L’Arc en Ciel 20th L’Anniversary LIVE at NYC

There’s only certain groups that have made it big and stay together long enough to have a 20th Anniversary, and you can count L’Arc en Ciel as one of them. The band had their 20th Anniversary concert earlier this year on May 28–29, 2011 at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo. Proceeds from that concert went to assisting with the Tohoku Earthquake.

Now the DVD has been released, and to celebrate L’Arc en Ciel’s accomplishments, a one night movie screening event presented by Live Viewing Japan happened in selected US cities. I am happy to say that New York City was one of them. Not sure how did other cities fared, in terms of attendance, but in NYC it was a small audience. Tickets were $20, but for about two-ish hours.. it was a nice event to sit and just be blasted with surround sound and behold the energy/excitement that was Laraku’s 20th Anniversary concert. Watching this concert gave me an idea just what would it be like next year for their World Tour 2012.

New York City is also their only U.S. city on their tour, and with news of their pre-sale tickets flying. Can I say that it would be nuts to just go for the tickets. I can only imagine how fast it would be selling, since the day they announce for NYC…. you get the picture.

Of course at this one night movie event, the entire Laraku concert wasn’t shown since it would run beyond the two-ish hour limit, but it was fantastic to see a stadium rock concert at its finest. I have never had the opportunity to go to such an event as a stadium packed concert, and you really can’t see the stage at all if you were in the audience, but the loyalty of fans for rock groups is note worthy.

The weather in NYC was pretty drab, since it was raining after a several days stint of really warm record hitting November weather. It matched the concert’s two day rain pour completely though, since L’Arc en Ciel still played even when it was bone soaking wet. The rain as my friend mentioned may have helped the band, since it was *ahem* wet in the rain “hair flinging” and “wet shirt” rock playing. (Did I mention that I went with fujoshi friends who literally pepper my ears with fun comments and vice versa!) Other than throwing the normal guitar picks, Hyde threw a harmonica, and the band also threw bananas at the crowd.. so you can imagine what the 18+ mind thought.

Ahahaha.. before I go off on a tangent, I am closing my post.

Through Older Lenses : California Crisis

 

Sure we’re virtually well out of the sphere of merely looking into the 1980s as a trendy hot-point of discussion, but what often doesn’t get shared within many writeups are the hidden, those unseen few, and often completely forgotten gems of the past that make up for much of this column.

Beginning in the early hours somewhere in San Diego, California, latter twentysomething ne’er do-well, Noera is reminiscing of the good old days with his former school basketball teammate, who is now helping run the local bar, Border Line. It is within this scene that we are made aware of Noera’s current lot in life which is drifting to say the least. Regardless, after what seems to be a hefty night of drinking and chatting, he is celebrating a newly acquired job in Los Angeles with a start time not too far away. Meanwhile a little ways north, near Edwards Air Force Base,  incidents are in motion ready to alter Noera’s fortune during his drive back in his cherry red vintage, when he runs across a high speed chase involving a young blonde on a motorcycle, several big rigs, and more. Within these frantic moments, Noera meets the free-spirited Marsha, and is whisked headlong into a mad chase regarding a mysterious object fresh from a crash site, possibly alien in origin. And those doing the chasing are willing to use anything and everything (rocket launchers included) to get it back.

And such is the familiar, yet strangely refreshing premise of California Crisis: Gun Salvo , a virtually unseen (on both shores) OAV from the heyday of the VHS straight-to-video days that has the distinction of being one of the most loving tributes to popcorn Hollywood anime has ever attempted. Produced  in 1986 by one-timers Studio Unicorn, and directed by Mizuho Nishikubo. And one doesn’t have to look hard to see just how cash-drowned the era was as this is easily the kind of anime production that could only have occurred during the mid-1980s. The budgets were largely in force, and so was a will to experiment. California Crisis is a bizarrely definitive vision of Americana by way of the Japanese animator, and has style to match.

The further we are entrenched in the chase pitting Noera, Marsha and her cat in danger from various agencies, including Russians, and a rogue unit of the US Air Force, the video’s brief running time gives us little in the way of rhyme and reason, but plenty of style to help carry it.

