We (the founders of We Remember Love) watched the culmination of the Macross Frontier saga together and in grand fashion: using an office board room and a high-end projector. It is only fitting, as the Macross Frontier sub-franchise is, and had always been the representative anime for this blog. Yes, our favorite show is Super Dimension Fortress Macross, but is Macross Frontier that remembers love, and is the show that in 2008, got us following anime blogs and finally start one ourselves.
This post will be the second of six I’ll make on this film, and relatedly, Macross Frontier as a sub-franchise and Macross as a franchise as a whole. I’m not hung up on destiny, but I find it entertaining to imagine how the destiny of Macross Frontier is intertwined with that of We Remember Love. Now, the second discussion calls for a comparison with another show we love: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
One of the very first notions I asserted here on We Remember Love is this:
I compared the two TV Series based on their um, cavalier attitude towards logic, if and when it got in the way of presenting a spectacle. The finales of both TV series presented spectacles that went beyond what the entirety of the robot anime tradition had offered. I had certainly not seen anything like those before.
Now they are worth comparing again because both series followed up by offering two-part feature films based on the story presented by the respective series. I had seen all of these, and both provide contrasting results.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Gurren-Hen and Lagann Hen are failures wherein Macross Frontier Itsuwari no Utahime and Sayonara no Tsubasa are triumphs.
Why? How did this happen?
First, in the case of TTGL, what it had was a self-contained and already amazing TV series that achieved everything it set out to do. As far as I’m concerned it is as near perfect a super robot anime can get. It remembered so much love for all these things I loved as a fan of anime and honored these by making such a great, uplifting spectacle of itself.
The movies were executed as compilation narratives, which then resulted in removing, glossing over, and minimizing many smaller things that made TTGL feel whole and complete. Having removed this value, how then can it compensate the viewer who is already a fan?
It improved the animation, but with rather limited results. The stylized nature of Imaishi’s work possesses a rare genius in that it looks good with a TV anime budget, and something that neither more money and time contribute to making such a dramatic difference. Thus, they just made more of the same over-the-top stuff, STUFFED ON TOP of what’s already beyond the impossible. This was no good for me at all.
I did like the time-skip montage that portrayed the reconstruction of Teppelin into Kamina City, and the whole hacking sequence using Lord Genome’s sprite, but everyone getting their own Tengen Toppa mecha? Not so much. Making something twice bigger than the final robot in the TV series? Not cool, especially if all it was, is a bright green Kamina that slapped on the name SUPER Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Instead of being impressive, it felt cheap.
Both film versions cheapened the experience of provided by Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann the TV series. Sorairo Days suddenly playing while the final speeches were being delivered in episode 27 is one of my favorite moments in anime, period. The finale in the film made the final fight way, waaay too long. The final fist fight was unwanted overkill.
Nothing of substance was added, and many things of value was lost.
Itsuwari no Utahime was good, but it didn’t rock my world. It changed a few things, but these changes felt more like compromises to tell a concise story. There were no doubt awesome moments, but it wasn’t going to make me prefer the film to the TV series by any stretch. This all changed with Sayonara no Tsubasa.
The second film serves to wrap up the whole Frontier sub-franchise. It would give a finale that leaves far less things to question. On the minds of many fans, was the resolution of the love triangle. This film resolved it with finality. No more questions, no more speculation. Alto picked Sheryl after he turned Ranka down. Gentle, apologetic, considerate, but crystal clear: Sheryl won the love triangle.
I don’t want to get into the other plot details, but I do think that this compressed telling made for a clearer conflict, and a cleaner if just as complicated presentation of villainy. Sure it was plot-twisty, and involved heel-face turns galore, but it was satisfying because the spectacle was worth it, not that the spectacle wasn’t already out of this world in the TV series. This is about something else.
Compared to TTGL, Macross Frontier had several problems with telling and resolving its story. Some more problematic than others. Most notable of course is the resolution of the love triangle. It was never clear. Now it is. What I’m saying here is that the Macross Frontier films have an easier time adding value to the fans of the franchise because the value of the TV series leaves a lot of room for improvement. There is very little in TTGL that I would change, and what the movies changed were not satisfying enough, and disappointing in other ways.
The Macross Frontier films were successful in the way the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam trilogy of movies were intended to be. The cavalier attitude towards canon that the whole Macross franchise has will prevent the utter meaninglessness the Z Gundam movies befalling it. The Z Gundam films are non-canon, and thereby eliminates all good reason to view them, which puts to waste the noble effort of erasing Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam from the official canon.
Thus, there may be a pattern, or some kind of rule-of-thumb that governs film adaptations of anime series. The Mobile Suit Gundam Original Movie Trilogy is more like a compilation movie than a re-imagining like Macross: Do You Remember Love? but what it did, was to remove all distracting and compromising elements in the TV series of Mobile Suit Gundam in addition to adding new animation (and improving the animation from the TV show) such that the value added is beyond welcome. The first of the two Space Runaway Ideon movies, A Contact, was criticized for its compression of the TV series narrative, but the second film, Be Invoked, added something so remarkable that it is a classic all on its own, influencing such works as Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion.
The pattern is maintained in the Rebuild of Evangelion film series. The first film was incredibly faithful to the beginning episodes of the TV series, the second film we start to see fundamental changes, new characters, and hints on how the future films will go differently from the rest of the TV series and even End of Evangelion. Like with Macross Frontier, not everyone was satisfied with how the TV series ended, as remarkable the whole thing was.
I don’t presume that I can predict future quality in the film adaptations to come, but I think the idea of revisionary/rebuilding/additive films in relation to TV series with acknowledged problems having more value, than film adaptations of TV series that have much fewer problems… has merit.
The Ongoing Post Series:
- The Top 3 ASDFGHSDFG Moments in Sayonara no Tsubasa
- A Tale of Two Movie Adaptations: TTGL vs. MF [you are reading this]
- The Resolution of the Triangle
- The Rehabilitation of Characters: Ranka,
- Going Beyond the Impossible: The Reconstruction of a Canon
- Sheryl Nome: The Most Awesome Woman in Anime
I mentioned these so I can have some order in the conversations to come.