THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 140 – The Wings of Farewell

F Movie 2

MACROSS FRONTIER MOVIE
THE WINGS OF FAREWELL

ICONIC SCENE: SHAKE THE GALAXY, SHERYL!!

STORY DATE: 2059

RELEASE DATE: February 26, 2011

1. I’m sure you’ve noticed that as we get closer to the end of the Rewatch that this is becoming almost as much memoir as analysis, and for better or for worse that’s gonna continue up until the end (only a few more posts now…), since I was actually in Tokyo for these films and events, and went to pretty much all of them. For THIS movie, I left the house early on a freezing Saturday morning, Six AM, February 26, the day the movie opened. It wasn’t snowing, but the first snow of the year had already come a week and a half before. No, it was too cold for snow this day. I met up with Renato outside Shinjuku Station and we walked fifteen teeth-chattering minutes to Wald 9 Cinemas, where we met up with Adrian, Gwyn, Peter, and a guy who I didn’t know (and whose name completely escapes me). Gwyn had gotten us all tickets for the damn EIGHT-THIRTY AM show, the earliest showing. At the very least, we would be among the first to see the movie.

The show was sold out, and, eyeballing the crowd, it was probably at least 75% women in their teens and twenties. For some reason or another, it seems that a lot of people don’t believe me when I say that the bulk of Frontier fans are women, but I’m not lying, making things up, or mistaken. It really is true. Likewise, at least one influential forum moderator seems to think that by “young women,” I mean “little girls,” but that’s not the case, either (if he honestly gets the two categories confused, it’s my hope that he doesn’t date. Like, AT ALL) (Yes, that was a cheap shot. I doubt he’s reading this).

AFTER the movie, we went a few stops over to Ikebukuro, where there was a Macross exhibit and talk show at Sunshine 60, the high rise that, according to the hype, is “an entire city in a building!” (It’s not.) Gwyn and Adrian had tickets to the talk show, but I didn’t (it was open to fan club members only, and even then, seating was VERY limited), so after looking around the exhibit (which had some really cool things… I was especially taken with seeing the actual AR scripts for Frontier. You know when you see photos of voice actors recording, and they all have those little booklets in front of them? Those are the AR scripts. And they usually have original art on their covers, which is never reproduced anywhere), I left to get a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, my cafe of choice, Dotour (which is the only coffee chain that’s reasonably priced) was way down in the basement, over sixty floors below the exhibit. While there, over a cup of coffee and a slice of raspberry cheesecake, I pulled out my Kindle and, even though the internet on it was next to useless, I checked Macross World and AnimeSuki. MW was pretty quiet, but AnimeSuki had all the spoilers already and were trying to hash everything out (which led to some weirdness, like thinking that one scene in the trailer that was from the MIDDLE of the movie was actually the END (more about this in a bit)). Generally, they seemed angry. Then I went back up to the exhibit and reconnected with everyone else. The talk show had finished and the guests (Kawamori, Tenjin, Megumi, and May’n, if I recall correctly) had left. Gwyn related one funny bit where someone in audience asked what the staff was thinking about for the NEXT Macross series, and Tenjin replied, “I just finished making a movie! All I want to do right now is sleep!”

So we left Sunshine 60, and decided to hit Shakey’s, since it was all-you-can-eat time. Now, the Shakey’s is right next to Sunshine Cinema, where I had seen Nyan Kuri (and Eva 1.0 and 2.0), and where The Wings of Farewell was currently playing. They had columns in the front with movie posters wrapped around them, and we noticed that Kawamori had signed the Macross ones. Gwyn was going to catch the end of the movie again, here, because he had gotten a tip that there was going to be something special afterwards (which turned out to be another talk show). So the rest of us went into the restaurant while he went into the theater. He joined us about half an hour later. After the long day, an exhausting movie, and too much pizza, I was approaching my limit and begged off of the NEXT stop on Gwyn’s Macross-Train… seeing the movie AGAIN somewhere else, so I just went home.

I ended up seeing the movie four times in the theater, although I kept falling asleep during the last time (not because the movie was dull, but because it had started at four in the morning. More about that later).

2. So anyway, on to the movie itself. It opens seemingly in space, much like the first film, but with Sheryl and Ranka speaking in voice over, as well as Alto. Then we see a church, with a bride inside… the bride from the trailer… and dammit, it turns out it’s just Sheryl’s concert!

