First off, the plot changes were outright drastic and diverge significantly from the original story. Having Ranka and Alto-hime be acquaintances is not the only thing that seems off. New Vajra ship classes also debut but upon getting a closer look the smaller of the new ships look kind of like modified Northampton stealth frigates. The new main Vajra battle cruiser with a BIG HUEG turret on the back echoes a very human design feature that isn’t buggy or very organic looking. This leads me to think that Kawamori just gave himself a much easier time explaining how the next generation of ships will be masking themselves as Vajra capital ships, as the formerly ubiquitous Knight-class ships are fewer in number. The new guns for Quarter along with the new Tornado pack, and more blatantly GARby’s SMS plug at the end left me feeling as if Kawamori was pulling off a Michael Bay; that the movie itself is an elaborate recruiting commercial in the way Transformers was. Only a newly re-armed SMS was contracted out to do this movie with the aim to rehabilitate Ranka’s reputation after the Vajra Wars ended.
There were some scenes that were disjointed and overly exaggerated. I want to focus on Ranka first as her rapid awareness that the Vajra want a piece of her had me rolling with laughter. Many of the scenes such as Loli-Ranka got inverted with Ranshe kind of mailing it in when Ranka was singing Aimo, telling Ranka that the Vajra were after her. Her new, more interested in my Alto-hime angle was a change, but it wasn’t as grand or glorious as the coming of DYRL Minmay; it felt awkward in places knowing how Ranka behaved in the series as opposed to the rather awkward new moments of intimacy. Much of the efforts to make Ranka more sympathetic and responsible came off as kind of bumbling and less natural. Maybe it is largely due to the memory of hatred that has gone undimmed though the years, or simply that it was meant to be awkward due to acting worthy of a movie directed by a future Alto-hime/Sakura-hime fan with more budget than facts regarding what really happened. If nothing else her moe aspect is strong as ever and I confess to laughing quite vigorously when Ranka was selling natto and die-cast models that actually exist but don’t auto transform…
Alto-hime gets the lion’s share of screen time and we get see a rather different Alto-hime than we did before. A kinder gentler Alto-hime at the outset was altogether a double edged sword. On the one hand we do get better insight in what hime’s beef with acting was, but on the other hand the tenacity, sense of duty, and effort that led hime to enlist with SMS is glossed over as simply Ozma blackmailing him. Having hime be acquainted with Ranka at the start kind of kills the old journey of camaraderie and incessant bickering between Michael and Alto-hime. Their friendship was something I did like since Michael was less interested in shipping Ranka and more concerned about keeping hime’s ego in check; you know, important work/life things. Luca gets royally screwed out of screen time and Nanase is no where to be seen at all. While it is understandable that most of the secondary characters will have reduced roles I confess I miss the banter of GARby and his three daughters, but Klan most of all. Of the more interesting things to come out of hime’s conflict over gender was the rather odd, but super trappy moment of letting his hair down and putting on that earring of Sheryl’s, certainly hime looks more womanly than Ranka. Incidentally I found Ranka’s desire to ask hime how to be more womanly to hilariously negate the concern she showed when hime poured out his issue with hime roles.
One of the more shocking changes was the early introduction of Brera, and not the Kaifun-class Brera from the TV series. I am not sure if this is an improvement of just a massive troll to have Brera be a famous action star in the next series playing himself in a Macross Frontier movie. Certainly that old rascal Kaifun survived to Macross 7 so I would not put it past Kawamori to do a similar thing to Brera. I confess I was having many good laughs due to New Brera, whether lecherously scanning Sheryl or exchanging thanks with Alto-hime. The latter was positively HILARIOUS given how many times Brera gave hime what for when it came down to fists. It’s be really funny come the next Macoss that New Brera is playing a consultant role in the production. Certainly Marcoss Frontier TFS is out to redefine Ranka and Brera in particular with less numerous alterations to the rest of the cast. Whether or not you take it in as canon is really up to each one of use but me personally I am leaning heavily towards TFS being a Macross movie production by MISTAH Kawamori from Macross F ep 10 fame with no small input from a New Brera.
As for our favorite BOSS and galactic overlord, I must say for all of 2010 I might have to put up Grace as a contestant for best looking mecha of 2010. To be sure her features are quite stunning and it left me on the fence as to whether or not the megane version is inherently superior. Nevertheless the instant hair fix function was impressive. Not only is she a talented manipulator and superb hacker but she never gets a bad hair day EVER… Her relationship with New Brera also makes me think that we should expect New Brera’s hand in the anime production of TFS. Grace pretty much owned him in the series but with this liberal retelling one might get the impression Grace treated Brera like some sort of favored knight, that had some really good scanning opportunities.
