This episode opens on a familiar sight for long time Macross fans. We are back on Mayan Island with Sara Nome, Shin Kudo, and Mao Nome… excerpt, they don’t quite look the same as they did when they helped U.N. forces save the world more than fifty years before Frontier’s present day. Shin looks a little different this time around, Sara’s hair is orange instead black, and Mao’s hair is green instead of purple. A closer look reveals that we’re not seeing the real Shin, and that Sara and Mao are being played by Miranda Meilin and Ranka Lee! We cut to a movie theater where Ranka is watching a movie version of Macross Zero that the Frontier fleet has apparently produced.

We skip to a few weeks earlier and see that the Frontier fleet is gearing up for the production of a movie called “Bird Human” based on the actual events that happened some fifty years prior. We learn that Ranka is going to be in the film, but as a background character credited only as “Mayan Girl A”. Despite that, Ranka is excited to be a part of the movie. When she reaches the shooting location, an island on one of Frontier’s smaller pill-shaped ships, she is surprised to find most of the SMS crew members are present at the filming. Apparently, SMS is lending its Valkyries as stand-ins for the prototype VF-0 fighters that the U.N. forces fielded back then.

Ranka soon comes across Miranda Meilin who warns her not to ruin her movie. Sheryl is also present, since her songs are going to be used in the film. Miranda flocks to Sheryl’s side in an attempt to introduce herself, but Sheryl sidesteps the Miss Macross winner in order to speak to Ranka. She is glad to see Ranka continuing to advance her career. Ranka is so happy to have Sheryl’s praise that she doesn’t even notice Alto standing nearby until Sheryl points him out. Embarrassingly, the movie’s director who Sheryl had just been talking to recognizes Alto from his Kabuki days where he played a popular princess. The director has his assistant beg Alto to be in the movie, much to Alto’s dismay. 

A little later, we see that the actor playing Shin has refused to do the movie’s big underwater scene because it’s not a part of his contract. Alto agrees to be the actor’s stunt double as a favor to Ranka, after Elmo gets the director to agree to give Ranka a bigger part if Alto could be convinced to play a role, any role, in the movie. It seems that Alto was so well known that he still carries a significant amount of weight and influence in the acting world! 

Sheryl, Ranka, and Luca have a conversation off to the side where Sheryl informs Ranka about Alto’s past popularity. Sad that she is the last to know about Alto’s past, Ranka hikes off on her own to a scenic spot up on the island’s cliffs. There, she sings Aimo to comfort herself and is unknowingly spotted by the director who had earlier gone off to fish while the dispute with Shin’s actor was worked out.

Elsewhere, we see Leon having a meeting with a strange informant who gives him new information on Purple 1 and the Vajra. In return, the mysterious informant seems to want more purple crystals that look a lot like the main portion of Sheryl’s earrings. 

Back at Ranka’s scenic cliff, a large, bulked up Hydra approaches and attacks. Alto, who was nearby looking for Ranka, comes to her aid, but they are both knocked down by the Hydra. It charges them, but suddenly the pilot of Purple 1 jumps in the way and protects Ranka and Alto by intercepting the Hydra’s bite with his arm. He fends off the Hydra by ultimately cutting it in half after a tense fight. We find out that this pilot is a cyborg named Brera Stern before he quickly leaves.

Alto carries Ranka back to the mock Mayan village where Elmo is waiting for Ranka with “ultra super big news.” Apparently, the director liked her and her song so much that he wants her to play Mao in the place of an actress that the rogue Hydra either injured or killed. Even more excitingly, the director also wants to use Aimo as Sara and Mao’s legendary song of the wind! At first, Alto is thrilled for Ranka, but then he remembers that he signed on to do the underwater stunt work… which includes a kissing scene with the actress playing Mao… which will now be Ranka! 

Despite the great opportunity it would be to play Mao, Ranka does not immediately accept the offer. She can’t get over the acting advice Alto gave her earlier. That to act, she needs to really understand and become the character she is playing. Ranka admits to Bobby that she does not understand the crush Mao had on Shin, or what Mao felt as she watched her older sister fall in love with Shin. Bobby takes pity on Ranka, noting that it’s obvious that she has never really fallen in love before. 

