THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 117 – STAR DATE

F Ep.5

MACROSS FRONTIER
#05: STAR DATE

ICONIC SCENE: “What? The ‘lee-rics’ aren’t ready yet?”

STORY DATE: 2059

BROADCAST DATE: May 1, 2008

1. In the intro, Frontier is described as a “small earth,” which ties into something kind of interesting. Recently, Kawamori’s treatment (dated late 1992) for the planned Hollywood live-action Macross movie came to light (news broken on *ahem* the Macross Speaker Podcast). It’s pretty interesting in and of itself, but it’s also interesting because in several ways it’s a precursor to Frontier. I’ll be bringing it up as we go along, but for now, let me point out that the Macross in the movie treatment was also designed as a closed ecological system, with replicas of things like the Amazon River and the Great Barrier Reef, and it’s described there, likewise, as a “small earth.”

2. Meanwhile, back on ground level, Ozma and Ranka have a huge fight because entering the Miss Macross Contest has led Ranka to get suspended from the elite girls’ academy she was attending (and yes, this could easily happen in Japan. Ever wonder why so many of the Japanese girls posting dance or music videos on YouTube hide their faces…?). Among the things she throws at him during the argument is, of course, a Minmay doll. And some kind of robot toy, but I can’t tell what. And a very sharp looking knife (!!).

Anyway, Ranka runs off, angry and depressed. And, rather ironically, she’s wearing her school uniform. Y’know, the school she just got kicked out of.

3. One of my favorite homages shows up in Sheryl and Alto’s conversation. Now, of course, the entire date (and Sheryl’s “disguise”) is a reference to the Hikaru/Minmay date in Do You Remember Love, but even more so: when Sheryl says, “You don’t want to be with me?” it’s an actual line spoken by Minmay (which probably only stood out to me because it’s in one of the Do You Remember Love trailers, as well as in Flashback 2012, which I’ve watched several dozen times or more). And it sure sounds like Aya Endo (Sheryl’s gorgeous and charming voice actress) was instructed to mimic the way Mari Iiijima read the line.

(Interesting to note the protagonists’ varying reactions to that line. Hikaru: “Okay… let’s go ALL OUT!” Alto: “No, it’s annoying.”)

Also, I think it’s kind of funny that the Hikaru/Minmay date takes up only about five or ten minutes in the movie (if you don’t include the ill-fated Valkyrie joyride), whereas this date takes up the entire episode. So far, it’s been easy to think of Frontier as a “kinda/sorta remake of SDF Macross on speed,” but it’s also finding its own pace.

Oh, and when the other students enter the locker room, one of them mentions “hover blades”… is that a Macross 7 Trash reference, or just a coincidence…? Honestly, once you start digging into it, you could go crazy trying to note everything that MIGHT be an homage (one that DEFINITELY is, though, because it’s mentioned in the DVD booklet for this episode, is that Alto and Sheryl eating hot dogs on their date is a reference to Hikaru and Minmay eating hamburgers on theirs… and that might show you how abstract some of these homages are). And good thing the school lockers are so big. I could barely fit all of my textbooks into MY high school locker, let alone a full-size pop diva.

(A NOTE ABOUT THOSE HOMAGES: I’m listing every one that’s obvious. There are a bunch that are less obvious, but are mentioned in the DVD booklets, for which I’ll always state “according to the DVD booklet…” or words to that effect. There are other less obvious ones that I’ve noted, that AREN’T in the DVD booklet, and I’ll say “this MAY be an homage…” (or words to that effect) for those. So… three categories for homages: “obvious,” “not obvious but confirmed official,” and “this may just be me… I dunno…”

That said, some of the “not obvious but confirmed official” seem a little suspect…)

(And if YOU see any homages that I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!)

And Sheryl’s orgasm from Alto’s (*ahem*) vibrating phone…? Pure theatrics. She’s just using the opportunity to snatch his “omamori” good luck charm, knowing that he’ll do anything she says until she gives it back. This is continuing Sheryl’s role as a total pain in the ass (which, honestly, she really has been so far), but that’s about to change.

4. Boy, If you’ve got Ranka’s type of phone, turning it off must be traumatizing, since it basically “dies.”

And then, hey! “Mr. Birla” makes his visual debut! He’ll remain mysterious for a long time to come, though.