 

Even from the screenshot I am sharing up top, it is blaringly clear just how much free reign was given to creators and staff of this wild 45 minutes of breezy, summer movie-style adventure. The entire presentation comes off as the next logical stylistic step from Megazone 23‘s vision of the 1980s, which is to say that the entire visual palette is a pastel-drenched hybrid of anime and retro comic art akin to the works of 50s comic icon, Stan Drake. Hard outlines, and solid colors are the order of the day, creating something of the feel of an old pulp adventure comic that has just stumbled upon a hallucinogenic laced can of Coors. Also worth noting is the at times incredible soundtrack by Masaki Kurihara that evokes the vibe of late 1970s road movie, as well as a full-on embrace of 80s funk. Which is perhaps the perfect segue for the iconic sounds of Miho Fujiwara, who serves the pop music duties for the film. – If there is anything other than the visuals that are capable of burning themselves into memory, it is her voice and overall sound that grants the remaining package a singular aura.

 

Now as mentioned, the entire style is the substance here, as the staff did their part in paying tribute to the films that clearly inspired them. In fact, one could go so far as to opine that much of California Crisis lives and dies based on cineaste and pop culture familiarity. Much like the popular films to come later, in the 1990s, the piece is packed with even dialogue references to Robert Ludlum, Steven Spielberg, and others. There is a freewheeling, lighthearted feel to the whole affair that brings to mind many of the summer fare that was appearing in american cinemas around this time from My Science Project, Cloak and Dagger, D.A.R.Y.L. , and others. Rushing from one scene to the next, at times seemingly forced by production necessity, the project flirts often with spinning out of control. One almost gets the impression that had the budget been a little higher, a full-fledged film would have resulted. However, this leads to what manner of problems do exist in here.

 

So as the story unfolds, and our protagonists better get to know one another, one has the impression that a larger, more impressive reveal was in the planning. Problem is that while a lot of the film is visually exciting, this came at the sacrifice of story points what ultimately lead to missed moments, ridiculous means of exposition, not to mention quite a number of Deus Ex Machina interventions. Noera’s good looking, ordinary boy demeanor is as expected at odds with the hyper enthusiasm of Marsha, who seems to have no background to speak of, save for that she lives for the “american dream” believed to be within the enigmatic MacGuffin they are in possession of. He remains the voice of reason, while she has very little to stop her from achieving what she wants despite her limited (and potentially naive) means. It’s a classic pairing that comes to a head in a hotel scene that may come out of nowhere for some, but is also treated as a unique character moment that explains their divide perfectly. Their “crisis-borne” relationship is treated as a matter of fact, and is in tradition of a more western film tone. Something the crew of this clearly paid very close attention to.

 

Problems arise for the film when it becomes something of a game to figure out where the animation budget seems geared at. Given production budgets at the time, and despite the at-times incredible action animation, it becomes clear that the story can’t sustain itself, so the story naturally burns itself out by the finale which remains confused and underwhelming. And seeing as how the video only had one volume, and spelled the death knell of Studio Unicorn, this remains another classic example of that great last gamble, regardless of the outcome. Which is perhaps why my view of the film tends to remain positive as I find it more interesting when a work aims beyond the stratosphere, rather than within realms of the safe and familiar.

 

It is anime to the bones, and yet open to different visual storytelling models that predate shows like Cowboy Bebop, and the like. From the editing, to the use of music, to the snappy dialogue that happens in between action scenes. Having grown up where I did, a lot of this film brings back a world of not only memories of places I’ve been (seeing Edwards AFB was especially giggle inducing), but of simple meme-like visions of locations visited. There is a love of all-things California as art gallery in this OAV that is a reminder of all that is exciting about cultural exchange, as well as the dream of what America could be. (regardless off all those guns and helicopters) Make no mistake, California Crisis remains that kind of flawed, yet one of a kind anomaly that comes out of any affluent artistic period. It is online if you can find it (and it isn’t hard to find it at all), please give it a shot. I’ll wait.

  

Thoughts about Gate 7

Chikahito Takamoto is a normal high school student from Tokyo visiting his dream city of Kyoto. While visiting a site, he comes upon a battle that has the warriors just as perplexed to see him there. Within months, he moves back to the old capital and there he begins a life with Hana, Tachibana and Sakura.

