What Used to Work No Longer Works (Macross Frontier 18 “Fold Fame”)

It’s said that the true definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things over and over and yet expect different results. Often when we’re confronted by setbacks, or even plateus in our performance, we think that we will improve if we just ‘try a little harder,’ or ‘tweak the method a little.’

It’s also been said that some problems cannot be solved by the methods that played a part in their creation, and that something completely new is necessary to not merely manage the problem, but to make a breakthrough.

In this episode (18) of Macross Frontier, we see this dynamic play out in various ways.

Sheryl Nome and Authentic Adversity

Sheryl fights back and fails. Sheryl’s method is to work hard, and work harder. She never took anything for granted, and believes in herself not in a way that she is entitled to her fame and success but because she earned it.

This is revealed by Grace to be false, in that Grace is far less generous in appraising the talent and giving credit to the work ethic of Sheryl. She is after all, a ‘manufactured’ idol wherein the manufacturing process ensures that the product meets the specifications of mass appeal.

While completely apocryphal and unofficial, May’n in her blog gives an account of Sheryl’s conversations with Grace O’Connor leading up to the production of her debut song, ‘Pink Monsoon.’ I find it interesting that the ‘actors’ improvising in this case are none other than May’n (the musical performer for Sheryl Nome’s character) playing Sheryl, and Kanno Yoko (the composer and arranger of the Macross Frontier OST) playing Grace.

Sheryl~In the galaxy, R&B is currently popular. Eeeeh, I can’t do that Grace, I want to sing rock! It’s okay, it will be R&B Sheryl!

At the time of debut, Sheryl did not choose the style. R&B was also a challenge isn’t it?

From May’n’s blog post, by way of A Gabriela Robin Site. What this quote portrays is how I imagine Grace exerting overall creative control over Sheryl. Once she became popular, Grace let Sheryl believe that she was calling the shots. Consider Sheryl’s arrival on Frontier, she behaved very much like a haughty pop star and treated Grace like an assistant.

What’s more likely is that Grace pretty much handled Sheryl — manipulated not only how people’s impressions of her, but also her own impressions of how the world or her public works. Observe how she’s been handling Ranka so far, not that Ranka was able to say no to anything Elmo Krdanik (her former manager) asked of her.  But it’s really no stretch to say that Grace is the far smoother one between them.

The point is, Sheryl’s method — which is to work harder, be stronger — “Because I’m Sheryl Nome!” will not work (and perhaps it never as well as she thought). Further, her way of becoming stronger is now completely ineffective. This is because Grace has made clear that Sheryl will die due to her V-Type sickness.

And how does Sheryl respond to this news? She responds the only way she knows, that is to tough it out, act strong even when there is no strength left. We know this because she forbade Michel to let Alto know about what’s happening to her.

It takes for her to reach rock bottom to accept the kindness of another, and by that time, she was having delusions that it was Alto rescuing her. Clearly, this is a case wherein a slavish adherence to the status quo fails to produce results.

Ozma Lee Forgets About How Macross Truly Fights

The military success of Macross expeditionary fleets for the last decade or so has much to do with not having much to fight, but also the improving technology of warfare available to them. That said, the formula is still very simple: Neutralize fighter craft with more versatile fighter craft, and eliminate large targets with reaction weaponry. Just be more powerful than the other guys.

Ozma Lee naturally wants Ranka to be excluded from any further military actions, because he feels responsible for her and wouldn’t want her to be at risk in any way. What’s interesting is that he insisted that there is no need for her to participate in these operations because conventional weapons backed by reaction weapons have proven to be effective against the Vajra. With his piloting skill and the military might of the fleet backing him, Ozma feels he should be the one protecting Ranka and not the other way around.

However, the significant Macross-level engagements (excluding the incomplete rescue operation for Macross Galaxy performed by SMS’ Macross Quarter) were successful due to the various incarnations of the ‘Minmay Attack’ (featuring Minmay herself, Fire Bomber as Sound Force in a large number of cases, and recently Ranka). When faced by threatening odds, this completely non-standard method of fighting has made the breakthroughs.

