THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – CONCLUSION

Conclusion

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – CONCLUSION

It feels weird to be writing a “conclusion” when the newest series is right in the middle of airing. And yeah, this is more of a long pause than a total wrap-up (it’ll probably be a few years before I do a full Delta rewatch). I’ve still got lots more material for the blog, but for now, the Great Macross Rewatch is done. It’s been an interesting journey to watch, for me at least, as the original series (which was never really an underdog) managed to generate so many years of anime, and stands now as, well, not quite a household name, but very highly-regarded in many circles. Pretty good for a series that was designed as a merchandise-friendly throwaway series so that Studio Nue could then do what they REALLY wanted to do: Genocidas (which of course, they never did).

This last weekend, Shoji Kawamori was, of course, a guest at Anime Expo, and I was lucky enough to help out a bit at the booth for Satelight, which is his animation studio. It was the second time I’d done so, the first being the previous year, when Satelight designer Thomas Romain was one of the guests of honor. I was introduced to him as “a big Macross fan,” and his response, “Ah, yes… Zat is what zhey dragged me away from to come ‘ere,” was the ONLY thing anyone told me about Delta. This time, Kawamori was pretty busy the entire time, and so I only got to meet him once, when he came by the booth Sunday morning. We didn’t talk much; I was introduced to him by the other Satelight employees, and I thanked him for his work.

The previous night, Saturday, July Second, had been his big panel, mostly talking about his childhood and the development of Macross, and in particular the VF-1. Much of the content of the talk would not have been a surprise to anyone who has followed this blog from the start, but one thing that I hadn’t known was that after trying to get Genocidas funded and having no luck, Macross (which he termed a “dummy project”) was basically created in a single night. Of course, it went through many changes during pre-production, but most of the core concepts were decided upon in that one session.

(There was a great bit after the talk, when he came out and posed for a big group photograph with all the cosplayers who were there. The cosplay was mostly Delta (lots of Walküre members, plus a Hayate and a Mirage), but there was also a Minmay, a Basara, a Sheryl, a Ranka, and a Shin Kudo. Only Macross II and Plus were not represented.)

I think it’s indisputable that as far as the history of anime goes, the first series (with Do You Remember Love) is the most important, both at home (as the flagship series produced by the first generation of what would become “otaku”) and abroad (even in somewhat muffled form, as Robotech, the first series retains most of its force and power, and remains popular, despite Harmony Gold’s constant inadvertent attempts to sabotage it). Following that I would say that, for Japan, Frontier is the second-most important, for ushering in the “ani-son boom,” whereas in the west, it’s Macross Plus, for being an absolutely must-see series at a time when anime was first really beginning to take off in the US.

But really, if there’s anything I hope you take away from this Rewatch project, it’s how central the concept of music was even for the first series (although, again, Carl Macek downplayed its importance in Robotech). It fits squarely into the history of idol anime as much as it does mecha anime, and as I said during Episode 12 of the original series, the use of idol music during the space battle was one of the things, apparently, that the fans really went nuts about, since no one had ever tried anything like that before. The music is one of Macross’s signature features, and one of the things that makes it different from other mecha anime.

THE END.

Okay, not quite.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I’ve had A LOT of help on this. The SpeakerPODCast Crew (Adrian, Gwyn, and Renato), VF5SS, and Karice67 have all been extremely generous with their time and knowledge, and generally helped me look a lot smarter than I actually am.

Thanks to the Facebook groups Robits, Macross Fans US, Macross Fans of Malaysia, Macross △ Delta, and Robotech Freedom for putting up with my twice-weekly invasions (and often being kind enough to actually READ the blog post before commenting… well, in Robits, at any rate).

And thanks to CaptainJLS, whose acknowledgment here probably surprises him as much as it does you, for inspiring the whole thing in the first place. Years ago, I stumbled over his wonderful “365 Days of Robotech” blog posts, and thought, “Huh… I wish someone would do something like this for Macross…”

And thanks to YOU for reading this, especially if you’ve actually made it through the entire Rewatch. Your dedication is impressive, especially considering my digressive, self-interrupting, and completely tangled and annoying writing style. I really appreciate it!

Okay, NOW… THE END.

No, wait…

Okay, now that the Rewatch is all nicely wrapped up, there are going to be some changes. First, the updates to the blog will be less frequent, probably once a week (or less) rather than the twice a week I’ve been doing. I’ve got a few topics that spiraled out of control and had to be pruned while I was doing the the Rewatch, and there are other topics that got spread out over many posts that I would like to consolidate. And there’s the post about the  dRobotech/Macross rights issue, which I’ve been working on for a while, and which is getting fearsomely long (It’s looking like it’ll be at least two parts. Maybe three). And also, I’ve got a few translations I’ve finished (or started) and nowhere to put them. So that’s what’s coming up in the next while.

SEE YOU NEXT DECULTURE.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 141 – FB7

FB7

MACROSS FB7

ICONIC SCENE: Totsugeki Planet Explosion Don’t Be Late Overflow *Kira!*

STORY DATE: 2059

RELEASE DATE: October 20, 2012

1. Man, I’ve been dreading this. FB7. A pretty inadequate addition to the 30th Anniversary celebration(s).

(Okay, I admit… not being a gamer, I forgot completely about Macross 30 until I was almost finished with this post. Add it in wherever you wish, ’cause I sure didn’t. Until I finally remembered that it existed.)

Unfortunately, since everything else for the 30th Anniversary was an event of some sort or another, this is the only part of it that anyone outside Japan (heck, outside Tokyo, even, unless they made a special trip) got to see. And it’s the only one that remains accessible and available, unfortunately.

For the events, well… if they’d all been happening over the same couple of weeks (which, admittedly, would’ve most likely have been a nightmare – or straight up impossible – to schedule), then any number of fans could’ve made a pilgrimage to Tokyo and enjoyed them all… but no, they were all spread out over the course of a year and a half or so. Again, not a big problem for ME, as I was living in Tokyo then, but pretty unfair to anyone who didn’t live close by. That said, they did group some of the events together, so that there were a couple of advantageous weeks to visit, if one had been so inclined. May 2012 had the first two museum exhibits, one in Shibuya and one in Ikebukuro. August had another museum exhibit in Ikebukuro, October had the Musicalture (or Musiculture… or Music Turn-A Lture…) and Macross FB7, and the following July was the Macross Crossover 30 Live. Around the same time, a touring museum exhibit started up, making a stop in Takarazuka (which I went to) and Ishinomaki (which I didn’t). And finally, with the blu-ray of Macross Plus coming out, there was an all-night screening of Plus, Do You Remember Love, and (depending on which night you went) one of the Frontier movies.

All in all, I think the 30th was disappointing to most, and felt mostly cobbled together. Which isn’t to say that an ENORMOUS amount of effort didn’t go into it. The life-size VF-25 Gerwalk wasn’t cheap or easy to make, and neither was the life-size VF-1S cockpit. And all the museum exhibits had artwork and displays that were wonderful to see.

It started, though, with a tragedy, in that Noboru Ishiguro, director of the original Macross series and co-director of Do You Remember Love, passed away just before the events started. Pretty much everything ended up being dedicated to his memory.

For me, the first two exhibits (Macross the Design at Shibuya Parco and Macross Super Dimension Exhbition “Ridin’ in Your Valkyrie!”) were the most interesting, for showing the divide among Macross fans at the time. The entrance to Macross the Design (in a display area of Parco, a department store in Shibuya, a block or so behind the 109 Building, which itself was the model for the 199 Building in Frontier) was made to look as if you were boarding the Megaroad-01 (and the ticket looked like a boarding pass), including even a new welcome message recorded by Mika Doi as Captain Misa Hayase. After going through the entrance hall, the first room wasn’t terribly promising… life-size pictures of some of the Macross idols, the Basara guitar, a blown-up Zentradi dictionary on the wall… but then, the NEXT room was astonishing, as it hearkened back to the very beginning, when the show was still “Battle City Megaroad” and the walls were covered with all sorts of early sketches and designs, including quite a few that have never been reprinted in any book. There was also Kawamori’s own Lego SV-51, and a replica of the photo album from the ending credits of the first series (I assume it was a replica, because you could flip through it). In that nook, “Runner” was also playing in a continuous loop, and the poster of Minmay on the snowy day was there on the wall, turned upside-down of course. My girlfriend, who hadn’t yet seen Macross, was puzzled as to why I was laughing so hard. But yeah, most of the stuff there was about the making of the series, and the first series at that. Endlessly fascinating for the specialist (like me… and you, most likely, or else you wouldn’t be reading this (and thank you if you are!)), but probably a little too in-depth for the casual fan, or for the Frontier fan.

No, THAT was the Ikebukuro exhibit, which had MUCH more emphasis on Frontier, and less on any “behind-the-scenes” stuff. Instead of making it look like you were boarding the Megaroad-01, you entered Mihoshi High, eventually ending up at the SMS hangar that had the life-size gerwalk. Honestly, most of the exhibit seemed planned with an eye for getting the Frontier fans curious about previous Macross iterations. This is also where Adrian took a snapshot of me pretending to “cop a feel” of the life-size cardboard Nanase stand-up (which a deranged Robotech podcaster somehow got a copy of and ran with for a while. No skin off my nose, honestly). Anyway, I ended up really soaking up this exhibit pretty thoroughly, since one of Gwyn’s friends who was there was a professional photographer, and he spent quite a while getting pictures of absolutely everything (photography had been forbidden at the Shibuya exhibit), which meant we were there for much longer than we were probably meant to be. Oh, and he took an excellent pic (not uploaded anywhere, as far as I know) of about fifteen or twenty Ranka cosplayers, each wearing a different Ranka costume. I totally WANT a copy of that photo! And, uh, one bit of behind-the-scenes info that I learned here, that WASN’T at the other exhibit, was that Kawamori, as I’ve said before, only got three hours of sleep the entire week before Episode 27 of the original series aired. Again, hats off. I couldn’t have done the same.

