Archive for the 'macross frontier' Category

Macross Frontier: Why Do We Sing?

I know why Nakajima Megumi is singing: Satelight is cutting her a check for every song, plus it’s not every big break that involves singing Kanno Yoko songs. Why Ranka is singing, however, proves to be a much more problematic, uh, problem.

I must admit, when I saw 19 (yesterday ;__;) I screamed blasphemous words towards Sheryl at the end. I’m not sure if I just missed the explanation for what happened (her fainting and Alto catching her) or if they didn’t show it to us in order to make the viewer howl in anger (or cheer in ecstasy, you disgusting horrible wonderful Sheryl fans), but that still didn’t make me any less upset at the effect it had on poor Ranka. Since the series is winding to a conclusion, drama has been kicked into high gear (and people shoot bullets to keep the old-school fans pacified) and now we have the fun times of screaming in rage and hatred at Leon instead of Sheryl/Ranka, for once.

20 was essentially 24 minutes of animated bliss: that single episode contained everything about Macross Frontier that, love it or hate it, makes it Macross Frontier. We have lots of blood and gore and killing. We have Klan Klan stripping in front of the camera (and it still wasn’t shoved in your face nearly as bad as they could have done it, and it played into the end of the episode–more later, though, on a very sad and touching KLAN KLAN WATCH!). We have conspiracies run amok and a nagging feeling that maybe Leon isn’t as in control as he thinks he is. And we also have Sheryl regaining her drive to sing, a performance that, although most likely the exact same recording found on the Diamond Crevasse single with some manipulation to the mix, still sent chills up my spine and made a certain moment which we will discuss later in KLAN KLAN WATCH! much stronger. Mock-Sheryl hate aside, she pulled out all the stops and we see her character rise from an abyssal depression of uselessness into a realization that one is only as useless as one thinks they are. We also see her slap some sense into Ranka–really, the whole rooftop sequence was amazing on all three fronts. It may be a love triangle, but like all Macross triangles, the three have to work as a cohesive unit to get anywhere.

Also, I was quite pleased to note–also on the rooftop scene–that they snuck in a sly reference to SDF/DYRL, where Ranka states that she can’t sing, exactly like Minmei did before her performance of Do You Remember Love? at the end of DYRL. Ranka, of course, can’t sing because she feels she’s lost her reason to, since Alto doesn’t care about her. It’s also amusing–as Ranka loses her way in stardom and is forced to re-evaluate why she sings, Sheryl, who’s been on the decline for quite some time now, finally realizes that she shouldn’t sing for herself, but for others, because it’s all she can do.

21 was slightly less spectacular, and I don’t quite have a lot to say about it, but they’re definitely heading towards an end with this series. When Ranka and Brera blast off into space, I’m left wondering if they’re playing into Leon’s plans (if Leon is truly who is in control here, or if Grace is using him as a pawn like Lelouch) or if they’re acting in counter to them. The path of the series now seems to be coexistence with the Vajra (who probably aren’t a terribly hostile race unless provoked, as wild animals tend to be) with Ai-chan maturing into a full Vajra. Personally, I’m waiting for the Alien moment where a Vajra pops out of Ranka’s stomach (or the Spaceballs moment where a Vajra erupts from her stomach, and then tap dances off the set a la Michigan J. Frog). Also, I love how there’s two triangles going here: Alto/Sheryl/Ranka, and Ranka/Alto/Brera. Only Sheryl is missing one, unless you want to count Sheryl/Alto/Nanase. This is, indeed, the Macross that’s all about love triangles.

And, now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for:

KLAN KLAN WATCH!

I don’t know if there’s words for this scene. I knew going into 20 that Michael would die, possibly horribly, but very definitely die, and even still, this final sequence affected me to the point of tears welling up (again!). It was probably a combination of Klan confessing her feelings for him earlier (while mostly naked and in miclone form), the aforementioned bone-chilling performance of Diamond Crevasse, and MIchael stating, just before It Happens, that if you truly cared about someone, you’d give up your life for them. Also probably the fact that Klan Klan and Michael were both pretty tsundere to each other all series, to have both the confessions and the death of Michael within a few minutes of each other is just…yeah. I don’t know if I can actually describe my emotion from the moment the Vajra busted out above the miclone tank to when Michale was sucked into space. Emotions defy words, I think, this one especially. If Michael had to go out, he did so in the best possible way.

But, dear reader, you can make Klan Klan not be sad once more! Simply join the under-appreciated MAL club I have formed in dedication to our favorite genetically defective Zentradi female. It’s under-appreciated like every other MAL club I have formed, possibly because I have unpopular and somewhat obscure tastes! This isn’t shameless self-whoring at all!

I’ve also just realized that we’re about to start a new season, and I, once again, am bidding farewell to series I’ve stuck with for half a year. God knows what I’ll do when Soul Eater ends–I think, if I stick with it, it will be the first 50+ episode series I’ve managed to follow from airing start to airing end. I almost did that with SEED Destiny, but by the time it ended I had given it up already and didn’t care too much. I keep meaning to post my crazy plan-to-watch list for the fall, but I haven’t had a chance to yet.

Macross Frontier: So Where Are My Chiba Song Units?

Like, seriously, Kawamori. You’re spending all this time talking about the ability of Ranka’s song to transcend spacetime and traverse through foldspace and resonate with the Vajira and you haven’t even talked about Chiba Song Units at all. At least you have Ozma and his love for Fire Bomber.

