After being threatened by extinction at the hands of alien invaders called the Zentradi, humanity undertook the task of guaranteeing itself a future by launching fleets of colony ships into space. On Macross Frontier, one such fleet, high school student Saotome Alto's life is changed forever: the fleet is suddenly attacked by unidentified creatures while he is performing aerial stunts for a concert by the wildly popular idol Sheryl. Alto quickly finds himself in the cockpit of a new-model fighter struggling to protect Ranka Lee, a young girl he met only hours earlier, from the invaders' swath of destruction. Noting his performance during this incident, the S.M.S. Skull Squadron private military company invites Alto to join their organization, where he continues protecting his friends and Macross Frontier.
StoryWant to watch a tragedy? Sit through the entirety of Macross Frontier. Then, contemplate what could have been made if the talent behind the anime had been used to make something besides a creatively brain-dead retread of a 20-year-old franchise. In the tradition of Hollywood, Macross F represents an enormous amount of time and money spent on something spectacularly shallow. For a while, the anime is enjoyable on its production values alone, since Macross F has the slickest combination of animation and sound released in a series this year. However, some glitzy animation and a deep, high quality soundtrack can only carry a work so far, and the plot never pulls together into the epic story promised in the first few episodes. Instead, Macross F continues to careen through its to-do list of key plot points, failing to engage the entire way through. Not only are the disparate elements of the show mediocre, but they never come together as a cohesive whole. Nothing fits together, from the predictable pop-star careers to the clumsy love triangle to the fights with boring bugs ripped straight out of Starship Troopers. In fact, at times the show feels like watching a four OVA story stretched into a 25 episode series. To compensate for the added length, the writers try to shoehorn superfluous plot thread after superfluous plot thread into the overarching story, and the final product is about as terrible as you’d expect: bloated, unorganized and in strong need of some ruthless cutting. The unforgivably sloppy ending is the final straw. The writers try to resolve every single one of their endless loose ends in less than five minutes so that they can spend the other fifteen minutes on yet another boring mecha battle. As a result, everything reeks of anticlimax.AnimationThe visuals are heavily aided by computers, and the resulting richness of detail is impressive. Granted, the incessantly glitzy style can get old at times; in particular, the luminous, almost neon color palette is a little painful. Still, no one is going to complain that the animators were underfunded. Arguably the best use of animation comes during the song performances. This is the best musical choreography that I have ever seen in an animated work, and no, nothing else comes close. I've lost count of how many times I've rewatched Ranka's performance of “Watashi no Kare wa Pilot.” Sadly, for all of the glitz and glamour, the action scenes are surprisingly yawn-inducing. While they’re by no means terrible, oftentimes they lack any sort of kinetic punch. By that, I mean that there's little sense of immediacy to the entire affair, and watching the fights occasionally feels more like tedious exercise than genuine excitement. Compared to the intensely frenetic battles in Macross Zero, this is a definite step backwards.SoundThe music is nice, at least. Some of Sheryl's songs are a little dull, but Ranka's singer has a great voice and some catchy songs to work with. Also, there's such a huge selection of songs that the show can pick and choose over the course of the series, ensuring none of tracks get old. Voice acting is workmanlike but unremarkable. Series like this illustrate how difficult giving a convincing performance can be when the script is ass.CharactersI’ve written about bloated casts before in my reviews of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion and My-Hime, and the same concept applies here. Given the depth of the narrative, there are about five times as many characters as the show really needed. A lot of the characters' only perceivable function is to take up space and make the story seem more epic than it is. The result is that I didn't care about anyone: not about the by-the-numbers protagonist (no, adding a ponytail is not innovation) and certainly not about the numerous contrived half-baked romances between the side-characters. The fact that Ranka (girl #1) also isn't likeable is telling of just how utterly the writers fail, because God knows they try to get the audience to care about her. Still, in spite of the endless GAMBATTE dialogue, in spite of the bullshit tragic backstory, in spite of the contrived amnesia plot device, in spite of the 5,000,000 yen character design, in spite of all of this, nothing works and the primary emotion associated with her is still "indifference." Sheryl (girl #2) fares slightly better, if for no other reason than that her personality actually feels vaguely different from the clichéd character archetypes that the rest of the characters so faithfully follow. However, since her main deviation from cliche is her nigh-infinite superciliousness, oftentimes “different” translates to “annoying.” All of this culminates into an absolute disaster of a love triangle, which is easily the least convincing of any Macross work released to date. Yes, worse than Zero's. With Zero, the characters aren't given enough dialogue to convince us that there is any real romance between them. With Macross F, the deluge of face-palm dialogue convinces us that there couldn't be any romance.OverallMacross F is mediocre from the very beginning, but the series is initially enjoyable on the strength of the visuals and music alone. However, this appeal gradually fades, and by the end, the only real appeal comes from finishing the damn thing. Throw in the terribad ending, and Macross F is one of the worst full length series I've finished in some time.
