MACROSS FRONTIER: MERRY CHRISTMAS WITHOUT YOU
ICONIC SCENE: They look so HAPPY that MIchel’s not there…
STORY DATE: Christmas 2059
PERFORMANCE DATE: December 22, 2010 (Tokyo) + December 24, 2010 (Osaka)
DVD/BD RELEASE DATE: November 23, 2011
So nearly a month after I saw Nyan Kuri in a movie theater, I saw my first (and only) pure, official Frontier concert. I had already seen Yoko Kanno, May’n, and Megumi Nakajima at the Super Dimension Tanabata concert a year and a half before, and would see them again two and a half years later at the Macross Crossover 30 Live, but there were only three Frontier-only concert “tours” (if you can call two or three stops a tour), and this was the last of them. Indeed, it was announced well ahead of time that this would be the final Macross concert Yoko Kanno would produce. And if the rapturous reception to Delta’s events are any indication, Ms. Kanno is not necessary for filling out the venues.
Now, the previous month, the Macross Frontier Christmas album, “Cosmic Cunne” (pronounced “Kyun”… as in, “Kyun, kyun… kyun, kyun…”) had come out. It’s not mind-blowing, but it’s pretty good, and tons better than the previous Macross Christmas album (1985’s “Snow Falling in the Galaxy”)… by which I mean you can actually listen to it without cringing. A low hurdle to overcome, definitely, but one I’m glad it did. (Yes, I actively ENJOY the Frontier Christmas album. The ’85 Christmas album, I can live without, mostly.)
So yeah, given that the concert was called “Merry Christmas Without You,” the title of one of the stand-out tracks on the album, it was pretty clear that there were going to be some big connections between the two.
And for the third time, this was delivered as a nice little Macross birthday gift (for me), since Macross Zero Chapter 1 had come out the day before my birthday in 2002 (although I didn’t get it until later), the Deculture Edition of Frontier had aired on my birthday in 2008 (technically the day after, since it aired after midnight), and this was happening directly on my birthday in 2010. There’s a pretty good, if coincidental, reason for this, in that my birthday is December 22, and the Japanese Emperor’s birthday is December 23, and that’s a national holiday. For me, it’s great, since I never had to get up early the next day… So long live the Emperor! I can outlive any hangovers if the next day is a holiday!
Anyway, my friend Josue got the tickets and we met up outside Budokan, where I paid him. Then we met up with Gwyn and Adrian (although we weren’t sitting with them… Josue and I had serious nosebleed seats, while the two of them were in orchestra, the lucky bastards). Just BEING at Budokan was kind of amazing… I mean, this is where the Beatles played, this is where Bob Dylan recorded his absolute worst-ever live album (so far), where Cheap Trick recorded a much-better live album, and where a pretty-decent Oasis bootleg was recorded.
Looking at the tickets, we all noted something… odd… about them. The performers were all listed, and there were several: Megumi Nakajima (Ranka) May’n and Aya Endo (both Sheryl), Yuichi Nakamura (Alto), and Megumi Toyoguchi (Klan). Where was Hiroshi Kamiya (Michel)…? We figured that’s what the “Without You” in the title was referring to.
So yes, the concert has a (very) loose plotline, in that it’s the first Christmas after the end of the series (i.e. after Michel has died). In that way, it’s kind of an epilogue to the TV show. However, it was also a prelude to something else, as we found when we finally entered the building, and heard over the P.A., over and over again, “Valkyriiaaaaaaaa… Sayonara no tsubasa!” Yes, they were playing the trailer for the second movie, which we were the first to see. The bit that grabbed everybody, of course, was a brief scene with bells ringing and a bride, her face covered, waiting inside a church. Who could THAT be…? Would the triangle really end with such finality? We’d find out in a couple of months… (I thought it was Klan, because the hair under the veil looked blue, but I was wrong. My theory was perverse, but the truth turned out to be MORE perverse).
So we all found our seats and prepared for the ride, and a ride it certainly was. The set list leaned heavily on the Christmas album and False Diva songs, joined by a bunch of Frontier TV favorites, and even a couple of new songs.
The live “Universal Bunny,” I note, makes a much stronger distinction, vocally, between the Black and White Bunny characters, which ends up giving the song a much different “feel” than the movie version. The fact that both of the Bunnies are Sheryl playing ROLES is more pronounced here, perhaps also because of course it’s May’n playing the role of Sheryl playing the role of the Bunnies, thus accentuating the theatricality… sort of like an all-male performance of “As You Like It” that I once saw, so you had men playing women who were disguised as men. Believe or not, it completely worked.
I have to give serious props to the stylists. Everyone has REALLY GREAT HAIR here, way better than at the Galaxy Tour Final. Aya Endo’s and Megumi Toyoguchi’s hair look especially fetching.
Although I’m not sure it’s that great an advertisement for Bandai when Megumi Nakajima can’t even get the Valks to stand up properly. The laughter from the audience is especially “knowing” and “sympathetic” in this segment.
The new songs are “Rainbow Bear-Bear,” which seems like a really pivotal song to trot out so early, and “Afterschool Overflow,” which of course would be the single for the movie.
“Obelisk” is where the point of the “storyline” of the concert is driven home, as even May’n is reacting in horror as Michel is killed on the huge screen behind the stage, and then “Infinity” and “Tenshi ni Natchatta” seem to be her trying to come to terms with her grief.
As far as Hiroshi Kamiya goes, no, he’s not actually there, but his voice shows up throughout the dialogue sections, and he actually appears on the screen during the final song of the encore.
(Oh, and… if it’s a Christmas show, why is “Gira Gira Summer” on the set list…? I never understood that…)
Ultimately, as a concert experience, I don’t think it’s as good as the Galaxy Tour Final show, mostly because the emphasis on the Christmas album songs means that a lot of Frontier songs that I really wanted to hear get left out. But as a companion piece to that concert (where those songs DO appear), it’s perfectly fine. In fact, I think it’s too bad there wasn’t one more concert, to fit in more songs from the second movie… but I guess that’s what the (unreleased on home video, alas) Crossover 30 Live was for. Ultimately, this one has to serve triple duty… a Christmas show, an epilogue for the TV series, and a teaser for the second movie. And to everyone’s credit, it pulls it off.
After the concert, we all went out for drinks with a bunch of the hardcore Macross fan club members, but couldn’t stay too long for fear of missing the last train. Everyone seemed pleased with the concert but not blown away by it (except Adrian, who didn’t like it much). I think, honestly, I was the one who was most thrilled by it, since I had missed the previous shows. I don’t find myself pulling out the DVD terribly often, but it’s a concert that I’m really glad I went to.