Ozma apparently forgets this, or would rather ignore this. After all, it isn’t well, cool. It’s silly to the point of absurdity. It is gimmicky as opposed to tactically elegant. I don’t think one nurtures an ambition of being an ace pilot with the end in mind of being protected by or saved by a pop idol during battle. What about Sound Force Ozma? What about their stars?

When the Vajra did come to attack, conventional and reaction weapons stop working. The Vajra have genetic memory that allows for rapid adaptation. The current armor carapaces of the attacking Vajra are immune to everything but the powerful beam weapons, particularly the Macross class cannons.

Even so, the only way these cannons were able to fire efficient salvos (wiping out the attacking swarm) is due to Ranka’s performance of the propaganda version of Aimo, fulfilling President Howard Glass’ heralding that she is the modern Lynn Minmay.

In both cases, we see a devotion to adhering to what works — despite the fact that the status quo isn’t even working anymore. Keep in mind that President Glass didn’t authorize Ranka’s deployment. Leon acted in his own initiative. Had Glass been left to dictate how the battle be conducted, he would never had deployed Ranka since his condition for deploying her was for the conditions to be ‘safe.’

In both cases, the initiative of third parties allowed for the breakthroughs: Yasaburo rescuing Sheryl from the rainy streets, and Leon deploying Ranka while disobeying orders. By extension, the whole plan to make a long distance fold is a desperate act outside normal parameters. The colony as it stands cannot healthily provide the energy requirements for the undertaking. And yet, the government found a way by severely reducing the quality of life of its inhabitants. They can’t say they weren’t represented — since theirParliament ratified the plan.

While I wouldn’t say any of these characters are insane, they all stand to benefit from using non-standard approaches to dealing with adversity. Alto may just have to give up being a self-righteous runaway for a while, and face his father and his immediate past; if he wants to care for Sheryl.

Further Reading

Summary and short review here [->]

There seemed to be a lot going on in this episode, and the show has done a good job so far juggling all these plot balls in the air. Similar episodes with multiple narrative progressions include episode 09, and episode 15.

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.
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10 Responses to What Used to Work No Longer Works (Macross Frontier 18 “Fold Fame”)

  1. Rakuen says:

    I think by far the easiest way to illustrate this phenomena is with the simple task of proofreading a paper. When we spend hours, days, or perhaps even weeks working on a document, we start overlooking things quite easily. We know what we mean and what we’re trying to say, so when we look over it, we see that mental picture rather than what’s really on the sheet. When we hand the paper off to someone else to look over, they suddenly find all these errors that we missed. It’s that fresh perspective: they are not us, therefore they are not “blinded” by their own minds.

    The same situation can be implied by extension to almost any plan. The more complex it becomes, the more prone we are to not only making a mistake, but missing it on multiple passes. Sometimes it’s human error, sometimes it’s our stubbornness, or whatever. Thus, we have the suggestion on the Evil Overlord List of hiring a 5-year-old child to find very simple errors in complex plans.

    • I can’t agree more. Even blog posts. Gehhh I’ve made so many errors over the year and a half I’ve been writing about anime and you’d think I’d get a lot better at proofreading over time. But no, after a certain threshold there are diminishing returns on burning my eyes out trying to spot errors as opposed to moving on to the other pending projects.

      I’ve always wanted a rather ‘innocent’ reader to go over my posts to check not only for errors, but for comprehensibility. Despite the relative complexity of my vocabulary, I don’t go out of my way to do so and I do want to be intelligible first so as to be entertaining, as opposed to sounding arcane and obscure.