I’m actually going to try to keep this shorter than usual, since I’m trying to get to bed at a decent hour and have a decent amount of sleep tonight, but here goes:

The opening for episode 17 was amazing. The opening for episode 18 was even more amazing and I think it simply reinforces what I think is going to wind up happening in the end of Macross Frontier: Ranka and Sheryl, rather than being rivals and one always overshadowing the other (or one being discarded when the other is more valuable), will simply have to work together (much more so than Misa and Minmei had to work together in SDF, and more so than Basara and Gamlin had to in 7). The glue that binds the two together is, of course, Alto, who genuinely cares for both of them. I don’t think that the “triangler” of the series is actually a love triangle–at least, in Alto’s eyes. Alto cares for both Ranka and Sheryl almost equally, and he’s demonstrated this time and again. I’m not even sure if he’s going to actually resolve the arbitrary love triangle of the series in any way at all, really. This triangle seems to be less about a dividing wedge between people so much as a a cooperative effort: the “Triangler”, therefore, isn’t about “who gets whom”, but how the three can work together to form a geometric shape that obeys the Pythagorean Theorem and will give headaches to geometry students the world over.

Or maybe I’m making all that up. At any rate, I thought 17 was amazing in and of itself, simply because they drug out Fire Bomber songs and used them as background music–My Soul For You and Try Again (twice! The second time they added in a more modern twist with a heavier guitar riff that I’m not sure I wholly like yet, but I’d have to hear the remixed version in full to decide that, but it certainly was impressive). It was like a Fire Bomber tribute episode, so, naturally, I was happy. Although I’m still wondering if Ozma is going to bite it–I expected him to die in 17, but, alas, he did not, although he seems to have been made even more useless than he already was.

And, seriously, what’s up with this? Does Ranka realize that she’s riding around in a ship that has a giant image of her, clad in a bikini, albeit a bikini that doesn’t seem to have a bottom to match the top? I mean, it’s like–she’s in the ship. Surely she’s seen it. Isn’t she embarrassed to be the bottomless Call Up Monster Girl? Does she secretly enjoy it?

Or is Kawamori just baiting all the otaku with official Ranka psuedo-erotica? Whatever it is, it’s pretty Macross to do this, considering that Mylene had the stalker photographers who sold lewd photos of her, and I’m pretty sure Minmei wound up in a similar situation, and at any rate I’m pretty sure half the appeal of Sharon Apple was that she was smokin’ hot.

KLAN KLAN WATCH!

Michael and Klan Klan need to go on dates more often. She totally wants him bad. Also, she acted like classic girl–sit around at the cafe for an hour or so before your date is scheduled to arrive and preen and primp your hair and then when your date arrives slightly late and apologizes simply act like you hadn’t been waiting desperately for him to show up and just say “Oh, I just got here two minutes ago, it’s okay” and then seethe inwardly with anger at him until his true objective is revealed in which case you get the above.

Labcoats are within the scope of my interests. We need more labcoats. And I think Klan Klan needs to borrow Alto’s trenchcoat for an episode or so.

Or, hell, just give her her own spin-off series. The Klan Klan and Michael Happy Fun Time Awkward Relationship Hour or something. I would watch it, buy the DVDs, and any related merch.

I am aware that Klan Klan has done nothing terribly useful except be (amazingly and mind-destroyingly) cute for the entire series, but that’s okay–she’s a side character, she can exist for that purpose, just like Straight Cougar existed for the sole reason of being amazingly and mind-destroyingly awesome. Just please don’t die like he did, okay?

A Grand Unified Macross Theory

That title sounds more grandiose than this post is, but that’s okay. I’d been thinking about where Frontier fits in the whole Totally Arbitrary Macross Continuity which I have expressly made up for the purposes of this post. I actually just tried to explain it in actual spoken words to cuchlann not an hour or so ago, but didn’t actually get anywhere because he started laughing when I said Macross 7 and started laughing even more when I said G Gundam and then there were fisticuffs and I’m actually dead of severe blunt trauma to the head but I hired the crack team of children from the hit PBS series Ghostwriter to use that ball of light thing to write this post and all future posts so you can rest assured that even though I am dead, you aren’t rid of me that easily. And free meal to boot, even though I couldn’t enjoy it because I was dead.

Anyway.

The three Macross TV series made to date (Super Dimsnsional Fortress Macross, Macross 7, and Macross Frontier) all seem to have a similar plot structure and layout–aliens come up and attack things, idols are made and start to sing and singing actually helps the war effort, and then there is resolution. That’s a horribly simplified layout, but that’s essentially it, with the traditional love triangle. The thing is, even though each Macross series is, on an extremely simplified level, the same thing, these three TV series have taken different approaches to the same premise. (I am ignoring Plus and Zero because I haven’t seen them all yet, and also they are OVAs and I don’t know how they’d fit into this continuity, but they probably do) I’ll go through the series one by one (with images!) starting now.

