One of the things I find both infuriating, yet fascinating is the amount of hate that exists for Ranka Lee, a fictional character from the recently concluded Macros Frontier saga. The informal measure (as this is not a scholarly exercise, despite the academic-sounding title) I’m using is how defensive commenters have been in the Macross Frontier posts I’ve been publishing the past two years.
I’m not even exaggerating too much when I say that almost every Macross Frontier post I publish becomes a Ranka Lee apology thread. This is interesting because you don’t actually find hate posts or comments towards her here in We Remember Love; after all, we actually do remember love. Why would the comments sections then be such an attraction for Ranka Lee apologists? Fans I’d understand, to celebrate the character and such – but instead we have something quite different.
A theory I have is that it is precisely how I don’t go out of my way to hate on Ranka, and this tack is followed by commenters who are otherwise not her fans. In other words, the people who the blog posts here attract can be divided into two broad groups:
- Ranka moderates/non-haters (who are Sheryl fans)
The Ranka apologists find themselves, no, put themselves in life or death debates against people who shouldn’t be their mortal adversaries. To me, this is fascinating. I’d think of this as an isolated case unique to this blog (as I don’t frequent other fora aside from twitter), but I began to see the pattern re-emerge in another anime blog currently publishing about Macross Frontier TV. In my conversations with the blog’s author I sought to explain this dynamic, which led to me organizing my thoughts in blog post form. Here I will map out the factors which contribute to the nexus of hate that exists for Ranka Lee.
Important: before any of you Rankafags tl;dr this post and launch another campaign of whining in the comments, the purpose of the genealogy isn’t to justify the hate. Let me repeat, IT IS NOT MY PURPOSE TO JUSTIFY THE HATE. This post is to share the dynamics of this phenomenon to outsiders looking in and wondering how come Macross Frontier articles have threads with over 200 posts while nobody pays attention to the Cowboy Bebop features. In this post I will also state how I truly feel about Ranka as a character in my beloved of all media franchises, Macross. OPEN RANKA!
The Legacy of Minmay
The source of all the love that Macross Frontier remembers is the Space War I sub-franchise, containing three animated works: 1) Super Dimension Fortress Macross, 2) Macross: Do You Remember Love? and 3) Macross Flashback 2012. Despite wildly conflicting events, a narrative can be pieced together from all three. It presented the core offering of Macross: A love story set against the backdrop of great battles. Its dominant elements being:
- A singing idol
- A love triangle
- Transforming robots
The characters involved are Ichijo Hikaru (the lead, a pilot jock); Hayase Misa (the heroine, a military commander); and Lynn Minmay (the star idol). Macross is notable in that it presented Minmay the way it did during the rise of the idol in Japanese popular culture in the early 1980’s. These idols were public images of perfection. Minmay was blatantly portrayed as flawed, and far from perfect. This is significant.
In the West, an entire generation of anime fans found a gateway show in Robotech, and I have little doubt that the most beloved part of the long, cobbled-together narrative is what’s called the “Macross Saga.” If the Minmay in SDFM is flawed, and manifest all kinds of behaviors that fans of idols will find distasteful, are acts of betrayal (yeah idol otaku are weird), and annoying; the Robotech presentation, abetted by a truly atrocious “acting” performance in the dub, made Lynn Minmay one of the most hated characters in all animation.
In the film adaptation, Macross: Do You Remember Love? there are changes in the presentation of Minmay (mostly a result of the abridged love story) that many haters responded well to. Much of the behavior near the end of the TV series are excised, leaving her with a truly majestic, star-making turn as an ending to the Space War, then leading her into her ride into the sunset (which was fully expressed in Macross Flashback 2012). As a result, Minmay became the banner-bearer of the franchise and is one of the symbols of its enduring popularity.
In Macross Frontier, instead of pitting an idol singer vs. a soldier, a bold idea was put forth: make the triangle be a battle between TWO idols. To distinguish the two, they would take on different styles 1) the rock star/diva type, and the 2) kawaii/moé type. As character templates, given that Macross Frontier is the 25th Anniversary work and the first TV series in 15 years, the idols would both be references to Minmay.