The song, “Forbidden Elixir,” is probably my least favorite song in the movie, but the concert itself is great. We knew going in that Sheryl was going to show up as a sexy nurse, but not as a sexy nurse/mad scientist, along with Sheryl as bride AND groom, sometimes with, um, flowers instead of heads. The whole thing is so bizarre and nightmarish and yet beautiful that it really stands out much more than any Sheryl concert visuals from the first film. Which is HIGH praise considering the “Universal Bunny” sequence.

Then we switch over to Alto and Michel, and I notice that Michel has a Tornado Pack on his Valk, too.

And then Sheryl starts coughing up blood and collapses, and the title card comes up, followed by the recap. This is the only recycled footage in the movie, and isn’t it strange to realize that this is only the SECOND feature-length Macross film that isn’t mostly reused scenes? But yeah, this is the first all-new, two-hour Macross movie since Do You Remember Love.

When the recap ends, and we rejoin Sheryl, if you look on the screen behind her to the right, you’ll see the Osamu Tezuka characters Black Jack and Astro Boy. One of the reasons for this is that, on the eve of its thirtieth anniversary, there’s been a push from inside to position Macross as one of the true “legacy” series of anime. Which, given its popularity world-wide and the fact that the original (as Robotech) helped open a lot of anime floodgates, is not unwarranted. And it’s one that Robotech fans will constantly argue: “You wouldn’t even know about anime if it hadn’t been for Robotech!” Weirdly, the Robotech fans who say that the loudest generally don’t like anime, themselves…

3. Then we get the vacation at Mayan Island. I like that Alto’s swim trunks are patterned after his VF-25. We also get to meet, briefly, one of the few new characters for the movie: Luca’s hot older sister (although we don’t know that they’re related yet… it just looks like Michel failed to pick her up and Luca succeeded).

And the place where Alto and Ranka eat their mountains of shaved ice and get brain-freeze is “Nyamjatown,” which is based on the actual Namjatown… restaurant? Attraction? Conglomerate? in Ikebukuro. It occupies parts of two floors of the aforementioned Sunshine 60 building (again, “A city in a building!!” Nope). It’s designed to look like a Disney-style replica of a European village, with a couple dozen different stalls in a rather labyrinthine layout. The first floor sells different types of pot-stickers (gyoza), and the second is all desserts. And yes, during the time of the movie’s release, they had a limited-time Macross Frontier tie-in. Each booth offered different Macross Frontier themed food, which ranged from excellent to nasty. My favorite was probably the mochi-covered ice cream in the shape of Ranka’s cell phone, although that was kind of embarrassing, since when anyone ordered it, one woman in the stall shouted out “Dakishimete!” and the other would shout, “Ginga no, haté madé!” Also embarrassing was asking for the “My Boyfriend Is a Pilot” ice cream parfait. In addition, for each Frontier item you bought, you got a specific trading card, but there was no way I was going to keep going back to get all fifty or so. As it stood, I went twice: first with Gwyn, Adrian, and Egan, and then a second time with my girlfriend. And ended up with seven or eight trading cards.

Also, the Mayan Island sequence does more than pretty much any episode of the TV series to show Ranka and Alto drawn to each other.

And I love how Alto swears he’ll protect Ranka from the Vajra, while Ai-kun is RIGHT THERE, under their feet. Good job, bro…

4. A lot of Sheryl fans seem to deplore the fact that Sheryl doesn’t immediately reject Grace’s idea of transplanting Ranka’s organs in Sheryl’s body, but it sure doesn’t sound here like she’s talking about some Robin Cook-style organ harvesting that would lead to Ranka’s death, but rather just a kidney donation or something. Major surgery, yes, but not lethal. She also says that even a blood transfusion could save Sheryl’s life, which seems eminently doable. So yeah… there’s no reason for Sheryl to object. But even then, it DOES seem to seriously bother her… but I think that’s more her natural pride than any ethical concern. That said, the way Grace (a bit later) refers to Ranka’s debut as her “final stage” does seem pretty ominous. And later, it becomes clear that Sheryl knows that Galaxy is planning to kill Ranka, but I’m not sure she knows that YET.

(In the end, of course, the blood transfusion is all that’s necessary… so yeah, Grace was plotting murder for nothing.)

5. Oh, hello, Nanase! I missed you in the last movie. Glad you could join us, better late than never and all that. Although her relationship to Ranka is rather unclear here. Are they friends, or is she just Ranka’s stylist?

