THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 137 – The Sound of You

F Ep.25

MACROSS FRONTIER
#25: The Sound of You

ICONIC SCENE: “Mountain! Galaxy! LISTEN TO  MY SONG!!”

STORY DATE: September 2059

BROADCAST DATE: September 25, 2008

1. Because this episode skips the OP, it kinda reminds me of Space Battleship Yamato, in a way… Always in the old Yamato and Yamato 2 series, if there was no OP (and there were a few episodes without one), you knew you were in for a really intense, fully-packed episode (does that count as an homage…?).

So yeah, here we pick up pretty much exactly where we left off last time, although we soon find out that Alto bailed out at the last second (surprising no one).

Also immediately, the Quarter returns to the Fleet and Brera’s control is broken. And Ozma lovingly chews out Luca, which makes Luca’s cheeks rosy again.

(That, uh, sounds a little dirtier than I meant it to.)

And Battle Frontier is finally shown in the series (as opposed to just the OP) in its Storm-Attacker Mode. I’m sorry we didn’t get to see it transform, but I guess, having seen Macross 7, I know what it would’ve looked like.

2. The Quarter shoots the giant Ranka, and it stands revealed as Battle Galaxy. Leon gets arrested soon afterwards.

Grace breaks out in tentacles that connect to the Vajra Queen, and Galaxy launches a whole bunch of Ghost V9s (which kinda lets our heroes off the hook, since they won’t be killing any human pilots).

Oh, and we’re only three and a half minutes into the episode at this point. Not only that, but this episode got expanded for the DVD version, running about four minutes longer than the broadcast version (admittedly, a lot of that is just the credits). This one really is crammed to the gills, and I almost wish it could’ve been two episodes, or at least have had a good ten MORE minutes added to it.

And, um, can I just say that I think Alto having to rescue Ranka AGAIN is a scriptwriting mistake? I would honestly rather have her growing up and taking the reins of her own future, rather than needing to be rescued yet again. If she had broken out of her shell herself, I think many of the Sheryl fans would’ve quieted down (or maybe not. Many of them REALLY hate Ranka). I mean, I get that being the Eternal Little Sister is part of Ranka’s charm, but she’s been on the right track, more or less, ever since leaving Frontier, and all this makes it seems like her instinct has led her into error, and I don’t think it has.

3. Seeing Mini-Klan flying Michel’s old Valk is pretty great, and she and Luca bring Alto’s VF-25F (with Armored Pack added for the second time). Y’know, it occurs to me that Alto’s 25 is the only one to be shown with EVERYTHING: we’ve seen it in space with the Super and Armored Packs and we’ve seen it in the atmosphere completely naked. Ozma’s has never been shown without an Armored Pack [Or so I thought… VF5SS pointed out after I first posted this that he’s got a Super Pack in Episode 3, and his VF is naked briefly in Episode 17], and Michel and Luca never got one of those. Although I guess Michel’s the only one who had speakers added to his VF, so there’s that. Later, both Alto and Michel will get Tornado Packs, but they’re the only ones who do.

Ozma’s formation is called “Totsugeki Loveheart,” which isn’t the last time he’ll shout those words.

And then there’s one of the few actual overt references to Plus, as Luca releases his Ghosts, commanding them to “show the power that once terrorized Macross City.” His screen reads “SYSTEM-JUDAS READY.” In the broadcast version it was “JUDAH,” not “JUDAS,” which, yeah, doesn’t make as much sense (but could still have been made to fit, according to the First Book of Kings, where the kingdom of Judah splits off from the kingdom of Israel, which was something of a betrayal). Although it still sounds like he’s SAYING “Judah-System” (in other words, I think they altered the animation, but not the voice work).

4. All this while, Sheryl has been doing a mesmerizing performance of “Northern Cross” in an effort to reach through to Ranka. Which eventually, of course, it does, with the help of the earring worn by Alto.

