I write a lot on Macross Frontier and while I write mostly for either fun or to clarify misunderstood or hidden elements of Macross today I feel what I am writing about is something more necessary. Today I am looking more in-depth at Alto and through this explaining what is at the core of Macross F. The reason this is important is because I no longer trust the integrity of the franchise when it comes to this topic. I want to record this in case they do change history even more than what they did with the Macross Frontier movies. Not only that but people so often get wrong the nature of the relationship of Alto between Ranka and Sheryl I want to set the record straight.
While talking about the love triangle is necessary here I don’t want to debate it. You should read my other posts first if you are not familiar on what happen in the TV series. A good starting point is here but the links within it are more important to read. Please note that this covers only the TV series as the movies are fairly shallow about Alto as well as his relationship with Ranka and Sheryl.
There are two major components to Alto, one is his family issues that go into his childhood and the other is his dreams that exist of flying. I will be showing here how Alto’s wings that at the end ultimately gave him his strength are represented by Ranka being his dreams and Sheryl being his family and past. This is shown in the setup, in character relationships and in the plot.
If you look closely Ranka is associated throughout the series with Alto and flying. She is the one in the plane with Alto all the time and the one he flew for to protect. One of the most prolific examples of this is how the paper plane is something that is almost always done between Ranka and Alto outside a few instances that are highly interpretable. For example in episode five while he is making a paper plane near Sheryl and Klan the plane is thrown and seen by Ranka. She then gains the strength to sing and start down her path of fame, so it really is about Ranka here not anyone else.
Sheryl is more involved with dealing with things associated with Alto’s family and his past. She talks to him about it, lives with his family for a while and as I will talk about more later even embodies aspects of his past. There are even some scenes where this connection is not obvious such as on Alto’s birthday. Here you might think Sheryl is giving Alto the present of the sky but Alto is more running away from his family issues which were presented earlier in the episode. Funny enough it is Ranka who ends up being the one he flies with next episode.
Before I get into this more you might be thinking of instances where this is not true. Yes there are a couple of them but keep in mind these two aspects of Alto’s are not mutually exclusive but rather closely tied together. Having a couple of times makes sense if you keep in mind that Alto most likely wants to fly to escape his trapped princess like childhood even if he doesn’t realize it. As such you can imagine he doesn’t want either associated with the other.
If you look at instances where Ranka can be associated with his past issues (episode 10) and Sheryl flying (episode 8) he is very unhappy and unwilling about it them. Still they are rather limited cases and overall it happens so much less than vice versa. However I believe the few do exist to show this aspect of him. Not to mention in a team project like Macross F it is just bound to happen over 25 episodes.
So lets look at the setup, this is rather easy to see and sets the pace for character relationships as well. For Ranka Alto found out early on that Ranka was just like him in that she lost her mother early in childhood and had a hard childhood but at the same time she has dreams she wishes to achieve just like Alto. It’s easy to see then that he would be able to relate to her but also feed off of her path of following her dreams (Ranka did likewise).
For Sheryl before he knew her he already disliked her, one of the first things we see is her ads in the sky and him stating the sky is so low. Funny enough while holding a paper plane with her picture on it, about the only time the paper plane isn’t actually about Ranka in some way (I could speculated on this for hours if I wanted to). To Alto she is like the childhood star he never wanted to be and as thus views her as someone like those who are weighing down on his freedom to follow his dreams and fly in the skies.
Moving on to character relationships, I think if you look at how Sheryl is always being aggressive towards Alto it is similar to how his family treats him so it’s no wonder he would respond very negatively towards her advances early on. A lot of people may look at it like a cute relationship and I think it’s funny this is where the popularity of the pair comes from but in reality it’s completely different from how it looks. I really think that how he interacts with her is a bigger metaphor with how he feels about his issues with his family and past. It’s just his immaturity and desire to run away rather than how he feels about Sheryl surfacing.
Ranka on the other hand is someone who he can relate to and is following her dreams to the fullest. It’s shown that she is someone whom he draws a lot of his strength from early on. As she is someone doing a better job of it too you can see he is trying to prove himself to her. He comments more than a few times how he really admires what she does during the series. Often all this gets lost in people just thinking Ranka is a moe character he has to go save because he is nice but it’s far deeper than that. Alas though it is not that easy for him as now we come to the last part, the plot.
