Macross Frontier — Final Thoughts

Macross Frontier — Final Thoughts (Review)
マクロスF

*SPOILERS* to follow. ^_^

Having watched the old school Macross, I was keen on seeing the series marking the 25th anniversary of the franchise — Macross Frontier. While this latest Macross series has many homages to the Macross titles that have come before, is very pretty to look out, and very nice to listen to (music-wise), the story is sadly only average.

Macross Frontier 25

Things started off well enough with the first episode clearly being a tribute to the original Macross. Character-wise, Alto took the role of Hikaru. Ranka took the role of the nicer aspects of LINN Minmei. Sheryl took the role of the not as nice aspects of LINN Minmei (the pop idol). Ozama took the role of Focker (without the womanizing) and Cathy took the role of Misa (only without an interest in the male lead). Both Macross and Macross Frontier had “bridge bunnies” to help with the story but not play a major role in it. Naturally, both series deal with how song affects their enemy.

Macross Frontier 02

While one does not have to have seen any previous Macross title, I’m going to guess that one’s enjoyment of Macross Frontier will be enhanced if one knows the different moments when the show gives tribute (or whatever you want to call it) to the Macross titles which have come before. Indeed, episode 10’s clear nod to Macross Zero made me seek out and watch that 5-episode OVA in order to better appreciate the episode. That was a good thing because one of the characters from Macross Zero is mentioned a few times as part of the plot. Other references are just made to be made, such as Bobby name-dropping “Basara-sama” a couple of times, he being the hippie lead character of the Macross 7 TV series.

Macross Frontier 10

Though I have no problem with the references and tributes to previous Macross works, at times the writers used it to their advantage but more often than not, it became a hindrance. For example, in episode 12, Sheryl, Grace, and Alto head to the Zentradi 33rd Marine Corps base on Gallia 4. The Zentradi military leaders were clearly designed to look like the main Zentradi antagonist leaders from Macross. Then you have Ranka brought in Macross 7 style on a fighter equipped with special speakers to tame the wild, rebel Zentradi who are fighting the cultured Zentradi. The episode ends with what looks to be SDF-1 Macross after it finally returns to Earth. So far, nothing stands out as a problem here.

Macross Frontier 12

However in episode 13, things began to go south for me. After the rebels were tamed by Ranka’s music, we discover that the discovered “mecha ship” isn’t SDF-1 Macross, but SDF-4 Global. Here, the writers appear to do some retconning (because everything I’ve read online states that after SDF-1 Macross, SDF-2 Megaroad-01 was designed not to transform because transforming such a ship made no sense) since there were supposedly only two Macross class ships. Now there are four and why? Just to have a tribute and a tease?

Macross Frontier 13

Further, the whole story with the Zentradi on the planet served no purpose. Amazingly we (through Alto and Ranka) discover that SDF-4 Global is on Gallia 4. We discover a rather nasty colony of Vajra, to include some rather large Vajra “battleships” (for lack of a better term). So I’m left to think, “how could the Zentradi not know about all this at their base’s back door?” It seemed like the rebel Zentradi leader was in with Grace and Leon’s little plot, but then Grace destroys the planet for some reason that still isn’t clear to me, other than to “kill” her and reveal that she is in fact a cyborg. In the end, these were two episodes that were a tribute but served little purpose beyond that.

Macross Frontier 12

Speaking of the Zentradi, the SMS founder Richard Bilrer also appeared to be in on Leon and Grace’s little conspiracy. Yet in the end, it seems like he may not have been that involved at all as we are left with the imagery of him gazing at a picture of Linn Minmei in his ring (designed like a locket). Nothing about it or his desire to use fold crystal really seemed to have a point but was presented as if it were a meaningful item.

Macross Frontier 23

What else did I consider pointless? Alto’s Kabuki history. There was an attempt to create drama by having Alto estranged from his family so that his decision to be a pilot can be questioned. Despite this, I couldn’t buy the drama, mainly because if Alto disliked being in Kabuki plays so much (where he played the part of females), then why’d he keep his feminine hair style? Nothing about his family felt real to me and the character of Alto is just a stock, male lead who has great skills to get the job done, has women interested in him, is very nice and so won’t choose a single woman, etc. This type of character has been around for ages and there was nothing about him that made me care about him at all.

