Review: Macross Frontier: The False Songstress

Well, as promised, this week is movie one of Macross Frontier, Itsuwari no Utahime or The False Songstress. It’s a little weird going backwards, so if you’re read the first review; bear with me as some ground will be retread. Opening for theatrical release in November of 2009 (coming out on DVD/Blu-ray about a year later), it was pretty exciting as I remember. The announcement for the movie was made (or at least I heard of it) not too long after the final episode of Macross Frontier the TV series ended, and after a final episode like that, it was hard not to be excited for the movie. But considering the TV series ended about two years before I watched the movie, I had a lot of time to lose that excitement and forget the series. Thankfully, the movie is a good way to get into the series (to a degree).

Oh my god, it IS a segway! You know, for being a commercial failure, segways are way too prevalent in pop culture.

If you’ve watched the TV series before going into the movie, as I did, the beginning part will seem quite familiar. It starts fairly similar to the TV anime, though it does eventually branch out to be quite different (this difference culminating in the second movie). It sets up the basic relationships of the main characters and creates the stage (haha, get it?) for the second movie.

As the movie starts out, the plot is fairly grounded. I mean, while all the characters are inside a giant space colony and stuff, their lives inside that colony are fairly normal. You’re introduced to Ranka and Alto, two schoolmates. From the get go it’s pretty obvious that Ranka’s interested in Alto, but of course him being the protagonist he is, is totally and utterly dense to the situation at hand.

So it turns out a super famous singer named Sheryl Nome is coming to visit the Frontier (the name of the giant ship Alto and Ranka live on) from Galaxy (a similar giant ship that Sheryl is from). Known as the Galactic Fairy, everyone’s abuzz with her impending visit. Alto, working for the SMS (a paramilitary corporation in Frontier) is contracted to handle security for the concert. As a short aside, now that I’m thinking about it, it’s kind of bizarre that a giant ship that can’t house more than maybe two million people has need for paramilitary corporations. I mean the whole thing is pretty much a giant city anyway. Is it really necessary…?

Well, anyway, this lavish concert (as these concerts are always super lavish) is attacked by the Vajra, and alien race of bugs that are a mystery to the humans. Through a well-animated and fun to watch series of events, Alto saves Ranka and Sheryl from certain doom at the hands of the Vajra (which are somehow reacting… possibly to the singing? Who knows) and of course Sheryl falls in love with him too, going so far as to ask him out on a date later.

Through these events after the concert, Ranka realizes it’s her life goal to sing, and though she’s met with resistance from her brother at first, he eventually caves and Ranka begins the long road to stardom. And thus begins a long montage where Ranka grows slightly more popular day by day.

Fast forward a lot of relationship and character-building events to an SOS! Apparently Galaxy is under attack from the Vajra! So the SMS is sent out to handle this threat as per orders from Sheryl, who contracted them, while… Sheryl has a concert? Yeah, well, that concert attracts even more Vajra to Frontier, so the SMS is called back to handle THAT threat (there IS a military on Frontier, but I think they’re so incompetent that they might as well not exist). And thus the movie is pretty much over.

They're just dumplings, I swear!

The characters are… The same as the ones in my earlier review, so it’s kind of difficult to talk about them again without sounding redundant. Their personalities are by and large the same, though the interactions (at least at first) are a little different since Ranka is quite a bit less confident before her debut as a singer, and Sheryl is unknown to all the characters so there’s a lot of set up that has to be done on that front.

Also, due to the development that takes place throughout this movie and the second movie, the characters may come off as fairly one-dimensional at first. Alto was always a little bit one-dimensional, though his pretty boy look belies his hot blooded attitude, which I thought was kind of cool. Sheryl is kind of the mature musical mentor to Ranka, and one-dimensional in the sense that she comes across as a strong character with little or nothing to stand in her way (though her date with Alto is pretty cute). Ranka on the other hand gets the brunt of character development in this movie, starting from a shy girl who had an incredible voice, and becoming much more confident in her singing and her life as she grew more and more as a star. Besides that, however, by and large my other review covers them pretty well.

The road to stardom is a harsh one. Pandering to the gunpla fanbase is just one of many demeaning steps to come, Ranka.

