The Upper Atmospheric ROSSMAN
The False Songstress
How the GODDAMN fuck did they do it? I mean, how did they do it again? First, they made SDF Macross, and it was good. Then they REMADE that story in a condensed movie (Do You A'Member Love?), and it was even better. THEN they gave us Macross Plus, and it was so beyond awesome. And THEN they reedited that one and gave us Macross Plus: the Movie, and they made its ending even more glorious! Then after more than a decade between Macross projects (there was never a Macross Firebomber nor a Macross Zero [whose name I don't even have to parody]), we got Macross Frontier, and it was one of the greatest anime shows ever produced... And now, they've given us a couple of remake movies of that story, and although I won't say this movie (The False Songstress) actually tops the Frontier TV series, I will say that it is most definitely on par with it. But wait, there's so much to talk about; I need to back up a little and start from the beginning.
Macross Frontier is one of the biggest budgeted, best paced, most incredibly composed anime series ever produced. It's just a work of art. Back after it had finished airing there was a news release that they were already creating a movie remake of it — just compressing the story down to its basic elements, and even using "some new animation!!!!" Ugh... For the most part, movies that just hack and slash well plotted 26+ episode television series tend to fail (*Cough* Girl in Gaia, RahXephon the Movie *Cough*). If the original show is any good, it means that pretty much every second of its 13 or so hour run was filled with necessary plot or characterization. To cut any (or 11 hours) of this storytelling out in order to make a 2-hour movie just means we the viewers are simply getting a shitty "retelling" in order to rake in a few more bucks for the studio. Yeah, they usually entice hard core otaku into buying tickets/DVDs of this new "theatrical take" by throwing in maybe 5 - 10 minutes of brand spanking new animation, but this shit never adds anything, and is mostly there just to connect two scenes together that used to have 3 episodes of exposition between them in the story's original form. But I digress.
Yes, Do You Remember Love? actually truly succeeded in retelling the heart of the SDF Macross tale in a 2 hour window. It cut out pretty much EVERYTHING except Hikaru's love triangle with Minmay and Misa, and it made all the characters cooler/sexier/less annoying than they were in the TV show. AND it was made of nothing but brand new super high quality animation. That right there made up for a shitload of missing story.
Well, thank Christ on the shitter that the people behind The False Songstress did the same thing. They took the main love triangle of the series — between Alto/Ranka/my bitch Sheryl — and created this film with their personal relationships as the centerpiece. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are a ton of battles, lots of flying, and the whole thing is pretty much a wall-to-wall Yoko Kanno music lovefest, but the Vajra and the Macross Galaxy's subplots take a big back seat to Alto trying to sort his boner out for his singing ladies. Oh, and it's almost 100% brand new, awesome, pants-gizzingly, eye-fuckingly sweet animation to boot. They didn't just reedit what was already drawn for the TV series, they drew almost the whole thing from scratch! And it's even more gorgeous than the production values of its predecessor. Honestly, it's like a fun little game in trying to find the small scenes that they did take directly from the show. There are maybe only 10 or so of them, and they're at most 30 seconds long. It's just... Wow, you have to see it for yourself.
Anyway, on to the plot (my mouth is sore from sucking The False Songstress' dick for so long already... I need to move on).
The movie starts out on the giant Earth colony ship Frontier, as it's already traveling around near the center of the galaxy looking for a new home. Wannabe pilot Alto Saotome's already good friends with bubbly, partial Zentradi Ranka Lee, and we quickly jump to him and his UN Spacy cadet pals providing air support for superstar idol Sheryl Nome's (about 3Xs more incredible than the series') opening concert, when the Vajra (giant space bugs with a hive mind and unlimited genetically-produced spooge missiles) attack. This attack leads to the civilian weapons contractors (the SMS) taking the front line of colonial defense (because UN Spacy is filled with pussies now, years after Hikaru, Roy, Milia, and Max showed everybody how it was done), which in turn leads to Alto joining their ranks as the official company pretty boy.