But it’s kinda too late… Grace has control of the Vajra, as shown by them changing from red to a sort of greyish-pink. Oh, and it also activates the Implant Network, which has the odd effect of making Vajra materialize absolutely everywhere, although we only see Planet Eden, Macross City (on Earth) and, for some reason, the Macross 11 Fleet (which should be where Kaifun lives, according to that damn “Fire Bomber American” album). And it’s scored with more music that hasn’t been released… But yeah, as I said in the final episode of Macross 7, there was really no need to make this a galaxy-wide threat. We’re already invested enough in the fate of our main characters, much more than we are anyone on Earth, or Eden, or Macross 11. Although the novelization has fun with this scene by adding in a host of guest stars from previous Macross shows and games (ever wanted to know, for example, what good ol’ Kim was up to in 2059? She’s in the novel). Anyway, at least in Delta, it seems like the threat is one that NEEDS to be galaxy-wide in order to be credible.

And Grace also explains how the Protoculture felt about the Vajra: they revered them and almost worshipped them. Which more or less completes the Vajra’s rehabilitation from “savage, brainless monsters” to “an ancient and noble race of beings.” And explains why the red Vajra resemble the Glaug, while the green Vajra resemble the Regult. The Protoculture were deliberately copying the Vajra when they made Zentradi mecha (and perhaps the Galaxy Whales inspired the Zentradi battleships…?).

Mind you, I’m not sure I find all of this COMPLETELY convincing…

Oh, and among this sequence are some scenes added to the DVD. It’s all battle, but it’s mostly recycled stuff, even Raramia (who…?) getting killed again.

5. And Sheryl is dying… she can’t keep it up (and her hair changes from from blonde to black… which, given her heritage, you’d THINK would be her natural color, even though it’s not). And then Ranka starts singing “Anata no Oto,” the title of this episode, which frees the Vajra from Grace’s control.

Ranka also ends up meeting Brera, and then Sheryl and Alto in “Fold Space” (I guess) which is nearly indistinguishable from the “Newtype Space” that Gundam characters often meet each other in. Sheryl is uncharacteristically defeatist, and Ranka slaps her for it, which ABSOLUTELY ENRAGED the Sheryl fans. How dare she slap a dying women! I gotta ask, though… does slapping someone’s psychic projection actually hurt…? I think scriptwriter Yoshino was trying to create yet another tit-for-tat parallel between the two girls (like Ranka, defeated, being surrounded by Sheryl pics, followed much later by Sheryl, defeated, surrounded by Ranka pics), but yeah… its placement in the show seems off, and shoehorned in just for the sake of it. Although I note that they don’t actually SHOW the slap here…

6. And then Alto says it: “You are both my wings,” which brings us the non-resolution of the love triangle. Again, the sonic boom from suddenly-wrathful Sheryl fans was felt almost instantly. Even though Ranka cures Sheryl and saves her life immediately afterwards. Nope. That’s not good enough, Ranka. You still suck, according to the Sheryl fans. (Although, isn’t the problem here really Alto, rather than either girl?)

I’ll just point out that in Kawamori’s 1992 Live-Action Macross Movie Treatment that I’ve been bringing up occasionally, the love triangle was likewise unresolved. He even pointed out that it was MEANT to be left unresolved. And that one is much messier (Messer…?) than this is… I mean… really, this one’s mostly wrapped up, right? Alto’s been living with Sheryl, right? Just like Hikaru had been living with Minmay…

Oh wait… Never mind.

The part that NEVER gets talked about, though, even by Sheryl fans, is that Sheryl’s there, passed out on stage, and NO ONE is checking to see if she’s okay! There must be dozens of stagehands and other people on the set, and she could be dead for all they know, and yet… not a single person runs up to see if she’s even still alive. Is everyone completely indifferent to Frontier’s goddess of hope?

