Macross Frontier – Music Saves the World


Hey, it’s list season. Here’s one about Macross Frontier.

Why You Should Check out Macross Frontier

1. It’s Macross

Fellow grump Mora informs me Frontier features everything you should expect from the 25-year-old franchise. In fact, Frontier pleased fans so much it single-handedly revitalized the ailing brand in Japan. It’s like the Mega Man 9 or Super Smash Bros. Brawl of its kind, so full of nostalgic winks and throwbacks to previous series fans can’t help but squeal at their favorite moments revisited. One episode details the filming of a movie adaptation of the events of Macross Zero. The theme song from the Macross movie, Do You Remember Love, returns at several key moments of the series. There’s a simmering love triangle, eye-catching missile effects, a bearded ship captain with a scar and a hat strategically hiding one eye, enormous transforming space ships … Even if you’re unfamiliar with the various Macross tropes, as I am, you should be able to appreciate Frontier regardless of the vast history behind it. And if you like it there are at least a dozen more similar series to check out.

2. Its Music

True to the Macross formula, Frontier is a space opera with a huge emphasis on opera. In the Macross universe all culture revolves around a songstress whose tunes soothe the populace and launch the fleet soaring to victory. At the show’s outset Sheryl Nome is the outer space diva everyone listens to, and it’s up to main character and fighter pilot Alto Saotome to provide the high-flying acrobatics for her concerts. It’s how the two meet. He flies, she falls, he catches her, they fly – all during a rousing music number. Eventually, the song of another outer space diva, Ranka Lee, becomes the most important weapon in humanity’s intergalactic struggle against a biomechanical alien menace. Since music ties into every aspect of the show the showrunners wisely bestowed Macross Plus alum Yoko Kanno all aural control. I went on at length of her talent in a previous anime article so I’ll try not to repeat myself and say the music is fantastic. It’s the ballads, anthems and Japanese pop tunes sung in each and every episode that give Frontier its reason for being. If you don’t see the anime at least give the soundtracks a try.

bang bang bang bang

3. It’s Weird

For one thing, humanity is traveling through space with bunch of weird allies: the Zentraedi. These giants are the bad guys in the very first Macross series, but like the Klingons in Star Trek learned to control their warrior tempers. They also like to exclaim “Deculture!” whenever a splendid Yoko Kanno song reaches their ears – and their hearts! In Macross music really does soothe the savage beast. That’s because they were a species born without any culture, or so I hear. To make matters weirder the Zentraedi can shrink themselves into more manageable size, making day-to-day (and night-to-night, wink wink nudge nudge) interaction with humans possible. They also have giant hippo cows. And giant farms for the giant hippo cows. For another thing, this is a mish-mash of genres. Macross Frontier is a giant transforming robot romance musical with cyborgs, political conspiracies and larger-than-life stakes that splits its time between serious business like presidential assassinations to otaku-pleasing panty shots and bouncing breasts. Oh, and one of the main characters sings about carrots. While dressed as one. This is very much a product of Japan.

whyyy iiii oughtaaaa

4. Sheryl Nome and Ranka Lee

Frontier boasts a sizable cast of characters. I mentioned Alto before. He’s the show’s hero because he pilots a Valkyrie, but aside from his past as a cross-dressing kabuki actor (that’s right) he just isn’t interesting enough next to the singers competing for his heart. Sheryl Nome and Ranka Lee also compete for fame and the love of the masses, and it’s this central relationship that kept me hooked. Sheryl is the firecracker tsundere of the pair. Raised by her creepy, gross P.R. manager Grace, she’s brash and fiery, perfectly outgoing and gorgeous to boot. Sure, she’s decadent. She can instantly change into anything from her massive wardrobe onstage, Sailor Moon/Final Fantasy X-2-style, but since this is anime she must harbor a dark past and maybe a few life-ruining secrets or two.

The same goes for Ranka Lee, the quarter-alien amnesiac who dances cute little jigs and works at a Chinese restaurant (called “Nyan-Nyan”) making dumplings that resemble breasts. When the people of the fleet turn their attention to her, it’s understandable why. Her charm is so strong it reaches out into the real world, with a whole cult of personality surrounding her. Designed in the big-eyed, submissive lolicon/moe fashion so popular with otaku these days, she’s so cute it’s ridiculous. Her green hair twitches in response to her emotions. She’s shy, unsure of herself. She comes from humble beginnings. Even her cellphone takes pains to be cute, some kind of rubbery machine/creature hybrid that she squeezes to answer calls. When she gains fame she’s nicknamed “Super Dimensional Cinderella” or some insane thing like that. Her voice actress, Megumi Nakajima is sort of a, um, regular dimensional Cinderella herself, having won the role of Ranka Lee’s singing and acting voice in a contest. Uwaa~ An unknown, plucked from the masses, just like Ranka! ~kira~


Oh, god. Ranka’s cuteness… so… infectious!

Kyuun kyuun!

5. It’s fun

25 years of history behind it, awesome music, bizarro Japaneseness, cute babes – Macross Frontier is absolutely committed to entertain. Believe me, I had my doubts something this popular in Japan could be any good, but well… that’s why it’s popular, I guess. If you surrender yourself to the candy-coated music and sleek visuals you should have a blast. It’s got something for everyone. Girly romance, bromantic military drama, giant robots breaking sound barriers and sniper missions. It’s a little bit Battlestar Galactica, little bit Xenogears and little bit Evangelion … well, maybe a lot Evangelion. Children battling gigantic extraterrestrials while fending off a fuzzy conspiracy involving human evolution is kind of a lot like Evangelion but Frontier’s plot isn’t exactly it’s strong point. It’s not terrible, not even bad. Just a tad too formulaic. But then that’s the whole point isn’t it? Frontier was part of a big, concetrated Macross 25th Anniversary marketing push, designed to capture as much of Japan’s attention as possible. It worked well enough to garner a few awards. Heck, Ranka’s buns were sold in Yokohama.

So, hold me! Until … the edge of the galaxy!!

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3 Responses to “Macross Frontier – Music Saves the World”

  1. Rick Says:

    You captured just about everything I felt about Frontier, and being that Macross had also been unknown to me, you were able to exemplify the newcomer to the series.

    I’ve since gone back and watched all of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, which was a lot of fun as well, though not nearly as approachable as Frontier. Mora convinced me over several weeks’ time to check out the Macross series, and sometimes I wonder if I should have started elsewhere because of how exciting and entertaining the show was at almost all times. I had a really hard time getting interested in the old Macross stuff, but I persevered and I suggest you do the same.

    Wonderful little grump, SirTMagus. =D DOKUN DOKUN DOKUN

  2. John Mora Says:

    And after the original TV series, I highly recommend the movie adaptation and the short series Macross Plus!

  3. Year in Review - 2008: It… It… It… Had Its Moments « Grump Factory Says:

    […] 1. Macross Frontier […]

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