With Macross Delta coming some time in the future, maybe late 2015 or 2016, I felt it was a good time to watch Macross Frontier again. The last time I watched it was at the end of 2011 so it’s been a while. Overall watching it this time around was a good experience despite being disgusted at the first movie so much I didn’t bother with the second. For that reason I will be mostly talking about the TV series and bringing up the biggest points I’d like to discuss from what I saw.
Most of you probably know this already or can just tell by looking at my site but I am a major Ranka fan, I do my best to be upfront about when I am being biased about it though. Despite having a Ranka-minded perspective I do try to make sure what I say is correct. I know in the past I have written some things about Frontier that I was mistaken about, this is another reason I am writing this post. With Frontier fresh in my mind I can revisit these points again and add in new perspectives.
Table of Contents
- General thoughts on animation, music and plot
- Ranking my favorite episodes
- Sheryl vs Ranka the clash of two paradigms
- The love triangle, why did no one notice the trolling
- On Ranka leaving Frontier in episode 21
- Sheryl’s role in Frontier
- One note on the Macross movies aka everyone loves Sheryl
- Alto and his wings revisited
- Final thoughts
I think the Macross Frontier TV series has aged fairly well. I still think the animation while sometimes inconsistent overall is very impressive to me for a 7-year-old series. The mechas in particular are gorgeous and it feels like they put a lot of effort into almost any scene that does not have people in it. Granted I am fairly bad at discerning quality animation this is just my impression.
Of course the music is as amazing as always. I think this time around the background music stood out to me more, it’s something you may not notice but is very important in any anime. Yoko Kanno does a great job whether its setting the atmosphere for two people talking in Griffith park or idols singing their hearts out in the climax of the final battle.
The one thing I find hurts the re-watch-ability factor though is once you know what the Vajra are pretty much all the battle scenes feel so tragic. Grace more or less unleashes these two sides on each other that are so different they can’t understand one other or work together until the very end. I can’t really get excited about seeing the Vajra being blown up knowing all this. One of the few areas the movies might be better off in since the Vajra are less focused even though it’s more or less what makes Frontier Frontier.
However despite this I think the coolest thing as a Ranka fan to see was to see what Ranka became in episode 25. The Vajra whom the Protoculture feared, whom everyone wanted to harness its power but couldn’t and even Grace who took over control of the queen at the end, none of this held a candle to the little queen’s voice. Her song literally saved the universe at it’s biggest crisis yet in the Macross timeline. The power of song indeed.
This is pretty straight forward, a list of my favorite episodes. This is purely on personal enjoyment here.
10. episode 2 – While it is somewhat a filler to round out the top 10 it had a nice conclusion to a great episode 1 and set things up nicely for episode 3 to set in motion the fates of the main characters.
9. episode 14 – If the series had stopped at episode 14 I would be okay with this. Honestly the second half dragged on and started focusing on certain plot points I didn’t really like at all. However this was great conclusion to the first half with an exciting battle and Ranka managed to execute the Minmay defense all on her own.
8. episode 13 – The Ranka and Alto moments in this episode were cute and felt natural which a nice change of pace to the angst or forced advances that sometimes annoyed me in this love triangle. We also got some nice development in some of the major plot lines in this series, I believe this is when the idea of the little queen was first brought up.
7. episode 3 – Much like episode 13 I liked the last scene with Alto and Ranka. It wasn’t so much as it had to be them but I felt if anything the meaning behind that scene was so Macross it hurt. Aimo the love song sung once in ten thousand years to bring Vajra galaxies apart together sung to bring two souls together on their journey as they find their destinies. If you don’t believe me just look what they did to this scene in the movie and then what happened. Heck in the movie Sheryl even said Aimo was the song of fate.
6. episode 7 – I just really liked the battle sequence here with the first time Macross Quarter transforming and using its main cannon. Meanwhile Ranka helping Sheryl in concert and then using her little queen power to send their music through fold waves that helped give Alto strength in his battle.
5. episode 25 – I liked this episode more the last time I watched it, I guess in the end I feel like they screwed it up a bit by not having the love triangle end. There really was no reason not to story wise it was plain obvious Alto knew who he loved. I still wish Sheryl had been stronger in the end considering that was the thing she was characterized as having the most of. Just giving up most or less kills the idea of her being strong even in the face of certain death.
