Well, 15 episodes into the 25 episode season and we finally get some sort of a “recap” episode. Unlike most series, however, this one still offers a bit of progression, as it splits into a 50/50 division of recap and continuation. Regardless, I have some mixed feelings about this episode, especially after the pure awesomeness that was episode 14. However, I do kind of realize that for where the series is going, this episode is important and needed to be done.
We return to Galia 4, where the dimension eater is about to take a huge chunk out of the planet, taking the remnants of “Global” with it. Grace laughs in spite of everything, noting how the death of the “Songstress of the Galaxy” and the “forward division” will be the prelude of everything to come. The seeds of hatred have been sown…and then Grace gets blown away (just like before). However, she has survived the destruction of the planet because she downloaded her mind into another body; apparently, she was a full cyborg. As she awakens, her voice is joined by a multitude of others.
On Frontier, Ranka is annoyed with the medical tests and the nurse’s rather brusque treatment. Ranka isn’t too thrilled with her quarantine from everybody on Frontier because of her Vajra incident, and makes her feelings known behind the nurse’s back with a rather unusual looking face. Alto, who was waiting for her at the elevator, duly proceeds to make fun of her “beauty”. Ranka quickly jumps to get Alto a hug, forgetting that she’s in nothing more than a hospital dress. Once reminded, she screams in embarassment…just like before. Meanwhile, Brera Sterne looks on from his patrol outside of Frontier.
At the President’s office, the damage to Frontier is tallied, including the loss of two islands, contamination, and loads of supplies. Because of the Vajra attacks, Resource Control “Stage 2” is put in effect to help ration out what little supplies remain on Frontier. The president, however, has bigger concerns, and that is with the huge Vajra army shown massed around Frontier’s position by their sensors. The future of Frontier doesn’t look too pretty.
*(Recap mode: ON! Skip if you want)*
As Frontier decides its path, “Index 11983E745” is opened to look at Operation Carnival, which was the grand scheme behind Sheryl’s Concert Tour, to which we see flashbacks of. The 25th Fleet, aka Macross Frontier, was chosen as an “operational subject” and scheduled as the final stop. Why? Frontier’s vulnerability to environmental fluctuations, its ban on cyborg implants, and the planned route of Frontier out of Eden. Secondary to everything is Q-1, who was presumed dead but found to be living on Frontier. Cut to scenes of Ranka, while another female voice notes how Frontier gave a very “warm welcome”.
Meanwhile, a male voice admits that Sheryl came to Frontier as bait, leading the Vajra to their position. Cut back to the first few battles between Frontier / SMS ships and the Vajra, while Sheryl’s “Welcome to my Fan Club’s Night” plays in the background. In all, the objective was completed to 72%, with the inability for 100% coming from the SMS. Particularly, the SMS capabilities and the usage of the VF-25, both of which were grossly underestimated. The most glaring miscalculation was the response of Q-1, now directly identified as Ranka Lee. The person who did not exist in the minds of a few made an enormous impact on their plans.
The bodiless voices also explain how Brera Sterne, who infiltrated the Vajra ships for “surveillance purposes”, got involved after hearing Sheryl’s song with another “fold wave component”. “A world resounding to the fold strings”, as it seems. They also (at least) respect Ranka’s boldness to come out to Galia 4 and end the planned fight between Zentradi forces. Ranka’s intervention threw everything in “Carnival” into chaos, and everything had to be revised.
*(Recap mode: OFF)*
Back in the hospital, Sheryl has just finished a blood test when Grace stops by. Unknown to both the nurse and Sheryl, Grace switches the vials of blood with another one. Sheryl, oblivious to Grace’s true nature, comments on her need to thank Brera, who, she assumes, managed to get Grace off the planet. Both look downcast after speaking of Galaxy’s status, which is alive but probably very banged up after dealing with the Vajra. Sheryl, happy that Galaxy is still in one piece, tries to hurry up and get out of the hospital so she can support everybody else; Grace, however, does not let her, and cancels all of her shows and commitments so she can fully recover first. Sheryl’s eyes are again downcast, this time towards a magazine with Ranka’s image on it. She’s clearly terrified of Ranka’s sudden popularity, and what it means for her line of work. Grace reassures her before leaving, saying that she’s strong and will be able to handle it. After leaving, however, Grace is seen at the top of the hospital disposing of Sheryl’s blood test; Sheryl is indeed strong, as she survived Galia 4, the planet she was supposed to die on. However, Grace says (in a slightly more mechanized voice) that Project Fairy is a failure, and Fairy-9 is to be disposed of..
On the roads of Frontier, Ozma and Cathy raise growing concern about Brera, who they confirm has been hovering around Frontier even before Galia 4 was destroyed. Ozma knows that there is something going on, since Alto, despite promotion for his work, should not have summoned to meet the SMS owner so quickly. Cathy reassures him that her father, the President, is not involved, which leaves only one person: Leon Mishima. Leon, monologuing to himself, is amused by how Ranka, despite blood tests showing nothing and having no memory, may be the key to everything.
Back at the hospital, Sheryl is annoyed with the medical tests and snaps at the doorbell when Alto’s voice comes through. After making herself more presentable, she lets Alto in, asking what took him so long to visit her. Of course, she doesn’t see Ranka right beside him, carrying a bouquet of flowers.
