For the first time, the show employs a medias res-like device. The narrative is in the thick of the action: Alto calls for Michel to shoot the Large Type Vajra his VF-25F Messiah is grappling with. This is a Michel Blanc episode, the character who gave some impression of being Alto’s rival in flying.
I get the impression from fellow fans that the rivalry aspect is underdeveloped. And I agree to a certain extent. However, this episode in my view settles the rivalry so much so that it doesn’t ever come in to play again. Besides, Alto may have relationships with other males that evoke a rivalry aspect, but it’s quite pathetic because he always has his ass handed to him.
It’s quite remarkable in how this is rather out of place in the tradition of mecha pilot lead characters. Amuro fights his rival Char on equal terms. Kamille gets the better of Jerid many times. Isamu and Guld really get at it on equal terms. Alto just keeps getting his ass kicked. It’s a subversion I think, almost in-step with how he’s designed like a hawt trap, and is called ‘princess’ and is an actor who plays women parts (oyama) notable for delivering a rather legendary love scene. Yeah Alto is a strange one. And his histrionics is what sets up Michel’s story.
The episode’s narrative proper begins when Grace O’Connor apologizes to Alto for cutting into their class practice time to be used for shooting promotional videos of Sheryl who’s now a member of their pilots program. Michel cuts in and smarms up to Grace, who recognizes his name and brings up his dead sister. Cue flashback!
Actually no. The next scene Alto is nagging Michel for letting Sheryl into their group during a mission. What a pussy. “If you’re just doing this to flirt with Shery’s manager or some other half-assed crap like that, I’m gonna kill you!” Normally, I’d applaud such manly dialogue. But right now, Alto is all talk. Michel gets him back: “Look who’s talking! The princess who ran away from home to play ‘war.'” Amber-3 from NUNS ran into Vajra and is requesting backup though, so they go into the action in the middle of a wet towel slapping contest.
Alto turned the dogfight into a knife fight, and figures he’ll win it by himself. The team plan is to snipe the LTV while being held immobile by Alto’s VF-25F. Alto tries to tell Michel to leave it to him. Michel says, “Just leave it to me. I can take down anything in one shot, be it targets or girls.” These are good lines. It’s just that it’s very very difficult for me to feel GAR for these kids because they’re such bitchy pretty boys. And then quite cheesily, Michel suddenly out of all times remembers Grace giving her condolences for what happened to his sister. He hesitates, and misses the LTV and singes Alto’s battloid nearly taking its head off.
In other matters, the Frontier government is holding council. President glass leads it, while notable attendees include Cathy Glass and Leon Mishima of the NUNS military, Jeffrey Wilder and Ozma Lee from the SMS. President Glass is talking about the resource impact of the Vajra attacks, notably how water is becoming scarce. I don’t understand why water exactly would be particularly hit (unless it’s the primary flame retardant used to put out the fires that hit large stretches of the city during the first Vajra attack). Still… but anyway I appreciate the gesture towards building a science fiction world that has a working ecology and economy (in this case, very closely linked). What is very important to note here, is how there is a spy monitor observing the meeting, and the voyeur is none other than Sheryl’s manager, Grace O’Connor herself!
We know that she has all sorts of cyber implants, being a citizen of Macross Galaxy where there are no taboos for such. But now we see her using them to hack into a supposedly secure and classified meeting. But for what purpose? It won’t be revealed yet.
Let’s pause for a moment for some Klanservice™
Klan Klan is a Zentradi, a race of giants. Members of this allied race mostly coexist and are even integrated with human society primarily through ‘miclonization’ which turns them into human size. Ranka Lee is part Zentraedi, Guld Bowman from Macross Plus is wholly Zentraedi. Klan is unique in that she turns into a freaking loli when in micloned form. I wasn’t kidding about Ms. Klanservice™.
I’ll also take note of some continuity pr0n: Klan Klan is talking to her pixie squadron wing sisters. Nene in particular, is rather stressed about the increasing number of sorties and encounters they’re facing. Klan Klan puts things in perspective: They’re lucky that they’re fighting bugs. 49 years ago Zentraedi like Klan who joined the miclones had to fight their fellow Zentraedi. Klan here mentions that not everybody joined; but the bigger story is that the initial defection was only a fraction of the Bodolle Zer main fleet. SDF-Macross and Rebel Zentraedi joint forces had to fight and defeat the 1,000,000 capital ships-strong Zentraedi fleet. This too, is fanservice.
