“A drill is a man’s love” – Izumi Konata
My friend Mechafetish (who will hopefully start posting here soon) was pimping Macross Frontier to his kid brother. He wanted him to experience Furo as the Gurren Lagann of real robot anime. The brother was forcibly introduced to Gurren Lagann much to his eventual delight, and now Mechafetish wanted another Furo fag in our Dai Gurren Dan Tennis Team.
I had then said that there was no comparison. Furo is to Macross fans as Final Fantasy X-2 was to Final Fantasy (X) fans. It was a (super dimensional) service vehicle and that was enough. It was however after reading the whole (and culmination) of Crusader’s EPIC coverage of Macross Frontier over at THAT Animeblog that I stopped apologizing for Furo and started seeing it more as a creation of something new and less of just being a nostalgia service platter.
Macross Frontier is to real robot anime as Gurren Lagann is to super robot anime.
I will qualify this. This is more a comparison of the hyperbolic extremes the tropes of the respective genres are taken by the creators, less also about the respective places of each series as cultural landmarks. This is more of a reading of the comparative fantastic elements of the series and how they each figured in the narrative.
“Who the hell do you think I am?!” – Kamina, Sheryl Nome
First let us agree that mecha shows are fantasies. It is quite obvious for super robot anime, where physical laws are routinely abandoned to follow the rule of cool. Here is a list of super robot tropes. Real robot anime are technological fantasies with the focus of the magic less on the mecha (see the list of real robot tropes). Nonetheless, here are some fantastic elements in popular real robot shows:
- Spiritia power and Fold waves as energy sources and overall plot movers, particularly when they are used through SONG in Macross
- Newtype abilities in Gundam
- Geass abilities in Code Geass
Yes, Code Geass is mecha anime. One of the first blog posts that really blew me away is Owen’s proposal that Code Geass is the pinnacle of mecha anime. I may disagree, but I loved his post. I might as well state here that I cannot take into account some grittier, less fantastic real robot shows like VOTOMS. I’ll leave those to Animanachronism, and you should read his posts.
The fantastic elements I’ve mentioned are all significant factors in their respective series’ narratives. This is also the case in Gurren Lagann with its Spiral Energy.
The significant trope in this comparison is called “Beyond the Impossible“. From TV tropes:
- The answers are, in order: the size of a galaxy, blowing up a fleet of enemies by the force of their awesomeness, sunglasses that are five edged, as said before the size of a galaxy, and the Big Bad exploded seven times, in different colors.
This trope is arguably created by the series, and obviously it’s name is taken from the series. Significantly, it is explicit during the whole narrative. While Furo won’t do that, it does have a tradition of using pop songs and idol singers to save humanity. To me, it’s just a feminized (not a value judgment) way of presenting hot blood as a means to produce any awesome result.
It’s been called the Minmay Defense. Basara took it to it’s extreme and used it as an offensive weapon. In Furo, it’s taken beyond the impossible, using 2 idols.
How far across the galaxy can the songs reach? How much of a heel-face turn can the enemies make? How unnecessary will broadcast equipment be (speakers? microphones)? How epic can the medley get? How happy an ending can the lead protagonist have?
The answers are:
- Anywhere there are humans, including earth which led to a gratuitous view of the original SDF Macross. (Heroic Sacrifice levels) The Vajra are so moved by SONG that they made an Experts of Justice Style self-shield wall to protect the main colony ship from a massive death ray. There are no speakers, and at times no microphones, but everyone hears the same music. The medley has about 8 songs, 3 singers, madly arranged with harmonies and 2nd voices jumping in and out from one song to the next and back again. And the singers NEVER practiced with each other, it’s all improvisation. Where was the band?
- And Alto, he gets to save the girls, not have to choose between them, save humanity AND the Vajra, and get his sky. It doesn’t get any better for a character.
If you were expecting a more concrete analysis, sorry. I’m a fanboy too an you see how I celebrate the gaps in logic as opposed to seeing them as weaknesses. Gurren Lagann was amazing for this. You just stop bothering to justify what you’re seeing. Macross Frontier didn’t do this immediately, though I believe fair warning was given (episodes “Star Date” and “Interstellar Flight” should be enough).
And, like Gurren Lagann Furo gave us a few great characters, though in a much subtler way (Gurren Lagann is so over the top nearly anything is much subtler), notably Sheryl and Alto. Click on the link above to THAT. Crusader made the best cases for them.
Macross Frontier is a real robot anime that I can enjoy the same way as I enjoy Tenngen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Though being the Macross Lifer that I am, I probably enjoy it more.