7. Ah, and then we get the biggest Macross musical extravaganza yet: The Nyan-Nyan Service Medley. Now, look… yes, it’s utterly ridiculous. I’ve met people who have sung this for karaoke (some of whom are professional singers) and, according to them, it takes hours of practice to even get through it all without stumbling, much less do it well, so the idea that Ranka and Sheryl can essentially improvise it in real time (and with a full band, no less) is beyond silly. But then, Minmay could sing a killer rendition of “Do You Remember Love” after only a glance at the lyrics and no rehearsals, so I guess I can’t complain TOO much. And the medley itself is great. For a long time, I tried to watch this episode or listen to this track on the album (which came out a few weeks later) as little as possible, to keep the “surprise” of the track as it switched from song to song intact as long as possible. I think it was a few months before I, in spite of myself, got it all down.

And holy hell, but do things get good when that medley kicks in.

In a scene highly reminiscent of Hikaru saving Misa from Alaska Base, Alto breaks into Battle Galaxy and saves Ranka, while she (and Sheryl, I must add) sing “My Boyfriend is a Pilot.”

Again, as I always say during these final battles, I can’t narrate it, you should just watch it. That said, I can’t resist mentioning the emotional moment where hundreds (thousands..?) of Vajra sacrifice themselves to save Island-1 from Grace’s attack.

8. Ranka, her memories completely recovered at this point, explains about the Vajra and how they think and feel. As I said before, they’re a hive mind, so the idea of people being individuals made no sense to them, and they were trying to rescue Ranka (as, basically, “one of their own,” thanks to the Fold Waves she emitted when singing)… although, again, that begs the question of what was going on in Episode 14, when they HAD Ranka but STILL attacked Frontier. Anyway, once they “heard” Sheryl’s Fold Waves, they realized that humans were MEANT to be different and individual, and ceased hostilities (except for Grace driving them forward). As I said before, I’m not sure I find this totally convincing, but there it is.

Oh, and Alto delivers Ranka to the Quarter. This led to one of the dumbest arguments about this episode, as some Sheryl shippers were ADAMANT that Alto in his VF was saluting Sheryl ONLY, stating (admittedly correctly) that based on the position of his Valk and the ships, it would’ve been impossible to salute both girls simultaneously. But of course, we all know that the Macross universe has things called “cameras” and “monitors,” right? I mean, if I’m having a Skype chat with a friend, I don’t need to be actually FACING THE DIRECTION he or she is in, as long as I’m facing the camera. Anyway, the DVD booklet states unequivocally that he’s saluting both of them, and that’s good enough for me.

(Oh, and hey… interesting… I note here that Grace tries to use a Fold Fault around the Vajra Queen as a shield… very similar to how the shield around Windermere in Macross Delta is described…)

And like ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE ELSE, I’ll point out that cutting away from the Macross Attack, as first Canaria’s Monster arrives to blow up the Battle Galaxy’s bridge, then the Quarter destroys its cannon, and then Battle Frontier gives it the good ol’ final blow, is disappointing. I wish some of the extra time given to this episode had been placed here. Or hell, ALL of it. A four-minute, slo-mo Macross Attack. Sounds great to me!

And I want to point out that one of my favorite scenes in the whole series happens here, as we see the Quarter and Battle Frontier closing in by seeing Ranka (right in front of us) and Sheryl (on the monitor behind her, taking center stage as the ships advance). It’s a gorgeous, dynamic shot, made even better by the determined look on both girls’ faces.

After that, we FINALLY see Canaria’s Monster in battroid mode. In wonder why it took so long? I would assume that they had the CAD files well before this point…

8. And of course everything comes together: Alto, using Michel’s sniper rifle, and supported by Brera, closes in on Grace. She gives a somewhat resigned-looking smile before Alto blows her away, looking much as Hikaru did, likewise blowing away Bodolzaa in Do You Remember Love.

The novelization is evasive about whether or not Grace actually died here, but honestly… I think she did. At the VERY least, I don’t think she’ll be causing any more mischief.