4. episode 1 – I’ve seen this episode so many times, I really think it is a perfect start to the series. Granted the deculture version is the best, most of the scenes they tacked on to the tv version felt unneeded and forced. Also nyan nyan nyan nyan nihao nyan gorgeous delicious deculture!
3. episode 21 – I am going to go over this more on its own but Ranka really was amazing in this episode even though it was so dark. I just can’t help but admire her for facing so many hard choices and doing the right thing whether it be singing or not singing.
2. episode 10 – I’m not sure if this overall was that great but as a Ranka fan how can I not help but love that moment when she goes from being a nobody to own her way to becoming a legend.
1. episode 12 – So much to love about this episode. Seikan Hikou? YES Ranka dropping from the sky onto a battlefield and saving the day? YES YES (someone getting karma from last episode, yes) That beautiful last scene of the vf-25 flying in the clouds and ending it with Do You Remember Love. Well you know, yes.
While the Ranka and Sheryl rivalry is mostly known for being about singing, love and moe vs sexy I think there was a more interesting conflict at work here. This is a topic that goes beyond just Macross Frontier but it’s very apparent here so I want to talk about it a little. This is the clash between instant gratification and character development.
Fandom in general goes for that instant gratification in most things. First impressions drive what we think for the rest of the series. Characters that appeal to that first impression, that instant gratification, are almost always the most popular and thought of higher and thus given more leeway in criticism. In this sense Sheryl was designed to be the fan favorite, she is the Mary Sue who is in top form from the start who has popular traits like confidence and sex appeal. Ranka has her own good aspects that created an instant fandom too but is also very flawed and her story is focused in growth and discovery.
Even if Ranka is the underdog in popularity she has something far more valuable to me, potential. Flawed characters make for more interesting stories and gives more room to show growth and depth. Perfect characters can be fun and I enjoy them as much as the next person but they just have such a harder time working a place into my heart and tend to be very forgettable. To me a the best kind of hero is the one that becomes a hero and an inspiration not just is a hero.
To use an analogy what I’m talking about here is like the difference between buying an instant meal at the grocery store over cooking a nice meal for yourself. They both can taste good but that extra work you may not like has greater rewards. That really is the larger issue at play here not who I like more in Macross Frontier. I want fandom to not always go for that instant meal and let some things in anime cook before you decide what tastes better.
This time around when watching Macross F I really tried to look beyond the love triangle and observe it more as a part of the entire story. The interesting thing is that I noticed a pattern worth mentioning when looking at it from this general perspective that being…HOW DID NO ONE NOTICE ALL THE TROLLING THEY DID WITH SHERYL AND ALTO. Lets just go over most of the major points that are often looked at in the story.
The first date with Sheryl and Alto in episode 5: Sure it looks like it’s all about them but if you pay attention Alto is rather looking for Ranka, he sees her and is forceful about going to exactly where she was going. Then you see some subtle shots of Alto looking around in the mall. On the surface its a good Sheryl Alto date but upon closer inspection Alto’s mind appears to be elsewhere.
End of episode 11: Again this looks really good for Sheryl, looks like Ranka is left behind and Sheryl is giving Alto the sky however the next episode Sheryl gets sick and Ranka comes in and saves the day and ends up instead in the skies with Alto. Now that is a troll.
End of episode 19: Once again looks good for the pair but as we see in the next episode it was just Sheryl falling over. Seems like something is going to happen but never does.
The Alto/Sheryl scene in episode 22: Probably the thing everyone thinks made Alto show he chose Sheryl along with the little “couples” thing they do the next episode. However if you actually listen to Sheryl she says several times he is just being nice to her and she’ll take it anyways. Sure she could be wrong but they definitely intended to show doubt into the idea Alto had picked Sheryl here aka fooling you once again.
End of episode 23: Not sure if this is really a troll but it is easy to take this as Alto picking to save Frontier over Ranka, not what he did though. Some people would say he saved Ranka just for Sheryl which is really wishful thinking. Why they would set it up as a guy who was always getting one upped by Brera over saving Ranka and who would finally save her when he doesn’t actually care anymore.