The gift shop for the Ikebukuro event also had a TV screen set up, showing the title “Macross FB7” and saying “Ozma meets Fire Bomber!” Which sounds like it would’ve made a better movie than what we eventually got.

Oh, and about that life-size gerwalk… it was originally supposed to have legs. Even after it debuted in Tokyo, they said it would have legs by its next appearance in Osaka. But it didn’t. It still doesn’t.

2. The next event was the Gengaten Exhibit in Ikebukuro, that August. This was also a more “scholarly” gallery of work, with plenty of early designs, as well as original pieces that ended up getting used for prints or CD or video covers. Did you ever get one of those portfolios of prints back in the ’80s? There were two: the “Character” one (which I got) and the “Mecha” one (which I never saw for sale). Well, the original drawings and paintings for ALL of those prints were here, which was kind of amazing. One of the OTHER surprises was discovering that all the yellow on Ishtar’s Emulator outfit for any Mikimoto Macross II painting was actually done in gold leaf. It seems like a strange choice on his part, since unless you saw the original paintings, you would never know.

For me, the big thing about it was that I got in on something that no one else from the SpeakerPODCast did: a talk show with Tomo Sakurai (Mylene) and Aya Endo (Sheryl). I almost won an FB7 poster signed by Ms. Endo, but I’ve already told that bitter story plenty of times.

My favorite part was when they both were asked if they had to choose, would they pick Basara, or would they pick Alto? Ms. Endo swiftly answered “Neither.” Ms. Sakurai was quiet for a bit, then asked, “Is it me, or is it Mylene?” The host said, “It’s you,” and she instantly replied, “You know, I always liked Gamlin best.”

3. Then in October came the Musicalture (or however you want to spell it), playing at Tokyo Dome City Hall. Going into it, I totally wasn’t sure what to expect. A stage musical extravaganza…? It could turn out to be an expensive waste of time… but it ended up being really wonderful. And unfortunately, a lost piece of Macross history (both in the Macross universe and the real one), since I gather that it was not a huge success (we saw it on a Saturday matinee, and the orchestra seating was perhaps half full. The mezzanine and balcony were both completely empty). So yeah… eight performances and then it was gone. No cast album, no DVD release, nothing. I talked before about the Macross 7-era radio dramas (like Macross Generation), and those CDs are all long out of print, but at least they still exist. For this, if you weren’t there, you missed it. And even if you WERE there, you’ll never see it again. Which, again, is a real shame, because it was really good, and a great addition to the overall Macross “story.”

At one point during the play, it suddenly occurred to me: if I could go back in time to 1985, and tell me-as-a-kid watching Robotech or Do You Remember Love, “In the year 2012, you’ll be living in Tokyo and you’ll be watching a Macross stage musical,” I wonder how he would’ve reacted…?

4. A week or so after the Musicalture finished its eight performances (it wasn’t cancelled, that’s just how many were scheduled), Macross FB7 opened for what I believe was a two or three week limited engagement. But since I’m trying to delay talking about FB7 as much as possible, I’ll jump ahead to the following July of 2013, as Gwyn, Adrian, and I headed for Takarazuka City in Hyogo Prefecture for the Macross the Museum exhibit at the Osamu Tezuka museum. On the podcast about it, Renato heaped scorn upon us for continually saying “Hyogo” instead of “Takarazuka,” but for me, personally, I found that if I told Japanese friends that I was going to Takarazuka, they would automatically infer that I was going to see the famous all-female Takarazuka theater troupe, and invariably seemed disappointed when I explained that no, I was actually just going to the Tezuka museum. I’m sure the museum staff gets this confusion all the time. The museum itself was pretty great, although it made me realize just HOW LITTLE that I knew about Tezuka’s work (not surprising, I guess, since only a fraction of it has been released in English). The reason we went the day we did because Gwyn got a tip that it would be a good day to go. It turned out that Hidetaka Tenjin was giving a talk. He walked in and said that he had a special guest, and then Kawamori walked in, shocking EVERYONE. We had a nice intimate Q & A with him (I’m not sure how many people could fit in the room, but it was definitely under a hundred). This is where our friend Howard asked specifically about Macross II, and Kawamori replied that everything in Macross is as “canonical” as everything else, as every Macross series is more-or-less set in its own universe, so sure, Macross II is part of that as well.

(Likewise, recent Facebook comments to the contrary, Miyatake said that yes, Britai’s battleship could indeed be the SDF-3, regardless of the anger that may cause in some fans. And yes, it caused PLENTY of anger, although I’m still unsure why, exactly.)

5. Next came the Macross Crossover 30 Live, a five-and-a-half-hour concert that had a little of everything except Hiroko “Ishtar” Kasahara (why WASN’T she there, anyway?). It was at Makuhari Messe, which can easily hold thirteen thousand people, and it sold out quite handily. Great concert, but it was a devastatingly hot and humid day, so leaving the place, surrounded by (again) 13,000 people who looked, felt, and most importantly SMELLED completely awful was not the best way to end the evening (and, for me at least, that was the final stop on the 30th Anniversary festivities. Glorious, but… yeah, smelly).

6. Of course, during all this, there was also Macross 30, but I haven’t played the game (although I’ve watched Gwyn play it), nor have I read the novel. I bet that it’s a better tribute than FB7 is, though.

And, as kinda/sorta part of the 30th Anniversary, I saw an all-night Macross movie marathon. At midnight, there was the Macross Plus Movie Edition. At two AM, there was Do You Remember Love. And at four AM (by which point I was having a hard time staying awake), I saw Wings of Farewell yet again. Again, a good one to go back in time and tell me-as-a-kid watching Do You Remember Love: “Don’t worry, you’ll see it on the big screen eventually. It’ll take nearly thirty years, but you’ll do it.”

7. Okay, enough shilly-shallying. On to FB7. The story doesn’t make much sense, and seems lifted from that Cowboy Bebop episode with the Betamax tape… just, y’know, extended into a series of tapes, instead of just one. But look… the plot isn’t really terribly important. The real purpose of this “movie” (listed as an “OVA” in Macross Chronicle) is to show off how great Macross 7 looks on blu-ray, as well as to give the Frontier kids a reason to check it out.

(In other words, I would ask when during Frontier this is meant to be set, since Ranka is wearing the uniform of the school she got kicked out of early on, and yet she and Sheryl have a massive duet at the end, even though she shouldn’t be famous (or friends with Sheryl) yet… Likewise, at the end of Macross 7, the surviving Protodeviln were leaving to go to another galaxy, but I guess at least one of them came back…? And where’s Alto, anyway? Oh well, it really doesn’t matter. NOTHING here is terribly well thought out on a story level.)

I dunno… Renato says the movie’s good for putting on as background noise when you’re cleaning house or whatever, but, heck… why not put all your Fire Bomber albums on, on random? That’s what I do…

8. The problem is that I can’t imagine anyone who hasn’t already seen Macross 7 enjoying this in the slightest. There’s no way to follow the TV series plot here, so as an introduction to Macross 7, it’s pretty useless. But even if you’re a huge Macross 7 fan, it still seems quite haphazardly strung together. In the talk segment that’s on the blu-ray, director Tetsuro Amino says that he tried to organize it as a rock show, with the emphasis placed on the songs rather than the narrative. But it’s not really a collection of music videos, either… And that perhaps is the main problem. We’ve all seen straight compilation movies, and it’s usually easy to judge them as successful or unsuccessful as stories. Likewise, we’ve probably also seen anime shows edited into a collection of music videos, where the measure of success is not how clear the story is, but how inventively the previously-seen footage is used. This, though, seems like it’s trying for both approaches simultaneously (as well as a third approach, in having the Frontier characters slowly discover what happened in Macross 7), and isn’t terribly satisfying from any angle. But it’s difficult to judge how successful it is at what it’s trying to do, because it’s totally unclear what kind of film it’s trying to be.

The most I can say is that some of the best scenes get included (especially Sivil’s debut from Episode 17 and Kinryu’s attack from Episode 26), and Fire Bomber sounds as good as ever. And yeah, hearing this in a theater with a kick-ass sound system was the best part of the movie.

Oh, and at the end, a title card comes up, saying “To be be!” Which is cute.

9. It’s not a complete wash. I like the bit where Ranka asks Sheryl if she got the “Listen to my song!” line from Basara. Cutting to Ozma’s awed face when Basara shouts, “Mountain! Galaxy! Listen to my song!” from Seven’s final episode is EXACTLY right. Ranka echoing Minmay with her “1-2-3-4” is fine. And the concert at the end is pretty great: director Amino’s second attempt to capture the magic of the Beatles’ “Let It Be” rooftop concert (gotta love Leon frantically on the phone with, undoubtedly, the cops). And the two straight-ahead music videos included on the blu-ray (and, as of right now, easily found on YouTube) are a lot of fun. If the whole movie had been like THOSE, it would’ve been better. Or at least, I would’ve liked it more.

Hey, I’m open to the idea that this film was experimental and ahead of its time. I find that extremely unlikely, but you never know.

And the two new songs are good, although I think the medley suffers from too much keyboard and not enough guitar. The live version on the blu-ray here corrects that, but doesn’t have May’n (due to a scheduling oversight, she had her own concert that evening. I hope SOMEONE got raked over the coals for that), which makes the ultimate DEFINITIVE version of the medley the one that was performed at the Crossover Live 30… the one that’s never been released on home video. *Sigh.*

Oh, and as Renato pointed out, by the end of Macross 7, we knew that Sivil and Geperunitchi had had their revelations and become “good guys,” but we still didn’t know, really, about Gavil. So it’s nice to see that he’s no longer a jerk, as well. Although… I wonder where Glavil is?

