Sunday, August 4, 2013

Macross Frontier Anime Review

Macross Frontier
Makurosu Furontia
Bandai Visual
Complete Collection - 5 discs
600 mins. - 25 episodes
MSRP - n/a (no official US release available)
¥33,600 (2013) Blu-Ray
¥3,990 (2008-2009) Vol. 1-9/ea.
¥7,350 (2008-2009) Vol. 1-9/ea. Blu-Ray
ISBN - n/a
Japanese Audio - English Subtitles (only on HK bootleg version, not official Japanese version)
Director - Shoji Kawamori/Yasuhito Kikuchi
Studio - Satelight

Synopsis: The human race was almost wiped out in Space War I when a massive alien spacecraft crash-landed on Earth in 1999 and then a hostile alien race attempted to reclaim it ten years later.  The alien race was the Zentraedi, giant humanoids bred only for war by a mysterious ancient race called the Protoculture.  The alien craft was studied and rebuilt by a consortium of the world's governments called U.N. Spacy and commissioned as the SDF-1 - Super-Dimensional Fortress.  Incredible technology allowed the creation of variable fighter planes called Valkyries.  The brave crew managed to defeat the race of giants by exposing them to the rich culture of humanity - music, love, and laughter.  They were victorious, but not before the Earth was razed by the giants' leaders.
Macross Frontier colony ship with Battle Frontier space fortress in front.
A small fleet of auxiliary ships serve as main line of defense.
The world was rebuilt and a strategic plan was launched to colonize the stars in an effort to safeguard humanity from extinction.  Massive colony ships containing an entire city were built and each was guided by a space fortress into the far reaches of the universe to find habitable planets.  Most of the Zentraedi were assimilated into human culture, but some pockets of resistance still existed.  These colony ships were a combination of both races and encountered new dangers in uncharted star territories.  Valkyrie and AI (artificial intelligence) technologies flourished.
The latest Valkyrie type is the VF-25 Messiah (shown with upgrade armor and
 reactive missiles) which has only been deployed in limited numbers to special
 groups within the fleets. Standard NUNS variable fighter is the VF-171 Nightmare
It's 47 years after the first encounter with the Zentraedi the colony fleet called Macross Frontier is travelling through space.  There is a New U.N. Spacy government (NUNS) which controls and coordinates between the colony fleets and planets.  They are visited by Sheryl Nome, a famous idol singer known as the "Galactic Fairy", who comes from the Macross Galaxy fleet.  Alto Saotome is the heir to a prestigious kabuki family, but has chosen to become a pilot instead in an effort to escape his rigid upbringing.  He is part of a group of aerialists who perform as part of Sheryl's concert on the Frontier.  During the concert a group of hostile alien lifeforms attack the fleet.  Alto saves the life of teenager Ranka Lee who is an aspiring singer.
Sheryl Nome's first concert on the Frontier with Alto flying aerial
acrobatics and Ranka watching in the crowd
The lifeforms are an incredibly deadly organism called the Vajra.  They continue to trouble the Frontier while Alto becomes friends with both Ranka and Sheryl.  Alto pilots a new VF-25 Messiah Valkyrie during a Vajra attack and later is accepted into a private military force known as the SMS (Strategic Military Force).  Both of his aerialist partners were secretly part of this group as well.  They are Mikhail Blanc, pilot of a VF-25G sniper type Valkyrie, and Luca Angelloni, pilot of a RVF-25 reconnaissance type Valkyrie with three Ghost drones.  The three pilots go to flight school together as well as serve with the SMS.
A swarm of Vajra spot the Frontier fleet.  They are deemed the first
Super Dimension Life Form due to their ability to fold space
Leader of the SMS squadron is ace pilot Ozma Lee who also happens to be Ranka's older brother.  He is very protective of her and gives Alto a very hard time for being her friend.  During the fierce battles with the Vajra it becomes clear the creatures are a potentially devastating threat to the entire fleet.  The Macross Galaxy later is assailed by a swarm of Vajra and Sheryl is stranded on the Frontier.  She and Alto become close friends despite her galactic fame.  She gives Ranka singing advice and she later joins a Miss Macross contest.  It soon becomes clear Ranka has real singing talent and her career begins.
Alto and Ranka become good friends. He is constantly folding paper airplanes
Something is not right within the NUNS government when it is revealed the Vajra have come into contact with the colony fleets before attacking the Frontier.  What is their strange link to Ranka and Sheryl's past?  Ozma's former lover, Catherine Glass, is the daughter of the Frontier's President and Ozma tries to get clues to the mystery surrounding the Vajra from her.  She is sent to keep tabs on the SMS which possess a small version of a Macross class space fortress called the Macross Quarter.  Vajra attacks become heavier and the Frontier's fleet is in real danger.
Ranka enters the Miss Macross contest and competes against
some majorly hot girls!  Does she even have a chance?
The true threat is slowly revealed as Alto must choose between supporting Sheryl or Ranka.  The SMS goes into action, but will the corruption plaguing the NUNS government stop them?  Will Ozma Lee's love of pineapple-cake spell his doom?  It's an epic continuation to the grand Macross story, but will humanity prevail?
Sheryl gets Alto to take her on a 'date' to see the sights of the Frontier
Pros: Complex story with several exciting plot twists, excellent variable (transforming) mecha designs (VF-25 Messiah, VF-171 Cannon Fodder, and Koenig Monster), Shoji Kawamori directs, incredible musical score and original songs (May'n!), pays homage to every Macross release that has come before, validates Macross Zero due to the addition of Mao Nome references and Bird-Human movie, excellent music by legendary Yoko Kanno!
The Frontier's colony dome closes to protect the city during a Vajra
attack.  A powerful pinpoint barrier system deflects any direct hits.
