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"Macross Frontier" is off to a rocking start. While the development of the story and characters is a bit slow, there is something about the story that keeps me coming back.
Review by Matthew Anderson
25 Episode Anime TV Series
TV Network: Animax
Company: Satelight/Big West
Running Time: 25 min per episode
Rated: PG-13: Violence, partial nudity
been 47 years since the SDF-1 Macross crashed landed on Earth. Along with
great scientific knowledge, the ship brought the intergalactic war between
the giant Zentran and Meltran to the small planet. Caught in the cross
fire, Earth was nearly wiped out. Due to the strength of the
Macross, and the power of Lynn Minmay's song, the war ended. Now, the
Zentran and Meltran have been absorbed in to Earth's culture. To
ensure humanities survival, the New United Nations sends
fleets of heavily populated city ships
to the far corners of the galaxy. Macross Frontier
is the 25th large scale Colony Fleet.
Onboard the Macross Frontier, Alto Satome and his friends are awaiting to perform at the concert of Sheryl Nome, a pop idol from the Macross Galaxy fleet. On his way to the concert hall, Alto encounters Ranka Lee, a young fan of the "Galaxy Fairy". After helping her to the performance hall, Alto meets Sheryl. He takes an instant dislike to her diva attitude.
In the middle of the concert, Macross Frontier is attacked by a mysterious race called the Vajra. The New UN Spacy, unable to cope, calls upon private military contractor SMS to defeat the Vajra. Equipped with the advanced VF-25's, Ozma Lee (Ranka's adopted brother) and his Skull Squadron may be the only ones tough enough to fight the Varja.
Little do Ranka, Alto, or Sheryl realize that the three of them may be the only hope for the thousands of citizens on the Macross Frontier.
Shoji Kawamori along and writer Hiroyuki Yoshino
have created an interesting blend of old and new.
The characters are a bit two dimensional at first, but as the series
progresses, so do they. As always, the mecha
combat is fantastic.
ACTING: Yuichi Nakamura is perfect as Alto. He easily changes from aloof to passionate in a matter of seconds. A far cry from the arrogant and cocksure Graham Acker from Gundam 00. Ayo Endo is a very good as the bitchy, rude, and driven "Galactic Fairy" Sheryl Nome. The only one I found a little flat in their delivery was Megumi Nakajima. When she is happy or sad (mostly sad and mopy) she doesn't really vary her performance. She does have a great singing voice though.
The rest of the cast does a good job. Katsuyuki Konishi does a fine blustering, gung-ho "Roy Fokker" like character with Ozma Lee, and Tomokazu Sugita is sufficiently creepy as the mysterious Leon Mishima. No one else really stands out, but give it their all in the roles.
FAN SERVICE: Sheryl is beyond most "Macross" singers. She is well endowed, curvy, and just one seam shy of a wardrobe malfunction. Actually, there are quite a few "curvy" women in the series. Ranka, frankly, is a board compared to the women of Macross Frontier. There are also tons of references to "Macross: Do you Remember Love", Macross 7, Macross Plus, and Macross Zero. Oh, in episode five, there is a naughty bit involving a pager.
The first five episodes of Macross Frontier have a large amount of action and adventure, with some character development. While some may argue that this series is more about mecha combat, and less about the characters, this is only five episodes in. Let's give them a chance, or you can read for yourself.
Alto Satome and his fellow pilots from Mihoshi Academy are getting ready to perform some acrobatics at galactic singing sensation Sheryl Nome's concert. While his teammates are excited, Alto isn't exactly happy with Sheryl's diva behavior towards them, like making them change outside. While he getting into his personal mecha, he meets Ranka Lee, a young girl trying to get to the concert hall. While he isn't exactly charming, he does help out the young girl.
The NUNS military is investigating unidentified contacts on their radar when they are attacked by biomechanical creatures called the Vajra. With his forces totally overwhelmed, Frontier President Glass calls private military contractor SMS to protect the fleet. Dispatching their Skull Squadron, commanded by Ranka's brother Ozma Lee, the SMS make quick work of the drones, but the leader manages to break into Island One, the main Frontier ship.
After chastising Sheryl for leaving the concert, Alto gets caught up in a battle between an SMS Varible Fighter and a Varja, with Ranka in the middle. When the SMS pilot is killed, Alto makes a fateful decision.