Oh… and there was an interesting bit of difference between what you’re seeing on DVD or BD, and what we saw in the theater: apparently, the computer model of Mylene’s VF-11 MAXL Custom wasn’t ready when the film was released to theaters, so it just used a VF-25 in Mylene colors. By the time the video was ready, so was the MAXL.

10. So yeah… of all the things we could’ve gotten as a 30th Anniversary film, we get THIS…? The music is great, the new scenes are well-done, the ending medley is wonderful (but could’ve been a bonus DVD on the CD single, or an incentive added to the blu-ray box). Other than that…? Enh, it’s pretty much a waste of time. The blu-ray extras are much more interesting than the film itself. Heck, even the audio commentary is more fun, with the first half of the movie being the director talking with the Macross 7 cast, and the second half being him talking with the Frontier cast (and where Aya Endo says she watched Macross 7 on TV when she was in elementary school, making the director (and myself, and maybe you) feel VERY old indeed). Again, that first ad: “OZMA MEETS FIRE BOMBER,” now THAT sounds like it could’ve had potential. Instead, we got “Ozma watches Fire Bomber on his TV,” which is nowhere near as enthralling.

That said, if it had been the Delta cast instead of the Frontier cast watching Macross 7 on TV, that could’ve been a winner, because of the Jenius connection (I can see Mirage being INTENSELY embarrassed by her grandparents and aunt, can’t you? And of course the rest of Delta Team would be razzing her about it… It almost writes itself!), so maybe it was just an idea executed too early…? (See…? It IS ahead of its time!)

All this said, I’m glad I saw it in the theater, and I’m glad I saw it with Renato, since Yoshiki Fukuyama, musician-Basara, just happened to be in the audience when we saw it, and he and Renato recognized each other, so we got to talk briefly (although Fukuyama was in something of a rush to get to the bathroom after the film, so our talk was VERY brief). And even HE wouldn’t commit to liking the movie (although he definitely didn’t say he DISLIKED it… Renato asked him what he thought, and Fukuyama sucked his teeth and said, with a smile, “Well, it was only the first time I saw it, so I can’t really say…” I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but, uh, that doesn’t sound good, does it?).

In its defense, one of my girlfriend’s friends, a guy who watched Macross 7 on TV in 1994, confessed that he cried tears of joy during this movie. So not EVERYONE thought it was bad.

But yeah, for the rest of us, eminently forgettable, and a particularly inauspicious start to Macross’s fourth decade… but really, haven’t ALL of the ten-year anniversary openers been lackluster? Macross II, for the tenth anniversary, was just plain dull. Macross Zero, for the twentieth, seriously underperformed commercially. This, for the thirtieth, follows suit on BOTH counts. It always seems to take a few years into each anniversary for Macross to really hit a homer… but it always does, eventually. If that first step forward of new decade HAS to be failure, at least this wasn’t an EXPENSIVE failure. And it cleared the way for Delta, which (to many old-school fans’ chagrin) has so far been extremely successful.

Oh… and after hemming and hawing during my Macross 7 Rewatch, being “ninety-nine percent sure” that Akiko Nakagawa, voice of the Flower Girl, also voiced Sivil (who was just listed in the credits of the show with a question mark), I had a real facepalm moment when she was straight-out credited here as Sivil. Why, um, did they want to keep it secret before…? Oh well, at least I was right (for once)… but I wish I’d checked the credits HERE before I went through THAT series this time ’round.

THIS MOVIE’S (EXCUSE ME, I MEAN OVA’S) GAVIL-ISMS: “Beauty,” “Final beauty,” and a bunch of others from various episodes of the show.

FLOWER GIRL SIGHTING: Well, she’s all over the place, from many different episodes, and I’ve already used all those scenes. For the purposes of THIS movie, though, here’s Ram Hoa dressed as the Flower Girl from the concert at the end.

FB7F

EYECATCH: Basara

POST SCRIPT: At around the same time this was taking shape, so was “Robotech: Love Live Alive,” announced a little earlier, but released six or seven months later. A few Robotech fans I’d had interactions with were gloating a bit, in that FB7 seemed to be a Macross version of “LLA.” In a podcast, post-FB7 but pre-LLA, I wrung my hands a little about this. FB7 was SO INADEQUATE, could it be that LLA would trump it…? Adrian, who usually doesn’t venture a prediction unless he’s sure he’s correct, stated that FB7 could, on the contrary, “set a new low bar” for LLA to FAIL to clear. And, as usual, he was absolutely right. As inadequate as I find this, it has quite a bit of new animation and two great new songs. Which is more than LLA has going for it. At the VERY least, with FB7, I can jump to the final “rooftop concert” sequence, and feel like I’m watching something worthwhile. And that’s a good four or five minutes right there. With LLA, the two minutes and the last thirty or so seconds are the only parts worth watching, no matter HOW hardcore a Robotech fan you are (and the more hardcore you are, the less interesting the movie is).

(And yeah, I admit that all that’s kind of a cheap shot from me (“Hey, this isn’t good, but it’s better than LLA!”), but it IS true.)

MACROSS FRONTIER – Suggestions for Further Reading (and Listening!)

Frontier books

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING (AND LISTENING!)
Okay, for Macross Zero, there is absolutely nothing. Books, drama albums, nothing. But before I get into the Frontier stuff specifically, there are a couple of surprises that the success of Macross Frontier yielded, in the form of two separate magazines:

Macross Chronicle
This one started first, in July 2008, while Frontier was still airing. It wasn’t published (initially, at least), by the publisher D’Agostini, but it follows a model they often use: each issue had an assortment of pages (a few about mecha, a few about characters, a few about other topics), in more-or-less random order. Your job, as the reader, is to gently pull the pages out of the magazine (they’re attached to the spine with relatively weak glue) and put them in order in the special Macross Chronicle binders (sold separately, of course). Since it’s all published out of order, it’s almost more like collecting trading cards than actually getting a magazine series, and it’s likewise supposed to activate one’s collector mentality and a desire to get ALL the pages. And for me, at least, it worked like a charm. If you DID collect all fifty issues that were released biweekly over the next two years (as I did), you’d be rewarded with five full binders… a 1,600-page Macross encyclopedia covering nearly every topic you could imagine. Each issue featured a few pieces of original art, including an invariably stunning Tenjin picture (by the way, all three headers that I’ve used for this blog come from Chronicle. None of them have been Tenjin pieces, though).

(I remember one guy on Macross World saying something like, “I only want to get one issue: which one gives you the most bang for your buck?” That’s an unanswerable question because, again, the assortment is so varied, and the collection is almost worthless as a resource unless you dive in and get ALL the issues.)

A few years later, D’Agostini would come out with a new edition of the magazine, plumped out to eighty issues, with thirty more Tenjin pictures and the addition of a complete episode guide and other original artwork. And I don’t doubt they’ll release it again, expanded to include Delta, sometime in the next decade or so.

The magazine isn’t perfect. I think they initially overestimated how much they could fit into fifty issues, which led to some pages never appearing (Wendy Ryder, for example). One thing that I think of as a flaw, though, YOU might think of as a virtue: it takes a very hard stance regarding what is “canonical” and what isn’t. Thus, Do You Remember Love is presented as an in-universe movie AND NOTHING ELSE, and both it and Macross II are separated from the rest of the pages. To me, as I’ve said before, the idea of canonicity in Macross is best viewed in very loose and ambiguous terms (TRUST ME! Your RPGs might suffer, but your mental health will be better for it!). Anyway, in the magazine, there’s a lot of (in my view) useless verbiage that’s there mostly to rationalize and harmonize the discrepancies between various Macross series. That’s a hopeless task, due to fail, but they do as good a job as can be done, I guess.

Now… as far as translations go, I worked on a few, but found it VERY rough going. Much as I would like to do the whole thing, I really doubt I ever will. However, Macross World member Sketchley has translated many portions of it, which you can view on his website. Likewise, the Macross Mecha Manual uses a lot of information from the magazine in its write-ups.

Macross Ace
This to me was a really interesting magazine that never lived up to its potential (although it came close occasionally). I’ve already talked about Shonen Ace, the anime-themed manga anthology magazine started by Kadokawa Publishing in 1994 (and home of Macross 7 Trash and the Macross Frontier adaptation, as well as things like Evangelion, Crossbone Gundam, and Escaflowne). In the year 2000, they tried an experiment: they had persuaded Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, character designer, animation director, and celebrated manga artist, to do his own adaptation of the first Mobile Suit Gundam series (for which of course he had been the character designer and animation director). He agreed on one big condition: each magazine installment would have to be around 100 pages long, which was much too long for Shonen Ace. So a new magazine was proposed: Gundam Ace, which would be mostly a showcase for Mobile Suit Gundam the Origin, and a central hub for Gundam-themed manga and news. They got Hiroyuki Kitazume (character designer for Zeta and Double Zeta) to write “Char’s Deleted Affair: Portrait of a Young Comet,” covering Char’s life between the end of First Gundam and the beginning of Zeta, and (starting in issue 3) Haruhiko Mikimoto to write “Ecole du Ceil,” a story beginning a couple of years before Zeta and then tying directly into it. Along with these three starring series, they also developed a stable of artists for shorter series and one-shots. The quality was high across the board (mostly), the tone of the different manga series was varied, and the magazine was a rousing success. The first year, it was released quarterly, the second year upped it to bimonthly, and in the third, it became monthly, where it stands currently.