As the above service for oldfags happens, Alto is picking a fight with Michel; insulting his dead sister while he’s at it. Michel beats the crap out of him; knocking him down and getting a full-mount effortlessly as he delivers the ground-and-pound. Alto, this is… pathetic. Alto never got a shot in, and before the scene changed Michel must have landed at least 10 solid shots in the face.
The root of Alto’s discontent with Michel is that he doesn’t think Michel is taking flying seriously. Alto takes flying very seriously. He thinks Michel’s skulky sniper kind of fighting, reflects his motivation to work only to earn money for dating girls. Alto thinks Michel should’ve just become a commercial spacecraft pilot. The back story is that Michel’s sister Jessica Blanc was a disgraced sniper in the NUNS military. To hear Klan Klan tell it,
After losing his parents at a young age, Michel was raised by his older sister, Jessica. They got along really well. We were childhood friends, Michel and I. Jessica was a good sniper. But on one mission, there was friendly fire. She shot her own comrade. He was her superior, and the man she had been having an affair with. It was horrible timing. Just before the mission, he had broken off the affair […] because of the suspicion that Jessica misfired intentionally, she was court-martialed. Then she ended her own life. Michel might have been searching all along for the truth behind that friendly fire.
This was actually presented to the viewer during the resumption of the narrative from what was shown prior to the OP. Alto, now knowing the story behind Michel’s angst shouted at him to surpass his sister, and snipe at the VF-27 that he’s grappling with, the same VF-27 that shot off his gun when he was rescuing Luca during the fight to rescue Macross Galaxy fleet’s Dulfim; the same one who just shot down Klan Klan’s Quadluun-rea.
Some images from the dogfight
The VF-27 pretty much raeped Klan’s Quadluun-rea, but Alto’s VF-25F Super Messiah put up more of a fight; and in the end SMS combined arms tactics compensated for the vast tech disadvantage presented by this unit.
It wasn’t a clean hit, but it was enough to convince the pilot that his mission was under threat (to destroy a Vajra hive on an abandoned Guantanamo class carrier), considering that his VF-27 took some minor hits from Klan’s Quaedluun-rea and that Alto in his VF-25F shot his leg off. He deploys a large beam weapon and destroys the carrier in one shot before running away.
This is the first time in Macross history that such a powerful beam weapon is mounted on a VF, or a mono-piloted small craft. I’m not sure I like it, given how I hate variable damage output contingent to plot needs. Gundam is downright abusive of this, and Macross has begun to as well given the LTV beam cannon (see episode one where it destroyed a stealth cruiser in one shot, and at the same time didn’t punch a hole through Macross Frontier City when it fired at some tanks), and now the VF-27’s.
The episode ends with Michel visiting Jessica’s grave, still wondering about the real facts behind the friendly fire that damned her. We find Alto making nice, the rivalry doesn’t mean much now if it had ever really meant anything at all. What I find remarkable in this episode is how many narratives it progressed during what seems to be a back story interlude:
- Macross Frontier’s concern over resources.
- Grace O’Connor revealing a sinister visage.
- Alto and Michel’s non-rivalry.
- Michel and Klan’s romantic angle [you’ll really want to see these images (1) and (2)].
- The ends behind Sheryl’s enrollment in Mihoshi Academy (propaganda for the continued search for teh missing Macross Galaxy fleet) [image ->].
- Ranka’s career (a public promotion on the street; very lame) [image ->].
- The continued presence of the VF-27 and its pilot (who shows up stalking Ranka) [image ->].
I won’t accuse Frontier’s plot of being complex, but that’s a lot of narratives pushed forward or resolved. I didn’t appreciate this then, but I’m seeing it now, and whoa. I won’t say it’s stupendously done by way of excellence that marks the first arc of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina as one of the best examples of exposition in literature. But I do think that this episode is done with some the brilliant cheesiness that is very much part of the Macross franchise.
WTF is Klanservice™? [->]
We Remember Love’s Macross Frontier blog post series [->]