It’s hard to say something new for the art or the animation of this movie in comparison to the second movie. It’s not even that, because the second movie came out afterwards, it looks better. In fact, there are plenty of breathtaking shots in this movie (though I think the Niji Iro Kuma Kuma concert knocks this movie out of the water, visually) of the city in particular. The beginning with Ranka racing through town in what appears to be a Segway shows some pretty fantastic shots of the city on Frontier. That being said, one point I can make is that some of the CG in this movie looks a little bit weird. That’s not to say it’s bad over all, but there were a few segments that looked kind of poorly done, particularly near the end of the movie with the huge battle right outside of Frontier. The Macross Quarter (the main battleship of the SMS) was doing some fancy maneuvers (as it often does; it surfs in the second movie) and the CG for it looked really… bad, I suppose. That’s pretty much the only mark I can give this movie that I couldn’t give the other, though.

Seriously, the concert has breakdancing automatons! How do they even get the budget for this kind of stuff (in movie)? Still, it's great fun to watch.

Insofar as animation is concerned, it’s pretty similar, again, to the second movie, Sayonara no Tsubasa. I mean that in the sense that it’s well-done. I don’t think it’s perfect or anything (some of the singing bits come across as a bit odd-looking) but by and large it looks really nice. Of course, this kind of effect is to be expected when you’re dealing with a pretty large budget, considering this is a movie, so a more apt comparison may be against other movies. And if that’s the case, it’s not the best animation I’ve ever seen in a movie (not that I know a damn thing about the technical aspects of animation) but Sword of the Stranger has some of the best animation I’ve ever seen. I might review that next week or something, I dunno. But yeah, at the very least I have no complaints about The False Songstress’s animation.

It's a little difficult to convey with just a picture, but I thought this was kind of funny if you know Gundam SEED at all. The little cut-in Kira does for Hi-MAT is mimicked hear by Ozma and his multitude of rockets, with the target tracking and whatnot.

And now, the music. Of course, as it is Macross Frontier, the music is one of the biggest reasons to watch this. And of course, it’s great. The same singers (May’n doing Sheryl, Nakajima Megumi handling Ranka) with the same composer (Gabriela Robin, or Yoko Kano) makes for similarly great music. I will admit, between Ranka and Sheryl, I think I prefer more of Ranka’s songs to Sheryl, and this movie has more of Sheryl’s songs. Which is fine, just not my speed.

The opening concert, Universal Bunny, is again pretty bizarre-looking, but still kinda cool. One thing I can always appreciate about the Macross Frontier concerts is the sheer production value behind them. Again I’ll bring up Niji Iro Kuma Kuma from Sayonara no Tsubasa, but damn these concerts look amazing. I feel like half the budget for the movie is spent just on the concerts, not that I have any complaints.

Anyway, this movie has quite a few songs that the second one doesn’t (though I think most if not all of them are covered in the little medley done by Ranka and Sheryl at the end of the second movie, with the notable exception or… Pink Monsoon, I think?) and I like a few of them. Particularly Obelisk by Sheryl (May’n?) and the Diamond Crevasse rendition Sheryl performs neat the end of the movie.

And of course at the end of the movie Sheryl and Ranka get up on stage together and give a stellar duet that’s always a treat to watch, and hear. I would say that for me personally the musical selection in this movie was a bit worse (and kind of skewed more towards Sheryl than Ranka, though it makes sense since Ranka isn’t a real singer yet) but I think objectively the music is just as good as anything the second movie can put up.

Rating Breakdown
The plot, again, is not really the important part here. I mean, sure, it's there, and I guess it sets up the next movie well enough, but it's not really that important honestly. That being said, I think the way the plot is handled in the first half (before a myriad of stuff is explained) makes it seem like it could be more interesting than it ultimately ends up being.
They're just introduced here. While they're still a treat to watch, they're a little one-dimensional in this movie, with the exception of Ranka I suppose. To that end, today I'm Team Ranka!
The art is just as good as the second movie. I enjoyed the concerts and some of the battles in the second movie more, but I think that's just because more was at stake in terms of plot and whatnot.
Again, just as good as the second movie. Again the same criticisms hold up, and some of the CG isn't really all it could be, nor is the animation really the best in the medium by far.
It's pretty essential to watch this before the second movie, considering that one's a direct sequel. This movie is still quite good though, so no loss there. I think I enjoyed the second movie a little bit more, but not .5 more, so the rating will be the same.
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I write about anime and stuff. Giant robots are pretty cool, too.


I write about anime and stuff. Giant robots are pretty cool, too.

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