Anyway, to get the point, it was popular enough that various limited-edition spin-off titles were occasionally released. In 2005, to coincide with the Zeta Gundam movie trilogy, three issues of “Zeta Gundam Ace” were released. Every time a new episode of Gundam Unicorn debuted, they would release an issue of “Gundam UC Ace.” For the Gundam 00 movie, we had “Gundam 00 Ace.” And in early 2009, right about the time that, in-universe, the Macross was due to launch, we got “Macross Ace,” which ostensibly was NOT a limited series like the other spin-offs. Clearly hoping to capture the same magic of Gundam the Origin, the flagship title was Haruhiko Mikimoto’s “Super Dimension Fortress Macross the First.” (This wasn’t the first time they had tried this. Following Gundam the Origin’s success were, in other Kadokawa magazines, “Ultraman the First” and “Kamen Rider the First,” followed by “Kamen Rider the Next.”) Ecole du Ceil, still continuing in Gundam Ace, was put on hiatus (where it stays, nearly eight years later), and Mikimoto went to work on the new Macross series. The other flagship titles were “Macross F: Secret Visions” which was drawn by the oddly-named “Noshi” (who would, with no explanation, after Issue 3 change his or her name to “okiura”), but plotted by Frontier’s scriptwriter, Hiroyuki Yoshino, and “Macross 7th Chord,” by Akira Kano. Various one-shots, gag manga, interviews, and articles filled the rest of the magazine.

It was released on a strange, thrice-yearly schedule, and while it seemed as though a lot of effort was being put into it at first, that kind of dwindled as the magazine continued. “Macross F: Secret Visions” disappeared after four chapters (enough for one collected book), although each issue CLAIMED that the series would return in the next, and new issues were filled with more and more gag manga one-shots. The magazine stuck around until the second Frontier movie debuted, and then quietly limped to a halt after a mere eight issues.

Which, naturally, seems like a real shame to me. While there’s obviously less ground that can be covered in Macross than there is in Gundam, it still seems like there’s enough to fill a small magazine. I was hoping for more side stories and gap-fillers (I mean, there’s almost thirty years between Flashback 2012 and Macross Plus that’s gone virgin territory, right?), but the regular manga serials remained few, and the quality generally wasn’t as high as it could’ve been (i.e. several rungs below an average issue of Gundam Ace).

Of the continuing series, the best are definitely “Macross the First” and Kikuya Megane’s beautiful adaptations of stories from “Nyan Dra,” the Macross F drama albums. “Macross F: Secret Visions” was well-drawn, but was mostly an exercise in getting Sheryl and Ranka nearly naked (even including a hot springs chapter). The fourth chapter introduced an interesting new character, a Zentradi girl who worships Sheryl, but the manga vanished after that. “Macross 7th Chord” was just bizarre (featuring a VF-9 controlled by piano), and ended mid-story (a hasty epilogue was tacked on to the compiled book of the series). Later issues had “Macross Plus: TAC Name,” a competent but not-very-interesting retelling of Plus, adding nothing new besides Sharon Apple wearing glasses in the final battle. The gag manga were hit-and-miss. Nearly every manga from the magazine has been collected in book form, so if you really want to know, they’re out there. And all of the issues of the magazine remain cheap. Gwyn got an entire set (his second or third) on Japanese Amazon for about ten cents (¥11). Not ten cents per issue, but ten cents TOTAL (plus shipping, of course).

Honestly, if they had just hung on one more year, they probably could’ve cashed in somewhat on the 30th Anniversary. But then again, maybe not. Anyway, even with the magazine cancelled, “Macross the First” was too good to lose, so it was shunted to ANOTHER new magazine, “Newtype Ace.” This one was monthly, so the chapters became shorter: twenty pages rather than ninety or so. “Macross Plus: TAC Name” also continued in the magazine, and “Macross 7th Chord” was initially announced, but never appeared. Later, they were joined by Kikuya Megane’s “Macross Fortissimo,” initially meant to be the story of what happened between the Macross Frontier movies, but instead becoming an alternate ending. The big draw of the magazine, though, wasn’t Macross (obviously) but rather Tiger and Bunny, and once enthusiasm for that began to fade, so did the magazine. It lasted fourteen issues. The Plus and Frontier manga had both managed to finish by that point, but Macross the First was left homeless AGAIN, eventually finding a place digitally on Kadokawa’s “Comic Walker” app. Six chapters were released before the manga went on hiatus. That was about a year ago, and it was announced last week that it’s finally back AGAIN, this time as part of the lineup of “Comic Newtype.”

All of which has been a really long-winded way of getting us to…

Macross the First
Okay, first off, it LOOKS gorgeous. Mikimoto is still a great illustrator, and the designs have all been quite handsomely revised and updated (in other words, all the characters look like they’re ACTUALLY living in 2009, as opposed to the never-ending early-eighties look of the series). I get the distinct feeling, though, that Mikimoto himself only draws the characters, leaving (definitely) the mecha and (probably) the backgrounds to his assistants… so when you get to a chapter that’s nearly all battle scenes, there’s very little actual Mikimoto art in it. There are some interesting twists to the story (most dating back to the planning stages of the show, but left out of the actual production), but… look, we have six volumes of the manga (Volumes One through Three come from Macross Ace, Volumes Four and Five from Newtype Ace, and Volume Six from Comic Walker), and the story still hasn’t progressed very far. By Volume Five, they’ve left Mars and are gearing up for the Miss Macross Contest, when suddenly… the story goes into a flashback to a battle that took place before the Macross launched (Christmas Eve, 2008). Most of Volume Five and all of Volume Six covers this, and Volume Six ends with it still unresolved. In the upcoming Volume Seven, I hope the flashback finishes up and we (FINALLY!) get to Minmay’s debut.

Back in 2009, I was seriously PUMPED to translate this, especially after realizing that the dialogue from the first two issues in Macross Ace (the whole of the first volume) was about 75% taken directly from the TV series, which meant that most of it was already translated. Jasonc and The White Drew Carey from Macross World offered to do the Photoshop work, and we were good to go. However, as soon as I announced publicly that we were going to be working on it, everything turned VERY weird. First, I had some ethical concerns about a quick English translation turnaround (since even people who don’t speak Japanese will still often buy untranslated manga for the art… especially with something like this, where if you’ve seen the series, you know the story. And more about THAT in a bit), but also I think I had underestimated just HOW HUNGRY plenty of fans were for this manga, and how hungry others were to capitalize on that hunger.

Suddenly, I started getting messages about it from people (pretty much all from the Latin American fandom) hounding me; some polite, some rude, some threatening, some warning. One guy insulted me and then begged for my help IN THE SAME SENTENCE. The big thing that kept getting brought up was some scanlation group that wanted to take my translation and scans, translate it into Spanish, and then claim total credit for the whole thing… and they wanted to charge people to read it.

(Another scanlation of the manga was begun by Redshoulder, and you can read his account here and here. There are some definite parallels with my experience, and I have no doubt that the Spanish group he had trouble with was the same one circling around me. Indeed, if I had released our scanlation earlier, I’m sure it would’ve been ME having all the problems instead of him.)

Anyway, the situation had me a little spooked and annoyed, and I vacillated on whether to release the scanlation or not. I talked about this on Macross World, saying that, again, the dialogue (for the first two volumes, which were all that existed at that point) was mostly word-for-word from the show, and even with no Japanese language ability, anyone who had seen the series could understand the story. And then someone came in, saying how awful I was for saying that people should learn Japanese in order to read it. I pointed out that I hadn’t said anything of the kind. And then someone ELSE came in and jumped down my throat, agreeing with the first person, writing a huge post about how stupid and awful I was (I think the exact word he used was “asinine”) to say that people should learn fluent Japanese in order just to read a manga. When I replied that, again, that wasn’t at all what I was saying, he refused to budge, telling me that yes, that WAS what I had been saying (even though it clearly wasn’t). The following posters read his post, didn’t read my original post about it, and totally agreed with him, making a nice little dogpile on me for not translating the manga, even though I had already translated it.

At this point, my enthusiasm for the project went from “heavily dampened” to “virtually nonexistent.”

Anyway, since we had already finished Volume 1, I held on to it until a) the Redshoulder scanlation came out, and b) I saw Volume 1 in Book Off (the big used book chain in Japan) going for about a dollar (¥105). Figuring if it was that cheap, demand must not be high, so we weren’t cutting much into sales, and also figuring that our version was better than the other one (ours may be objectively better, or I may just THINK it’s better because it’s MY work… probably the latter), I went ahead and put it out. A few friends exhorted me to continue, and indeed, I had already started on Volume 2, but again, it’s all caused me nothing but headaches, and my enthusiasm is basically gone. I still have the text files, I still have a bookmark in Volume 2, and once or twice a year, I pick it up and translate a page or so before thinking that I’d rather do something else. I’m not asking for pity or even sympathy, just explaining why I was so gung-ho at first and so uninterested now, and why there’s only one volume finished, even though by rights I should have all six done by this point.

The sudden dive into the flashback and the manga’s uncertain future (yes, Volume Seven is about to be serialized, but who knows what’ll happen after that?) additionally make it difficult to muster up the effort. As the series stands currently, it’s a double cliffhanger: the main story and the flashback are both unfinished. I’d like to know that it’s going to come to an actual finale before I work on it more.

(And, I might add, my ethical fears were, in the end, warranted, since sales were weak enough that not one but TWO magazines that carried the manga were canceled. If every hardcore Macross fan around the world had supported it, regardless of whether they could read Japanese or not, Macross Ace would probably still be cooking along. Just for the art alone, it was worth the price.)

As for the other Macross Ace manga series… Mm, yeah, I kinda want to translate them, but only in the sense that I want to translate EVERYTHING. I’m not really jazzed about any of them, except maybe for the Kikuya Megane ones. And not even them, too much.