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross

Here is the precise reason everyone loves SDF:

The appeal of SDF, especially to a generation of anime fans who cut their teeth on the Robotech version of the Macross story, is that there’s these planes, see, and they’ve got these three modes–one which is a plane, the Valkyrie, one which is a plane with legs, the Gerwalk, and one which is actually a full-out robot, the Battroid. That’s not to diminish all the other aspects of SDF, which are very strong–no matter how awesome Valkyries are, SDF wouldn’t be enduringly popular without the people who piloted, commanded, or sung in them. But yet, it always seems to me–and I presume to other Macross fans–that part of the reason SDF was so awesome was because there were these crazy dogfights and Itano circuses and the Pin Point Barrier which is the greatest defense system ever, doubly so because it was controlled via trackballs. Especially considering people always seem to dislike a certain part of Macross I found as likable as the Valkyries themselves (planes are pretty cool after all):


THAT’S RIGHT. I LIKE LYNN MINMEI. AND I THINK SHAO PAI LON IS A GREAT SONG.

More on this later! But now:

Macross 7

Whereas SDF, having been made in the 80s, during a phase of mecha mania follwing the post-cancellation success of Mobile Suit Gundam, put the spotlight on the awesome yet lifeless plane/robot/things, Macross 7 instead places a much greater focus on the aspect of SDF that played a key role in the plot, but only accidentally: music. Tapping the talents of HUMMING BIRD, Yoshiki Fukuyama’s band at the time, to play Fire Bomber,- Kawamori forged from his deranged, insane mind (saying that makes me wonder how much he was involved in the storyline for Bonen no Xamdou, or Xam’d: Lost Memories, or “that show with the X name that I don’t know what’s going on in it–yeah, that one” aside from doing the “mechanical” designs) Macross 7, which, no matter what people will tell you, is a great Macross series. Of course, people don’t like Macross 7 because it almost completely left out the part about SDF that everyone loved (see above) in favor of amazing rock music (FIre Bomber is pretty much the greatest fictional band ever, and I’ve yet to get tired of their songs–even Totsugeki Love Heart and Planet Dance) and, more importantly, shifting the focus away from the military and into “civilian” life, as Basara and Mylene and Ray struggle to get recogized and deal with Basara’s random idiotic attempts to sing at invading aliens

Macross 7 wasn’t about the dogfights, but instead about the power music has over us–made easily quantifiable, of course, by Chiba Song Units–and the power music, or, more specfically, rock and roll, has to affect the course of events. This, of course, leads to an impressively nonsensical plot that would fall apart under even a casual perusal by Imagawa Yazuhiro, but, of course, that’s part of why I like it so much–it was the first Macross series I watched start to finish, and, even though it has some serious issues (the biggest one being that it was at least 10 episodes too long), I can totally get along with anything that’s about how awesome rock ‘n’ roll is and how it can save the universe. And, yes. The whole universe. Try Again must be the most amazing song in history if it has the power to halt universal destruction.

Of course, that leaves us with today’s still-airing Macross installment:

Macross Frontier

If SDF focused on the Valkyries, and 7 focused on the music, then Frontier is taking yet another angle–it’s focusing on the characters. Sure, there’s big flashy showing-off-Satelite’s-CG-skills Valkyrie dogfights, and there’s killer music from not one but two idols, the focus isn’t on the war, the alien menace looming over everyone, or even the songs themselves: it’s how the characters behave, act, and feel. Naturally, if one is vehemently anti-Ranka, a good deal of this element might be lost, but I think that Sheryl’s complexity (so complex that I have literally now idel how to divine her motives at this point, as has been proven time and time again in comments) and Alto’s own character with his own conflcted desires (and the even more ridiculously complex interplay between these three) should more than carry the show, even if you want to punch the screen out every time Ranka bakes Valkyrie cookies in her Valkyrie backpack and takes them to Alto in his Valkyrie. (and if this is the case, there is a special section of Hell reserved for you, and it involves doing just this over and over again for all eternity) It’s all dolled up in the latest advancements in moenetics (prehensile hair! Klan Klan! Sheryl being, well, Sheryl! Alto has a ponytail!), of course, but dolling itself up has always been something Macross has done from the get-go, so I don’t see much inconsistent in that. It’s doing a remarkably good job of dealing with the emotions of the main cast, and it’s been doing so without going overboard in the dolling-up.

The fact that Kawamori doesn’t want to retread the same series over and over again and wants to try something diffeent with every Macross series is something I respect, even if it doesn’t always work for everyone. it’s one thing to stick to the tried-and-true formula set by SDF–it’s entirely another to consistently break the mold you cast yourself. As I said, it doesn’t always work–but, at least for me, it’s worked so far.

Also:


THERE’S YOUR SHERYL, CUCHLANN. I HOPE YOU’LL BE HAPPY IN HELL.

Macross Frontier: The Disposal of Sheryl

I just want to go on the record as stating that episode 15 of Macross Frontier was extremely bizarre. Entertainingly bizarre, but bizarre nonetheless.

Of course, 15 was half a recap episode and half new content, and I’d just come off watching 13 and 14 as part of my sinister plan to catch up on Macross after letting it languish for a couple weeks (because I let everything languish, because boy have the last two weeks been nuts). And (as is sometimes the case with recap episodes) there was a lot of ominous-sounding talk about conspiracies and plans and shadow goings-on that we’ve known about since a long time ago but that had never really crystallized into a formal conspiracy. Now we’re extremely sure that there is one, but we still don’t know to what end, which is driving me nuts. It’s obviously some kind of far-reaching thing involving lots of hate and other things. After seeing episode 13 and the trip inside the Macross Global I was pretty sure that what had happened was that the scientists on the Global had somehow created the Vajra and they had gotten out of control and took over, but I’m not sure this is exactly what’s happened, especially with the Protoculture name-dropping at the end of 15. As we know from previous Macross series, the mysterious Protoculture were big fans of genetic manipulation, a fact which has always come back to haunt their descendants (the Zentradi in SDF, for one; I forget where the Protodeviln of 7 fit in here, or if they’re something unrelated, but there was that giant Protoculture ruin under the sea in 7).