  2. Crusader says:

    Well up until that point for Sheryl at least she had never come up against and obstacle such as Grace. I think Sheryl did exert a degree of control over her career as she did write her own songs and was able to do a lot on her own while Grace was plotting galactic conquest. Grace didn’t micromanage Sheryl since Sheryl was already a hard worker and knew what needed to be done. Grace gave Sheryl a lot more latitude than she ever gave Ranka because Sheryl already had that drive to succeed in the case of Ranka it was almost as if she was just wept along instead of plotting any sort of course. Ranka was more micromanaged as she needed prodding and wasn’t as devoted to her career as Sheryl was. Grace probably would have had to prod Sheryl along if Sheryl lacked the drive that defined her career.

    I give Sheryl credit for toughing it out long after most people would have given up. Yasaburo did not take the initiative, instead opportunity (fate perhaps?) knocked and offered him a the means to get Alto-hime to return home and he took it. Alto-hime was late but not terribly so. I like how both Sheryl and Alto-hime seem to be hitting a wall at this point, Sheryl is getting a severe figurative beating from Grace, while Alto-hime is taking a continuous bruising from Brera. Both seem to be headed for a low point as Alto-hime will have to renege on an oath to never go back home. It was there that I think one can gauge how much hime cares about Sheryl. They both try to tough it out but in the end Sheryl emerged a little better off than hime who was never cut out to be a badass rebel. Also Sheryl proved in the end that she could be something without Grace, while Alto-hime never did beat Brera, not even once.

    It is also a testament to the genius of Grace who convinced Sheryl that she was more than what she was, and manufactured the perfect Prince for Ranka. It was Grace that gave Brera his Valkyrie and cybernetics that allowed him to be nigh unbeatable, coupled with a strong desire to protect Ranka, Brera was the Great Wall that hime could never overcome, not that hime tried that hard to win the Ranka sweepstakes. Such was Brera’s appeal that Ranka never did assert that she was his Boss, even as Brera kicked the crap out of Alto-hime. If nothing else Grace really did hate Ranshe and Mao, using their descendants as the instruments of her galactic conquest and tormenting them once their usefulness ended really says something about Grace’s brand of revenge.

    • I think Sheryl’s been a pro for at least a year, so the latitude she’s given is already earned. Being a candidate in Galaxy’s (Grace’s) project necessitated micromanagement in the beginning. I don’t see it being a whole lot different in Sheryl’s case.

      As these things go, many ‘artists’ if they are indeed of the creative persuasion will demand latitude at some point. Ranka is a songwriter as well, save for Aimo all her songs are pieces she made herself.

      That said, her personality is rather small compared to Sheryl who is already a diva.

      As far as giving Grace credit for putting Brera on Ranka, it’s a great move but hardly a genius one. I don’t think she predicted Ranka becoming a powerful Newtype to begin with. She just altered her plans and discarded her Cyber-NewtypeSheryl when her uselessness became more apparent.

      I do agree that Grace must have it for Ranshe and Mao. Bitch is cold.

  3. 2DT says:

    I can’t comment much on the rest of this entry, and that makes me feel bad because it’s quite interesting, the bit about how Grace controls Sheryl basically from the top down. But! I’m charmed that you keep bringing up Ranka’s first manager’s name. I would hardly remember he even had a name if you didn’t.

    Also, about Sheryl and her delusions, I’m reminded of the time she tried to pilot in space during a battle. What does she say then? “Because I’m Sheryl!” And then the music starts and you expect something amazing… And she spins out of control and almost gets herself killed. She completely fails. I still like her more than Ranka, but really. So much for being Sheryl.

    • Both are winsome in different ways, though I imagine Sheryl to transcend the ‘database animal’ appeal. That scene you mention is a pretty good example! The dramatic music you mention is an instrumental version of Iteza gogo kyuji [star] Don’t be Late, which serves as Sheryl’s (somewhat) lighthearted theme.

      It’s use in that scene almost certainly sets it up as comical, and the scene is. Given its place in the narrative it could be read as foreshadowing of the events I discuss here. Thanks for noticing it!

      Elmo Kridanik is significant to a Macross lifer like me because the last name belongs to the great antagonist of the original series, Britai — or Vrlitwhai Kridanik http://macross.anime.net/wiki/Vrlitwhai_Kridanik

      Equally interesting to me is how he hangs out at Folmo mall, named after Britai’s loremaster Exsedol Folmo from the original series (and as Max Jenius’ adviser in Macross 7).

  4. Swampstorm says:

    The word “insanity” implicitly suggests “abnormality”.

    To believe that our success can be somehow altered by pure effort (irrespective of whether it can be) implies that we carry some measure of responsibility for our own failures. If this is abnormal, it’s simply because of our “natural” tendency to shift blame.

    I don’t think that the issue here is adaptability. If Sheryl was sticking to “what works”, then she would try to convince Grace to come back, since Grace was part of the original formula. Instead, Sheryl’s responds by deciding to rebuild career from the ground up – this time without Grace. She only gives up on the idea when Grace tells her that her death is imminent.

    As for Sheryl’s other problem (i.e. death), the use of “non-standard approaches for dealing with adversity” doesn’t really apply, of course.

    The real change that’s at work over the course of these episodes is Sheryl’s reason for singing. Up until this point, Sheryl’s career was something that gave her personal satisfaction. This all became meaningless when she found out that she was about to die, however. Without going into too much detail (yet!), her real transformation occurs when she finds a reason to sing, beyond herself and her own personal goals.

    Regardless, over the course of the next few episodes, it should become quickly apparent that Grace isn’t quite as essential to Sheryl’s success as she thought that she was.

    On a slightly different point: If Sheryl’s goal was to simply “act strong”, then she wouldn’t have let Michael and Klan know about her true condition and impending death. She specifically insists that Alto not know about the severity of her illness simply because she doesn’t want him to worry about her. This plays a vital role in her reception of Alto in the following episode, as well.

    • All excellent points, but what’s interesting to note is how Sheryl has been treating Grace throughout her stop on Frontier. Up to this point, she was treating her as her assistant and not her producer. In light of this, it is far more likely for Sheryl to overrate her own contributions to her success at the expense of Grace’s.

      It’s just likely that Sheryl believes her ability to succeed is not contingent on Grace, nor anyone.

      • Swampstorm says:

        I’ve never had a producer, so I’m not sure about the etiquette. If Grace is in Sheryl’s employ, however, I’d imagine that she would be required to carry out Sheryl’s requests as per the terms of their contract.

        You’re right in pointing out that Sheryl isn’t quite as self-made as she makes herself seem – as with all successful people, her successes are contingent on circumstance and opportunity. Without Grace to facilitate Sheryl’s early success, perhaps Sheryl might not have developed the confidence to become the woman she is in the series.

        There’s another side to this as well – the doctor’s attitude towards and relationship with her “creation” strikes me as oddly reminiscent of a certain work by Mary Shelley (which, coincidentally, ties in with the adoption and parenting theme of your previous entry). But I don’t want to skip ahead to later episodes until you have a chance to review them. 😉

        Thanks for doing this, by the way. It’s not often that I get the chance to see someone do a detailed review of a series that I love.

        • The haughtiness at the beginning is there mostly to distinguish Sheryl as some kind of diva more than anything. I’m sure that if she were to accept a Grammy or its equivalent she would be acknowledging Grace profusely. That said, her casual bossiness creates an interesting contrast between her high sense of responsibility and her being an orphan raised by an adoptive parent/guardian.

          By this it would seem like she was spoiled by Grace, wherein such a sense of responsibility would be well, spoiled by spoiling a kid rotten. That said, I think I’ve seen many portrayals of youths ‘toughened’ by life in the streets to act in a haughty, defensive, distrusting, and self-aggrandizing manner. I wonder how much of all this would make sense for Sheryl’s character.

          Thank you for indulging this discussion! I don’t think I ever really ‘review’ shows, especially Macross ones. It’s obvious that I am an unrepentant fanboy and my judgment of their quality shouldn’t be of much use to those who are on the fence about it.

          What I’m more into are explorations of the works I take on, things I see and want to discuss with people outside the context of saying that the subject work is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ — or worth recommending/not worth watching.

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