Soon one of Sheryl's important missing earrings (trust me, it's more than just a piece of pretty jewelry and a lame plot point) leads her to hunt down her man muffin Alto, while Ranka realizes that she lusts to pop the flyboy's cherry herself, but she still wants Sheryl's friendship and help in becoming an idol singer too. Big confusion then sets in when the SMS and Macross Frontier government come to the conclusion that Sheryl and her manager are spies for the Macross Galaxy's regime, and are somehow using the Vajra to destroy the Frontier armada for nefarious purposes. Then more giant battles and mind blowing concerts occur, and then... To Be Continued.
Yeah, I was kind of bummed when I realized that we were about an hour and fifty minutes into this thing, and we weren't going to come to any real conclusions about the all-encompassing plot of either the love triangle or the Galaxy's spy mystery in the remaining 5 minutes. But that's okay. Honestly, I appreciated the fact that the Frontier story would have a total of 4 or so hours to breathe in movie form with this flick and Wings of Goodbye (review below)... I just wish we didn't originally have to wait a full year to see the final movie and the ending to the tale. But I'm fairly patient... Kind of. I mean, compared to my sister and my friend's ADHD kids whom they refuse to put on Ritalin despite the fact that if you don't tie them to a chair and you turn your back on them for 4 seconds they'll set the cat on fire, find a loaded gun and shoot the dishes in a skeet contest, or try to jump from the roof to the pool (even if they missed 3 times already). So, the wait wasn't so bad for me.
All in all I was just absolutely amazed at the effort put into this movie. It may be the same story as the TV series at heart, but the new plot twists about the spies, the new takes on characters (like Leon Mishima appearing to NOT be a total asshole and saboteur), and new visuals throughout (like the super sweet explosion that launches Alto and Sheryl hundreds of feet down from the concert hall into the city below, as they try to reach each other in midair, while debris and missiles shoot past them)... well, they make this something that any Macross fan has to see with his own retarded eyes. Oh man, and the songs! Yoko Kanno actually matches the greatness of her original Frontier tunes with at least 5 or so new numbers in this flick. Each as catchy and Sheryl-worthy as the last. Seriously, The False Songstress can do no wrong.
The Wings of Goodbye
And then came The Wings of Goodbye... Goooooooooooddammit.
Almost everything that was so good about the first movie, and so fucking fantastic about the ending of the original Macross Frontier TV series was shit upon in The Wings of Goodbye. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but after the perfection of those previous entries the 2nd Macross F movie was a severe disappointment.
From here on out there will be some pretty big spoilers for the TV series (which if you haven't seen yet, really, what are you reading this for in the first place?) and The False Songstress. I'll warn you when I get into large, gargant-sized spoilers for the 2nd movie though.
Okay, so we start off The Wings of Goodbye with Sheryl Nome and her manager Grace still being investigated as spies despite the partial annihilation of their Macross Galaxy fleet by the Vajra space bugs; Ranka has almost instantly (and inexplicably) become a megastar in her own idol way; and Alto (to his credit) is actually playing both sides of the field with the two girls (unlike his TV series personality which was borderline pussyphobic). The Frontier government and military is using hardcore science to figure out how to control the Vajra (and their space folding abilities) for their own purposes, and the SMS civilian weapons contractors crew goes on vacation in a beach island of the fleet.
Oh crap... You know what, I really will be letting loose with tWoG SPOILERS starting now, so there... the warning is out there.
During all this we find out (*GASP!!*) that Sheryl and her manager really ARE spies, and a ton of the refugees from the Galaxy fleet are actually insurgents who quickly go about dispatching some higher up Frontier officials before getting totally mutiny-cock-blocked and arrested/killed by Leon Mishima and his special forces units (this was actually a pretty fucking sweet "HELL YEAH!" moment that I was not expecting). But then we find out that Mishima is pushing President Glass to authorize the use of their newly acquired Vajra tech to turn the Vajra against themselves and save the fleet!!! OH NO!... Wait, that's actually a pretty good idea (it saves billions in weapons and Valkyrie fighter mecha, and thousands of human lives), but he's shown to be a bad guy because even though the Vajra violently kill the shit out of tons of humans in this story and have tiny hive brains, they have feelings. So using them against their own kind is naughty. Bad, Mishima! Bad, bad, Mishima!
