Before watching Macross F, I had completed: the original Macross, Macross: Do You Remember Love?, Macross II: Lovers Again, and Macross Delta, but until experiencing Frontier, the entire purpose of the franchise hadn’t resonated with me. Implicative of my language in the previous sentence: Macross F opened my eyes to the megalithic world of Macross! Before, I kind of thought it was a silly gimmick to have pretty idols be the precipice that humanity rests its hopes upon, but Frontier made me realize that there’s more to it than meets the eye.
This review of Macross Frontier is spoiler free!
Synopsis: Following a catastrophic war against a race of giants known as the Zentradi, humanity has escaped towards the center of the galaxy aboard a fleet of colonial vessels called the Macross Frontier. As the extraterrestrial threat is left further and further behind, life on Macross Frontier proceeds as usual.
In the year 2059, a young mecha pilot trainee named Alto Saotome and his colleagues are preparing to perform an accompanying routine for the famous singer Sheryl Nome, who has come to Macross Frontier for a concert. During the performance, a biomechanical alien species known as the Vajra make a sudden appearance, breaking through the defensive perimeter surrounding the vessel and crash-landing near the concert venue, plunging the entire city into chaos. As the concertgoers evacuate, a young girl named Ranka Lee is left behind and gets targeted by the Vajra, but she is saved at the last minute by Alto. Following these events, the Strategic Military Services program notes Alto’s skill in battle, resulting in his recruitment to combat the new alien threat.
The story of Frontier straddles the line between political intrigue and romance/drama. Though the groundwork is lain for the story to progress seamlessly, like every other Macross series, the show is ultimately about love. Addressing both the affliction of overcoming unrequited love, and the power that your feelings can ultimately purvey in showing empathy in the face of adversity. Even when the bad guys are a horde of cybernetic, alien insects! Think Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
The atmosphere often awkwardly flip-flops between tragedy and comedy, sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. Often it fits the tone of an endearing student film, like in Episode 15: Lost Peace. Alto brings Ranka along to visit Sheryl in the hospital, and the two women try to vie for his attention by singing and dancing in the lobby. At this point, the show is transformed into a musical! The last episode itself becomes a powerful, space-opera musical: with the idols singing a medley of songs throughout the series, including a couple of throwbacks to the original Macross, like, “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” and “Do You Remember Love?”
Frontier is unique in the way it focuses on the idols more than the pilots; in other Macross series, like the original TV anime and Delta, there is a clear dichotomy between the lives of the pilots and the performers. The theme of Frontier is more concerned with how hard it is for the idols to perform under pressure, with the weight of the world on their shoulders, and how music can promote love and empathy. The protagonist, Alto Saotome, is a former kabuki actor, so he often imparts his wisdom about fame and the adulation of performers to the struggling female leads.
The last arc even makes a point of showing that even someone with an intense, passionate love for singing, like Ranka or Sheryl, can experience burn-out. It deconstructs the typical genki (元気), idol stereotype and gives a realistic spin on the narrative of how taxing it can be for a performer, especially in the midst of a torrid political climate and a deathly war against aliens. The series gets extremely real with subjects such as: poverty, disease, war crimes, political insurrection, death, and the permanent mental scars that someone has to carry, after the loss of a parent or loved one.
Shoji Kawamori (director and original creator)
* Chikyū Shōjo Arjuna
* Crusher Joe (mechanical design)
* Ghost in the Shell (mechanical design)
* Macross (mechanical design)
* Macross 7
* Macross Delta
* Macross Plus
* Macross Zero
* Macross: Do You Remember Love?
* Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (mechanical design)
* Transformers Zone (mechanical design)
* Transformers: Chōjin Master Force (mechanical design)
* Transformers: Scramble City (mechanical design)
* Transformers: The Headmasters (mechanical design)
Commentary: The main grievance that I have with this series is the direction. The direction in this series is often two sides of coin: weird in a way that is brilliant in the same way that an auteur filmmaker strives for, and the other side is a stylized animation that is sometimes too jarring for its own good. There are remnants of this in some of Kawamori’s other works, such as Chikyū Shōjo Arjuna and AKB0048. I didn’t care for AKB0048, but I did really like Chikyū Shōjo Arjuna, though, I do admit that the visual direction can be over-the-top at times. I partially blame this on the secondary director, Yasuhito Kikuchi: if you’ve seen IS: Infinite Stratos 2, you know what I’m talking about! From what I could dig up, it seems that Shoji Kawamori wrote most of the script, along with My-Hime screenwriter, Hiroyuki Yoshino. The script is pretty succinct, though there is an episode where the writing hammers you over the head with the fact that a certain character is going to die, and then they don’t. It’s frustrating, and it’s unclear whether that was purposeful and part of the ever-expansive meta-narrative, or plain bad writing. And, finally, it goes without saying that Kawamori’s mechanical designs are beautiful, I mean, just look at the man’s répertoire!
Yasuhito Kikuchi (director)
* IS: Infinite Stratos
* IS: Infinite Stratos 2
* Kachō-Ōji, or Black Heaven
* Saint Seiya
Maaya Sakamoto also makes a cameo as Ranka’s mother and does the singing for tracks, such as:
* It Is So
* Nyan Nyan Service Medley
* Mother and Little Ranka’s Aimo
Aya Endō as Sheryl Nome, notable roles:
* Fūko Kurasaki, Accel World
* Quetzalcoatl, Fate/Grand Order
* Frederica Greenhill, The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: The New Thesis
* Komugi, Hunter x Hunter (2011)
* Miyuki Takara, Lucky Star
* Silky, Mahō Tsukai no Yome
* Totoko Yowai, Osomatsu-san
* Shirona, Pokémon: Generations
* Cattleya Baudelaire, Violet Evergarden
Commentary: Endō’s role as Sheryl was very well-acted. She adapts very well in the progression from confident, bordering on full-blown narcissism, to a desperate, sickly, fallen idol. A captivating performance!
Megumi Nakajima as Ranka Lee, notable roles:
* Altlene, Busō Shinki
* Megumi Aino, Happiness Charge PreCure!
* Kinugasa, KanColle: The Movie
* Kaede Sakura, Kämpfer
* Yuzuki Eba, Kimi no Iru Machi
* Yō Kasukabe, Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai Kara Kuru Sō Desu yo?
* Charlotte Abelfreyja Drossel, Violet Evergarden
Commentary: I wasn’t the biggest fan of Nakajima’s role as Ranka, though her singing for the OST was superb! Sometimes it was difficult to feel the emotion behind Ranka’s struggles, because her speaking voice sounded too pitchy and unsophisticated. Ranka’s character was still a strong proponent of the story, despite my struggles with the initial acclimation to her voice.
Yūichi Nakamura as Alto Saotome, notable roles:
* Takeshi Tsuji, 3-gatsu no Lion
* Karamatsu Matsuno, Osomatsu-san
* Zen Seizaki, Babylon
* Silat, Berserk
* Tomoya Okazaki, Clannad
* Kyōhei Kadota, Durarara!!
* Gray Fullbuster, Fairy Tail
* Shigure Sōma, Fruit’s Basket (2019)
* Greed, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
* Umetarō Nozaki, Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun
* Oskar von Reuenthal, The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: The New Thesis
* Gai Tsutsugami, Guilty Crown
* Tetsurō Kurō, Haikyū!!
* Hōtarō Oreki, Hyōka
* Sōshi Miketsukami, Inu x Boku SS
* Bruno Buccellati, JoJo no Kimyō na Bōken Ōgon no Kaze
* Ryū Sanada, Kimi ni Todoke
* Tatsuya Shiba, Mahōka Kōkō no Rettōsei
* Io Fleming, Kidō Senshi Gundam Thunderbolt
* Ryōsuke Hazuki, Natsuyuki Rendezvous
* Kyōsuke Kyōsuke, Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai
* Guren Ichinose, Owari no Seraph
* N, Pokémon: Best Wishes
* Reinhard van Astrea, Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
* Yoshiyuki Hatori, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi
* Kojirō Shinomiya, Shokugeki no Sōma
* Ikuto Tsukiyomi, Shugo Chara!
