Aftermath, Just A Few Years Later

What feels like a long, long time ago, I hung out on the message boards of the Mac shareware company Ambrosia Software. I talked with like minded kids about things like games and movies and tech. The Ambrosia forums must have been my first real push out into the world of internet friends.

Along the way I did my first coding/hacking/game design by making levels and missions and even an interesting Star Trek themed total conversion for the hybrid space action / real time strategy game Ares.

Later, as I got sucked into the world of the space action RPG Escape Velocity: Override, I began my earliest fray into writing and fan fiction. You can still find my series of short stories of Captain Ragashingo and the crew of the heavily armed cargo transport the Indigo Star over at I still write to this day because of those early stories I shared with others on the Ambrosia boards.

A few years later, the third game in the Escape Velocity series, Escape Velocity: Nova, came out and a year or two later this secretive group of mission editors, 3d graphics experts, and storyline writers in our little Ambrosia community started posting the smallest teases of something they called Aftermath. It's wan't quite a Total Conversion where the ships and planets and universe were replaced by a different one, instead it was a surprisingly high quality continuation of the 3rd game's universe set some decades later. It was one of the most anticipated EV:N project going, but very few people knew anything about it.

Around that time I had gotten into making landscapes with a free program called Terragen. It had a Mac version and I got somewhat decent at it. Even won a weekly challenge over at the company's web boards for best landscape created without all the fancy add-ons the PC version supported! Then, one day, out of the blue, someone from this hush hush Aftermath team approached me. They'd seen my work on the Ambrosia boards (I think we had a Just Graphics sub forum or something) and they invited me to join.

Aftermath was even cooler than it seemed. We had so many ship and planet graphics that we were pushing the limits of what the Escape Velocity engine could handle. We had so much story and so many complex missions planned that we were far and away past the limits the engine could support. We got the engine changed and updated to support some of the stuff we wanted to do, but our project was still so big that we figured we'd need to split the experience up into several different parts based on which storyline and faction a player wanted to play.

My poor 400Mhz Indigo iMac DV and later iBook G4 spent night after night rendering for upwards of 24 hours for each individual landing picture. I completed hundreds of them, one for each planet you could land on. I also convinced the other Aftermath team members that I could be a story / mission writer, too. I had a neat plot line called Detective Story in mind where the player could become something of a upstanding bounty hunter and could, with a bunch of tricky behind the scenes scripting, build their own fleet of allies that they could send on missions to help them hunt targets. It would have featured a lot of writing, a strong plot, and, my favorite part, you could also play the same story from the point of view of the bad guys. You'd have to play the storyline twice, once from each point of view, to truly understand everything.

The Aftermath team was spread out across the US with at least a couple of us even further away. We chatted on IRC and AOL Instant Messenger and on our own private boards. We encouraged each other and nagged each other and sometimes had little arguments about the direction of the project. We even once got social engineered into accidentally letting someone into our hidden forums where they stole some of our in-progress work and tried to show it to the Escape Velocity community! Fortunately we had some friends in high(er) places who helped shut that down.

Eventually, the Aftermath project died out. Honestly, most of us were just high school students making our way toward college. Lots of other things became more important. That, and the scope of the project was legitimately quite large, at least as large as any of the Escape Velocity games that sold for $20 or $30 back in the day, and few of us had any real experience managing something that big.

Still, we produced a bunch of cool stuff that never really saw the light of day, and we hand some grand plans to produce even more. A couple of the other team members have revisited their memories of Aftermath in the past few weeks, so I thought it would be fun to join in. Sadly, I don't think I have any of my actual landing pic renders (though maybe one of the other members does? I believe they were integrated into the playable version of our work...) though I do have a few of my best pics that I rendered at a larger size for my 1.2Ghz iBook G4. I'll throw up a gallery later to show those off.

I also have some of the world building short stories and some of the early missions of Detective Story. I'd love to share those and some of the larger concepts of what I was wanting to do with my slice of Aftermath's very ambitious narrative and gameplay goals.

Aftermath may have fizzled, but it was a fun time, and if just a few more things had gone right or even if the internet was a more common medium like it is today, we might have all be paid game developers back then! We certainly generated a lot of interest and respect from our peers in our community. So, here's to Aftermath, by far the biggest and most ambitious of the EVN community led projects!

Macross Frontier Episode Guide 27: Wings of Goodbye

Like the first movie, we start this movie with a voiceover while looking at a purple star field. This time though, we quickly move to a new Sheryl Nome production of the song “Forbidden Elixir.” Last time, Sheryl played the parts of white and black bunnies in her big opening number. This time, she plays both wife and husband! At the end of all the amazing, over the top special effects, Sheryl collapses on stage… and it isn’t part of the show. 

The recap that follows the concert does a pretty good job of summing up the first movie and brings us to the aftermath of Sheryl’s collapse. She is playing it off as nothing big and even goes so far to tell Ranka that she is fine. It is amusing to see Alto roped into playing the role of her escort. I like here how Alto and Ranka get along and are able to share little secrets like the friends (best friends?) that they’ve been set up to be by the first movie. It’s also amusing that Sheryl is still at least partially funding the SMS! 

The next scene with Grace in her virtual space talking to her co-conspirators makes it pretty clear that the Galaxy’s plot to rule the universe is very much alive and well. This time, they are even talking about some sort of operation or transplant to combine Sheryl and Ranka’s powers, but some of the intelligences are unsure about it because the procedure might kill both Sheryl and Ranka. That’s a pretty big change from the series where Grace basically only wanted Ranka and all but left Sheryl to die cold and alone. The end goal still seems to be to using singing and perhaps fold quartz to analyze the Vajra’s control protocol, however. This time, we get a clearer indication that Leon is aware of the Galaxy’s plot as he is listening in on their conversation. 

Next up we have… huh… a beach episode! Seems about time. Macross 7 had a tropical ship of a different shape but similar interior to this one in the Frontier fleet. Macross Zero was one long beach episode, sorta, I guess. (It was set on a tropical island, at least.) Macross Plus never went down to a beach but there was a scenic overlook. Macross Delta is largely set on a tropical planet and there are scenes of beaches. Probably SDF: Macross and Do You Remember Love? are the only shows in Macross’ long history to not have anything resembling a beach episode. That said, despite the volleyball, and surfing, and scuba diving, and sun reflecting off the ocean, this part of the movie actually has a good bit of foreshadowing and importance. The question of whether the Vajra can feel is a part of that, but there’s also smaller hints at some fun thing to come. 

In the next scene, partially overlapping with the beach episode scenes, we see that Sheryl really is sick. She is dying perhaps even more obviously than in the series where she mainly just fainted. It seems one option for Sheryl is to become a full body cyborg like Grace. But this would apparently put an end to her singing career, though we’re not told exactly how. Here, for the first time, Grace brings up the “kill Ranka and transplant her organs” option. The translation I have talks about transplanting Ranka’s blood, but every other mention fully implies that Ranka will not be alive at the end of the procedure. Even what Grace says in the car trip to Ranka’s concert had that implication.

Ranka’s opening number, “Rainbow Colored Bear” is amazingly well done, but Sheryl looks so sad during most of it. Is it because she knows that the plan is to kill Ranka soon afterwards?

Out ahead of the Frontier fleet, SMS is conducting an operation to clear out a Vajra nest. Ranka’s thoughts about the Vajra having emotions return to Alto as he is trying to find a way to kill the queen controlling the local swarm. Alto is badly injured when the queen stabs through the center of his Valkyrie, but before he ejects he notices that the Vajra are helping their wounded out of harms way. Note that in this version, Alto does manage to grab Sheryl’s earring before ejecting. 

Later, Sheryl races to Alto’s bedside on the news that he was wounded only to find him well on the road to recovery. As Sheryl and Alto are having moment, both indoors and later outdoors, Grace is carrying out her plot to take over Frontier. Apparently the refugees that SMS rescued, the one that Sheryl personally paid at least 150 million credits to save, were in actuality cyborgs from the Galaxy fleet whose job it is to infiltrate and kill their way into control of the Frontier fleet! 

The moment with Sheryl and Alto is interesting, because while Sheryl knew about Alto’s past like in the series, this time around she pleads with him to go back to acting and stop risking his life as a pilot. Unfortunately, Ranka finds the two of them together, though the moment doesn’t seem quite as dramatic or spirit breaking for Ranka as it was in the series. 

What happens next, though, is very different. Grace’s plans that had been going so smoothly are suddenly and violently ended as Frontier’s covert forces under Leon’s command kill most of the Galaxy infiltrators. They even open fire on Grace herself as she tries to surrender! Leon shows up personally to apprehend Sheryl, and calls her out specifically for using her fold quartz earrings to lure the Vajra to Frontier! And, by the way Sheryl turns her head in shame when Alto declares that it isn’t true, Leon may even be right about that! Sheryl is immediately booked into prison and, according to wartime law, she is to be executed without even a trial. 

Alto takes Sheryl’s acts as something of a betrayal. He nearly throws away her earring, but for some reason can’t do it. Ranka, however, heads to the island prison, the one we’ve seen in the distance in several shots even in the first movie, to learn more about Sheryl’s true feelings. In the end, Sheryl admits that she loves Alto at least as much as Ranka does.

Later, when Luca complains about Sheryl’s treatment, Leon threatens him and his sister, a sister that never existed in the TV series that we know of, and later has one of his men cut Luca’s lifeline during a spacewalk and shove him to his doom. Fortunately, Luca’s actions were backed by the SMS and he is quickly rescued. We also get a brief moment between Ranka and Brera where Brera reveals Leon’s plot to take over the Vajra.  And that he is Ranka’s brother. That fact felt a bit shoved in this time around. There’s also a great scene between Alto and Ozma where Ozma explains how everyone, not just Alto, is always playing roles. 

With all these little pieces coming together, SMS goes rogue similar to how it did in the series, and they start by enacting a crazy plan to rescue Sheryl. A plan that involves several SMS members dressing up as a knockoff band called the Lovely Bombers that looks an awful lot like the band Fire Bomber from the Macross 7 anime series. While Ranka and the Lovely Bombers distract the guards and inmates, Luca hacks the prison’s security systems and Alto, dressed up as a girl, goes to break Sheryl out of her jail cell.

Ranka, Alto, and Sheryl make their escape from the prison but are met by Brera who intends to continue with Galaxy’s plan to kill Ranka to empower Sheryl. A tense running battle ensues between Brera and Ozma, the latter who shows up at the last second to save the day. Then, when things look to be at their worst, a hit from the battle with the Vajra outside tears open a hole in the hull and threatens to suck most of the main characters out into space. In a great moment, Sheryl purposely sacrifices herself to push Ranka to safety! 

Meanwhile, President Glass’ decision to go with Leon’s plan to take control of the Vajra appears to be successful. This time, instead of battling impossible odds, Leon’s forces reach the Vajra homeworld while in control of an increasingly sizable force of Vajra as brainwashed escorts. Or, the plan would have been successful for Leon’s forces if Brera had not single-handedly taken out everyone on Battle Frontier’s bridge. It seems that that masterminds behind the Galaxy’s infiltration of Frontier were just a bit more prepared than we were lead to believe. 

Alto, Ranka, and the other SMS survivors follow Island 1 and Battle Frontier to the Vajra homeward onboard the Macross Quarter. Ranka finally confesses her love to Alto. In this movie timeline, she plays Sheryl’s role from the series where she asks Alto not to respond because she is unsure she’d be able to sing if she knew his answer either way. Afterwards, Alto engages the Vajra in a terrific high speed, mostly bloodless dogfight set to Ranka’s new song “Houkago Overflow” (After School Overflow). The animation here is great, especially as Macross Quarter itself dives down into the atmosphere using a large chunk of Island 1’s damaged shell as first a heat shield and then a sky surf board! Remember Captain Wilder surfing during the beach episode segment? Alto finally realizes that the Vajra are being controlled through the implant missiles that Frontier’s forces hit them with, but his fighter takes a hard hit moments before he can tell the others. 

Alto fades to black and in his place we see a memory that we first think is from Alto’s point of view but soon we learn that it is actually from Sheryl’s. Both she and Ozma survived their spacing thanks to a quick intervention by Ai-kun. What’s more, Grace somehow escaped too and comes to Sheryl’s rescue as best she can. Most notably, she retrieved the fold quartz earring that Leon had under research directly off to the side of her containment tank. With her earring back, Sheryl begins to sing and her song is able to revive Alto who mounts a rescue. For the first time, Alto recognizes that Sheryl is that same little girl as the one who was at one of his kabuki plays and who promised that she would someday shake the galaxy. 

Alto is finally able to relay his report about the Vajra implants and SMS is able to start cutting or shooting the key bits off the mind-controlled Vajra, freeing them from Galaxy’s control. Thus begins a fantastic repeat of the Nyan Nyan service melody from the series (now called Nyan Nyan Final Attack) where many of the same things happen like where the freed Vajra gather to protect Island 1 and Macross Quarter from a blast fired by the enemy Vajra/Galaxy hybrid. Macross Quarter looks to be dead in the Vajra’s sights, but fortunately, SMS and NUNS received their distress call in time and sent a fleet to help stop the enslavement of the Vajra. 

Sheryl and Ranka are reunited and begin the final battle song of the movie. Alto and Brera have a spectacular dogfight as Alto helps spread Sheryl and Ranka’s song to the Vajra and their captive queen. Between Ranka, Alto, and Sheryl, they are able to free Brera from his own implant. Afterwards, Brera makes the ultimate sacrifice to kill the grotesque bodies of the Galaxy plot’s masterminds. The Vajra queen catches Alto as friendly forces fire multiple Macross cannons in its direction. It should be the end of Alto and the queen, but the queen uses its immense fold distortion powers to allow Alto a final few seconds to say goodbye to Ranka and let him almost express his love for Sheryl before it folds him and itself safely out of harm’s way. The rest of the Vajra soon follow, leaving the planet to humanity. 

Unfortunately, as the battle ends, Sheryl’s body finally succumbs to her V-Type infection and she collapses. In an aftermath recap, Ranka narrates the situation a month after the final battle. Alto is still missing. Sheryl looks to have had some surgery and a blood transfusion from Ranka, but is still in a coma. The survivors of the Frontier fleet are beginning their colonization of the Vajra homeworld. 

Macross Frontier ends with several scenes from both the first movie and this one played alongside the credits. It seems to be a very somber ending, except for two things: 

First, the final animated scene of the movie shows Sheryl singing in her sleep and in the final moments has her earring sparkle. 

Second, Sheryl and Ranka share a fun, fast paced duet together as the credits come to an end. This song was confirmed to be set after Sheryl wakes up. 