Then the FIRST major cringe-inducing plot point is introduced... The prison break of the incarcerated Sheryl Nome. Now, this could have been played seriously (well, as serious as the whole of the TV series and the first movie), but instead the whole break out is pure tongue-in-cheek for no good reason. It starts off with the SMS crew not giving a shit that Sheryl lied to them and that she and her Galaxy asshole friends tried to take over Frontier (by shooting an ass-ton of people), and they decide to do the whole jailhouse rock thing, but they don't know how they'll get away with it. Then Ranka (who's in the SMS meeting for God only knows why) says that she has a cunning plan... That plan is to convince the warden to allow her to throw a mega concert in the middle of his prison, use that as a distraction while they hack the jail's security programs, and have Alto (dressed in goth-lolita drag because why not?) break in and save Sheryl. They also have to put this whole thing (and the giant stage) into production within a single day because Sheryl's going to be executed as a traitorous whore in less than 24 hours.... And they do it. They also do it while the crew of the SMS dresses up like Fire Bomber to be Ranka's band. It's straight out of a shitty parody series, and it feels soooooo stupid.
You don't cheer as this shit is happening — as Clan Clang dresses up as Mylene Jenius, or as Alto ziplines straight into the prison walls, past hoards of blind guards in full drag — you bite your lower lip and hope this is a stupid dream sequence. It's dumb, and it's played for laughs. It does not fit in this universe. It's like they took the wackiest episode of Full Metal Panic? Fummofu! and stuck it into the middle of the hyper-dramatic Berserk. It's just wrong. And it's only the beginning of the stupid that infiltrates this flick.
Anyway, they get Sheryl out (quite easily in fact, with little resistance and nobody chasing them), and after a couple of pathetic fake-out deaths later we find that some of the Macross Galaxy's big bosses (in the form of brains in a cybernetic encasing) are still alive, and they wipe out the Frontier high command in one fell (pathetic) swoop ("pathetic" meaning after being shown just how bad ass and in command the Frontier special forces were about a half an hour previous, they now get treated like a bunch of faceless, useless Cobra minions in a GI Joe cartoon). Then we get a ton of hurried talking heads scenes of exposition (so we know why stupid things are about to happen even though there is NO lead-up to them happening at all), and then the rushed final battle takes place against the Vajra on their home planet.
This is when the absolutely MOST redonkulous cringe moment takes place: The SMS's giant Macross Quarter ship is diving into the atmosphere of the Vajra home planet too fast (chasing after the hijacked Macross Frontier flag ship), it's about to burn up like a meteor in the process, and that's when its glass (or space-age transparent aluminum or whatever) bridge-shield gets smashed (merely causing a rush of wind to fly in), and just as everyone questions how they'll survive, with a gust blowing in his face the old mustachioed captain abandons his steering wheel and dramatically jumps into a surfing position yelling something along the lines of "Cowabunga!" and somehow the 1/4 mile-long humanoid vessel lands "feet" first on a piece of giant space debris, and then surfs it down into the safety of the planet's lower atmosphere as fluidly and effectively as if it were the reincarnation of the Big Kahuna himself.
My jaw dropped in utter horror. I had to rewind this part and watch it again. Yes, the super smart SMS crew deliberately chose to dive head first into the Vajra's home planet's atmosphere without a plan as to how they would NOT get burnt to a crisp in the process. Yes, the bridge glass-shield-like-thing broke while they were still in space and they only had a bit of a breeze issue because of it. Yes, on the spur of the moment the gruff captain of the ship jumped into a surfing pose and yelled the Japanese equivalent of "Surf's up!" And yes, somehow (despite it being shown that the Macross Quarter could only be driven by a steering wheel in the past) the captain's retarded body language is translated into the actual movement of the enormous (vaguely human-shaped) ship and it safely surfs down to the planet surface with great agility. This surfing goes on for like 5 minutes too, like the director was saying "Hey! Did you see my giant surfing spaceship robot! Isn't it cool! Look! Here it is again! Still surfing! Awesome!!! Wait, what do you mean it's been done before? What's a Eureka Seven?!"
