I discovered anime blogs only very recently. How recently? Spring 2008. I apparently missed out on the heyday of anime blogging where significant events and shows (that still have influence over current opinion) were written about and discussed. While I don’t deny this particular feeling of ‘missing out,’ I think I discovered the sphere at exactly the perfect time for me. Amidst the shitstorm that Code Geass: R2 was raising, Macross Frontier aired and got attention from a number of anime blogs. This was the Spring and Summer of my lurking life. Not only had a new Macross TV series arrived, as if just for my fulfillment, there were people who were watching it at the same time. I could read what they thought about it, discuss with them even.
Why am I talking about Macross Frontier now? The show ended at the beginning of the fall season last year. You see, nostalgia is a silly and powerful thing, especially in a blog named We Remember Love. This show is the show that I wanted to blog about, but couldn’t at the time. I didn’t know how yet, much less do a weekly episodic series of posts. I’m going to write about every episode of Macross Frontier every week.
It’s not like I haven’t done anything like this before. Regular readers may have noticed that I’ve been doing episodic posts for Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 and Bakemonogatari. While these are interesting shows and I do enjoy them and it should show how much I enjoy writing about them, they aren’t as relevant to my core interests. I even whined about this Summer 2009 season before it aired due to lack of new shows relevant to my interests. I wrote episodic posts for these shows primarily as TRAINING FROM HELL.
It was my way to prepare for writing episodic posts for the Macross franchise, starting with Frontier. I did not want to follow the summary + reaction format that characterizes episodic posts. That’s been done, and one can find a range of approaches from straight fanboying, to judgmental (determining if episode is good or bad). This is not my methodology; rather I will write something that resembles an editorial for every episode.
The intent is inclusive, seeking to note things that speak into the experiences of many, to be relatable and to share a charging heart of love for anime in general, and Macross in particular. Now, to the episode: Close Encounter [December 23, 2007 (Deculture edition), April 3, 2008 (broadcast), July 25, 2008 (Yack Deculture edition – Blu-ray)].
We are given montages of the colony fleet and the city, all beautifully rendered and expressive of the technological level of 2059, and at the same time how it’s rooted in late 20th century culture (particularly Tokyo, Japan and San Francisco, USA). It is at this point we are given a brief telling of the arch-narrative of Macross.
There was once a war between mankind and a race of giants called Zentraedi. Mankind, threatened with extinction during their first battle with extraterrestial life, sought out their future by advancint into the great Outer Space, and departed for the farthest reaches of the galaxy in search of a new frontier.
In the year 2059 A.D., the 25th Giant Immigration Fleet, also known as Macross Frontier, continued its great voyage toward the center of the galaxy.
The great war ended sometime in March 2010. 49 years later humanity has recovered its population enough to need to explore and create space colonies, along with the Zentraedi. Macross Frontier is the story of one such colony.
The first episode is aptly titled; it is a series of close encounters of different strangers:
- The Macross Frontier colony population with the Galactic Fairy Sheryl Nome
- Ranka Lee meets Alto Saotome
- Alto Saotome meets Sheryl Nome
- The New United Nations Spacy military with the Alien Vajra
- Alto Saotome with the VF-25 Messiah, and the Vajra
It’s an exposition piece, and works well as such — using detail and setting to create as much color and character as possible. Character design is a big deal here, as the protagonists are set up to be as attractive as possible. Alto is bishounen, Sheryl is bishoujo, and Ranka is loli. It’s observed how Macross Frontier is a smorgasboard of fanservice, and indeed it is. I won’t get into that here, but it bears acknowledgment.
The particular kind of fanservice that I like is reference and homage. Frontier has so much of it, even just in this episode that I can’t possibly document it all, but let me say something about structural homage. This is very similar to the case of Eureka SeveN paying homage to Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s first two episodes by employing a similar narrative device (delayed resolution of episode one’s cliffhanger). In Frontier we have a concert interrupted by an enemy attack.
