Macross Frontier the Movie ~Sayonara no Tsubasa~: Review

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.

About illogicalzen
An Illogical anime fan in a very Zen-like way.

6 Responses to Macross Frontier the Movie ~Sayonara no Tsubasa~: Review

  1. Nice review however there isn’t going to be anymore Macross F unfortunately Kawamori says he’s fully satisfied with the franchise. This is second hand information though and I suppose he could get pressured into it but I am not even being hopeful on this one.

    As for the ending being sad I originally thought this as well but after talking to many people whom are much bigger Macross fans then me and who understand Kawamori better I changed my mind. The ending is made for impact but the message is one of hope. I’m not sure if you want to keep this spoiler free since your review was so I’ll just leave it at that for now.

    Also having just finished watching the TV series again I do believe the winner of the triangle is clear in it even if he never actually says it, if his speech at the end of episode 23 isn’t enough I don’t know what is. But that goes against popular opinion so who knows, just thought I’d throw that out there.

    But I like both the TV and movies, personally I’ll take the TV ending but keep the movies for the rest. lol

    • illogicalzen says:

      True, the ending is sad in one way, but there is more to it, especially of you watch the credits.

      I would like a third film but knowing the history of Macross and how all the series and OVAs have ended I also doubt that there wi be any more.

      I like the Macross Frontier series, but having recentlyy rewatched the series and the films I prefer the films. They tell the story better and I actually prefer the ending.

      I’m not sure about who Alto chooses but I think his message in episode 23 isn’t all that clear really, but I guess we can read into it what we want sometimes.

      I still think that watching the two films is a good way of seeing what Frontier is about in a much shorter time frame than watching the series. But I don’t discount the series and it is definitely worth watching.

      I’m a sucker for the Macross franchise in the end and having the soundtrack composed by Yoko Kanno pretty much guarantees that I will enjoy it.

      • Yeah, what is so amazing is not only is the music great but there is real meaning behind many of the songs as well. When I was shown the lyrics to and meaning behind the song “sou da yo” from the first movie ending it literally blew my mind how tricky they could be to implant a message from Ranka that applies directly to the end of the second movie. Not to mention the second song during the ending of the second movie “d Shudisuta b” many consider it to be something that has had to have taken place in the future. Yoko Kanno herself is more vague about when it takes place but at the very least it’s a song of hope and the spirit of the show.

        I agree though that if you are trying to introduce someone to Macross F the movies are probably the better way to go, that’s what I would do. But I do find episode 25 of the TV series really enjoyable and a much more upbeat way to end the series.

        As for episode 23, I know it’s not 100% clear I was really more interested in your opinion however I consider Sheryl’s reaction the most evidence out of it all. I also find it interesting that the scene with Sheryl and Alto in episode 24 before the final battle is a close mirror to that of Ranka and Alto before the final battle in the movie, there is no way this is not a coincidence. There are a few other things where Sheryl and Ranka are flipped some more exact then others. I feel this is like an Easter egg of sorts to show the fans who care that much the TV’s shows winner.

        Anyways I love Macross, I hope a new series will come soon, I heard 30th anniversary? Perhaps we will see some of our favorite characters appear in the next Macross show, that is what I’m placing my hope in for for seeing Ranka again. lol

        • illogicalzen says:

          I am always bit cautious when seeing meaning in song lyrics or really anything in anime, since its often the case that you can see what you want to see. In the case of Macross Frontier, I do think a lot of the songs allude to the feelings of those who are singing them though. I think Yoko Kanno probably composed the music to fit the feeling and the setting at the time, if it relates the the original series or even the other movie then that is probably both a little deliberate, but also a coincidence. I think you have to be a bit cautious when thinking about these things otherwise you will be seeing connections and links, that while do exists are actually arbitrary and were never planned.

          There is some sort of ending to the series, but it is never made clear and is only implied in certain episodes Unfortunately it is implied in such a way as to to suggest that this is not the case. I like Sayonara no Tsubasa’ ending simply because it finally makes things clear, while still having a classic Macross ending, which is neither truly happy or immensely sad.

          I can imagine that there is a lot of pressure on Kawamori to perhaps make a third film to truly finish everything off, but I also know that this may be unlikely to happen. All Macross series, OVAs and films that I have ever watched always seem to end in this way, showing us a romantic ending, but also being quite none-comital and open ended, suggesting that there is more to it. This has always been something that frustrated me about MAcross, but I also liked, since it is perhaps more interesting showing that the Macross universe does not end here. I am sure we will see a new series soon enough, especially considering its the 30th anniversary soon, whether this is a continuing of Frontier or an entirely new series we shall have to see and I wont speculate.

          It is worth watching the series since it is a very good series that is both well made and immensely enjoyable to watch, but to see what Macross Frontier is about in a shorter period of time the movies are excellent and interestingly I dont think they really poil the series for anyone who has yet to watch it.

  2. anon says:

    I didn’t care for the abrupt ending to the Triangle. I was sitting there through the whole movie thinking “will they or won’t they?” and it felt tacked on last minute as a way to either generate controversy or to finally shut up the hordes of fans on both sides. Also the groan inducing “childhood friend” trope? Really? I thought the Macross franchise deserved better than that.

    • illogicalzen says:

      I dont see how the ending was tacked on in order to generate controversy, it seemed to me to be a perfectly adequate ending, and while it was suitably open ended, also had an element of closure that the original series lacked. I am continually mystified by people moaning or groaning about plot devices such as the childhood friend, they serve a purpose to push the story forward like any other plot device and work rather well. I also disagree and think that this film was particularly good and worked to further the Macross Frontier story by adding a further element of film quality visuals along with another superb original soundtrack. It was nice to see another take on what was essentially the same story only with slightly different protagonists and direction.

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