The False Farewell: Macross Frontier 06 (Bye Bye Sheryl)

macross frontier 06 sheryl earring cockpit alto composite image

She doesn’t get to leave this episode, but delivers a farewell concert.

I’ve mentioned in my post on episode two (Hard Chase) that what the Macross Franchise does very well is to stage musical set-pieces. By this I mean there is an actual live performance while events of consequence unfold whether propelling forward, or resolving the plot(s) of the narrative. At the end of this episode is such a set-piece performance that continues in the next, that in my opinion is part of a sequence that is one of the finest moments of the franchise.

But first, several things happen that set up the Sheryl’s farewell concert.

By the end of the previous episode, it is hinted that Sheryl has begun to have an attraction in some form to Alto, coinciding with the confirmation that Ranka is clearly infatuated with him. Prior to this Ranka looked towards Alto as a source of guidance and support, even if he already saved her life and figured in some of her significant moments. Seeing Sheryl with him on an apparent date, and kissing him goodbye, triggered a jealousy that fully establishes her as a point in the love triangle.

Sheryl has had the clear advantage, having access to Alto and having spent meaningful time with him. Also she has the benefit of being Ranka’s idol. She was the ‘perfect future version of her,’ the same way Mayama Takumi saw Nomiya Takumi in Honey and Clover. Ranka’s story now begins as a challenge, working her way up the grade of celebrity. The first step being scouted, then winning the permission of her guardian to pursue her goals.

macross frontier 06 ranka ticket to concert congratulations

But Alto lies to her about being on a date with Sheryl, yet shows kindness and generosity by giving her a ticket to her Farewell concert, to go with him (not like in a date or so he says). The grade that Ranka climbs is a steep one. And complicated by the call for assistance by the Macross Galaxy Colony Fleet, who is under large scale attack by the Vajra — only identified as alien biomechanical weapons that seem to be controlled externally. This would mean Alto will not be able to join Ranka in Sheryl’s show.

And Alto meets Sheryl to return her lost earring, who in turn shows a little more vulnerability by speaking of her unhappy past in her home, the Galaxy colony. She asks Alto to keep her earring for luck, and their relationship seems to grow even if Alto never seems to show interest in a romance.

macross frontier 06 alto delivers sheryl's earrings

Finally, the concert. The set-piece is the mobilization of the SMS forces under the command of Captain Jeffrey Wilder. Even as civilians, a special law dictates that they are effectively conscripts of the NUNS military. They are in turn granted use of reaction weapons, which will be a lot more powerful against the Vajra who have shown near-imperviousness agains conventional ordnance. This whole sequence, featuring the soldiers prepping their mecha, the Macross Quarter capital ship running its checks, the individuals putting on their game-faces and psychological war-paint.

All of this happens scored initially by an orchestral piece by Kanno Yoko, then ultimately by Sheryl performing Diamond Crevasse, blending into the ED sequence itself. It is a peculiar choice for an opening number, as usually the opening numbers of concerts are high-energy songs to excite the audience. Perhaps it is fitting, given the theme of her concert being a farewell, and that it is performed under some duress — in the sense that Sheryl is from Macross Galaxy, which is currently besieged by aliens.

macross frontier 06 sheryl concert diamond crevasse

The effect is wistful and solemn. We see Ranka running to the concert, clearly unable to witness this part of the performance. The Macross Quarter departs from Macross Frontier.

I often wonder at this piece. It’s very easy to dismiss as a conceit by Kanno herself, who is allowed unprecedented influence in the direction of the show itself. Macross Frontier is unusual that it is produced more like a musical than any other anime that came before it, or at least during the career of Kanno. This means that the narrative is, at times plotted, and clearly directed around the musical content. In the process of producing anime the composition of the music, or at least the selection of musical pieces arrives near the end of the production stage. The anime is already drawn and sequenced, and sound editing then integrates the music in the show.

macross frontier 06 klan klan michel quadluun rau preparation

Here, the showcase is ‘Diamond Crevasse’ itself, and a set-piece is written around it, creating as much fit for the song as possible. Does it work? If you accept the conceit, it works brilliantly. Only in a musical will it make sense for the narrative to move forward when characters break into song. Macross Frontier is not a musical in the sense that exposition and or plot/points are not delivered by the song itself (i.e. Ranka doesn’t sing a song about her dreams to be a star, like Ariel in The Little Mermaid sang about her desire to be part of the human world). If so, it is a coincidence (i.e. Ranka sings ‘Aimo’ to Alto, which marks a turn in her resolve to pursue  a singing career, as well as introducing a song that will be significant to the narrative later on).