Whether this means Alto came back like Ranka was sure would happen has no solid confirmation, even as I write this closing in on ten years after the end of Macross Frontier. I like to think he did, though. 

Specific Scenes I Loved: 

Ranka’s singing on Aimo on the beach. The whole scene was very pretty and had some great camera angles that made it feel larger / movie sized. 

Rainbow Colored Bear, Ranka’s bright, oversaturated opening song is one of my favorite songs / visuals in all of Macross. It is more cartoonish than most of my other favorites, but the visuals are extremely well animated and the lyrics fit those visuals so perfectly! Plus, there are so many cute things going on you almost need to go back and watch it frame by frame to see the little transformation generated by Ranka’s magics. Whereas many of Sheryl’s songs are about lost love, it’s nice to have a contrast by Ranka that is all about perseverance and obtaining one’s dreams. 

Sheryl’s explanation of what it means to her to sing. It’s interesting that Alto has at least some fond memory of his time on stage, as well. Or, at least, he understands exactly what Sheryl means because of his own experiences.

Ranka and Sheryl in prison. Sheryl’s outburst about being a normal person and not the Galactic Fairy that everyone makes her out to be was a neat touch.  

Sheryl’s ultimate sacrifice. I did not expect this at all, and I love how much emotion they conveyed between Sheryl and Alto with just a look and a tear drop. 

That *squish* that the hook makes when Grace causes it to hit that poor researcher’s face.  

The scene where Alto is grieving for Sheryl and Ozma but also knows that there is nothing wrong with being sad and using that sadness to save others. 

Movie Impressions

To me, this movie feels like the most correct version of Macross Frontier’s story. I never really liked the Vajra being the unstoppable, unlimitedly adaptable enemy they were in the series, so just having them as a powerful enemy that could ultimately be hijacked for nefarious purposes felt better to me. 

The Galaxy fleet’s plot felt better too. In the series, we never really learned the fate of the Macross Galaxy fleet. I guess it was destroyed when Grace and company hijacked Battle Galaxy and left the civilians to die? In this version, the destruction of the Galaxy fleet is far more confirmed. But, more than that, Grace even used the SMS rescue mission to further her plans by making sure her people were among those being rescued. 

Ultimately, if you combine Grace’s actions with what Leon says in this movie, it seems that both the Galaxy and Frontier fleets started to realize the power of fold quartz at the same time and made overt and covert moves against each other until one of them beat the other to the prize. It’s a pretty interesting backdrop and a pretty big change from the series where it mostly appeared that Grace went crazy when the Vajra attacked the 117th research fleet, and she got a few members of the Galaxy fleet to go along with her crazy plans. 

Of course, we still had that research fleet destroyed. It’s interesting how this time the research fleet’s demise was due to Mao Nome overreaching in her efforts to use songs to communicate with the Vajra. From Sheryl’s description in this movie and in the previous one, it sounded like Mao was trying to adapt the Mayan “song of the wind” to reach the Vajra. But, instead of communicating with humanity, they attacked in an effort to save Ranka from being held captive by humans. In some ways, it’s still a sad fate for Mao Nome, but I also kind of like it because it give the Macross universe this sort of feeling that maybe sometimes the heroes of one show won’t always be the heroes of the next one. Sometimes they get wiped out instead! 

I think one of the most interesting things this movie did was make Sheryl Nome one of the bad guys. Ok… it didn’t really do that, but it kinda did. Sheryl knew about the search for Ranka even in the first movie. She knew that her home fleet was actively in competition with the Frontier fleet. In this movie, specifically, she very nearly agreed with or at least reluctantly went along with killing Ranka to preserve her own life. And, when it finally came down to it, she accepted and confirmed the accusations made against her. Accusations that included knowingly leading the Vajra to attack the Frontier fleet which must have resulted in tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of deaths. Sheryl was ready to die for her crimes and she even sacrificed herself to save Ranka. The only reason Sheryl was not really considered a villain by Alto and the SMS was that both Grace and the Galaxy as well as Leon and the Frontier were far worse. Both wanted to at least enslave another sentient species and were willing to spend many, many lives to reach their goals. Realistically, Sheryl is the one thing that has lived on well after the end of Macross Frontier, so there was no way they’d let her be seen as evil. 

One questions I’ve always struggled with is whether these two movies are a good substitute to watching the Macross Frontier tv series. In many ways, the movies have better plots. They better define many of the characters and certainly do a better job at making the Galaxy fleet’s intentions and wrongs known to the audience. Ranka also gets a good bit better treatment in the movies than she did in the tv show. Instead of running away and abandoning a fleet of missions of people, she helped save both humanity and the Vajra from the Galaxy fleet’s evil plots! The songs are bigger. The animation is more consistent. The movies have a more definite end than the series which kinda reset to zero, especially as far as the love triangle was concerned. 

On the other hand, the movies cut out a lot of the callbacks and references to past Macross works that made the Macross Frontier Series kinda special. We also got a good few less cool dogfights. No Alto vs Pixie Squadron. No Klan vs Brera. No Alto vs that Zentradi commander at Gallia 4. And, some of the scenes that were changed, like Ranka meeting Sheryl for the first time, or Ranka’s shock at seeing Alto and Sheryl together after her big performance just weren’t as impactful as they were in the series. 

Ultimately, I think the movies are strong enough to stand on their own, but, I would tell anyone skipping to the movies that they will be missing some great moment, especially if they are fans of past Macross works. 

Normally, I use this spot to note key things that first time viewers might not have picked up on that would come back up in the future… but there is no future. This is the end of Macross Frontier. Except for two things. If you are looking for just a little bit more Frontier, I’d suggest the following: 

1. Track down the music clip show. It tends to be listed as something like “Macross F Music Clip Collection”. It’s about 30 minutes of new and updated animation for around seven of Frontier’s main songs. There’s also fun little Q&A segments with Sheryl and Ranka that are very short but pretty well done in terms of character and content. There’s no real plot, but if you liked Frontier’s music and its songstresses, you’ll like this. 

2. Go find Macross FB7. This one is a bit more out there, because FB7 is actually a strange movie-length retelling of the Macross 7 tv series, but with little Macross Frontier segments in between. Basically, Ozma finds a VHS tape of Macross 7 and he and several of the other characters from Frontier gather in his apartment to watch the older series as if they were long lost historical footage or something. I don’t really like Macross 7 as a show, but if you had to watch it, condensed down into movie form with frequent breaks with Frontier’s characters is about the best way to watch it. There’s also a great musical number with Sheryl and Ranka at the end where they play tributes to a series of Fire Bomber songs. That part is pretty cool and I believe it is the last substantial bit of Macross Frontier animation ever produced. 

Moment to Moment Notes: 

0:45 – That cross Sheryl is praying at looks remarkably like a Mayan Island bird human totem as seen in Macross Zero.

3:16 – See the MBS building in the background? That stands for Macross Broadcasting System and is a reference to the tv transmission system the civilians aboard the original Macross set up in the middle part of SDF: Macross.

3:34 – In this movie, Sheryl’s voice already has the power to generate fold waves.

4:30 – At first, I was not sure if Sheryl’s collapse was part of the production or not. 

7:57 – In the upper right holoscreen is an advertisement for Ranka’s model of cellphone! Later those screens show some very old Astro Boy clips… not all of which are child friendly… 

10:32 – I like how Ranka and Alto are friends in this version of the story. I think maybe it adds a little something that was missing from the original story. It gives Ranka a better reason to be hanging around with the rest of the cast, at the very least.

11:18 – Keep the word “transplant” in mind for later scenes. I believe the Galaxy group’s intentions may be slightly mistranslated later to things like “transfusion” where the idea of a full on organ transplant is what the plot and original language intend to convey. 

11:41 – Again, I think this version of the story is slightly improved by the Galaxy refuge fleet having more of a point than it did in the tv show. 

13:53 – Sheryl has two different voice actresses, one for normal talking and one for singing. Ranka, however, was voiced by one novice actress who was chosen for Frontier from a Japan-wide search. It is likely that she had / was personally experiencing all the hardships of being a singer and actress that she talks about in this voice over. 

14:47 – Beautiful.

15:56 – I always appreciate a good scene where once character talks over and cuts off the other. The voice work / editing was done really well here. 

18:09 – Sheryl’s illness gets a better arc as well in the movie.

18:53 – So, at least according to Grace, her group from the galaxy is just looking for Code Q1 (Ranka) who can fight the Vajra with her singing. 

20:49 – I’m not sure how correct the translation here is. Sheryl is much to sad/conflicted about this plan for it to simply be a blood transfusion. Given everything else that is said, I think the plan is to kill Ranka and then harvest her for the blood/organs necessary to save Sheryl. Sheryl seems to say this exact thing in a later scene… 

21:48 – A Boddole Zer Mobile Fortress is at the heart of any of the thousands of warlike Zentradi fleets that roam the galaxy. Humanity fought one of these in “Do You Remember Love?”. This appears to be another example of one. 

24:14 – I love the use of holography to transform members of the audience! 

26:26 – There’s that interceptor graphic whose like we first saw back in the “Do You Remember Love?” movie. 

38:49 – The performance of Diamond Crevasse that is playing in the videos is actually a complete music video that was produced alongside a few others for a special 30+ minute musical clip show. The full version is very beautiful and touches on Sheryl’s time as an orphan on the Galaxy. 

40:48 – See what they did there? With the triangle. On the ground. And in the relationship. :p

41:51 – So I guess Grace was going under a different name when interacting with the Galaxy and she really is Grace O’Connor of the 117th research fleet… Seems like maybe she should have changed her first name as well? 

42:20 – Sheryl’s resigned look says that it’s true. That she really did lure the Vajra in! That’s a pretty shocking change for the character! 

47:47 – So they introduced a sister for Luca and seemingly placed her somewhat in Cathy’s old role as a romantic interest of Leon’s…

50:54 – “What happened to your van again?” “Uh… some cyborg from the Galaxy fleet jumped on top of it while fleeing flying cloaked jetpack troopers…” 

52:24 – It’s nice to see someone tell Alto to get over himself…

56:53 – So… that means the SMS maxed out Sheryl’s credit card? 

58:23 – Note the water tower, “Ranka & Lovely Bomber”. This is a pretty direct reference to the Macross 7 band Fire Bomber and, in fact, the members of Ranka’ support team are dressed up and playing the roles of Fire Bomber members. Michael is dressed as Basara Nekki (stupid pointy hair and all!), Klan is dressed as Mylene Jenius and matches that character’s stature and clothing pretty closely. SMS’s medic Canaria Berstein is playing the drums dressed as Veffidas Feaze. Fire Bomber’s 4th member, Ray Lovelock, who was previously a tough looking fighter pilot, is not represented here. Mina Roshan, seems to be playing keyboard, but she is not dressed anything like Ray. Alto is dressed… as a random goth girl?? I guess Alto wasn’t muscle-y to pull off Ray so they didn’t try.

1:04:56 – Alto actually got the gas jet clusters to work! 

1:08:14 – Remember, Sheryl’s grandmother is Mao Nome from Macross Zero. This was true in the original series as well, but I like how they tied in the Mayan Island song and Protoculture here. The missing sister is, of course, Sara.

1:10:01 – There. That’s pretty straight up about the Galaxy’s intentions for Ranka. It still seems like Sheryl might have reluctantly gone along with it before she was arrested! 

1:10:55 – I want to know what was powering that little tram to have it explode from a gunshot! 

1:13:39 – Looking at everything Sheryl did in this timeline, I think it makes a lot of sense for her to sacrifice herself. She is at least indirectly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Frontier citizens.

1:17:04 – It’s nice that Leon didn’t risk the entire Frontier fleet this time… just its main city ship… 

1:17:57 – It is such a Macross thing to have pilots readying for battle while also having singers doing the same thing in their own way. 

1:19:46 – Yeah. He had that coming. 

1:22:59 – The lighting here is pretty great. 

1:23:16 – Bigger Macross nerds than I get all excited when new planes are used. The YF-29 Durandal, here, is one of the most advanced planes in all of Macross so far. It is far faster than the VF-25’s SMS has been combat testing while mounting far more firepower with its pop-out beam cannons. The VF-25 Messiahs can be hooked up to Fast/Armor/Tornado packs to sport similar firepower but are left with added weight and bulk that hampers combat maneuverability. Only the VF-31 Siegfrieds in Macross Delta some eight years later can match this prototype plane in speed + firepower. 

1:25:31 – Big Wednesday is a reference to a 1978 surfing movie and is a hint at what the Macross Quarter is about to do. 

1:29:40 – Oh. I guess they didn’t actually kill off the one character who managed to stay in Newtype magazine’s top 10 character polls for years after her tv series had ended. Imagine that. They actually did a pretty good job faking it though. There were zero hints that Sheryl was alive until this scene. (She was actually voted 3rd in 2010 two plus years after Frontier had ended…) 

1:31:40 – Sheryl starts with a very slow version of the normally much more upbeat Northern Cross. 

1:34:17 – Now we move into a variant of the tv show’s final melody. This version is called: Nyan Nyan Final Attack

1:36:59 – This random fighter appears to be the YF-19 from Macross Plus. The voice heard over the radio is the voice of Isamu Dyson, the hotheaded test pilot who was assigned to test the YF-19 in that miniseries. External sources confirm that this was Isamu who came to help rescue the Macross Quarter. 

1:37:00 – In this continuity, the Macross Galaxy fleet was completely destroyed other than the few ships SMS rescued in the first movie. There is no Battle Galaxy in this movie, only a Battle Frontier controlled by the Galaxy’s evil leaders. 

1:39:17 – This song is Sayonara no Tsubasa and is about a Norse Valkyrie coming for a dying warrior. Obviously, it’s a play on words with regards to Macross Valkyrie fighter jets. 

1:39:52 – This dogfight is especially well animated and conforms to the styles of fighting we saw most clearly in Macross Zero. The fight here holds up very well even if you go frame by frame. 

1:46:14 – We know from an interview with Alto’s voice actor that he said the full “I love you” to Sheryl and it was up to the director and sound teams to cut off his words where they wanted to. 

1:51:18 – Sheryl singing along in her coma is very similar to Basara singing along after he had his life-force drained to the point of death in Macross 7. It is a very strong sign that Sheryl is recovering. 

1:51:35 – This final song between Ranka and Sheryl is said by the director to be at some point in the future. He gave this answer in response to an interview question about why the ending of the movie was so depressing. He pointed out that it wasn’t a downer at all since we end by hearing Sheryl and Ranka singing before a happy and cheerful crowd. I’d like to think that Alto returns as well as per Ranka’s prediction… but I don’t believe that can be confirmed unless you jump into the wacky, all over the place video game timelines. This song was actually animated using computer animation for a special rerelease of Wings of Goodbye. 

