#03: ON YOUR MARKS
ICONIC SCENE: “Tuna! SASHIMI!”
STORY DATE: March 2059
BROADCAST DATE: April 17, 2008
1. Ozma arrives to take care of the Vajra that showed up at the end of last episode. Mikhail and Luca show up to help him out, and BANG! Mikhail gets the Vajra right in the head! Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop it. More about this later on.
Anyway, it thrashes Ozma pretty badly and breaks the observation window where Alto, Ranka, and Sheryl are. Thinking quickly, Alto helps them all escape into a little shelter…
2. And there we are, the main homage of this episode, as the three of them are trapped in the shelter, just as Hikaru and Minmay were trapped on the Macross, and Basara and Mylene were trapped on the resort ship Riviera.
A funny bit is Sheryl tugging on her skirt before jumping in. No panty shots here. Sheryl would never let any of us out alive if we’d seen her panties.
Alto’s mostly upset, not that they’re trapped, but that Mikhail saved him a second time, and Ranka finds that she’s grabbed hold of Alto’s shirt and, try as she might, can’t unclench her hands, which I think is a really interesting, realistic, and often-overlooked detail that begins to show just how traumatized she’s been. Alto seems annoyed, and Sheryl gets on his case about it.
And then of course Alto’s accidentally pulls down Sheryl’s dress, revealing her justly celebrated ta-tas. It’s played off (as usual in anime) as a joke, but it honestly doesn’t become very funny until Ranka tries to calm the situation down by offering everyone tuna buns, which really do look like breasts.
3. And that’s the other big homage in this episode, because of the giant tuna fish when Hikaru and Minmay were trapped, and because tuna (“maguro”) is only one letter off from Macro (“makuro”), making it the perfect pun for a show called “Macross”(“makurosu”).
Incidentally, I’ve seen plenty of different types of steamed meat buns in Japan (everything from normal pork buns to pizza buns to pot-sticker buns), but the only place I’ve ever seen tuna buns is at Macross events. I almost tried one once, but Gwyn (the sometime-host of the Macross Speaker Podcast) warned me against it, saying that he had eaten one, and it was really nasty. I went for the pineapple cake instead, and enjoyed it.
Anyway, at least Ranka’s embarrassment breaks the tension. But already, you can see the inequality in the triangle, in that Sheryl and Alto are laughing at Ranka’s childishness (or childlike quality, if you want to be, y’know, less judgey).
That said, Sheryl is the one who pulls a Minmay after the life support in the shelter quits, and plans to open the airlock to die instantly rather than wait for death by suffocation. Ranka’s usually the one who echoes Minmay’s actions (see next episode), so this scene kinda stands out (although less so than I thought before looking the Frontier DVD booklets for this rewatch, which mention some (not all) of the homages, under the title “MACROSS CHECK!!” Ranka echoes Misa and Sheryl echoes Minmay much more than I had previously supposed).
Luckily, they’re rescued immediately after.
4. Again, a little more mystery with Grace, although first-time viewers may not recognize it as such, and repeat viewers already know the deal, when she asks Cathy for her ID for the intercom and pulls on her necklace, which Cathy calls an “implant.” It seems they’re illegal on Frontier, whatever they are…
5. Okay, first time I saw this episode, this had me baffled. As Sheryl says a sort of goodbye to Alto and Ranka, Sheryl tells Alto to forget what he saw (her breasts) and not post it on the net. On Macross World when this aired, everyone seemed to be laughing about that line, but I didn’t understand it at all… how could he post it on the net? I mean, he didn’t have a camera or a phone or anything. It’s impossible, right? Was I missing something…? Turns out I wasn’t, but it takes a few episodes for this line to make sense. I’ll pick up this thread again soon.
She also says that he can use the memory as a masturbation aid (just for tonight) if he wishes, then immediately rescinds that offer, laughing kinda nastily at him. Again, so far, Sheryl has been mostly bad-tempered and unpleasant. And here, she’s just being mean. Although she’s nice to Ranka, so that’s something, I guess. And she says it again: “I don’t do this kind of service very often.”
6. When Ranka sees Ozma injured, it’s another mysterious bit that won’t get explained for a while, and nicely illustrates one of the perils of quick fansubs. At first, yes, she’s addressing Ozma, saying (more or less), “Big Brother, you told me you quit piloting!” Then, with no transition or explanation, she goes into a flashback, saying (again, more or less), “Big Brother, I kept my promise and didn’t tell anyone.” Now here, she’s not addressing Ozma, but rather Brera, who we know nothing about yet. In Japanese, the transition sounds a little “off” and the second part doesn’t make a lot of sense in connection with the first. But the fansubs generally tried to smooth out the dialogue, and the jarring quality of the switch (which in itself is a clue) was glossed over. They tried to make the second line connect with the previous one, which of course, it shouldn’t for first-time viewers. And we were ALL first-time viewers at this point.