Further up the beach, Sheryl teases Alto about his upcoming kissing scene with Ranka. Alto says he is ready to play the scene, but he feels bad for Ranka because it is a much bigger and tougher decision for her. Besides, Alto says, a kiss is not a big deal. But then Sheryl surprises him by surging forward and giving him a long kiss. Afterwards, Alto is stunned and can hardly put two words together until Sheryl breaks out into laughter. Her kiss was mostly just her putting on an act to prove to Alto that maybe kisses weren’t as meaningless to him as he claimed. 

Down on the beach, Ranka is shocked to see Sheryl and Alto’s kiss, but at the same time, she finally understands the jealousy that Mao felt back then. Newly determined, Ranka marches over to the director and accepts his offer to become Mao. 

Alto and Ranka perform the underwater scene and the kiss. We are also treated to the end of the movie where Ranka, playing Mao, sings Aimo in order to catch Shin’s damaged Valkyrie and send him racing towards the stars after Sara who had been whisked away moments before by the movie’s titular alien doomsday weapon. (Go watch Macross Zero to see that happen.) 

Back in the movie theater, we see that Ranka has been attending the debut of “Bird Human”. After Miranda Meilin takes her bow as the film’s lead actress, the spotlights light up Ranka in the front row of the audience. Sheryl is there encouraging Ranka to stand and then the director himself, who never once spoke a word out loud during the movie’s filming, personally offers his hand to Ranka. He leads her up onto the stage and tells her out loud that even though she was an unknown before, now her legend is about to begin!

Specific Scenes I Loved: 

  • Every scene that is taken from Macross Zero. This episode was such a nostalgia trip! I especially liked that even the commercial break graphic was a scene from the shoot of “Bird Human” instead of a piece of random Frontier character art like it normally is.  
  • Ranka’s long period of indecision on the beach. Her fears and lack of understanding about Mao’s feelings are a really well done character moment. 
  • The scene where Ranka is led triumphantly on stage by the director after the film’s debut. It is such a powerful scene, and it looks like it will be a big, life changing moment for Ranka. 

Episode Impressions: 

Where to even start? We’ve already gotten some pretty direct callbacks to past Macross works in Macross Frontier, but this episode blows them all away! For those who haven’t seen Macross Zero, this episode literally paints Frontier characters into some of its key scenes. Things like most of the background artwork and even some of the background characters are literally untouched and look exactly like they did in Macross Zero. And that’s awesome. Macross Zero was made about six years before Macross Frontier and has excellent writing and animation. It’s the only other work in the Macross franchise that I whole heartedly endorse. (Though Macross Plus is pretty good too!)

Even more awesome is the way Frontier uses the story of Sara, Mao, and Shin to enhance our understanding of Sheryl, Ranka, and Alto. The way Sheryl teases Alto but also is respectful of his decision to stop acting is very insightful on Sheryl’s part. Then there’s the way Alto puts aside his grievances with his family and his past in order to help out Ranka. Knowing what we know about Alto and his tendency to jump to anger whenever anyone mentions his family or acting career, what he did was very significant on his part. And then Ranka, of course, looks like she is about to become a major star! I know I listed it above, but that final scene where she gets asked on stage is one of my favorite scenes in all of Macross Frontier. The music and that final shot are just perfect. 

In addition to all that, this episodes also manages to give a name and a bit of motivation to the mysterious pilot of Purple 1. It’s interesting that his decision to save Ranka and Alto is frowned upon by his mysterious handler. 

This episode heavily references the Macross Zero miniseries that came out a few years before Macross Frontier. The episode, in fact, sees characters from Macross Frontier create an in-universe movie that largely follows the plot of Macross Zero. This is not unheard of in the Macross universe. In Macross 7, that show’s characters take part in a production called “The Lynn Minmay Story” where they recreate some of the moments of Space War 1, and the movie “Do You Remember Love?” is, at one point, shown to be playing in theaters within the City 7 colony ship. 