Macross Frontier 11

There were other elements of the story that I thought were pointless, but you get the idea I think. Sadly, the tributes, pointless sub-plots that go nowhere, cliched story elements (Grace and Leon wanting to rule the galaxy for example) and too many stock characters make for a story that ends up only average and nothing more. Trying to insert drama or even a forced love-triangle doesn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, I saw why Sheryl would be interested in Alto and I saw why Ranka would be interested in Alto but initially, the love-triangle aspects came off as very forced. Alto always seemed less interested in the girls as potential lovers than he was interested in just hanging out (when he felt like it of course). One might almost think that Alto was gay except he showed no interest in men either.

Macross Frontier 15

Still, not everything was merely average. The visuals on the anime look very nice. The battle scenes are great to watch thanks to some very good CGI work. The various settings are also well done I thought and most of the time, the animation is pretty good. The music of Ranka and Sheryl is pretty good but it didn’t quite hit the threshold for me to want to import the CD. That’s just me though.

Macross Frontier 20

I would have enjoyed seeing more of the Zentradi and more Nene. Klan is one of my favorite characters and I enjoyed the moments were we were able to see glimpses of how the Zentradi are now. I’d hoped that with episode 13 the Zentradi would play a larger role in the main plot but alas, that was not to be. I would have also liked to have seen the crew of the Macross Quarter actually be pirates instead of their only act of piracy be the stealing of the ship, after which they go out and find all sorts of clues that have been floating around in space for lo these many years. The crew of the Macross Quarter I actually liked (including Cathy).

Macross Frontier 25

Based on the hits my blog postings for the series went, I know that there are a lot of people who appear to really have enjoyed Macross Frontier. While I felt the show got off to a good start, after episode 14, I began to grow weary of the series (though I was never bored with it) to the point that by the time episode 25 was done, I felt relief that I wouldn’t have to watch another episode of Macross Frontier. That doesn’t make the series bad, but it doesn’t make it good either and that’s the problem. It is just an average anime wrapped in a pretty package.

Macross Frontier 22

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8 Responses to “Macross Frontier — Final Thoughts”

  1. I noticed a couple of missing images here. Looks like they may be linked to your computer.

    Good review of Macross F. I agree with you that it is an average anime but it had great CGI work.

  2. AstroNerdBoy says:

    At first, I wasn’t sure what you were seeing since in Firefox, there were no obvious missing pictures when I looked at the article. I took a look at the HTML and sure enough, there were two references to images from the temp space on my HD. The weird thing is that this should not be since images are uploaded to Google’s storage at the same time they are posted into the blog, at which point it is a simple cut-and-paste to place the pics where I want them.

    Before I fixed the problem, I decided to give the page a look-see in IE. There, the problem is very obvious with a couple of blank-image squares whereas in Firefox, it is an easily overlooked couple of tiny rectangles within the paragraph.

    Regardless, thanks for letting me know about it. ^_^

  3. junior says:

    “For example, in episode 12, Sheryl, Grace, and Alto head to the Zentradi 33rd Marine Corps base on Gallia 4. The Zentradi military leaders were clearly designed to look like the main Zentradi antagonist leaders from Macross.”

    This would be expected, actually. Remember that the Zentraedi are a race of clones. Thus many (possibly all?) male fleet commanders look like Britai (don’t ask me to spell his name “correctly”… it’s a nightmare…), and they all have an advisor that looks Exedol. While it’s not really clear in the SDF-Macross TV series (i.e. we know that they’re cloned, but it’s not really made clear what the implications of that are for things like fleet commanders), it’s made more explicit in the DYRL movie, where the Britai character in the film is constantly referred to by both his name and his number, indicating that every clone of his genetic type is referred to as “Britai”. DYRL isn’t exactly canon, but nothing in this particular bit contradicts anything in the TV series.

