Spring 2008 TV Cartoons Revisited: The End Of Moécross Frontier

Back when we first started this blog, I wrote a post giving my impressions on the first few episodes of the newest installment in that other giant-robots-in-space franchise, Macross Frontier. At the time, I expressed my concerns about the show’s over-reliance on jerking off existing fans by deliberately and repeatedly aping the events, situations, and character personalities of previous series, while also jerking off new fans with the now-depressingly-usual array of creepily-sexualized moé characters and brilliantly witty boy-accidentally-gropes-girl humor. Would it ever cease to rely purely on pandering to one group or another and find a voice of its own?

Well, it turns out that Moécross Frontier did have a few ideas it didn’t rip off entirely from previous installments. Too bad they weren’t good ones!

To be sure, it still relies on pandering to the audience. In fact, it does so with such panache it’s nearly respectable. We’ll start with the franchise fanboy pandering: the “Roy Fokker” archetype character, Ozma Lee. He’s always listening to songs from Macross 7, the most hot-blooded and joyfully goofy Macross ever gets. In episode 17, he does just about everything a character can possibly do to mark themselves for death in a cheesy sci-fi TV cartoon – especially if Roy Fokker did it. He promises his girlfriend he’ll be right back to eat her pineapple dish, he tries to sneak into the enemy base alone and barely-armed, he has repeatedly flashbacks about the day he took in his adopted little sister, he gets injured during the fight and the mechanics find blood all over his seat, and he passes out from blood loss right beside his girlfriend. Why, that’s just about exactly how Roy Fokker died, except for the little sister part.

Then we fade from black and he’s alive in the hospital. Glasses-Wearing Ace quips: “If he’d died, it would’ve been incredibly emotional, huh?” Too bad that’s the only time the show plays with viewers’ expectations.

Meanwhile, the “oh dear, her naughty bits” jokes continue! The Glasses-Wearing Ace quips that anything he does with his love interest, the deus ex machina. Some of them I’m willing to ignore – the power of pop music to reach the hearts of even the most alien of enemies is well established in Macross, so I’m not going to complain about that. I am going to complain about the super-convenient way they undo most of the character drama, though.

Our heroes use Newtype Magic to restore the love triangle to its prior state by removing mind control and curing terminal diseases, the anti-hero gets whacked on the head enough times to make him team up with the heroes for good, and many shots from the opening sequence are reused in montage in what’s either a starling level of foresight or just a convenient cash-saver. A whole bunch of aliens warp in around our heroes, other colony fleets and the Earth, but as soon as the True Villain gets blown away in dramatic fashion by the hero, the aliens all just start chilling out or somethin’. Everyone celebrates because nobody important died except the one guy we killed a month ago to make the audience think the stakes were higher and the pop singers battling for our girly hero’s heart vow to best each other in music and romance!

Happy endings are fine. Open endings are fine. The power of love and insipid pop music saving the day is great! But for a show that has relied so heavily on angsty character drama and relationship issues to end with everything set back to where it was half a season ago, if resolved at all, is a true shame. Hikaru Ichijo made up his fucking mind, you hear?

Screw it. I’m gonna go watch something intelligent, like Riding Bean.


  1. So, did you like it?

    I won’t disagree with your complaints about the show. I’ve relinquished all my claims on objectivity regarding the Macross franchise. So yes, this is my favorite show this season and despite all the flaws that I won’t even bother to apologize for, I remember love, and it was all for Macross.

  2. I kind-of more-or-less enjoyed the series, but objectively, it really was a mess, wasn’t it? Tons of plotholes left gaping – for example, Alto’s whole acting thing was never resolved, aside from a quick flash of him crossdressing, which I think was supposed to indicate that he somehow combined his acting and piloting skills. Meh.

    Speaking of which, the entire series seems very sexually confused. Aside from the moe thing, you’ve got the token gay guy, the girl who’s in love with the old man, Alto being called Princess. I think the moral is supposed to be that “alternative lifestyles” are okay, etc. Fine message, but all these relationships come off as kinda creepy instead.

    It was interesting to hear Yoko Kanno do the really poppy Macross thing, and on the whole, I found the music really good – but man, it could’ve used a few more songs. There was a stretch of six or seven episodes in there where you heard that goddamn “aimo aimo” song three times in 20 minutes!

    Character designs hideous. Enough said there.

    Despite all this, I did enjoy the damn thing. I thought the first episode was really well done, and while things went downhill from there, it really picked up around ep 11 or so and was genuinely compelling until the end – which, yeah, was a bit fucked up. Anyway, there were enough rare moments of genuine goodness sprinkled throughout (Captain Global-clone declaring mutiny, for example) that kept me watching.

    In any case, I wonder if the ending was left ambiguous specifically for the movie. We’ll see.

  3. To each their own.

    I enjoyed it. As a macross fan of the show there were many bits of bait and switch that kept the hardcore fanboys’ heads spinning.

    The music in this show was superior to the last series 15 years earlier and the villans far more plausible as well.

    Unlike the article’s author, I didn’t find any frustration with the final reveal. I guess I don’t need to be spoon fed as much as others, I like the prolonged mystery.

    True, there were elements that were left dangling, however how many kids shows don’t? This isn’t “War and Peace” we are dealing with here it’s Japanese TV entertainment for teenagers…

    The CG was excellently executed and the character animation (despite the occasional flaws) was adequately married to the CG, unlike Macross Zero.

    If the show had a second season, I expect the character development would have been much better (why was Micheal so immobilized by his sister’s courtmartial and death?; How did the colonial government get taken over so easily?; etc…).

    I have to say the most satisfying character arc was that of Sheryl. She completely transformed during the course of the series, something we really wanted to see for all the principal characters, but really didn’t get to the same extent.

    The additional revelations about the Macross universe were equally satisfying. Such as the continuation in construction and use of SDF class warships in the universe. As well as the inspiration of what the Protoculture based much of their technology on.

    All in all, it was much better than what I initially feared it could have been…

  4. Frontier was ok a B- or C+. The thing is this series would be fine for more new viewers unfamiliar w/Macross lore. But it should not surprise anyone that the developments for the annoying killer ranka were predictable. If anything they split the maturity, independence, career-driven, and sex appeal of Minmay DYRL and gave that to Sheryl. While at the same time they gave murder of millions ranka the qualities of TV series Minmay. Some may enjoy this overtly drawn out and needless love triangle, but I got $100 betting Sheryl and Alto end together. If you want comparisons look at the classic Kimagure Orange Road, Madoka vs Hikaru. Even a dumbass like Kyosuke could make up his mind it is a pity Kawamori and company HAD to make Alto such a tool.

    There is one character I really thought shined and stole the show, Sheryl! She was the true hero for the majority of the series b/c without her support and challenges Alto and moe killer ranka NEVER would have growth. Still as a side not ranka really needs to be held accountable for all of the deaths she created and the BLOOD on her hands. I certainly hope if Kawamori has even one brain cel they make her atone for her crimes!

    Overall despite the incredibly predicable plot and character developments, I enjoyed Frontier but not as much as Plus. Frontier falls flat on too many levels but it DID pay many respectable and appreciated NODS to the classic TV series and DYRL movie.

    Essentially for newer fans Frontier is their MACROSS while for older fans who know the original series, the classic MACROSS TV series remains the best.

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