And the following “Rainbow Bear-Bear” concert scene is not only one of the greatest concert scenes in all of Macross, but one of the greatest scenes EVER in ANY Macross series. The fairy tale imagery, the pop-up backgrounds, the adorable song… it all works perfectly and is totally glorious.

And heck, “OPEN RANKA!” is a great catchphrase, and one that Gwyn was chuckling about for quite a while after we left the cinema.

Just to make sure you don’t go into diabetic shock, though, the scene is bookended by an SMS mission to clear out a Vajra nest from a Do You Remember Love-type Bodolzaa battle fortress. Again, one of the things I love about Macross in general is its ability to juggle completely contrasting tones and yet make them feel like they organically belong together. That balance is, to me, one of the distinctive features of Macross, and something that really separates it from, say, Gundam.

Also, using the Bodolzaa fortress is a nice throwback, although, as I’ve mentioned before, the homages in the movies are much fewer, further-between, and subtler than the homages in the series. In fact, I think you could argue that the movies contain no homages at all, except what might naturally show up, given that these series are all set in the same fictional world (although I guess Lovely Bomber is a bit of a stretch).

And then, we get the next disappointment from the preview, as it turns out that that Fire-Bomber-Colored VF-1 that we saw last time is just part of Ranka’s concert. It doesn’t even have the FAST packs on it that it did in the preview.

(The white (gray…?) Koenig Monster that showed up in the preview only appears in the movie for a split-second towards the end (and not using the same footage that was shown in the preview), although I notice that good ol’ Rabbit-1 now has Sheryl nose art on one side of its hull and Ranka nose art on the other.)

Alto nearly ends up getting killed by the Vajra Queen, and is out of action for a good portion of the movie. Brera delivers the final blow against the Queen (and thus the hive), which makes Ranka nearly collapse on stage. So far, we’ve had two concerts in the movie, and both of them have ended with the singers in agony. You’d think that that would create a groundswell of anti-war sentiment among the populace. I mean, are they getting refunds here?

6. The Galaxy conspiracy is a little more fleshed-out and complicated here than it was in the show, although it remains fairly enigmatic. At least, we get to see more of Grace’s preparations… only to see them all fail pretty spectacularly a few moments later.

Here, at least, the plan involves MANY Galaxy operatives infiltrating Frontier in order to eventually take control of the fleet.

7. Sheryl’s bad housekeeping skills are showcased once again, in her clumsy attempt to peel some (Windermere…? Nah, wrong coloring…) apples for Alto.

And the next scene, in which Sheryl takes Alto outside the hospital for some fresh air, was something of another fake-out from the film trailer (not the preview at the end of the False Diva, but the actual trailer this time), since they only showed him from behind in his wheelchair, and it looked like it was Mao Nome instead of Alto.

(And a further fake-out on Animesuki the day the movie was released, when more than one person thought that this shot was from the end of the film rather than the middle.)

And I love the visuals when Sheryl talks about why she loves singing. It’s one of those bits you might overlook or not pay much attention to, but it’s a really lovely little montage. Completely unnecessary, since all they REALLY needed to show would’ve been Sheryl standing next to Alto and talking, rather than a series of dynamic scenes of her on stage. In that way, you can think of it as one of those little bonuses the staff tosses into the movie. Extra work for the animators, but something that makes the movie just a little bit better than it would’ve been otherwise. I’m emphasizing it here because I think it’s one of those things I never would’ve noticed as a kid, and that I think a lot of fans still don’t notice or appreciate (and I’m sure the staff knows that going in). This is the kind of scene you get when you assemble a creative and talented staff that really CARES about the project.  Fans seem to be much more vocal when a show looks bad (and I admit I’m no exception), so I think it’s good to also linger over the well-crafted scenes, especially when they look so much better than they need to.

Oh, and Sheryl does it again: tells Alto to quit, just as she did in the series. And just as Minmay did with Hikaru. This whole sequence, somewhat strangely, is a mix of elements from the TV episodes 19 and 23, covering the dilemmas Alto and Sheryl would have in living together, coupled with Ranka accidentally barging in on the two of them. Although only here does it look like Sheryl’s giving Alto a blowjob when Ranka runs up.

8. And then the movie takes a hard left from what we might expect, as Grace puts her plans to take over Frontier into action, only to find them fail (quite gorily) almost immediately. Say what you will about Leon, he was totally prepared for this attempted coup. And heck, even given the TV series, we almost have sympathy for Grace when she surrenders and is STILL brutally shot up (which, yes, is part of the movie’s strategy… we’re MEANT to feel for Grace here, since she’s no longer entirely a villain). Although, honestly, I can’t really blame the soldiers. Grace showed in the series that even unarmed, she’s pretty efficient at defending herself and killing anyone who gets in her way.

