Yakk! Deculture: A Close Encounter with Macross Frontier

macross frontier sheryl alto ranka vf-25 messiah cockpit

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)].

macross frontier 01 sheryl nome arrival view of seaSheryl arrives on Macross Frontier, and so do we.

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.

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.

macross frontier swimming pool nanase luca michel klan klan ranka alto sherylFanart portrays what many (newer) fans enjoy about the show, which irks oldfags (rather, purists). This never bothered me.

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.’

[Subscribers viewing from a feed reader, please visit the website to view the following slideshow]

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.

Further Reading

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 [->]

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, fanboy, Macross Frontier, moments in anime and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Yakk! Deculture: A Close Encounter with Macross Frontier

  1. mechafetish says:

    The control dynamic which you bring up in the whole Alto, Ranka, Sheryl triangle is very interesting to look at. Perhaps we could further examine the power relationships between these characters over the course of the series.

    I have to watch the series again, but don’t you think the primary conflict/competition between the two heroines was over the power to control Alto’s choice architecture? The birthday episode comes to mind wherein Alto is offered the choice to spend time with either Sheryl or Ranka. Alto chooses the former when she offers him the chance to fly in a “real sky”. Sheryl effectively distorts his choice architecture as follows:

    From:
    Ranka or Sheryl

    To:
    Ranka or SKY+Sheryl

    Subsequent choices seem always to be marked with similar “sweeteners” or urgent circumstances that distort Alto’s choice architecture.

    Given the triangle dynamic between the three, the power to choose one ultimately lies with Alto. “Who will you kiss? Me or that girl”. Hence, although Alto may be bullied/manipulated by Sheryl’s force of personality or Ranka’s moeness, both female leads are ultimately supplicants at the Altar of Alto’s affections.

    This all comes from my own faulty memory of the show though, so maybe we can discuss it further when we’ve seen more of the show again.

    • ghostlightning says:

      In “On Your Marks” (ep 03) I make a case that there is where the triangle begins to move, after being literally drawn in “Hard Chase” (ep 02) in the cliffhanger chance meeting.

      Alto’s choice architecture is very interesting indeed, because of the option of not choosing between them.

      • mechafetish says:

        Whats funny is that the option of not choosing between them is actually his preferred choice.

        The two female leads have to modify his choice architecture on two levels:

        1. From flying/sky to them/the triangle
        2. From the other girl, to themselves.

  2. asher says:

    Probably unlike the rest of you here, the closest encounter that I can think of with MF is the soundtrack. I enjoyed the anime and although it’s not up there on my rewatch list, it’s the music that I think I’ll keep coming back to. It’s been on playlist for almost a year and the songs have seen me through school and work, with positive outcomes. Besides, the songs were the primary reasons why I watched MF in the first place, and I’m kinda glad I did.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I listened to Ranka and Sheryl all day today lol. We’re blogging every episode of Frontier, so there’ll be plenty of opportunity to remember love for the music and the show.

      Wasn’t the whole sequence involving ‘Sagitarrius 9 PM Don’t be late’ amazing?

  3. DrmChsr0 says:

    If you notice the OPs, it’s pretty much a lament on how Alto is being a dickbutt and not forcing a choice for himself among his, ahem, choices. Even though Sheryl purposely tilts the game in her favor, Ranka is shown to rebalance the game through her actions, some of which become hallmarks of AWESOME.

    And as a funny aside, I think Ozma is purposely NOT meant to die. The old love rekindling aside, he listens to FIRE BOMBER (totally not something a guy with a death wish would listen to), and his pineapple-based confection is horrible. Rekindling old flames is not a prerequisite for death in Macross because of MYUNG and ISAMU. One could also argue about the music but Guld never listened to the music nor ate anything with pineapples.

    Then again, Macross Plus is another kettle of fish altogether…

    • DrmChsr0 says:

      And to add on, NYAN NYAN MEDLEY. Not as good as the original DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE final scene (which is pretty mindblowing, especially for poor Boldolle Zer), but it;s really, really good.

      Also, sorry about them spoilers 😦

    • ghostlightning says:

      RE Ozma: THIS

      Re Alto, why does he have to choose anyway. He can lead them on as long as he can. In the meantime he can jizz himself all over the sky now that he has the VF-25F KYAAA!

  4. biankita says:

    i still stand by with my original statement about how MF ended, “alto ended up with his one true love: the sky.” pretty boy alto IGNORED ranka’s invitation for his birthday and USED sheryl’s show as an excuse to get to an endless sky. i can’t even remember the first episode – the deculture edition keep coming back to my head when i think about it. *sigh* when i’m on this genre mode, the only two things i primarily think about are: when are people going to kill other people? and do they do fan pandering? my shoujo fangirly nature becomes secondary.

    the soundtrack is still one of my favorites to date. when i’m extremely bored (or tired after a day’s of experimental baking), i would play the second half the deculture edition, mute it and play the special service medley. the synchronization between ozma’s raised eyebrow and ranka’s “kira” in seikan hikou is too funny.

