Macross Frontier: The False Songstress – Love and Bugs at the Cost of the World

I am rushing this post out a bit from my usual more relaxed sort of blogging schedule because it’s Macross and I want to talk about it now instead of some time later. 

Once again, I am doing things out of order on purpose again just like the G-Reco Gundam movies. Like the original G-Reco series, I didn’t really like Macross Frontier as much as other people did. The difference being this time that Macross Frontier is generally liked by the Macross community at large and it didn’t click for me when I watched it a while back. It was just ok to me, because it felt like too much Macross Fanservice. But Macross Frontier’s films started to appear in theaters and I really want to support Macross in the US, which is why I wanted to go to this one and then the next film on the 30th. I don’t know what it was, but I enjoyed this film version of the first half of Macross Frontier a lot more than the tv series itself. I think it’s winking less to the camera on the celebration of 25 years of Macross.

The General Plot and World Behind Frontier

With that in mind, The False Songstress is a retelling of Macross Frontier’s first half. There are a lot of differences between how characters meet each other, time cuts that seem to come out of nowhere, to characters getting shafted, but the beginning (generally) and the end are generally the same thing. Taking place in 2059 on the Macross Frontier fleet that is traveling to the center of the galaxy, one day an idol from the Galaxy fleet shows up who is the famous Sheryl Nome. Alto Saotome is a pilot in training who was already friends with Ranka Lee who works at a Chinese Restaurant and wants to be a singer. The day Sheryl has a concert, the bug race, the Vajra,  attack and it leads to a lot of the interesting and complicated things that happen in the movie.

I love how you can feel about how the world of Macross has grown on a lot of technological levels since Macross Plus and Seven. It makes sense considering those two came out in the 90’s while Frontier came out in the late 2000’s, so there is a bit of a meta thing that works in both senses. Shery’s concerts are like Sharon Apple’s concerts but expanded on a bit more in a  personal way. The pilotable mecha in Frontier can fold while that was a struggle a whole generation back. Not to mention the much more expressive smart phones each person is carrying that exemplifies the carrier compared to the house and car phones that were more prevalent then. It feels right and natural for the world of Macross to be at that place now. 

There is also a little bit of San Francisco inside of Frontier too

There is a lot of tension with romance between Alto, Ranka, and Sheryl. A pilot and two idols that are powerful in their own right, as the mystery behind Ranka’s backstory, why Sheryl knows a piece of it, and so on are tied to not only the idol conspiracy group thing, but also everything that has to do with the Vajra as well. Especially since the Vajra are bugs that have created some form of fighters and battleships which are equal to or slightly above human technological levels. The Vajra really do create a lot of tension throughout the film even if they are bugs being controlled by something or someone. These are things we don’t really see or understand as much yet, but that is only one issue out of many that is going on here. 

The Characters Themselves

One of the major cliche things that people talk about in Macross are the love triangles and yeah, Macross Frontier has one of those with Alto, Ranka, and Sheryl. In fact, the drama between them is one of the best parts of the film for me. It is played in a more modern way that really sells all of these characters in interesting ways. The movie knows that it is very old and classic, and a little bit of that is played in a meta way with these big speeches and declarations of love and hate that modern anime aren’t going to do as much in romance anymore. It feels even better for me because this is a love triangle where Ranka and Sheryl actually talk and like each other and Alto has a good connection to them from different sorts of angles.

Sheryl Nome is the best part of Macross Frontier in general, but she is really amazing in this film because she is the film itself. She comes into Macross Frontier as a fully formed character and we only see different sides of her that show how great and complex she is. We see everything about Sheryl in her first concert sequences. Yes, her wearing a dominatrix outfit domming over a more innocent form of herself and then kissing is absolutely fanservice and horny, but it shows that she is made out of two sides. The very loud and boisterous idol who all of space has fallen in love with and sings excellent songs is combined with a  lonely girl that the idol side is covering up because she doesn’t want to be seen as fragile. Seeing her interact with Alto on their “not” date shows both of those at once.

