It took a quarter century, but it looks like we now have a true sequel to Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. Best known to those of us in the states as the first season of Robotech, Macross was a landmark TV series in terms of character arcs, ideas, and gee-whiz animation. Repeating the success of the series has not been so easy. First there was the Direct-to-Video series Macross II, which was relegated to “parallel universe” story status by fans and creators. From what I’ve seen, Macross 7 is essentially a 49-episode music video. The closest we’ve come to sequels have 1994’s Macross Plus and 2002’s prequel Macross Zero, which were stunning, yet all too brief. For a while there it seemed like Robotech was doing a better job of continuing the series by splicing two other anime series into the continuity. But then came Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, and the less said about that again the better. After all that, it seems like we’ve got a series that takes the ideas of the original Macross in new directions while at the same time keeping true to the original. That series is Macross Frontier.
The show takes place 50 years after the original Macross. The human race was almost wiped out in the first series by a war with the Zentraedi, a race of alien giants. After the armistice, the two races decided the most sensible thing to do would be to repopulate the galaxy. The construction of huge colonization fleets began, as well as further military development to keep the fleets safe from rogue Zentraedi fleets, or anything else that might come along. The fleet called “Macross Frontier” is the focus of the show. The protagonist is 17-year-old Alto Saotome, who enrolled in pilot’s school against the wishes of his Kabuki star father. This involves learning to fly in power-suits known as EX-gear, which serve as a basic interface for any aircraft known to man (I want one!). Alto and his stunt flying team end up doing a show for a rock concert starring “Cheryl”, the latest pop idol who’s taking a galaxy-wide tour of all the Macross fleets. During the concert, the fleet is attacked by mysterious bio-mechanical creatures known only as “Vajra”. A few of the space monsters make it back the colony fleet and start wreaking havoc. In true mecha anime fashion, Alto has to commandeer a damaged Valkyrie transformable fighter with his EX-Gear to protect Ranka Lee, the sister of Ozma Lee, the squadron leader trying to protect the fleet. Alto eventually finds out the squadron leader, along with his high school friends are working for SMS, a private military contractor that handles the jobs that the regular military is too hidebound to do effectively. He must make the difficult choice to join SMS and protect himself and his loved ones.
It’s been a while since an anime series has caused me to geek out like this. It was the balance of realism and the fantastic that got me into anime in the first place, which I guess makes me different from the fans who were attracted by the intricate power fantasies of more popular shows like Dragon Ball Z or Pokemon. I’m really glad we get to see how full-grown Zentraedi fit in to this Post-Terran society on the far reaches of space. Private Military Organizations like Blackwater security are active in real war zones today, so transposing the concept to a starship fleet is also interesting. The animation and mecha are bar-none the best I’ve ever seen. The love-triangle storyline of the original is also present, with both Ranka and Cheryl vying for Alto’s attention. Despite his pretty-boy looks, Alto is so typically male that he’ll be able to fuel romantic misunderstandings for the rest of the series.
There are a few nits I’d like to pick though. Some of the characters seem “borrowed” from the original series or other anime series entirely. Alto, Michael and Luca are basically Vermillion Wing from Macross, only prettier. Ozma Lee is essentially the same as Roy Fokker (although fans of the original must have got a great scare when he uttered “I’ve lost too much blood!”. That was how the original character died). I also hope that some of the major mysteries of Macross get solved, such as the fate of the SDF-2 Megaroad, which went missing 6 years after the original series taking most of the original surviving cast with it. Anime Directors have this obsession with ambiguity that prevents them from properly ending series. The term may come to be known as the “J.J. Abrams’ Lost Syndrome”. Despite all of this, Macross Frontier looks like it will be one of best anime mecha series in a long time. It’s too bad that due to some legal SNAFU with the production company it’s not going to be released until Satan skates to work.
Image courtesy of the Macross Compendium
Macross Frontier © 2007 Big West/Macross F Project, MBS