Macross Frontier – Sayonara no Tsubasa
「恋離飛翼～サヨナラノツバサ～」 (Sayonara no Tsubasa)
“The Wings of Goodbye”
Almost one year ago, I said in my coverage of Itsuwari no Utahime that I considered a trip to Japan to coincide with the theatrical release of Sayonara no Tsubasa. I can definitively say now that it would’ve been well worth it, as the second movie shuffles the story around more and features brand-new jaw-dropping animation. Movie-quality visuals backed by an epic soundtrack by Kanno Youko and new songs by May’n and Nakajima Megumi, plus a conclusion where Alto finally picks one of the songstresses? What more could a longtime Macross fan possibly ask for? The short answer is not a whole lot, as I already have this pinned as my favorite movie for 2011 barring any last-minute upsets like last year with Gundam 00: A wakening of the Trailblazer. This year, I really can’t imagine anything usurping Sayonara no Tsubasa, as it compelled me to tell everyone I could — both Macross and non-Macross fans alike — to watch it if they consider themselves an anime fan at all. If you’ve been away from anime for some time or have lost faith in the medium, the two Macross Frontier movies are a surefire way to respark some interest. Heck, I’d even recommend these two theatrical films to my friends who barely watch anime just because they’re that damn good. To not watch an award-winning anime production like this is just doing yourself a true disservice.
I won’t bother getting into an overly descriptive narrative on how beautiful this movie is and how fluid it looks when it plays out — I posted 180 screen captures to offset the need to. I do however want to talk a bit about some aspects of the revised story that distinguishes it from the TV series that aired back in 2008. In Itsuwari no Utahime, the story remained largely intact along with some reused footage. In Sayonara no Tsubasa, there’s a departure from the original story with 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 United Nations Spacy military, a.k.a. N.U.N.S., removing one of the subplots from the anime. Also, Leon doesn’t conspire with Grace O’Connor and instead, is onto her plan to infiltrate Frontier with cyborg spies and take it over as a replacement for Galaxy. Luca, heir to Legodt & Angeloni Industry (L.A.I.), is blackmailed into continuing the analysis of the Fold Quartz protocol that the Vajra use to communicate, but rather than simply using the technology as a countermeasure to fend off the Vajra, Leon uses it to place them under their control. The fold waves generated by Sheryl and Ranka’s singing aren’t misused to do so, and mainly serve as a genuine means to peaceful understanding as per the main theme of the franchise. As a result, the progression differs a fair bit — things happen for different reasons and new things happen altogether — providing a relatively “new” take on the original story.
Much like the first movie, one of the inherit benefits of these changes is the added focus on the main trio — Alto, Sheryl, and Ranka. The extra screen time for the love triangle works really well from a movie standpoint, since the character interactions and emotions are just as crucial to the story as the Vajra. This includes a lot more emphasis on the V-Type infection in Sheryl’s throat that’s nearing its terminal stages — something that Ranka possesses in her stomach but is immune to because she acquired the disease while still in her mother Ranshe Mei’s womb. There was a fair bit of emotional turmoil from the idea that Sheryl would soon die if she keeps singing, which was compounded by her arrest and subsequent death penalty sentence. This led to the portion of the movie that took place in Alcatraz, which not only features all-new scenes with a tribute to Macross 7′s Fire Bomber (performing “Seikan Hikou”), but also introduces feelings of betrayal to the trio when Ranka confronts Sheryl for Alto’s sake. This additional emotion provided another element of depth to the characters and made Jeffrey Wilder’s speech to the S.M.S. about rescuing Sheryl at the risk of making enemies with N.U.N.S really powerful. The latter is pretty significant, because if there’s one support character who deserves a lot of praise for setting the tone in this movie, it’s the Macross Quarter’s captain. He sure had a way with words, masking their actions against this injustice under the guise of yet-to-be-received payment from their client, plus he really showed the young-ins his surfer wild side when Macross Quarter entered the atmosphere of the Vajra homeworld in style.
While I felt a little cheated by the fake-out deaths of a some key characters, the drama that resulted was some of best the movie had to offer. It also helped in furthering Alto’s resolve in a way that I haven’t been seen before. Combined with another magnificent speech by Jeffrey about fighting to save Island 1′s residents from the war that they were being pulled into, it really set the stage for the climactic battle against the last boss. From that point on, it was nothing short of sheer awesomeness with Alto engaging in high-speed battles in his new YF-29 while Sheryl and Ranka’s songs resounded in the skies. As always, this is Macross at its finest hour and Frontier didn’t disappoint the least bit. If anything, it established itself as the epitome of what the franchise is about. It even had the arrival of other Macrosses in response to the S.M.S. call for aid, which featured a special cameo of Macross Plus’ Isamu Dyson in his YF-19. They didn’t show his actual character, who should be a good 19 years older according to the Macross timeline, but Yamazaki Takumi was brought in to voice one of his trademark lines. I can’t even describe the excitement and nostalgia I felt when I saw that, which also goes for the aforementioned tribute to Fire Bomber where Mikhail is dressed up as Nekki Basara, Klan as Mylene Jenius, Kanaria as Veffidas Feaze, and Mina as Ray Lovelock.
Amidst all that, they even managed to slip in some of backstory between Sheryl and Alto that was featured in the prequel manga. It was completely new to me, having only realized it was manga material after looking it up, and provided something a little extra to fortify their relationship at the very end. As for the ending itself, we got what we were promised with Alto making a decision, but I can’t say it’s any more satisfying than the anime’s version when it’s strikingly similar to Gundam 00′s ending. It wasn’t quite the ideal ending I was hoping for, save for the slight improvement in the credits and how one key character survived this time around. Regardless, I still highly recommend both movies to just about anyone. I can hardly fault them for not having my ideal conclusion when everything else is done impeccably well.
* I’ll be listening to the Sayonara no Tsubasa “end of triangle” album for some time now. The new songs sound better now that I know the context they were featured in. The Sheryl and Ranka concerts were real treats.