Lafiel is who I wanted Ranka to be and who I still want her to grow up as. Now I’m really into Crest of the Stars, though I only saw the anime franchise (Crest, Banner 1-3) last August (thanks to Mechafetish who graciously lent me his fansub copies). I haven’t read the novels, but I’ve frequented Abh Nation quite a number of times. I’m here to write about my ideal for the character Ranka Lee/Mei from the anime Macross Frontier.
Animanachronism did a really good post on the final episode of the first installment, which led to one of the most intelligent discussions in anime blogs. I remember going all over the web hunting down whatever writing the commenters had on the subject (very good stuff).
Sneakily managing to be nearly as operatic as Macross, while pleasuring fans of more staid science fiction with its fascinating Plane Space battles and its examination of detail (like Abh humour), the * of the Stars series desperately needs more time; I group it with works like Char’s Counter Attack and Nanoha A’s, both of which seemed to me to be stories with wide scope, restricted by too short a telling.
I agree to an extent, in that I want more of the story. I want more anime. I don’t see it to be limited as to be flawed at all. I think it’s great the way it is. I disliked Char’s Counter Attack and have not seen Nanoha A, so I admit I may not fully see Animanachronism’s point.
Probably the best aspect of the series is its dialogue. It sounds/reads like theater, where a lot of the exposition also hinges on the dialogue. Soap operas are like this as well, but to me the quality of the lines evoke good theater rather than good soap opera. I find this particularly in how varied the situations are and yet the dialogue maintains is character and effectiveness.
Let me explain. The Banter between characters is awesome in this franchise, notably the exchanges between the various Admirals/Captains of the starships and their respective XOs. The leading example is Spoor’s picking on poor Kaselia in general (this happens in nearly all their exchanges). A close second would be Dusanyu mercilessly teasing Kenesh about her past with the Beebaus twins.
Nearly equally pleasurable are the negotiation and diplomatic exchanges carried by the Abh: The Empress making utter mincemeat of the delegates of the “other half” of humankind in the conversation when she declared war; Spoor dealing with the president who wanted her to play the part of the “Boogeyman Abh” so he can pacify his populace, as well as her exchanges with the numerically superior fleet commander in her bid to buy time for Lafiel; Debeusec (Lafiel’s father) bestowing diplomatic “privileges” on the Beebaus twins; and Lafiel and Soobash absolutely owning Jinto’s hostage takers.
No hotblooded rhetoric, just surgical and elegant. It’s such a delight to witness, and to me more interesting than the science fiction and action aspects of the franchise.
It’s quite unfair to compare the two franchises. Macross is more visual spectacle and certainly Macross Frontier is a love letter to us fans while the Stars franchise seems to be dedicated to keep its integrity to a source material which is serious, earnest, and played straight. Nonetheless I’ve juxtaposed them for the simple reason that I love the characters from both. And this post is all about Ranka and Lafiel. Lafiel I consider to be an ideal female lead, one of the damn best.
Frankly I don’t see how Ranka can do it. It’s unfair. I’m unfair. I just want her to be more than just adorable and far less annoying. I want her to do great things out of effort and work and less through Vajra magic. But let me be clear. I don’t want her to be like Lafiel for Alto’s sake. I don’t want her to be Lafiel to be “good enough” for Alto, or be “better” than Sheryl. I’ve waved my white flag and toast the Alto x Sheryl ship. May it superdimensionally cross paths with Myung and Isamu and Misa and Hikaru.
I don’t see Ranka as a moe blob, even after Crusader’s ruthless and effective deconstruction of the character and the (meta) narrative. I wanted to see so much potential. I wanted to see Ranka as a triumph, not an in-joke… a criticism of moe and loli.
This isn’t a complaint about the writing. I’m not asking the story to be changed in any way. I’m a very happy Macross Fan. This is just me being a fan and issuing a deluge of words on my favorite characters. With my intentions hopefully clear, here I go.
Part of the problem is Ranka’s weakness and vulnerability. Lafiel had her weakness moments as well, but these serve to humanize her and adds nothing but charm to her. Ranka was weak and earning her confidence. She was aided by many supporters (Bobby, Nanase, Alto, Elmo, and most notably Sheryl). Lafiel’s surrounded by people who were there to teach her (Lexshu, Spoor, even Samson) – only Jinto was a supporter in the way a character like Nanase was to Ranka.