That's essentially when I officially gave up on this movie, but that's not even the worst part of the flick. For no reason at this time, a huge armada of faceless SMS forces from around the galaxy then appear around the Vajra home world... And do no real good except taking away the thunder from the SMS Macross Quarter (which was desperately alone up to this point). Oh, but I guess the faceless SMS forces are responsible for Alto's ending.... Christ, just thinking about it makes me shudder some more.
Okay, so then the Vajra break free from the Galaxy brain trust's control, and are now themselves again (their murderous, feral, animalistic selves), and Alto knows that they'll be alright, but only if he flies directly up to the Queen and presents himself... Don't ask, I don't get it either. This is when the much touted END OF THE LOVE TRIANGLE between Alto, Sheryl, and Ranka takes place. See, the SMS faceless forces fire ALL their weapons at the Queen (and Alto) just as Alto makes personal contact and soothes the Queen down (by essentially rubbing her belly). Just before the lasers hit him (they must be new, slower-than-sound lasers), he turns to the far-off ship carrying Ranka and Sheryl (who've been singing a watered down version of the uber duet medley that they sang during the last episode of the TV series) and tells Ranka "yeah, baby, you're cute and all, but no. Sorry. You ain't whore enough for me... YOU, on the other hand, Sheryl, let's GET IT OOOOOOOOOOOOON!" Then the Vajra Queen teleports them both away to God only knows where. Then we find out that Sheryl's at death's door due to her Vajra V-Type infection thingamabob, and she falls into a coma even after a blood transfusion from Ranka, and nobody's happy. The end.
Nope, nothing after the credits. Nope, nothing planned for an actual REAL ending after this. This was the big one. This was the only ending that they planned on telling us with the movie timeline. It's basically a giant "FUCK YOU!" to the loyal fans... And it's sad.
END OF REAL SPOILERS
Did I hate EVERYTHING about the second Macross F movie? No. I loved the concerts in The Wings of Goodbye (especially Ranka's giant debut — but didn't like the CGI background dancers and concert goers... They looked way too 2001 CGIy), I loved the music, but the battles were kind of quick and sucky (just twirling planes and missiles in space; nothing to sink your eyeball teeth into), and the plot points were based on retardation (see above). I already bitched about the silly-goofy tone of most of this thing (it instead needed to be serious and ass-kicking when thousands of lives were in danger, like its predecessors), and that ending... What the fuck?! Usually in remake movies they try to make things BIGGER and more badass (see Gurran Lagann: The Lights in the Sky Are Stars and Macross: Do You Remember Love? for examples of how to do this right), but here the ending was only about half as huge and great as the TV series' finale. It didn't have any of the "Rah! Rah! Sis boom bah!" that the last 30 minutes of the original story had. The movie ending was missing drama, excitement, and that incredible song medley as background music. WTF, movie guys? You did it ass-backwards...
Oh, and let me not forget about the myriad of fake-out deaths that led absolutely nowhere and meant nothing during the course of this movie. There were at least 5 times where a major character died, and I actually cheered at the chutzpah of the writers for going through with it... But then the "dead" would miraculously appear two or three scenes later and be like "LOL!! I's not dead! Y U Mad?" and completely shit upon any drama that was built up (which wasn't much, granted) at all. This worked once extremely well in the original Macross Frontier TV series, but they did it at least FIVE TIMES in the second movie. It was turned into a shitty running gag.
So, to sum up: Macross Frontier TV series is one of the greatest things in the history of ever; The False Songstress is a fantastic follow-up/remake that was just as exciting as the original; but The Wings of Goodbye took a pterodactyl-sized dump on my head as it flew by. It wasn't a serious undertaking — instead it felt like a parody of the TV series that spawned it... Which is incredibly sad, as it could have been cooler than DYRL? if it had just tried a little bit harder....... Honestly, what fucking warden would allow a concert by a cute teenage girl in the middle of his prison just hours before a huge celebrity (who was also the cute girl in question's friend) was to be executed there for the crime of espionage and insurrection? Goddammit so much.