(And I really like the massive projectiles they use that apparently keep the Galaxy cyborgs from leaving their bodies, as Grace did back on Gallia 4.)

And Leon himself shows up to get Sheryl. Thankfully, they only ARREST her rather than mow her down in cold blood, as I think even Leon realizes that murdering the galaxy’s most beloved pop star would be a bad PR move. That said, she still gets sentenced to death with no trial, just as soon as they figure out the Vajra protocol.

9. And okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way first: the fact that there’s a replica of Alcatraz on Frontier is pretty darn silly. And yes, this whole sequence is kinda ridiculous. But I still think it’s ridiculous in a GOOD way. And indeed, I think it’s one of the things that makes this film unique. Let’s face it: singing, dogfights and robots, and love triangle: that’s your basic Macross story right there, and this movie even mostly does away with the high school setting that was one of Frontier’s main wrinkles. Turning it briefly into a prison film, though? THAT’S unexpected.

Oh, and Sheryl confesses her love for Alto… to Ranka. Awkward…

10. Now, the last film had an interesting little fake-out “death” for Michel, where we’re meant to THINK that he’s been killed but really, he’s all right. This movie goes WAY further. Since we pretty much KNOW that this is the final installment of Frontier (that was made abundantly clear in all the promotion for the film), it seems plausible that characters who survived the TV series could get killed off here… And boy, do they ever exploit that knowledge. Starting here, where Luca gets almost-but-not-quite assassinated. And yeah, the body count at the end of the movies shakes out differently than in the series, but not nearly as much as they made it LOOK like it would.

And then Brera, seemingly mortally injured, abducts Ranka and spells everything out to her, including that he’s her brother.

11. A few months before the movie came out, I remember a couple of people on MW grousing that so far there didn’t appear to be any new Valkyries for this movie. As soon as the YF-29 was revealed, a couple of other people complained that it was too soon for a new type of VF.

But I think a good case is made for the 29’s existence. Taking the 25 as a base, but beefing it up into a very SPECIFICALLY Anti-Vajra fighter… which would also explain why they don’t get mass-produced later on (although of course they show up in Macross 30). There was a big deal made at the time about how every Valk whose number ends in a 9 has forward-swept wings, but then Delta came out, and some types of the VF-31 do, as well… so, so much for that…

Oh, and while Ozma gives Alto the (much-needed) locker-room pep talk, there are a couple of interesting Valks shown briefly: a YF-25 Prophecy (which already had a model kit and toy made of it, and then showed up in Macross the Ride as well), and another VF-25 with the markings of the Mirage Knights from Five Star Stories.

And I have to chuckle after Ozma’s manly speech is finished, and his phone rings with the Nyan-Nyan theme… a call from Ranka, of course.

12. Once Luca gets rescued, we’re back on familiar ground for a bit, since SMS now understands that Leon is really the bad guy. In addition, they also reach the truth about how the Vajra “think” and why they’re after Ranka. And there’s a shot of a fold reading of Ranka’s body with the words “SMALL INTESTINES” on it. In the theatrical version it said “SMALL INTESTINESS.” Thanks to the quick intervention of Adrian, that was fixed for all home video releases of the movie.

And then they rebel against the government, this time with the express purpose of rescuing Sheryl, who’s still their client (and hasn’t paid yet).

13. I’ve never been able to decide if Sheryl writing lyrics on the wall of her prison cell with the blood that she’s coughing up is awesome or way too over the top.

I do like the phrase “HARD LUCK GLAMOR,” though.

And okay… as I’ve said before, the TV series belongs to Sheryl. She’s the best character in the whole thing, and that continues into the movies. That said, starting here, as we enter the second half of the film, Ranka really begins to equal her. Or, if not quite reach those heights, at least come a hell of a lot closer than she did in the show. Busting Sheryl out of Alcatraz is all her plan, and it works wonderfully. “Lovely Bomber” is an inspired touch, although I wonder if Ranka came up with the name and costumes. I’m betting she did, as a way to get Ozma 100% on board.

This concert scene, by the way, is where you can hear the Macross fan club cheering and shouting (Gwyn and Adrian are in there somewhere), just as they did for Volume 2 of Macross Plus (I wonder how many members are heard in BOTH scenes?). The cheering was recorded at the “Gira-Summer Festival” the previous August.