Macross Frontier Episode Guide 26: The False Songstress

Usually when you hear that a tv series is getting a movie, it means one of two things: Either, the series is going to have its heart ripped out and be compressed from hours and hours of content down to just two. And maybe you’ll get an extra scene or some cleaned up animation. This is more or less what the first two Puella Magi Madoka Magica movies do. Or, you get a wholly new piece of work with a larger budget that extends the series sometimes for better sometimes for worse. Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s 3rd movie “Rebellion” did this. Macross Frontier’s movies, however take a middle path combining old footage with a bunch of new animation that tells a somewhat alternate story to the one we got in the main tv series. 

Both Macross Frontier movies work together to provide an alternate telling of the Macross Frontier series. The first movie sticks a little closer to the first seven episodes of Frontier. But, it is by no means just a cut down version of the series. Instead, there are several minutes of new and significantly altered animation. Even more interestingly, even this first movie does a whole lot to change up and refine the narrative of the main series.

Sheryl and Grace arrive on Frontier similar to the series, but this time, Sheryl seems to have a good deal of knowledge about Grace’s mission. They are looking for a target which we can only assume is Ranka. Speaking of Ranka, she gets a fun new scene racing through Island 1’s city on her Segway-like scooter all set to Sheryl’s “What ‘bout My Star?” Ranka eventually arrives at the Mihoshi Academy roof where Alto, Michael, and Luca are all preparing their stunts for Sheryl’s concert. Surprisingly, Klan is there with them in a school girl uniform. When Ranka arrives, it becomes clear that she already knows everyone instead of meeting Alto and the others at Sheryl’s concert like she did in the series. Hijinks ensue, and then Ranka counts down for Alto’s takeoff. 

Next, we cut to Sheryl’s opening concert starting with the entirely new music and animation fo the song “Universal Bunny”. The animation here is very impressive with significant CGI elements. It’s also a bit more risqué than Sheryl’s work in the series. Interspaced with this song and the next is the initial Vajra attack that plays out much like it did in the series. This second song is also new for the movie and is titled “Welcome To My Fanclub’s Night SOS”. It, What ‘Bout My Star? And Sagittarius 9pm Don’t Be Late all have great “Sheryl On Stage” versions on the soundtrack that run back to back with each other as if they were recorded at a real concert. 

During this song, Alto is forced to catch Sheryl, but unlike in the series, he does so not because of an accident, but because she throws herself off a jump. It turns out that she had integrated Alto’s flying into her act without telling him and had a backup of gas jet clusters if he wasn’t quick enough in coming to her aid. Before Sheryl can move on to her next song, the Vajra attack reaches Island 1 and everyone is forced to evacuate. Alto and Sheryl go to the roof of the concert hall where a stray shot from the Vajra blows them off into the air. Alto attempts to reach Sheryl, but ultimate she is forced to soften her fall with her jets. Alto rescues Sheryl from some attacking Vajra in spectacular fashion afterwards. From here, things play out similarly, with Alto climbing into Gilliam’s Valkyrie and being chased by the Vajra. The main difference is, Alto does not have to escape with Ranka, and Ozma is injured in this battle instead of in a second battle the next day. We also see that Sheryl already knows Brera and they both seem to be working in league with Grace. 

Interestingly, President Glass seems to suspect Sheryl and Grace of plotting something on behalf of the Macross Galaxy fleet. Given Grace’s evil rooftop laugh as she reviews footage of Sheryl and Ranka, I’d say Howard Glass is right! Meanwhile, Alto is introduced to the concept of the SMS by Ozma much as he was in the series. Alto sulks off to Griffith Observatory to think about his decision where he meets Ranka. She has similar worries about the frailty of life as she did in the series and sings “Aimo” for Alto when he encourages her to pursue her dreams. This time, though, Sheryl appears and sings along with Ranka. Apparently, Sheryl also knows “Aimo” and she questions why Ranka knows the song. Before Ranka can answer, Sheryl is called away to attend a live show. 

The next day, Sheryl tracks down Alto and forces him to explore Frontier with her as they look for her earring while Ranka gets mad at her brother for being cross with her for entering the Miss Macross contest. Apparently we don’t get to see the contest this time. We get a condensed version of the Star Date episode along with a new song “Pink Monsoon” and a few new scenes and revelations. For one, Sheryl claims her earring can convey feelings. Later, after Alto and Sheryl explore one of Frontier’s forests, Sheryl reveals more about “Aimo” and Ranka as she steps into a nearby lake. Apparently, the song came from Sheryl’s grandmother. Is that still Mao Nome?! Sheryl was somewhat surprised to encounter someone else who knew the song. 

Ranka arrives at the Zentran mall like in the series and sings her version of “What ‘Bout My Star” and once again wakes up the captive Varja that Leon is showing off to Ozma, Cathy and others. This time, though, Leon seems convinced that the Vajra are remote bioweapons being controlled by the Galaxy. It seems like we’re getting the Galaxy plot a lot sooner and with a lot more certainty than we did in the series. This time, we get a better look at all the smaller jobs Ranka starts with on her way to fame. Some are silly, some are embarrassing, but she seems game to work her way up the ladder of success. During this same sequence, we see Alto training to be a part of SMS. It looks like having Ozma and Michael as teachers isn’t the safest or gentlest approach to training. 

After several weeks of both Alto and Ranka adapting to their new jobs, they meet up and Ranka takes Alto to a small convenience store where she thanks him for giving her the courage to follow her dreams. As the clock strikes midnight, Ranka’s voice comes on singing an official song for the Family Mart store. On their way back, Alto confesses why he ran away from his acting career. He was losing his sense of self to the roles he was forced to play. Ranka, in turn, encourages Alto in a touching moment.

The next day, Ozma warns Alto of the supposed Galaxy plot and warns him to stay away from Sheryl. Alto happens to find Sheryl’s earring then gets a call from her asking him to come to Griffith Observatory. Meanwhile, Ranka is feeling nervous about her new singing career and her upcoming first concert so she separately heads to the park to be alone where she by chance meets up with Sheryl. They talk a little about Alto, then Sheryl leads Ranka in singing Aimo. Ai-kun, who Ranka found earlier that night, begins to glow in response to Ranka’s song. Sheryl questions/reveals to Ranka about her past living on Gallia 4. Ranka sees brief flashbacks of her past with her mother, her brother, and of Dr. Mao Nome nearby before Ai-kun runs off and Ranka and Sheryl give chase. Sheryl might have seen those memories too through her earring. 

About this time, Alto arrives at the park and sees what looks to be Sheryl chasing and grappling with Ranka. He moves to protect Ranka and knocks Sheryl down in the process. Alto accuses Sheryl of being a spy from the Macross Galaxy fleet. As it beings to rain, Sheryl vents her anger at Alto and then leaves, but Grace and the other Macross Galaxy intelligences have apparently positively identified Ranka as the target they have been looking for. Sheryl is back at her hotel room and seems very depressed, but Grace tells her co-conspirators that the Sheryl she raised can use sadness and anger to fuel her songs just as well as joy. Ozma picks up Ranka and Alto and again warns them both to stay away from Sheryl. He has to chastise Ranka and asks her what’s more important, her new sining career or the human lives that the Galaxy’s plot may be putting at risk. 

The next day, crowds are gathering for Sheryl’s next concert. But, apparently other things are happening behind the scenes. Captain Wilder senses that something big is about to take place. Elsewhere, Leon warns President Glass that they’ve received an SOS from the Galaxy fleet. Back at his apartment, Alto puts on Sheryl’s earring and feels/sees her loneliness through it. They really do transmit feelings and emotions in this version of events! Defying Ozma’s orders, he rushes to Sheryl to let her know that she is not alone. She acts offended, but really she is touched by his words, at least until Grace appears and calls out Ozma and Cathy for spying on Sheryl.

Grace outlines all the events that are happening. The Galaxy has come under heavy Vajra attack and has sent an official SOS, Frontier is suspicious of Galaxy’s motives and has chosen to ignore that SOS contrary to space law, and it does appear that Grace and Sheryl came to Frontier on somewhat false pretense, though Grace sorta glosses over that part. It seems that the Galaxy fleet will soon be destroyed and the Frontier fleet isn’t going to lift a finger to help, so Sheryl uses her vast wealth as the Galactic Fairy to hire SMS to run a rescue mission in part to save what’s left of the Galaxy fleet, but also in part so everyone can learn the truth about which side is playing the other. Ozma, on behalf of the SMS, accepts her offer and the Macross Quarter deploys thanks in large part to Sheryl’s funding! 

What follows is an alternate version of the series’ episode 7. This time, there are more ships fleeing the destruction of the Galaxy fleet, and the Vajra have a full-sized battleship in addition to their normal fighters and carriers. There’s a lot of recycled music and animation in this battle, but everything is still pretty engaging. At Sheryl’s concert we see that she is going to be singing from a giant stage that looks like a sailing ship. It rises out of the lake in the middle of the outdoor stadium. As usual, the battle is a great mixture of songs and combat tactics. Macross Quarter delays the Vajra long enough for a majority of the refugee ships to fold away, but then the Vajra follows the ships and Sheryl and Ranka’s rendition of Diamond Crevasse to the Frontier fleet, just as Grace expected. 

A second battle ensues where we see Battle Frontier respond immediately, but even its main gun cannot pierce the Vajra battleship’s shields. It’s up to Macross Quarter to execute a Macross Attack to make the battleship vulnerable. Meanwhile, Ranka who had snuck her way to Sheryl’s concert against her brother’s orders, is horrified at the loss of life she sees around her. This time, though, instead of shrinking and hiding from the danger, Ranka runs towards the Vajra offering herself up to try and stop the violence. A large Vajra grabs her and Alto gives chase as Sheryl sings a new song “Obelisk”.  Alto is nearly shot down, but Sheryl’s singing saves him. Sheryl and Ranka share a duet of Lion as Alto, Michael, Ozma, Brera, and the others eliminate the remaining Vajra forces. In this version, though, it seems that Sheryl’s fold powers are much more prominent and her emotions for Alto and Ranka are all that it takes to awaken them. 

Finally, after what must have been thousands or tens of thousands of casualties, the Vajra fleet is defeated. The movie ends with Alto reiterating to Sheryl that she is not alone which Sheryl now acknowledges. We pull up and away from Sheryl and the others as a snow falls on Island 1. In the background we hear one final new song titled “Sou Dayo” from Ranka.

Specific Scenes I Loved: 

  • Ranka’s new Segway scene. It’s the first moment we see The False Songstress’ movie-sized budget in play. 
  • Sheryl’s “Universal Bunny” concert performance. Macross Frontier blew past all the previous Macross shows in terms of singing and concert animation. This over the top, risqué, CGI and hand drawn animation combo makes even the best of Frontier’s concerts seems small scale.  
  • Alto and Sheryl in Frontier’s forest. It was kinda unexpected and a nice change of pace from racing across the grassy hills. 
  • The scenes between Ranka and Alto around the Family Mart. Ranka got to express her thanks and Alto had a much better explanation of why he quit acting than he ever did in the tv series. 
  • The scene between Alto, Sheryl, Ozma, Cathy, and Grace before Sheryl’s second concert. Seeing Sheryl’s uncertainty and vulnerability quickly contrasted by her determination and willingness to put her money where her mouth is was great. It was neat that they finally recognized just how wealthy a top performing songstress would be if she were immensely popular across a galaxy of colonies and colony fleets. 
  • Ranka being willing to sacrifice her own life to distract the Vajra. While she did occasionally take an active role in the series, her big decisions to do so were almost always off camera. It was nice to see Ranka decide and carry out something selfless. 
  • Battle Frontier rising above the Island 1 skyline as it prepared to counterattack the Vajra battleship. 
  • The concert sound/audio crew that agreed to stay behind and broadcast Sheryl’s singing as long as their was hope. 
  • The singing and battle scenes once Sheryl and Ranka began singing “Lion” on stage together. 
  • The almost penpal-letter feeling of Ranka’s new song “Sou Dayo” the plays over the credits. 

Movie Impressions: 

The first main change The False Songstress makes is that it clues in Sheryl to at least some of Grace’s and the Macross Galaxy fleet’s plot to find Ranka. In the Frontier series, Sheryl was merely a pawn and Grace was actually a sadistic mastermind trying to force humanity to evolve into a collective consciousness. In this first movie, we get some hints that the Galaxy’s plot may be intact, but the bulk of that plot is saved for the second movie. Here, with Sheryl actively looking for Q1, it remains to be seen just how deeply involved Sheryl really is. At the very least, though, Ozma, Cathy, and Alto do have some reason to be suspicious of Sheryl. I don’t think she’ll turn out evil like Grace in the series, but her comments about being surprised by how nice the people of Frontier were does hint that her motives go beyond simply singing this time around. 

The second big change this movie made was to sorta wipe away most of the first introductions between characters. Most notably, Alto and Ranka start out as preexisting friends instead of first running into each other at Sheryl’s concert. Maybe it doesn’t come up as often as it could, but I still thought it worked well to give Alto some extra reason to care about protecting Ranka beyond her just being the strange girl he ran into earlier in the day. 

One other change the movie makes is it seems to have removed the Vajra’s evolutionary invincibility. Either, it will only come up in the second movie, or it is gone, as beyond the battleship’s powerful fold fault shielding, our heroes never had much trouble dispatching individual Vajra. This movie also did a lot to clear up Alto’s reasons for leaving home. Based on the series, I’d almost say that Alto’s father was physically abusive. In the movie, it’s more that Alto was trying to keep his sense of self and his acting was interfering with that. I like the movie version better. 

The movie does lose some good content that was present in the series. I miss Alto rescuing Ranka from the vacuum of space, for instance. That scene was iconic and nostalgic and now it’s gone. Sheryl singing along with Ranka was changed significantly and I liked the more pure version in the series better than Sheryl’s sing and run she did in this movie. We also didn’t get that lovely view of Island 1 from the observation section of the sky tram station, though the movie’s increased budget probably more than made up for that scene’s absence. 

That said, for the most part, I think this movie somehow managed to keep the core pieces of the series intact while clarifying and firming up the Macross Frontier vs Macross Galaxy plot. Almost to the point that, in many ways, I’d almost rather start someone out on this movie than let them loose on the main series. It’s hard to try to retell a series but still have a movie be its own thing, and I think this movie managed to pull it off pretty brilliantly. 