Fans familiar to Card Captor Sakura, xxxHolic or many of CLAMP’s other manga shouldn’t feel out of bounds with picking up and reading Gate 7. The first volume reminds me a mixture of CLAMP’s other works Kobato, X and xxxholic. Other similar reads should be series like Natsume’s Book of Friends or Mushishi for paranormal stories beyond. The artwork of CLAMP is superb as always. I wouldn’t be surprised to see if Gate 7 gets picked up for anime series. For now though this series has been picked up to be translated into English by Dark Horse, so it is bound to be available at comic retail stores.

Rarely has it been to my knowledge of manga set in Kyoto. Much of CLAMP’s works are set in Tokyo with the fantastic view of Tokyo Tower as a cultural reference, but perhaps CLAMP is trying to explore settings outside of Tokyo is their way of featuring Japan to the rest of the world. Their usage of Japanese historical figures are also something not out of the ordinary, since they explained Vedic mythology with RG Veda. I had a fun time reading about the culture and historical notes in this story.

Another point to indicate from this story is Hana’s love for all things noodles, and yes I can only imagine just how much there is to love about noodles. It would like onigiri if you give it a couple of more years. ^_^

Looking back at Home Made Kazoku’s Otakon Concert

How many Anime Diet readers are HOME MADE 家族 fans? I realize that it has been a while, but after clearing through some of my photography archive, I realize that there was one more Otakon article that Anime Diet has never ran.

Flashback to Otakon 2010, this was the first year that I was at Otakon, writing for Anime Diet. 2010 also had HMK as Sunday Music guests. At the time, Jon Tsou was guest correspondent for Anime Diet, so these images were taken by him. This was HMK’s first appearance on American soil, and this was their set list at the time.

hmk-otakon (13 of 24)

At the time, there was a press policy of photos for the first four song, and these photos may have a bit of motion blur, if you don’t mind that aspect then swing on by Flickr for the rest of the HMK concert set.

World Origami Day 2011

In United States and parts of the world 11.11 is either Veterans Day or Armistice Day. In Japan though, November 11 is Origami Day (折り紙の日) aka Paper Folding Day. In Japan, this is the day when the paper crane became recognized as a symbol of peace. However for folders around the world, this is also the conclusion of a two and a half week of celebration for an international community of origami folders. (More information here.)

As an origami folder, and a fan of Japanese culture.. I really enjoy the craft of paper folding. You definitely need lots of patience and precision to fold nicely. But it is a craft I want to hone in. You can fold or crease and in a procession of steps the paper comes alive.

Nekobus2.jpg

Paper folders are not necessarily Japanese anime or manga fans. However there have been innovative folds with creating likenesses to various anime characters.At Origami USA convention earlier this year, I saw a Rei Aynami, a Rurouni Kenshin, and Totoro. There are other character likeness examples such as Vash Stampede, Sephiroth, Chocobo, or Iron Man.

Outside of Read or Die series or Spirited Away, there’s not a lot of anime that talk about origami, however there is a manga title from Kodansha that I spoke about as a license request a while back, so my hope for more origami relevant titles is still up in the air.

So yes 11.11.11 is going to be an interesting one for me indeed. For part of the day, I shall be off with my OMG onward to OWS for WOD. Can you get the acronym? We’ll be randomly handing out origami butterflies. ^_^ What would you do today?

An evening with Vertical’s Tasting for Drops of God

The Drops of God Beckons

Rarely has there been a story that would inspire the interest of an industry outside of its target audience. However, this has been the success of The Drops of God aka Kami no Shizuku. It had inspired trends that would literally sway the consumption of a certain vine to being nearly all consumed and sought after.

The direction of Drops of God in English that Vertical has chosen is going to be one similar to how Oishinbo had been published by Viz, a sampling and not everything is going to be released. So this series in Japan may be 20+ volumes, but in terms of practicality, only three volumes has been decided to be published in English. The main point of this entry though is not the review of the manga, which I still have yet to read. Rather it is a recap for a publisher event that I was able to attend.

