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.