So if Ranka is his dreams and Sheryl his past much of Alto’s story can be described as Alto having to accept his past in order to fulfill his dreams. Visually you could think of it as Sheryl is the anchor that is weighing down Alto keeping him from flying with Ranka in the beginning. In fact in the series Sheryl says she sings from the darkness while Ranka is the light which could very much be a metaphor for Alto’s relationship with both at that point. But this does not mean Sheryl is a negative influence on him. Actually she is more the person he needed in order to get over his past which was causing him to run away for much of the series. Although it took him until the end of the series to finally achieve this.
Because of Sheryl he was able to set foot in his old house again in the later half. Not only that Sheryl became almost his mother reincarnated at this point as she reminded him of her, was wearing his mother’s old clothes and was also suffering from a terminal illness. So let’s go into this point in the series some more at around episode 21. He has been failing to be the one to protect Ranka over and over again while making some head way with Sheryl’s side with his family issues. The problem of course is he is still running away from his problems and still immature so how could he protect someone else or show his worth.
At this pivotal point for Alto is where Ranka leaves Frontier to go try to end the war. Put yourself in Alto’s shoes he’s been trying to protect Ranka and show his worth aka so he could fly in the skies alongside her (metaphorically). Instead he just utterly failed here to do either as she went with Brera instead down her own path. Keep in mind he didn’t know Brera was Ranka’s brother so he might have consciously or unconsciously felt dumped for the guy who protected Ranka better especially when Ranka used “loved” in a past tense. You can see it in his reaction when he finds out about them later. Either way he probably feels worthless and angry right now and he didn’t hide it very well either. Enter Sheryl who in the next episode (22) he finds out is dying and she gives him a reason again to prove himself to someone.
Not only that there is so much association between her and his mother here I feel like he was able to finally move on from the past and let go his family issues because of her. I think if it’s shown somewhere or anywhere that part or most of his issues from his family is due to his mother dying this would be a 100% sure thing. Funny how people interpret this rather as some sex scene where Alto chooses Sheryl because that would just mean he ultimately gave up on his dreams and settled for option B. That is not really a story of growing up is it?
So ultimately Alto is forced to reflect upon all this by Ozma at the end of episode 22 and by the end of episode 23 he finally understands everything. Having accepted his past through Sheryl he isn’t running anymore and is able to become determined to not let anyone else use Ranka (his dreams and his wishes) and get her back. This is clearly shown in the next two episodes if you watch him closely even when everyone else gives up on Ranka. In the end he has grown up and is worthy of flying in the skies with his wings Ranka his love and his skies and Sheryl someone like family to him. I think that is the metaphor shown in the last moments of the TV series with Alto flying in the skies towards both.
so in summary:
- Alto and Ranka are closely tied to the skies. She is the one that rides in his Valkyrie and the one he said he joined the SMS to protect.
- Alto’s past is relatable to Ranka’s and as such they developed a close affinity right away and could feed off each others goals.
- Much of Alto’s story is about him growing up in order to be someone worthy of being with Ranka.
- The paper plane is closely tied to Ranka as well and is present in many important scenes.
- Sheryl is Alto’s bane early on as she is the childhood superstar who is representative of what he is trying to run away from.
- Much of Alto’s reaction to Sheryl’s aggressive nature is conditioned from how he viewed her as a representation of what he is running from.
- Alto and Sheryl become closely tied to his family as she becomes someone associated with his dead mother later on and this likely is what helps him deal with his issues by being able to be there for her in her time of need.
- Not all instances between Sheryl and Alto are clear with this association and there are some cases where it is flip-flopped but these are likely to show how the two aspects of himself are related to each other.
I find overall this makes for a very beautiful story and the depth becomes far greater than the usual interpretations. It is sad that rather than expanding upon it in the movies they instead just made something far more shallow that covered it up more. Going off topic a little this also gives Sheryl the first real purpose I’ve found in Macross F rather than having a lot of bark and little bite. I’d say that is more important than some love triangle personally. I believe she was originally destined to in the finale become something of like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a lost love to become something stronger but we’ll never know for sure now. Thankfully Ranka’s character was not too impacted by this as her growth and her character were not dependent on who Alto loved.
Alto overall is a character I am not a fan of still even after all this. While I think the story is cool he is still a rather annoying character to watch because he feels so unrealistic. Even if it comes from what I am talking about above I do think that is one failure of this story to be clearer on important aspects like this. However, if it could be shown for 100% certain everything here is right I would be completely fine with his character. Sure beats a lot of the analysis of Alto I see out there anyways usually just deciding he cared more about his Valkyrie than anything. Kind of amazing how much interpretation can effect how you view a character sometimes. This certainly brings new meaning to Alto choosing the sky though doesn’t it?