Thursday 3 December 2009

Anime REVIEW: Macross Frontier

"After being threatened by extinction at the hands of alien invaders called the Zentradi, humanity undertook the task of guaranteeing itself a future by launching fleets of colony ships into space. On Macross Frontier, one such fleet, high school student Saotome Alto's life is changed forever: the fleet is suddenly attacked by unidentified creatures while he is performing aerial stunts for a concert by the wildly popular idol Sheryl. 

Alto quickly finds himself in the cockpit of a new-model fighter struggling to protect Ranka Lee, a young girl he met only hours earlier, from the invaders' swath of destruction. Noting his performance during this incident, the S.M.S. Skull Squadron private military company invites Alto to join their organization, where he continues protecting his friends and Macross Frontier." 

Ah the Macross franchise, arguably one of the biggest mecha (or even anime in general) franchises in Japan and yet, much like its main rival Gundam, I know very little about. I've heard alot about it, and I've seen the Macross Plus OVA (which to be honest I didn't enjoy, but now I'm thinking it might deserve a second viewing) but other than that I have little to no attachment to the franchise. So in order to educate myself a little I watched the latest installment of the franchise, Macross Frontier - a 25 episode series in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Macross. And well, if this is the standard of visuals and storytelling Macross has been pumping out since it began it's no wonder than its so loved worldwide.

Its story, the battle between humanity and an insectoid alien race through the vast regions of space, interwoven with the rise of one pop idol and the fall of another is the kind that keeps you gripped from beginning to end, especially once its revealed how all these separate factors are linked, resulting in the series' climax, along with plot twists to keep everyone guessing until the very end. It has the perfect blend of genres that make perfect storytelling. Action? Check. Romance? Check? Tragedy? Check. Giant mecha blowing things up? Check. The characters are extremely well done, each receiving their fair share of development - especially the big three mains Alto Saotome, Ranka Lee and Sheryl Nome. All these and a quite a few others have quite extensive backstories that shape the people that they are, and I quite like that. It's all well and good to say that Sheryl is a stuck bitch but then when you find out why she's that way her character is alot easier to accept. I wish she wouldn't say "Who the hell do you think I am?" so much though, that phrase has too many other (manly) connotations.

In fact I'd say there are quite alot of themes present similar to those in Eureka Seven, which, as you can probably tell by the review I gave a few weeks ago is one of my favourite animes, so I recommend checking this out if you've seen Eureka Seven and especially enjoyed it.

The animation is beautiful, crisp and clean and goes well with the cel shaded CGI Valkyrie battroid mechas that Macross is most famous for. CGI mecha has become quite common in anime as its a far cheaper process than directly animating them, and sometimes this does show (for example the same process was used in Transformers: Cybertron, and while I love that show to death it doesn't quite have the same fluidity that's present in Frontier) but luckily its not the case in terms of this series.

For long-time fans of the Macross franchise the series is full to the brim of references and homages to its roots - from everything to songs, parallel scenes and mentions of older characters and scenearios. The main one that springs to mind is episode 10 - where the cast take part in making a movie based on the OVA Macross Zero. These little things really enhance the viewing experience for those familiar with the franchise and really help solidify the feeling that this is indeed a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Macross. But more importantly, these homages don't ruin the viewing pleasure for those who are being introduced to Macross through Frontier either, they are subtle enough for the story to be appreciated by both parties.

To top it off I'm going to look at another staple of Macross - the singing. The music in this series is the kind that gets stuck in your head for days, I was in a lecture this morning and all I had was Ranka Lee's "Seikan Hiko" playing in my mind on a continous loop. After watching a mere 5 episodes of the series I had downloaded both O.S.T's and have a few more single releases downloading as I write this. Move over Gurren Lagann Best Sound, I think you've been replaced in terms of best anime soundtrack.

And the best thing is the Macross Frontier saga isn't even finished yet! That's right, the series may be over but a recap movie titled Macross Frontier The Movie: The False Diva was released over earlier this year and a proper sequel movie The Wings of Goodbye is due out some point next year! It's just a shame the series may never see a western DVD release due to godforsaken Robotech legal issues. In the meantime, I think I have 25 years of Macross I need to catch up on...

1 comment:

Karen said...

This was an awesome series, from the little I've seen of it so far! And I know what you mean about the music, it's really addictive and keeps making me youtube it.

I had no idea there were movies though... *toddles off to wikipedia*