*Winner of Kobe Animation Award 2011 for Best Film*
*Winner of Newtype Anime Award 2011 for Best Film*
The final chapter of Macross Frontier opens with a tremendous sequence that sets the mood and the tone for the entire film to follow. Three months have passed since the climactic showdown with the Vajra fleet at the end of the first film and superstar Sheryl Nome is holding a new concert. At the same time S.M.S. and NUNS fleet engage in regular skirmishes with Vajra while deep inside LAI labs (that owe more to Weyland-Yutani than the set designs familiar from series) research on Vajra and fold quartz goes on. The three events are terrifically crosscut with main focus, naturally, on Sheryl’s flamboyant stage show to create what is the most impressive opening sequence for anime film in a long while.
It’s a superbly crafted, bold piece: aesthetically as astonishing as it’s bewildering in the way it freely mixes together gothic cathedrals and tribal paganism, alchemical formulations and nurse outfits, fanservice and disturbing eroticism that has more in common with Gerald Scarfe’s feveric visions than anything commonly seen in anime, terrific pop music with equally terrific dogfights. As always the lifeblood keeping it all running is Yoko Kanno’s exemplary j-pop, this time mixing electronic intros and hard rock guitar riffs with rhythm and keyboard parts that have more in common with 70s prog rock than anything else.
As the performance comes to screeching halt as Sheryl collapses, spitting blood, the viewer has already been sucked into the film’s world.
The second Macross Frontier film Sayonara no Tsubasa is simply superb work and just as exemplary in directing, characterization and performances as it is in music, effects animation and radically reinterpreting tv series in film format.
The first film in cinematic retelling of Macross Frontier tv series (2008), Itsuwari no Utahime (2009), reinterpreted the key events of series first cour with combination of pre-existing and new footage, revisions and additions to depiction of some characters and new/reworked story elements added into in general familiar narrative form. It was a good if slow burning film that emphasized characterization and developing the relationships between the three leads, kabuki-actor-cum-pilot Alto Saotome, aspiring singer Ranka Lee and superstar Sheryl Nome. While Utahime was framed by explosive opening and ending acts it was a film more focused at establishing and developing characters and storylines to come than with action and constant barrage of swift story developments.
In Sayonara no Tsubasa this all pays off in a major way and in few regards the film is almost the mirror image of the first one. For one the second film is made out of 100% new, gorgeous footage and while Utahime kept many of the basics of series's first cour in Sayonara the storyline and development of some characters depart so radically from the tv series calling Sayonara a “mere” reinterpretation seems hardly justified. It’s a new work using the thematic and story background of original series much more than it’s one of those tired clip show “anime films” with some new money shots thrown in a la Gurren Lagann features.
Similarly in contrast to slow moving Utahime the second film is dizzying, occasionally overpowering barrage of new ideas, plot twists and turns, great character development, revelations, action, music and “what if” scenarios. Whether one comes fresh from the first film or is also familiar with the tv series doesn’t matter. The narrative is new and intriguing no matter how familiar one is with previous chapters in Macross Frontier or Macross franchise in general. Chances are it’s also mindblowing.
Storyline is revised to point of being nearly incomparable experience to tv series later half. It is thoroughly gripping and in general darker experience as the “humans are assholes” aspect of the original gets the main focus in depiction of Vajra-Human conflict, both thematically and in terms of the narrative. It’s surprisingly harsh and in some regards truly angry film, unforgiving on the human folly and meaningless ambitions, prejudices and greed in face of what’s truly important in life. Indeed, there’s something downright operatic in how the characters redeem, damn and sacrifice themselves. Poetic justice is the court that judges the good, the bad and the fabulous in Frontier fleet.
Nevertheless the film never completely loses the positive undercurrent of Macross, the goofy and the heroic. The way how the film’s serious themes, emotionally resonant or grim moments stand right next to loving camp, playful homages (from past Macross titles to Osamu Tezuka), lovely concert scenes, mindblowing action, over the top heroics and shamelessly entertaining plottings without slightest uneasiness is a formidable proof of director Shoji Kawamori’s tonal control.
The ending, which is far more bittersweet than the tv series ending and resolves what original left unresolved, is also pitch perfect and has true emotional depth – thus ending Frontier on a truly high note. It’s a rare film that makes ending credits the emotional high point and crucial part of the film but Sayonara does it.
On the character front the cast continues being strongly developed with the main focus quite strictly on the three leads. But while likes of fan favorite Michel were doomed to lose in terms of the limited screen time most of them get their best and memorable moments from the galactic playboy himself to Cpt. Wilder here. Michel fans in particular should be happy with how things play out in Sayonara. Other characters have been revisioned in such shocking ways even mentioning their names would be spoilerous.