Of course, the setup of the series–Sheryl arriving on Frontier for the final leg of her tour–was an integral part in whatever mysterious plan the whoever-they-are (I’m pretty sure they’re just using the Vajra as a means to an end) but as vast conspiracies are wont to do, things quickly spiraled out of control (see also: Gundam 00), which led to a vital piece of The Plan–i.e., Ranka–being located, completely changing the course of The Plan and forcing the already fairly cast-aside Sheryl to be “disposed” of–I don’t really know if they’ll dispatch hired guns after her, but you can bet that popularity is going to ebb as the conspirators focus their efforts on Ranka.

Of course, Sheryl’s own self-confidence seems to have been on the wane in these past few episodes–first she’s upstaged by Ranka in the concert, then she’s bedridden for a while, then she rushes out into combat and does a remarkably good job of not getting killed instantly (but accomplishing nothing else) and, then, in the ultimate brush-off, she has to watch a determined Alto–who’s always seemed to be closer to her than he was to Ranka–dash off like a gallant knight to save Ranka. Which he doesn’t do, but instead makes a lot of things blow up and screams a lot. They’re definitely setting him up to be rivals with Brera Sterne, which they already have been, but clearer now than before. As for Sheryl, her fate is pretty much sealed when Grace drops her blood sample off the roof of the hospital–she’s effectively dead and buried, as the sweeper-bot (FOREIGN CONTAMINANT) tidies up the blood and glass.

And, of course, the highlight of the episode, for better or for worse, was the impromptu (and sexually charged) duet in the middle of the hospital between Sheryl and Ranka, which I am now going to read entirely too far into. First off, the love triangle is shoved in your face–literally–with Ranka framing a shot with her fingers forming a triangle and panning from Alto to Sheryl. Of course, the duet started when Sheryl, jealous of the attention Ranka is getting from Alto, starts singing her song over the Ranka cover blaring over the speakers, thereby making Ranka jealous of the blatantly erotic moves Sheryl lays on Alto and starting her to sing, and both of them start overpowering Alto who can do nothing except look very awkward and embarassed and in look of a quick way of out this scene. Of course, even though the duet started as a result of their informal rivalry for Alto’s affections (Alto, of course, is probably just trying to be a good friend to both of them), they actually seemed to get into the whole duet thing and started cooperating pleasantly, a fact which seems to be an important element in Frontier.

If you remember waaaay back in the trip to the ruins of the Macross Galaxy, Ranka’s song traveled across the universe, but only when she was singing at the same time as Sheryl was. And if Sheryl is now “useless” to the plans of the conspirators, they may–if I’m reading this right, which I may not be–just find themselves wishing they’d held off on that. Cooperation always seems to be an element in Macross love triangles–Minmei had to accept that Misa held more esteem in Ichijo’s heart before she was able to sing Do You Remember Love? in the movie; Gamlin had to cooperate with Basara in 7 and even found a kind of respect for him and wound up being a fairly major fan; I’m willing to bet that it’ll be the same way in Plus and Zero. It may just be that, to stop whatever is going to happen, both will have to set aside their rivalry (which isn’t really all that heated at the moment, really) and cooperate to make Alto super-powerful and endowed with Chiba Song Units so he can give a rousing perfomance of Try Again and save the universe!

(I am now suddenly interested in Ranka and Sheryl covering Fire Bomber songs, mostly the awesome ones. Oh man)

KLAN KLAN WATCH!

I like how MIchael has a vision of miclone Klan Klan angry instead of Zentradi Klan Klan angry. Perhaps we can leap to conclusons about certain fetishes he may or may not have?

Also, I am pretty sure that more girls need to wear double-breasted jackets like that. Pure awesome.

Macross Frontier: “That’s not a Macross. THIS is a Macross.”

I have to sing the original theme song now. Or, well, listen to the Fujiwara Makoto original, followed by the Animetal version. I don’t really know if this is the actual, original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (last I checked it was sitting on Earth, chillin’ out and trying to mack on the Space Battleship Yamato, who always rebuffs Macross’s advances, considering itself far above such a relationship); the only way to tell is if Alto and Ranka enter it and find U.N. Spacy mugs. The next episode title, however, speaks of Global, who I can only assume is Captain Global, who is manly and awesome and also can never enter the bridge without banging his head on the top of the door. He is probably dead by now, if he didn’t already die in SDF itself (I can’t remember), but, still, the memory lives on.

Of cousre, that’s not the only reason I titled this post the way I did. Macross Frontier has always been pretty Macross from the get-go, insomuch as it is possible for something to be described as “pretty Macross” because the only thing any two Macross series have in common is the name “Macross.” But, for some reason, whether it was just the fact that it’s been a couple weeks since I last saw an episode of Frontier, 11 and especially 12 felt extremely Macross. And, no, silly, it wasn’t because there were dogfights. They helped, but that isn’t all.