    “However in episode 13, things began to go south for me. After the rebels were tamed by Ranka’s music, we discover that the discovered “mecha ship” isn’t SDF-1 Macross, but SDF-4 Global. Here, the writers appear to do some retconning (because everything I’ve read online states that after SDF-1 Macross, SDF-2 Megaroad-01 was designed not to transform because transforming such a ship made no sense) since there were supposedly only two Macross class ships. Now there are four and why? Just to have a tribute and a tease.”

    There are actually a LOT more SDF ships than just four. For the first few episodes, the introduction showed the colony ships dispersing from Earth (and Eden) across the Galaxy. If you look at the names of the fleets, you’ll notice that there are ‘Megaroad-XX’ fleets and ‘Macross-XX’ fleets. Obviously both fleets are named after the type of ship leading the fleet. If you look even more closely (really only visible when a fleet is in the very near foreground) you’ll see some tiny letters above the name of the colony fleet. For the Megaroad fleets, this says “Super Dimension Fortress”. And for the Macross fleets, it says “New Macross Class Aircraft Carrier”.

    i.e. every Megaroad fleet in that intro is lead by an “SDF” ship (albeit generally SDF-class ships that have the colony configuration instead of the original Supervision Army Gunship configuration). Since research fleets are smaller than colony fleets, evidently a decision was made to put a gunship in as the fleet command ship instead of a colony ship (since the fleet wouldn’t need all of the extra passenger space), and the biggest warship (at the time) available to the humans was used – a duplicate of the Macross.

    Other items to note about that intro –

    – Megaroad-01 has a 02 underneath it, which suggests that the number is the ‘SDF’ number of the hull (since it was built on the hull of the SDF-2). Macross fleets have a number that matches up with the Macross-X designation. i.e. Macross-07 has a 07 beneath it. Macross Frontier (which is identified as ‘Macross Frontier’ instead of its Macross ship number), unsurprisingly, has a 25 beneath it’s name.
    – We see Megaroad 1, 2, 4 (which discovers Eden, the planet in Macross Plus), 6, 9, and 13, leaving Earth. There’s no colony fleet lead by Megaroad 3, which would match up with SDF-4, i.e. the Global. It’s hard to tell, but it appears that all of the fleets shown leaving Eden are Macross fleets (including, incidentally, the Macross Galaxy fleet).

    As a result, from the information that we have there’s nothing to indicate that the Global’s existance as a Supervision Army Gunship-style hull is out of place. And it’s form actually makes a lot of sense.

    Just to reiterate, the display for the Megaroad 4 colony fleet (i.e. the one that discovers Eden) reads as –

    Super Dimension Fortress
    Megaroad-04
    05

    “Further, the whole story with the Zentradi on the planet served no purpose. Amazingly we (through Alto and Ranka) discover that SDF-4 Global is on Gallia 4. We discover a rather nasty colony of Vajra, to include some rather large Vajra “battleships” (for lack of a better term). So I’m left to think, “how could the Zentradi not know about all this at their base’s back door?” It seemed like the rebel Zentradi leader was in with Grace and Leon’s little plot, but then Grace destroys the planet for some reason that still isn’t clear to me, other than to “kill” her and reveal that she is in fact a cyborg. In the end, these were two episodes that were a tribute but served little purpose beyond that.”

    The Vajra were pretty well hidden, and Ranka reveals in the last episode that their hostility toward humans has been largely a result of her presence. In this case evidently the Zentraedi didn’t look hard enough to find the Vajra (I’m guessing it was only a short term base – there didn’t appear to be anything worth defending on the planet, and nothing on the base looked very long-term), and the Vajra weren’t interested in causing trouble. Ranka’s presence changed that (as usual).

    Grace’s presence seems to have had three purposes.