On Wednesday and available for the public to attend, Vertical took an alternative approach to presenting one of their latest releases. They presented The Drops of God at Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit, a wine shop, where attendees were able to taste certain wines that were mentioned in the manga.

drops of god event (1 of 8)

Since there was a large crowd expected, attendees were given slips of paper to get the opportunity to blind taste a drop of God. There were also plenty of mingling, so the evening passed as the wine flowed and prepared snacks were consumed. I sampled three wines and since I have already had a prior preference for white over red wines, I had my heart set on which wine I liked.

For those who were present at this wine tasting event, also had the opportunity to purchase the book. It was a great opportunity to see how successfully a title can be crossed over into another industry. I happen to take some photos of the event, so you can check out the Flickr here.

Things Just Happen – IN SPAAACE! (The Macross Frontier Features)

 

As they say, familiarity breeds contempt. So when it comes to celebrating a quarter century-plus of one of animedom’s most iconic creations, what can one do, but wonder what could have been if those in charge (and this is also considering the franchise’s fractured, litigiously spotty past) retained some manner of focus regarding their legendary property, and didn’t let the beast of expectation overtake them. Then we may have had something truly fitting as a continuation of the saga originally begun in 1982. Instead, we have ourselves a sort of scatterbrained byproduct disguising itself as a nod to all that had come before. Granted, it isn’t for lack of trying. Much more the opposite. Much like the 2008 television event that inspired it, the film versions of Shoji Kawamori’s Macross Frontier are exercises in threshold tolerance the likes few anime have ever experienced. As I share these words by way of a sleek and sexy laptop, it is an interesting analog for the films as they are by design, functional only in the way a rigid marketing machine views its product; as merely extensions of a brand, not to be concerned with the human element, and moreso about furthering familiarity, often to the exclusion of sense, business, and relatability.

 

 

 

Heck. It could even go so far as to say that at the offset, the films admit what they are despite all the production value surrounding it. Much like the most garish, noisy spectacles, it is satisfied with checklisting over worldbuilding, types over actual characters. And all the while, the thinking must have been mostly of what target audience was being missed. Because at its core, this rendition of the already standard “love triangles and pop idols amidst star-spanning warfare with converting planes” remains at best a party for fans, and at worst, the kind of party that while fun-sounding at the offset, wears out its welcome when  one realizes there’s more important matters to tend to at home, like reading…soup labels.

 

 

 

Having grown up a helpless devotee of the original Macross as part of Robotech in those halcyon days, it has been a constant source of excitement, to check out the latest incarnation of the tale that began in the series’ rendition of 2009, when an alien presence made itself known to the human race, hot in pursuit of an spacecraft that had landed here only to be retrofitted and helmed by a grizzled captain, and an inexperienced crew. What followed, was something of a fantasy relevation for this starstruck 10 year old. The meshing of disparate genres and tropes, including the “realistic” robot war tale, and soapy space opera was almost too much for one kid to handle, and yet became one of the foundations of his love of all things Japanese cartoon. On top of this, it is a bold marker of a time when Japan’s reach seemed limitless. This feeling emanates heavily from the series as well as the 1984 classic, “Do You Remember Love?” in ways that few animated works have ever achieved. It transcends beyond the confines of the budget and technological limitations of the day, and remains emblematic of all that was hopeful in anime. Even more important, it helped usher in the rise of the anime otaku as creator, and even did its part to rib the newly emerging superfan phenomenon that had come to prominence in the wake of Uchu Senkan Yamato, and Kido Senshi Gundam. At its best, the legacy of Superdimension Fortress Macross is a time capsule that gave rise to an entirely new form of fandom.

 

 

But oh, what a difference a change in industry focus, and a little mental breakdown makes…

 

Looking back at the television series of Macross Frontier, perhaps as a fan of the property, I was completely blind to the glaring hints staring me in the face. That as a 25th Anniversary project helmed by Kawamori & Yasuhito Kikuchi, along with Studio Satelight, that this was to be an obvious cash-grab akin to just about any other rehash/sequel ever made. But perhaps it was my unwavering love for the 1990s OVA, Macross Plus that kept things out of focus. After all, Macross 7, while not a complete loss, was in many ways a sign that the franchise was primed to go into latter-day Gojira self-parody phase from then on out. And yet, Kawamori dialed back with Macross Zero, a prequel so mired in new age gobbledygook, that it seemed that the property was dead set on becoming the vessel for whatever strange inklings its noted co-creator would bring into it. So when the news came that Macross F would feature a story more centered within the “classic” Macross framework and timeline, and featuring an impressive battery of talent, a part of me was ready to once again believe.

