Macross Frontier the Movie ~Sayonara no Tsubasa~: Review
December 7, 2011 6 Comments
Macross Frontier the Movie ~Sayonara no Tsubasa~ is the latest part in the Macross saga, and my god is it good. I will start off however by saying that I have been a fan of Macross since I started watching anime, and I have watched all the macross series since the very first, right the way up to the current Macross Frontier arc. Because of this I am a little biased, and may have enjoyed the movie even if it wasn’t necessarily all that great, luckily it was brilliant.
Macross Frontier the Movie – Sayonara no Tsubasa along with the first movie Macross Frontier – Itsuwari no Utahime are a retelling of the anime series in movie form. Some of the story has of course been condensed in order to fit the movie format, but the essential story has stayed intact. Macross Frontier – The False Songstress however is a departure from the series itself through several key changes to the story.
I was really looking forward to watching this movie, not only because I am a big Macross fan, but for several other reasons. The movie looks spectacular, with brilliant visuals and wonderful animation quality, we also have a brilliant soundtrack by Yoko Kanno, and there is finally a conclusion to the love triangle between Alto, Ranka and Sheryl. I have always been a big Macross fan, having watched the original (a little later since I hadn’t been born when the original came out) and basically watching all the series, OVAs and movies up to and including the latest Macross Frontier.
There were a few issues with Macross Frontier for me, sometimes it felt like the series moved away from the space opera genre and effectively lost its way, however the movies, by remaking and condensing the series have really helped out a lot. The story is exceptionally well told and really builds upon the series adding extra little touches such as better visuals, different character and vehicle models that really made it a joy to watch. Of all the anime movies that I have watched recently it is definitely one of my favourite, and definitely the best I have seen this year.
Macross Frontier the Movie – Sayonara no Tsubasa is not an exact copy of the series though. Itsuwari no Utahime largely stuck with the themes from the original series, introducing us to the characters, setting up the love triangle and of course the conspiracy to do with the Vajra and the possibility of using them. Sayonara no Tsubasa however deviates from this in several key areas, such as the depiction of Macross Frontier’s own ambition to seize control of the super dimensional hive-minded Vajra after Macross Galaxy failed to do so. President Howard Glass is tricked into ignoring Macross Galaxy’s distress call in the first movie and continues to be manipulated by Leon Mishima. Together they have the full support of the New Ubited Nations Space military (N.U.N.S), which removes one of the subplots from the original series.
We also see that Leon is not scheming with Grace O’Connor, and is instead onto her plan to infiltrate Frontier with cyborg spies in order to take it over as a replacement for the lost Galaxy. The film adds another little sub-plot to the story where Leon blackmails Luca, heir to Legodt and Angeloni Industry (L.A.I) into analysing the Fold Quartz protocol for clearly nefarious reasons. And finally, the fold waves generated by Sherly and Ranka’s singing aren’t misused in order to control the Vajra, and are there for peaceful means, bringing peace and joy t whoever listens to them, thus following the main theme of Macross whereby music and particular song is a means to peace. The progression of this film therefore differs quite substantially from the original series, with certain things happening for different reasons and new plot twists and devices being used – so providing a interesting new take on the original story, although with a lot of similarities as well.
What I like about Sayonara no Tsubasa, much like Itsuwari no Utahime is that the story shifts to a focus on the relationship between Alto, Sheryl and Ranka rather than having that as a part of an over-arching story of betrayal, love and exploration. I very much like this since I felt that there were large places within the original series that lacked this sort of relationship and often neglected it to focus on the political elements of Leon and grace’s scheming. In particular the plot focuses quite heavily on the ‘V-Type’ infection that Sherly has in her throat, and which Ranka has in her stomach, but is of course immune due to contracting it while still in her mothers womb. We quickly learn that this infection is nearing the terminal stage and Sheryl will soon die if she persists in continuing to sing.
The scheming of Leon adds a large amount of drama to the movie, with Sheryl being suspect of spying and espionage, complete with a brilliant sequence set on Alcatraz. Here the movie features a brilliant cameo of Fire Bomber (the rock band from Macross 7) complete with Michael, Clan, Kanaria and Mina wearing the costumes from the band itself. This part of the movie was especially nice for me to watch considering we finally got a proper speech by Wilder, the captain of S.M.S, a character that I felt was undervalued and underused in the original series (He looks a bit like an older captain harlock). There is also some fanservice, including a beach scene and the standard Frontier costumes for both Sheryl and Ranka, not too much, but just enough to lighten the mood a bit when needed.
And finally we are back into classic macross territory, big flying sequences, where Alto is fighting off hoards of enemies, surrounded by the songs of Ranka and Sheryl. We have a nice little cameo from Macross Plus’ Isamu Dyson in his YF-19 towards the end of the movie and of course that all-important conclusion to the love triangle. This has always been one of my biggest gripes with the Macross franchise, its seemingly inability to truly conclude a relationship. The Macross Frontier series ended with Alto simply flying over Sheryl and Ranka, Macross Plus ended with a sort of conclusion that was also a none ending, same with Macross Zero. I love all the series, but the endings frustrated me, basically they were beautifully animated none endings, and thankfully with Sayonara no Tsubasa we finally get an ending that is both immensely sad and emotional, but also provides us with some sort of closure.
The animation was wonderful to look at, the visuals have been improved immensely, with nice use of CG, but also hand-drawn blending very well together. The landscapes were nice and the ‘space-scapes’ were really well done. Also the action sequences were both incredibly dynamic, but also very clean and well done. This was nice to watch, partly because there were large sections of the Macross Frontier series where the animation quality really dropped and it was nice to see the improvement.
The soundtrack was brilliant, and while not being a massive fan of J-Pop, anything by Yoko Kanno is automatically brilliant to listen to in my book. She has composed the soundtracks of some of my favourite anime series and films. The music always fits the mood perfectly and actually really enhances the film as a whole, the final fight sequence with both Sheryl and Ranka singing, especially the very end was almost heart-breaking, largely because of the music itself. An anime series or film without a decent score in my opinion is never going to work properly.
There were a few things about the film that I didn’t like however. There are several ‘fake’ death scenes that are there simply as plot devices to increase the drama and essentially strengthen Altos resolve, and looked pretty gimmicky once you worked out what was going on. But other than that and a few small things I thoroughly enjoyed this film. What was especially nice actually was the little bit of back-story between Alto and Sheryl, showing us how the met along with helping to explain certain things about Sheryl as a character. And of course, we finally get to see Alto dressed as a woman, which was clearly worth the wait.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this film; it managed to follow the storyline of the original series while deviating from it in such a way as to improve it. I really liked the emphasis placed upon the relationship between Alto, Sheryl and Ranka, something that I felt the original series often lacked or didn’t fully explore. There were a number of cameos from other Macross series, basically the team acknowledging the other series that came before. And we finally got to see some of the most undervalued characters, such as Wilders have their chance to shine, and do it in style. The soundtrack was great, and perfectly fit the mood of the film, with a couple of especially heart-rending songs, which really added to the drama, and the feel of the film as a whole. And of course we finally got what approaches a true conclusion for Macross, managing to not only conclude this part of the story, but also allowing for the possibility of a third film (unlikely, but we can always dream).
Between Sayonara no Tsubasa and Itsuwari no Utahime I feel that the original series has been greatly improved and in fact would suggest anyone wishing to watch Frontier to watch these films instead of the original series since I view them to be superior both in terms of story, but also in terms of production value and overall feel.