Alto-hime may have had the most screen time but Sheryl not only stayed consistently awesome, she upped her awesome level by pulling off a hand signal that would have made Isamu proud. A lot of time was allocated to that special dayto, and there were significant amendments but an overall extension of time. Time not spent on Ranka who of the titular three again suffered the least amount of screen time, putting her scarcely better off than the secondaries. I am not sure which is worse, that hime did not particularly care about Ranka and her efforts when hime barely knew her or that hime does know her and is pretending to care. I am not sure if this Sheryl being a possible spy is going to amount to much but it adds an interesting take even if it kind of takes away from the long courtship we saw in the TV series. Her tsun tsun nature does come out much more forcefully this time around but not different in spirit. The new found powers of her earrings wasn’t all that un-expected given how it features rather prominently in promotional materials. Also hime is wearing it early and with hair down so it may as well be on par with the One Ring to Rule Them All. I do appreciate how they rushed Sheryl’s heart going dokyun dokyun for hime, the six shot revolver what shoots out hearts was just too cool.
While a ship tease was inevitable as sunrise, it will be interesting to see how much they will deviate from the series. So far they have been brazen with regards to new directions but oddly consistent with the ship teasing. I get the sense we are about to get trolled hard. Michael lives, but there is one other film to go and it will be interesting to see how TFS Ranka will handle Grace and how much of Sheryl’s ordeal, which for me made her the once and future heroine, will remain intact and what parts of it will be altered. I agree with ghostlightning’s desire to integrate continuities since it adds to the overall narrative. Macross is a weird series when it comes to continuity, though I suppose that for them they do suffer from taking fiction as fact as with the case of DYRL with regards to continuity. Even with the new aesthetic, apart from the Vajra and variable beam weapon power level most of it is consistent. I do like the upgrades they gave to the concerts even if it meant a change up in the songs, which to be fair was at least a commercial ploy, but it does mean more music even if I do miss my Northern Cross. Integrating continuities is I think the best bet since as the omission of Klan, GARby and his daughters, and the efforts of Cathy Glass and Ozma are for me at least sorely missed. Though I would submit that Ram’s party popper for the initiation was almost as good as Shamy’s “I’ll rip off your pants.”
Primarily though I see TFS as something that has parts I would like to integrate but overall I see it as a retelling by New Brera in some future Macross production where he outright whitewashes history to make himself look good and help out Ranka’s reputation a little. I do expect Ranka to fail though probably not as EPIC FAIL as she did in the TV series, due in no small part to New Brera being considerate or simply Kawamori being a loving and all too forgiving new age weed smoking hippie. As far as contingencies go, I am ready to see a VF-25 shooting sound pods with guitar controls. Funny how I had jibed that the Macross F Movie was going to be Do You Remember Hime and when it finally comes it is rather Alto-hime centric.
One thing I want to point out here are the new looks to some of the ordnance:
- Beam cannons on the VF-25 Messiah.
- A new Vajra kidnapper class fighter.
- Several new Vajra ships including a massive capital ship class.
- A new Macross Cannon for the Battle Frontier.
No specifications are available yet about these changes and new units. The new ship classes do not look very alien relative to the Bishop Class (mothership) and Knight Class (carrier) ships featured in the TV series.
While I like the new capital ship design, I acknowledge that it doesn’t add much to the world-building aspect of the material, something I appreciated a lot in the TV-series.
The beam cannons on the VF-25 didn’t become obnoxious as I feared (i.e. AU Gundam obnoxious). A pet peeve of mine is variable damage, and beam weapons are the easiest way to abuse this.
On the other hand, the new Vajra capital ship unleashed a “Fold Barrier,” a shield so powerful it stopped the Battle Frontier’s BIGGER BAZOOKA-LIKE MONSTER OF A MACROSS CANNON. I mean it stopped it. Completely. A less imposing version of this cannon wiped away entire Vajra fleets back in the TV series Aimo or no Aimo.
I understand that arbitrarily resets of narrative physics are the prerogative of the creators, but I hate this. Consistency sacrificed for convenience and expedience blows.
