Macross and Theater Rambling
Macross Frontier! Man, what a good film series. I’m so glad that I was able to watch these films in a theater. I hope Macross did well enough to get more Macross into the United States. At least in some form. But for now, we got these Macross films to appear and that in itself is something special considering how we literally had no Macross there until now. Especially since we were given Plus and now a completed portion of Macross Frontier too. (Oh my god, so many Macross release announcements.) If there was going to be a way to get Macross into a movie theater, it was going to be Macross Plus: The Movie and then the Macross Frontier Films because those have the most mainstream appeal.
I didn’t mention my theater visit last time, but for The False Songstress, there were twenty people with me there. Now, there were only about 11 so some people must not have liked this first film and didn’t want to show up. But, the man in an Ultraman t-shirt came to both viewings and that makes me happy. There were the right people showing up for this series who were very much in tune with the vibes that Macross was laying down and I can dig that. I’m glad to watch Macross with people who were respectful enough to just let Macross do its thing.
The Story of The Wings of Farewell
As this is a sequel to the first Macross Frontier film, The False Songstress, this film takes place almost immediately afterward saving the Frontier Fleet from the Vajra attack. We start off with an idol concert by Sheryl Nome herself with a good scene show around chemistry songs and projections, but then she passes out in the middle of the concert leading to questions about her health. The ending of the last film helped to push up Ranka Lee’s career, so she is going to have a debut soon. So on all levels, there are a lot of good Macross concerts going around.
But that also leads to a lot of the space war stuff against the Vajra and the growing conspiracy at play. A space station used by the Vajra is attacked by the S.M.S. fleet and backs them off onto their own home planet. The Macross Frontier conspiracy and the Conspiracy about Sheryl Nome link up by both of them wanting to control the Vajra and thus the galaxy, but they have to use Ranka Lee’s connection with the Vajra to do that. So there are two conspiracies of people controlled by implants and ordinary evil people competing for the same thing.
So while the SMS is facing these conspiracies, Sheryl Nome is both dying from her false injection with the Vajra around her vocal cords and also just condemned to death in Macross Frontier’s Alcatraz Island. So basically it’s SMS versus everyone else to save the galaxy. Well they save Sheryl Nome? Can Sheryl Nome live through her disease or is there only one fate? Well the Vajra finally be given the attention and heart that Ranka Lee has said they have had all the time or will they just be mindlessly controlled bugs. Who will Alto Saotome choose in the end? I feel like you may be able to guess some of those things. That’s the plot.
The SMS and Other Characters
The biggest thing that worked out for this film is that it has a little bit more time to develop its side cast a bit more. And I say a bit more because besides Ozma and others, the SMS become characters that you remember seeing doing things, but you don’t remember their names at all. At least that is me as a person who forgets names easily. Ozma stands out because he is Ranka Lee’s adopted big brother and a very charismatic, helpful character. Everyone else you get to at least know what their personalities are from either seeing them in small scenes on the beach or just on the bridge of a ship doing crazy stuff that you can’t help but love.
Then there is one specific character Brera, who is Ranka Lee’s actual older brother who gets more time. To the good and to the bad honestly. For instance, there is a small bit of repertoire between Brera and Alto that does form very quickly and it does play out in the film. But at the same time, there are moments of Brera being controlled by implants for the sake of the plot and that just means he is like a terminator sort of person who is there to fight or use Ranka against his own well. A sort of Boba Fett like character that doesn’t do much else so he should have had less screen time other than the moment where he and Ozma fight each other.
Themes with Conspiracies That Don’t Matter
All of which leads to this topic. In The Wings of Farewell, there are two conspiracies that eventually turn into one conspiracy because one takes over the other. It’s all very messy and probably the weakest part of the film besides Brera himself, but it doesn’t matter. It just exists to push in the themes of the film. Those themes being about communication between races or people and breaking from someone else’s control for that one person’s gain. The will to live and be their own person instead of having someone else tell you what to do. There could be a black box or one singular entity in the film and it would almost be the same thing.
It all works because the Vajra are just as much of a pawn into the plans of these people as Ranka Lee and Sheryl Nome are. There is a whole arc of this film about why the Vajra attacked the Macross Frontier in the first place and why they are attached to fold quartz waves that Ranka Lee has in her and what generates from the ear rings Sheryl Nome wears. Together, the three groups of pawns work together to break away from other people from their own dance and song to become whoever they want to be away from everyone else. It feels like a cliche sort of plot for anime to say that a show is about Freedom, but Macross is a franchise that does it better then almost everyone else.
Is It Really A Love Triangle?