And love triangles, love triangles! Everywhere you look in this show, there are love triangles. Along with the burgeoning Sheryl/Alto/Ranka triangle, we’ve obviously got an Ozma/Cathy/Leon triangle, as well as (kind of) a Ranka/Ozma/Cathy triangle (at least, Cathy says that if Ozma had paid as much attention to her as he does to Ranka, she might not have left him).

You, um, could ALSO go crazy trying to figure out all the triangles in this show. Let’s just say there are many that were intentionally put into the show, and quite a few more that can be drawn, whether the staff intended them or not.

(Continuing that, Nanase blames herself for Ranka’s suspension. We don’t yet know that she’s totally in love with Ranka, but still: Luca/Nanase/Ranka is a sort of triangle, as is Alto/Ranka/Nanase. See what I mean…? It gets CRAZY…! Almost Urusei Yatsura level… And that’s not even INCLUDING the Ranka/Nanase/Me triangle!)

5. Okay, Sheryl trying to catch (kill) butterflies is the first inkling in this show that she even has a soul. Again, I remind everyone, she’s been absolutely awful for four episodes straight (except when she’s talking to Ranka).

And it’s kind of interesting, given the show’s resolution, that Sheryl thinks Alto is “going steady” with Ranka. To her (Sheryl), I think, spending the day with “The Galactic Fairy, SHERYL NOME” is probably worth lying to one’s girlfriend about. At least, she never really brings up Alto and Ranka ever again.

Oh, and Mikhail finds Ranka first, so he gets to babysit her for the rest of the episode. Joy.

And the next part of the episode is just scenes from San Francisco.

6. And Sheryl explains “Implants.” The reason she could ask Grace for the concert footage and warned Alto against posting her boobs on the net is because, on Macross Galaxy, most of the people are artificial, and can easily record anything with their eyes. “It’s like telling the punchline before the set-up” groused one person on Macross World, but I view it as more clever than that. Yes, the line from last episode only makes sense in retrospect, but it seems to me that that’s a hallowed SF tradition: using the technology or idea in the story first, and explaining it later. Yes, this is mostly WRITTEN science fiction that I’m talking about, but I’m glad to see it moving to the visual format here (and it only took fifty years!). It’s honestly okay to implement SF concepts a few chapters or episodes before you explain them. It makes the first reading or viewing more intriguing, and the second that much more clear (and we DO want repeat customers, yes?).

Oh, and Sheryl mentions that her “all-natural” body is one of her selling points, which seems kinda weird to me. If Implants and such are so common on Galaxy, Sheryl eschewing such things would be akin to saying, for example, “Sheryl doesn’t have an email or Facebook account and never goes online!” Kind of unusual, but hardly a big deal. And more of an indicator of a Luddite than anything else.

And then they see HIPPOCOWS!! (And yes, that is what they’re called, even in Japanese.) Later, Ranka eats Hippocow ice cream, which I guess tastes good…? Apparently, they come right out of the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” cartoon. One question: the full-size Zentradi here don’t have the reverberation in their voices that the ones from the first series did, but they all speak extremely slowly. Why?

(Oh, and the train station in the background is called “Bokujou-Mae,” “In Front of the Pasture.” My home station, when I lived in Tokyo, was “Meidai-Mae,” “In Front of Meiji University.”)

And then Sheryl sees the Zentradi mall (named, apparently, after Exsedol, whose surname can be rendered as “Formo” or “Folmo.” The Zentradi script outside the mall, however, has it as “Forlmo,” hedging their bets. The Zentradi script INSIDE the mall generally says “SALE” followed by a price).

There’s a Zentradi guy outside the mall singing, basically, an “enka” song. “Enka” is, loosely, the Japanese equivalent of country/western songs. The ones sung by men are usually about how hard it is to be a man. The ones sung by women are usually about how the woman’s no-good, two-timing man ran off and left her alone with the kids (but she’s still burning for him). Nothing quite says “old timer” like being an enka fan, really. And this isn’t the last time enka will come up in the series, since Ozma is later referred to as having something of an enka mentality. Once, some friends of mine and I ended up by accident in an enka karaoke bar in Shibuya. We sang some pop songs, and the rather elegant (for the ladies) and dapper (for the men) (or maybe they were just Yakuza. I’m not sure) patrons quickly fled the place. I felt bad for the owner, but she gave us each a signed picture of an enka singer. On the train ride home, I showed it to the guy next to me and asked if she was famous. He said that he had indeed heard of her, so I guess she was.

