I feel like the appropriate title for this episode is Chance Meetings. The conceit of the episode is how the protagonists serendipitously run into each other, setting up theri individual and collective narratives. Sheryl sets out to find Alto who she intends to ask about hear earring that she lost during her concert, but runs into Ranka who is her biggest fan. Alto runs into both at the end of the episode. The remnants of the Vajra find them all afterward.
It is a conceit in that the probability of these meaningful meetings occuring in a tight and linear narrative succession should be quite low. But they were all going to meet anyway one way or another, so the narrative shoots for the dramatic star. I do feel that there needed to be a payoff less pedestrian for such a conceit, and there is; something that Frontier does that few other shows do, and I feel that is in its way superior than what’s been done before.
My conceit is that I find it difficult to recall similar scenes in other anime, but even without placing it within a tradition I think there is a lot to appreciate.
It starts innocently enough. The incognito Galactic Fairy (the plausibility of her disguise is yet another conceit) catches a running Ranka; Sheryl’s attention is caught by Ranka’s singing along to ‘Don’t be late’ plugged into her ears. She would eventually ask her if she knew a pilot, but for the most part she indulged herself by letting Ranka gush and gurgle about her idol. Ranka is adorable, and has been since she first appeared in the previous episode; but Sheryl is charming the hell out of me with her naked narcissism, and who at the same time somehow manages to seem vulnerable (don’t ask me how).
Reacting to a Code Victor alert, the SMS Variable Fighters scramble and sortie, visible to Sheryl and Ranka. Sheryl remarks on how beautiful the fighters are (yes Sheryl, they really are) and asks Ranka if perhaps she knows a pilot. Ranka mentions her (liar of a) brother, who she thinks gave up piloting. Then, out of nowhere, Ranka breaks into song: ‘Diamond Crevasse.’ After two verses of the first stanza, Sheryl joins in. At this point Ranka is shocked at her fortune. After all, Sheryl does say that she rarely gives private concerts.
As interesting as all of this is, it is not what makes it the awesome that I think it is. What I find so wonderful is how this song, a sad and wistful song of parting (“long, long goodbye”) sends off the pilots in their VFs, and welcomes the opposing units. It’s not quite a battle hymn in nature, but it works so well! It frames the oncoming battle, making it seem bigger than it really is. Later on in the season this will again be used to tremendous effect.
Now soundtracks and scores are designed (particularly in scenes like this) to summon more feeling from the viewer, in conjunction with the visuals and the dialogue. What Frontier does well, is to use real-time (within the narrative) musical performances — how the characters break into song, how the battle in the first episode occured during Sheryl’s concert, to summon these emotions from the viewer. Minmay’s performance of ‘Do you remember love?’ from the eponymous movie is still the most well known and acclaimed example, but Frontier, taking advantage of composer Kanno Yoko’s gifts, really built scenes around the musical numbers. It’s a conceit, no doubt about it; but I find it a very virtuous one.
By the end of the episode there are no clear indications of triangular attractions yet, only that Ranka loves Sheryl and finds Alto beautiful and is invested in him as her hero. However, they are arranged triangularly, and keeping with the tradition of the Macross franchise, this will be a love triangle.
Diamond Crevasse Live!
Here is a reference to older Macross shows (how Frontier remembers love):
Hikaru and Minmei in SDF Macross episode 02
Hikaru and Minmay in Macross: Do You Remember Love?
Alto and Ranka in Macross Frontier ep 02
There are so many in the episode, and this is a big part of what Frontier does so well. These homages and references are unnecessary in the sense that a viewer is missing value by not getting the references, or that the narrative is incomplete without them. Rather, they’re bonuses for the fans who’ve seen the earlier shows and have a high appreciation for continuity and tradition.
These are episodic posts I’ve read during the original run. By an large I was a lurker and did not comment until much later in the season.
Propaganda (Crusader 2008/04/15)
Not propaganda, with extensive summary (Kaioshin Sama 2008/04/17)