I’m guessing part of the reason I feel this way is simply what actually happened–Ranka (who I am pulling for) has spent the past several episodes being completely unable to talk to Alto in any significant manner whatsoever–whether it be because she’s oh so very nervous to talk to him who she adores, or simply because she’s extremely busy with the hectic life of being a newly-discovered idol talent (including taking gravure photos–artbook please?). It’s also quite funny/ironic, that when she should be at her happiest (having had her big break) she doesn’t seem to really be all that happy, despite what the gravure pictures tell you. I half-expected her to crush her Valkyrie cookies, but what actually happened was far more devestating than that.

At any rate, she’s been unable to talk to him, which, of course, has given Sheryl the edge over her in the unconscious “contest” between the two of them (if either of them are even aware that it is a “contest”)–but, of course, in episode 12, Ranka takes the lead back again in style; Minmei, to be precise. She shows up, and totally stops a rampaging army of cultureless Zentradi by singing at them. I, of course, was having Macross 7 flashbacks, and kept expecting to see a Song Booster or someone shouting about Chiba Song Units, or for Ranka to start glowing with an ethereal fire, because that’s how awesome her song is. Heck, the ending theme was Ranka singing Ai, Oboeteimasu ka? If that’s not Macross, I don’t know what is.

Remember the previous post where it’s like “What is going on in Sheryl’s mind?” Now there’s further confusion. Is she aware of Ranka’s affection and crush on Alto, and is deliberately ignoring it so she can sate her own desires, or is she blind to Ranka’s feelings and merely inadvertently acting contrary to Ranka’s own feelings? As revealed in the comments, we don’t know because we haven’t actually gotten a glimpse into her mind, and can only judge her by her actions. Across these two episodes, we have seen Sheryl insist on traveling a long distance despite being obviously very sick, we have seen Sheryl collapse after said long distance due to being very sick, and Sheryl lounging around in her underclothing, which is probably why she’s very sick in the first place.

The only hint we are given as to her own, true feelings, is a fleeting glimpse of her, while bedridden, during Ranka’s triumphant concert (whcih might as well be her “first live”, because, well, she’s not going to actually have her actual “first live” because she’s stuck in the middle of nowhere with only Alto and a rusty Macross to keep her company), looking very upset indeed, to the point of gripping the sheets with what seems to be rage. This would imply (to me) that she feels that she has lost to Ranka somehow, whether it simply being that she showed up out of nowhere and completed the task that she couldn’t fill, due to being very ill, or whether it was because of the deeper thing of getting shown up by Ranka in front of Alto, when she was the one who drug Alto out there in the first place. Is it possible to tell? Will we ever actually know sometime before episode 25? Who knows. I may mock-hate Sheryl elsewhere (although I don’t really recall any instances of this, but I never do), but she is both a) hot and b) an intriguing character to try and figure out. I will leave it up to you to determine which of those two I value more, because hell if I know.

KLAN KLAN WATCH!

I just want to point out that dangling from the shower stall because you’re too short to see the person in the stall next to you while you’re convinently dumping important exposition on her, the surrogate for the viewer, is the cutest thing ever, made extra-cute by the fact that it’s KLAN KLAN dumping the exposition. I think I will have to make every instance of KLAN KLAN bold and all caps from now on, because she deserves it. Possibly blue, but that’s probably too much effort.

Macross Frontier: The Legend Begins Here!

It’s okay, Ranka! There is nothing to be afraid of when you’re on the big screen!

This was an amazing episode. For one, it was the obligatory Macross “characters film a movie” episode; SDF had Shao Pai Lon (with acting and awesome theme song provided by Minmei), 7 had The Story of Lin Minmei (with Minmei played by Mylene Jenius), and now F decides to make an extended reference to Macross Zero in its movie episode (I was highly amused by the Macross Zero logo replacing the Frontier logo briefly on the second part of the eyecatch, and the credits of the movie being the credits of the Macross Frontier episode, and not the movie. We already got the fourth wall breakage with Ranka’s very own personal blogfrom the future (see right column), and now they’re doing this).

On top of this amazing moment in Ranka Lee history, however, is the rollercoaster ride Sheryl sent me on for the entire episode. At first, of course, she pops up, and Miss Macross Miranda supplants herself upon the legendary idol from the Macross Galaxy and…is promptly ignored as Sheryl walks right past her to ask how Ranka is doing. It almost seemed like a deliberate move to simultaneously aggravate the vain victor at the same time as she reaffirms her support for Ranka. “Oh,” I thought, “that was a brilliant move by Sheryl” and I started to wonder whether she really, honestly was interested in supporting Ranka, and was completely unaware of the effect her dalliances with Alto were having on the lovestruck Ranka.

But!

Then she kissed Alto–in front of Ranka–and played it off as a joke. At that point, I had literally no idea what was running through her mind, or whether she had a mind and wasn’t running on a tank full of crazy. Of course, Ranka sees her kiss Alto, and promptly marches off to announce to the director that, yes, she will play the part of Mao, thank you very much…which, of course, means that she gets to partake of her very first kiss with Alto. And then, with the heat of the spotlight focused on her at the premiere, Sheryl offers words of praise and encouragement towards Ranka.

It was like a light bulb went on in my head.