Okay, that long and depressing tale finished, it’s on to…

Macross Frontier
1. Albums: Unlike the dizzying array of Macross 7 drama albums, Macross Frontier only has four (which is still about one too many). They were released as a series, “Nyan Dra” (standing, obviously, for “Nyan Nyan Drama”), monthly in early 2009 (the fourth one comes with a box to hold all of them in). The script quality varies track by track: the best ones are, I think, absolutely essential, and the worst ones are pretty stupid. I think the staff knew this, because each album contains one great story, one useless story, and one that’s somewhere in between (except for the fourth volume, where EVERY story is mediocre or dull). The best are usually written by Frontier’s scriptwriter, Hiroyuki Yoshino (one story per disc), and the best of those are (on Volume One) “Alto Meets Sky,” about 13-year-old Alto (weirdly still with Nakamura’s usual Alto voice) discovering his love of flying, and (on Volume Three) “Galaxy Memory,” about Sheryl growing up with Grace. These two feel the most “necessary,” and it’s not surprising that they’re among the stories adapted by Kikuya Megane for her manga version (although she throws things off a little by having Sheryl posters appear in the “Alto Meets Sky”… I can’t believe that Sheryl debuted four or five years prior to the start of Frontier… I get the feeling Ms. Megane just wanted to draw Sheryl, and damn the continuity). Of the non-Yoshino stories, generally they’re played for laughs, and the good ones are VERY funny. Additionally, there’s a “Super Dimension Duet” as a bonus track on each disc, but these are generally more interesting in concept than execution. Mostly, I think, the overcooked arrangements ruin the songs, although Bobby damn near steals “Totsugeki Loveheart.”

Apart from the albums, there are a few other fan club or promotional audio drama clips around. Much like the Macross 7 ones, these are usually thinly-veiled advertisements, although they can be pretty clever.

2. Novels and manga: now HERE’S where Frontier showed its muscle. The sheer amount of stuff is daunting once you see how much there is, and a little disheartening once you realize that a lot of it isn’t very good. First off, there are a whopping EIGHT novels, all by previously-unaffiliated author Ukyou Kodachi, who is now an official staff member (he wrote Macross the Ride, Macross 30, and he’s in charge of “continuity” for Delta, as well as the scriptwriter for Episode 8). The first four novels adapt the TV series, but with A LOT of added material, including cameo appearances from a number of characters from previous Macross shows (and even the games). The next two books are actually not novels but short story collections. In every issue of Macross Ace, Kodachi would write a story, generally Frontier-themed, although sometimes the lines get blurred a bit, like in the one or two about Alto’s father, as a young man, meeting Isamu. Additionally, he would also occasionally write Frontier stories for Kadokawa’s “light novel” magazine, “The Sneaker.” If you’ve read the Suzumiya Haruhi books, the short stories in, say, Book 3 were also originally published in The Sneaker (“Sneaker Literature,” you see, being the imprint for Kadokawa’s “light novel” division). So yeah, all those stories and a couple more are collected here. And finally, the next two novels adapt the movies. And more about Mr. Kodachi in a moment.

So that’s already a lot, and that’s BEFORE we get into the manga serials, which is where you can most easily see how Frontier’s fortunes changed as it became more popular (and who its audience really was). Before the TV series started airing properly, two manga series debuted. First was the official adaptation in Shonen Ace, by Hayato Aoki, which would run to five volumes when complete. Then there was a gag manga (I think…) called “Super Dimension Shrine Maiden Ranka,” by Yoshihiro Kuroiwa. This one didn’t last very long and was never reprinted in book form. I haven’t seen it, except for a very few excepts on Google Image Search. The Shonen Ace adaptation, though, is generally pretty good, despite some dodgy art. It follows the story of the TV series fairly faithfully, although it naturally compresses many events. It’s funny… when this series was ahead of the TV series (as it was for a while), there was a HUGE interest in the manga at Macross World, and someone was even translating the issues as they came out. As soon as the TV show overtook the manga, everyone stopped caring. Which is why you can only find the first five or six chapters translated into English. About midway through the TV series, a third manga serial, “Macross Frontier: Embrace, to the Ends of the Galaxy!” by Sorahiko Mizushima started up in Comp Ace, the computer-themed spin-off of Shonen Ace. If you thought Ranka was too “moe” in the series, you probably shouldn’t check out this manga. Even Sheryl looks like a cutesy little girl in it.

Anyway, yeah, that didn’t prove terribly popular, either, although there ended up being enough installments to collect into a book. So at this point, yes, Macross Ace had become the primary venue for Macross-themed manga, but not the only one. In “Newtype Romance,” which, as its name suggests, is aimed at fangirls, there was “S.M.S.☆Tale,” all about Alto, Michel, and Luca. As far as I can tell, there is virtually no plot, but if you want more Alto and Michel, it’s there for you. And in 2010, there was a big announcement that a manga about Sheryl would be appearing in the girl’s magazine, “Bessatsu Friend.” This ended up being “Sheryl – Kiss in the Galaxy,” with beautiful artwork by Kariko Koyama. I would highly recommend it on the artwork alone. And unfortunately, the artwork is the ONLY reason I can recommend it. It starts promisingly enough, showing Sheryl’s desperate childhood, and then… kinda falls apart. The characterization of Sheryl (and Ranka) is great, but any time the story remembers “Oh, hey… there’s a space war going on, isn’t there?” the writing gets really bad. It’s odd, because Kawamori is credited as the advisor for the series, but I assume that was just for publicity (like Tomino’s role in Crossbone Gundam… he came up the idea and then let the manga artist do all the work). In other words, the story doesn’t really feel like anything Kawamori would’ve done. Sheryl shippers seem to overlook the series’ flaws, though, because the finale at last gives them an unambiguous happy ending for Sheryl and Alto (and, um… Brera and Ranka. Disturbingly enough, they look ready to get married. To each other. All’s well that ends well, I guess). It ran initially for three volumes (which comprise the whole of the main story), followed sometime later by a fourth volume with a side story and a flashback. And again, the art is EXCELLENT. I really wanted to love the series, but I just couldn’t…

Anyway, I hope you notice the trend that Frontier manga started out being serialized in boy’s “otaku” magazines, but ended up in girls’ comics. Again (and I know a bunch of people don’t believe this), the audience had changed, from boys to young women (and, I must insist, emphatically NOT “little girls”).

Oh, there are also a couple of Frontier gag manga anthologies. Neither is terribly interesting.

What IS interesting, though is…

Macross the Ride
The was a feature in Dengeki Hobby magazine, a serialized novel (again by Ukyou Kodachi, who wrote all the Macross Frontier novels and is currently writing the Delta novels) which, let’s face it, really mostly exists so that model kit customizers can show off their work. It’s set on Macross Frontier, a year BEFORE the series starts, and is about air racers on “Island Reno” (it was written before the tragedy at the Reno Air Race). So yeah… everyone has heavily customized racing Valkyries, and every issue of Dengeki Hobby in the twelve issues that contain the story had plenty of photos of models of these customized Valks, with tips on how the kits were made. All of them are pretty great-looking, but I think my favorite is Chelsea Scarlet’s VF-19ACTIVE (which, looking at it now, bears a suspicious resemblance to a VF-31…). So the fact that the story is apparently actually INTERESTING, despite just being a framework to show off model kits, is kinda something. It’s high on my list to read and translate, but, uh… yeah, I won’t be getting to it soon.

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.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH – COSMIC NYAAN

F Merry

MACROSS FRONTIER: MERRY CHRISTMAS WITHOUT YOU
(COSMIC NYAAN)

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.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 139 – NYAN KURI

F Nyan Kuri

MACROSS FRONTIER – NYAN KURI (NYANx2 MUSIC CLIP)

ICONIC SCENE: They want to survive… so why are they standing right on the runway…?

STORY DATE: 2059

RELEASE DATE: December 15, 2010

1. Now the second Frontier movie was initially scheduled for release in late 2010. We didn’t get it then, but received this instead. And indeed, the movie was apparently deliberately delayed while the staff was moved over to this project.

(Oh, and the title is one of those untranslatable puns, since “Clip” would be, in Japanse-English, “kurippu,” and “kuri,” the abbreviation, means “chestnut,” which is why there’s a chestnut in the logo.)

Now at this point, I’d been living in Tokyo since late June of 2010, teaching English, and scraping by (barely). I had met up with what would eventually become the Macross SpeakerPODCast Crew… First Renato (at Shibuya Station), then Adrian (the same day, in Shibuya Mandarake), then Gwyn (sometime later, in Akihabara Excelsior Café). Already, Gwyn was showing almost inexhaustible zeal as the English-language historian of Macross (and Yamato 2199) events and celebrations, appendicitis notwithstanding. As he rightly points out, often he would be the only non-Japanese person present at these events, and if he didn’t document the proceedings, they would be lost to the English-speaking fandom forever (this would become especially important during the 30th Anniversary in 2012, which was very little EXCEPT a series of events… but more about that later).

That said, I was the only member of the soon-to-be-formed podcast crew (and, likewise, the only non-Japanese person, at least among the people I saw) who, on November 26, showed up at Sunshine Cinema in Ikebukuro to see a special advance screening of this. I had been lucky to get a ticket, since it was the first time I’d gotten a ticket from the ATM-like ticket vendor that every convenience store has, and I initially made a mistake, getting a ticket for the screening in Nagoya rather than in Tokyo. Thankfully, there were still seats available in Tokyo by the time I had realized my error. Also thankfully, the tickets had been cheap (¥1000, about thirteen US dollars at that time), so I wasn’t out by TOO much. The screening (which was over four nights: November 26 and 27, and a week later, December 3 and 4) on that first night wasn’t sold out, but it was nearly full. So yeah, it started and there was a projector mix-up, where only the bottom half of the picture was on the screen… They fixed it soon, though (before the trailer for “May’n the Movie” was finished, if I recall correctly).

2. I initially figured that this would be a lot like Flashback 2012, and in a way it is. It’s a collection of music videos for various Sheryl and Ranka songs, but instead of being presented as a concert, as Flashback was, this is more of a miscellany, featuring also interviews with both singers as well as number of fake ads.