There is one other thing to consider: Which is the true timeline? The series or the movie? The answer is: Neither. Shōji Kawamori, one of the creators of Macross and the director of Macross Frontier, once gave an interview in 1995 where he said:

Consider real history. Many different stories have been created based on the same historical facts, haven’t they? For example, there are many stories about World War II. It’s the same thing with Macross. The real Macross is out there, somewhere. If I tell the story in the length of a TV series, it looks one way, and if I tell it as a movie-length story, it’s organized another way.

That quote was based on a question about whether SDF Macross or its retelling in the Do You Remember Love? movie was canon, but this philosophy has held true all the way to Macross Frontier and beyond. So, yes, as a fan I might prefer the movie or the series over the other, but official Macross policy is essentially that neither one is more official than the other. 

Each time that Grace goes into her personal cyberspace and monitors Sheryl or Ranka is a reminder that she may still have sinister motives. She is even still in contact with the other members of her Macross Galaxy conspiracy. So far, she has played the role of an innocent, but that seems likely to change. 

If Grace does indeed turn out some shade of evil once again, Sheryl is an actual co-conspirator this time instead of an innocent songstress that Grace discards. That might have implications if Fronter’s government finds out. They were already willing to break interstellar law by ignoring Galaxy’s SOS. What else might they do? 

When Sheryl talks about Ranka singing Aimo more for the forest and the birds, it’s not that far from the truth, given that the song seems to have originated with Mao Nome. Mao’s older sister Sara was a priestess and did in fact use special powers that originated with her singing and her bloodline to help heal the forest and animals who were harmed when UN and anti-UN forces clashed over her people’s isolated island. 

Moment to Moment Notes:

0:36 – We start this movie with a new shot of Alto drifting in space. Already this is a change from the series as Alto did not fly in space until after he joined SMS. 

2:39 – This is the first of many shots from the TV series that has significant elements replaced and redone. In the tv show, the end of the entry tunnel was nothing more than some cute advertising holograms on a flat surface. Now, there is a brand new, impressively detailed piece of art depicting Frontier’s Island 1 city. 

3:22 – The Frontier movies significantly change up the plot vs the tv show. Already, we’ve seen that Sheryl and Grace are looking for someone. Here, we see that Alto and Ranka know each other from the start instead of being introduced in the forest outside the concert hall. 

3:55 – This sequence of Ranka riding her Segway is new animation and pretty impressive at that.

4:21 – That island in the distance will play a part in these movies… eventually. Keep an eye out for it, as it appears at least once more in another wide shot later on in this movie.

4:24 – There’s an uninfected Hydra. Remember when one attacked Ranka at the Bird Human filming in the main series? This is what they look like normally. 

5:45 – Klan is hanging out with the group in this version. We didn’t really see her until a few episodes into the series. 

6:07 – That food actually looks pretty good! 

8:29 – This is the first of a few new songs made just for the movies. Oh… and they turned the concerts up way past 11 for the movie. I figure this is less a live concert and more a stage production / movie / elaborate piece of performance art what with the dancing robots and two Sherly’s and all. 

Oh… also note that the graphic right before the concert starts spelled Sharon Apple as Shalon Apple. Sharon is correct. This is one of those weird cases that Japanese doesn’t have an actual letter / differentiation between R and L sounds. For the first few episodes of the tv series, some fans weren’t sure if Ranka’s name wasn’t Lanka, for instance. 

12:55 – This second song is also new to the series, though I believe it was on soundtracks a good while before this movie debuted. 

17:22 – That shot of the battle in the sky is pretty neat. 

17:32 – Sheryl wanting to not sneak away during the battle is a pretty big change from her being escorted away in the series. 

17:44 – Welp! They’re dead! Show over. 

19:19 – Someone got a movie sized budget for action sequences, it seems! 

24:53 – I am sad that Alto fleeing with Ranka and catching her in midair was removed from this version. It was both great animation and a great homage to SDF Macross. 

25:15 – In this version of the story, Sheryl also knows about Brera from the beginning. 

27:02 – In this version of the story, the Macross Galaxy’s plot against the Frontier fleet is a bit more pronounced and less mysterious. It makes for a slightly better story overall, in my opinion. 

35:46 – That’s significantly different. That Sheryl knows Aimo. 

37:36 – The background music here was in the original soundtrack… I wonder if this scene was cut or planned but never shown in the series? 

39:24 – Interesting that the entire Miss Macross concert was cut aside from Ranka’ one song. We also don’t get Alto’s fun duel with Pixie Squadron. 🙁 

41:40 – Pink Monsoon is a new song for the movie. 

43:43 – New scene. Riding those things down a hill like that seems really dangerous. 

46:00 – I’m not sure how sucking out someone’s blood is more sanitary than them having a cut in a generally clean, controlled natural environment… 

50:39 – So, in this version, Leon is assuming that the Vajra are being controlled by the Galaxy fleet. 

55:32 – *Whistle* 

57:52 – While most of this scene is hand animated, I like how they used 3d renders of valkyries and even a Macross to give that top row of models their full detail. 

1:01:14 – FamilyMart is apparently a real chain of stores in Japan. Supposedly, the interior in the movie is very heavily based on the interior of an actual FamilyMart. I think it’s like Wallgreens or CVS here in the US.

1:09:07 – In both the TV show and the movie, little Sheryl would have known Dr. Mao Nome. The movie is just a bit more clear about it. It seems Sheryl might have also met Ranka when they were little, but we are never told that exactly.

1:16:38 – Um… boobies. For no reason. 

1:17:13 – I like the water stains from Sheryl having come back soaked from the rain. It’s a nice little touch that not everyone would have thought to include. 

1:17:58 – And the boobies are gone never to be seen again. Not sure why they did that. Didn’t seem to be much of a point.

1:22:31 – The first time I watched this movie I didn’t understand why Ranka was waiting at home even though the concert was starting. It’s because she was told by Ozma to stay away from Sheryl, but she disobeys her brother eventually and goes anyway but is late because of her delay. 

1:23:48 – I cannot find any source to explain why Grace goes by Godunuwa in the movie. I didn’t find any important historical figures with that name either… 

1:25:00 – So Sheryl really was/is a spy! At least in some capacity! As you might expect, Sheryl is too popular of a character to be recast as evil, but I find this an interesting little twist compared to the tv show where she was being heavily played and manipulated by Grace the entire time. 

1:25:50 – I like this scene because it shows just how wealthy a galactically popular chart toping singer would be. 

1:27:27 – No, we don’t get the fantastic sendoff for Macross Quarter. I guess that too was cut for time. 

1:29:30 – M M Jenius refers to Max and Milia Jenius from SDF Macross and Macross 7. Those two were the top combat aces of the human and Zentradi fleets in SDF Macross and went on to fall in love, get married, and become the head military and civilian leaders of the Macross 7 fleet roughly a decade later. 

1:30:39 – In the tv version of this battle I noted it was probably the first time that any Macross ship had its smaller “battleship” cannons animated. I believe this might be the first time we see any Macross ship’s smaller cannons actually hit and destroy anything. 

133:20 – The sweeping animation of Alto’s approach to the enemy mothership is pretty neat. 

133:43 – I like the water projection here because of how it is a “practical effect” in a time where holograms are common technology. Also, because it reminds me of the after dark show in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios where they do a similar mist projection. 

1:36:39 – This is one of the best looks we ever get of the entire Frontier fleet.

1:37:44 – Battle Frontier rising behind the city is an awesome shot. It also reminds me a little of the Covenant Assault Carrier attacking New Mombasa in Halo: ODST. 

1:39:18 – I’m always surprised by this unexpectedly gruesome scene. 

1:40:49 – This brief look at just Ranka’s feet as she runs is really cool. 

1:41:58 – Here’s the third new song for the movie, “Obelisk”.

1:43:22 – I always liked this sound board guy’s attitude. If there’s a chance to give hope, he and his team are on it! 

1:44:22 – The gravity failing within the city is a callback to a similar happening in “Do You Remember Love?” 

1:48:03 – Alto just tossed his glowing energy knife aside… while over a city. I sure hope that didn’t come down on anyone! 

Next: Wings of Goodbye

The preview doesn’t do a good job of showing what’s coming next. Just ignore it and go watch the second half of this story.

Macross Frontier Episode Guide 25: Your Sound

We start this episode a few seconds before the end of the previous one. We see Alto get shot down again and we see Sheryl’s shock as she loses the man she has come to love. It looks as though everything is lost when a shot from a Macross Cannon comes in from an unexpected direction and saves Sheryl and Battle Frontier. The SMS and Macross Quarter have returned and have joined the fight! Captain Wilder radios Battle Galaxy and tells them that they have returned to stop Grace and the Galaxy’s plans. Leon tries sidestep their accusations by demanding proof, but Alto and Cathy, both of whom Leon thought dead, chime in that they have plenty of proof against Grace and against Leon. 

Alto, who survived by bailing out of his fighter and flying it on remote, relays what he saw when he passed through the hologram of Ranka. He has Macross Quarter fire upon it revealing the hologram to be a mask used to hide the existence of Battle Galaxy! Cathy then reveals Leon’s assassination plot to the officers on Battle Frontier who are all too happy to turn on their new president. 

SMS’s entry into the fight only gives the Frontier fleet a short lived advantage since Grace still commands Battle Galaxy which releases a swarm of advanced Ghost fighters whose quick movements tear apart Frontier’s forces. 

Alto gains a new fighter thanks in part to Luca and Klan, then asks Sheryl to reach Ranka with her songs. With Sheryl’s backing and Ozma and SMS’s renewed push, Alto manages to approach Battle Galaxy and awaken Ranka from her brainwashed slumber. Unfortunately, Grace has finally succeeded in gaining control over the Vajra queen. With it under her control, she seemingly no longer even needs Ranka’s connection to the Vajra. She takes full command of the Vajra and launches a devastating attack against the Frontier fleet. The power of Grace’s fold network is so strong it can block dimension eater attacks. It even knocks Sheryl off of her feet. With no hope of victory now, Sheryl gives up and resigns herself to giving into death. 

All across the galaxy, Vajra under Grace’s control fold in to hold humanity hostage to her power. For a brief moment, there is an eerie silence following Grace’s full scale attack on the Frontier fleet. Almost everyone has lost hope of victory. But then, Ranka’s voice again fills the surrounding space. She is singing “Your Sound” and her voice reconnects her with her brother who has escaped Grace’s control, and with many of the nearby Vajra that Grace was controlling. The Vajra begin to support Frontier’s forces as Ranka forms a connection between herself, and Sheryl.

Sheryl, near death, has completely given up hope. She asks for Ranka to leave her alone, saying she has nothing left to give. This earns her a satisfying virtual slap from Ranka who explains that she was only able to achieve so much thanks to Sheryl’s support. Ranka conferences in Alto who agrees, telling both girls that they are his wings. Ranka uses the power of the Vajra network to command the fold microbes poisoning Sheryl’s brain to move down to her stomach where they will safely grant her power. Sheryl, now apparently healed, kicks off perhaps one of the greatest medley/battle sequences in all of Anime. 

For the next eight minutes, Alto, the SMS, the Vajra Ranka has liberated, and what remains of the Frontier fleet’s forces do battle against Battle Galaxy and the Vajra Grace still has control of. This sequences, which features most of Frontier’s songs back to back, is stuffed with action and with far too many callbacks to past Macross shows to mention in this summary. Highlights include:

  • Alto rescuing Ranka from Battle Galaxy. 
  • Tens of thousands of Vajra sacrificing themselves to protect Island 1 from one of Grace’s largest attacks
  • Ranka revealing that the Vajra kept attacking humanity in an effort to rescue her from them. 
  • Macross Quarter and Battle Frontier teaming up to defeat Battle Galaxy in the most spectacular and most Macross fashion ever.
  • Alto using Michael’s sniper rifle to put an end to Grace and her plans of galactic domination. 

With Grace dead, the Vajra retreat and leave their planet for humanity to colonize. We also learn to origin of Aimo. Even though the Vajra throughout our galaxy were effectively one giant organism with no need to communicate, there are apparently Vajra swarms in other galaxies, and our Vajra wrote Aimo as a love song for the mingling of galactic swarms. 

We get a final look at the survivors of this giant battle and a promise from both Ranka and Sheryl to continue to compete for Alto’s heart. Then, Macross Frontier ends with Alto swooping by overhead with the song Trianguler playing over top the credits. 

Specific Scenes I Loved: 

  • Macross Quarter coming to the rescue. 
  • The Nyan Nyan Service Medley. (Aka: The eight minutes of awesome set to music.) 
  • All the callbacks to past Macross shows. See the notes for what is probably an inexhaustive list of them.
  • The inconclusive end to the Sheryl, Alto, Ranka love triangle that had Frontier fans howling for almost three years until Frontier’s second movie The Wings of Goodbye finally gave us a proper conclusion. 

Episode Impressions: 

Let’s start with the negatives. This episode was rushed. Too many plot points were dropped in the middle of the final battle. Too many scenes were previous battle scenes with reworked backgrounds. What should have been one of the most awesome scenes of ship to ship combat, one full sized Macross battleship punching the heck out of another one, was only on screen for a handful of seconds before the camera had to rush to chase after the show’s rapidly approaching conclusion.

But… then there’s the Nyan Nyan Service Medley. Stringing together Lion, Infinity, My Boyfriend is a Pilot, Diamond Crevasse, Interstellar Flight, What ‘Bout My Star?, Lion (again), Do You Remember Love?, and Aimo together with some great action and several classic Macross callbacks was exhilarating. 

Even though it was rushed, this episode also did drop in most of the answers to lingering plot questions. Oh, and the villain got what was coming to her delivered by the gun of the popular secondary character that died because of her plots and schemes. 

In some ways, Macross Frontier ends on a weak note with a rushed episode and a non-resolution to its love triangle. But, in others, the combination of Macross’ classic three pillars of awesome transforming robot space combat, songs and singers saving the day, and a love triangle, were more center stage and better done here than in anywhere else in the entire franchise’s 25 year history up to that point. And the more recent Macross Delta series released a few years later is widely agreed to not have topped Frontier in any of those three categories. 

For a long time, I wondered where Grace managed to obtain Battle Galaxy. It seemed to just come out of nowhere. And, really, it probably did. I think it’s a battleship sized plot hole. More recently, I’ve chosen to believe the few images we got of a surviving, purple-colored ship belong to the Macross Galaxy fleet was, in fact, Battle Galaxy. I’ve sorta convinced myself or consoled myself that perhaps the bulk of the Galaxy fleet was destroyed when Grace and her cohort intelligences took control of Battle Galaxy and abandoned the Galaxy fleet. There’s nothing to prove or disprove that theory, but at least it gives me a plausible out to the final two episodes of Frontier. 