It’s entirely possible that, on some level, whether conscious or unconscious, Sheryl really is acting with the best interests of Ranka in heart–she’s just doing it a la Sheryl, which of course means some seriously tough love for Ranka. It may have just been this isolated incident (I would have to go back and rewatch previous episodes to judge this more honestly, but I will be paying attention for it in later episodes), but in this episode, it almost seems as if Sheryl kissed Alto not only to tease him, but to intentionally motivate Ranka to get over her wishywashiness and take the all-important first step towards stardom. And she may not have even done it intentionally, or maybe she did–as I said above, her innter workings are somewhat of a mystery, and it’s unclear how much she is working for herself and how much she is working for others and oh God my brain it’s melting and running out my ears make it stop

Regardless of the motive behind Sheryl’s actions, one thing is clear: because of them, Ranka Lee is now a minor celebrity. And with the status of minor celebrities comes…photo shoots! I am now hoping with fervency that Kawamori Shoji, since he’s already busy breaking the fourth wall whenever he can (notice the addition of the Sheryl Nome and Klan Klan blogs on the right, as well) will see fit to authorize the release of the Official Ranka Lee Photo Album to her throngs of adoring fans (i.e. me and the 99,999 clones I created of myself for occasions where multitudinous throngs are needed to accomplish something of importance to me and keep in cryogenic storage in a secret underground labratory protected by a natural labyrinthine network of caves). Not for my own personal use, mind–for science.

Macross Frontier: Carrot Promotions & Loli Zentradi

PART the FIRST: Being the Tale of an Aspiring Young Singer & Her Carrot Costume

Oh, Ranka-tan. That is simultaneously the best costume ever and the worst costume ever. For a girl who has a voice that can cross the galaxy and stop Evil Mysterious Men in their tracks, it’s rather strange for her to be peddling carrots to reluctant Zentradi. With an actual song about the wonderful and galaxy-changing abilities of carrots. Not just any carrots, mind you: Zentradi carrots, which are rainbow colored, which clearly speaks to the potential customer that here is a carrot that transcends ordinary carrotdom; it is a carrot that throws reason to the curb; it is a carrot that can certainly pierce the heavens. Or possibly just give you a bad trip.

Macross Frontier is laying Ranka’s jealousy of Sheryl on thick, even without really having her say it outright. From small things like a bus pulling away to reveal a giant Sheryl poster immediately after Ranka is informed that her program was cancelled in favor of one featuring Sheryl (followed by a subsequent shot of a Frontier skyline dotted with an disgustingly large amount of Sheryl propaganda), to somewhat larger things such as Ranka forcing herself to be cheerful when Sheryl asks her how her career is going, and then refusing her help in making it big. Also: Sheryl doesn’t seem to have noticed Ranka’s jealousy. At all. She’s entirely clueless, leading the entire school on a madcap hunt for her errant panties, thereby focusing all the attention on her because she’s Sheryl, the Queen of the Galaxy. She’s also rather clingy to Alto, which probably speaks at some kind of lonliness she feels. This is Macross after all, and there is a love triangle going on, but I’d argue that–at least at this point–Sheryl doesn’t “love” Alto so much as she’s using him to relieve her own boredom/lonliness at being a galaxy-trotting superstar (no pun intended). There seem to be more honest feelings of affection in Ranka, and I fervently hope that they don’t take the SDF Macross route and shaft Ranka like they shafted Minmei. (Yes, I am declaring my allegiance. The lines of war are drawn, gentlemen, and I am armed to the teeth)

PART the SECOND: Being the Tale of The Zentradi Female (Meltrandi?) Who Fills Many Fetishes

Yes, two screencaps today, because there are two parts to this post!

Over the course of the past two weeks, for some inexplicable reason, I have become rather enamoured with Kuran Kuran (Klein Klan, Klan Klan, God knows what other romanizations; I’m sticking with the katakana reading of “Kuran Kuran” until there’s some kind of official word on the matter). Kuran Kuran is, of course, the character that you’d think someone would have come up with some way of doing this beforehand, but hadn’t. We’ve had the loli/chestally endowed contrast before in Tenjou Tenge, but I pretend like that entire property doesn’t exist at all and therefore summarily sweep it under the rug. The thing here, is that not only is it a loli/chestally endowed contrast, it’s a loli/giantess chestally endowed contrast. It’s like they thought of every possible fetish a Zentradi character could embody, and then threw them all into one character. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, we get the flashback pictured above, where we are treated to loli Kuran Kuran in Zentradi form as an actual child. This is pretty much the most adorable thing ever.

With a list of sharacter traits like that, you’d think that Kuran Kuran would be relegated to a bit role/comic relief role in any other series. But not in Macross Frontier. Oh, no. Aside from the first time she popped up in loli miclone form, she–like the rest of the female cast–isn’t exploited, or seen as overly pandering. We didn’t even see miclone Kuran Kuran after her introduction until this episode, and she isn’t exactly being the wacky hyperactive character she was at that point in time. It would have been far too easy for the writers to slip up and just use her as otakubait, but they didn’t. She’s a legitimate character in her own right, and she’s treated as seriously as the rest of the cast is. I’m sure we’ll have a few more lighthearted moments along the way featuring her (this is Macross, and a Macross series which doesn’t have its tongue planted in its cheek probably doesn’t exist), but, for now, I’m impressed that they didn’t take her down the beaten path.

The non-gimmick nature of Kuran Kuran would seem to refute the arguments I’ve seen floating around that Macross Frontier is being unnecessarily pandering and spending too much time baiting otaku. I won’t argue that this pandering isn’t an element of the series, becuase this is a Macross series, and Macross has always been about pandering–but it’s also been about not letting the pandering get in the way of other elements of the series. Frontier is accomplishing this as well as can be hoped for, if not better, so I don’t really see reason to complain. Well, other than that the pandering going on isn’t the kind of pandering one wants to see in anime, especially anime with the word Macross in the title, but what can you do? Sit back and watch the excellent 3D CGI Itano circuses (and Kuran Kuran slapping a Valkyrie, which was an awesome moment), I guess.