As for main characters all three leads get excellent character development. Alto and Ranka in particular have benefitted the most as both get treatment vastly superior to one bestowed upon them in tv series. Film Alto isn’t as much jerkass as his series counterpart was and he is considerably more winsome, pulling some awesome stunts he never would’ve done in series.
But it’s Ranka Lee whose character development in film is particularly superb. Here is just as definitive take on her character as film incarnation of Minmay was on the original Macross idol. Equally mature and cute by the end she has grown way beyond the constraints story placed on her in tv series.
As for the Galactic Fairy Sheryl Nome, her development is in various aspects closest to the series with much of her character arc revolving around her sickness and looming death. Of course it’s still great and the story nonetheless treats her very differently this time around. To top this all of the changes in her backstory hinted at in first film come to full bloom occasionally in truly surprising fashion.
As superb as on-screen development is a special mention must go to very intelligent use of dramaturgical ellipse as the three month “lost period” between the films has been skillfully utilized in service of the story. Some of the less-important developments lesser filmmakers would’ve tried to cram in have taken place without sacrificing screen time for them while leaving them inferable. The ellipse has been also used to give time for characters to grow and cope with their experiences since closure of first film. This means that while characters are still recognizably the same they were in end of the first film they also have a fresh edge and new, budding sides to them. Particularly notable is how the three months in idol business have shaped Ranka who now occasionally exhibits boldness and “idolness” one wouldn’t expect from her.
Moving beyond story and characters the quality of the film doesn’t falter. For one Kawamori’s directing here is truly masterful. Perfectly framed and edited the film boasts countless scenes wonderfully shot and put together. With ever strong sense of framing and use of “camera” and par excellence editing from crosscutting to simply rhyming the flow of scenes Kawamori is at the top of his game. In particular, beyond the obvious spectacles, film should be commended for some terrific use of first person camera angles that add a lot atmosphere to sequences they're used in.
Scene compositions are superb throughout and especially musical sequences are perfect from the visual extravaganza of Ranka’s and Sheryl’s concert scenes to frenzied action set to j-pop – of course these two are not mutually exclusive categories. The close working relation between Kawamori and Kanno is easy to tell in scenes where sound and images blend together perfectly bar by bar, cut by cut. The storyboards have been composed to music and vice versa. Finale is downright mindblowing.
Beyond that film’s pacing is also very good. It never slows too much or rushes things, maintaining excellent balance in flow of kinetic and more introspective set pieces.
Animation and art are also what you’d expect from anime feature from 2011 with colossal budget. In particular 3D animation in action scenes is eyegasmic and VF dogfights present here are as good as 3D mecha action gets, period. On the side of 2D animation special mention must go to concert scene taking place about halfway through the film where Ranka’s animation was based on motion captured dancing by her seiyuu Megumi Nakajima. The results speak for themselves and the scene as a whole is one of the most lovable in the entire film.
The strong seiyuu cast chockfull with big names from Tomokazu Sugita to Hiroshi Kamiya give performance you’d expect. It’s all great and while Aya Endo’s Sheryl is still as career defining performance as ever for this film I’d like to give special shout-outs for Megumi Nakajima’s eerily perfect Ranka and Kikuko Inoue’s ever so magnificent take on Grace O’Connor. By now Kikuko has definitely turned Grace into the most memorable role and performance of her late career.
Last but not least, especially not for Macross title, there’s the soundtrack which is just as brilliant as you’d expect. The orchestral score is excellent throughout and the songs twice better. By now classic standards like Aimo, Diamond Crevasse and Seikan Hikou (in a wonderful live arrangement!) are as great as ever while new songs are uniformly awesome and memorable with the best cuts - such as the title track and Ranka’s gorgeous final ballad - standing among the best of Kanno’s illustrious career and Macross franchise’s soon three decades long history. It is easily the most impressive collection of music to come out in any 2011 anime. Yack Deculture!
With loads of terrifically entertaining scenes, memorable moments, mindblowing action and music, likeable characters and superb production values we’re talking about a rare thing: a modern space opera that is truly great film and worth the praise it has received in Japan.
Sayonara no Tsubasa is Macross exemplified. read more
I was excited when a fansub of this film was finally released. The first film remake of Macross Frontier was actually not that bad. It was enjoyable, and the changes they made from the original anime were interesting. This film follows the first.
It's immediately clear that a considerable amount of money went into the production of this film. The CGI effects are a step above what we saw in the original anime. There's more detail, the fights are faster and more frenetic, and the animations are all much more convincing. The battles are fantastic. The music's quality continues to be near the top of anime music. The characters themselves suffer from the same inconsistency in their drawings that's plagued this series since the TV anime, but it's become part of its style at this point, I suppose. I'm not a huge fan, but it's digestible.