Outside of the recovery room, the news is all over Ranka, and each program seems to have another video of her before she got famous. As the three of them talk, Ranka’s version of “What ’bout my star?” comes on, leaving Ranka blushing furiously. Sheryl makes a snide comment on how it must’ve been during her date with Alto, but continues to praise Ranka as the innocent girl led by her dreams. Ranka says its because of the paper airplane that Alto made while in the area, even though Alto had made it on just a whim. Feeling some tension, Alto tries to appease both of them, saying he was saved when he heard both of their songs on the Vajra ship trying to save Luca. While Ranka jumps all over Alto, Sheryl breaks into singing halfway through her own song. Ranka joins in right after her, leading to a duet version of “What ’bout my star?” Unfortunately, you don’t hear all of the song because Sheryl collapses from exhaustion. Men in black suits come to pick up Ranka, and Alto is called back to SMS Headquarters.
Ranka is confused by what’s going on, but ends up meeting with Leon, who introduces her to the project leader: Grace. Ranka, according to Leon and Grace, holds the final key against the Vajra. Furthermore, Brera Sterne was assigned to Ranka as a permanent bodyguard. Meanwhile, Alto is sent off to meet Richard Bilrer, the enigmatic leader of the SMS..
What is there to say about this episode? There’s a lot, I guess. One, this is obviously the crossroads of the series; we now have clear identities for the majority of the characters, especially Grace. We also see the introduction of what probably is the final major character, Richard Bilrer. This isn’t just Frontier vs. Vajra anymore; there’s a new wrinkle in the discussion, one that could theoretically have Zentradi, human, and Vajra all at each others throats (or even worse, Zentradi, human cyborg, Frontier, and the Vajra all going at it).
I guess one thing I want to note is the sudden drop in animation quality in this episode. I can’t remember how many times I looked at Sheryl and thought “…there is something odd about her face this time around”. For a fairy, she certainly had one nasty looking scowl. I think it’s just a burnout following the great job the team did on 14, though, so hopefully it won’t last.
From the very beginning, the emphasis is on fleshing out Grace’s character. She’s pegged as another survivor from “Global”, and is now a full cyborg. As she destroys Galia 4, her consciousness is downloaded to another body. Why are there multiple voices when she does so? Is it possible that “Grace” is actually a collective entity? The strange DNA-ish scenes seem to show us that underneath the structure of a single human is a collaborative scientific effort of many minds. I’d really like to see if we get to know more about her as we continue the series, but for now, I’m going to lean towards the idea that Grace is just going through the events in her head by herself.
While this certainly has recap elements, this episode is still important. Here, we see the reason why things have happened. It’s obvious now that the whole thing is a setup. Sheryl is much more than a singer, but what is she? This whole Fairy project is confusing, but I would venture a guess that Sheryl is an artificial attempt to recreate a person with Ranka’s capabilities. It makes sense since Grace is willing to toss Sheryl to the wolves after finding Ranka as the “Little Queen”. Will people be actively going for Sheryl’s life now that she’s useless to the project, or just let her fade while Ranka takes center stage? Will Sheryl even allow that? Who knows?
Another big revelation here is Galaxy’s involvment with this entire project. In the recap, Frontier was judged ‘favorable’ because of many things, including is projected path. Amusingly enough, their path is mirrored by M-Galaxy: obviously, Macross Galaxy. Even though parts of Galaxy were destroyed at the hands of the Vajra, they still survive (singed a bit, though). I raised an eyebrow at seeing the defolding of Galaxy, however. Aside from a trail of smoke from its port bow, it didn’t look that bad at all. Considering how it was up against a full Vajra attack, could it be possible that Galaxy has a rudimentary system capable of subverting Vajra forces? Could that be why they need Ranka’s capability, who can clearly grab the attention of the Vajra?
Think about it, because I think it makes sense. Grace is a survivor from “Global”, where Alto finds Vajra specimens. What if Global was working on a way to control the Vajra? Obviously it got out of hand and trashed that particular expedition, but Grace survived, and as a cyborg, could continue working on the project. On Galaxy (which maybe tried to rescue Global the way Frontier did Galaxy), she continues her work, and gets something working based on the properties of specific fold waves. Sheryl is the embodiment of that study, and is obviously a failure. Ranka, however, has proven herself to have the “fold wave component” needed to subvert the Vajra. If Galaxy had that kind of capability, wouldn’t it become unstoppable? Maybe Grace proposed this, and the President of Galaxy wanted to try it out and see if it worked.
I don’t know, just a theory. We’ll see what happens as we go along. We see in the ED that the series is on its way to a pivotal climax, then completion. The chessboard is prepared, the pieces set; the wildcard here is Alto, who may be “just a pilot”, but will still influence the outcome of everything from here on out. Under Bilrer, we may see a very different Alto later on.
A final, less dense point from me. Episode 15 had all the good songs from this series. I can’t wait to see if the duet version of “What ’bout my Star?” and Nakajima Megumi’s version of “Diamond Crevasse” will come out.
Totally aside: I really, really dislike the VF171. Eww.
Whew! This was really long; if you made it through, thanks for reading!
Brera can’t wear glasses without looking like an idiot. He’s also a closet fanboy.