I like the cameo by good ol’ Temujin. Too bad Ogotai and his chief archivist don’t appear.

And yeah, Alto sneaks in wearing a Goth-Loli dress. Which of course is hiding the same gas-jet clusters Sheryl had in the first movie (and that Walküre will have later). And Sheryl joining in with “Seikan Hikou” seems like it was taken from the Christmas album.

The song used during the escape, “Get It on,” I prefer in the version that’s the B-side to the “Afterschool Overflow” single rather than the one in the movie and on the album, but that’s just me. Really, there’s not much to choose from between them. I just like the English verses in the one of the single.

(Oh, and I should probably point out that starting a full-scale riot just to bust Sheryl out of jail is, um… ethically questionable. To say the least.)

14. What’s up with those steel balls Leon is suddenly fidgeting with all the time? It’s funny, even when you can’t see them, you can definitely HEAR them. I keep waiting for President Glass to turn around irritably and say, “Mishima-kun, will you STOP THAT?”

Anyway, the Vajra attack, and this time, they REALLY mean business (there’s an especially brutal scene that shows a shelter getting totally vaporized). Although, as in TV Episode 14, I’m a little curious as to why. Presumably, they don’t want to kill Ranka. Likewise, they’ve picked up Sheryl AND Ranka’s separate Fold Energy and now know that humans are not a hive-mind, which is what led to them becoming peaceful at the end of the show, but here, they’re really tearing the place up until Leon’s “Operation Hypnosis” plan is approved. It works much like Grace’s plan in the series did, although it uses projectiles instead of Ranka’s singing to control the Vajra, and it turns them a sickly yellow instead of turning them greyish-pink.

15. When Sheryl talks about her grandmother, Sara Nome gets a brief reference.

And then comes the Battle of the Big Brothers, Ozma vs. Brera. At one point, Ranka shouts out “Nii-chan!” which could refer to either.

Eventually, it gets to the point where Brera looks like he’s about to shoot Alto or Sheryl or both (or even Ranka, but I doubt it), and Ozma jumps in the way. Yes, he’s wearing his EX-Gear, but, being honest here, I really thought he was dead. Which is odd in retrospect, because in a moment, when the window shatters and Sheryl flies out into space wearing nothing but her prison togs, I was sure that she wasn’t going to die. Although Ozma DOES cough up some blood, and frankly, it seems like a good, heroic way for him to go out… so there’s that, I guess.

And I’ll be the first to admit that the physics of the vacuum scene make no sense. Sheryl would never have been able to push Ranka back inside, nor would her tear launch off of her face to hit Alto’s. But that’s such a resonant image that I only partially care.

16. The bonding between Alto and Michel is a little more pronounced in the movies, finding its resolution when Michel says he can’t call Alto “Princess” anymore, because Alto has truly grown up and accepted his responsibilities (and again, it’s mostly for the benefit of the fangirls).

Oh, and the defold scene where the “hypnotized” Vajra lead the Frontier to their home planet is short but stunning. Again, one of the things that I love about these films is the amount of really stellar work put into scenes that don’t NEED to be stellar, and that probably very few people will notice.

When Captain Wilder gives his briefing, Raramia (who?) is shown, so I guess she didn’t die here. She still doesn’t have any lines, though.

And then body count definitely starts to differ from the series, as Leon gets gunned down by Brera (as does President Glass, but just as in the show, no one really cares. There’s too much else happening). This also something of a fake-out. In the show, both Grace and Leon had their plots, and Leon’s got pushed aside in the last episode, leaving Grace as the ultimate baddie. Here, Grace’s plot got foiled about a third of the way into the movie, seemingly leaving Leon as the ultimate baddie… but no. He gets violently shoved off stage as well, as Galaxy steps back in (not, however, with Grace, who is more-or-less rehabilitated from her TV reputation).

Then we finally SEE Battle Frontier transform, and yep, it looks pretty much exactly like Battle 7 doing so.

17. And then Ranka catches up to Alto and confesses her love to him. As always, Sheryl fans HATED this scene, especially when Ranka talks about her outfit, ignoring the fact that Alto’s the one who brings it up. And her outfit is a school uniform that looks very AKB48 (who, I grit my teeth and remember, were ABSOLUTELY INESCAPABLE in 2010 and 2011. It didn’t matter where in Tokyo you went, their songs were everywhere, their pictures were everywhere… I really kinda grew to hate them, even as I thought Tomomi Itano and Haruna Kojima were rather cute. The worst, for me, though, was a DVD/idol/porn shop just across the alley from my workplace, which played, loudly, outside the shop, the chorus of whatever AKB song was new in a thirty-second, continuous loop, which really drummed each single into my head, and I had to use a crowbar to get them out. It was awful).