So it’s not a musical, but is built in a similar way. This isn’t discussed much by the writers who covered Macross Frontier, but I see this as an innovation, in an atmosphere where anime is often criticized for doing very little of such; resorting allegedly to pandering and fanservice (Frontier does these too, I only say that it cannot be reduced to merely these). I’ve read it mentioned that Kanno’s work in Frontier is her best (I’m not so sure, but I sympathize greatly with this view), but I would say that her work definitely benefited by the newfound freedom given to her by the creator Kawamori Shouji.

Further Reading

‘Diamond Crevasse’ makes its debut in episode two ‘Hard Chase’ [->]

Steps in anime production, containing an excerpt of the interview with Kanno and Kawamori [->]

The full interview [->]

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 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The False Farewell: Macross Frontier 06 (Bye Bye Sheryl)

  1. Crusader says:

    Ah yes this was where the budget seemed to have evaporated…at least episode 7 more than made up for the QUALITY.

    I remember this well Alto-hime’s first mission and last were with tokens of Sheryl’s love. Suffice to say Alto-hime trashed his VF-25F both times, but at least he came back to Sheryl as promised.

    I don’t know anything of artistic merit, but certainly the music made everything more EPIC and cool. It’s like a work out tape, it doesn’t need to be there but for some reason it just makes things livelier. In any case ‘Diamond Crevasse’ worked quite well enough for most.

    I can see why Alto-hime lied about his date with Sheryl though, since it would have given the tabloids a field day. Also he would have sounded like he was bragging, and it would have seemed extraordinary to the point everyone calls bullshit.

    • Well, some problems can be found as early as the second episode, but I suppose glaring ones can be found here. However, looking at the images captured here I see that the characters remained on-model — which is where the thing usually falls apart with the show (since environments are often pre-rendered, kind of like the old Resident Evil and Final Fantasy games).

      This was Alto’s first battle, and your explanation for Alto’s duplicity makes sense even though I really just think he doesn’t want to admit he went out with a girl who’s not prettier than he is (which was the excuse he’s reserving to turn down Ranka’s confession if she gets to it).

      And oh yes, the music makes things EPIC and cool just as planned.

  2. gloval says:

    Speaking of the animation, it was at this episode that Filipino names started appearing at the credits. My ‘Net sources said the Pinoys did the background animation particularly in the concert scenes (could anyone confirm?). At this point, I did not notice any drop in quality yet. However, the fact that animation was being outsourced bothered some of the fans and the “third-world” animators drew the ire of them nitpickers. There were other countries where MF got outsourced, so I sure hope the Pinoys didn’t have a hand with the really obvious deformities in the 8th episode.

    One of my irritations with musicals, especially back when I was a kid (I’m more appreciative now), was that characters break into song and I had to struggle at understanding the lyrics. Yes, when I was watching those Disney films, animated and live action, I secretly cringe when they do a musical number. In contrast, even though Macross had music as one of its core elements, I really like how the songs don’t get in the way of the general flow of the story.

    • The very fact that the work was outsourced to unproven suppliers allows for the probability of variance in quality.

      In any case, it falls on Kawamori’s responsibility as the executive producer of the project (if he isn’t, then whoever).

      I wonder why you’d hate musicals. Sesame Street was/is a musical and like many others I learned english too by watching the show and singing along with tunes like “C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me,” “It’s a rainy day,” and lots of others. Also, I can sing along to many Disney songs, even those from The Little Mermaid.

      The songs shouldn’t get in the way, because they’re a big part of the general story.

      • BobaFetish says:

        I’m a music geek and I like drama, so you’d figure I’d like musicals. But like gloval, I’ve always cringed when musical numbers pop up, especially in Dreamworks/Disney pictures. That’s partly because the musical score invariably uses a bland, cliched children’s pop style (think Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers) and partly because spontaneously breaking into song is contrived and distracting. It feels like when you use lyrics to deliver exposition both the music and the exposition suffers, because they are far more limited than if they were delivered separately.