It is Macross so in some ways it is. Ranka Lee and Sheryl Nome are both in love with Alto for their different reasons that are character based and Alto has to choose from them in the end. In that way it is kind of simple. But there are more layers to it. Sheryl Nome is the galactic fairy and still doesn’t change as a person and Alto Saotome is finally digging into his more femimine side from his Kabuki training while still being a great pilot on top of everything. Then there is the natural interactions that Sheryl and Alto have that feel so much more genuine then with Ranka and Alto. To me, even in this film, it is still puppy love in Ranka’s case and everyone knew who Alto would choose in the end anyway even if Alto didn’t know it.
Here is the thing about that, this movie is Ranka Lee’s growing up story. Not only to become an idol that rivals Sheryl Nomes or have idealism that pushes beyond Altos. Sheryl and Alto both really like Ranka and want to see her continue to grow. A massie arc behind this entire franchise is Ranka Lee becoming that strong person and then lifting up Sheryl and Alto when they were weak. All while Sheryl and Alto kept Ranka safe and alive because they are both pushing for the next generation and the real deal, which is what Ranka Lee is to be herself because both of them had their time in the sun or know who they are and see greatness in Ranka still.
In the end, Alto confesses his love to Sheryl. What immediately follows is Alto merging with the Vajra queen and disappearing to who knows where and Sheryl Nome finally succumbing to the disease she has been holding back against for the entire film and lands in a coma not knowing when she will wake up. In the end, the more empowered and wonderful Ranka Lee is left alone with her two idols in her life, possibly never being able to return. Yet, she is still herself and carries along all the messages that Alto and Sheryl imparted in her about confidence and great skill. It’s sad to see two young adults disappear from the galaxy but they both got what they wanted out of life because they wanted to sing/dance/be themselves or not be alive anymore.
Characters and Gender Roles
I’m just going to say this right now, Macross Frontier is what happens when you put a touch of Utena dna into the mix. Honestly, I really like these facts. It adds a lot of more complicated layers into the narrative of the film. That means a lot more exploration of genders roles and a system that wants everyone a specific way. Alto gets made fun of for his kabuki roles by being called a princess, but in this film he doesn’t care anymore. He doesn’t push away his emotions before the final battle like so many series do, he accepts them and uses them to push forward. So in that way, Alto has grown up a lot.
What interests me more is that in a lot of the film, Sheryl Nome does wear dresses, but she wears a lot of masculine clothes when performing or wearing prisoner clothing. She just looks good in everything, ok? Ranka does too, but a lot more kid-like and pure. It is also interesting that Alto is able to do more housewife things then either Ranka or Sheryl. I didn’t mention this in the first post, but Rank wanted to ask Alto on how to walk more femininely in the first film. That doesn’t make Alto any less of a pilot just as Ranka and Sheryl knowing less “housewife” things makes them any less of an idol whole audiences fall in love with. This is just an examination of these characters to make them more complex and well rounded then a lot of the manly men and womanly women that appear in the rest of the franchise.
The Finale of Macross Frontier: The Wings of Farewell
This film’s finale comes in two parts and its utter fun and insanity at the same time. The first part is the rescuing of Sheryl Nome from Alcatraz prison. It’s Ranka’s plan and it involve sher singing to the prisoners with some of the SMS as false Fire Bomber members. All of that to draw attention as Alto Saotome, in a goth Lolita dress with high heels, breaks out Sheryl Nome from prison. It’s utterly ridiculous and awesome in only a way that Macross can be. I love it so much that I’ve just been thinking about it since the film ended. There are some transition fights between characters escaping and making it to the Macross Quarter where Ozma and Brera fight and Sheryl Nome disappears, but there is a great flow of everything it just works.
Finally, there is the battle on the Vajra’s home planet. The VAjra being controlled and the queen slowly being merged by the on growing conspiracy of it all. That leads to a lot of epic musical numbers, great flight scenes, the Macross Quarter literally suffering through the planet’s atmosphere, and so many other things. It’s what all of what Macross 7 does but in a more contained package that feels insane and is insane, but again works at such great thematic levels for the story and the characters. I just couldn’t help but smile throughout the last half of the film because it just hits really hard.
Wrapping up The Wings of Farewell
Since this film came out two years later than The False Songstress, it looks so much better. The CF that does show up is really good and actually does stand up a lot more to what we can expect today. There is also so much color and life throughout the film with character designs that don’t know how to be anything else but attractive. Lets face it, our main cast can look good wearing any clothing they choose to wear. Then there is a lot of good space and planetary sets and great mechanical animation from the VF-25’s, the VF-29’s and all the space craft with their Macross cannons. It’s such a beautiful film that you can live in easily.
One again, this is not a flawless film. You don’t get to know the show’s side cast as much and there are a lot of plots and other things that aren’t as fleshed out as they could be. Still with two hours of time, the film is very smart and tightly written. The characters who matter get al the time they need to be who they are and develop in ways that just works. The themes of this series are also in there while also having a lot of fun in those scenes too. It’s such a great movie experience that I can’t help but love it. It’s a solid Frontier experience that worked better for me then the films there too. I’m so glad that I gave these two films a chance. Incredible.