|Macross Frontier||Macross 7||Macross: Do You Remember Love?|
|Idol concert (First concert of Galactic Fairy Sheryl Nome on Frontier Colony)||Band concert (Fire Bomber)||Idol concert (First solo concert of Lynn Minmay)|
|(Vajra) Attack interrupts concert.||(Protodevlin) Attack interrupts concert.||(Zentraedi) Attack interrupts concert.|
|Sheryl is in the middle of her second song when concert is interrupted [1) Iteza Gogo Kuji Don’t Be Late, 2) What ’bout my Star]||Fire Bomber is starting their 3rd song when concert is interrupted [1) Planet Dance, 2) My Friends, 3) Totsugeki Love Heart]||Minmay is in the middle of her second song when concert is interrupted [1) My Boyfriend is a Pilot, 2) Little White Dragon]|
|Battle does not involve Sheryl, but sideshow Alto ‘seizes the reins of history.’||Basara joins the battle and continues his concert IN SPACE, singing to the Protodevlin.||Minmay is swept up by the calamitous transformation of the SDF-1 and is ‘rescued’ by rookie pilot Ichijyo Hikaru.|
Uh yeah, I really like this kind of thing. It all fits in my ‘remembering love’ methodology/ideology of appreciation.
Fixating on a close encounter
I choose to focus on Alto and Sheryl’s encounter, which to me is the most dramatically charged in the episode (Ranka’s may have more action, given how the Vajra and a VF-25 eventually got involved, but in terms of communication the Sheryl encounter has more meat in it).
Saotome Alto is established as a flashy flier with some discipline issues (he doesn’t want his stunts restrained), and yet he is said to only be second in ability to Michel Blanc, the leader of their stuntflying troupe. The limitations set by Michel, and the physical limits of the colony airspace (2 kilometers high) is a source of some considerable discontent. This yearning to fly freely, for a bigger sky is the dominant theme in Alto’s story. It’s interesting to note how the ceiling that Alto runs into is marked by an electronic billboard flashing Sheryl’s upcoming concert. It’s a not so subtle kind of foreshadowing of the aggravating relationship they are to have, at least at first: Sheryl gets in his way.
Their flying troupe is the accompanying act of Sheryl’s show. It’s rather silly how they don’t rehearse (only Macross 7‘s Fire Bomber does any real rehearsing, or is shown to practice, for that matter in the shows of the franchise). This sets up the dramatic mishap during the performance. LISTEN TO MY SONG! During the opening number, Alto almost immediately breaks formation and does his corkscrew stunt against orders and collides with a fellow flier (I’ll call him Frankie). Frankie freefalls towards Sheryl (conveniently during the instrumental section of the song ^_~). Sheryl trying to avoid getting smashed falls off the stage.
Alto swoops down to the rescue, but before he can finish asking her if she’s alright, Sheryl imperiously tells him to keep flying, with much urgency and focus in her voice. So Alto flies up, and the rest of the team follows in a V-formation.
Then Shery sings the chorus right on cue, working the crowd and milking the drama for all it’s worth.
Awesome. This sequence sold the show for me (all over again; because truthfully it had me at hello). Alto acknowledged Sheryl’s awesomeness too, but he changed his mind when the concert had to be stopped when the Vajra attacked. Sheryl benefited from VIP treatment by the NUNS military (baby-sat by Catherine Glass) and was being whisked away to someplace safe when Alto went up to her and gave her an earful on how she didn’t assist the evacuation of her fans out of the concert hall. Sheryl said something about letting professionals handle it, but Alto took that against her — identifying her as a hypocritical ‘pro.’
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Wrong-footed start? Check. In contrast to Ranka’s multiple damsel-in-distress run-ins with Alto, Sheryl was very much in control in their interactions. Alto is shown to show some care for others, though it manifests merely in his wanting to make Sheryl wrong and accusing her of selfishly running away. Not very cool, especially in how he is pretty much a self-centered flyboy himself, inconsiderate of the needs and intentions of his team. Alto redeems himself in my eyes when he sees an opportunity to fly a VF-25 Messiah. It is wonderful for me to see a mecha anime lead who willingly takes on piloting the robot and seizes the rein of history. It isn’t a moral redemption, rather a meta-appreciation against the tradition of reluctant lead characters in real-robot mecha shows.
This episode made me remember all my love for Macross, and I’m so happy to be finally able to give it my testimony.
I prepared a collection of Macross resources, including blog posts on Macross Frontier [->]
Remembering love as a methodology/ideology of anime appreciation [->]
Eureka SeveN does a Neon Genesis Evangelion in it’s opening two episodes [->]