Because normal hobbies are just plain boring
I realise that this statement might draw a chorus of derision, but I can’t pretend otherwise: I am a Macross virgin. The fact that ‘SDF’ stands for ‘Super Dimension Fortress’ is probably all I know about the first Macross series, and until I have a suitably-sized chunk of time to hand [cue hollow laughter] I’m unlikely to watch it or its sequels.
So the only way I can approach Macross Frontier is to take it simply on its own merits. I don’t like viewing part of a larger set of stories without context – nostalgia (while not inherently a bad thing) can destroy objectivity, but I think there’s a case to be made for perspective – still, given my penchant for mecha action with a romance garnish, I can’t really pass up on this potential dish.
Undoubtedly I’m missing whole layers of reference, homage and general nod-nod wink-wink in-joking, but I’d hope the show can maintain my interest despite that. After all, if a series relies on allusion (relies on, rather than simply contains), then I would consider it to be, frankly, a bit crap.
The first episode of Macross Frontier is, thankfully, not a bit crap, or indeed crap at all. After watching it, I thought ‘Well, that introduced some characters, had some music and some pretty fighting’, and actually, that’s all it needed to do. It’s a strong foundation episode which a good anime series could be built upon.
Our hero? Alto’s surprisingly happy to hop into the VF-25 [much to my irritation, said Variable Fighter lacks a Wikipedia page] without a moment’s ‘I mustn’t run away!’, which is refreshing. Judging by the (admittedly limited) evidence of one episode, I’d say Alto’s actually a potential don: lending your shirt to a soaked girl is standard anime behaviour, but drying her clothes with your own personal jetpack suggests aspirations to donhood. Time will tell.
I can’t really comment on the music, because I have no great taste in music: I can listen to anything with pleasure, but to nothing with passion. So it sounded fine but not exceptional, like most of the other music I have ever heard. I was amused by the splicing of Sheryl’s pop concert together with the wholesale slaughter of some Redshirts, however (is this part of the Macross tradition?)
The action was, for me at least, a mixed bag. It was fast-paced and gripping, and it oozed money. The dogfighting had a genuine sense of mind-bending speed to it, and I was particularly impressed by the chase scene racing towards Macross Frontier itself. This whole sequence of action had a pleasingly logical progression to it, but it was also gripping. I suspect that the thrilling music backing it up, heavy on the brass and percussion (reminiscent of ‘Mars, Bringer of War’, from Holst’s Planets?), may have something to do this, but see the above paragraph.
I felt, however, that the 3D work stuck out intrusively, like Kaiji‘s nose. Perhaps my tolerance for CGI is lower because of overexposure from my (now ended) gaming days, but it all felt a little too shiny and perfect. To make the inevitable Gundam 00 comparison, Exia & co., presumably produced in a less 3D-tastic way, feel more integrated with their surroundings. Although he’s not writing about Gundam 00, Lawson puts this well:
Somewhere along the line, Sunrise learned how to make anime look and feel not so much like cartoons, but like live action without limitations.
But Gundam 00 is (currently) deficient in other areas, and only a fool would prejudge Macross Frontier‘s action after only one episode. We just have to wait and see whether or not, in future episodes, the characters are fleshed out sufficiently, the music meets general approval and the same bucketloads of money are thrown at the action sequences. The wait’s little hardship, however [I'm a Geasstard, remember? I'm used to this.], and I have high hopes.
Relevant blog posts not linked in the above.