Commentary: At times, I had trouble liking Alto, because of his inability to decide between Sheryl and Ranka, but even at his lowest moments, it was impossible to dislike him because of his seiyū. This isn’t based on Nakamura’s fame or prior roles, but by the pure talent that he puts into his performances. Sheryl and Ranka easily have a greater amount of screen time than Alto, by a lot, but the few moments that we have to look at his struggles and his past are immensely emotional and captivating; they make for some of the best scenes in the entire series! Wonderful seiyū!
Megumi Toyoguchi as Klan Klang, notable roles:
* Mimiru, .hack//SIGN
* Meg, Burst Angel
* Revy, Black Lagoon
* Yumi Omura, Chobits
* Junko Enoshima, Danganronpa
* Sola-Ui Nuada-Re Sophia-Ri, Fate/Zero
* Winry Rockbell, Fullmetal Alchemist
* Chifuyu Orimura, IS: Infinite Stratos
* Sei Satō, Maria-sama ga Miteru
* Miriallia Haw, Gundam SEED
* Hikari, Pokémon
Commentary: A talented seiyū; she is the dark horse best girl in the series, because she’s so dang likable! Her unrequited feelings for Mikhail and her down-to-earth practicality, turn into an intensely relatable and well-rounded character. I would compare her role in this series to her performances as Winry Rockbell in Fullmetal Alchemist and Miriallia Haw from Gundam SEED.
Hiroshi Kamiya as Mikhail Blanc, notable roles:
* Choromatsu Matsuno, Osomatsu-san
* Yuzuru Otonashi, Angel Beats!
* Kō Ichinomiya, Arakawa Under the Bridge
* Mephisto Pheles, Blue Exorcist
* Koyomi Araragi, Monogatari series
* Edogawa Ranpo, Bungō Stray Dogs
* Kōji Minamoto, Digimon: Frontier
* Izaya Orihara, Durarara!!
* Shinji Matō, Fate/stay night
* Nozomu Itoshiki, Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei
* Yūta Takemoto, Hachimitsu to Clover
* Ittetsu Takeda, Haikyū!!
* Kakushi Gotō, Kakushigoto: My Dad’s Secret Ambition
* Seijūrō Akashi, Kuroko’s Basketball
* Tieria Erde, Kidō Senshi Gundam 00
* Takeshi Natsume, Natsume Yūjin-chō
* Yato, Noragami
* Law Trafalgar, One Piece
* Kusuo Saiki, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
* Levi, Shingeki no Kyojin
Commentary: Hiroshi Kamiya has the morally ambiguous, effeminate male role nailed down to a T. His performance as Mikhail is no different: a likable jerkass with character complexities and commitment issues! Another S-grade seiyū in the cast!
Other famous seiyū in Macross F: Kikuko Inoue, Jun Fukuyama, Rie Tanaka, Aya Hirano, as well as the aforementioned Maaya Sakamoto.
The soundtrack is full of beautiful ballads and catchy, idyllic rhythms! This series and Macross Delta have had the best beats, in my opinion. From Macross F, in particular, I have been repeatedly listening to: Lion, Diamond Crevasse, and Triangular!
Conclusively, Macross Frontier is an iconic take on the Macross concept and the best that I’ve seen, thus far! There is a reason that, to this day, Macross F is still mentioned by a wide array of fans. There are still toys and figures being produced for the series, a decade after its release! It is a deeply human story that is both complex and absurdly phantasmagoric in its presentation! My final rating for the series is a 7/10, as well as a recommended viewing for any sci-fi fan looking for something convention breaking and fresh!
Macross Frontier Movie 1: The False Songstress, Review Coming Soon
Macross Frontier Movie 2: The Wings of Goodbye, Review Coming Soon
Other Macross Series Rankings:
Macross: Do You Remember Love? ★★☆☆☆
Macross II: Lovers Again ★★★☆☆
Macross Delta ★★★☆☆