It begins rather unpromisingly… after a short interview with Sheryl (untranslatable: she says she hates “jikan,” one word for time, but loves “toki,” another word for time. For you hardcore Madeleine L’Engle fans, she hates “Chronos” but loves “Kairos”… but there’s no good English equivalent), it goes right into “Universal Bunny,” and it’s almost exactly the same as it was in the movie, just with the Vajra and VF-171 scenes cut out (and a few short cuts added). Thankfully, it gets (A LOT) more creative after that.

There’s plenty of reused footage, but even then (like the “Lion” opening titles for the series) it gets manipulated, filtered, and essentially altered so that it feels “familiar” but not like a clip show. And some of the videos (like “Anata no Oto,” in which Ranka LITERALLY walks on water, and “Diamond Crevasse,” with Sheryl gliding through what looks like Venice) are all or nearly-all new animation.

One of the biggest surprises, though, is a full version of “Koi wa Dogfight” (which, I noticed for the first time on THIS rewatch, has lyrics written by Kawamori’s alter-ego, Eiji Kurokawa…) which only got a snippet on the “CM Ranka” album. And this is still the only place to hear the studio version, in all its auto-tune glory, since the (overlong) version that’s on the NEXT album has “live” vocals. It’s also the video that, although we didn’t know it yet, has the most hints for the second movie, since it features the debut of Ranka’s concert costume for the song and also has a lot of pop-up book effects (like “Rainbow Bear-Bear” will). Although “Diamond Crevasse” also shows us the cathedral which appears at the beginning of that film.

Speaking of which… of the videos, I think “Diamond Crevasse” is probably my favorite… it’s elegant, beautiful, and evocative (and shows up during a pivotal scene in the next movie). As far as recycling footage in new and surprising ways, I think “Iteza Gogo Kuji Don’t Be Late” is probably the best. Although I also really like “Lion,” because it seems, unlike the others, like a deliberate throwback to the type of video made for Flashback 2012, even to the point of having a cheering crowd that abruptly goes silent. It’s not the most inventive video in the group, but it’s got old-school style.

The carrot ad is appropriately adorable, and the natto ad is appropriately nauseating.

And I note that “Universal Bunny” and “Northern Cross” were storyboarded by Kawamori, and “Lion” was storyboarded by Frontier TV director Kikuchi.

3. One of the “selling points” for the video before it came out was that there would be some CGI dancing scenes (in “Anata no Oto” for Ranka and “Northern Cross” for Sheryl), deliberately reminiscent of the “Miku Miku Dance” animation program (in which you can create a character and choreograph your own music video for them… just search for “MMD” on YouTube, and you’re sure to come across MANY examples. Link “MMD” with “Everybody” in the search and you’re sure to come across most of the best… although if you’re an ’80s anime fan, you might prefer (as I do) “MMD” and “Twilight”). I think the point of this (here and in the scenes added to the credits of the movie blu-ray re-release) was lost on most western fans, who just complained that it looked cheap and unrealistic. Well, yes… it does. Because they were trying to make it look like Miku Miku Dance. I even saw a few people who thought that the ENTIRE DVD would be done this way, but no, both scenes are extremely short.

4. It’s kind of funny when both Ranka and Sheryl get flustered during their respective interviews. Ranka when she’s asked about what “love” means to her, and she lets slip that there’s a guy she likes, which causes the interviewer to press her about it; Sheryl when she’s asked about her earring, and she lets slip that only one of them is currently in her possession. Both of the girls try their best to cover over having said too much, and neither is terribly successful.

5. So yeah… hardly a necessary addition to the canon, but a really entertaining one. It’s much more varied than its closest relative, Flashback 2012, with no two videos really looking all that much alike (indeed, each one had different Satelight staff working on it, and thus each one has a unique, personal style to it).

But my question, which I kinda brought up last time but put off for here… if people often (apparently) try to introduce their friends to Macross through the movies rather than the TV shows, because the movies are shorter, why does no one suggest starting with the clip videos, which are the shortest of all? Many people castigate Do You Remember Love, saying some variation of, “If you saw this before you saw the TV series, you’d be totally lost!” And yet no one says that about Flashback 2012, even though it’s even more true there. I mean, I know the answer (they don’t tell a story), but you’d think SOMEONE would’ve suggested it at SOME point… and these ARE the shortest segments… (My point here, and I do have one, is that rather than agonizing about whether or not the movie or the series (or the OVA) is the best way to introduce someone to Macross, just give them the first TV series disc. If they like it, they’ll WANT to continue. If not, oh well…  move on to what’s next.)

But back to the main subject, though… again, the thing that always impresses me about the Macross works done by Satelight (i.e. everything from Zero onwards) is the amount of care and effort put into every project. As Adrian has been saying on the Macross SpeakerPODcast regarding Delta, this is clearly a staff of real professionals who love the work and want to make it look as good as possible. And this video is a great place to see them at the very top of their game. The eye for detail really comes through, and there’s something wonderful and, yes, touching about it. If Flashback 2012 was always the video I’d go to whenever I needed a little Macross “jolt” (as I often did in the late ’80s and early ’90s), this is the one I go to now when I want to be CHARMED by Macross, which is just as important. And perhaps even more so as I get older, and charm becomes more necessary than jolt.

THE GREAT MACROSS REWATCH 138 – The False Diva

F Movie 1

MACROSS FRONTIER MOVIE
THE FALSE DIVA

ICONIC SCENE: ROCK THE GALAXY, RANKA!!

STORY DATE: 2059

RELEASE DATE: November 25, 2009

1. So, it’s now a little over a year since Macross Frontier ended its TV run, and it remains popular: the DVDs and BDs are selling well, new products are continuing to come out, there are two separate Macross-themed magazines (the encyclopedic “Macross Chronicle” and the manga anthology “Macross Ace”), there are several concerts, and then the movie that was promised at the end of the series arrives. Like Do You Remember Love, it’s a retelling, not a sequel, although it presumes that you’ve seen the series. I said for Do You Remember Love, “The movie is part of the same series, giving a different aspect to the story and augmenting it, not replacing it. It’s as if the staff is saying, ‘You liked that? Well, here’s some more, with a little twist.'” That goes for the Frontier movies as well, although more for the second one, since that one is completely new animation. This first one (undoubtedly released as soon as the staff could get it out there, as a stopgap while they were primarily hashing out the second movie) recycles plenty of scenes from the TV series. Still, as I said, it’s meant to be viewed IN ADDITION to the TV series, not INSTEAD of it.

Now, when this came out, I hadn’t yet moved to Japan (although I was definitely thinking hard about it), and I had already visited Tokyo earlier in the year (to see the Yoko Kanno concert and Evangelion 2.0… which had a trailer for “The False Diva” before it), so I didn’t get to see this until the DVD was released nearly a year later (this and the Macross 7 “movie” are still the only two Macross films that I haven’t seen in a theater). Hanging out sometime later with what would eventually become the Macross SpeakerPODcast Crew, but still before I’d seen the film, I was told by Adrian that it was much like a movie based on a Shonen Jump manga… that by the end, nothing really seemed to have happened. And that’s pretty much how it is. This film is all set-up, and even turns out to be mostly unnecessary. You could watch the series, skip this movie completely, and watch the second and you’d be just as far ahead, pretty much, minus some hints and foreshadowing.

(Oh, and for those who would call Kawamori “the George Lucas of anime” in that he’s only as good as his collaborators, but who prefer this movie to the series (naming no names, of course), I’ll note that he seems MUCH more “hands on” here, since he wrote the story, is the co-scriptwriter, and the sole director of this film. If you like the series better, then your point still stands, I guess.)

2. After a prologue with Alto floating in space in his EX-Gear, the movie settles into being almost exactly like the TV series (although I notice that the exterior shots of the Frontier Fleet are redone, and look better than the series did. There’s also a nicer shot of the city when Sheryl and Grace arrive), so it’s somewhat more shocking (to me, anyway) when it turns out Ranka is getting her concert tickets from Alto rather than Ozma (so yes, Alto and Ranka are “childhood friends” in this version, with all the baggage that implies in an anime).

Then Ranka goes on a delivery run and we start seeing the movie’s odd fascination with Segways. I don’t quite get it, really… I mean, they seemed rather passé, didn’t they, even in 2009? Once Weird Al put a reference to them in “White and Nerdy,” I think it was all over. It does make for a fun visual trip through the San Francisco area of the city, though.

As she delivers the food, it’s made clear that Klan is now a year or so younger than she was in the series, since she also has a Mihoshi High uniform on, rather than her collegiate outfit in the series.

And I’m not sure I buy that Ranka’s phone can morph into a starter’s baton.

3. Then we get one of the reasons this movie exists: Sheryl’s concert. It starts with a portentous English voice-over, adapting freely from the Gospel of John. I kinda dislike the references to Lynn Minmay, “Shalon” (later corrected on the blu-ray re-release) Apple, and Fire Bomber, as it makes it seem like the Macross musical universe is a very small one indeed (in this way, if in few others, I really love the “Miss DJ” drama album, which has Minmay singing Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Simon & Garfunkel songs, as well as making references to Seiko Matsuda and Akina Nakamori. It expands the Macross musical universe into OUR universe, and makes the Macross singers part of that tradition, rather than standing alone, completely isolated).

And then we get “Universal Bunny” (“universal” here, basically meaning “outer space,” just as it does in Gundam’s “Universal Century”), which really is bizarre and cool and a logical extension of the concerts in the series and from Macross Plus. I note that this scene would’ve been a total surprise to anyone who saw the movie in the first week or two, since it was not on the single that preceded the film (which was for the barely-heard-in-the-movie “Pink Monsoon”), nor was it performed at the Macross Crossover Live, a month previously.