The latest incarnation of the classic Robotech series, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Macross franchise. I like the way they preserved the textures from the original, while vastly updating the action sequences with incredible computer enhancements. Many story elements in this series were very similar to the original, from Alto's rescue of Ranka (reminiscent of Rick's rescue of Minmei) to the beauty pageant to the wide use of song playing a pivotal role in battles. But this was a unique story overall, a very gripping story, with fantastic character dynamics and beautiful animation. Truly a masterpiece and a joy to watch.
For the 25th anniversary of the original Macross—known in the states as Robotech—we are given the product of Macross Frontier. Set in 2059, nearly fifty years after the original, Macross F tells the story of the fleet group Frontier as they make their way toward the center of the Milky Way Galaxy in hopes of finding a suitable planet to colonize. Macross F follows the story of three teenagers: Alto Saotome, a former kabuki actor with dreams of flying in a non-colony ship habitat, Ranka Lee, a waitress with dreams of becoming an idol singer, and Sheryl Nome, a traveling international superstar and Ranka’s favorite singer. The three are invariably thrust into the story together as the Frontier colony is attacked by unknown alien beings that somehow seem drawn to the colony. First, to be clear: Macross F is meant to, like all other Macross stories before it, be at heart a retelling of the original story. Like the Gundam series, Macross refrains similar characters and ideas almost like a musical composition and adds or subtracts elements to make it fresh and enjoyable. For anyone that is familiar with the original Macross or its Robotech localization in the States, the storyline will be extremely reminiscent and the characters regularly echo their Hikaru, Minmay, and Misa origins; however, they also break away from those origins just enough that none of the characters come across as absolute clones. Reverences to the original and other stories of the Macross universe abound, however, including but not limited to Ozma Lee’s similarities to Roy Focker, an iteration of the original Macross’ song "Watashi no Kare wa Pilot," and attack formations named for Macross 7's band Fire Bomber. The story itself is, in many ways, secondary to the characters and their interactions. Much as a Space Opera should, it really centers around the adventures of the three characters and their friends amidst a larger picture each only has a small part out of the whole. Alto is no Luke Skywalker or even comparable to his Gundam hero counterparts; he is, instead, a teenage boy that has just enough talent and just enough drive to carry him through the situations he is presented with. Ranka herself, though similar to Lynn Minmay of the original Macross, is no idle window dressing and grows up significantly through the series, from aspiring singer to the spiritual heart of the show and its themes of communication. Sheryl likewise goes through an evolution, though one might argue it is a devolution, as she starts the show as seemingly the most mature of the three but comes out of the story having learned the most from her younger counterparts. And that is, perhaps, the series strongest feature: a love triangle that never seems to favor either side and always gives each character a moment to shine. As Macross is known for its music, this series does not disappoint: indeed, in Japan, it smashed decade-old records for anime-related music sales. Singer-seiyuu Megumi Nakajima (Ranka) and singer May’n (Sheryl’s singing voice) have gone from unknown singers prior to the show to selling out Japan’s Budokan Stadium for their performances. The setting music is no slouch either, as Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell) once again delivers an extremely complex yet sympathetic score that sets up both energetic battle sequences and startlingly poignant moments between the cast. Animation is slick and colorful and hardly looks like anything else in the market today. Although jarring to some extent, the integration of CGI visuals for space battles is some of the smoothest integration of CGI in two-dimensional animation to date, and the well-done pacing and energy of the battle sequences help obfuscate the disconnect between the two. Of any mecha series, this is probably the easiest show to simply slip into, watch, enjoy, and feel entertained by without the headaches caused by the browbeating shows in the Gundam series evoke. That being said, it is still deep enough and its themes on love and life are still strong enough that it is more than mere popcorn entertainment.
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