Grace at one point shows the power of the Vajra by blocking multiple dimension eater missiles by using the Vajra queen to spontaneously generate fold faults. The Vajra’s natural control over fold space seems to be one of the things that made them so powerful and so revered by the Protoculture. Note that the Protoculture’s Bird Human from Macross Zero was heavily shaped after the Vajra queen. 

Moment to Moment Notes: 

0:27 – Notice Brera’s fighter in the upper left. His proximity to the approaching carrier is why his fighter is hit by the explosion a few moments later 

1:44 – Wait… was Alto just like in their group chat or something? I find it funny he’s the one to answer here. 

2:50 – Are those three scrolling text files the evidence? Maybe we’ll just pretend they sent some actual evidence over… off screen.

3:19 – I think this is the first we’ve heard of versions of Ghost fighters. We’ll just assume the V9’s are better than whatever the Frontier fleet was sporting. Watching that one V9 quickly take out the two Frontier fighters kinda proves that… 

4:03 – Yes, your song. This is Macross. Of course you are the key to winning. 

5:07 – “Charge, Love Heart” is the name of one of the more popular Fire Bomber songs from Macross 7. 

5:36 – Luca is referring to the time that during Macross Plus the Sharon Apple virtualoid idol got fitted with an experimental biological AI chip and went crazy taking control of the 1st prototype Ghost fighter and mind controlling everyone in Macross City (or everyone on earth if you watch the remastered movie edition…) with her singing. Apparently Luca has access to that same level of combat AI that he’s been holding back… for some reason? 

8:16 – The Vajra do have that same spiral pattern and the Vajra queens to kinda look like the Macross Zero bird human… The implication here is that the Protoculture revered and even worshiped the Vajra to the extent that much of what they left behind was modeled after the Vajra… 

9:05 – I don’t recall anything about Macross 11, but Planet Eden is the main setting of Macross Plus and where both the Frontier and Galaxy fleets originated from. Macross City, Alaska is where the original Macross landed at the end of Space War I. 

13:43 – And thus starts the Nyan Nyan Service Medley, a 7 and a half minute play of most of Macross Frontier’s songs. I especially love the combination of Lion and What ‘Bout My Star as Macross Quarter goes in for the attack.

14:46 – Having Cathy call for the pinpoint barrier shields to be concentrated along the tip of the main gun is very similar to an order Misa Hayase gave during Space War 1. Hold that thought though, there’s some related nostalgia coming up regarding that kind of melee attack.

16:18 – Seeing the Varja take their place along side the human fleet feels somewhat similar to when more and more Zentradi ships turned around, switched side mid battle, and ran escort for the original Macross in “Do You Remember Love?”. 

18:39 – The “Macross Attack” here is almost a shot for shot recreation of SDF Macross’ “Daedalus Attack”. The original Macross concentrated its pinpoint barriers around the front of the Daedalus, a traditional aircraft carrier it was using as its right arm. It punched straight into a closing Zentradi warship then unleashed a bunch of missiles from the inside. (The aircraft carrier had been sucked out to Pluto orbit when the Macross had done an emergency fold away from Earth…) Here, they use Macross Quarter’s flight deck and are only punching Battle Galaxy’s gun, but just about everything else is almost the same down to the missiles streaking out in a bunch of straight lines and the enemy puffing up with internal explosions before detonating! 

19:06 – Battle Frontier punching the heck out of Battle Galaxy is just awesome. A shame it was only on screen for about a second… 

20:43 – This kind of back to back fighting was first seen in SDF Macross as the two best pilots, Max (a human fighter from the Macross) and Milia Fallyna Jenius (a Zentradi who switched sides after being defeated by Max one on one in three separate battles) covered each other during one of the larger battles. The synchronized movements have been repeated by other pilots in Macross, but Alto and Brera are the most notable. 

21:59 – An Island city ship and its accompanying Macross entering the atmosphere like this was first seen in Macross 7. That fleet was forced planet side by an enemy fleet that folded in above them. The Macross 7 fleet only had one Macross, but the poses and arrangements are fairly similar. 

22:56 – We now can clearly see that the girl in Richard Birler’s ring is Lynn Minmay. I guess he was still hoping for universal enslavement to provide him a chance to meet her? Or, we could just acknowledge that this plot thread went virtually nowhere and move on…

23:41 – Mr. “I want to fly in a real sky” need to learn how to not cook his fighter on the way down, I guess…

24:45 – It’s nice seeing all the characters at the end. Looks like Nene (the pink haired Zentradi female pilot) survived despite it looking like her Queadluun-Rhea was shown getting hit near the end of the final battle.  

26:20 – The triangle shaped lens flares in the final shot are a nice touch! 

Next: The False Songstress

Macross Frontier’s first movie is an alternate retelling for the series’ story done the right way. New animation and a better plot await those willing to dip in for a bit more Frontier.

Macross Frontier Episode Guide 24: Last Frontier

Like last episode, we start with another flashback from Ranka’s past. This time, we see how her singing Aimo brought the Vajra down on the 117th research fleet. In the present day, though, Ranka is being held in what looks like Grace’s virtual space and is either being mind probed or brainwashed (or both) by Grace. 

We cut to Macross Quarter which has returned to the ruins of Gallia 4. Ozma and Cathy are exploring what remains of the Macross Global and we learn a little more about what happened to it and the fleet it lead. It seems that humanity encountered the Vajra and sent the research fleet to study them eight years later. Grace was one of the members of that fleet. As were Ranka’s mother, Ranshe Mei, and Sheryl’s grandmother, Mao Nome. We also learn more about Grace’s theories on using the Vajra’s network to connect and possibly control all of humanity through the use of cybernetic implants. The key to making Grace’s plan possible seem to be Ranka’s connection to the Vajra. 

We head back to Ranka where Grace and Brera are continuing to use her to analyze the Vajra’s communication / control protocol. Grace mentions how easy it has been to decipher the protocol once they added Ranka into the network. Also, it looks like the Vajra attack that killed Ranshe and Mao might have injured / burned Grace and driven her insane with a need to prove her fold network theories correct. 

Back on Macross Quarter, Monica sends their findings about Grace and the Vajra on to earth, but between the fold lag and government needing to deliberate on a decision, it looks like it will be up to SMS to save the day alone. We also see that Ozma and Cathy have gone through some personal items left behind by the members of the 117th fleet and they found a letter from Mao Nome to her daughter. Mao says she is sending her earrings as a gift. We also see a postcard that was to be sent back to Mao informing her of the birth of her granddaughter, Sheryl. With that, we finally have conclusive proof that Sheryl really is Sheryl Nome, a descendent of the same line as Sara and Mao Nome! 

Next, the Frontier fleet folds in above the Vajra homeworld and makes preparations to attack and defeat the Vajra’s queen. As various parties complete their preparations, Alto goes to meet with Sheryl. She is getting ready for her part of this final attack and worrying about what Alto said about possibly having to kill Ranka. But, when Alto comes to meet her, he tells her that he will come back to her and that he has realized he can’t fly alone. That he needs someone to come back to. Sheryl teases him briefly but then kisses him and tells him not to finish whatever it was he was going to tell her. Instead, she’ll hear what the has to say after he rescues Ranka and comes back alive. She finishes by again teasing him, saying that it is hard to find a girl as good as her. 

As the Frontier fleet approaches the Vajra homeworld, Sheryl literally leaps onto her stage and begins singing to disrupt the Vajra’s defense fleets. As she does so, she commits to giving her performance her all. There is at least some connotation that she is preparing to burn herself out and die in this final performance, but that it’s ok because she has no more regrets. 

As Sheryl begins singing, Alto, Klan, and the rest of Frontier’s military begin the assault on the Vajra homeworld. Though the battle starts out roughly even, Sheryl’s singing soon begins having an effect, and Frontier’s forces begin rapidly advancing as the Vajra’s defense lines buckle slowed and disorganized. Frontier’s forces also unleash missile version of the dimension eater bombs that do heavy damage to the Vajra’s defense fleets. 

Unfortunately, as the Frontier Fleet near’s its goal, Grace is there with Ranka to stop them. She suggest that Ranka sing and help the Vajra to make up for calling the Vajra down on the 117th research fleet. As Island 1 begins its descent, a chilling version of the song “Do You Remember Love?” begins playing for all to hear. Through Ranka’s singing, the Vajra begin to reform their defense lines and start to overwhelm the Frontier fleet. Soon, a giant hologram of Ranka appears in space above the Vajra homeworld letting everyone know just who is giving the Vajra back their strength and coordination. As powerful as Sheryl has become in the last few days or weeks, Ranka’s natural born connection to the Vajra is far stronger, rendering Sheryl ineffective. 

Alto watches as one of Frontier’s smaller islands is shot down by the Vajra’s renewed defense of their homeworld. He files to investigate the Ranka hologram after seeing one of the Galaxy fleet’s remaining warships taking cover near it unopposed by the Vajra. It seems that Grace is on this ship or launched her personal Valkyrie from this ship and is moving to take over the Vajra for herself. When Alto flies into the hologram he sees both an image of Ranka imprisoned…  and something else. He sees what appears to be the head of a purple Macross class battleship! 

Before Alto can report his findings, Brera engages both him and Klan, badly damaging both of their fighters. He insists that he and Ranka are merely defending the Vajra against the human invaders. Then, he shoots Alto down. Alto’s fighter flies near Ranka’s hologram and explodes as it flies between her outstretched arms. Back on the bow of Battle Frontier, Sheryl sees and maybe senses what has happened and collapses while screaming Alto’s name. 

Specific Scenes I Loved: 

  • Grace’s transition to madness as she burned alive during the Vajra attack on the 117th research fleet. 
  • The Macross Quarter’s bridge crew fawning over Monica and Captain Wilder. 
  • Sheryl and Alto’s final scene together and their kiss with the Frontier fleet behind them. 
  • The way Grace manipulates Ranka by using her knowledge about what caused the destruction of the 177th research fleet. 
  • The Vajra firing their big counterattack as holographic Ranka stretches out her hands towards the Frontier fleet. 
  • The live action photo album in the next episode segment after the credits. It’s a direct callback to the way every episode of SDF Macross ended. 

Episode Impressions: 

Ok, that’s more like it! Even though this episode starts out a bit exposition heavy with SMS discovering Grace’s plans with a lot of dialogue, it moves on and we get another good Alto and Sheryl scene as well as a big battle as the Frontier fleet bears down on the Vajra homeworld. 

I like that Alto seems to have pushed Sheryl past worrying about what he thought about Ranka. To me, Alto makes it clear that he can’t fly without Sheryl. It seems these two need each other to complete their missions. 

The battle itself, and Sheryl’s singing, is a lot of reused footage, but some of the reuse is really good. Sheryl ’s singing on the bow of Battle Frontier is largely shots from her opening concert, but the shots still look awesome with the way they replaced the stage with Battle Frontier’s bridge.

The giant hologram of Ranka and the new version of the song “Do You Remember Love?” are great callbacks to SDF Macross and the “Do You Remember Love?” movie. And, they are a chilling reversal of singing winning the day. Here, singing is still winning the day, but it is winning it for the Vajra. 

There’s also something to be said and some thought that need to be given to the righteousness of Frontier’s fight against the Vajra in this episode. At one point, one of the Frontier pilots mentions something about their attack being out of revenge. That’s certainly true. Frontier has surely suffered thousands if not millions of casualties thanks to the Vajra’s repeated attacks. The Vajra did not leave Frontier alone or explore other ways to contact Ranka. They attacked over and over again. At the same time, Humanity captured Vajra, experimented on Vajra and eventually discovered ways to disrupt and control the Vajra’s fold network. If the Vajra exist as something similar to a single distributed organism, might Ranka’s and Sheryl’s singing be like damaging or disrupting a part of the Vajra consciousness? Is it possible that the Vajra have largely been defending themselves and seeking to destroy the evil humans who repeatedly attacked them? 

The ship from the Macross Galaxy approaching the Vajra homeworld unopposed. It seems likely that Grace broke into the Vajra’s thought protocols before the Frontier fleet arrived and, through Ranka, she has at least limited or local control of nearby Vajra. That’s probably why they don’t attack her.

What Alto sees when he flies through the hologram of Ranka shows us a glimpse of the challenge the Frontier fleet faces. 

The information SMS finds out about Grace’s intentions is all pretty much accurate. She’s not looking to shorten trade routes. She is looking to, at best, connect all of humanity, and, at worst, control all of humanity. And the Vajra, too. 

Moment to Moment Notes: 

3:37 – So, in 2040 mankind encountered the Vajra. In 2048 the 117th fleet managed to capture one or more of them but was eventually destroyed by the Vajra. Grace was one of those researchers. 

6:50 – Analyzing the fold network that the Vajra use to communicate and control is what Grace has been after all along. If she can figure out the protocols, she can simply take control of all Vajra. 

8:12 – Sheryl Nome is the grand daughter of Mao Nome. Sheryl was born to Sally and Able Nome abroad the Macross Galaxy, but was later orphaned when her parents, like many others, rebeled against the Galaxy leadership’s plan to force all citizens to accept cybernetic implants. Some time later, Grace, who was rescued by the Galaxy fleet after the destruction of the 117th research fleet, finds Sheryl living in the slums and infects her with the V-Type infection so as to continue her research. Grace and the Galaxy’s leadership (the other voices/personalities in Grace’s head) then proceed with a long term plan to attempt to analyze and decipher the Vajra’s fold network. Part of that plan involved attempting to harness Sheryl’s slowly progressing V-Type infection to mimic Ranka’s ability to communicate with the Vajra through song. While Sheryl did eventually become a very talented and driven songstress, at least some of her success almost certainly came about because she had the full weight of the Macross Galaxy’s corrupt leadership easing her way.  

11:35 – The girl pictured in Mr. Bieler’s ring is Lynn Minmay. He seems to think that Grace’s fold implant network will let him meet her. At this point in Macross lore her whereabouts are unknown. She left earth after Space War I on one of the first colonization ships and that ship hasn’t been heard from in decades. 

11:46 – That’s the mirror Ranka sits at in the opening. 

15:19 – Sheryl’s position singing on/near the bow of Battle Frontier closely resembles Lynn Minmay singing to save humanity from the bow of the original Macross in the “Do You Remember Love?” movie. Several shots, especially the one from behind Sheryl looking out to the battle in front of her, are near recreations of scenes from DYRL. 

17:59 – That Ranka inspires the Vajra with the song “Do You Remember Love?” is highly ironic as this same song was the one that saved humanity from extinction at the hands of the Zentradi during Space War I. Now, the same song is being used to defeat Frontier’s attack. 