Central Anime’s subs are a vast improvement, because they took on the series a few years later, and thus could see the whole structure of the show.
Now, this of course isn’t just a fansub issue. It can happen anywhere where the translation is released serially, before the translator has read through the entire work (or, especially, before the entire work is complete). Sometimes later events influence how an early line should be rendered (especially with a language that can be as ambiguous as Japanese), but if the DVD, or manga volume, or whatever, featuring that early line has already been released, there’s nothing the translator can do about it, unless they’re lucky enough to be able to fix things in a later pressing (and they usually aren’t).
Oh, and I respect Alto’s expert catching of Ranka when she faints. He did much better than I did when a pretty young woman in a stunning blue leather jacket standing next to me passed out on the Keio Line, one otherwise peaceful morning.
7. “Dissociative amnesia,” says Canaria, the doctor/Monster pilot.
Okay, okay, I agree… amnesia is such an overused soap opera plot point that I find it rather annoying that it’s used here. I mean, it’s necessary for the story, but I wish there had been a better way. I’m not really, y’know, against Ranka having a traumatic past, and again, I think the scenes with her clutching Alto’s shirt, and the unexplained “Big Brother” switch are well-done… but amnesia is pushing it.
Oh, and Ozma is a badass. Even lying in a hospital bed and connected to a drip, he can grab Alto’s shirt and make it seem like he could really fuck Alto up if he felt like it.
8. When Leon is looking through the personal records of Ranka, the sheet above her is for “JOHN BIRKS GILLESPIE,” A.K.A. “Dizzy” Gillespie, trumpeter and one of the Cosby Kids’ many jazz-playing uncles. The one under her is “NILS CA…” (Carson? Cassidy?). “CARLA BRUNI” is another one.
And y’know, I think everyone liked Cathy until they realized that she was sharing a bed with such a sleazebag (and Leon is, quite obviously, a sleazebag, even at this point). Fan art of her was basically nonexistent until the ending of the series, AFTER she gets back together with Ozma.
I’d also like to point out that she’s voiced by Sanae Koboyashi, who played Sara Nome in Zero. There’s a well-circulated pic from Newtype Magazine of the Frontier cast all dressed in each other’s outfits, except for Cathy, who’s dressed as Sara. Voice actor humor!
9. Alto, brooding over whether to join SMS or not, goes to Griffith Park, which is an oddly L.A. place to throw into the San Francisco/Shibuya/Shanghai mix of Frontier’s city (does the city have a name, anyway? Besides “Island-1,” I mean… Oh well, I guess “City 7” was both the ship AND the city inside it, and the city inside the original Macross never even had a name, so it doesn’t really need one, but still…).
The Griffith Park Observatory in Frontier looks much like the real one, except that the statue is much smaller at the actual site. A year or so after the show aired I went there for the first time since grade school. I wanted to take pictures that matched the show’s angles, but couldn’t remember what the shots looked like. So I ended up taking nearly a hundred photos of the place. Three of them ended up matching, more or less.
(You can also see the actual observatory at the beginning of The Terminator. It’s where naked Arnold takes the punk guys’ clothes.)
ANYWAY, Alto runs into Ranka there, while she’s singing “Aimo,” which was the ending song for the Broadcast Version of Episode 1, and will be heard often as the series progresses. I guess it’s kinda like “Planet Dance” in that way, and proved too much for some people. I remember one guy (on, I think, Animesuki), before the first Frontier movie came out, saying something like “If ‘Aimo’ is in the movie, I’m giving up on Macross completely!” Which, considering that it’s the single most important song in Frontier, sounds like he WANTED to give up on Macross (and SPOILER ALERT: yes, it’s in the movie. I wonder if he really did stop watching Macross after that…?).
After the trip to L.A., we visit Arlington Cemetery, which I visited once when I was in high school, so yes, the show is really jumping around the map here (more than Kalchoon Park, even, which is mostly European, and thus, all closer together in the real world). Gilliam’s funeral emphasizes a point that I’ll bring up later, in that Frontier is ecologically a completely closed system. Everything gets recycled, nothing goes to waste. Not even the bodies of dead SMS soldiers (and everyone else, too…? It’s unclear).
And the episode ends with both Alto and Ranka trying to grab their dreams, Alto by entering SMS, and Ranka by entering the Miss Macross Frontier Contest.
10. Again, at this point the series almost seems like the original Macross on fast-forward. But again, there’s enough different here that it doesn’t feel TOO much like a retread. As I said, the amnesia excuse kinda bugs me, but everything else is fine.
ED: “Diamond Crevasse”
NUMBER OF TIMES RANKA SAYS “ALTO-KUN” THIS EPISODE (to quote the Ranka single, “Cat’s Diary” – “And my lips write in my diary how many times that person’s name has been spoken… One, two, three, four, five, and six…”): only 3 (for now).
EYECATCH: Sheryl and her earring.
NEXT EPISODE: “Song of Antiquity, ring throughout the galaxy!”