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Writer. Wheelman. Occasional DIY mechanic. Walking collection of hang-ups. Hopeless romantic. Old-school. Analog soul in a digital world. I am all of these things and more.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

On this new frontier...what 'bout my star?

True friends of mine know that I am a sucker for the anime "The Super Dimension Fortress Macross" from 1982. The mix of space warfare, transforming planes and robots, an engaging love story and a huge slug of J-pop music made it an instant classic.

Twenty-five years later, Shoji Kawamori and Studio Nue made a brand-new series set about 50 years forward: "Macross Frontier." And dare I say, this is even better than the original.

"Frontier" builds on trademark Macross fare and gives it its own spin with a new direction. It's undeniable that the graphics and animation have improved a lot, thanks to computer-generated footage of the VF-25 Messiah fighter planes in action against the insect-like Vajra alien force. However, the real triumph of "Frontier" over "SDF Macross" lies in its characters.

The main love triangle plays out between pilot/student and former Kabuki actor Alto Saotome, amnesiac aspiring singer Ranka Lee, and the famous pop idol, Sheryl Nome, dubbed the "Fairy of the Galaxy." Interestingly, neither of the two girls resorts to disrespect or catfights. At the core of their relationship is a deep friendship and respect for each other, most evident in how Sheryl directly inspires Ranka to pursue her dream. It just so happens their friendship has Alto as a very huge part of it - he sees through Sheryl's fame and Ranka's clumsiness.

My favorite character however has to be sniper Michael Blanc. An incorrigible flirting playboy, he is actually the most perceptive and sensitive of the feelings building up between our main characters. He challenges the conviction of Ranka's singing ambitions, proves Alto's mettle in joining the private military company SMS, and aids Sheryl when her health and fortunes deteriorate.

As great as the music in "SDF Macross" was, "Frontier" just blows it out of the water. Since there are two pop idols in the series there is a much greater spectrum of songs on tap. Sheryl's sultry, sexy yet emotional high-BPM performance, sung by May'n, is tempered by Ranka Lee's innocent, bubbly but longing pop melodies, performed by Megumi Nakajima. Almost everything is composed by now-legendary anime musician Yoko Kanno, too.

I cannot recommend this title enough. Don't be put off by the eye candy. "Macross Frontier" is a masterfully crafted show.

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