The Last Frontier: The reason for my love affair with Macross

So I just finished up episode six of Macross Frontier and I like it.

But I shouldn’t.

Not only do I like it, but it’s been one of the three shows that I’m following religiously (Amatsuki and InK, being the other two.) It doesn’t have the self-referential charm of Tower of Druaga. It doesn’t have the weird mind games of Real Drive. And it certainly doesn’t have the strangely cute, dystopian view of Library Wars.

Like I said previously, “It’s Macross.” It definitely has everything that a Macross show should have: an invading alien race, a catchy J-pop soundtrack, dogfights through asteroid fields. But I don’t think it’s just the action that makes me want to watch every episode. Action is great, don’t get me wrong. But I could get action from any shounen fighting show; I don’t need space battles to get that.

On top of that, I can’t say it’s the characters. Sure, Alto is a rebel. But he isn’t a Steve McQueen “I’m the epitome of cool” type of rebel. Instead, he’s more like an “I’m 18 and I want to go fight in this war, so I can fly” type of rebel. Don’t get me wrong, I still think he’s a citizen solider (which is interesting), but he doesn’t have the moral contradictions of a Lelouch or Suzaku, or the type of heady idealism that I find in Library Wars. In a lot of ways, Alto isn’t surprising. And if he’s not surprising then Ranka and Sheryl are downright true to form. The entire cast seems like it was lifted straight out of a paint-by-numbers sketch of how a mecha show should go.

But still, I like it. And it’s bugging me.

That was until I thought about one of iknight’s old posts (complete with a Warren Zevon reference at the end, I might add). Now for a large part, he’s right. Macross is a space opera and Macross Frontier is no exception. It comes complete with giant allies, faster than light travel and downright mystical singing abilities. But on top of that, it has something else:

A Camelot.

Now, I’m not sure if Camelot is really the best term for it, but the more I think about it, the more I become convinced that Frontier is a magical place. The streets are clean. Everything is bright and shiny. People are happy and dreams really do come true.

Now one of the big reasons why I think of Camelot, instead of say Avalon, is that Frontier isn’t perfect. The government is crippled by red-tape. Mercenaries make up the best equipped fighting force. And there is definitely heart-ache and a touch of pathos.

But I’d still want to live there.

Which is what I think is the big draw for me. It’s not necessarily the characters or even the society. It’s the fact that there’s this place where people coexist peacefully, where music does change lives, and love exists floating through the depths of space in a fragile glass shell.

And somebody wants to destroy it. More than anything else, it’s that tension that draws me into the show.

Related Links

Anime wa Bakuhatsu’s comparison between Do you Remember Love and Frontier.

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13 Comments

  1. As for the characters: yes, they’re total clichés, but to be fair, this is the franchise that defined these clichés. And the idealism and pathos – that’s exactly what I love in Macross, in every one of its incarnations, including M7 that Macross fans love to hate. At its heart it’s pure romance, sprinkled with idealistic notions about heroism, love and understanding each other. Unlike Gundam which is more concerned with the darker side of war and mecha warfare (especially the UC series, I still think Gundam 0080 is one of the most depressing anime ever), Macross series focus on the more pure, more idealistic side. I’m not saying either franchise is better for its choice of focus, though (I like both, though I’m a UC snob).

  2. It’s a space opera done right, and I think that Camelot aspect is much what makes ST:TNG more charming than its successors.

  3. @kuromitsu – Honestly, I don’t necessarily think that the characters are cliche. It’s just that they’re expected. They don’t really do anything that surprises me. But that’s fine. It’s just kind of rare that I like a show as much as I like Macross Frontier without having the characters do something out of the ordinary.

    As far as Gundam, I’m generally torn. I wasn’t a big fan of Zeta, but I did like Stardust Memory. I haven’t seen 08th MS Team or 0080 yet. They’ve been kind of low on my to buy list. But I have to agree that the focus is different.

    @omo – I definitely agree on the ST:TNG thing. Although I do think Voyager captured a bit of that. DS9 just seemed like it was trying to be Babylon 5 and wasn’t doing as good of a job.

  4. Yes. Now you point it out, I’d quite like to live on Frontier too – I’m not sure we’ve even seen it rain there yet (do they have rain?) – and, for all that it regularly gets mashed up by transformations, the city in SDF Macross seems to me to be a similarly Happy Place. In Gundam, of course, space colonies are usually either being gassed, dropped on people’s heads or retooled as humungous Lasers of Mass Destruction.

    Come to think of it, there are a number of slice-of-life shows I’d like to live in too.

  5. Some of that “Konata is my waifu” at work again, eh Animanachronism?

  6. Actually, I wouldn’t be able to bear being married to Konata – or anyone else, for that matter, but that’s beside the point. I was thinking more of Figure 17, where everyone’s nice and life is spent milking cows, baking bread and putting on badass powersuits at night to kick alien butt.

  7. Can’t blame you there. I wouldn’t mind a nice Genshiken myself.

  8. I have to admit that the usage of music as a theme in Macross Frontier is more or less why I am so into it. And it has its moments of ditzy theatricality and captivating scenes which I simply adore.

    And I did mention before… The explosions and pretty girls beckon that I follow it until the end. (/^u^)/

  9. @Animanachronism –

    Actually, I wouldn’t be able to bear being married to Konata – or anyone else, for that matter, but that’s beside the point.

    I expect this statement to be followed with a chorus of “Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?” 🙂

    No I don’t think it does rain there. I try not to think too hard about the mechanics of Frontier, because I think it’d hurt my brain. But they must have an underwater irrigation system. And chemically reprocess water. And you’re definitely right about slice of life shows. They seem like such nice places to live, well until you figure out that such and such girl is really an astral projection. (Just watched Air.)

    @ Shiri – I’m assuming that was a Genshiken reference… (Yet another show I haven’t watched.)

    @The Sojourner – Frontier is definitely a well put together show as well. Honestly some of the music right before they go into battle reminds me of Ride of the Valkyries, which next to Carmina Burana (sp) has to be the best battle music ever.

  10. Not exactly a reference, but yes. The series is named after the in-series club and I wouldn’t mind having a club like that.

    Whiiich is barely even tangentially related to the post, but there you go.

    Also, what’s this about English and speaking? That sentence looks right to me…

  11. @Shiri – The sentence just reminded me of the musical “My Fair Lady” where the main character sings a song extolling the virtues of bachelorhood. One of his songs is “Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?” I couldn’t actually remember the song he sung about bachelorhood.

  12. Heh, thanks for referencing me that…looks interesting. Seems like it was based on Pygmalion, which I was familiar with (but can’t really empathise with, coming from the East Midlands! We still drop hs though.)

  13. @Shiri- Eh, that’s okay. I grew up in New England and I still pronouce drawer as “draw” and until I was 12 or so, I thought parlor and pahlah were two different words. In fact, I think I still say pahlah.


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