Cons: No official U.S. release (EVER, due to the Macross copyright dispute between Harmony Gold and Big West), CG rendering of mecha is pretty stiff, HK version subtitles are not great (some missed timing in later episodes), no English subtitles in the official Japanese release, Alto is a former Kabuki actor who was prized for his female portrayals (his hairstyle is very feminine) - ha!
One of the Vajra beams breaches the Frontier's protective dome
Mike Tells It Straight: This latest Macross series is absolutely incredible!  The sheer amount of production values present are staggering and I was quite impressed.  Shoji Kawamori and Studio Nue really pulled out all the stops to create this epic series.  It was released during the 25th anniversary of the original Macross series and firmly established a continuing legacy.  One of my first introductions to Japanese animation was the highly edited cartoon series Robotech from the 1980s.  It was spliced together from three separate anime series and Super Dimension Fortress Macross was the first season (Super Dimension Calvarly Southern Cross was the second and Genesis Climber Mospeada was the third).  I truly loved Robotech when it aired and later discovered the original series (shout out to Sean and Graham's MacrossWorld).  Due to a copyright conflict the original Macross owners Big West have with Robotech producers Harmony Gold it has been almost impossible to release Macross-related merchandise domestically.
Ranka and Alto discover a destroyed space fortress
Super Dimension Fortress Macross was developed into a movie called Macross: Do You Remember Love? (DYRL) which was a retelling (with better animation) of the original series.  It was wildly popular in Japan and had a cult following in the West thanks to Robotech.  DYRL had an epilogue released as an OVA (original video animation) called Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Flash Back 2012, a sequel OVA (released domestically as a movie) called Super Dimension Fortress Macross II: Lover's Again which was a resounding failure (lacked story involvement from Kawamori and Studio Nue - relegated to 'parallel' world status), a highly successful OVA (later spliced into a theatrical feature) called Macross Plus (this time Kawamori/Studio Nue were involved and the show was able to be released domestically), a 49-episode series called Macross 7, a movie and OVA series of Macross 7, a prequel OVA to the original series called Macross Zero, and then this series Macross Frontier.
Klan Klang is a macronized Meltran who leads the Pixie Squadron for the SMS.
  She and Mikhail are childhood friends, but they have never dated because
she turns into a child when micronized.  Bummer!
Macross is one of the most popular mecha anime series next to Mobile Suit Gundam, but with far less 'parallel world' and spinoff series in its production history.  Macross Frontier represents a major leap forward in storyline and evolution of production values, but managed to pay homage and includes almost every single preceding Macross story.  The love triangle between Alto, Sheryl, and Ranka hearkened back to the classic one with Hikaru, Minmay, and Misa from the original SDFM and DYRL.  Ranka works in a Chinese restaurant and competes in a Miss Macross contest just like Lynn Minmay in SDFM.  Ozma Lee is highly reminiscent of Roy Focker right down to enjoying pineapple deserts - will he suffer the same fate?  A movie called Bird-Human is produced on the Frontier and based on the events of Macross Zero.  Artificial intelligence plays a big role as it did in Macross Plus.  VF-17 Nightmares are the cannon fodder planes of the Frontier and first debuted in Macross 7.
The Macross Quarter goes to battle the oncoming Vajra swarm
Music is always a primary component to any Macross series and Frontier has incredible music.  Yoko Kanno is a preeminent anime soundtrack composer and was responsible for the epic Macross Plus soundtrack.  She returns to Macross and delivers another set of breathtaking songs.  Rising star singer May'n was the vocal talent for Sheryl Nome and her career has taken off after Frontier.  The voice of Ranka Lee was Megumi Nakajima who was discovered for Macross Frontier and has started a promising career.
Alto pilots his VF-25 against a mysterious VF-27 during a Vajra battle
Macross Frontier was a crossover media sensation and truly unforgettable chapter in the Macross franchise.  The characters were endearing and story contained all of the rich history built over the years.  Great music, awesome new mecha designs (VF-25, VF-27), complex plot, and spawned two compilation movies (slightly altered from the series and deemed 'alternate timeline') - The False Songstress and The Wings of Goodbye.  I'm a huge Macross fan and this series was an absolute treat.  Don't get me wrong, a few things didn't resonate with me - the mecha were all CG rendered (just like in Macross Zero and Aquarion) and felt it, some of the characters were lame, a few scenes of the Macross Quarter reminded me of old super-robot shows, and the ending could have been more definitive.  None of these nit-picks matter because seeing this amazing Macross series and being held at the edge of my seat was so much fun.
Sheryl falls mysteriously ill and Grace, her singing manager, gives her
an unknown medicine to make her better.  What is the shocking
secret behind her ailment?
It breaks my heart to say this series will probably never see a domestic release due to the Robotech/Harmony Gold copyright issues.  With the advent of Blu-Ray and new region assignments putting Japan and the US in Region A I really wish Japanese companies would add English subtitles or dub to their releases.  I would literally kill to have an official (not HK bootleg) Macross Frontier Blu-Ray set with English subs!  As of this post the new BD box set is not going to have subs or a dub (the only Japanese BD Macross release I know of with subs or dub is Macross Plus BD).  I had to resort to getting this series as an HK bootleg in order to watch it, but find it any way you can and check it out!  Highest possible recommendation!
Sheryl and Ranka sing together for the survival of the Frontier!

TO BUY and Recommendations: