One of the most interesting things that Macross did was its presentation of its pop idols. Iijima Mari, the seiyuu and singing voice of Lynn Minmay of Super Dimension Fortress Macross was part of the first emergence of the phenomenon of the pop idol in Japanese culture. I think the character Minmay became such a star in anime because she coincided with the idol phenomenon. However, the idol during this period is characterized by immaculate purity (chaste wholesomeness). To me they seem to represent the fantasies of their male fans, and are held up to be people to be emulated by females.
Only that Macross presented Minmay as completely flawed. Very cute and winsome as an idol is supposed to, but also shallow, petty, and egotistical. The idol in Japanese culture is supposed to be loved, and her combination of attributes are manufactured to take loving her for granted. The Macross idol, Minmay actually needs love because she won’t survive (or be a useful person in society) without it, and equally important is how challenging she would be to love. It would actually take work, effort, patience, and you know, actual love.
Macross was plugging into the idol phenomenon and at the same time giving a critical account of it. This is pretty edgy for a silly robot show in the early 1980s wouldn’t you say? This post explores the foibles of the latest incarnations of the Macross singing idol near the end of their narratives.
Sheryl Fails at Using Chopsticks: an Historic Dinner
The dinner is a take on the Christmas dinner in SDF Macross episode 34 “Romanesque,” wherein Minmay prepared Hikaru dinner on their second night together. Sheryl had just spent the night in the Saotome mansion with Alto, who has elected to hide this relationship from the public and his fellow pilots. Sheryl teases him about having anything to hide about them. The narrative is coy, but there is no conclusive evidence that says they are together, or that Alto has picked her over Ranka.
Similarly, Hikaru had made no such decision at that point in time, one episode away from the finale in a 3-cour show! The difference here is that Alto does the cooking. What is telling is how Sheryl told Alto, “You can’t go back ok? Don’t ever… Leave me.”
Why did Sheryl do this? Here are two approaches:
The Watsonian approach is rather problematic to put together. I can only say that she’s at her wits end, on her last days, propped up only by Alto’s attentions. This is Sheryl giving up on life, giving up on her future. She’s just cashing her chips at this point, quitting while she’s ahead.
The Doylist approach tells us this scene is a contrivance to maintain the conceit that Sheryl (and Ranka) are versions of SDFM’s Minmay. However, Sheryl is the Macross: Do You Remember Love? version of Minmay while Ranka is the SDFM version. This scene only exists in SDFM, so the writing staff rather trip over themselves maintaining the conceit.
In SDFM, Minmay is extreme. She says she gives up singing, then insists that Hikaru give up flying altogether. I believe that the future that this represented, where Hikaru sees a denial of both their identities and aspirations and having to reinvent themselves with no clue of how to do so, sealed the deal with his choice to go with Misa. It seems cynical, but I doubt that at this point Hikaru had a lot of love in his heart (more like blood in his penis). Misa would not only let him fly, but encourage him through his military career. It was no contest.
Sheryl didn’t exactly demand any of this, because her request was ambiguous – made while drunk, sleepy, and sick (dying). Don’t go back where? Never leave me for what? It isn’t clear, but for fans who paid attention to Minmay and Hikaru in SDFM, the implications are obvious. Very interestingly, Alto said “Okay.”
Why? Because as far as he’s concerned, Ranka left him, left the colony, and left the human race. Leon would later paint the picture that Ranka is the foothold by which the Vajra will destroy them all. While Alto would remain conflicted, it didn’t make saying ‘yes’ to Sheryl more difficult.
Ranka Lies: She Claims to Have Never Failed
Ranka says to Brera that the Vajra will listen to her song, that “It hasn’t failed me before.” Either Ranka is dissociative amnesia all over again (unlikely because the episode begins with her remembering more things about Ranshe, Brera, and Grace), Ranka is ridiculously stupid, or that Ranka is lying. In episode 20 Alto convinced her to make the Vajra listen to her song (to pacify them) and Sheryl even slapped her when she wouldn’t agree to do so. The whole thing failed, and the Vajra only became more violent, leading to the near destruction of the colony and countless deaths.
Why would she claim that it has never failed?
The Doylist answer would be “because the writers forgot.” I find this unlikely, and just as lazy in terms of reasoning as the accusation of laziness it presents. The care in ensuring the reference and thematic unity of the idols as versions of Minmay rules out mere laziness as far as I’m concerned.
That said, there seems to be no satisfying Watsonian answer. Why would Ranka say something so obviously mistaken? Also, it’s rather telling how Ranka never asked Brera who he was, what his relationship with Grace is, who Grace is – beyond a artiste manager who has elite pilots at her disposal. She never bothered to wonder. This obliviousness is telling (some of this applies to Sheryl as well, but I credit Grace for hiding this actively from her protégé). This all results in not only Ranka failing at her ill-conceived personal mission to communicate with the Vajra, but also to her falling into Grace’s trap.
It’s hard to elevate Grace as a schemer of talent when her victims are as dumb as Ranka.
And the episode ends with a nice segue to Alto, and his own crisis of purpose. The orders are to fight Ranka, If it comes down to having to kill her, can he do it? Alto said he would. This too, is love, or at least that’s how Klan Klan takes it. Sheryl eavesdrops, and she gets it too. Did she feel that she suddenly lost to Ranka, because Alto loves Ranka enough to kill her? She resolves to do something, and that something is what she said she won’t do anymore (though she already broke this vow). She’ll sing, to fight Ranka, so maybe Alto won’t have to kill her.
Ranka, fulfilling the role of the SDFM Minmay, was Alto’s reason for joining the S.M.S., just as Minmay was the reason Hikaru joined the UN Spacy, albeit Ranka didn’t pressure Alto as Minmay did Hikaru. The episode brings us back to the roles played, ringing a little like destiny, and wholly the conceit of a show that exists too to remember love.
This question I ask of you who have only seen Frontier prior to any other Macross shows: did the behavior of the protagonists make sense for you up to this point?