18:21 – The huge hologram of Ranka is similar to the hologram that the original Macross projected of Lynn Minmay during the final battle against the Zentradi and also similar to the hologram the rogue AI Sharon Apple projected of itself as it used its musical abilities to brainwash the people of Macross City during the Macross Plus miniseries. We also saw this version of Ranka over and over in Macross Frontier’s 1st opening at the beginning of each episode up to episode 18! 

19:44 – That is one of the warships that escaped the destruction of the Galaxy fleet. Apparently it is under Grace’s control now. Grace has also apparently gained at least some control over the Varja swarm already even without taking over the Vajra queen… 

23:37 – Haha! They did the stupid book thing! The ending sequence for every SDF Macross episode involved a similarly bad / awkward live action turning the pages of a photo album showing pictures of the lead pilot Hiakru and singer Lynn Minmay. I’d forgotten that Frontier does it once! 

Next Episode: Your Sound

We didn’t see the next episode. Instead we saw the delightfully silly callback to SDF Macross’ picture book credits sequence.

Macross Frontier Episode Guide 23: True Begin

As we open this episode, we see a young Ranka watching her mother and Grace O’ Connor argue. Of note are the Vajra being kept in bubbling tanks near Ranka and near her mother. One of the Vajra is what looks to be a Vajra queen. It turns out, this is a dream Ranka is having. She recognizes the slightly older boy standing behind her in the dream, and as she awake his voice merges with that of Brera. The two finish their fold into the Vajra’s home system like we saw at the end of the previous episode. 

Back on Frontier, the fleet freezes and jettisons another of the smaller islands and it is now clear that Frontier’s ecosystems are not going to be able to recover. Leon is heading up a government meeting and while other officials wish to end Frontier’s mission, Leon insists that they will soon find a planet to call their own. 

Outside, Alto is flying a patrol with the two wingmen we saw last episode. One of them notes that there’s rumors that Alto is going out with Sheryl, the other prompts Alto for Sheryl’s autograph. Alto teases them in kind by telling them they will be shot down if they bother their follow pilot about a woman while in flight. But just then, one of the wingmen spots Sheryl waiting for Alto in one of Frontier’s domed areas. 

We see further evidence of Frontier’s worsening situation as now oxygen masks are needed for the general public to travel out in the open areas of Island 1. We transition to Alto and Sheryl having a fancy dinner where it seems that Alto is the better cook! Eventually, Sheryl has a bit too much to drink and Alto is forced to carry her to bed. In one of her final lucid moments before drifting off to sleep, Sheryl again asks Alto not to leave her. 

Back in the Vajra’s home system, a Vajra defense fleet folds in and surrounds their home planet. Ranka sings to them, but unbeknownst to her, the fold waves of her singing are picked up by Grace, Macross Quarter, and the Frontier fleet. All three work to pinpoint Ranka’s location. Unfortunately for Ranka, the Vajra move to attack. Then, when she thinks she sees Ai-kun coming to her, it turns out to be some other Vajra that rips her away from Brera. Brera is almost cornered by the Vajra, but Valkyries commanded by Grace save him before Grace takes control of him once again after telling him that he is indeed Ranka’s brother. 

Back on Frontier, Alto attends a meeting with Leon, with Richard Birler attending as well via hologram. The two ask for Alto’s support and explain that the Vajra operate as one giant fold wave connected organism and that they may be using Ranka as a tool to learn about and destroy humanity. Later, at Island 1’s hospital, Sheryl berates Luca for attempting to treat her V-type infection. As the infection worsens her power grows, so Sheryl insist that in this case kindness is a crime because while it may help her, weakening her newfound powers would end up harming far more people. 

Nearby, Alto meets his brother and the two watch as his father is being discharged from the hospital. Alto comments on how small or frail his father seems now. Yasaburō again tries to insist that Alto return to acting. He asks Alto if he would have become a pilot if there had been no enemy to fight. Alto checks in on Nanase and then steps outside with Klan. The two of them talk about why they joined the military and Alto reveals that even though he joined to protect Ranka, he now realizes that he might have to kill her in order to protect Frontier. 

We return to Ranka who has been taken to the Vajra queen. Ranka is finally able to recall her memories of the day the Vajra attacked the 117th Research Fleet. She had been singing Aimo and it looks like she was the one who drew the Vajra to the fleet. Her brother gets her to an escape pod and she watches as the ship she was on is destroyed by the Vajra. Meanwhile, Grace is monitoring Ranka through her VR sensor interface and seems excited as Ranka is overcome by her emotions. If anything, it looks like Grace is able to monitor the full extent of Ranka’s connection to the Vajra fold network.

At around the same time, a Ghost fighter from Frontier transmits back the first view of the Vajra homeward and Leon orders the Frontier fleet to execute an emergency 30 lightyear jump to the Vajra home system. He intends to finish his “holy war” and take the Vajra homeworld for humanity. 

Specific Scenes I Loved: 

  • When Sheryl continues to refuse treatment for her V-type infection so that her ability to disrupt the Vajra will continue to grow. She is shortening her own life in order to help the rest of Frontier. 
  • Alto and Klan on the hospital balcony looking over to Griffith Observatory while talking about Ranka. While Alto’s conclusion and Sheryl’s tears confuse me a bit, I do appreciate the symbolism of Alto talking about Ranka while gazing at the place they used to meet. 

Episode Impressions: 

Coming off a good run from, sheesh, Fastest Delivery to Northern Cross, this episode fell flat for me in a lot of ways. 

We don’t get much insight into the argument between Grace and Ranshe Mei. There’s wasn’t much tension or meaning to Alto and Sheryl’s dinner other than they seem to be living together now. Or was one just visiting the other? It’s not really explained how Grace manages to infiltrate and stay within the Vajra’s home system in order to save Brera. Yasaburō’s final plea to Alto just sorta goes unanswered. Alto’s big speech where he concludes that he will kill Ranka if he has to borders on being powerful but doesn’t quite make it. And, finally, I did not really understand Sheryl’s words or tears as she overheard Alto and Klan’s conversation. 

That last point is probably the most disappointing to me. I think maybe Sheryl has decided that she is just someone Alto is being kind to while she is still around, but that it is on Ranka’s behalf that Alto made all his key decisions? Sheryl throws her airplane which has been a symbol of “going for it” and doing something bold to try and achieve one’s dreams. Was that symbolism supposed to play more into Sheryl’s tears? For all the good back and forth Alto and Sheryl have had in this series, there just wasn’t enough here to draw a good conclusion. 

But, if nothing else, this episode did something a little clever in that it let Ranka’s singing alert both the good guys and the bad guys to her location. Now, both sides will be drawn to a final battle, most likely. So, I guess this episode at least provided a reason for things to move forward. 

Grace observing Ranka’s interactions with the Vajra fold network are super important. It is one of the last steps in Grace fulfilling her master plan. We only have two episodes left, so we’ll start to see fallout from this very quickly. 

Moment to Moment Notes: 

0:16 – This is the first we’ve heard of Grace’s implant network theory. 

0:27 – Not only did the research fleet have young and red Vajra specimens, they also somehow captured a queen?! 

3:43 – These two guys don’t so much resemble the two subordinates that Hikaru was given in the 2nd half of SDF Macross, but the hero being saddled with two rookies is callback to the original series. And the Valkyrie Jinx is more or less real as well. 

4:20 – Things are so bad that the government is even passing out oxygen masks to school kids.

5:55 – In one translation, Alto says the wine is not alcoholic, in the other more literal translation I have, he just says that it’s not hard liquor. I prefer the second translation because both Sheryl and Alto are adults and shows pretending that alcohol doesn’t exist annoy me. 

8:55 – It’s neat that it’s Ranka’s song that alerts both good and bad factions to her location.

12:24 – If the Vajra are just one big fold wave connected organism with no individuality… how does Ai-kun seem to have individuality?

14:16 – There it is. Brera is officially Ranka’s brother.

14:56 – We should have known this was Grace’s plan. To follow Brera and Ranka wherever they lead. 

18:31 – It seems like Grace is analyzing Ranka and the Vajra network at the same time. Are the two linked?

19:19 – Look at where Klan and Alto are standing. Or rather, look at what they can see in the distance. It’s Griffith Observatory! And Alto looking at it from afar kinda fits with his worrying over Ranka. 

20:44 – That’s a pretty profound statement from Alto. If anything he’s switched from protecting Ranka to protecting Frontier. 

21:08 – Does Sheryl think that Alto loves something (Ranka? Frontier?) more than her and that he is only comforting her until she dies? 

21:16 – Now a NUNS Ghost has found the Vajra homeworld.

Next Episode: Last Frontier

Well, maybe that preview made up for this episode. We see a big battle, several dimension eaters going off at once, Sheryl singing, Sheryl emotional, and more big battle. I can’t wait!

Macross Frontier Episode Guide 22: Northern Cross

Grace and Leon are still in communication, but I get the feeling that Leon doesn’t really trust Grace anymore. We learn that Frontier is all but dying due to the damage sustained by the Vajra in their last attack. Leon, however, thinks the three month estimate until Frontier is out of resources is more than enough time for his plan. 

Out on patrol, it looks like Luca’s L.A.I. has once again implemented better weapons to fight against the Vajra. Alto and his two new subordinates are able to take out a trio of red Vajra with hardly any troubles. It looks like Luca and Alto are developing a closer friendship in their combined desire to destroy the Vajra threat and rescue Ranka. 

We see that Sheryl is singing again, though this time her concert is a more intimate affair with a slow, weighty song instead of the more upbeat pop presence she had before. Sheryl is singing for charity these days, and has taken on Elmo as her manager. And there’s something else about Sheryl’s singing: She is now creating fold waves when she sings! Soon, Leon and Luca send for her.

Bobby finds Ozma and Cathy still hiding out in the ruins of Frontier. Back on Macross Quarter, they reveal what they know about Leon and his assassination of Cathy’s father. Ozma learns that Ranka has run away with the Vajra, while Captain Wilder tells of how the SMS is to be disbanded and merged into the New UN Spacey. 

At Leon’s office, Luca explains the science of the V-type infection to Sheryl. Fold microbes living in her brain are slowly poisoning her. Sheryl more or less knows this already from what Grace told her back at the hospital, so she asks if Luca is having fun using big words to tell her that she is going to die. Leon breaks it to Sheryl that because of the late stage of her infection, her voice can now disrupt the Vajra like Ranka’s has been able to!

Later, across Frontier, we see that Cathy and Ozma have sent messages to all of the remaining SMS staff. Apparently, something big is happening. Alto gets the message too, but he is more concerned about Sheryl’s wellbeing at the moment. Sheryl is still trying to put on a strong face for Alto, and is still acting as if she is going to be ok, but Alto knows the truth now thanks to Klan. He encourages Sheryl to stop singing, but now that Sheryl has realized that singing is all she has, she insists on doing it. But, she also admits that she is scared and lonely. In response, Alto promises to stay by her side until her final moments.

Somewhere out in space, Ranka and Brera are still searching for other Vajra. Ranka implies that she felt Alto and Sheryl’s feelings all the way back on Frontier. She then tells Brera that Ai-kun has told her the final step to get back to its world. 

Back on Frontier, Leon is giving his official inauguration speech as the 5th president of the Frontier fleet. Remember, up until now he had just been acting as Frontier’s president. Here he actually, officially accepts the role. He talks about fulfilling Frontier’s mission to find a new habitable world. As he is doing so, he sends his security team to eliminate Grace, which they do in a hail of gunfire! Leon continues to lay out his plan, that for Frontier to find a planet and find peace, the Vajra must be eliminated. Frighteningly, the crowds watching Leon’s speech cheer in agreement. Leon concludes his speech by introducing Sheryl as Frontier’s new hope of defeating the Vajra. 

On Macross Quarter, around 70% of the ship’s crew joins with Captain Wilder in order to go pirate. They steal the Quarter to oppose Leon’s violent plans. Leon sends a group of N.U.N.S fighters with orders to bring them back. The group includes Alto and Luca. A tense battle breaks out between N.U.N.S. and SMS, where Luca is nearly shot down. Alto and Ozma square off in a one on one dogfight where Alto demands to know why Ozma and SMS are abandoning Frontier. The two exchange nearly deadly fire, but ultimately Ozma comes out on top by disabling Alto’s Valkyrie. Ozma tells Alto that he and Ranka have chosen their own paths before asking Alto what path he plans to choose. 

The episode ends with Macross Quarter folding away, but there is an important scene after the credits where Ranka and Brera find the Vajra homeward… and so does Grace O’ Connor! Apparently it was Leon’s security team, not Grace, that went down in that earlier blaze of gunfire!  

Specific Scenes I Loved: 

  • That early look at the sheer state of devastation the Vajra attack left parts of Frontier in. 
  • Sheryl’s new song “Yousei” which roughly translates to “Fairy”. 
  • Bobby moving to comfort Cathy after she gives her report about her father’s assassination. 
  • Sheryl’s scene where Luca and Leon tell her about her new ability to generate fold waves. She is so subdued at the beginning, and then leans back uncaringly/acceptingly as they explain to her that she is going to die. But then, she is intensely interested as Leon informs her that she is now Humanity’s last hope. 
  • Alto and Sheryl’s night scene. These two have the best emotional conversations. 
  • Sheryl appearing on the side of the building as she sings at Leon’s inauguration. 
  • Ozma’s speech about being a man rather than an adult. 

Episode Impressions: 

I’ll make this section easy. I like this episode so much because it rewards Sheryl for completing her character transformation. She’s gone from an outwardly prissy intergalactic superstar, to a jealous, bed-ridden idol on the decline who found that someone else’s voice held power she could never have, to a crushed, discarded girl who knew she didn’t have long to live. But then, she began to rebuild her self worth as she lied to  selflessly protect Alto from her fate. Later, as everything went to hell, she realized that there was still value in her singing even in the midst of despair. Now, after going through everything from having her home fleet destroyed, to having her career that she strongly believed in ripped away from her, she finds out that her singing, the thing she holds most dear, actually can make a real difference. 

The thing is, Sheryl is in such a different place than she was at the beginning of the series. If Sheryl Nome, the “Galatic Fairy” we saw in Episode 1, had found out her voice was the key to humanity’s survival she might have just taken it for granted. What’s the first thing that this Sheryl in Episode 22 says upon finding out that she actually is Frontier’s last hope? She worriedly asks if Ranka is on the verge of death like she is! Sure, part of her question is that she already knows she is going to die soon so there’s no point in worrying about herself, but I think there’s still a lot to be said that the first thing that Sheryl voices is concern for Ranka. 