Sheryl Nome would be based on the already famous at the onset-Minmay, as she was in DYRL?, while Ranka is then based on the star-in-the-making-Minmay of SDFM, including participating in Miss Macross (Frontier), as well as covering songs like “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” and “Ai oboete imasu ka?” Minmay herself is a kawaii-type idol herself, making the similarities appear stronger with Ranka, while those with Sheryl much subtler. Thus:
Ranka inherited Minmay’s legacy of hate, while Sheryl inherited mostly her Legacy of glory and adulation.
Early on, Sheryl fans are loath to even hear Sheryl comparisons with Minmay. The hatred for her runs very, very deep. Ranka, on the other hand bore the brunt of the Minmay comparisons immediately. This is only the beginning of her (or rather her fans’) woes.
Lolimoé Has Its Own Legacy of Hate
Rightly or wrongly, the late 00s saw the rise of the lolimoé character appeal and the otaku who ate all of it up. To many non-otaku, this reminded them too much of creepy, sexually deviant (pedophilia) fanservice. For many it was one thing to sexualize young girls who were becoming women and only happened to be young, but it was another thing to sexualize them precisely because they were not yet women, because they were as young as they were and looked younger (the better).
A narrative of anime “selling out” to such repulsive kinds of otaku emerged. Many of the anime fans who got into anime in the 1990s and into its seemingly widespread preoccupation with science fiction (and mecha) titles bought into this narrative in a big way. Many of these fans are oblivious to the fact that mecha anime directly contributed to the loli(pedo) part of this phenomenon in the 1980s in the form of Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam with the force of a thousand utterances of “onii-chan~” (yes, the tilde is fucking included and yes, Purupurupurupuru is 10 years old, and yes, they made 12 of them, and yes they were shown naked).
It is also interesting to note how Robotech, with its radically abridged discography for Minmay the kawaii and proto-moé elements in her character were pretty much muted. Thus, Robotech (and therefore Macross) pretty much served as the Gundam franchise for its fans, that is – the definitive military robot anime.
Thus when Ranka, all of 156 centimeters (5’1”) emerged doing her nyan-nyan dance after tripping and falling and being scolded at work and getting wet all cute and clumsy, there were Macross fans who outright dismissed Macross Frontier then and there. The franchise had sold out to the filthy otaku lolicons, never mind the language and cultural subversive subtext in the original series (made in a less permissive era) – with its presentation of the Zentraedi as analogies for idol otaku, complete with a “lolicon trio” (Warera, Rori, and Konda’s names conjoin into “Warerarorikon” or “we are lolicons”). Not that this would make much of a difference, since most of these viewers hated Minmay anyway. Thus:
Ranka who has lolimoé appeal, and her fans, inherited a legacy of hate.
Rightly or wrongly, male viewers who became fans of Ranka were lumped together with otaku associated with child molesters.
The Lynn Kaifun Clusterfuck
Even as Minmay has a galaxy of haters, she is not universally hated. As mentioned, she endures as one of the symbols of Macross and its popularity (especially in Japan where hardly anyone talks about Misa). Lynn Kaifun however, is universally hated. Rightfully so because this guy is a fucking douche. Nobody, and I mean nobody likes this guy and if you are a dude and say you do like this jerk, you are dead to me. Seal yourself in a coffin and listen to Fire Bomber English until your flesh withers to dust.
Lynn Kaifun is Minmay’s first cousin, who then becomes her boyfriend, her co-star, her manager and generally makes Hikaru’s life (and everyone watching) miserable. Minmay in SDFM is retarded for this creep. Even worse, he behaves in the most annoying self-righteous way possible. A “pacifist” who does nothing but whine and cast aspersions against anyone in the military. He is, however a powerful martial artist and possesses his own powerful charisma within the narrative. It is legal to hate on this guy in all parts of the galaxy.
In Macross Frontier it should come with no surprise to anyone that not only is there a close relative to one of the idols (a bona fide onii-chan this time) who takes part in her management but also interferes in her (barely existent) relationship with the lead pilot. Brera Sterne is Ranka Lee’s onii-chan, and he is the Kaifun of Macross Frontier. Thus,
Ranka Lee inherits a legacy of hate, still associated with Minmay.