Episode 24 kiss scene: Well looks like Alto is trying to confess something to Sheryl but he never says anything, instead she releases him from the duty of staying with her until she dies and he goes and saves Ranka.
Macross F movies: Already did a whole post of how they flipped the girls roles in it however I think this was just part of the plan to build a better universe for Sheryl over the one where she thought she was all alone in. Still pretty sure the manner in which it was done was trollish especially with how alto disappears at the end.
Personally I always thought Sheryl just needed friends more than anything else, maybe that’s all she really wanted out of Alto. She never did flat-out say she loved him. I really have nothing more to say but if you really want to take the love triangle that seriously when it’s just troll after troll then I salute your dedication.
You know when Ranka left to go to the Vajra home world in episode 21 she got a lot of criticism and hate but yet to me it’s so beautiful and admirable that she does this. Macross has always been about finding peace between sides that don’t understand each other through song. Ranka was fulfilling the role that other Macross legends had done but in terms of people being able to understand this rationally it was poor timing due to all the bad things going on.
First off to address some of the criticism was it the best call she could have made about the situation? Easily yes, what else was she to do? She knew she had something that could possibly end the war and that the Vajra were not evil and that her memories were probably the key to clearing up the entire situation. Her choices were to go to Alto, Brera, Ozma and/or the SMS for help to do this. Ozma was MIA at the time and not to mention there was also the whole plot point of him talking about her finding her own path and not needing him anymore as she was becoming an adult.
As for the SMS, Brera was doing a better job protecting her all this time than the SMS, it was shown over and over again. So yes I don’t think Brera was a bad choice given the info she had. Finally when she went to Alto and Alto tried to kill Ai-kun without even listening to her she probably knew that others would have a similar reaction and it was up to her to stop this war. Brera was the one person who was listening to her the most so it makes sense to count on him to understand what she needed to do.
Once you set aside whether you think it was the right choice or not its really amazing for her to sacrifice everything including Alto to do the right thing. It would have been so easy for her to ignore the feelings she had and just sing anyways but we should not do things because they are easy but because they are the right thing to do.
I don’t really care whether or not it worked right, Ranka had no clue there were other enemies out there or that Brera had a mind control device on his head. The movie version conveniently showed Ranka the true enemies (and Brera was barely around) which is why she went to the SMS.
If you really want to blame someone I’d like to point out a few episodes ago Grace told Sheryl she was still infected with the virus and was going to die in a very evil way. Yet Sheryl never said anything about Grace to anyone, like even just warning to Ranka that maybe you shouldn’t trust your new manager. Possibly could have made her more weary of trusting Brera who worked under Grace or of flying off alone in just one Valkyrie. But I think most Ranka criticism (or anyone for that matter) can be sourced to what I said about that first impressions, it really changes your whole perspective on things.
In the past I’ve criticized how they used Sheryl in Macross F. Upon watching this again I think I was wrong to say she doesn’t have much worth as a main character however I do wish they had gone a different route with her. Her sickness did have some role after all, when singing at the end it showed the Vajra the differences in humans by contrasting it to Ranka so that’s something important. I also talked a bit before about the Alto mother connection as well that came from being sick. Still from an enjoyment perspective I dislike all the scenes where Sheryl was sick and the idea that she appears to use Alto to pretend to be her boyfriend at the end out of sympathy but that is more on Alto.
Probably the most important role she played was more of an antagonistic role she had with Ranka and Alto. Her advances in the love triangle and to a lesser extent her stardom are shown to give Ranka encouragement to grow and move forward either directly or indirectly. The same with Alto especially towards the end, it gave him goals and helped to clarify his feelings.
In the end I am not sure what else I could have done to give her importance. Perhaps turn her into a spy suspect and have people talk about whether she is spy for 2 hours while still disconnecting her from the real spies in a weird ambiguous way? Which would then go no where other than to show kind of subtly she was in on the evil plans all along but then just leave it at that which would leave you wondering why they spent so much time in the movies with this spy crap in the first place?
