I Can Clearly Hear It, the Galaxy’s Song: Macross Frontier 1-13

If one were to describe a Macross series, there would be many recurring concepts: war, transforming fighter jets, idol singers, love triangles, culture. However, if one were to describe the feelings conveyed by each series, theywould be hard-pressed to find too many similarities. The original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross feels different from Macross Plus, which in turn has little in common with Macross 7 or Macross Zero thematically. They all exist in the same universe, but they could not be further from each other without turning into Gaogaigar and Betterman.

So it can be mighty confusing when I say that Macross Frontier, or at least the first half of it, feels like Macross.

Macross Frontier is the 25th anniversary celebration of Studio Nue’s Macross, and with it comes a return to the original in terms of pacing, characterization, and the specific balance of love and war and the way they intertwine. Nowhere is this more evident than in  the main love triangle of Macross Frontier.

The “love triangle” has been a constant part of Macross since day one with Hikaru, Misa, and Minmay. Still, I have always found the original love triangle to be the best because it truly seemed like a battle for the heart, a battle whose landscape is transformed radically by war and the circumstances surrounding it. Macross Plus is less about developing love and more about resolving an existing one, Macross Zero’s is wrapped in its own lore, and Macross 7’s you can hardly call a love triangle when it involves a guy who likes a girl, a girl who kind of likes both, and a guy who doesn’t care. In every case, the romantic tension is lacking, a tension which I believe factors significantly into the success of the original.

Macross Frontier’s three main characters, Saotome Alto, Sheryl Nome, and Ranka Lee, recapture that tension. Saotome Alto is an amateur fighter pilot and former theatrical actor. Sheryl Nome, the “Galactic Fairy,” is by far the biggest music idol of the day. Ranka Lee is a young girl working at a Chinese restaurant who aspires to be a pop idol. Mankind’s encounter with the Vajra, a violent alien race so powerful it can easily avoid an Itano Circus, brings Alto, Sheryl, and Ranka together and ties their destinies together.

It all sounds very familiar, but I am in no way saying that Macross Frontier is treading old ground, or that it’s some sort of lazy throwback to time immaterial (the 1980s). Already from my small and deliberately basic description, there are some things which are new and refreshing, particularly in this current age of anime. Unlike previous series, the main characters are all involved in performance in very different ways. There’s also the fact that we have not one but two idols with many years of experience of difference between them, with Sheryl being both Ranka’s surrogate mother (Ranka herself losing her parents at an early age), and her conflicted rival for the affections of Alto. Just like in the original Macross, I cannot bring myself to hate either girl or Alto, and also like in the original, I cannot seem to decide who I want to side with at the moment. I like this feeling. It’s one I’ve enjoyed before, and yet it feels so new.

Macross has always used its continuity as merely a backdrop, unlike say, Robotech, which thrives on it. However, whereas the latest incarnation of Robotech is marred by this devotion to continuity, Macross Frontier’s many, many nods to the past, a live performance of My Boyfriend is a Pilot and a car radio playing Planet Dance being just two examples, fit right in without overwhelming the viewer with backstory. History lessons are welcomed, but are not absolutely necessary, so what you end up having is a series which is progress not for the sake of progress but for making something worth watching and worth remembering.

The suspense is so great I may deculture my pants.

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10 thoughts on “I Can Clearly Hear It, the Galaxy’s Song: Macross Frontier 1-13

  1. For me, Macross Frontier at this point is the anime equivalent of the character Justy Ueki Tylor from Irresponsible Captain Tylor. I honestly can’t tell whether it’s genius or just incredibly retarded. I really want to believe it’s the former, but every time they throw in the Looney Tunes reactions or try to convince us that the storyline of Macross Zero somehow was not utterly wretched, my faith wavers.

    I don’t typically watch shows as they’er being released because I’m sick of seeing things that start off promising and then turn to crap partway through at a point where you’ve already watched so much that you may as well watch the rest. That I’m doing this for Macross Frontier (and as a result, a few other series too) is a big leap of faith on my part. I really don’t want this to suck, but as it seems that I’m in the minority regarding what I want to happen–unlike you, I can and do really bring myself to hate Ranka Lee–it’s a coin toss. Let’s hope that coin doesn’t fall on the Gundam SEED Destiny side. That was the last show I watched as it was coming out, which explains a lot if you think about it.