 

 

And while the results were more than a little mixed, there were at least parts of me willing to accept it on its own absurd terms.

 

 

For the unfamiliar, Frontier is set 47 years since the beginning of the original series as mankind and Zentraedi have  continued their search for a new home deep in the recesses of the Milky Way galaxy. Centered within the massive convoy, is the Frontier, where much like the original series contains an entire city and surrounding environment which is home to countless races and cultures. And amidst this voyage is the core tale surrounding a young daredevil pilot running from his kabuki past, and his feelings for two distinctly different idol singers. One, the fiery and often spoiled-seeming Galactic Fairy, Sheryl Nome, and the other, innocent, and struggling vocalist, Ranka Lee. All the while, a new alien threat in the form of the seemingly faceless and fierce Vajra has appeared, which is merely a conduit within several levels of intrigue that threatens all involved.

 

 

 

Now with that oversimplified synopsis, it may seem to be more than ample material for a single season tv series. However, once it gets going, it became clear that as much plot is implied within the first few episodes, a bulk of the series is a play on fan familiarity with tropes and concepts long-since become cliche for this series. And as serious as some moments were, it was almost always done with a wink of the eye, and with a much larger emphasis on all-out spectacle than actual character development, let alone a truly comprehensible narrative. What Frontier DOES contain, is a virtual army of demographically targeted characters, carefully constructed for nearly every anime obsessive fetish imaginable. Imagine it off the tip of your mind, and this series has it. If Itano Circus was designed for target marketing, this series is a full-on missle strike. In fact, it could be said that this is perhaps the series’ sole reason for being. When all the smoke cleared from the end of the show’s run, it is this element that remains it’s most interesting, despite anything that really happens to anyone. Mindless fun, featuring yet another memorable soundtrack largely composed by the always reliable Yoko Kanno.  Frontier remains a largely underseen series in the west, and while many may still lament missing it during its initial run, I will opine here that it is virtually a “fan’s only” venture, and must be approached with discerning eyes.

 

 

All this said: Shame on me, for assuming that a two-film retelling would do for the series what Do You Remember Love? did for the original, which is break down the best elements of the initial creation, thereby offering a simple, exciting and resonant new addition to the Macross canon. What should have crossed my mind was that upon filtering out all of Frontier’s filler moments & dopey subplots, that the movie versions would have the more egregiously goofy elements cranked up to 12. Sometimes a strainer doesn’t do the trick apparently because as of this writing, I am still attempting to get my head around these films. Outside of their clearly nostalgia-geared, money-centric origins, there is simply no good reason for them to exist. It’s that simple. Imagine being a silver sphere, ricocheting down the loudest, most complex & colorful pachinko machine known to humankind, and that’s the Macross Frontier movie experience.

 

 

Macross Frontier: Itsuwari no Utahime (2009)

Right off the bat, the changes to how our characters are introduced sets in motion a much more aggressively paced version of the tv story. Relationships are mostly already established, particularly between the hopelessly bishounen lead, Alto Saotome and Ranka Lee whom already seem to be good pals, along with his friends who eventually reveal themselves as members of the private “for hire” squadron, SMS. Having Sheryl again as the galactic celebrity outsider offers much in the way of not only romantic complication for our leads, but also a window into the workings within other ships and associating governments faring this distant in space. And as the attacks from the mysterious vajra race become more and more dangerous, it comes to the attention of many that it is perhaps the presence of the Galactic Fairy that has brought about trouble to Frontier. Staying mum on the matter, is Sheryl’s endlessly busy & confident manager, Grace O’ Connor, who’s intentions clearly span beyond the idol legend’s concert itinierary. All the while, friends and allies begin to turn suspect, and it is up to the ensemble to seek out the truth regarding the Vajra, and the role both Sheryl and Ranka hold to the destiny of the Macross Frontier- as well as Saotome’s heart.