Macross Frontier: Why Is The Quarter a Macross-Class Ship When It Is Only 400 Meters Long, You Ask?

This is why.

I am now fully convinced that Kawamori Shouji has lost his mind, and this is a glorious thing indeed. We have: some of the most ridiculous Itano circuses ever. I mean, an Itano circus is already pretty awesome, but the only way they could have made a better Itano circus in episode 7 was by having an Itano circus of missiles that release their own Itano circuses, creating a stream of missiles that crisscross each other in a giant missilegasm. And, as ridiculous as this idea sounds, this is a very possible reality in a Macross series where the main Macross-class ship not only undergoes Transformation but can actually move like a Valkyrie after undergoing Transformation. I mean, seriously. The Quarter is essentially a gigantic Valkyrie, except it’s a Macross. It alwayts bugged me in SDF/7 that, after undergoing Transformation, the Macross ships just kind of floated through space in a ludicrous and fixed pose, which kind of made the whole “battleship turns into a mech” aspect of Transformation fairly disappointing. If I had been a child of the proper age when the Macross part of Robotech was airing on American TV, this episode would have been like a childhood dream come true. It’s somehow more impressive than all the variants upon the Gurren-Lagann towards the end of the series, where it just got bigger and bigger, but that’s mostly because it’s Macross doing it.

Considering the explosion-fest that was episode 7, it might be hard to forget some important points, one being whatever it was that happened with Sheryl’s earring in Alto’s cockpit. It’s unknown whether it was primarily Sheryl’s fault or Ranka’s fault that the music transmitted and created such a powerful reaction in both Alto and Mysterious Humanoid Alien Enemy (who strangely faintly resembles Gavil from Macross 7 for some reason, which is a good thing because Gavil was hilarious). [SPECULATION WARNING] It also, too, could be both of their faults, with the duet triggering some kind of base instict in both human and alien alike, which, of course, since this is Macross and the love triangle is between Alto, Ranka, and Sheryl, means that we could be in for some serious drama later on as Alto perhaps has to perform a difficult balancing act keeping Ranka and Sheryl on good terms with each other while still being true to his feelings (whatever they end up being).

That setup seems somewhat similar to the original SDF, or, well, Do You Remember Love? (since that’s much fresher in my memory), where you had Hikaru having to convince a distraught and heartbroken MInmei that she had to sing to bring an end to the war with the Zentradi. It also sounds much more fun from a straight-up drama perspective, but, as that is entirely speculation, we really don’t know how things are going to proceed from here. I don’t usually engage in prediction of plot patterns, but equally usually when I do do it, I’m rarely dissatissfied with the results, as when a series doesn’t go the way you expect it to go but instead down a different and surprising route it’s more fun than the imaginary series you had in your head (and it also shows that the writers are one step ahead of the viewers), even when the direction taken doesn’t always work out that well.

Whatever happens, though, it will probably be incredibly awesome in the way that only a Macross series can be incredibly awesome. I may prefer Gundam on a personal level, maybe, but as the two really aren’t compatible series at all (Macross is a true bona-fide old-school space opera that’s primarily about having a ton of fun, whereas Gundam strives to be somewhat philosophical to varying degrees of success, and is quite a bit more “realistic”) and therefore shouldn’t be compared quite as much as they usually are, they’re both excellent franchises whose initial series had lasting influence upon anime in general since their broadcast in the late 70s/early 80s. I really don’t think that either one would have caught on with the public if it hadn’t been for the other, as it’s always been said that Gundam created the “real robot” genre, and SDF Macross popularized it (the original Gundam was cancelled, with most of its fame coming after broadcast; Macross was a thorough success practically from the start), so they exist in a kind of symbiotic relationship. I find it criminal how little attention Macross seems to get in the States in general (although I run into far more people who go “Hey, Macross is cool!” than “Hey, Gundam is cool!”, but neither franchise is that popular here), although I can report from firsthand experience that Macross Frontier is getting people who haven’t given the Macross franchise a shot yet the incentive to go back and watch its origins. And this is always a good thing.

Macross Frontier: I Wanna Be a Pop Star

Yes, I just referenced Hirai Ken. I hope that song is stuck in your head for a nice, long time.

I actually had the chance to finally watch Macross: Do You Remember Love? this morning, and the experience of first watching that and then, later in the same day, watching Macross Frontier has been quite interesting, to say the least. The differences between the two decades is amazingly apparent, yet there’s still a kind of bond between them, that runs a bit deeper than simple sharing of plot elements.

The difference seem to be the most obvious at first glance. Do You Remember Love? is a condensation of the original 39 episode Super Dimensional Fortress Macross TV series (with changes made, of course, because Kawamori Shoji hates making the same thing multiple times) and it’s much more plot-oriented than character-oriented (but I’m willing to chalk that up to the fact that it’s the movie version; my memory is quite hazy on the TV series but I’m almost positive that they spent more time on the characters there). By contrast, Frontier is, and from the begining, has been primarily character-driven. Both series have elements of both, but it seems that in Frontier there is more emphasis placed on the characters themselves, and less focus placed on the characters driving the plot. I’m pretty sure that this character-driven approach is actually a feature of modern anime in general, as I’ve seen much less series that bank on plot over characters. Not to say that you can skimp on one and still be good; it’s just that I’ve noticed a growing trend to emphasize the characters of anime over the plot of anime.