On a more meta note, multiple works in the Macross franchise come back and modify previous shows. SDF Macross and Do You Remember Love? are one example where the latter was a reworked version of the former. Macross Frontier and its two movies diverge greatly in their plots, as well. The creator and director of Macross, Shōji Kawamori, has said in multiple interviews over the years that no one version of each story is more true than the next. It’s more like there are multiple points of view of the same events where all versions are assumed to have at least some significant amount of truth to them. Even when they appear mutually exclusive. That said, Do You Remember Love?’s story seems to have largely supplanted SDF Macross’ in terms of what is often referenced in shows like Macross Frontier and Macross Delta. Things like ship designs and references to the events that ended Space War 1 tend to reflect the Do You Remember Love?’s version of things.

The brief scene where Ozma notes how it is a twist of fate that Ranka ended up playing the role of “Dr. Mao” will be important later. I believe this is the first we’ve ever heard of Mao being called Dr. Mao. In Macross Zero she was just a young, curious, energetic teenager.

Moment to Moment Notes: 

0:01 – Right away, this artwork and these scenes should be familiar to anyone who watched Macross Zero. The scene of the pilot pointing a stick at the priestess is nearly a shot for shot, line for line recreation of a scene from Macross Zero, but with characters from Macross Frontier playing the various historical roles. Many scenes in this episode come directly from Macross Zero with new characters from Frontier being painted over the original animation.

1:01 – Ranka makes a pretty convincing Mao Nome! Miranda Meilin, who earlier won the title of Miss Macross, is a slightly less convincing version of Sara.  

2:41 – Last we saw of Shin Kudo, the lead character in Macross Zero, he was whisked off to the stars by the songs of Mao Nome. Maybe he didn’t go as far as he seemed and later came back and wrote a biography? If so… what happened to Sara?

5:18 – The confidential message that popped up on Leon’s terminal was from “G”. 

5:42 – It is fun seeing a recreation of Mayan Island. What’s more interesting, though, is that the island within one of Frontier’s pill-shaped ships doesn’t look like a temporary prop for the movie. It looks more like that ship was built with an island heavily influenced by the original Mayan Island that existed on earth over fifty years earlier.

6:31 – The director (sitting in the background) looks suspiciously like a bearded Macross creator/director Shōji Kawamori. 

8:03 – Remember, in some forms of Kabuki, all roles, including the female roles, were played by boys. Perhaps that is part of what Alto is trying to get away from. 

9:53 – Kadun were some sort of monsters / negative spirits that the people of Mayan Island believed in and were something Sara Nome was trying to defend her people against. 

11:48 – We’ve seen one of these Hydra’s before in passing. There was one looking much more like a tame house cat sitting on the lap of a full size Zentradi in Folmo mall back during episode 5. 

11:53 – Even the little commercial break segments are set in-universe for this episode. This one depicts Dr. Aries making landfall on Mayan Island for the first time. 

14:20 – This sure seems to be the pilot of the Purple One Valkyrie. And he is a cyborg? Remember the pre-episode voice over a while back talking about how the Macross Galaxy fleet specialized in advanced technologies like brain implants and cybernetics? Could these things be related? 

15:41 – I like that Elmo’s signature thing now seems to be shouting at Ranka about the latest big news he has for her. 

17:54 – In Do You Remember Love?, Lynn Minmay used a similar tactic to show Hikaru that kisses are not necessarily serious or meaningful when actors are involved. 

19:41 – This, too, is a shot for shot paint over of a scene from Macross Zero. Also, the water sounds as Alto and Ranka dive beneath the surface are really good. 

20:32 – This is the first we’ve heard of Mao being called Dr. Mao. This will come back up in a later episode. 

20:38 – Again, this sequence of Shin’s Valkyrie being saved is directly from Macross Zero, with the exception that Ranka doesn’t let her song powers slip, so she doesn’t drop it into the water like Mao did back in Macross Zero’s version.

Next Episode: Missing Birthday

If I had to guess, this episode will be about Ranka trying to cope with her newfound stardom and her lack of free time to hang out with Alto and the others.