This episode sets up the main characters, although it's hard to see that Sheryl is going to be anything more than a raving bitch. Alto's bishonen good looks make for a couple of good "Princess" jokes, and a funny take on a very fan service moment. Ozma comes off as a bit of a Roy Fokker clone, and his sister seems to be quite the ditz.
The mecha battle in this episode is top notch, and the designs of the new VF-25's are an beautiful cross between the classic Macross Valkyrie and the YF-19 from "Macross Plus".
Episode 2: Hard Chase
After the first battle with the Vajra, the citizens and government of Macross Frontier begin recovery operations. President Glass and his scientific aid Leon seem to know quite a bit about the Vajra, and say they have to rely on "Birla" even more now.
Meanwhile, Ranka and Alto try to recover from the horrors they have just experienced. Ranka attempts to return to her normal life, while Alto tries to find some answers. During a medical exam, Alto meets Lieutenant Catherine Glass, who pretty much threatens him to keep quiet. He also meets Ozma Lee for the first time, who takes him to the SMS offices. Alto learns that many of his friends work for SMS as fighter pilots. Ozma tells him the reason he brought Alto there; their traditions is that the person who witnessed the death of one of their own must tell the story. Before Alto can respond the Vajra start another attack.
In a chance encounter, Ranka meets her idol Sheryl. The two of them are starting to strike up a friendship when Alto, thrown out of the SMS hanger for wanting to fly a Valkyrie, runs into them at an observation deck. Suddenly, a Vajra appears in front of them.
The episode starts off with Alto and Ranka in dire straits, similar to what Hikaru and Minmay (from the original Macross TV series) experienced. Another great battle sequence, and some very familiar maneuvers make the first half a treat.
The second half sets up the "conspiracy" that is always a part of the Macross universe. As always, two high ups in the Macross government are very much aware of the conspiracy and begin to manipulate the regular folks to achieve their own ends.
As far as character development, Sheryl is still a bitch, Alto is starting to get a burning fire, Ranka has some sort of connection to the Vajra, and Ozma Lee is a fan of "Fire Bomber" from "Macross 7".
Episode 3: On Your Marks
As Ozma and his Skull Squadron fight the Vajra, Ranka, Alto, and Sheryl find themselves trapped in an emergency shelter, unable to make contact with anyone. Ranka is terrified to the point of collapse, Alto is still angry at everything, and Sheryl is desperate to get out. Fortunately, there are people looking for them.
The Skull Squadron members manage to fight off the Vajra, but nearly loose Ozma in the process. Visiting him in the hospital, Alto asks why Ranka reacts the way she does. Ozma tells her that she is the sole survivor of a Vajra attack that killed her entire family. As her guardian, he has been lying to her about him being a pilot in order to protect her frail emotions. Alto decides that he wants to become a member of the SMS and find out the truth about the Vajra and help protect Ranka.
After talking with Sheryl in the shelter, and Alto at a park, Ranka decides to become a contestant in the Miss Macross Frontier pageant.
This seems to be a tradition, big battle at the start, plot development in the second half. We still don't learn much about the Vajra, or the conspiracy, but we find out why Ranka is such a wuss. Even the bitch Sheryl has a better time handeling things than Ranka does. Still, loosing your whole family can be shocking to even the toughest of us, and it isn't like Ranka is a full Zentradi. She is only a quarter.
Speaking of Ranka, there is, what I presume, a key clue to her past. The only strong memory she has is of a haunting yet beautiful song.
Episode 4: Miss Macross
Ranka prepairs for the Miss Macross contest while Alto trains (or gets hazed) by his fellow SMS Pilots. The two of them attempt to deal with their nerves, while emailing each other for moral support.
On the day of the competition, Alto is called out for his final exam, combat with the Zentradi Pixie Squadron. This all female squad is lead by the impressive Klan Klan, an ace even among the SMS. This causes him to miss most of the Miss Macross contest, and provide Ranka some moral support. Fortunately, she gets some from the Galactic Farie herself.
During the mock battle, the Vajra once again appear. Alto, angry at what the Vajra have done to Ranka, takes matters into his own hands.
Can Alto survive? Will Ranka win the 12th Miss Macross Frontier contest?