But yeah, I can’t begrudge Alto and Ranka a moment of tenderness… Alto already said he won’t stop just because Sheryl is dead. Although there was a fan club talk show event where the actors were reading an in-character script, and Megumi Nakajima as Ranka said that she had confessed to Alto. Aya Endo as Sheryl acted shocked and said, “WHAT!? WHEN!?” To which Megumi replied sheepishly, “Well… we kinda thought you were… dead…”

And anyway, she DOES say that she’s singing for Sheryl (and for Ozma) as well as for Alto and Vajra. She’s got a job to do, and she’s DOING it. This is the Ranka we like, yes?

And thankfully, the song sounds nothing like an AKB48 song. This was, of course, the single released for the movie, and it’s good, but definitely not the best song in the film.

But yeah… Ranka. Again, in the MIDDLE of the TV series, she shows a lot of growth and new-found maturity, which kinda gets squandered at the end as she underestimates the Vajra, gets captured and used by Grace, and needs to be rescued by Alto, who’s been going out with Sheryl for at least a couple of weeks while Ranka’s been gone. In the movies, she started to reach a new level of maturity towards the end of The False Diva and continued on that upward trajectory throughout The Wings of Farewell. It’s a smarter, braver, and more open Ranka (“OPEN RANKA!”), and I think she’s a much better character for it. And again, if she doesn’t quite scale the heights of greatness that Sheryl has reached, she’s definitely closer than she was before. And indeed, one can see how the love triangle would still be undecided, even at this late stage.

(And Alto DEFINITELY salutes ONLY Ranka here. And he DEFINITELY salutes both of them later.)

And we’re not yet at the final battle, but we’re darn close, and Alto’s YF-29 goes out for the first time. It’s, uh… pretty damn fast. Which makes some of the battle hard to follow. Not that that’s really a NEW thing for Macross… how many times did YOU have to watch the Max and Milia dogfight in Do You Remember Love before you saw EVERYTHING that was going on there?

Eventually, the Quarter crew realize they have to break through at top speed, so Cpatain Wilder shouts out for “Formation Big Wedensday,” named after the ’70s surfing movie. And yeah, surfing robots is pretty much Eureka 7’s thing, but not surfing robot BATTLESHIPS! That’s definitely a Macross thing, now. And yes, the scene at the beach early on in the movie was setting this sequence up.

18. Alto gets hit and goes into a flashback when he was touring Galaxy as a child kabuki performer, and Sheryl met him after the play, telling him that she would “shake the galaxy” with her singing. So yeah, first Ranka is presented as his “childhood friend” in the movies, and then it turns out that he met Sheryl a decade or so before as well. Oh, and little girl Sheryl has ears like a chimp.

And then it turns out that yes, Sheryl, Ozma, and Ai-kun have all survived, thanks to Ai-kun’s hitherto-unknown force field abilities. And Grace, apparently dying, rescues them from a solider and gives Sheryl her (Sheryl’s) earring and a microphone. Sheryl prepares for her last stand, knowing that she’s probably killing herself by doing so, and the next twenty minutes of this movie are pure roller coaster.

Starting of course with another ridiculous-yet-brilliant Sheryl-and-Ranka-duet medley, which segues into the movie’s title song. The “Nyan-Nyan Greatest Hits” medley is somewhat limited compared to the previous medleys, since it’s necessarily confined only to songs that appeared in the movies, but it still works completely.

And then the cavalry arrives in the form of plenty of Macross Quarters, and Isamu even flies past in his new VF-19ADVANCE (as it was initially called… later, the toy was classified as the “VF-19 Advanced,” which to me doesn’t make as much sense). And I think the presence of Isamu makes some people wonder if the blue and white Quarter is Max, but… I don’t think so. Nothing I’ve seen in the extra materials (Macross Chronicle, the “Complete Book,” the novelization…) even HINTS at that.

Anyway, yeah… I’m breezing past the cameo NOW, but in the movie theater on that first day, all of our jaws dropped simultaneously, and I think it was only the fact that Japanese film audiences are so damn QUIET that kept us all from cheering out loud. I’m betting the cameo was lost on the majority of the audience, though.