I don’t think there is much worth saying about the Macross Frontier movies however I feel like I understand better the reasoning behind the Ranka/Sheryl plot flip thing they did (see here for details). Sheryl in the TV universe was in a rather screwed over position, she was basically all alone until the very end. Thinking about it the movie universe was an attempt to make Sheryl more loved. Ranka, Grace and Alto all had their relationships with Sheryl altered and “improved” in order to meet this end. But also I’m sure they changed it for money, they created a Sheryl Nome official website and product line for crying out loud.
The Ranka and Sheryl relationship is very different, in the TV series they aren’t developed that much and more often are rivals that go against each other. In the movies they have a fairly positive relationship to the point where Ranka is more concerned about Sheryl in the end than Alto (it took me over 3 years to figure out why Ranka yelled out for Sheryl instead of Alto in the climax and this was probably it).
Grace also was redesigned from not caring one bit about Sheryl to being mind-controlled and her mother figure. This forced them to introduce new villains that I’m pretty sure no one ever cared about (they existed in the TV series more or less but as a very minor role). It was one of the bigger tragedies of the movie version because Grace works so much better as the main antagonist. There was no hint of her ever even caring one bit about Sheryl in the TV series and making her a good person just feels more like it’s coming from a perspective of a wishful Sheryl fan.
Alto of course we already know, fairly obvious to me how they changed him and what not. Also had the biggest impact on the plot requiring them to remove Ranka from a lot of things, add in things like Vajra mind control beams and making Alto take over as the Vajra peacemaker instead of Ranka. Had to make a Sheryl spy controversy in order to put her in the middle of things so she could be rescued and what not later on. Basically many of the major movie changes you can attribute to this mindset change.
One other important thing to note is that despite the movies seemingly created for Sheryl fans by Sheryl fans they also very subtlety showed that she knew at least some of the evil plans going on the whole time and did nothing until the very end for who knows why. I mean it is what it is however this has led some people to being upset with the idea that they rewrote a good story and rewarded a morally weak character just because she was popular.
Personally I am of the mindset that while I always love to see heroes rewarded like Ranka this just shows a true hero does not need a reward. A true hero does what they need to do because it is right. While I think Ranka deserved much better at least we know that our lady was amazing and has the strength in life to live it the right way and that inner strength will do more to make her happy than any man ever will.
Getting back to my original topic though like I’ve said before if you enjoy these movie its fine I don’t think there is anything wrong with liking them. I just see a false songstress version when I watch it (see what I did there). However, my main objective with the movies has always been just to bring awareness to the shady plot changes. I don’t like anyone getting away with such blatantly dishonest anime creating especially at the expense of my favorite character. Also creating content from a fan-minded perspective is bad, it hurts the potential of something greatly so you don’t know how much better this could have been if the main objective hadn’t been creating a Sherylverse.
I wrote an article a while back on the meaning behind Alto’s wings. Personally I hate to reread my old stuff so this is going off of memory however I do think that I still agree with this theory more or less. At the very least Sheryl’s purpose was to help Alto accept who he was and is through being relate-able to his mother issues that haunted him. Meanwhile Ranka’s purpose was giving him the strength to chase his dreams by being the main reason he could fly. The flying, the skies, the paper plane and his mother are all very closely tied together as almost one thing so you could argue what aspects are tied to whom and such but I think what I said makes the most sense from how the story played out.
I do know I had some things wrong, Alto was unknowingly trying to prove himself to Ranka most of the series however Brera one upped him every time until the end. Most likely the point of this was to show he couldn’t protect someone when he was still running away. He was playing a role of solider and not being true to his feelings. That was why the Sheryl/Mother thing came in order to help him get over it so he could move forward and stop running. Which is why you would reason he was finally able to be worthy of Ranka in the final episode and saves her.
Macross Frontier continues to be an important series to me, while it has its flaws it will likely be one of the most memorable series I will ever watch as an anime fan. Ranka’s story in particular I continue to consider wonderful and one of the main reasons I love Frontier. Also this time around I was happy I was finally able to sort out most of the major issues that had been bugging me which I more or less all brought up in this post. It’s disappointing that there are still other aspects about it I really can’t enjoy but at the same time I remembered the love in this series as well.