liked that series. :P

  3. 3 The Animanachronism 23 April 2008 at 3:11 am

    I’ve heard rumours that it’ll be 50 episodes (maybe with a break) if it’s successful – but you know how it is, we all get rumours about eighth-hand because they have to be translated from 2chan first.

  4. 4 Haesslich 23 April 2008 at 5:39 pm

    There is a Captain Global-alike; he’s the guy who’s heading the bridge in the SMS complex, the one with the hat and the beard and the sorta-cape.

    With regards to Sheryl Nome, she reminds me a lot of Misa Hayase, except cast as a pop idol rather than executive officer type – she’s a hard worker, professional, a bit bitchy when first encountered towards the main protagonist, but a nice person. I -think- the reason she encouraged Ranka was because of Ranka’s sweetness, or perhaps Ranka reminds Sheryl of a younger version of herself… or at least, the person she wanted to be.

  5. 5 Owen S 24 April 2008 at 9:49 am

    It almost seems to me, from just that small tidbit in the shelter, that she’s resentful of being shoehorned into the role of useless yet famous pretty girl.

    Ooh, thanks, that’s a great way of looking at it. Nice to see we share the same thoughts about Macross F’s technical proficiency; it’s been a blast watching the 3 episodes so far, and I hope it doesn’t stumble somewhere along the way like G00 did (although it’s outperforming G00 in almost every aspect even as we speak!)

  6. 6 OGT 24 April 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I still don’t understand why so many people around me are less than enthusiastic about Gundam 00, as I really don’t see a problem with it.

    I disagree that Gundam 00 “stumbled”, although I don’t know what, specifically, you’re referring to. I can see how one wouldn’t find it as “woo, this is exciting!” as one would find Macross Frontier, because 00 is aiming for a more cerebral experience, and this, I think, is the source for negative reactions to Gundam 00.

    Gundam 00’s been very well-received by the Japanese Gundam fandom, and the series itself was an experiment to bring the Gundam experience to a different audience (Mizushima having never seen a Gundam other than Zeta). Arguably, every Gundam series has a slightly different audience in mind, and some Gundam series that Gundam fans like are rejected by the general public (Turn A, for instance).

  7. 7 Owen S 25 April 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Does “cerebral experience” come at the cost of character development? If so, count me out of this bandwagon; I’ll let the Gundam fandom salivate all they want.

    The thing is that I only ever felt excited by the show in the second half, when things happened. I couldn’t identify with any of the characters even when shit blew up, there are more ways to go about showing off a big idea than just having a so-so cast and random deaths, and all of it felt as if the show was being built around the Gundams themslves, not the other way around.

    You probably need to define “cerebral experience” before we can get anywhere on this debate, though, otherwise I’m just nitpicking on semantics. I don’t buy the idea that to be deep and/or intelligent, an anime has to have sub-par entertainment — Kaiba is a great example of how that’s simply not the case. If this is the case, then it’s just a matter of my ideology v.s. yours — while you might find it acceptable, I can’t stand anime that’s just one or the other (entertainment v.s. intelligence), unless it’s a show I’m not taking seriously. And I took G00 seriously. I’m just annoyed that 25 episodes later, I failed to find anything of worth to write about that wasn’t panning it.

  8. 8 OGT 25 April 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I think the difference here is an ideological one, as I found Gundam 00 highly entertaining from start to finish (as SDS said in his first post about it, it’s like watching a puzzle take shape) and accomplished more thoughtful things well too. There was a high focus on the characters very early on, as well, much more than the action, so I see that complaint as kind of bunk.

    By “cerebral” I meant that Gundam 00 was psychological, not necessarily “deep” or “profound”. It certainly could be, and was, but that’s not what I meant.

    On the other hand, I found Kaiba dreadfully boring to watch and stopped trying to pay attention to it halfway through and just let it run in a window. It was well-directed and probably is going to be a good series and all that, but it wasn’t entertaining for me, and I think that’s what matters. I might watch more, I might not–I really don’t know.

    At any rate, I’m extremely tired of seeing people gang up on Gundam 00, just like I’m extremely tired of seeing people gang up on Eureka Seven–they’re both series I feel strong positive feelings for, and every time someone says “Gundam 00 had no character development” or “Renton was an annoying character” I feel like beating my head against the wall and going on Daryl Surat-esque rants against the so-called anime intelligentsia.

  9. 9 Owen S 27 April 2008 at 5:40 am

    I don’t know, when I think “psychological” stuff like Monster and 20th Century Boys come to mind. G00 wanted to do a lot of things with the idea of “fighting to stop war”, but it did none of them right for me.

    A lot of it probably has to do with how shallow I felt the Meisters were — emotive moments != character development, and I could never empathise with them on any level whatsoever; when one of them, I think it must have been Allelujah, started crying for the very first time in the cockpit after some battle I was like “…okay, and?”. That was how pedestrian the characters were, and how I regarded G00’s characterisation for the most part.

    You might have viewed it differently, though, so if you feel that strongly about it, write a post and I’ll see what I can do to write in reply. (:

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  1. 1 Mobile Suit Gundam 00: The Levithan of Character Development « Anime wa Bakuhatsu da! Trackback on 27 April 2008 at 12:01 pm

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I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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April 2008

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