    1.) Kill Sheryl to anger the Frontier fleet against the Vajra. We get this again later on when Grace takes Ranka’s song and produces a more martial version of it. Frontier was largely interested in avoiding the Vajra, but Grace wanted Frontier more actively opposing the Vajra and having Sheryl killed by the Vajra might have changed the public opinion. Grace indicates in the flashback/report episode both that Sheryl had ultimately ended up as a failure to the Galaxy conspirators’ plans, and the real thing had turned up in the form of Ranka. So at this point Sheryl was completely superfluous to Grace’s ultimate plans.
    2.) Lead the Vajra on the planet toward the Frontier fleet so that they can be engaged and destroyed by the fleet’s reaction weaponry. As we find out a little while later, this causes the Vajra to develop an immunity to reaction weaponry, which is useful for Grace as her plan involves taking control of the Vajra to use against anyone who resists her plans to “help” humanity. It appears that the Vajra ultimately use Ranka to locate Frontier, so it’s not entirely clear how Grace had originally intended to do this (assuming that Ranka wasn’t originally supposed to be on Gallia 4).
    3.) Retrieve research data from the Global. When Alto explores the ship, he finds a data storage unit that has been freshly wiped, suggesting that someone (probably Brera) has visited the ship just before him, retrieved some information, and wiped whatever he or she was looking for.

    The Zentraedi revolt was presumeably to keep Sheryl tied down on Gallia 4 until Brera had finished his assigned tasks. Otherwise she might leave before Grace had a chance to kill Sheryl and blame the Vajra for her death.

    “Speaking of the Zentradi, the SMS founder Richard Bilrer also appeared to be in on Leon and Grace’s little conspiracy. Yet in the end, it seems like he may not have been that involved at all as we are left with the imagery of him gazing at a picture of Linn Minmei in his ring (designed like a locket). Nothing about it or his desire to use fold crystal really seemed to have a point but was presented as if it were a meaningful item.”

    Bilrer was working with Leon somewhat, but I don’t think there’s any evidence that he was involved with Leon’s plotting with Grace. imo, he was grossly underutilized, and a lot more could have been done with him. Bilrer’s interest appears to be entirely for the fold-space communication benefits of the crystals, whereas both Leon and Grace had more power-hungry goals in mind.

    Alto’s Kabuki past – This helps explain why he’s so comfortable dealing with stars like Sheryl (something Sheryl comments on). It also gives an excuse to have him kissing Ranka in episode 10 (since the only reason that he’s in the scene is because one of the assistants is a fan of his prior work). As for his hair… I don’t think that Alto hates Kabuki. He actually does stop to consider the offer that his “brother” makes. But Alto loves flying more than anything else, and returning to Kabuki would take flying away from him. Early on (episode 4, iirc – the beauty pagaent episode) we see that the primary friction is from his father toward him (Alto pauses to see if his father will acknowledge Alto, but the older Saotome intentionally snubs him). And Alto’s mock duel with Klan-Klan’s squadron has him adopting a Kabuki pose after he picks off Nene. All the evidence is that Alto doesn’t really have a problem with his Kabuki past. His problem arises
    from conflicts with his father that took place after the death of his mother, when Alto decided that his true love was flying. And his conflict with his father is the cause of his annoyance with all things Kabuki.

  4. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Hey junior! I do want to ask about the Macross class ships. Where I received my information is a Macross Wiki site, which stated that the only two “Macross class” ships built where SDF-01 Macross and SDF-02 Megaroad. However, it was supposedly decided that there would be no more Macross class ships built and the Megaroad class ship was born. So apparently, the Wiki information is incorrect then from what you mentioned about the Megaroad and Macross fleets, right?

  5. junior says:

    The problem is that when talking about the Macross, Megaroad (which is the name of the converted SDF-2), and Global, you’re basically dealing with a couple of different issues.

    First, you have the ‘SDF’ designation, which is more or less a hull classification (much as we might call a ship a Destroyer or a Cruiser). The Super Dimension Fortress in the title of the original TV series functions much as the Space Battleship does in the title of Space Battleship Yamato. In short, all ships the same size as the Macross are ‘SDF’ ships. It just so happens that they also all happen to have the same basic hull.

    Second, you have a ship that’s basically a conversion of another ship into a very different role, which is then turned into a full-blown production line. So while the first generation of colony ships are ‘Megaroad’ ships, they essentially still have the same basic hull as the Macross. It’s what is then done with the hull that’s different. This is more or less the way that it would work in the real world. The Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Shinano in World War II was a conversion of what was to have been the third Yamato-class battleship. Since the Shinano had the same basic hull as the Yamato and the Musashi, if Japan had decided to (and actually been able to) build a series of Shinano-class aircraft carriers there’s nothing that would have prevented the Japanese from suddenly deciding to build one of the Shinano-class ships as another battleship instead.