(Although… one has to wonder what happened to Kawamori’s prior conviction that the ending of Do You Remember Love was something of a mistake, and that in Macross, wars should always be won through culture instead of violence? I guess Grace was simply too far gone for rehabilitation at this point…? Or maybe she DID survive, saw the error of her ways, and is relaxing on a beach somewhere, eagerly awaiting the next Sheryl and Ranka albums…)

And the “Aimo” that we hear at the very end of the medley is sung by Maaya Sakamoto, as, I guess, Ranxue Mei.

The last homage of the series comes next: Bobby asks that if the Vajra are a hive mind and don’t have to communicate verbally, what’s the song “Aimo” for? Ranka explains that when one hive meets another, once every few thousand (or million) years or so, “Aimo” is the mating call they use to establish contact. A mating call. In other words, as Misa said, “Just a simple… love song.”

9. The rest is basically epilogue. Birla says farewell to his one chance at meeting Minmay (even psychically), and the Vajra clear out from their homeworld to allow Frontier to settle there. We learn from one of the Delta manga series that they all went off to another galaxy, but we heard that about the Protodeviln, too…

Sheryl and Ranka have an emotional reunion… (would it be churlish to note that it’s WAY more touching and emotional than when Alto returns…?) and Ranka basically admits that Sheryl “got” Alto, since she says, “I won’t lose to you… in singing, or love!” and, as BetoJR from Animesuki Forums pointed out, “winners don’t issue challenges.” (And again, the Sheryl-shippers TORE THEIR HAIR OUT over that line. How DARE Ranka show such effrontery! It was weird… someone would claim that Sheryl should’ve won because because Sheryl had SO MANY MORE fans than Ranka… and then, in the next sentence, claim that Kawamori (it was ALWAYS Kawamori) didn’t let Sheryl win because he was too scared of pissing off THE LEGIONS of Ranka fans. You can see the contradiction, I’m sure).

Scriptwriter Yoshino states that pretty much “everyone” on the staff made this non-resolution possible, and talks about how at the big concerts following the series (and more about those next time), Kawamori pointed out that if the audience were looking at one girl as a winner and one a loser, the concerts wouldn’t have been as good. Which I think is pretty much true.

Overall, as far as I can tell from the posts I read at the time, the Ranka shippers were pleased with the outcome (probably because they on some level realized that Ranka got shut out of the running as soon as Alto and Sheryl moved in together… although, again, there was always Hikaru and Minmay…), and Sheryl shippers were seriously pissed. At least one truly noisy and unpleasant guy that I recall gave up on Macross entirely after this episode (and to his credit, and to nobody’s regret, he’s lived up to that promise.)). Me, I was rooting for Sheryl, even though I didn’t think Alto was that great of a “catch,” but (as I’ve said) thought that the resolution had already been decided a few episodes previously, in Sheryl’s favor. And yet… the Sheryl shippers I’d come across had been SO obnoxious and SO insulting (and this was BEFORE I learned about the greater mess created by the fan that I talked about a few posts ago and his fabricated “linear [sic] notes”) that I was kinda grateful that Sheryl didn’t win outright. The gloating alone would’ve been nauseating… but perhaps less nauseating than the following rage from Sheryl shippers was.

But hey, it’s all water under the bridge, and I’m not trying to reopen old wounds. And again, the movies were already in the works, so I’m guessing that part of the staff’s worry would be that if they resolved the triangle here, no one would want to see the films. Better to hedge their bets, delay an ending NOW, bear the brunt of fan rage, and then tie everything off later. And indeed, these days, the open triangle here doesn’t seem to bother many people.

Anyway, I get what Yoshino was trying to convey, that if the three can keep their equilibrium, they’ll all keep rising to greater and greater heights, but I’m not sure I agree with it. Alto seems to have chosen Sheryl by this point. And even if he hasn’t, there has to be an end point SOMEWHERE. That said, they’re all teenagers, and very few marriages between teenagers end up working out in the long run. I dunno. I’m certainly glad I didn’t marry any of the girls I went out with when I was 18 (and they’re probably just as glad that they didn’t marry me). This, by the way, is also my defense of Minmay when guys who identify too closely with Hikaru say she should’ve realized what she had and not thrown it away… she was SIXTEEN. Does ANYONE really want to settle down at that age? And if they do, is that really something to ENCOURAGE?