Ranka Lee and Alto are the characters that change in the film. As a former Kabuki actor, Alto has played as a man and a woman so many times that he felt like he had to escape into another passion he found, the wind and flying. That is why he joins the SMS force so he can indulge in flying not for the military, but for his own personal reasons. He also actively is made fun of for being womanly in the film because of his roles and pushed too far into that masculinity until he discovers in the end that it’s ok to allow some femininity into himself as he connects with Sheryl more. Then there is the cute mystery girl with a secret power, Ranka who is very shy but slowly builds her own music career in the film influenced by Sheryl and Alto. She is so adorable, even pushing against her brother Ozma who is the leader of the SMS and I love seeing her on screen.

If I had to be pushed to pick who I would want Alto to end up with this love triangle, I think I would go with him and Sheryl. The two have some really good and complex interactions throughout the film in both positive and negative lights. Ranka Lee feels like the lost puppy dog in love with Alto that Alto doesn’t really notice. Alto and Sheryl are also the main influences in Ranka in getting better musically and becoming a more pronounced idol on the Frontier from little bit gigs that are good to an eventual debut. What I am saying is that she is trying to catch up to who they are in her own mind and maybe not seeing them for who they are. I really want them to be some sort of OT3 though because I feel like there is a lot of needless drama in this and it’s not 1982 anymore. This franchise can have a little more gay in it please. 

Predictable Conspiracies

One of the obvious films behind this film are the conspiracies themselves. That by itself feels like a magnification of Macross Plus’ conspiracy in a way that feels natural to this film. The film tries to over emphasize one particular bad guy by playing with who we would expect from lore, Sheryl Nome’s Producer who talks to a mysterious council, completed naked once too because this film is very horny, talking about waking up the Galactic Fairy (Sheryl) even more and seeing what Ranka Lee can do. There is also the fact that the Vajra showed up exactly when Sheryl had her first concert and caused a lot of devastation. I feel like you would expect me to consider them a twist around because the experiment did help fight the Vajra in the end, but I still feel like there is something sinister happening in the wings around them too.

The second conspiracy is one that has a lesser amount of screen time on it so it feels so much more sinister. Especially since one completely ignored the S.O.S. call from another Macross fleet that Sheryl had to pay a mercenary unit to protect herself. Or the beginning element where the government of the Frontier decided to cover up a lot of what happened during the Vajra for some reason to the wider galactic community. That is a much more openly evil thing too, especially when one conspiracy opens the results of another one. One is colder and left to their own devices while the music one is closer and more personal and they are going to be playing the Vajra, Alto, Ranka Lee, and Sheryl Nome between each other for the coming second film. I kind of like this because it’s obvious but a bit more complex. A good meshing of the two.

Wrapping Up The False Songstress

One of the major things is that you can tell this film has aged since 2009 in terms of some of its visuals. I feel like Macross Plus holds up a bit more, even if it’s older, because that cg is placed in more strategic parts with traditional animation taking over things a bit more. There is a lot more over all cg in this film in this part and that stuff doesn’t age well. But it is still exciting and fun. There are still some great fighter pilot scenes with lots of missiles that happened during the concert scenes like a cool music video. The ship designs of the Vajra feel somewhat Zentradi in nature while also having their own unique feel. I really like the VF-25s and the fact they come with multiple combinations of things. I also really like the very expressive and colored character designs and the great outfits they wear to exemplify their characters.

There are some points that I can nitpick like the pacing of the film being a bit too rushed at points or some developments coming out of nowhere or not when it feels natural, but I really like the characters. The plot is cliche in a way, but also blended up in a way that makes it feel unique. The love triangle, if it had to be one, is really good with all three characters and some of their cohorts being really fleshed out. There is an interesting mystery plot too in the middle of this idol singing romance flying and fighting battle series. Yeah, I really like this film a lot more than I thought I would because it was really cool and everything that I want from a Macross series with a bit more thrown into it. I think taking away some of the side characters that I don’t appreciate as much and allowing the main characters to shine did it a world of good. 

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