    • biankita says:

      p.s. ranka didn’t do much for me. i guess i was raised in such a way that i believe that dudes with macho jobs gets the girls with the big boobs. even if they’re too pretty to be considered dudes.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Fanservice is all over this show.

      LOLOLOLOLOL

      I approve of making Macross enrich our daily lives. You win. That must be some delicious caek.

    • otou-san says:

      I couldn’t agree more on Alto’s true love. It was the one facet of the ending I had zero problems with, but that people all over the intertubes seemed to really be bothered by. I think that was horrible grammar, but my point is it’s not about “shipping” or “ending up with” a girl. Not trying to spoil, but it’s not like it’s the first Macross to not tie things up with a neat relationship-bow.

  5. jpmeyer says:

    AS AN OLDFAG IT IS AN INSULT TO MY INTELLIGENCE THAT THE NEWEST ENTRY OF A FRANCHISE WHICH IS ABOUT ROMANCE SET AMONGST GREAT BATTLES FEATURES ROMANCE SET AMONGST GREAT BATTLES

    (lololololololololololol)

    • ghostlightning says:

      I see what you did there.

      (kekekekekekekekeke)

    • drmchsr0 says:

      AS A NEWOLDFAG IT IS AN INSULT TO MY INTELLIGENCE THAT YOUR COMMENT ABOUT THE NEWEST ENTRY OF A FRANCHISE WHICH IS ABOUT ROMANCE SET AMONGST GREAT BATTLES WHICH FEATURES ROMANCE SET AMONGST GREAT BATTLES SOMEWHAT OBVIOUS AND MILDLY OFFENSIVE.

      LET US BEAT EACH OTHER WITH KEGS OF BEER.

      (lolololololololololololololol)

  6. Ryan A says:

    Fuck, I don’t have access to this (probably thousands of words reflected on each episode as I marathoned Frontier last December D: But truthfully, the first episode entirely drew me in; I believe it was the setup and position of the 3 main characters.

    We have Alto, who is actually connected in society (though in denial), Sheryl, who is this massive force of glamor and sound, and Ranka, who’s world is very quaint from the start. We experience chemistry on both fronts for Alto, a first, sweet encounter with Ranka, and a more conflicting mix-in with Sheryl.

    I know next to nothing about Macross, but it’s not hard to find allure in such a presentation as Frontier’s first episode.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Yep, the exposition here is quite exemplary, and will continue to be so for at least the first 7 episodes. The original series had the dynamic triangle prototype:

      Hikaru was un/disconnected in society – a visitor to Macross City, and it was Minmei who drew him in… and actually pushed him into integration via joining the military where his contact with Misa became more frequent.

      I’m glad you did watch Macross Frontier, and I hope I can make you remember love for it through this weekly post series.

  7. otou-san says:

    Funny you mention Haruhi and the “listen to my song” bit. I think it seals a particular feeling I’ve been thinking about recently as we talked Frontier that perhaps I need to go back and re-think my condemnation of the show’s overuse of nostalgiaservice.

    The more I think about it, the more I notice anime in general is hung up on casually paying tribute to Macross: Nadesico’s proposed “Do you Remonstrate Love?” slogan, Haruhi and Kyon with “listen to my song,” Eureka Seven’s “no smoking on the bridge,” the list goes on for quite a while. So maybe, when Kawamori decided to give a little something to his fans (or was it pat himself on the back? I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt I guess), he had to go a few steps further than anyone else was willing to go in reminding them of love. And honestly, in the early stages of the series I was all about it.

    Then again, maybe I’m just sucked into all your faggotry right now ^_^

    • ghostlightning says:

      JUST AS PLANNED.

      In the Gundam franchise, Turn A Gundam did this in spades in its own very special way. It’s kind of awesome really, given how even Macross is referenced.

      What I find a bit strange(r) is how little Macross remembers love for anything outside its franchise. Selfish Kawamori is selfish?

    • ghostlightning says:

      ^_^ I’ve written the next three posts already, but I’ll be publishing them every Friday 8 AM Manila time, just like the RAWS last year ^_^

  8. kadian1364 says:

    Typically late to the Macross party that I am, aside from an aborted foray into Macross Zero, Macross Frontier was my first Macross, so that put me in decidedly different company than others here. Sure, I’d heard of the franchise, Minmay sings a song, and all that jazz, but it just wasn’t something I was going to invest time into (yet).