Everything is so far so good.
Then the movie continues its narrative, and things immediately starts to go downhill. The story continues where the first film left off. More details are revealed about the characters' origins. They're different from the TV anime, and in some aspects more interesting. In others, they're horribly convoluted and feel contrived. The conspiracy to control the Vajra returns, but with immense amounts of absurdity and contrivance added to ensure this film fails.
That's the part I don't understand. The writers jammed so many twists into this film, and featured so many unkillable characters making surprise reappearances, I had to keep myself from fast forwarding between battle sequences. The unkillable characters reach Sunrise anime levels. The story barely ends up making sense at the end. The end itself is fairly interesting, but they take the most inane and unintelligible route to get there.
Even for Japanese anime, which is notorious for ambiguity and stories that end terribly, this film manages to reach its own depth of utter nonsense.
There's a scene where the main cast from the SMS dress up and play instruments on stage with Ranka. Michel plays a guitar. Kanaria plays drums. Clan plays what I presume to be bass. She shoots darts loaded with tranquilizers from the neck of her instrument. Near the end, the Macross Quarter surfs into the atmosphere of a planet on an enormous piece of ship hull. The main characters all "die" at least twice each throughout the course of the film.
Words cannot describe how let down I was by this movie. If you're a fan of Macross, it's worth watching at least once for the battles. Personally, I can never get enough of Macross-style action with the missile trails and transforming fighter planes. This movie, though, managed to get me to delete it as soon as the credits hit. It's amazing.read more
The second part of Macross Frontier's theatrical version. What can I say? If you've seen the series and the first movie you know what to expect.
a) The best animation ever seen (the first movie blew me away so did this one)
b) Cheesy songs that you may end up listening to as a guilty pleasure, you wouldn't be caught dead listening to them in front of your friends
c) A crazy story about how music can suddenly save the world and make wars come to an end
d) some sort of stupid Love Triangle
I mean the thing with Macross is you can't judge it in comparison to other shows nor can you judge it with a regular mindset. If you're the type of person who has willingly chosen to watch Macross then you know by now that - c) and d) are very likely to be present, perhaps you even enjoy dismally bad stories and love polygons perhaps you dream of one day singing to make the galaxy a better place, or maybe you're just an obsessed fanboy/girl. To you all of these things shouldn't matter
Strangely enough the love triangle here is finally resolved! Yes RESOLVED - after the series' rather indecisive ending - which was left like that so as not to piss off half of their fanbase. Now that the frontier chapter is over though and cinema tickets have been purchased nobody cares about the disenfranchised lot who are probably now embarking on a host of collective suicide gatherings and poster bonfires.
Was it better than the first movie? No use comparing them they're probably better watched in sequence
If Nuclear reactors ran on cheese then this movie would be Fukushima - non-irradiated people like myself can actually sit through it if we take the time to remember that a) and b) are worth watching - so much so that c) and d) can be overlooked. read more
Now I'm going to excommunicate the first category as this doesn't relate to you. Anyone else feel that the movie(s) were WAY below par from the TV series in terms of romance and the arts? I loved the TV series with all my might even if the story was a bit minimal (I consider Anime the same as novels in general and story is very important to me) but the singing and the triangle romance eventually won me over. The series had great visual effects and AMAZING singing (May'n and Megumi were both exceptional at their roles).
Now we get to the films, Ill consider both a single film as they both fall under the same faults. The films both lacked emotion in my opinion, as I felt cheated when they didn't go through much character development (I know its 2 films vs 25 episode TV series, but still that isn't enough of an excuse) except for the flashback of Alto's acting days which was not in the series.
The true beauty of Macross Frontier is its arts: Music and visuals. The series was filled with brilliant scenes of Sheryl//Ranka and their music; complimented with great art. The movie lived up to the series in visuals, and exceeded them (2008 vs 2011 no wonder right?) but the music part was lacking. The only memorable song is the end of tsubasa, but that song doesn't due the previous songs any justice. It can't live up to some of the best of the past (My favorites were Northern Star, Lion, and Diamond Crevasse), and just felt underwhelming.
Maybe I'm just being overly picky about these things. The film overall was pretty enjoyable and many of the first category viewers would consider it a success. However, if you were the few (or many, idklol) that waited for the glamor and arts, sorry to say the film was pretty disappointing.
PS. winning the best (insert catagory) Anime of 2011 doesn't say much; its 2011 for christ sakes, its been on a downhill for years now.
PPS. this wasn't written as a review but now that i think about it, 7/10read more