(About “Pink Monsoon”… it’s supposed to be Sheryl’s first single, although (to me) it doesn’t sound like enough of a “debut hit” for that… Anyway, “What ’bout my star?” is her third single, and “Iteza Gogo Kuji Don’t Be Late” is her fifth single… have we heard her second and fourth singles and just don’t know it, or are they still (or never) to be revealed?)

(Oh, and in Macross Delta Episode 5, as Adrian pointed out, Freyja (in Hayate’s back seat) is doing the same dance moves that Sheryl does here… mostly.)

Oh, and the Sheryl “Loveslinger” cowgirl outfit (for “Welcome to My Fanclub’s Night”)is one of my favorites in all of Frontier. And of course it has booster rockets (excuse me, I mean a “gas jet cluster”) underneath the skirt, which will be used again in the following movie and in Delta.

4. Once the Vajra reach Island-1, the battle inside the ship plays out rather differently than it did in the show, by putting more emphasis on Sheryl. Unlike in the series, where Sheryl gets immediately whisked off stage and to safety by Cathy, here Alto has to rescue her. This scene is AWESOME, by the way. And then it cuts back to the TV footage and he has to rescue Ranka. Rough day for Alto!

And the battle plays out much as it did in the series, although they conflate this battle with the Episode 3 one, with Ozma getting badly injured and a headless Vajra still running amok, to be killed by a well-placed shot from Michel.

One other HUGE difference I notice is that while in the TV Episode 1, Gilliam was distracted from fighting the Vajra because Alto was getting in the way, that doesn’t happen here. Gilliam’s death in the show is at least partially (and I’d say mostly) attributable to Alto’s actions, but that’s not the case in the movie. Alto hangs back on the ground, completely unnoticed by Gilliam, until the unfortunate pilot is dead.

Also, the homage to Hikaru’s VF-1D from Episode 2 is gone, as are most of the homages that aren’t woven inextricably into the fabric of the plot. Frontier is no longer about referencing previous Macross shows (and, honestly, hasn’t been for a long time, no matter what bitter Robotech fans may say).

Oh, and we actually SEE Alto vomit, rather than just hearing him (lucky us!).

And then Sheryl gets nabbed by Brera, who’s her bodyguard in this version, and no longer dressed in his open-chest-and-torso ensemble, but in more clerical robes (which, honestly, look just as ridiculous. Brera, as I mentioned before, NEVER looks good, in the series OR in the movies). So yes… among the cast members here is Brera as a Cyborg Priest Ninja. Definitely a first for Macross, and probably for world cinema as a whole. The joke of course is that he takes her back to Grace using the shortest possible route… a sewer. Ah, the life of a star…

5. We are now nearly thirty minutes into the movie, and it’ll take a few more minutes to wrap this part up and move us into the next part. The movie as a whole is thirty seconds shy of being a full two hours, and you can almost set your watch by it: introductions and first battle: thirty minutes (a little under). Next plot developments: one hour. Second battle: thirty minutes. End. So yeah, we won’t be seeing much more of the Vajra attacks for a while.

But let me take a break here to point out just how well the TV footage meshes with the movie footage. Some of the more elaborate scenes are clearly done JUST for the movie, but for the most part they blend seamlessly (of course, a number of the “new” scenes actually ARE scenes from the series, just retouched with new characters or costumes added).

And again, in the aftermath of the battle, it’s clear that the audience is MEANT to be familiar with the TV series, since they waste no time bringing up the Galaxy Conspiracy or showing Grace as a “bad guy.” Again, the fun of movies like this, as far as I’m concerned, is NOT in recommending them to friends who haven’t seen the show, as many people argue over, but in seeing what gets tweaked and what surprises they have in store for the people who DID watch it (I’ll have more to say about this next time… and should’ve said something about it a while back).

6. The next big change-up in the story happens while Ranka is singing “Aimo” to Alto at Griffith Park, and Sheryl shows up, also singing it. On the one hand, it’s mostly meant to telescope several different scenes from Episodes 2 and 3 together, but on the other, it promises radical changes to the plot of the series, and brings up its own mystery: how does Sheryl know “Aimo”?

The seriousness of the scene, though, is undercut a couple of minutes later, as Sheryl’s phone (placed, for some reason, probably a lewd one, between her breasts) starts ringing, and pops out of her blouse. The in-joke about her phone is that it’s shaped like a taiyaki, which is a Japanese (what would you call it? Confection…? Pastry…?)… it’s basically a sweet bean paste cake shaped like a fish. And May’n, Sheryl’s singing voice, is absolutely CRAZY about taiyaki, as anyone who follows her on Facebook will quickly learn.

(The guy who sang the Gatchaman ending theme (“Dareda? Dareda? Da-re-da-?”) had a big hit in 1976 with the song “Swim! Taiyaki-kun.)

 

Alto’s hazing is also different (and hilarious), involving a tear gas bomb.

After that, it falls more in line with Episode 5 of the series (skipping Episode 4 pretty much completely), although I notice that Aya Endo no longer says Sheryl’s line (echoing Minmay) “You don’t want to be with me?” in imitation of Mari Iijima’s way of saying it. Again, the homages are mostly cut from the film. And the vibrating phone scene is gone as well.

There’s a little hint of something that will become important in the next movie, though, where it it turns out that Alto visited Macross Galaxy when he was a child.

The visit to Island-3 is also different, involving the second Segway scene in the movie, as Sheryl and Alto ride over pastures and through a forest (and they fall off a cliff. A small one).

7. Another big difference is that Ozma and Cathy immediately (somewhat guided by Leon) jump to the idea that the Vajra are being controlled by Galaxy, which sets up the idea that Sheryl might be a spy (an idea that will get recycled in Delta).

And the bizarre subplot about Alto lying to Ranka about being in the mall with Sheryl is gone, since he sees Ranka there right as Sheryl’s leaving. So he knows that she knows that he’s been out with Sheryl. No use lying about it.

8. Okay, let’s say you’re working on the story for this movie. You know it’s more-or-less only going to cover the first seven episodes of the series, and thus, Ranka won’t become a star until the next movie. And yet, you need to throw in some songs for Megumi Nakajima to sing, especially some NEW songs. What do you do? Okay, give her the ending theme, sure. And while you’re at it, expand the number of promotions she does. Not just carrots this time, but plenty of other things, too! Problem solved!

The first is the most humiliating… the glowing natto. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had natto (soybeans in fermented curd). It’s not too bad with soy sauce and onion (LOTS of soy sauce and LOTS of onion); the texture of the curd is sort of like melted mozzarella cheese (just, um, stickier and, uh, kinda brittle), but the part that turns many people off is the smell. It really is an awful, awful, dirty-sock smell. The first time I had it, I admit I gagged a bit. It doesn’t actually TASTE bad (or taste like anything, really… it’s like tofu that way), but the stink alone is pure nastiness. It’s one of those foods that your Japanese friends might give you as a challenge, and laugh at you for failing (not that, uh, I would know or anything…). There’s an untranslatable pun here, in that “neba-neba” means “sticky,” but also sounds like “never-never,” hence the line about “Neba-Neba Land.” And yes, the natto splattered all over Ranka’s face looks like, um… something else. Deliberately, I’m sure.

For my money, though, the best is the Dainam promotion in “Deep Akiba,” Frontier’s version of Akihabara, with plenty of model kits in the background (according to friends who saw it in the theater, Aquarion was among them, but that was replaced by the Macross Quarter for the DVD and all subsequent versions). And of course “Dainam” is an odd contraction of “BanDAI NAMco” (the fact that they use the same typeface is a dead giveaway).

And the Daruma Seminar probably deserves a bit of explanation, although you can easily look up “daruma” on Wikipedia, I guess. Basically, you get one before your exams start, and paint it in gradually as you finish each test. I’ve never actually seen a real daruma, unless the one that they put as a head on a three-foot or so model of the SDF-1’s body counts. Pretty much every official Macross event, that thing is there.

And then… the most commercial of the, um, commercials: the Family Mart ad. Now, again, I wasn’t in Japan at the time this movie came out, but Family Mart is seriously EVERYWHERE (even more now, since they bought up all the AM-PM locations a few years ago), and this jingle was actually getting played in Family Mart stores as a tie-in with the movie. And indeed, even now, Family Mart always has the Macross promotions, just as 7-11 always has the Gundam and One Piece promotions and Lawson’s always has Evangelion (Mini-Stop, which was the convenience store closest to my house, had, uh… Squid Girl). Anyway, I dunno… the product placement kind of annoys me here, and more so since it got used in the stores itself.

(That said, I love the guy in the car shouting “GODDAMMIT!” at Alto.)

And I do kinda wonder which exact Family Mart was used as the model for the one here. It’s much bigger than most of them. And… seeing the fried chicken near the cash register (the “Fami-Chicki”) makes me crave it a bit, even though the quality was widely variable. Most of the time, it tasted great, but occasionally you’d get a piece that was almost pure fat, and it was pretty gross.

To me, the weirdest thing about this decision to give Ranka a bunch of ad jingles instead of full songs was the way they got released. Instead of a regular soundtrack album for the movie, there were two mini-albums: “Universal Bunny” by Sheryl Nome Starring May’n, and “CM Ranka” (titled after the Yoko Kanno ad jingle albums, “CM Yoko”) by Ranka Lee=Megumi Nakajima. It maximizes profits this way of course, two twenty-minute CDs rather than a full soundtrack, but I do wish they’d done a full album instead, and put some of the unreleased orchestral tracks on it.

9. A couple of character notes here: first, Ranka seems much more perceptive here (and willing to SAY what she’s thinking), especially when telling Alto that he feels “far away” when talking about his family, than she does in the series. And Alto has much stronger (or, at least, again, much more VOCAL) gender identity issues than he did in the show. I’m sure most of this has to do with needing to simplify and telescope things for the movie (and in some cases to foreground the issues briefly, because they don’t have fifteen or twenty episodes to let them burble quietly in the background), but both of them seem better able to COMMUNICATE here than they did before. Almost as if they’ve matured a bit since the series. Again, as I keep insisting, I definitely think this movie is meant to be seen AFTER the show rather than INSTEAD of it. But ultimately, however you look at it, I think Ranka is clearer and more confident here, and Alto has more of a real personality. This is all to the good.