    That appears to be what happened with the Global.

    Now did anyone in the real world actually know that any of the SDF-hulls were completed in the original Supervision Army Gunship version like the Macross before the Global turned up?

    The answer to that would be no. Seeing the Global was the first time that anyone actually knew that some ships had been completed in the original warship form. On the Macross World forums, there was a lot of speculation about what exactly we were looking at during the end of that episode since, up until then, it was believed by fans that all of the later SDF ships had been completed as the Megaroad class. It wasn’t until everyone found out what the Global was that people started to do things like look over the dispersing colony fleets in the introduction and noted that so far there wasn’t anything that actually prohibited the SDF ships from being completed as a warship.

    Here’s Macross Compendium – “Construction of second Macross Class ship begins at the Lunar surface’s Apollo Base 2003 November. Construction resumes as a colonization ship after Space War I on half-constructed and renamed SDF-2 Megaroad-01 2010 June. Megaroad-01 launches as part of the first long-distance colonization fleet and construction of mass-produced super-long-distance colonization ships Megaroad-02 and -03 based on the Megaroad 2012 September. Hereafter, one or two super-long-distance colonization ships are constructed yearly. Launches of the second and third super-long-distance colonization fleet (Megaroad-02 and -03 ships) 2014. Hereafter, super-long-distance colonization fleets are routinely launched.”

    The Megaroad-class was later replaced by the New Macross Class, which is what we see in Macross 7 and Macross Frontier. Macross Compendium has two different dates listed for when Macross 1 was completed, but both are a considerably long while after Space War I ended – 2030, and 2038. Regardless of which date is accurate (and based on something else in the article, I suspect that it’s the 2030 date), you’ve got a pretty long gap between the end of the war and the ship launch. And then there’s this, from the Macross 7 article –

    “In 2045, the Macross 7 fleet, the 37th long-distance colonization fleet…”

    We know from the number that Macross 7 is the 7th New Macross colony fleet. So that means that when Macross 7 was launched, 30 fleets led by non-New Macross-class ships had already launched. One of those was obviously the Megaroad (or SDF-2), which leaves another 29 unaccounted for. The only logical explanation is that these other fleets were also lead by SDF ships, since that’s the only other colonization ship that we’re aware of.

    So once you’re aware of the background of the Macross setting, the information that the Macross wiki gave you clearly doesn’t add up.

    And then just to confuse things even further, we have things like this, found in the Macross Compendium write-up of the Macross Galaxy fleet… –

    “The Macross Galaxy colonization fleet is the 9th Large-scale emigration fleet, and the 21st New Macross Class Emigration Fleet…”

    In short, there are apparently all sorts of different colonization fleet types running around out there. Just don’t ask me to explain what all of the designations mean…

    Incidentally, Macross Compendium is recommended by Macross World, which is probably the single biggest English language Macross forum. Here’s the link –

    http://macross.anime.net/wiki/Main_Page

    If you have any other questions regarding the series, feel free to let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them. Not everything within the series is answered to my satisfaction, but an awful lot of it does seem to fit quite well. My primary issue with the series is the underutilization of Mr. Bilrer.

  6. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Wow! Amazing stuff there, sir! Thanks for the info! ^_^

  7. Jacob says:

    I just finished watching Macross Flashback 2012 and as Megaroad-01 launches a number of SDF-1 style escort vessels can be seen lifting off from Earth with it. My guess is that Global is one of these smaller SDF-1 style escorts. I might also note that the back quarter of the Megaroad class of colony ships looks as though it can separate from the city section (forward 3/4s) and transform in a manner similar to the original SDF-1. Unless we get more evidence during Macross Delta, the truth of whether or not the Megaroad vessels could transform will never be answered.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Unless we get more evidence during Macross Delta, the truth of whether or not the Megaroad vessels could transform will never be answered.

      Not sure whether we’ll get that, but it would be nice to have that answered.

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