But it doesn’t end there! Oh god it doesn’t. If Lynn Kaifun is a douchey pacifist but has god-tier kung-fu, Brera Sterne is a cyborg soldier that is superior to a human pilot in every conceivable way. Even worse, he pilots the VF-27 Lucifer, a superior variable fighter to the banner bird of the series, the VF-25 Messiah. We know this because Alto had to upgrade to the YF-29 Durendal in The Wings of Farewell film, in his duel with Brera.
In the TV series though, Brera Sterne was unbeatable. There was no way he could be bested in his superior VF-27 and could take on multiple SMS pilots at will. This invincibility on and off the cockpit evokes one of the most hated characters in mecha anime ever, the peace-loving Jesus of the Gundam franchise: Kira Yamato of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, not only one of the most popular recent characters and sub-franchises of Gundam ever, but also held to be some of the very worst anime of all time. Kira Yamato isn’t called Jesus only because of his insufferable faux-pacifism, and his hijacking of the (fucktastically awful putrid) plot of the sequel; but precisely because he is adorned with the Plot Armor of God.
The hatred for this character within the Gundam fandom is such, that in a completely unrelated show: Sengoku Basara Season Two, the voice actor of Kira Yamato plays one of the leads – Sanada Yukimura. This isn’t a big deal in itself, but Yukimura is at one point served by a retainer voiced by Furuya Tohru, the actor who played Amuro Ray himself from Mobile Suit Gundam. The contextual meta-injustice of this unhappy coincidence caused much gnashing of teeth. Hoshi Souichirou who plays Kira Yamato, also plays Brera Sterne. Thus,
Ranka inherits an incredible legacy of hate, from well-beyond the Macross franchise.
It gets even worse with how Ranka’s trademark pose involves the very name of this most-loathed of characters.
In this post I won’t even talk about the hate caused by some of her personal decisions in the show, or hate caused by “Die for our ship.” These factors are well-within the context of the show and do not require further examination from me. Doing so will just bait the Rankafags and reopen stupid arguments already thwarted.
Remembering Love For Ranka
It is easy to root for Ranka. She is the underdog in the story. This is a big part of her appeal, that dovetails with the moé elements that she manifests. She’s the little girl with a big dream, a big heart, and a big crush on the lead character. This is also her death as an appealing character for me.
I may indulge rooting for underdogs (especially when my home team is the underdog), but I don’t go watch a sporting event looking for underdogs to root for. Underdogs ruin game balance. This is why I have no interest in NCAA “March Madness” basketball. It’s a bunch of kids playing at a low “amateur” (LOL) level where the draw is in watching “Cinderella stories” where the underdogs topple the big dogs in a single-elimination format.
Give me the NBA’s best of seven, grueling series involving the best athletes on the planet. This format weeds out the weak. It guarantees that only the strongest and the very best fight it out. Do I really want to watch some no-name play out of his mind and catch Roger Federer on a bad day? Fuck that. I want Federer playing Djokovic. I want Nadal playing for his life against Djokovic. I want Anderson Silva fighting Georges St. Pierre. I want the very best fighting the strongest.
I don’t want a Cinderella story, even if it were Super Dimensional. Besides, the Cinderella story isn’t even an underdog story. She was pretty, and had fairies and talking animals backing her. Her enemies were ugly and their power over her was circumstantial. She was an underdog only in that it wasn’t a fair fight. She was the Goliath and she stomped down on the “Davids” with her glass slipper.
Alto is a former star of the stage, a genius actor, who is on his second career as a genius pilot. Sheryl is the Galactic Fairy, who vowed to shake the very galaxy with her song. Ranka… just wants to be a singer, to follow her idol Sheryl, and she sure likes this guy because he’s so pretty and was nice to her, saving her from aliens and wet clothes.
It is an asymmetrical triangle. You have Sheryl and Alto supportive of Ranka, because she isn’t at their level. She was a nobody. Her strengths and talents needed their intervention to manifest, made known, etc. Compared to the two, she is a child. Alto and Sheryl play at romance while Ranka pursues a crush. Sheryl teases Alto, Ranka pursues him in her stumbling, unsure way.