But hey, it’s fanservice! I sound like I’m really upset but nah. It’s all good. The important thing about Macross, and especially its grand set-piece battle scenes is that they are spectacles of light and sound. Technical quibbles and verisimilitude are sacrificed on the altar of cool. It’s not like a grittier drawn-out battle in Armored Trooper Votoms and its unlimited ammo ATs has that much more verisimilitude (if any at all).
The terms by which Macross, and especially Macross Frontier would like itself to be judged is whether the production of the concerts integrated with the set-piece battles play out smoothly and entertainingly (controlling for one’s tastes in pop idol performances). And even so,
it asks us to give up questions re: broadcast systems, who’s really listening to all this, rehearsals vs. ad lib, accompaniment and musical arrangement, lip-synching (MAN SHERYL RAN UP ALL THOSE STAIRS SINGING AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS), etc.
For all the things to appreciate, it can really be said that Macross as a franchise really asks us to let a lot of things go. It asks us to leave our critical faculties back on earth while taking our present-hedonistic time perspectives and sensibilities to the ends of the galaxy. For some people this will prove to be too much, and I don’t blame them. They’re more attached to their discernment, or that their particular kind of discernment is too much a part of their engine of enjoyment. While I don’t necessarily lack discernment when watching Macross shows, I’ve engineered it to provide myself the most enjoyment possible. Depending on how you see it, this is either a blessing or a curse meted out by the Galactic Fairies of Fandom itself.
While I greatly enjoyed the Macross Frontier series, everything about this version felt superior to me. While we won’t know for certain until the next movie is out and the events concluded, as it stands now I’d pick the movie version over the series in some sort of impossible, hypothetical ‘you can only remember one’ scenario. While I won’t be going into quite as much detail as my comrades, as I’ve written one post already and have another planned, I will be singing its praises and commenting on how everything went better than expected. First, what was included, and then some thoughts on what was left out, redone, or left until the next movie.
Direction. Direction. DIRECTION! The direction, both artistic and otherwise, felt so boring and plain in the series. I’m not saying that the characters or events were boring; I liked Frontier. But the presentation felt really dull in most of the series, something that was definitely fixed in the movie. There was evidently better planning going into the way the story and its details would be laid out for the movie, as well as a willingness to be creative. There was also a near total absence of the (modern) common anime tropes that were grafted onto the Macross franchise in Frontier to try and draw in a larger audience, much to my delight. The movie shows that you can be modern and have elements that appeal to a wide audience without devolving into cliches that never really felt right in a Macross series. I also loved the changes in story and character relations for the most part. Making Grace and Brera ‘good guys’ for the time being allowed both characters to be more fun, and should also make their inevitable betrayal of the Frontier all the more satisfying. Honestly, who didn’t see Grace as a villain from a mile away in the series? Here, she actually has some ambiguity from the start, leaving her background on the Galaxy up for either a straight retelling or an edit to include some of the often-discussed drama CD material. And while I’m looking forward to hating Ranka with the fire of a thousand suns once more, it was almost nice to see her not being so annoyingly self-centered (full disclosure: for the first 8 or so episodes of the series I actually liked Ranka more than Sheryl. But Russia was also allies with Nazi Germany at one point. How things change…) And I didn’t mind the sidelining of the secondary characters so much, given the time constraints and how well the main characters were presented. Especially Alto, who had an equal amount of depth and interest to him in one movie as he did in all the episodes in the series combined. If his character has already reached this point, it’ll be quite a sight to see him develop more in the next movie.
As to what was left out or altered, all for the better given the two hour time limit in my view. To throw this out there at the start like he was thrown unceremoniously from the cockpit of his clunky, overencumbered Armored, I’m quite happy with Ozma getting less faux-GAR moments to himself. Never liked the guy anyway, so he can stay a bit part as far as I’m concerned. One general area that was left out was many of the darker or more personally (for the characters) anxiety-inducing themes, with the exception of Alto’s issues with acting being redone to perfection. But this is something I expect to see back in the second movie. Events are inevitably moving to the point where Grace’s plot will be hatched, Ranka will betray everyone to the Vajra, and Sheryl will face her medical and personal challenges. I would hazard a guess that the second of those three will be downplayed, as I have the sneaking suspicion that Kawamori wants us to like that traitorous loli, hands stained with the blood of hundreds of colonists due to her cowardly and selfish attitudes. This will likely be an area that Kawamori will attempt to gloss over. However, the story in the first movie hasn’t severely deviated from that of the main one. Indeed, how could it on the fundamental level? So I do look forward to learning to hate Ranka all over again next time. The beauty of hatred!
We Remember Hime