Looks like I spoke to soon. Going the opposite direction, we have a great space battle at the end, instead of the beginning. A new pack for the Valkyrie give you another great design of the versitle VF-25. Seeing some old school Quadran-Rals brings a tear to my eye.
In this episode, we meet three new members of the SMS crew, the all Zendradi Pixie squadron. While not called Meltrandi (sorry, an otaku moment), these giant women, led by the impressive Klan Klan, kick some serious ass. They are arrogant, and have the skills to back them up. She also provides some great comic relief when we learn that she turns into a little girl when micronized (micloned).
Meanwhile, just like in the original series, while our hero is trying to not get his butt turned into confetti, his not quite girl friend is busy shaking her hips in the Miss Macross contest. Pulling out the classic "My Boyfriend is a Pilot" (shudder) she moves about as fluid as the 7,000 year old corpse of a mighty Zentran warrior discovered in an asteroid belt. Do I really have to tell you how the contest ends?
Episode 5: Star Date
Ranka has been suspended from private school for appearing in the Miss Macross competition. Running out of the house, she goes looking for Alto. Unfortunately, he is with Sheryl Nome, trying to find one of her earrings somewhere in the city. At the same time, Ozma moblizes the troops to find his beloved Ranka.
As Alto escorts Sheryl around Island One, he shows her things she has never encountered before. Ranka has been found by Michel, one of Ozma's pilots, but their time together is a bit more adversarial. When the two groups come close to each other, an event occurs that will change their relationships forever.
This episode has no fighting what so ever. Instead it focuses on the impending love triangle of Ranka, Sheryl and Alto-hime.
Sheryl arrives at Mihoshi Academy to drag the emotionally reserved Alto around town. Apparently, he is responsible for the loss of one of her earrings, and in typical selfish fashion, she wants it back. Yet, even shrews can be tamed, and as they travel arround the Zentradi quarter, the two of them start to form a connection.
The same can't be said about Ranka and Michel, she is too busy moping. Michel, ever the sensitive ladies man (sorry, man whore), doesn't have time to waste on a petulant child. He insults her, and bullies her into singing, in the hopes that she will give up and go home. No wonder Klan Klan give him crap.
Another link in the conspiracy chain is revealed. The creepy Leon Mishima brings many of the survivors of the Vajra attack that killed Ranka's family to view the remains of a Vajra specimen. Something awakens it, causing it to rampage. Does it have something to do with Ranka singing?
You know it does. It's been painfully obvious from episode one that Ranka is a Vajra magnet, and that she has a connection with these evil crab monsters.
As you can see, there is...well....not exactly a lot going on. Sure there is some serious action scenes (which are a treat), but there really isn't much in the main, or even side, stories.
The same can be said about the characters. Sheryl is pretty much a bitch from start to finish, Ranka alternates between scared and bland, and Alto isn't exactly the greatest of male leads. Sure the jokes at his bishonen good looks bring some chuckles, but other than that, I was not that impressed with the characters.
That is until episode 5, the turning point for the characters. Don't get me wrong, I love mecha combat, but you need more to keep your interest. "Star Date" is the start of an interesting and exciting story of love, loss, and betrayal among the stars, and a nail biting story about the survival of humanity. As much as people love "Macross 7", you never really felt that they were in jeopardy. You do with this one.
As I have mentioned, the mecha combat is amazing. Satelight (who did the exciting Geneshaft) have continued to hone their craft in providng some of the best CG in broadcast animation. It's fast and furious, with a lot of fluid motion. The designs of the new VF-25, as well as some of the reworking of classics like the VF-17 Nightmares from "Macross 7", will make every mecha-head stand up and cheer with joy.
Another reason to cheer is the supurb musical stylings of Yoko Kanno. Harkening back to her "Macross Plus" days, she bring out the orchestra to add some gravitas to the series. Yet, it wouldn't be "Macross" with out catchy pop songs, and again she delievers. Triangular is a sweet, somewhat retro, song that perfectly captures the relationship between the leads. Diamond Crevasse is an amazing song, with Mayn's strong vocals, hai's lyrics, and Yoko Kanno's music all blended perfectly.
"Macross Frontier" is off to a rocking start. While the development of the story and characters is a bit slow, there is something about the story that keeps me coming back. That, and the phenomenal mecha combat!
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