Both are in the story to find themselves – though Ranka is looking to find her strength, while Lafiel is figuring out how strong she really is. The respective levels of maturity offer no comparison. Ranka behaves almost entirely like a child, while Lafiel already behaves like a leader. This gap only exacerbates my yearning to see a Ranka that is that strong. She is a leader by circumstance to the Vajra – as evidenced by them listening to her, or at least accepting her role as intermediary between their species at the end. But she will have a tough road establishing herself as a representative of the Vajra to humans, who must assuredly still carry ill feelings towards the alien space bugs who killed so many.
It is a different case with the Zentrans, who were present in the aftermath of the great space war and behaved like willing participants in the integrated society. The Vajra are completely alien, and non-humanoid. There’s no social interaction between individuals. While it’s very unlikely that the Vajra will return to war with humans, there’s no common civilization to build with each other as well. Ranka will be very much the alien in the human-settled Vajra homeworld where Frontier’s people will make a home.
Lafiel also is a link between two (human) races and societies. However, she represents the ruling class and is hated and feared for it. Jinto plays more of the Ranka role, and is integrated in Abh society as an Abh. At this point I am imagining a sequel scenario, where Ranka finds her place – much like Minmei (somehow) finds hers after Kamjin’s final attack on Macross. However I don’t mean the rape Jack McKinney did on the character throughout Sentinels and The End of the Circle books. I say this but I don’t dislike Robotech. I enjoyed it when it was there to be enjoyed. In any case, the Minmei story post Macross is not what I want for Ranka.
Do I see her as a starship captain? A VF pilot? Not really. Do I see her as an idol competing with Sheryl? Yes, but I want more, something different for her. Something like being part of a new expeditionary colony, where she can start fresh. There she can be the center of a new triangle.
Now the Macross Frontier movie may provide a denouement for Ranka and the rest, and I expect it to be satisfying in its fashion. But still I hopelessly want her to have what I call the Lafiel moments of win. And to me these are:
- Her dinner with Clowal the Baron Febdash; she was clearly at a disadvantage, with only her birth and station protecting her. Her seething and controlled anger as she dealt with the Baron triumphantly and with such civility was awesome. Knowing it was more for Jinto’s sake than any perceived insult made it even better.
- Her negotiation, assisted by Soobash with Jinto’s hostage takers. She gave no quarter, but hinted enough vulnerability that you wouldn’t blame her if she lost control of her feelings. Soobash sensed this and stepped in with the legend of Abh retribution that was so awesome the hostage takers lost all leverage.
- During the search for Jinto, she understood why she needed to stay behind and let the search party do its job. She asked Samson how should she behave once Jinto arrives. An appreciation of Abh protocol and Lafiel and Jinto’s very understated devotion to each other allows one to fully experience the awesomeness of this exchange.
These are the kind of moments I wanted for Ranka. Granted Macross Frontier is not the same anime, with a different tone and feel than any installment of the Stars franchise. However, something like this is possible within the series. Sheryl’s moments with Alto approach this realm, Klan’s as well. Not that close really, but the earnestness was there and I’m grateful for it. Given that Lafiel is regarded as moe, why can’t Ranka be this way too?
Give me a timeskip, Macross Frontier movie! Give Ranka a chance to grow. Let her win some of the regard the citizens of Frontier had for her. I don’t need her to be the big star, or even get her career back. Her pop songs lack the superstar energy that Sheryl’s have in abundance anyway. Hers are the quiet and contemplative pieces that have been a kind of hallmark of Kanno’s music. Let her earn respect and regard with work and selflessness. Sheryl had her chance, and she can even keep her Alto. Ranka’s victory has to be beyond the triangle.
There’s something to be said that Ranka’ grand gestures: explaining the true nature of the Vajra, saving Sheryl from V-sickness, converting the Vajra into the kind of allies that sacrificed themselves to save Island 1… These didn’t redeem her in the eyes of the anime’s viewers. And I agree. These were too easy. They were the result of her discovery – but more like stumbling into them as a prisoner, and her powers and talents. She didn’t have to work and earn anything. She just did these things magically, and with Macross Quarter and Alto rescuing her.
Which makes a quiet denouement a perfect “good end” for Ranka. No need to make it bittersweet, the fact that Sheryl won should be enough cause for pining and wistfulness. Let her move on and grow her own strength. And maybe she can give us a Ranka moment of win.