I also love the scene between Alto and Sheryl that night. The best part is where Alto yells at her to stop from outside the room. Listen to Sheryl’s voice and inflection just before that. She is almost “Sheryl Nome” again. Her voice is sweet and upbeat as she thanks Alto for helping her find her singing, and then she lies about just hanging around the Saotome mansion until she gets better as if everything is just fine with her. But when Alto yells for her to stop, without saying exactly what it is he is asking her to stop, it’s telling that she immediately knows that he knows everything about her sickness. Any time two characters can communicate without using words like this says something about the strength of the relationship they’ve developed. And the strength of the many past scenes that set it all up.

It’s also interesting that, for a moment, Alto actually doesn’t get it. He’s still one step behind, almost as if he is still thinking about their last conversation by the koi pond. He’s telling her that it’s ok not to sing. Sheryl, though, has gone through a long journey that has taught her just how important her singing is to her. Fortunately, Alto catches up quickly. There was a lot of debate in the Macross community about who would win the love triangle between Sheryl, Alto, and Ranka. I think that contest, if it ever really existed, ends in this scene where Alto pledges to stay by Sheryl’s side until she dies. 

The last big set piece of this episode, the SMS crew abandoning Frontier, confused me the first time around. I got why Alto and Luca choose to stay with Frontier. The people they loved were there. But Captain Wilder and the crew of the Macross Quarter leaving felt like a bit too much of a betrayal to me. It was only later that I realized that they were leaving because the man who had lied and murdered his way to the top was now trying to bring them under his direct command. Ozma says as much to Alto during their duel, but I don’t think I really understood it on my first viewing. Are they completely justified? No… I don’t think so. We learn at the first of the episode that Frontier’s ecosystem is fatally damaged, and there must still be hundreds of thousands of people left that the SMS does abandon. I do think their reasoning is a lot better than Ranka’s however. 

This episode is fairly straight forward. The one big key moment is at the very end where Grace and her co-conspirators recognize that they have arrived at the Vajra homeworld. We might not entirely understand how the Vajra are organized, but Grace’s comment about finding their one true queen is important. 

There’s a blink and you missed scene intercut with Luca and Leon telling Sheryl about her new ability to generate fold waves. For just a second we jump back to Alto and Klan. I think this scene is meant to show that Klan tells Alto everything about Sheryl’s illness. That’s how he knows about it when he meets Sheryl at his family’s home. 

Moment to Moment Notes: 

0:42 – I like how the rounds of devastating attacks the Frontier fleet has suffered have now actually had a real and terminal impact on the fleet as a whole. 

6:31 – Ozma picks up what looks to be a Ranka doll. That doll looks very similar to the Lynn Minmay dolls that played a roll in SDF Macross. 

6:55 – Lynn Minmay also did charity concerts at a variety of the small cities that began to pop up around the Earth after it was devastated in Space War 1. Unfortunately, Minmay’s manager was not nearly as selfless as Elmo is in Frontier. Minmay’s manager was himself a movie star and had this opinion that both he and Minmay deserved to be paid well for the services they provided… even though Humanity had been reduced to somewhere under 1,000,000 individuals worldwide. Minmay and her manager eventually parted ways over disagreements on what the entertainment they could provide was actually worth in terms of money vs happiness. 

7:55 – Remember when Cathy and Bobby were so at odds with each other back in episode 7? It’s nice to see that those two have worked together long enough that now Bobby is able to comfort Cathy as she breaks down again at the thought of her father’s murder. 

8:35 – In SDF Macross, Captain Global was constantly trying to light his pipe and being told not to by his bridge crew. Seems like nobody tells Macross Quarter’s Captain Wilder what to do. 

10:36 – So now Sheryl gets her chance again, but I feel she is in a much better / more mature place than Ranka was. Sheryl now knowns the pain of loss and the value in comforting people whereas Ranka ran away for her own more selfish reasons… 

15:10 – So Ranka can communicate with Ai-kun now? How did it tell her where to go? Did it point out a star or something? 

18:27 – Sherly’s song “Northern Cross” is upbeat… but the lyrics aren’t exactly a celebration. It’s really another one of her “you died and if I can’t be with you I don’t want to live either” songs… 

19:07 – Notice that Alto and Luca are not flying their normal VF-25s and have instead downgraded to whatever the rest of Frontier’s military uses. 

20:57 – Ozma’s quote about being a man is funny and nostalgic to me since his voice actor played Kamina in the anime Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Kamina was ALL ABOUT manly spirit and accomplishing the impossible by believing in one’s self. He’d give long, silly, deeply inspiring speeches about both, and is one of my favorite characters in all of anime. So to hear Ozma talk about the distinction of being an adult vs being a man brings back fun memories of Kamina. 

22:57 – There is a little bit of the episode left after the main credits. Stick around for that. 

Next Episode: True Begin

Hard to tell exactly what’s coming next. It does seem important that Brera is having to fight again. We don’t really see who or what he is fighting against, though.

Macross Frontier Episode Guide 21: Azure Ether

Leon arrives on the bridge of Battle Frontier and orders its immediate departure, explaining that President Glass was killed by the Vajra. “My turn,” he says as we head to the opening. 

At SMS headquarters, Alto and Luca prepare to head to Island 3 with Klan blazing a trail for them. Klan is now at her full size, is carrying a Valkyrie’s gunpod, and has strapped a Valkyrie’s armor pack with its missile pods to her back. She ascends in an elevator with a look of pure rage on her face. When she emerges into the open she takes flight and opens fire on hundreds of Vajra all while screaming Michael’s name in her head. 

Outside, Macross Quarter is in a tight spot, but is rescued by Battle Frontier. Leon is apparently going to put up a fight against the Vajra. He also plans to enact a strategy developed by Luca. We cut to the Island 3 research facility to see that Luca (and L.A.I.?) have constructed another Dimension Eater bomb. The plan is to use Ranka’s singing to lure the Vajra onto Island 3 and then destroy them all with the fold bomb. Alto hates the idea of using Ranka that way, but Luca says he helped develop the bomb (and the others like it?) in order to protect those he loved. Ultimately, Ranka agrees to be the bait, even over Alto’s objections. 

As things are prepared, Alto promises Ranka that he will protect her. Ranka, though, is still struggling with her smashed emotions. She wanted to reach Alto with her songs, and wants for him to return her love, but because that did not work, she has now resigned herself to sing for Frontier because it is what Alto is asking her to do. The distinction is very bittersweet. Ranka is still torn up inside, but the plan works this time and the bulk of the Vajra threat is eliminated. Frontier’s other forces are able to root out the remaining Vajra over the next few hours, but the cost to the fleet’s ecosystem has been disastrous. 

Some time later, Leon gives an extended eulogy for those that died during the attack. We see many scenes of devastation and cleanup. As his speech ends, we see that he, Ranka, and the media are gathered in Frontier’s cemetery. Leon asks Ranka to sing for them. Ranka takes the microphone, but then she hesitates for a few moments before declaring that she cannot sing anymore. Then, in a stunning turn of events, she runs off the stage and into the nearby woods! There, she meets Ai-kun who has grown to be nearly as big as she is. Suddenly, Ai-kun rears back and splits open in something of a metamorphosis. 

Some time later, Ranka phones Alto which sends him rushing to their normal spot at Griffith Observatory. There, dressed in her white dress, Ranka asks Alto to teach her to make a paper airplane. Ranka has Alto explain to her why he wanted to fly. It was because his mother could not do much and dreamed of seeing a real sky. Alto inherited her dream, something that Ranka finds beautiful. Ranka finishes her plane then set it flying before asking Alto a more dangerous question. She asks if everyone wants to live free, before then asking Alto to come with her as a new 2nd stage Vajra catches her paper airplane and flies near. 

Alto draws his gun, but Ranka blocks his line of fire! This Vajra is apparently what Ai-kun became. Ranka demands to know if Alto would still kill it even though it did nothing wrong. To Alto, humanity and the Vajra cannot co-exist, so he aims his gun and fires only to have Brera rush in and knock his shot wide. Brera offers to take Ranka where she wants to go. Ranka explains to Alto that she has regained most of her memories and that she wants to take Ai-kun back to the other Vajra. 

Brera brings his Valkyrie nearby and he and Ranka board it. Then, in an emotional moment, Ranka finally voices her love for Alto before saying goodbye. As the beautiful song “Azure Ether” plays in the background, Brera takes Ranka up through one of Island 1’s airlocks and folds away, leaving the Frontier fleet without their one truly effective weapon against the Vajra. Across Frontier, Sheryl, Ozma and Cathy, and the bridge crew of Battle Frontier notice the departure. 

In what feels a lot like a final moment for Ranka, we see various scenes of her while the end credits play. At the very end of the episode we see a beautiful rendering of Ranka in her white dress almost as if we will never see her again. 

Specific Scenes I Loved: 

  • Klan rising in the elevator with nothing but Michael’s death echoing in her mind. 
  • Ranka tears as she leads tens of thousands of Vajra to their deaths. 
  • Klan cradling Michaels helmet as she morns for him in the cockpit of his Valkyrie. 
  • Alto’s imaginary glider among the clouds.
  • Ranka’s trembling lips as she says what she seems to believe is her final goodbye. 

Episode Impressions: 

The Good: 

This episode feels extremely important. Ranka’s choice to abandon the duties that were thrust upon her is very believable. As much as she has achieved, she never intended to be a weapon of war. I don’t think she was ever really comfortable even playing the role of a songstress of hope, but she did so because she was too kind not to. 

Her decision to leave Frontier also feels very significant. She was the fleet’s most potent defense against the Vajra. Reaction weapons and fold bombs could kill concentrated groups, but only Ranka’s singing could give pause to entire Vajra fleets. With her gone, Frontier will be in a dire position. 

I’ll talk a little more about Ranka’s departure below, but for all I didn’t like about it, it was a very beautiful, very well animated moment that felt weighty and final, even though it’s pretty much a sure thing that we’ll see Ranka again next episode. 

The Bad: 

As much as I respect Ranka for abandoning her position as the songstress of hope, abandoning Frontier all to return one Vajra to its people seems… extremely foolish and selfish. Early on we were lead to believe that individual Vajra don’t have the mental capacity to think or feel. Even if that was a mistake, and if we assume that Ai-kun has learned that Humans are good, thousands of Vajra just killed thousands of Humans across Frontier! Maybe it’s ok for Ranka to protect Ai-kun and search for a lasting peace through that connection, but to run away just to return one Vajra home after such a devastating attack? I would believe that Ranka was under mind control if we had seen even the slightest bit of evidence of it. 

As it is, this episode makes me question Ranka’s goals and even her sanity. We know that she is seen by Grace as the Vajra’s “little queen” so maybe that will play into it in the episodes to come? Right now, Ranka’s actions just feel a little too extreme to me.

I think we’ve now seen that Luca, and his family company L.A.I. have been responsible for the various fold weapons that Leon and Grace have made use of. I’m not sure that Luca knew about the bomb that Grace used to destroy Gallia 4, but he certainly knew about the one Leon planned to use on Island 3 this episode. 

Ranka’s decision to sing broken on Island 3 and her decision to stop singing and then leave are all related, I think. I imagine her decisions are now a volatile, tragic mixture of having her emotions crushed on one side, and feeling an increasing connection to the Vajra on the other. We’ll just have to see how well this is played upon in coming episodes. 

As much as Ranka seems to be regaining her memory, Brera is treating her with more and more familiarity, like the harmonica-wearing big brother he pretty clearly appears to be. Just remember, no matter what he does, Grace has shown that she has complete control over him if she wishes it. 

That very brief shot of Sheryl back in a dressing room is important. It seems that she has decided to continue singing. This will become more important in the next episode. 

Moment to Moment Notes: 

0:55 – We first see a Macross fleet’s main battleship separate from its main city ship in Macross 7. That launch sequence was very similar to the one here in Frontier. 

3:25 – This one shot of Klan’s eyes raging in the dark is just excellent. 

4:17 – Not very nice of Battle Frontier to not warn anyone about firing their main gun…

4:45 – Commodore Perry sure is talking back a lot to Leon. As far as we know, none of Battle Frontier’s crew actually knows Leon killed President Glass…

6:58 – This exterior shot of Folmo Mall, along with Leon talking about sacrificing Island 3, seems to confirm that Klan and the other full size Zentradi troops were indeed holding off Vajra at the mall. (The architecture looked familiar before, but I think this seals it…) 

9:42 – Very interesting that Sheryl was able to pick up on Ranka’s song. 

10:15 – Those red eyes are still scary! 

10:38 – 11 years ago is when the 117 Research Fleet that Ranka and her parents were a part of was destroyed by the Vajra. 

12:52 – Perfect use of Klan’s smaller form. Such an emotional shot here! 

16:49 – Macross Frontier has some beautiful skies!

23:29 – The whole credit sequence feels really final.

Next Episode: Northern Cross

Looks like Sheryl is back somewhat, next episode. And we see Ranka too in a new scene, so she isn’t complete gone. Other than that, it’s hard to tell what is going on.

Macross Frontier Episode Guide 20: Diamond Crevasse

Where last episode ended on a multipart cliffhanger, this episode begins by showing us all the pieces that were left hanging. Most of the scenes are unchanged from episode 19, but this time we do see that Alto and Sheryl’s closeness was less a passionate embrace and more Alto catching Sheryl as she had yet another dizzy spell. The jump from Ranka’s disbelief to the opening credits is still pretty dramatic, though. 

Ranka tries to run away from her shock and embarrassment at seeing Alto and Sheryl near each other, but trips and falls. Her hurt feelings and pained thoughts call out to the Vajra we saw hidden away in the previous episode and soon there are multiple small, 2nd stage Vajra in the skies over Mihoshi Academy. Ironically, one of the first Vajra to appear kills the gunman Leon sent to assassinate President Glass. Leon finds out about his failed plot a few moments later when the President calls him and informs him about the new Vajra attack. This gives Cathy and Ozma a chance to flee from the guards that Leon calls to his office. 

Within a few minutes, there is a small swarm of Vajra spreading out across Island 1. Alto goes to Ranka and implores her to sing so they can stop the Vajra, but Ranka at first refuses. Ranka’s conflicting emotions well up and tears fall from her eyes as she tries to explain that she doesn’t want to be a tool to fight the Vajra. It’s only when Sheryl walks over and calmly slaps some sense into Ranka that the younger girl begins to collect herself. Ranka tries singing Grace’s arrangement of Aimo, but once again her negative emotions call out and an entire huge swarm of 2nd stage Vajra flood Island 1’s skies!