Klan then gets a fake-out death, which, again, I totally fell for at first. The movie really does make it seem like SOMEONE is going to die before it’s all over, which is the main reason I cautioned the Animesuki and Macross World members against spoilers… really, the last half of the film had me on the edge of my seat the first time. The suspense was nearly unbearable.

There’s also a nice bit of symmetry that Sheryl and Ranka end the movie singing on the same stage that Sheryl began the movie with.

Oh, and teenage Ai-kun is much cuter here than he was in the series.

Anyway, it becomes much like Macross Zero as Alto realizes he must approach the Vajra with no weapons or hostile intent, discarding even his helmet.

And honestly, with all the fake-out deaths here, it’s even possible that Grace and Brera ended up SURVIVING, even though it sure SEEMS as though they die.

19. It’s too late for Alto to get out of the line of fire, but he does get a few parting words, FINALLY friend-zoning Ranka and telling Sheryl that he loves… BOOM!!

(Or, conversely, as I said back when Michel died, it could be “I DON’T love you,” since he doesn’t get to finish the sentence…)

Anyway, the Vajra Queen folds away just before the cannon fire hits… which is strange, because watching the movie in the theater, I was POSITIVE that it was really ambiguous whether it folded away or not. However, when I saw the DVD, it’s pretty clear that the Vajra fold out before they get hit. I wondered if the scene had been altered for home video at all, and got word back through Adrian that no, it hadn’t. The scene that you saw at home is the same as I saw in the theater. I dunno, maybe unconsciously, I just WANTED Alto to die…

Anyway, for all the fans who wanted the love triangle firmly resolved, I’m reminded of the words of Pope Cerebus: “You can get what you want and still not be very happy.”

So yeah… a month later, Alto’s still gone and Sheryl’s in a coma. Ranka has a suspicion that Alto will come back and Sheryl will miraculously wake up when he does. The funny part about this is that it turned all the Ranka haters, the ones who never gave her credit about being right about anything ever, into fervent Ranka believers, even though she has absolutely no proof for her theory.

I have to credit Ranka’s generosity of spirit… it seems clear that she would be happy to see Alto and Sheryl together, she just wants them both back. There’s no jealousy, no vindictiveness, no resentment, just a longing to see them again.

That said, the ending is not as ambiguous, nor as sad, as it appears to be… if you watch the credits closely and listen to the last song, it should be pretty clear. That, however, didn’t stop all the high school girls in the audience that opening day (and seriously, the audience was probably 75% young women) from crying at the end. As the lights went up and we all filed out, the sound of quiet weeping filled the theater.

A girl right in front of me said to her friend, “At least Michel didn’t die,” and I said, “Yeah, that was good.” The girl looked shocked and a little frightened, and exclaimed, “He speaks Japanese!” Not THAT unusual a reaction, unfortunately…

20. Damn, what a finale! I know there are fans who don’t like this movie, but I don’t see how or why. I mean, it’s nearly everything you could want in a Frontier movie, and a few things I’m sure that NO ONE was expecting.

I think it’s very much Ranka’s movie, as I said before. During the series, we saw Sheryl go beyond her own limits and become a magnificent goddess of hope, and here we see Ranka grow up into a wonderful young woman. That just leaves… Alto. I found him something of a drag in the series… watchable and somewhat relatable, but not terribly interesting. He’s a little better here, especially in his scenes with Michel, but yeah… he’s totally outclassed by the two girls. I’m definitely not the first person to suggest that Sheryl and Ranka would make a better couple than either of them would with Alto.

And definitely, this movie is an EXPERIENCE that takes you on a long and tortuous journey through all kinds of surprising places and odd detours… but that has a flip-side… this movie is also EXHAUSTING. Seriously, as we were filing out of the theater that cold February morning, I felt well and truly pummeled into submission. The music! The action! The visual feast! The complex plotting! The dialogue in a language I don’t speak fluently! (that one, uh, isn’t of course intended by the creators, but I’m sure it had plenty to do with my weariness). The film feels overstuffed and a little too long. I wonder if it wouldn’t have felt a little less full if, paradoxically, they had added about five minutes or so of quiet scenes to let the film breathe a little easier. Of course, that may also be a consequence of the plotting. Years ago, one of my friends played the ’70s exploitation classic “Switchblade Sisters” at a party. He introduced it by saying, “If you don’t like it, just hang on and keep watching. It becomes a completely different movie every ten minutes.” And I kinda feel the same way here. Not many films try to combine dogfights with bloody shoot-ups with rainbows and teddy bears with love stories with kabuki with whatever-the-hell-was-going-on-in-“Forbidden-Elixir” with Alcatraz. There’s no way this movie SHOULD work except that somehow it does.