The “bond” I talked about earlier running between Do You Remember Love? and Frontier seems to be a general sense of over-the-topness. It’s not quite over-the-top like Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann was over-the-top, but it’s a distinctly Kawamori brand of over-the-top. In the 80s, the focus of the over-the-topness seemed to be the battles (which in Do You Remember Love? were ridiculously large-scale) and in having Britol and Exedol stand around a lot and say “PROTOCULTURE” menacingly every fifteen minutes. In Frontier, the over-the-topness comes from the battles (but there’s not as many of them) and also from things like Sheryl hiding in a Zentradi shoe, Sheryl commandeering a giant pair of Zentradi panties as a scratchpad for lyrics, Ranka and her lovely prehensile hair, and various other cute moments that are the hallmark of modern anime. I don’t really think that one is better than the other, since I enjoy both, but it’s a bit easier for me to see the disconnect many old-school anime fans have for more modern material (barring a few I’ve seen around MAL and the likes who adapted nicely), since the transition even jarred me a bit. What’s strange about this is that many fans of modern anime seem to have no qualms about going back into the history of anime (barring those who complain that older series look too “old” for them or other trifiling quibbles), so the disconnect doesn’t seem to be two-way all the time. It’s two different sets of tropes designed to appeal to two different generations, and things have definitely changed.

On the actual episode itself, I’m pretty sure that Deculture is the new Anima Spiritia is the new Protoculture, but it seems that Ranka’s Deculture has the unpleasant effect of activating the Vajra, whereas in 7, Basara’s Anima Spiritia acheived the opposite, by bringing back humans from comas, and turning Gepelnitch’s men against him (I love you, Gigil, even if you can’t sing worth a damn). It will be interesting to see music save the day in Frontier, considering that it seems the odds are stacked against them at the moment. Of course, we don’t know that the Vajra was going to go on a massive evil rampage across the Frontier because they blew him up before he could break out.

Whatever happens, though, I have confidence in Macross to give me a solid story. And I need Ranka and Sheryl albums, STAT.

Macross Frontier: Miss Macross did not quite go as planned

Smooth, Ranka. Real smooth. But oh so adorable.

You can color me impressed with the result of the Miss Macross Frontier contest. I expected Ranka to somehow pull through and win against all the odds, although in retrospect I really shouldn’t have expected this. The expectance, and subsequent denial of said expectance, drove home with a vengance the level of the writing in Macross Frontier, especailly in the light of SDF Macross. In SDF, Minmei winning MIss Macross was an essential plot element to making her a pop idol so that she could sing Do You Remember Love? at the Zentradi until they rediscovered Culture and became good guys. Except for Kamlin, who likes to make Culture with his lady Zentradi friend, but that’s beside the point.

At any rate, in Frontier, Ranka loses in spectacular fashion. Kawamori Shoujo states that every Macross series will be different from the other ones, rather than a rehashing of the same basic formula (a fact made true with Macross 7, which, in the minds of some, isn’t a real Macross series because it lacks Itano circuses in high volumes), so obviously they won’t be pursuing the “end the war through song” angle. Rather, they seem to be going for a Ranka who is less of a plot point than Minmei was (apologies to SDF fans; this is merely for the sake of argument) and, instead, perhaps obtain a more detailed dive into her character and personality. It’s a small part of the difference in anime storytelling that has happened in the 25 years between SDF and Frontier. Or maybe I’m just delusional.

And, while we’re talking Macross in general here, I think the Vajra are pretty much the most hardcore antagonists in a Macross series yet, although, again, I’ve yet to see 2, Plus, and Zero. The Zentradi were basically giant humans, which was cool, especially when the Zentradi in question was Britol,  but that’s all they were. Macross 7 had perhaps the most ridiculous antagonists, whose main threat to humanity was sucking out the Spirita of a human, but that amounted to nothing because all it took to bring them back was to have Basara sing a song. The Vajra, by contrast, are incredibly hard to defeat. I don’t know if they’re spacefaring aliens of some kind, or just a bizarre mecha design, but you have to pound at the thing until something gives. A point-blank cannon shot at the thing just barely scratches it. And when they finally do go, it’s a massive explosion that can rip a Valkyrie to shreds. The total impossibllity of killing these things turns Macross Frontier into something that may potentially be more epic than any previous Macross series. I mean, you have to try really hard to top the war-arc ending of SDF, and, likewise, Basara singing Try Again at Gepelnitch is also hard to beat, but only beacuse Try Again is an awesome song. But Macross has always been about succeeding against seemingly insurmountable odds, but it’s the getting there that matters. As an anniversary project, I have high hopes, but all signs point to those hopes being filled, and I’m rarely disappointed anyway.

At any rate, even outside the context of Macross, Frontier is shaping up to be an excellent series in general. It’s kind of amusing to me that both of the major franchises–Gundam and Macross–have their anniversary series airing in close succession. It certainly provides a sense of justice to fans of one but not the other, and to fans of both, well, this is a wonderful time to be alive.

Final thought: Ranka’s backpack (the Valkyrie one) is pretty much the best backpack ever and we need a mass-produced version of it. I would wear one to school. I would be laughed off campus, true, but awesome backpacks are worth the price.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

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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