        • Well, the songs have to be DAMN GOOD. If the music fails, so goes the musical. But check out the Broadway/West End stuff too — real musical theater. Maybe it just takes an appreciation of the media itself too.

      • gloval says:

        To be clear, that was me being a bratty kid; I’m more appreciative nowadays. Still, there were reasons behind my response then. For me it’s mainly because I have to work on the lyrics to get my exposition or whatnot. (Yeah, I may be lazy, but I was a kid! And I didn’t have a copy of the lyrics while watching). BobaFetish has provided some more reasons.

        I think the music in Macross works a lot better because…
        1. there are designated singers; not everyone breaks into song
        2. the songs would come in when the story requires it: there’s a concert, Ranka and Sheryl sings to Alto, Minmay sings to save the world, etc.
        3. the songs would also come at particular sequences like battles and romance to heighten the emotion, and usually as background only

        With those, we won’t see Grace singing “Curious creatures of flesh and metal/Folding powered by quartz elemental” when explaining about the Vajra or Alto belting out “Striking you with mighty manly missiled justice/Thus I do fight, regain my sky and fly at peace” while in battle. However, if these happen it’ll be lulzy because we know it’s a parody.

        Come to think of it, there are Disney musical sequences that follows 2 and 3 and I find them good. Considering Beauty and the Beast (because it’s my favorite):
        – Be Our Guest (because they have to entertain Belle)
        – Something There (works for me because I’m as sucker for romance)
        – Beauty and The Beast ball (because the couple was dancing and the lyrics being a commentary of the romance is a bonus)

        • Hahaha gotcha. I too like Beauty and the Beast, though Aladdin is my favorite (yes, I am an unapologetic Lea Salonga fan). I don’t suggest that the show be a musical in the truest sense, but I don’t mind a musical treatment of some of the shows in the franchise.

          I’d watch Macross Frontier and DYRL? the musicals, any day, should they make them.

  3. Ryan A says:

    Seeing Sheryl with him on an apparent date, and kissing him goodbye, triggered a jealousy that fully establishes her as a point in the love triangle.

    Oh I so love it…

    About the music, yea, even being a Macross n00b, Frontier has a grand level of integration into the work. I never thought of it as a “musical”, but one of the themes must be music power/song power. I didn’t really realize until later that Macross is in love with the music theme. Still, Frontier shines beautifully in that area.

    Love the music.

    • The love triangle in Frontier has a lot more hijinks, teases, come-ons, and hooks for the viewer than any of its predecessors. The love triangle in the original series seems almost purely circumstantial in comparison.

      I think you’ll like the old stuff anyway; Do You Remember Love> is less than 2 hours I think and is well-worth checking out. If you end up liking it you can look into the original series which is a tougher viewing due to the dated animation and considerable (relatively) series length at 35 episodes.

      The music there, is superb. Frontier though raises the level of integration to obsessive levels, and I can’t really complain. While I fell in love with Kanno Yoko’s work the moment I listened intently to the Macross Plus (1994) pieces, I daresay that her work here both stands up to and complements the orchestral pieces. The pop music material in Frontier though, is the best in the franchise and my favorites in all anime by far.

  4. 2DT says:

    I remember this episode very fondly, perhaps the most fondly of all of them. There’s another one I really like, but I’ll wait for you to get to it.

    As a singer, I prefer Megumi Nakajima, but character-wise I’m partial to Sheryl precisely because of moments like this concert. She possesses a certain gravitas that I think puts her above the other female characters, even Klan.

    • 2DT says:

      Oops, split infinitive. I meant “as far as comparing singers.” I can hold a tune, but that’s about it.

    • Hehe. I’m a Rankafag through and through though I readily acknowledge how awesome Sheryl is. Much the same way I’m thoroughly fantarded for Minmay while Misa is obviously a more awesome person and character. Also, I fail at shipping — friends call me the failboat.

      In terms of charm and winsomeness among Macross idols, Mylene Jenius is the queen. A less biased ranking (on my part) would look like:

      Mylene Jenius
      Sheryl Nome
      Lynn Minmay
      Ranka Lee

  5. Pingback: Going Beyond The Impossible: The Reconstruction of the Macross Frontier Canon—The 5th of 6 Posts on The Wings of Goodbye | We Remember Love

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