Oh, and with only two minutes left to the series as a whole, both Sheryl and Ranka say, “This is the beginning.” Yeah, right. Maybe for you. Not for us, except in that there’s a movie retelling coming along soon.

Oh, and YOU may not care, but for me, Nanase waking up from her coma is a pivotal scene. I hope she marries Luca, gets him to write a will leaving all his vast fortune to her, and then (somehow… not traceable back to her) dies in an unfortunate accident, leaving her with enormous wealth, free to do anything she desires.

10. And yeah, I honestly like this ending, non-resolution and everything. As far as Macross TV final episodes go, I’d rate this better than the original series’ Episode 36 (because the entire post-war storyline kind of annoys me) (is that sacrilegious…?) but a little less than Macross 7 Episode 49 (again, because there were way more loose ends here). But it looks great, sounds great, and despite the carping from some Sheryl shippers, is nearly perfect for the series as a whole. Speaking of which…

FINAL. Well, we knew immediately that this wasn’t the finale, since this episode, when first broadcast, ended with an announcement that a movie was coming. Which points to what I was about to get at: this series was made with an agenda. After over a decade, Macross had not had a real “hit” since Macross 7, and had fallen completely off of most anime fans’ radar, so this series had to really grab people and remind them that Macross, as a title, was still an ongoing concern. And it succeeded splendidly, especially with new fans who fell in love with this series (and with Ranka or Sheryl), and then sought out the previous shows in order to understand the homages. And, likewise, the homages brought some of the old crowd, who idealized the ’80s stuff and scorned new anime, back into the fold. That members of each side of the divide also criticized the show (new fans complaining that it was too old-school because of its homages, and old fans complaining that it was too “modern” by its inclusion of “tropes” (a word I hate, by the way. It seems like you’re TRYING to say “cliché” but don’t think that’s intelligent-sounding enough), and both types of fans (or, weirdly, MUCH more often, Robotech fans) saying that it was all just a thinly-veiled retread of the first series… which again is true, up to a point. And then suddenly, it isn’t true anymore), but all that needn’t really concern us here.  The negative reviews were FAR outweighed by the people who loved it, and some people will complain about ANYTHING. So, for the staff, achievement unlocked, Macross is back, and far more than the sponsors thought it would be. Indeed, they were all caught flat-footed a few years later when the 30th Anniversary rolled around (and again when the Walküre mini-live happened last month), and they had no big plans in place. But all that’s for later.

So yes, as a whole TV series, I find this somewhat less adequate than the two previous ones (or at least, the entirety of Macross 7, minus some of the dodger episodes, and the first 27 episodes of the original), but that doesn’t really matter: it’s a good, eminently watchable (and REwatchable) series, it was a huge success, and it raised the profile of Macross as a whole quite a bit. (And that’s an interesting thing, in that, for Macross, a rising tide really DOES lift all boats. Whether or not you enjoy any new Macross series, whenever one comes out, you will, guaranteed, get more merchandise for the Macross shows that you DO like.) It hasn’t reached (and probably won’t ever reach) Gundam-level-popularity, but it’s close, and heck, Megumi Nakajima and May’n (and Yoko Kanno… but she was a secret guest) managed to pack a full house at Anime Expo 2010 (to which I, to my eternal regret, couldn’t go, since I had moved to Tokyo a couple of weeks before it happened… and people in hell want ice water, right?), which is pretty amazing for a series that had been blocked to the entire world besides Japan (thanks to Harmony Gold, and more about THAT later, gori-gori!). Seriously, it’s a pity that it couldn’t have been released elsewhere.

OP: None

ED: “Triangler (Fight on Stage)”

NUMBER OF TIMES RANKA SAYS “ALTO-KUN” THIS EPISODE: 3

AND TOTAL: 85

EYECATCH: None.

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