In the year 2059, the unified forces of mankind and Zentradi have continued their march through the stars, using warp fold technology to colonize an ever-increasing number of planets.
As the Macross Frontier fleet approaches the centre of the universe, a new threat emerges in the form of the insectoid Vajra. The military is rendered powerless to react by bureaucracy and reliance on obsolete weaponry so the defence of the Frontier is entrusted to the private security contractor SMS.
Among those caught in the crossfire are the aspiring young ex-kabuki actor pilot Alto Saotome, galactic superstar singer Sheryl Nome, and the young, cheerful quarter-Zentradi schoolgirl Ranka Lee. Between them lies the destiny of the Frontier, and possibly, of all mankind.
I'll be blunt: I don't like mecha. If I like a show that has mecha in it then it will be for a reason completely unrelated to the mecha, they are like a black hole in my viewing. Do you know what I also don't like - idol singers. A squeaky-voiced girl singing along to a backing track, dressed up in the most ridiculous outfit that her company could find, is not my idea of entertainment and both of these things are what Macross Frontier promised me. So why did I end up watching it? Knowing that the ingredients disagreed with me, why eat the meal? It was a challenge, you see. My esteemed colleague described this series as, and I horribly paraphrase him here, a series good enough that even people who aren't even Macross fans could enjoy it. My thinking is, if there is anyone who isn't a Macross fan (Mecha plus idol singers, remember) then it would have to be me. So let's put that claim to the test.
I'll admit that my first thoughts were coloured impressed. The shine, the warmth of the colours, the detail of the design considering both the characters and the environment and the slickness of the animation are proud witnesses of the effort and the money that have gone into this series. I dare say, at the point of this review's conception, that there are less than a handful of series that could even think of competing blow for blow in terms of the visual splendour that this show has to offer. It manages to marry a smart and artistic sense of aesthetics with what is obviously a weighty budget. I applaud the animation and design teams at Satelight. They have outdone themselves here.
The music, while not to my tastes, is also surprisingly adequate. I at least never found myself looking to skip any of the song sequences and found myself frequently impressed by Megumi Nakajima's singing, as Ranka Lee. I'll give it to the show once again; they certainly have given it their best with what they've wanted to do. The vocal performances are spot on, both in song and in speech, (Hiroshi Kamiya as Mikhail seems to relish every line he has) and even the background music blends seamlessly with whatever is on the screen.
In terms of story, the show doesn't go about pushing any boundaries; the love triangle, the political intrigue, the alien force but where this show excels is blending all these things together. In some shows, certain aspects of the plot overwhelm others; maybe the romance seems so much more compelling than the main narrative or vice versa. The brilliance of Macross Frontier is that it weaves its diverse aspects into one compelling show. The love triangle between Alto, Sheryl and Ranka never seemed out of place with the show's action and they both manage to be equally interesting and relevant to the plot progression in both subtle and direct ways. Never does this how feel like a romance with action or an action show with romance but a full action-romance.
The characters are the same. They might fit into neat character dynamic slots but the series takes the time to build them carefully into relatable, interesting beings. The character progression throughout the show's runtime is steady and enjoyable with even a reasonable number of side characters getting the same treatment. Overall, we get a likeable, multi-dimensional cast that interacts simply but well. My personal favourites would have to be the delightfully voiced and developed Ranka and Mikhail, who I found endearing as both character types and as fleshed-out characters as they grow in confidence and affection respectively.
Now... as much as I hate to talk about endings, even vaguely, I feel compelled to. It wasn't definitive enough for me. In fact, I felt that it was perhaps downright cowardly. It leaves too much unresolved that I personally feel should have been resolved and I was disappointed considering how much I had enjoyed the build up. It's also annoying because the things they don't resolve are the aspects of the show that were the least bit uncertain. Most of the show exists, thanks to its unashamed use of age-old narrative techniques and established character dynamics, in a state of solid certainty and it is a testimony to its excellence that still manages to be compelling with that but it only makes it more bitterly disappointing to see those uncertain aspects never resolved.
Is there anything else to say? Macross Frontier reminds me of those big-budget Hollywood drama series that never really push the envelope in terms of characters, plot or narrative style but power through with well-applied cash and a boundless competence in delivery. It's like getting a delicious cake on your birthday, it's hardly the last thing you would expect but it is still a delicious cake that you are going to enjoy greatly, even if the aftertaste isn't exactly the best in this case.
I'll admit that the ending really bothered me and a show that relied so heavily on its overwhelming competence needed to finish better than that. That said, I'd recommend this to anyone - it has romance, it has action and most of everything in between. Undoubtedly, Macross Frontier is a very good show and well worth your time. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: Teens and up. This series harkens back to the original Macross, right down to onscreen deaths. The modern twist is Sheryl being even more fan-servicey than Macross 7's Mylene -- at least one of her outfits might have been lifted from Sorcerer Hunters.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (25/25)
Macross Frontier © 2008 Big West / Macross F Production Committee / MBS
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