Today I want to discuss something that has been on my mind lately, anime which get multiple universes created out of them. This is actually very rare, there are only a few who get true multiple universes with the intent from the start to create something completely different from the first incarnation of the anime if you don’t count manga. What I will be focusing on today is Macross Frontier since it is the series I understand and care about the most of the handful.
I think most viewers just accept it when they see another universe, consume it and move on without thinking much about it but when you really care about the show and the characters in that show this is where there is much to discuss. Multiple universes have a big impact on the characters we love, the concept of canon between the two universes and which series is the true canon and in particular how Macross Frontier did something very unique when it attempted to solve a question from the original in a different universe.
In case you haven’t read already Macross Frontier is in fact, as stated by Kawamori the creator of Macross, a parallel universe setup which Macross fans may note is a change from previous Macross remakes which kept everything in one timeline. Because of this concept we get several benefits but at the same time there are issues that arise from this. Obviously the main benefit is that we get more content from an otherwise completed anime and sometimes we get a better story as well. I think generally speaking most fans get excited by new remakes. In the case of Macross Frontier I would say most people were pleased by having the movies but whether or not it was a better story is more mixed.
The more interesting aspect and the part where this becomes more messy is how we relate the two series between one another. Canon is something that is extremely important in anime and it is probably the most important factor behind creating characters and stories whom we love. So the problem is when you introduce extra universes this idea becomes extremely muddled and fans in general start coming up with their own interpretations of how to relate the universes in a way that makes sense to them.
In my scouring of the internet in search of all things Ranka related I have encountered many different types of reactions to the Macross Frontier multiple universe issue and the problem here is I think most people don’t know it is in fact a parallel universe. Some fans tend to view the storyline and even character growth as some kind of combined timeline starting from the beginning of the TV show and ending with the end of the movies. While I can see how this might make sense to people it would not be accurate to say as such. Still others take their favorite aspects of each series and combine them (due to previous statements by Kawamori). Finally some either view the series they liked better as true or they just correctly viewed the two as separate items.
While most of the blame should be on the creators for not making it more clear it really is a big mess. Canon becomes a less rigid concept to many people when you have these kind of inconsistencies and makes the universe that was created for us become that much less realistic. I think its something many people don’t even realize they are a victim of. It has also made me pull a few hairs out of my skull when reading theories.
Outside of general fan interpretation parallel universes throw another problem at us which is how do we as fans interpret our favorite characters. In Macross F the difference between characters in the TV series and movie is not negligible. The three main characters are very different, their story is mostly very different, the end result is extremely different and even for side characters there are differences such as character deaths.
When discussing Macross Frontier I have to qualify everything with “movie Ranka” or “TV Sheryl” because it’s so different. To me while this makes for more interesting viewing in the movie as someone who loves characters this kills the imagination of a real Macross Frontier world out there. How as a Michael fan should I feel when my character in one show is alive and the other is dead? This is a rather difficult problem to digest and most likely I imagine as fan of him I would just pretend the favorable universe is the true one. As a character lover and more so a Ranka lover its a very mixed feeling I have about issue, one I think in the end I would have prefer not to have to think about as ideally the best option is just one Ranka, the best one with the best end.
Probably the part I want to touch on the most though is the thing Macross Frontier did that I believe no other series has ever done before. This is to leave hanging a question from the TV series and then try to sell the movies as an answer to said question. This is of course referring to the love triangle, it was in the TV series created with a resolution in mind and at the last minute changed so it was left unresolved. The movies in turn, despite being a completely original universe, were marketed as giving an answer to this question.
I do not like one bit this decision mostly due to the very idea creating more questions than solving it to anyone who really thinks about it. Granted I think I have done a fairly decent job of showing the results of the TV series in past articles on this blog. Still the very notion is contradictory because once you start introducing the idea of other universes this question becomes almost meaningless because in some universes Alto will love Ranka and in others he will love Sheryl more. The canon end everyone was looking forward to was nothing more than a troll. Maybe Kawamori’s greatest troll yet because very few will ever realize they were trolled.
Finally the one question which people should also be asking is which of these series, if any, fit in with the rest of the Macross universe as we know it. Granted we will likely never know due to the fact that Kawamori will just use whatever he feels like from the two universes. He has shown time and again he just doesn’t care about canon he is more concerned with creating a good story. For the rest of us this is a bit more important because when the next series comes out we want to know if is Alto gone in this universe, who did he choose, is Micheal alive or dead and so on.
I don’t think there is any way to even guess but if you were to ask me based on other anime’s with multiple universes I usually always looked at either the original or TV series as the canon. Usually the original is a TV series so this works out well and the thing about the TV series is there is more depth to the universe due to the time it has to develop it. Also as the original, we tend to have more fond memories and its the one we first knew this characters as. Finally, the original has the most pure intent of the creator while the second is a more of a what if scenario or maybe even a fun intent (I can see this with Macross F) although it could be argued that the second universe is a more evolved attempted. To be honest the TV series as the true canon is completely fine with me even if I lose my favorite Ranka as canon because TV Ranka was a better developed character (even if many would disagree) and she got a good end as well.
But don’t misunderstand me, while it sounds like I am very critical of the creation of Macross Frontier movies as a parallel universe I am not. I did enjoy the movies very much up until the bad end and I would hate for them to be erased from existence because they gave me so much good. I do think the love triangle was better left not touched upon in the movies if you were going to leave it alone in the series, there really is no good reason for this other than money. At the very least be honest about the TV series love triangle end, although I suppose Kawamori figured it was pretty obvious if you compare the changes. But I do believe parallel universes are a good thing I just wish writers would keep in mind that to us canon is important as a means to create a real world out of their works in our imagination.