 

 

Again, a Frontier film distilled of it’s more drawn out elements ends up backfiring in many ways when the revelation creeps in that perhaps it is those very drawn-out elements that kept the whole series from being a completely unwatchable mess. With this limiter out of the way, the sheer spectacle of a San Francisco-like city on a deep space vessel, is far from enough to numb away the pain of being essentially browbeaten into looking for some sense of comfort in whatever character obsession one might possess. Subtlety is far from considered when every opportunity is milked within scenes in order to sell us the catalog of “goods” this universe contains. Much like previously mentioned, this telling of the story becomes less about story, and much more an excuse to revel in the spectacle of potential merchandise this particular film carries. Designed with at times incredible detail, and an unerring sense of the theatrical, Utahime attempts to establish the films as quasi-musical exercises in pure service. The problem comes, when that pesky plot (and an at-times byzantine one for a work of this kind) rears its head again, reminding us that it wants to have its cake and steamshovel too. So when the plot has to stop for either a quiet character moment in a park, or even a colorful music sequence, the end result is messy at best. Not satisfied with just telling a straight story, Frontier lives and dies by way of stuffing as much service-worthy material into a single charge and blasted out of a shotgun.

 

 

But one of the first film’s most curious qualities, is perhaps one that many won’t catch amidst all the hi-speed dogfights, and pretty people. Among the film’s most repeated conceits, is initially brought about between Sheryl and Alto, when she asks him why he wishes to fly, where he asks the same of her singing. While this may seem to be atypical Macross chatter, the assertion she makes regarding being a “Pro”, establishes an interesting precedent, when the visuals of the film come into play. As mentioned, there is a park “date” sequence within the first half that displays her use of a taiyaki-shaped all-purpose device not unlike a smartphone/camera. Given that this is a device one would carry around wherever, it becomes all the more curious when upon a later scene, we are witness to a line forming outside the city’s massive performance dome, with sales vendors shelling out the latest Sheryl-centric items for fans to snatch up. And amongst the bevy of merchandise, hanging on hooks, the very same taiyaki-shaped smartphone device. The implication being that Sheryl only uses items direct from her marketing line. Idols can’t be bothered with tasting anyone else’s chicken but their own.

 

Including the fact that while this takes place, the younger, more underdog of the duo, Ranka has just taken up singing with a shady manager, and is now doing an incredible number of adverts to sell various services and products with her often donning ludicrous to downright disturbing costumes all in the name of being a struggling would-be idol. Don’t let the cute and at times leeriness fool you, these are clearly there for a reason. Which brings me to perhaps the core of what makes the film fascinating, at least to one who has done his fair share of market work for certain similar industries. The implications brought forth within that initial park conversation come from the simple fact that these are children borne within domed worlds, only familiar with limits presented to them not ever having lived on a planet of their own. Alto’s wish for the freedom of flight, is as natural to him as Ranka and Sheryl’s wishes to sing. The ingrained need to expand beyond imposed boundaries. When transposing these as words of those creating the film, there is a longing, and almost resentment of feeling confined that permeates the entire piece. (the film even goes so far as to have Sheryl’s finale concert take place on what resembles an oil rig!) Because when even idols are reduced to salarymen,  where else can culture truly thrive?

 

So when the film’s climax takes place by way of something as bizarre as a credit card transaction, it becomes pretty clear that not all involved in making films of this ilk are completely happy with the current state of affairs. Especially being that these films were made as the moe boom was hitting its apex. When those who wish to dream are beset with the reality ceiling called becoming cogs in a tired wheel, it becomes more crucial than ever to rebel. This sly bit of satire would almost work, if the film lived up to what it longs for. However, Utahime is satsfied with playing matters passive aggressively for the time being which makes for a mixed experience only made tolerable mostly by the packaging- which in itself almost serves to derail itself by being just plain overbearing.

 

 

So in all, the Frontier’s initial foray into the cinema is something of a lumbering, shapeless beast. To be fair, there are occasionally amusing moments that harken toward the best that the franchise has to offer. It’s just too bad that as a film, Itsuwari no Utahime, outside of some great songs, lacks anything resembling a beating human heart. And that loss of memory, is the biggest tragedy of all.

