Saturday, March 16, 2013

America a Frontier Too Far

Space fighter jets and singing magic that saves the world with love.
Hi everyone! I wanted to talk about something that has been on my mind a lot lately (and I guess in general for a long time) and that's Macross Frontier. First though, a little history lesson. The original SDF Macross was created and released in late 1982 in Japan by Big West and Tatsunoko. This show would eventually find its way to the U.S. in 1985 as the first part of the 3-series Frankenstein that would become Robotech. Robotech for those who don't know, was an American syndicated cartoon, made up of 3 different mecha-animes with similar styles. Harmony Gold, the company that held (and still does hold) the rights to SDF Macross, wanted to air Robotech on weekday syndicated TV, but the minimum number of episodes required at the time to do that was 65, so to make it work, they mashed three shows together, and spun a tenuous common thread between them.

Behold the glorious VF-25 Messiah. Awww yeah.
So that's SDF Macross. Since then, the U.S saw several other Macross productions that Harmony Gold had nothing to do with (and I'll get to that in a second), the Macross II and Macross Plus OVAs, neither of which were direct sequels to the original Macross. Harmony Gold did not try and assert its distribution rights over these films for whatever reason, only attempting to block Macross merchandise in 2001. Big West and Tatsunoko took it to court in Japan and it was determined that Harmony Gold would maintain distribution rights to the original SDF Macross in the U.S. but no other subsequent series. A lot of people believe that Harmony Gold is responsible for us not seeing Macross 7, Macross Zero, or most recently Macross Frontier in the US. Not so. Those things all happened probably because of the weakened market for anime in North America, and a weakened economy all around in general. So now we've established my best theory for why we don't have Macross Frontier (Which came out in the beginning of 2008 so I think we'd have seen it by now, though it isn't impossible that it still might be localized), and given the whole history of the franchise, why don't I actually tell you what it's about?

Thank god animation and art have improved since '82. Ouch.
The original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross was a mecha series detailing the crash of an alien ship onto Earth. The technology of the ship was reverse engineered to create a variety of advanced weapons, including the reconstructed ship (dubbed the SDF-1 Macross) and the VF-1 Valkyrie, the original fighter jet that transforms into a robot of the series. This ship was designed to allow the Earth forces to fight hand to hand and in space against the 42 foot tall Zentraedi, a race of massive and warlike aliens coming for the ship, and also to kill everyone on Earth while they were at it.

Behold the lovely Alto Saotome, in all HIS glory.
Macross Frontier takes place 47 years after the original, in the year 2059. It follows the journey of the 25th Macross Colonial Fleet, which is part of an initiative to spread humanity throughout the stars, to prevent the chance of extinction (which mankind narrowly skirted when the Zentraedi killed nearly everyone in the original Macross). More specifically, Macross Frontier follows Alto Saotome, as he becomes involved in the defense of the Macross Frontier, when he joins the S.M.S. (Strategic Military Services) after the Frontier is attacked by a mysterious race of bug-like aliens known as the Vajra. Also prominent to the story are two pop-singers: Sheryl Nome and Ranka Lee.

Sheryl (left) and Ranka. Kimi wa dare to kisu wo suru?
So this bears more explanation. Certain things are sort of staples to Macross series. First is the Macross itself, a massive battleship that is also a colony ship, and that can transform into a robot itself. Secondly, the Valkyrie, a fighter-jet that transforms into a robot, and also a half robot/half fighter form commonly referred to as gerwalk mode (I don't know folks cut me some slack here). Music is important to the plot too. There is always a singer (or two) who figure prominently into the plot. Because in Macross-world, music is powerful, because it conveys emotions, and love through the medium of song can and will change and save the world. There is also typically a love triangle between the male lead and two female characters. Macross Frontier is no exception to that, and here Alto is caught between Sheryl, a famous singer known as the Galactic Nymph, and Ranka Lee, a seemingly unimportant girl who becomes a famous singer herself, and whose songs have power on the same scale as Sheryl's.

Do you remember love?
I mean literal power here. In Macross Frontier, for reasons explained through the series, the singing of Sheryl and Ranka create waves in space that call out to, communicate with, and can influence the Vajra, and that makes the girls important as more than just sources of profit for record companies. So now I've established what it's about, more or less, why is it worth noting? Macross Frontier for starters is a gorgeous looking series. It blends fairly seamlessly 3D digital models (virtually all of the space battles are) with more traditional animation, (no awkward Blue Submarine no. 6 stuff going on here) and both look fantastic. If you are a fan of mecha anime or space battles, this show won't disappoint there either, with fantastic, grand scale space combat.

Jeez Ozma, take a guy on a date first.
Those are both great, but Macross Frontier offers something unique that you can't get from just any mecha series. The prominence of the music as actual parts of the plot mean that you have a stirring, grand soundtrack to the space battles, and while I'm sure everyone might not agree with me I think that the music is absolutely fantastic, and really enhances the show for me. There is what I consider to be a very gripping human drama playing out on the backdrop of a war in space, and the music is there to communicate that emotion. All of this combines to make a series that calls back many elements of the original Macross, while being a fantastically modern and superior series all around. It's just too bad that we have not yet, and probably will not see a North American release for it.

Maybe they'll find their way to us some day.
There's a Blue-Ray/DVD collection of it that you can buy off Amazon, but other than that it's the internet for you if you hope to see this show, and really if anything I said here sounds remotely appealing, you should. The anime is 25 episodes, and then there are two movies, and I recommend all of that. While I wait for any new Macross, or for the probably never happening localization, I guess I'll just have to play Strike Suit Zero with the Macross Frontier soundtrack playing in the background.

That's finally the end of my Macross ranting... for now xD I might put up some unboxing thoughts for a figure shipment I have inbound later this week, otherwise I will see you all next weekend!

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