Tuesday 1 November 2011

Movie REVIEW: Macross Frontier - the Movies

Back in December 2009 I gave the Macross Frontier TV series a 5 out of 5 review. Not only was it a brilliant series, but it was also my first foray into the Macross franchise, which quickly became one of my favourite anime properties. But the Macross Frontier story didn't end there (well, it technically did, but work with me here), as 2 feature films were released in 2009 and 2011. These films, titled 'The False Songstress' (Itsuwari no Utahime) and 'The Wings of Goodbye' (Sayonara no Tsubasa) do not follow the events of the TV series, instead offering an alternate story with the same characters much like 'Do You Remember Love?' did with the original series. I decided to patiently wait until both films were released so I could review the entire story, and now that time has come. Since I've already reviewed the series, I won't go into the initial premise of Macross Frontier, and will begin by taking a look at the first of the two movies.

The False Songstress
Those looking for the first of the two films to be something entirely new are going to be rather disappointed. Much like most anime films these days 'The False Songstress' is a streamlined version of its TV counterpart, cutting out side plots and unnecessary details in order to focus on the characters more. Some things are sped along (for example Alto and Ranka are school friends already, rather than meeting for the first time) and a bulk of the film is made up of footage from the TV series, with the climax being all anime animation very different to anything in the show. Whether the film achieves greater depth to the characters is left to interpretation, as I felt the romance between Alto and Sheryl had far more weight than it did in the TV series (as a Ranka fan, leaving me quite disappointed).

While 'The False Songstress' does in many ways feel like a watered down version of the early half of the TV series, the look and feel is definitely amped up. The show was stunning, but this is really something else. The sheer beauty of the movie is apparent as soon as Sheryl hits the stage for a brilliant performance of 'Universal Bunny', complete with dancing clockwork robots and some risque intimacy between a good and evil Sheryl Nome (her black and white bunny personas). Following on from this are some fantastic aerial fights between the VF-25 valkyries and the Vajra aliens (who have received a bit of a makeover for these releases), cultivating in a brilliant showdown between the two on a waterfront while Sheryl and Ranka look (and sing on).

Back on the subject of Sheryl Nome, this is definitely her movie. Ranka still has a very clear presence, but overall she's completely overshadowed by Sheryl in terms of plot, development and music. Ranka's songs are 90% commercial jingles, while Sheryl has some fantastic tunes like the aforementioned 'Universal Bunny', and 'Pink Monsoon'. Her mini-album that was released to coincide with the movie trumps most of her songs that were present in the show. That isn't to say that the popular songs from the show are gone though - 'Aimo' is more important than ever, and 'Lion' finally works its way into the show itself as the show stopping finale piece.

Don't get me wrong it's great film, but other than some gorgeous eye candy it didn't really do much that series hadn't done better in terms of story. However it was important set-up for what was next to come...

The Wings of Goodbye
While 'The False Songstress', despite events happening a little differently, followed the series quite closely and contained a lot of re-used footage, if anything it was merely a set up for this. 'The Wings of Goodbye' takes the Macross Frontier crew in a whole new direction, and finally answers the burning question that the series never answered - who will Alto choose, Sheryl or Ranka?

While it's great that this film takes things in a completely new direction, offering something to everyone, it does suffer a little from its limited time frame. The movie contains plot twist after plot twist, and by the end of it you aren't quite sure who the real villain is (or you could just assume like me that everyone but the SMS seems to be). Nevertheless it has some great action scenes, besting 'The False Songstress' when it comes to explosive climaxes and even featuring a very special cameo for Macross fans.

If the first movie was Sheryl's moment in the spotlight, I certainly felt like this one was Ranka's. Even though Sheryl has a lot more importance than Ranka when it comes to the plot development, Ranka's screen time has been amped up and her songs completely overpower Sheryl's. Much like the effect 'Universal Bunny' had in the first film, 'The Wings of Goodbye's money shot is Ranka's live debut, where the newly dubbed 'Superdimensional Cinderella' performs a colourful version of her brand new song, 'Niji Iro Kuma Kuma'. One of the film's best highlights is when Ranka performs her iconic 'Seikan Hiko' alongside Lovely Bomber (one for the Macross 7 fans) at Alcatraz prison (the San Francisco homages are even more apparent in the movies!), leading into a duet of new song 'Get it On~Kousouku Climax' with Sheryl Nome.

While the Macross Frontier movies may lack the charm the TV series had in terms of story, everything else has certainly been amped up to 11. The songs all feel bigger and bolder, and the art/CGI is one of the best looking pieces in modern anime. References to the previous 25 years of Macross (remember, Frontier was created as the 25th anniversary series to the franchise) are far more minimal than the series, so not only is this an excellent condensed Macross Frontier adventure (but be aware it ends VERY differently to the show), it is also possibly a better stepping stone for newcomers to come aboard the franchise. An excellent duet of movies for both fans and newcomers alike, much like the very duet that star in it.

Both films (separately and together) earn:

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