 

 

 

Macross Frontier:  Sayonara no Tsubasa (2011)

 

Two years later, and perhaps this time was required for my assumptions to brew, because when this continuation of the story kicks into high gear, it’s like something out of a Takashi Miike film; out of left field, and possibly out for blood. The story deepens, as Ranka’s career has taken off to unexpected heights as Sheryl has begun exhibiting signs of a terrible illness. With suspicions growing around Sheryl’s connection to the Vajra, Alto’s role is put to the test as not all allegiances are what they seem, and Ranka’s missing past begins to reveal itself in ways unexpected. The Macross Frontier tale concludes once again, and this time with a wholly new, and in many ways challenging finale. But true to previous statements, this is an alternate ending built out of possibly years of pent-up anger, because this is the only way to explain away the amount of hard lefts this piece takes.

 

 

Beginning with the first of several major musical numbers, and delivering on the already questionable wedding-dress motif offered in the teaser attached to the previous movie, Sheryl suffers a spell and collapses during a show-setting in motion the final movements for the series as Alto and the SMS are now closely watching over her in lieu of continuing espionage charges. And it is here that it is revealed just how closely related both singers are in regards to the Vajra, and the ultimate goal of the villains, which is admittedly pretty bland upon further consideration. Galactic conquest, as potentially interesting as it might be on paper, or word processor, only works best when the stakes are felt. The problems again having to do with all the arbitrary silliness going on around the plot that ultimately renders much of what is at stake not terribly impactful. But again, as already established, plot having very little place in this work, it isn’t as if the main story is anywhere near as important here as the reactions of the characters to it, which range from logical to just plain, well…the opposite.

 

 

And no sooner does this become the film’s ultimate thrust, as when the entire story takes an unexpectedly hyperdramatic turn, merely for the sake of itself. That’s correct, the entire second half of Sayonara seems ripped from an entirely different playbook. It hardly resembles the previous film in tone, and just goes for hyperbolic self-parody- in a series that already has reserves of self-deprecation. Right from the offset, it feels as if those in charge (Kawamori included) opted to hijack the established storyline in order to execute some  of the most patently ridiculous moments in the franchise’s history. By this point, one has to be with matters full-on, or the film will leave them wholly in the dust. When one sees an opportunity for not only a scene set in Space Alcatraz, followed by a male lead in Gothic Lolita garb, followed by a huge battle culminating with a converted battleship surfing on an island, one has to ask onesself just what is it they want out of a classic franchise, when absolutely nothing is happening in any believable manner? Granted that the Macross franchise has prided itself on embracing the absurd, but this takes it to unforeseen levels of goofy. To make matters even worse, is the increased used of the post-cutaway flashback. Hair-breadth escapes that happen offscreen after leading the viewer to believe that a character has died. Every time it seems ready to dive full-on into risky territory, the film remembers that it has quotas to make, thereby relieving it of any stones it might have had in its pocket.

 

 

One has to imagine that all that had been implied in Utahime, was merely a hint at what was to come. It’s the only way I myself can rationalize what takes place here. It doesn’t even attempt to match the tone previously established, which was already relatively unstable to begin with. But the biggest problem that comes with this sudden Damn The Torpedoes shift, is simply that it is hardly any fun to experience. Much of it continues to feel put upon, and joyless. An action like this can work if a film sets itself up with enough careful development, but as it stands, the entire change-up hangs precariously like a bumper held to the grill with duck tape. And again, some truly fun musical numbers do little to undo this problem. Of note is Ranka’s early concert sequence employing a storybook motif that is both visually impressive and charming. It’s just too bad there’s so little else holding the entire film together. As visually and sonically impressive as these films can be, they are at the end of the day, products about products and little else. And it’s a real same since as a lifelong fan of the original, I find a lot of potential in many of the characters in this rendition.

 

 

And again, the questions continue regarding reasons as to the whys of yearning, and dreaming for the seemingly unattainable.  Much like what the Zentraedi rediscovered decades before with one young girl’s song…the answers are simple. It’s just too bad that many involved with Macross Frontier were in little position to take that advice.