ANYWAY, “Formo” or “Folmo” or “Forlmo” or WHATEVER is a mall on one of the smaller ships (“Island-3”) connected to the Frontier (“Island-1”) where full-size Zentradi live, work, and shop. It’s kind of nice to see, since the only non-miclone Zentradi we’ve seen in a long while have either been antagonists or curiosities. I’d imagine, though, that Sheryl running around shouting about how huge everything is is rather insensitive.

(We briefly see what looks like a winged tiger, except purple. Those will become important in a few episodes.)

And Sheryl comes up with some lyrics on the spot, and ends up writing them on a pair of Zentradi-size panties. Now what song this is is an open question, but I think the consensus is that this is “Yousei” (“Fairy”), although those lyrics probably got heavily revised before she recorded the song.

7. Meanwhile, Ozma’s been summoned (by Cathy, of all people, which leads to some awkward talk) to a meeting of some who have encountered the Vajra before, viewing the “corpse” of the one that Ozma “killed” back in Episode 2.

They’ve discovered that the Vajra’s shell is exactly like the energy-converting armor on Valkyries, that they create their explosive shells inside their bodies, and can fold on their own. And that their brains are much too tiny to control all of this. They also look kinda like Glaugs, but that’s left unsaid (but meant to be inferred, especially by the end of the series).

Ranka’s singing wakes it up (in a scene EXTREMELY reminiscent of Eva-00’s “awakening” in Episode 3 of Evangelion), but it gets destroyed (much too easily, honestly) (or else it just folds away…? The scene is unclear).

8. Mikhail challenges Ranka to sing where no one wants to pay attention to her (a good test, honestly), and she busts out the best version of Sheryl’s song, “What ’bout my star” EVER. Joined by (apparently) a Fire Bomber cover band, or at least a bunch of Zentradi who are using instruments (mostly) copied from Fire Bomber’s.

Although I note that the only reason she can actually SING is because she sees a paper airplane, which reminds her of Alto (and it IS actually Alto’s paper airplane).

(The Ranka-only version of the song remains unavailable. According to the “in-universe” liner notes for the first soundtrack album, someone recorded Ranka’s “guerilla live” song, and it was GOING to be released as-is, but Sheryl asked to have the recording (in order to, as she said, “make it cooler”) and she added her own vocals to it, losing the original recording in the process. Either version, though, is better than Sheryl’s original. The “Formo” version totally beats it for struttability. By which I mean, if you’re walking down the street and listening to this, your step picks up and you start STRUTTIN’, man!)

One of Sheryl’s best features is on display here. She helped Ranka blossom, and realizes quickly that Ranka has it in her to become a big star, but doesn’t feel at all threatened by that. Instead, she still wants to help and nurture Ranka’s talent. Such a change from, say, Jamis Merin.

And hey, Sheryl ALMOST says the “I don’t do this kind of service very often” line, but not quite.

9. Oops. Sheryl gives Alto as big a peck on the cheek as she can, and both Ranka and Alto are shocked by this. Mikhail is just envious.

And then, Ranka is approached by her soon-to-be-manager (and manager of the Enka Zentradi Guy), Elmo. Whose surname, by the way, is Kridanik, same as Britai’s. Macross Chronicle Magazine (which is really the final word on these things) is evasive about whether that means they’re related or not.

And at the VERY end, a fighter folds in near Frontier from Galaxy (Sheryl’s home), saying that they’ve been attacked. By Vajra. (Now, some people will say that this fighter looks a lot like a VF-2SS, but I honestly don’t see it.)

10. As I said at the time on Macross World, “Wow! Sheryl is FUN! Who knew?” And she totally is. Seriously, talk about your reversals…! Sheryl, in this episode, goes from most-hated character to most-loved character. Nearly everything she did in the first four episodes was selfish and angry, but here, she gets to breathe a little and enjoy herself a bit, and that makes all the difference. Her solicitousness towards Ranka also helps. of course, but really, she reveals herself here as generally kind and caring. I said before that Bobby was one of the best characters in Frontier, but Sheryl is far and away THE BEST character, so much so that I think she kind of outgrows the show itself… but that’s for later. For now, we just know she’s awesome. And she gives Alto a kiss, for which he should be eternally grateful (and his blessings don’t end here…).

OP: “Triangler”

ED: “Diamond Crevasse”

NUMBER OF TIMES RANKA SAYS “ALTO-KUN” THIS EPISODE: 6

AND TOTAL: 12

EYECATCH: The VF-25S and Ozma.

NEXT EPISODE: “Song of Parting, ring throughout the galaxy!”

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