My history with Macross Frontier is one of dispassionate apathy, filled with its ups and downs and often accompanied by an insatiable urge to drive whoever decided to hammer that Aimo song into every single episode into a brick wall. Other than that, I have nothing much to say about it. As far as anime series goes, it did very few things wrong, but felt like it was just playing it safe. Really, I can find hardly any faults with it that aren’t just my own personal gripes (Too much fucking Ranka), and I’d daresay that it deserves almost all the praise lavished on it. At least when Sheryl has a prominent enough role.
But something about it just doesn’t click with me. Maybe it’s the often overwrought drama, or the sheer smugness of Alto as we see his rise from humble (read: galaxy famous) kabuki star to accomplished pilot. In any case, the biggest problem that I have with Macross Frontier is definitely the characters and their interactions with each other. It’s quite the shame, because it’s a sterling example of almost everything else right with anime… except Alto.
Having completely skipped the first movie for this reason, I dove right into the second with the intent of wasting an evening watching something very pretty. I’ll be perfectly honest here, it came very close to perfection before taking a nosedive right toward a crash landing. The plot wasn’t terribly dense, the animation and sound were top tier, the action was fluid… and hell, Sheryl was fantastic. I would sell my soul to get a version of this centered entirely on Sheryl without Ranka and Alto also taking up the spotlight. She’s the only character with real human flaws in the entire damn thing, and plays a tragic figure exceptionally well.
With that said, here are five things that annoyed me. While nowhere near as banal as my criticisms for the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, I could still probably throw these aside and enjoy the movie quite a bit. Of course, be warned that there are spoilers. So here they are, my biggest problems with Macross Frontier: The Wings of Goodbye!
Too Much Fucking Ranka!
I don’t know what it is about Ranka that makes me hate her so much. Maybe it’s the way she usurped Sheryl’s popularity, while being entirely oblivious to it the entire time. Maybe it’s the fact that she found a mysterious alien life form in the same area that she had a run-in with the Vajra and thought it a good idea to take it home with her just because it looked cute. Or maybe it’s the way she looks. Something about her rubs me the wrong way, and no mere reduction of her faffing about will change that. Yeah, she wasn’t as big a focus here as she was in the series, but she still had entirely too much screen time being too incompetent. About the only positive thing I’ll say about her is her hair, when animated, is actually pretty damn neat. And she got rejected at the end, which made me feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy, once again proving that pettiness is good fun sometimes.
Grace Would Not Fucking Die!
I actually liked Grace in this. Despite still being a scheming, slippery snake, you could tell that she saw Sheryl as more than a means to an end. Granted, not much more than one, but I’ll still take it. Still, when you want a character to die, make sure you do the damn job. It’s not like she’s a Terminator… the forces after her are just too inept as to make her seem like one. She gets maybe ten big minutes of screen time before she pops up every so often to harass our team for no reason plot-wise. Her only purpose is to bring the symbiotes in contact with the Vajra Queen, and it shows.
This isn’t so much a fault with the film, since it does work in context, as it is just my personal taste not meshing with that of the story. Actually, this seemed to be a problem in general with the movie.
The Characters Would Not Stay Dead!
Those of you who don’t want to be reading spoilers and have read this far against your better judgment might want to stop now. Two important characters come very close to death at around the midpoint of the film, both in the vacuum of space: Sheryl and Luca. While Luca is silently disposed of by having his oxygen supply cut while performing routine maintenance, Sheryl almost loses her life during the second big climax of the film, letting go of Alto so he could save Ranka from the same fate.
As shown, it was entirely possible, though a bit of a stretch, for the two to be saved in time. The problem that I have with it is how lazy the plot development is. Story-wise, it’s a one trick pony, something that only works once under certain circumstances. And with Luca almost dying, it did work very well. Once Sheryl was also saved, I grew a bit more skeptical in regards to the capability of the writing. “Killing off” a character is something that you do when you have absolutely nowhere to use them at that time, or when you want impact. The latter of which doesn’t repeat, so I can only chalk it up to laziness. Also, Ranka didn’t die.
Alto is a Fucking Tool!
Do I really need to explain more? The guy has no redeeming qualities, the anime equivalent of a hagfish that eats babies for a living. Hell, if they replaced him with the hagfish I’d be a hell of a lot happier with him.
Too Many Ineffectual Moments!
Anime and Japanese media in general seem to have a strange fascination with this. A character is given unbeatable skill or the chance to run from a monologuing foe, and doesn’t get the chance to not stand in place gawking with their dumb eyes wide open, either not shooting when they could or having somebody take a shot that took way too long to line up. I assume it’s supposed to ramp up the drama, but it just looks silly. Once again, Alto had too many of these moments. Actually, Sheryl was the only main character who didn’t, always managing to do something to keep herself endeared to the audience.
I feel the need to restate that this was a perfectly fine movie that nearly brushed against perfection, but had one too many Deus Ex Machina moments to keep it from maintaining that level for long. As it stands, it’s a fine looking film that nonetheless has a few problems that I can’t ignore. I can sure brush them away from the forefront of my mind, but some part of me will always scream that this scene is too poorly utilized, or that Alto needs to die, or holy shit look at Sheryl.
I would recommend this to anybody who has enjoyed the Macross Frontier series, and I assume the first movie, but nobody else will likely find much to keep their interest.