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  2. I agree with your opinion about something new with Macross Frontier.

    I may not have watched any previous Macross series before (so in what chronological order do you recommend me to watch?), but the pacing and story development I’ve seen in this new show exudes a certain nostalgic charm that still captivates the old audiences, while attracting the new viewers to it. There’s no pretensions about the premise: the story takes place in an alternate setting, without the UN-anti-UN or Zentradi battles (I need to use AniDB to find out the synopsis of the previous shows), and the tropes used isn’t so in-your-face.

    I might belong to one of those “eternal optimists” group. I watch new shows without the inherent nagging doubts one might acquire during one’s lifetime of watching new shows with potential (and subsequently jumped the shark). I did have watched a few shows I regret ever seeing, but it doesn’t hurt to remind myself that you need to take a fresh perspective on things then and there. It takes but calculated watching and taking on shows. (I feel like Crusader now.)

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  3. I agree with your opinion that this Macross lives up to the original. I’ve watched all Macross but M7 (read the manga, completely disappointing) but I feel not one feels like the real deal as MF. It’s more of a ‘spiritual successor’ than any other Macross.

    Only thing that disappoints me is that ever since the first episode it looks like Sheryl will end up with Alto. I can appreciate the fluff and teasing between all three, but it’s kind of a boring love triangle at how obviously is going to end up, at least in my opinion.

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  4. I think you’ve hit upon what’s making Macross Frontier compelling in a way that even Macross 7 — up until now the most sequel-like sequel in the Macross universe — wasn’t. I very much enjoyed 7, of course, but it was impossible to take the love triangle seriously, and the Fire Bomber mechs crossed a certain line, becoming just too silly to find particularly thrilling.

    But enough about Macross 7.

    Frontier seems more like a loving homage, put together by a team that truly understands what made the original great; it’s also delving into the realities of life in post-Zentraedi society in a way that is completely new for a Macross show. I mean, we get snippets of huge Macronized farmers and yukata-clad Zentraedi singing culturally-appropriate enka. It’s funny, but it’s also showing a side of the universe we’ve never seen before.

    The central plot and love triangle is a variation on the theme of the original, but different enough that it’s not immediately obvious how things will pan out. So far the show’s surprised me several times with its developments. The writing is so good I don’t even notice the non-Mikimoto character designs anymore.

    Also I should take this opportunity to say that OGIUE MANIAX is pretty much my favorite anime blog, and the only one I read with any regularity. Keep up the good work.

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  5. I think you have it right … this series definitely “feels’ like the original .. much more than the other series. I’ve seen all the other series and this one has the same pull as what brought me to Robotech in the first place … everything is both familiar and yet fresh and interesting. I love the story and the characters. Klein Klan is my new Macross crush .. move over Misa :)

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  6. I have to agree, I think Macross Frontier “feels” like the original. It captures its spirit. With one personal exception, I will never hate anyone with the fiery passion I reserve for Minmay Lynn alone. And I can never imagine rooting for her, for anything, except maybe to become a robot that only function is to sing and stay out of the way of everyone else.

    After a recent viewing of the original TV series, I find it hard to believe anyone actually thought Hikaru would end up with Minmay after episode 12. I felt the writing on the wall was obvious (minus the weirdness tacked on story after episode 27). I felt the same way about Macross Frontier, funnily after episode 12 as well. I find it highly unlikely that Sheryl will end up with Alto.

    Also, Macross Frontier doesn’t have a Roy Focker and we all need one of those.

    I also keep hoping for a random Basara appearance in Frontier.

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  7. That’s one thing that kind of hit me while watching Macross 7 …. in all of these Macross series it’s Minmei that is the key figure, especially for all the various singers/Musicians. I feel that Hikaru and the rest of the folks got left behind in the annals of Macross history. So Sad.

    Isn’t Ozma supposed to be the Roy Fokker equivalent?

    I’m guessing no one winds up with Alto. I’m just holding out for Michael/Klan and Nanase/Luca hooks ups.

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  8. Pingback: Sing a New Song, a Song of Generations: Macross Frontier « OGIUE MANIAX

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