Over at his office, Leon demands to know if this new attack was Grace’s doing. She denies it, but says it wasn’t outside the real of possibility. Leon, however, sees the new threat as his opportunity to continue his plan. Outside Frontier, a new group of Vajra fold in and begin to attack Frontier’s defenses with the Macross Quarter attempting to hold the line against them. 

Back near Mihoshi Academy, Alto, Ranka, and Sheryl along with Michael, Klan, Luca, and Nanase come up with a plan to head to SMS headquarters where they can pickup more weapons and a fold amplifier to hopefully let Ranka’s voice calm the Vajra. But then, Nanase is injured in a nearby blast that separates her and Sheryl from the others. In a touching moment of heroism, Sheryl indicates her willingness to stay behind and take care of Nanase while the others continue on. Ranka, who now appears to be in emotional shock, has to be lead by Alto away from the scene of destruction before them. 

Later, as President Glass makes his way from Island 1 to the still docked Battle Frontier, he is met by Leon Mishima. Leon gives President Glass one final bow then he and and his guards open fire on the President and his protection detail. Some minutes later, Cathy and Ozma travel down the same emergency access way only to find Cathy’s father dead on the ground with multiple fresh gunshot wounds. 

At SMS headquarters, Klan comes up with a plan to fit herself with spare weapons meant for a Valkyrie. She and the others push deeper inside only to be forced to guard their rear against encroaching Vajra. As Klan undresses in preparation of macroizing, she finally openly admits her love to Michael and kisses him. Michael and Alto once again hold a hallway against the Vajra while Klan transitions from her small size to her full size in a tank behind them. 

Elsewhere, Sheryl has managed to bring a still unconscious Nanase to a large emergency shelter. The people inside are becoming increasingly frantic and the power goes out and explosions rock the floor beneath their feet. Sheryl instinctively reaches for her earring and thinks back to what Alto told her earlier. That she can’t help but sing because of how her songs have touched so many people. Sheryl retrieves her remaining earring from her pocket and thinks to herself that if Ranka is to be Frontier’s voice of hope, then at least she herself can help calm the people around her who are slipping into despair. Sheryl stands up in the dim emergency lights and begins singing Diamond Crevasse, diverting the refugees attention away from the sounds of battle around them.

Back at SMS headquarters, a few Vajra manage to burst in through the ceiling and begin to attack Klan’s macroization tank. Michael takes flight in an attempt to stop them but is stabbed by one of the Vajra. He kills it with sustained gunfire, but it then explodes, tearing a small hole in the exterior wall. Michael has just enough time to return Klan’s earlier proclamation of love before he is sucked out into the vacuum of space! All Klan can do is watch helplessly as the man she has loved for years meets his end defending her.

The episode ends with a sparkling tear streaming down Sheryl’s face as she continues to sing. 

Specific Scenes I Loved: 

  • Ranka’s turmoil as her feeling for Alto are smothered by her heartbreak at seeing him with Sheryl. 
  • Sheryl’s slap followed by the comforting hug and honest, regretful acknowledgment that only Ranka’s singing can help save everyone. 
  • Sheryl demanding to know just who Alto thinks she is when she insists on staying behind to take care of Nanase. The answer, of course, is that she is THE Sheryl Nome. It’s nice to see Sheryl with some of her confidence back.
  • Leon’s ultimate betrayal of President Howard Glass. 
  • Sheryl’s realization that her singing still has a use even if her voice doesn’t have the magic qualities that put a stop to the Vajra. “Ranka, if you are the songstress of hope, then I will sing in the midst of despair” is one of the most powerful moments in all of Macross Frontier. 
  • Michael’s tragic death, but also that one quick moment where we see that Klan is pushing so hard against the walls of her tank that she cracks them one step further! 
  • Sheryl’s final tear that transitions to a solitary light that quickly goes out in space.

Episode Impressions: 

Episode 20. Wow. We knew that lot of things were being set up last episode to go off with a bang in this one, but I didn’t expect it go like this! 

I feel sorry for Ranka. Seeing Alto and Sheryl together at just the wrong moment broke the joyful enthusiasm that carried her through her best concert yet. Yes, she initially refused to help all the people around her who were suffering and dying, but I think her refusal was a very well earned, emotional character moment. She is not some superhero, but is instead a teenage girl who has been thrust into an incredibly traumatic series of events. For the rest of the episode, especially after her song fails, she is just straight up in shock and is barely even able to function without someone to lead her to safety. 

And then there’s Sheryl, who was basically left an empty shell after Grace’s revelations that she was a failed experiment who would soon die. To her credit, Sheryl tried to shield Alto from her impending death by lying to him. But then, here in this episode, we finally get to see Sheryl’s absolute true character. When push comes to shove, she reverts to being Sheryl Nome, the Galatic Fairy who guides fate with her own hands. Her scene telling Alto to go put a stop to the Vajra attack is just great because she leaves the “I’m Sheryl, Sheryl Nome.” part unspoken. Both she and Alto know it is implied, which speaks some to the closeness of their relationship at this stage. 

Sheryl finding a new reason to sing. Grace’s words hit Sheryl hard. They took singing to entertain away from her. There was probably even a good bit of truth to the idea that Grace’s manipulations had a lot to do with Sheryl’s rise to stardom. But, in that emergency shelter, we see that Sheryl really did earn a name for herself. That in the midst of despair, her songs were able to bring a desperate, worried crowd to awed silence. Ultimately, we see that Sheryl really is more than just Grace’s failed experiment. 

Finally, there’s Klan and Michael. The two of them hid their true feeling from each other for too long. Both knew the danger inherit in their line of work, but both used it as an excuse to not be honest with each other. Maybe a bit more Michael than Klan, but they still both shared some of the blame. It will be interesting to see how Klan reacts to Michael dying right before her eyes. Given that she sees herself as a true Zentradi, I think the aftermath will be quite spectacular! 

We’ve now seen that Ranka’s singing works both ways. It can confuse and weaken the Vajra when she is in control of her emotions and intentions, but it can also inspire the Vajra to increased aggression, as well. 

Leon’s distrust of Grace and Grace’s teasing offer of help are the first signs that their alliance is starting to fracture. I think it’s time to take bets on which one of them will come out on top. 

Sheryl finding a new reason to sing will become even more significant in the coming episodes. 

Grace’s ability to control Brera’s is similarly not something that should be overlooked. 

Moment to Moment Notes: 

4:15 – I feel sorry for that girl that gets bled on.

6:45 – Sheryl’s slap here has a very similar context to a well delivered slap Hikaru delivered to Lynn Minmay in “Do You Remember Love?”. Minmay had run away after ending up on the losing end of a love triangle, but her voice and songs were the only hope the Macross and Earth had of gaining enough Zentradi allies to survive the overwhelming Zentradi forces bearing down on them. But, despite Hikaru pleading with her to sing, Minmay babbled and cried over how she wished it was just the two of them and how she wished everyone would die except her and Hikaru so they could be together. The battle the Macross was about to engage in would decide if Humanity was to survive or be driven to extinction, so the shocking slap back to reality she received from Hakaru was well deserved. Just like Ranka’s was here. 

7:38 – For a moment here, I wondered if maybe Sheryl might become Ranka’s manager.

9:21 – Interesting that Leon doesn’t fully trust Grace. 

11:16 – I love Sheryl starting to reassert herself. 

12:50 – Apparently, Grace has the ability to take control of Brera if she deems it necessary. 

13:11 – Thise scene of Brera controlling his fighter with his thoughts is very similar to Guld Goa Bowman controlling the prototype YF-21 with his thoughts in Macross Plus. Ultimately, the YF-21’s fighter/brain interface was never put into production because it required too good of a pilot and demanded too much undivided concentration… stray thoughts could all too easily be transferred into actual commands. It looks like the Galaxy fleet solved those issues in their VF-27 line of fighters. 

14:07 – Annie can’t even be said to be a secondary character. I don’t think she ever had any lines, but we did see her around as part of the SMS crews from time to time. Her death was a nice touch to show that the Vajra’s attacks were having a real impact on characters that we knew.

17:26 – Eddie is Canaria’s son. You’ll see his picture in her bomber later. 

17:42 – Sheryl’s realization of what her role can be and her finding a reason to sing once again is one of my favorite moments in Macross Frontier. She started as a haughty, overconfident character, showed her softer and more playful sides when she could be free of the over the top image most people held of her, was laid her low by her sickness and by Grace’s betrayal, but now she has been brought her back around to singing once more. 

18:24 – That little smile on Sheryl’s face is just perfect. 

20:26 – That exploding Vajra is a foreshadow of what is to come… 

22:19 – Sheryl’s tear becoming Michael’s extinguished Light is a nice ending touch…

23:21 – …as is that final, post credits shot of Michael’s broken glasses left behind on the floor. 

Next Episode: Azure Ether 

It looks like the Frontier fleet survives the unexpected Vajra resurgence, but at a terrible cost. We see a brief scene of Sheryl in a dressing room which implies she will continue singing. Ranka looks almost happy as Alto makes her a new paper airplane, so maybe she springs back from her emotional trauma? And then there’s those two dramatic images of Klan, first in her small form cradling Michael’s helmet, and then in what I can only assume is her large form as she unleashes Zentradi hell upon the Vajra. Just look at the fury in her eyes! 

Macross Frontier Episode Guide 19: Triangler

We open this episode with Ranka dreaming about her mother not being able to come to her because of work. Disconcertingly, the dream seem to end with young Ranka reflected in a Vajra’s compound eye. Nearby, Ai-kun receives some kind of signal and runs off. 

Alto sneaks back into his family’s home, but Yasaburō is there waiting for him. He leads Alto to Sheryl who not only has recovered, but is still acting as if everything is fine. She tells Alto that she no longer wishes to sing, that she has achieved everything she wanted with singing, and that all her proclamations about achieving greatness through her own strength were nothing more than creative lies. Alto doesn’t believe her and manages to provoke her somewhat, but is unable to get Sheryl to tell him what is really going on. Alto leaves angrily, but not before demanding that Sheryl come to Ranka’s upcoming victory performance. 

During the parade to her own performance, we find that Ranka has run off with Brera in search of Ai-kun. Meanwhile, several other things are in motion. Cathy and Ozma uncover a plot that Leon has set in motion, while Leon and Grace perfect new miniaturized dimension eater bullets that will penetrate the Vajra’s upgraded armor. It also seems that Grace has discovered something important about the Vajra queen. It is soon revealed that Leon’s plan involves assassinating President Glass! 

At Griffith Park, a little before her concert, Ranka and Brera share a moment where Brera’s inadvertently familiar treatment of Ranka helps her realize that she has been singing for Alto all this time. We cut to Ranka’s concert and she is more energetic than ever as she pours her emotions for Alto into her songs. In the sky above the concert, Alto and the other SMS stunt team members perform some nice skywriting that further convinces Ranka that she is doing everything for Alto. 

As the concert wraps up, we find that Sheryl did in fact come, but she is going to leave without saying anything to Alto until Klan stops her and convinces her to go back. Up on one of the academy’s launch arms, Michael explains to Alto that Ranka is in love with him and insists that he must make a choice between her and Sheryl to avoid hurting Ranka. Just then, Sheryl arrives, and Michael leaves to let Alto and Sheryl be alone. Around this time we see that Luca realizes that Nanase’s drawing of Ai-kun marks it as a young Varja! And there are other Vajra still growing on Frontier. And they are hatching!

Elsewhere, Cathy and Ozma confront Leon over his planned assassination, but they are too late. Leon has already put his plan into motion.

With her last song over, Ranka ascends the stairs excited to tell Alto how she feels… only when she bursts through the doors she sees Alto holding Sheryl in his arms. Alto and Sheryl move apart, but all Ranka can do is stand there as her emotional high meets an unexpected brick wall. And that’s where the episode ends! 

Specific Scenes I Loved: 

  • Brera finding the cat. For such a fearsome pilot, it was fun to see him get surprised for once. 
  • Alto’s conversation with Sheryl. She has both given up on herself and is trying to shield Alto from the knowledge that she is dying. And she does a pretty good job of it. But then, we see her hold herself at the end and know that everything is not as good as she says it is. 
  • That short scene where Yasaburō talks to Sheryl about the thrill of being on stage. For a minor secondary character, he got a nice little speech there. 
  • Ranka emerging on Alto and Sheryl. It’s just sorta a classic, shocking, love triangle moment.

Episode Impressions: 

This episode has a lot of moving parts that all overlap, but I like it a lot despite how much it jumps around. We get another really great, subtle, simmering emotional conversation between Alto and Sheryl. It was sorta similar to the one they held before Alto first went off to rescue the Galaxy ships, except here Sheryl all but closed herself off from Alto instead of unexpectedly opening up. I also like how even though Sheryl puts on a convincing performance, Alto know her well enough to yell at her to cut the crap. He even gets her angry and lashing back at him as her emotions almost overcome her, but she turns away rather than admit that she is lying about not wanting to sing anymore. The scene is not even two minutes long, but there’s a lot of great unspoken emotion and pain there. 

This episode also has a great cliffhanger of an ending. The hidden Vajra are emerging somewhere on Frontier, Sheryl and Alto might be admitting their true feelings to each other, a sniper is taking aim at President Glass, Cathy and Ozma are trying to stop Leon’s coup d’état, and Ranka has her newfound realizations and emotions for Alto come crashing down around her in an instant. It’s taken 19 episodes to get here, but all the setup has lead to these interesting moments. And the wonderful cutaway to the end credits that leaves us hanging on multiple fronts all at once! 

While Leon is excited to have his MDE bullets, Grace is more excited about deciphering something that she and Dr. Mao were working on. Remember, Grace’s end goal is to begin something much more radical than using fold quartz to decrease travel times across the galaxy. Now we know it involves the Vajra queen. 

Moment to Moment Notes:

0:50 – Ranka is now in the same hotel that Sheryl used to stay in. 

9:08 – That’s quite a pronouncement from Sheryl! Everything she has done has been about singing up until now!

10:51 – What mystery was Dr. Mao working on? Certainly not advanced bullets. Her big paper was on V-type infections, after all. And Grace says she has solved the Queen’s secret. What is that? 

12:36 – This brief little speech by Yasaburō is surprisingly moving. It affects Sheryl, for sure. 

14:39 – Ranka’s uncertainty about why she sings is reminiscent of Lynn Minmay’s similar doubts in SDF Macross. 

18:11 – This episode is kinda known to be a low point in Macross Frontier’s animation quality. Michale is very off model in these scenes, for instance. 

22:15 – Poor Ranka!

23:43 – That photo of Alto, Ranka, and Sheryl is pretty neat. 

Next Episode: Diamond Crevasse

Whoa. Unless we’re seeing a flashback, and I don’t think we are, Frontier gets hit hard by the Vajra again!