She’s stumbling and unsure because she can’t be made into a sure-footed, silver-tongued, man-getter. It doesn’t fit with her character and depreciates her moé appeal. It’s the cage of her overall character design. It’s a trap.
Do I really want to watch Alto, the fierce and vain Princess of the skies in his VF-25 “fall” for Ranka’s harmless cuteness? Is this entertaining? It makes far more sense for him(e) to become enchanted by the fairy’s spell. She’s dangerous. He lives for it. Done, now let’s go find some other dude who wants to protect his little sister (and maybe make her his waifu). Ranka has TWO: I laughed out loud when Michel referred to Ozma as the “Siscon Captain,” and I already explained Jesus Brera. In The Wings of Farewell the two even had a battle of the onii-chans (which was kind of fail because both were wearing Kira’s Plot Armor of God).
No, I don’t really think either are suitable suitors for Ranka. I just think she’s a poor fit in the triangle she’s put in. If you Rankafags think of what just wrote constitutes as “hate” then just go away and never come back. Only someone who truly loves Ranka can write this post.
Ranka however, is inevitable. This is a perfectly logical version of Minmay in 2059 (2008). Macross Frontier knows this very well. One of the brilliant things that The Wings of Farewell film does is to clearly delineate the different Ranka fandoms, manifest in her two concerts. The first concert featured the 虹色・クマクマ number, and the audience is primarily composed of girls, enjoying their cute girly things. The concert had a magical girl theme and Ranka herself did her own transformation sequence. She turned the audience’s everyday clothes into ball gowns and gave them magic teddy bears. The manifestation of the appeal lives in Sheryl’s reaction herself. This is excellent.
Then, the second concert… my most favorite moment in the film: let us look beyond the Fire Bomber reference and you’ll see this as a crude and perfect throwback to Minmay, but even more vicious. If one part of Ranka’s fandom is comprised of girly girls, then the other part is made up of the kimoi otaku, represented by none other the Zentraedi – yes, Macross Frontier remembers them still! The whole concert legitimizes this in its backhanded way because its held inside Alcatraz and the audience are all prisoners. It makes it “okay” to like Ranka this way because all these pedophiles are already in jail. This is awesome and delicious. Macross spits on its fans in epic fashion.
If Minmay had “Ai oboete imasu ka?” which was subverted in the TV series by making Ranka the false “final boss.” Then Ranka had her legitimate moment as the songstress of battle when she sang “Houkago Overflow.” No one can take this away from her. This song is the score, and the perfect one at that, for “Big Wednesday,” and when the bridge of the song played in stark, near-acapella – it was that very moment when the Macross Quarter stood up and used the asteroid fragment as a surfboard in the sky. This was all you Ranka, all you.
In the resolution of the triangle in The Wings of Farewell, Ranka was dealt Minmay’s hand to play. It was the perfect ending for her. Why? When Minmay lost the Hikaru sweepstakes, she had no other recourse but rediscover her song, re-start her career. This fulfills the idol otaku narrative. The idol belongs to no single man. By remaining single, singing, and married to her being an idol, she belongs to her fans. This is also key to Minmay’s enduring popularity. She became Macross, and she belonged to all of us. Ranka is left with the same choice. She has her songs, and Macross Frontier is more than content to not fill out her future with love, because she will always be loved by those claim her.
Sheryl may be the most awesome female anime character ever made, but Macross Frontier in my mind will always be represented by Ranka. An interesting thing plays out in the Macross Frontier live concerts: it is Nakajima Megumi who acts as the master of ceremonies. It is partly because May’n isn’t the speaking voice of Sheryl that Mamegu has to carry the concert. She plays the whole thing entirely in character, while May’n remains May’n and Aya Endo (who had a bigger role to play in the Christmas concert) could not – with good reason, take over the show.
Thus, Ranka in the live concerts is more assertive, and overall has the biggest personality in the cast. Mamegu’s on-stage Ranka performance is even far more effective and winsome, and is definitely far more preferable than any animated version than Ranka. She puts Alto, and everyone else, in their place. This is almost impossible to imagine in the anime. But it’s real, in the flesh, in the fleeting 3D space that is the opposite of why we watch Macross.
This post is twice as long as I planned, but my love overflows.