10. As they get further into the “Sheryl-might-be-a-spy” subplot, I love Michel’s list: “Mata Hari, Stephanie von Hohenlohe, Li Xianglan, Sharon Apple…” One of these things is NOT like the others…

I dunno… it adds an interesting complication to Sheryl’s solicitousness towards Alto (is she nice to him because she likes him, or because she’s trying to pry info out of him?), but it never really ends up going anywhere… in THIS movie, anyway.

And the scene with Alto and Michel hanging out near the fountain is clearly thrown in primarily to give a little thrill to the fujoshi (fangirls) who like to fantasize about them “getting together.” Of course, the next scene is Sheryl sitting in her spacious hotel room, wearing just a flimsy top and a pair of panties, which I for one find pretty gratifying, so I can’t really point fingers.

This brings up Sheryl’s new character wrinkle: that, ultimately, she’s lonely. I suppose we could infer it in the show, even though it’s never stated outright, but I don’t think so. This is a new trait given to the character.

(Oh, and two of the pictures Sheryl looks at are of young Ranka hanging with old Mao. Again I ask: is Mao still alive…? I hope so. It’s kinda sad to think of her getting killed on the research fleet by Vajra… I suppose if she WERE still alive, the Frontier government or SMS could contact her and she’d reveal everything, but it’s my hope that she’s still alive, but they just don’t know how to locate her. Yeah… that’s the ticket!)

And THEN, the next scene has Ai-kun jumping into Ranka’s sweater (and popping out of her skirt), so yeah… forget what I said about the fujoshi-bait earlier. The movie is trying hard to have something for EVERYONE.

And, as I’ve said before, I know Ai-kun pretty much just sounds like your average squeaky-toy, but I really like his voice.

Interestingly, Ranka is practicing “Seikan Hikou,” i.e. song-not-appearing-in-this-film.

11. And hey! Alto finding Sheryl’s earring gets a MUCH clearer explanation here (by which I mean there’s an explanation. Period. There wasn’t in the series).

So Sheryl’s waiting for him in Griffith Park, and Ranka shows up coincidentally. Honestly, although Sheryl tries to reassure Ranka by saying that she’s “only playing” with Alto, I’m not sure that I would be put much at ease by that, if I were in Ranka’s shoes. I mean, if some famous celebrity guy told me, “Oh, that girl you’ve got a crush on? Don’t worry, I’m just fooling around with her. It’s not serious. You can have her after I’m done,” I don’t think I’d be, y’know, PLEASED to hear that.

Oh, and Sheryl and Ranka singing “Aimo” together makes Ai-kun glow. Again, I remember one guy on Animesuki saying that if “Aimo” was in the movie, he was giving up on Macross entirely. This makes the third time it’s shown up in the movie, and we’re just a little over the halfway point. I assume he’s not reading this blog post. Although here, it does make it BLATANTLY OBVIOUS (because, AGAIN, the intended audience saw the series and thus already KNOWS) that Ai-kun is a Vajra baby.

And again, nothing really gets made of the Sheryl Spy subplot, except for the kind of incredible scene where Alto STRAIGHT UP SHOVES HER to get her away from Ranka. My jaw honestly dropped when I first saw that scene. I mean, it’s all a misunderstanding, but… DAMN!

(Of course, this leads into the climax by reinforcing Sheryl’s feelings of solitude.)

12. Grace is naked in the next scene. As I said, something for everyone…

Even, um, the Brera/Grace fans (does anyone “ship” them…?)

That “self-drying” thing she’s got is cool, though. A real time-saver.

13. And I wonder… Ozma asks Ranka, “Her singing or your life, which is more important?” Is that an homage to Hikaru’s famous question to Minmay back in Episode 2 of the original? Generally, the movies acknowledge that Frontier is its own thing by now, and eschew the homages that popped up in the series, but this MIGHT be one that slipped through…

And then we get to Sheryl’s “Revenge Live.” After I saw this movie, I knew that I wanted one of the light blue T-shirts with the Sheryl logo on it that they’re selling at the goods booth (and that all of her staff are wearing). Luckily, by the time I saw the DVD of this movie, I was living in Tokyo, and I found the shirt easily at Animate in Akihabara. I usually made a point of wearing it at any anime-related event I went to, so (according to Adrian) even Macross staff members think of me as “the foreign guy with the Sheryl shirt.” It’s not a bad legacy.

(The shirt’s getting a little worn-out now, though… I kinda want a second one. Otherwise I’ll have to be known as “the foreign guy who used to wear a Sheryl shirt but now wears a Walküre shirt”… provided, of course, that I soon get my hands on a Walküre shirt. HINT-HINT!)

ANYWAY, Alto touches the earring and suddenly receives Sheryl’s feelings, which finally tells him about her loneliness. And yeah… honestly, even given what we know about Fold Quartz, this seems a little far-fetched. I mean, it’s almost like he BECOMES Sheryl for a few moments there. But still… it’s the movie, needs to be compressed from the series, fans already know this stuff, yadda yadda yadda…

And then he comes out and tells her that she’s not alone, which is (as he knows) exactly what she wants to hear. So yeah… good for Alto!

And then… look, it almost feels like a parody: Alto and Sheryl have their tender moment, then Grace comes out, subverting it. And then Ozma and Cathy come out, subverting THAT. And they say that “Grace O’Connor” is a fake name (fixing an announced problem from the series… that she never changed her name, even when working covertly). Too many reversals and reveals in too short a time. I probably would’ve laughed if I’d seen this in the theater (and thus, it’s a good thing I didn’t, considering that ANY audience reaction whatsoever during films seems to be frowned upon in Japan).

And then comes THE GREATEST PART IN THIS WHOLE MOVIE, as Sheryl hires SMS personally to deal with the Vajra attack on Macross Galaxy. Seriously, this is like if Mariah Carey had hired Blackwater to stop 9/11 (as I’m sure she did in some alternate universe somewhere). There’s also a really great illustration from the 2010 Macross F calendar showing Sheryl receiving the bill.

14. We’re pretty much at the final act now. Sheryl’s concert starts, the Macross Quarter goes off to rescue Galaxy, and Alto has the brand-new Tornado Pack added to his Valk. It’s kind of like the Strike Pack in that it has two cannons on it, as well as a lot more missiles than the regular Super Pack. Unlike the Strike Pack, the cannons can actually swivel around (I assume this is controlled automatically…). Oddly, Alto’s Tornado Pack is really the only new mecha here, unlike, say, Do You Remember Love, which featured a number of new designs and paint schemes for the enthusiastic collector to drool over (and buy toys and kits of). That is, unless you count the new Vajra mothership and the “Hound Vajra” that shows up a little later. Not that they’ve ever made products of those.

A lot of Sheryl’s concert footage is lifted directly from the series, although the backdrop, a huge, industrial-looking boat, is entirely new (and looks great). Although I notice there’s one shot where she’s standing on the rocky plateau from Episode 1. I’m not sure if this is a mistake or not. The concert plays out much as it did in Episode 7… at first. Even some of Sheryl and Ranka’s dialogue is the same. The difference is when the Vajra “hear” Sheryl (and Ranka) singing through the earring that Alto has, they fold directly to Frontier.

And then it turns into something kind of new for Frontier: an aerial battle (as opposed to the usual street-level battle) inside Island-1. There’s a very specific reason for this: Kawamori regretted that there weren’t more atmospheric battles in Frontier (after all, most of them happen in space) and really wanted to have more. And compare to Delta which, so far at least, is nearly ALL atmospheric battles.

And in a MASSIVE change from the show, Ranka gets her memories back NOW, realizes that the Vajra are after her, and really takes charge of the situation, accompanied by a surprisingly fierce battle cry. That said, running down a pier might not have been the best idea, but I’m not sure she had much of a choice. Anyway, she gets captured, but at least it’s more or less intentional on her part. She seems quite willing to sacrifice herself to save the Fleet.

And Sheryl starts singing “Obelisk,” one of the best of the songs written for the movie.

And then SMS finally gets back, and everyone gets a little bit of time in the spotlight. Canaria’s Monster now has a bit of Sheryl nose art on it (“Fury Belle”) instead of the Ranka “Call Up Monster Girl” art it had in the later episodes of the series. And Michel gets a fake-out death scene. Which… on the one hand, it seems like it could be an appropriate (if early) time to kill him off. On the other, he’s a really popular character, so you’d kinda figure they would want him around for the second movie. And indeed, he’s fine.

So all ends happily, if a little inconclusively. I mean, I’m sure Sheryl feeling alone wasn’t really the plot thread that was put forth as the one to wrap up here, but that’s what we get. Sheryl knows she’s not alone. Yay. She’ll learn it again later.

And, uh… not EVERYTHING shown in the preview for the second movie (at the end of the credits here) actually happens in it.

15. On the whole, I don’t find a whole lot to complain about. The first half-hour is great, the last half-hour is excellent, the middle hour is… all right. But I can’t shake the feeling that as good as parts of this movie are, as a whole, it all feels unnecessary. Like, as I said, they were buying time to work on the second film, which is the REAL one. But that may just be me with hindsight, looking back. Overall, it’s not bad, with some really wonderful moments, and if you desire “some more, with a little twist,” then I think it’s fine. But it feels more like an appetizer instead of a full meal.

NUMBER OF TIMES RANKA SAYS “ALTO-KUN” THIS EPISODE: I’ll be honest… I lost count. And I don’t feel like watching the movie again to find out. If you wish to do so, be my guest.

AND TOTAL: 88+some amount.