And watching it THIS time, it suddenly occurred to me… you know, Kawamori has always, since way back in the mid-’80s, been opposed to making direct sequels. Oh sure, he’ll make a new Macross series or a new Aquarion series, but generally, it’ll have a completely new setting and cast. We’ll never get the story of the Megaroad-01, we’ll never get Macross Plus Part II, and so on. And I think I understand why now:

I remember reading a great interview with one of the musicians on Bob Dylan’s classic album, “Blonde on Blonde,” where he was talking about playing on the eleven-minute-plus epic album closer, “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” The problem, he said, was that they had rehearsed the basic outline of the song, but hadn’t done a full run-through. As such, the band (a completely professional band of session musicians, throwing their best into the song) kept amping things up after every verse, hitting their absolute peak about three minutes in. Since they figured it was probably about a four minute song, no problem. Until they realized that no, it was still going on, and indeed would go on for another SEVEN minutes. Seven minutes of them playing a crescendo, unable to go higher and unwilling to ratchet it down a few notches.

In a way, the story is similar to the legendary Spinal Tap “These go to eleven” bit. Once you’ve hit ten, where do you go?

After Do You Remember Love, where do you go? How do you raise the level of intensity without making it impossible to follow? After that last episode of Macross Plus (or the end of the movie), where do you go? Isamu and Myung have been pushed to their breaking point and beyond. What do you DO with them now? And after this movie, what’s left? Could any direct follow-up be as dramatic and compelling? It would have to START at the crescendo and keep that level of intensity throughout. This movie goes to eleven. There is no twelve. So you wrap it up with a bang and start doing the next song on the set list, hoping that the audience will dig that too. Then when that gets cranked up to eleven, bring it home and start the next one.

Of course, though, I lied. There is a “twelve,” as reality brought home two weeks later with the March 11 Tohoku Earthquake, one of the biggest earthquakes ever in recorded history. I don’t want to minimize the suffering and desolation brought to the pope in the Tohoku region (some 15,000 dead, almost instantly, and many more to follow; and many of the survivors finding their lives utterly destroyed), but even in Tokyo, spared nearly all structural damage, the effect was devastating. The violent, five-minute-plus quake was bad enough (I honestly thought my house was going to collapse on top of me), but the following weeks of fear, coupled with at least one huge aftershock EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY for the next few months… It didn’t make for a great time. Commercial ventures were hit hard, and I don’t doubt that the box office for this movie suffered.

(On this rewatch, I noticed that at the beginning of “Nyan Kuri,” Sheryl’s line was “One wave can shake the world”… which seems more than a little prophetic.)

Again, I’m not trying to make light of the situation, just keeping the focus on Macross. There was meant to be a talk show in mid-March. That was postponed, and when it finally happened, not all the actors scheduled could be there. Gwyn talked about going to see the movie again in the first theater we saw it at, Wald 9 in Shinjuku, on the eleventh floor of a high rise, and being hit with a big aftershock in the middle of the movie. Another big aftershock hit when I was hanging out with Adrian, and Patrick and Keiko Galbraith; after it lasted too many seconds (i.e more than fifteen or twenty), I began to feel panic creeping up on me, and Patrick brought me (and everyone else) back by leading us in a chorus of “DYNAMITE! DYNAMITE! DYNAMITE EXPLOSION ONCE AGAIN!” I was intensely grateful to him.

I’d say it wasn’t until late summer or early fall that things felt more-or-less back to normal again.

So yeah, bad timing for Macross, really. And perhaps (this is just occurring to me as I write this, so it may be completely wrong-headed) one of the reasons the 30th Anniversary seemed to catch the sponsors off-guard. And, as such, this movie always gives me a little twinge, as watching it makes me recall the circumstances soon afterwards. But still an excellent film, and an excellent finale to Frontier as a whole.

And yeah, the final song (“Shooting Star”? “Shudiestar”? “dShudiestarb”? I’m not sure what to call it in English…) seems like such a perfect final song for the entire Frontier project that it still kind of annoys me that the soundtrack album has a couple of tracks following it. Really, somehow, that song seems to encapsulate everything I love about Frontier, the exhilaration, the warmth, and everything in-between, that it becomes rather moving. Although I admit that that’s probably more what I bring to the song than something intrinsic within it. I dunno, I just dig it.

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