The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Macross Frontier: The False Songstress

Title: Macross Frontier: The False Songstress aka Macross Frontier: Itsuwari no Utahime
Genre: Action/Romance
Company: Satelight/8-Bit/Big West
Format: Movie; 120 minutes.
Dates: 21 Nov 2009

Synopsis: In A.D. 2059, 50 years after the war between humans and the Zentradi which sparked off an era of space exploration, the 25th Colonial Fleet – Macross Frontier – continues its expedition to the center of the galaxy. As the Galactic Fairy Sheryl Nome, latest in a long line of famous songstresses to grace the galaxy, descends upon Frontier to kick off her upcoming concert, suspicions abound in the Frontier government as to her true motives. At the same time, budding pilot Saotome Alto and aspiring songstress Ranka Lee pursue their dreams, but with the arrival of the mysterious and hostile Vajra creatures hot on the heels of Sheryl, how will the course of their lives be altered?

The Highlights
Alternate storyline: A retelling of the Macross Frontier story, Do You Remember Love-style.
Characters: More focused on the main triangle at the expense of the others, and all as different as possible while still keeping in character.
Battle scenes: Few and far between, but even better than before.
Music: New songs by May’n slot in flawlessly with the excellent original soundtrack.
Concert scenes: Bigger, better, more deculture than ever.

Within the first few minutes, anyone familiar with the storyline of the original Macross Frontier series would realize that the circumstances in the movie are subtly different from before. This means that, yes, The False Songstress is not a simple condensation of the TV series, but is rather to the latter what Do You Remember Love was to the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross(1,2); an alternate retelling of the story “based on true events”, a real “Macross F: The Movie” as it is also known in Japan.

Because of this, the movie is practically a brand new story in its own right, and thus can be judged on its own merits. And to begin with just that, the overarching plotline of The False Songstress, by merit of its 2-hour running time limit, is indeed a much more tightly written affair than was the case in the TV series, ensuring that little if any time was wasted on dead-end plots and gags. The mystery of the Vajra’s true nature and the political intrigue due to it becomes apparent from the get-go, and also incorporates some elements of Macross Plus(1,2), of all things, into the underlying conflict. Unfortunately, as merely the first of two Frontier movies planned, not much gets resolved by the end due to the same time limit, which also affects how the characters develop throughout the course of the story.

Speaking of which, while two hours can help to make the story a bit tighter, it also takes away much of the time needed for the cast to really develop their individual personalities. This has the effect of reducing most of them, each an idiosyncratic personality in their own right in the series, to the unfortunate role of bit characters. This was probably not something that could be helped, and it does focus attention on the main trio, each of which use the time allotted to them on the big screen to varying effect. Sheryl obtains a bit more mystery to add to her otherwise unchanged character, while Alto exchanges a fair bit of his characteristic snark for a more introspective look at his motivations. But it is Ranka who displays the most change from what she was in the series; much more independent, much less clingy, and all-around a more sympathetic character than before, the same kind of treatment which benefited none other than Lynn Minmay, the original Macross songstress herself. However, the limited time also means less opportunity for the three to interact with each other (although they make the best of it), which hurts the three-way chemistry a bit, and the fact that this chemistry is skewed much the same way as in the series didn’t help.

Nevertheless, a movie format means a movie budget, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the audiovisual component; the new songs by May’n made specially for the movie complement the original soundtrack nicely, and the new concert scenes which accompany these new songs are such a treat, one cannot help but want to Listen To Her Song with all their heart. And although there are only two real battle scenes, sparse indeed for a Macross work, these are incredible audiovisual treats, putting recycled CG footage from the series together with brand new sequences to make for animated dogfighting worthy indeed for the Macross franchise.

With these, and with all the references to its predecessors peppered throughout the movie, The False Songstress is undoubtedly Kawamori Shoji‘s love letter to Macross fans of all stripes, an invitation to Remember Love for all alike. And, this is only the first part of that love letter; it yet remains to be seen whether Wings of Goodbye, the upcoming sequel to this movie, will realize its potential of going down in Macross history as an iconic part of its franchise, in much the same way as Do You Remember Love did.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Ascaloth

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