    However, all it took was this one episode, with VFs chasing aliens into an astroid field, Sheryl’s epic concert, the Vajra assault on the Frontier fleet, and Yoko Kanno’s tremendous music swelling up as Alto jumped into the stranded machine, all this going on and I only had one thought in my mind, “WOW.” A new fan was… born? Found? Whatever, I was hooked.

    I fondly remember seeing this first episode again some months later in a club meeting, on a 30-foot projection screen, with theater seating, in HD. It was so good, it was practically pornographic!

    • ghostlightning says:

      Wow, I envy your theater experience!

      Macross is really a spectacle, compared to the show that inspired its makers (Gundam). The set pieces are designed to wow, and I really like it for such. It’s also decidedly lighter and sillier which works for it. I saw the original series as a 7-year old, and it was love at first sight.

  9. Sakura says:

    I will always love Macross Frontier, because it spurred hubby into buying me model kits. (He doesn’t like Gundam as much so refuses to allow me to fill the house with them. (I WANT DYNAMES DAMMIT!) He does however like Macross and so has no problem with me filling the house with VF’s. Pictures will be forthcoming, I now have all of them built. Much as I had no use for the Shouta I have to admit his VF with the Ghosts does look pretty sweet).

    But I digress. I was hooked from episode one and its funny, I totally enjoyed doing episodic posts for this show but haven’t been able to do so for another show since. I guess I’m just so full of love for Macross that it made it easy to blog about.

    Its not that I haven’t enjoyed other shows, I just don’t have the same level of love for them I guess.

    Since I obtained it the music has always been a stalwart of any of my playlists. Kind of like Gundam 00’s Daybreak’s Bell, which I probably listen to at least once a day. Similarly I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t listen to Northern Cross, or Shadow of Michael.

    I think a lot of what drew me into that first ep were the little homages to the original, such as Alto getting into that fighter. You just couldn’t help being reminded of Hikaru.

    But that concert was definitely sweeeeeeeeet.

    I just loved everything about it, the music, the nostalgia, the hawt characters and the glorious, glorious, pretty mecha. So much wonderful mecha pron on show, it just couldn’t be fail.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I agree with EVERYTHING. I will blog every episode of this, differently from how episodes are usually handled, so expect much love remembered for this show.

      Northern Cross rocks man. It’s like so perfect for Sheryl.

  10. Crusader says:

    If there is any indication of how smexy the VF-25 is I am about to own three…the VF-25G was on sale, and how could I say no…

    I took Alto-hime flying into Sheryl’s billboard as a sign that they were on a collision course, even when hime caught Sheryl’s fall it certainly wasn’t the last time.

    I am not too sure if it’s a sign that hime doesn’t care about others it’s that he has major issues about showing it. After all he was raised to be the greatest Oyama there ever was and certainly his attempts at being a tough guy were a futile attempt to get out of being seen as the princess. Certainly going out of his way to help Sheryl and Ranka, sometimes at his expense (certainly going back home was probably the hardest pill he ever had to swallow) does indicate he can care deeply. To be fair he did choose what was best for him when Sheryl gave him what he had always wanted. However it was hime’s birthday and hime can do what ever he wants to.

    Even if my Alto-hime wasn’t the most likable or agreeable bloke in all of mecha at least between his and Sheryl’s stoicism towards the preservation of the Frontier Fleet I had a very enjoyable experience. Complaining was minimal and ususally justified on their part. Ranka however…I supported her all the way until her negativity had dire consequences, running away with Brera was simply the point of no return.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Yes, I’m with you in how Alto-hime is underappreciated as a mecha anime lead. He had nuance and compassion, even if at the beginning he was a lot like Zeta Gundam’s Kamille who was very angry and righteous and shouted at a lot of people.

      We have 24 episodes to go comrade. I read your coverage religiously back then and it’s my turn to remember love for Macross Frontier.

  11. Sakura says:

    @ Crusader, I love my VF-25G, I found it went together a lot more smoothly than Ozma and Alto’s fighters.

    I don’t know if that was because they improved anything, or just because I was up to my third fighter and so it just became a lot easier.

    I have to say I like the attachment that came with Luca so you can attach him to the stand. So much easier than trying to balance it on the damn gun!

  12. Pingback: Sheryl Would Fulfill Some Hopes and Dreams: Macross Frontier 11 “Missing Birthday” « We Remember Love

  13. Shinmaru says:

    Sheryl gives me a Macross fan boner. I love her more now than when I first watched the series, and I feel jealous of that lucky bastard Alto. >:O

    • Yeah, and more and more as I’ve rewatched the show she’s proven to be a character that transcends Macross. She doesn’t represent it the way Minmay does, but she’s a character for the ages, representative of the possibility of anime as a storytelling medium. That’s what I think anyway.

  14. ^
    OHAI DERE How’s your spam cooking? xD

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