Macross Frontier Ep. 21: Blue Ether

This series continues to amaze me with its music.  Keeping with the recent trend of “ED songs are titles too”, the song “Blue Ether” is one of the most powerful songs in the series, and is the most powerful out of all of Ranka’s songs (which are usually playful).  The series continues on its emotional rollercoaster, and while I’d love to say the end is in sight, it was clearly not meant to be in this episode.  I stand by my opinion in that episode 20 is the best episode in the series so far.  However, this is a fairly good continuation episode, especially riding on something as tragic as the events in 20.

Summary:

Leon arrives on the bridge of Battle Frontier, and convinces the Admiral to detach the battleship from the rest of Frontier by claiming the Vajra got the president; fortunately for him, doing so also removes Ozma and Cathy from the equation.  As the battleship moves to join the front lines, Alto, Luca, and Ranka remain trapped in the middle of a warzone.  Klan provides them with support fire and vents her anger on the Vajra at the same time, and the trio make it to the heart of Island 3.

As Ranka and Alto stare in confusion, Luca explains the MDE bomb, and his plan to lure all of the Vajra onto Island 3 and then detonate it.  Alto isn’t too thrilled – after all, Ranka has to sing again and act as bait for the plan to be successful.  However, Ranka agrees to sing for everybody’s sake, and the group prepares for one last stand.

As Luca and Alto get into defensive positions (and with Klan already back in space and still venting on some Vajra), Brera approaches Ranka and tells her that she doesn’t have to sing, as it is her gift alone.  Even though Ranka is aghast at the idea, she breaks down and cries…then puts herself together to sing one more time.

As the song reverberates through the fold waves, the Vajra take notice and turn to Island 3, as expected.  Grace is amused, as Ranka has shown that she’s grown up just a little from eleven years ago .  Ranka is in absolute pain (bright lights in the stomach usually means pain), but finishes her song anyway.  As Skull squadron and Antares-1 make their escape, Island 3 is enguled by the dimensional eater, destroying a huge percentage of the Vajra attackers.  Meanwhile, Ranka’s song has thrown the space fleet into confusion as well, allowing Frontier forces to clean them up without further issue.

With debris everywhere, Frontier looks significantly worse for wear.  As the battle continues in the sewers and underground passages to root out remaining Vajra nests, the civilians and military personnel begin to bury their dead and tend to their wounded.  Leon tries to deliver a speech to remember the fallen members of Frontier (I kind of tuned him out, I hate Leon…sorry!)

With his speech over and done with, Leon turns to Ranka for a song that would inspire those on Frontier to continue on.  However, it is at this time that Ranka quits the music industry.  The crowd gasps in shock, and Alto / Sheryl are also too surprised to do anything else.

Ranka runs crying into the woods, and is jumped on by a significantly larger Ai-kun.  While it’s still sort of cute, it’s not for long, as it evolves to a slightly smaller version of the Vajra that infested the sewers and flew out of the tunnels in the previous episode.  At least it’s a friendly Vajra this time, though.

Back at SMS, Alto receives a phone call and rushes to the park.  It turns out there’s no emergency with Ranka, just her waiting there and hoping Alto would teach her how to make a paper airplane.  As they fold paper airplanes at a wholly unreasonable hour, Ranka asks Alto why he ever wanted to fly.  Alto simply responds that his always wanted to see the true sky (wow totally missed this on the first watch…must’ve been tired :/).  To Ranka, it’s a noble and beautiful goal, and Alto finishes his reminiscing in time to see Ranka finish her paper airplane.

With the paper airplane flying away, Ranka turns to Alto one last time.  As she asks Alto to come with her, Ai-kun flies up behind her, scaring the hell out of Alto.  Alto grabs his gun and is on the trigger when Ranka jumps ahead and protects Ai-kun, asking what it had ever done wrong.  Alto angrily responds that the Vajra race has brought nothing but death upon Frontier, and isn’t very willing to listen to anything otherwise.  Alto grips the trigger but is stopped short of killing Ai or Ranka by Brera, who promises to grant Ranka’s wish.

Ranka jumps aboard Antares-1 in order to bring Ai-kun back to its friends…and to discover more about the past that she’s begining to remember.  She prepares to leave Frontier for presumably forever (as seen by the letters left with Nanase and at Ozma’s apartment) as the VF-27 appears out of nowhere (sneaky Brera…).  At the very last moment, Ranka gets teary-eyed and confesses to Alto that she loved him and always wanted to be with him.  The last visual Alto sees is the VF-27 entering the gate out of the islandship.

Impressions:

I’ve been flipping between sides throughout the series in this crazy, stupid love triangle that nobody realized would be so BIG.  However, with this episode I’m firmly back in the Sheryl camp.  Couple bullets from this episode, which I wasn’t as enthusiastic about as I was with 20:

  • Animation:  Dear god, what happened to Klan Klan’s face?  I know your face is supposed to be ugly and distorted from pain, loss, and ultimately anger…but seriously?  There are some other particular spots throughout the episode that suffered from really bad animation, but Klan was by far the worst offender.  *cringe*  Also, I’ve had enough with the OP video, because Ranka somehow has refused to learn other dance movements than those used for ‘Seikan Hikou’.  Really, really boring now.  At least the single came out, so I can listen to it in peace.
  • Color use: They called it “Blue Ether” for a reason.  Much of the episode is bathed in various shades of blue.  However, we see much more of the dark blue tones than light blue, with is more symbolic of the coming of when “the night is darkest before the dawn”, if you will.  I can only think of one moment where the sky was light blue, and that was in Alto’s little dreamworld.  Paints a rather grim picture as we go forward…
  • Sheryl: After the end of 20, Sheryl really seemed to be coming back.  Then she disappeared in this episode, appearing only twice (for less than 5 seconds).  Producers just have a love/hate relationship with Sheryl, which is such a shame.  In the less than five seconds that you see Sheryl, however, the viewer is given a very, VERY sharp contrast between an obviously distraught Ranka and the calm that Sheryl has found in her new role.  Currently the best character in the series, in my opinion.  I really do hope Sheryl survives this series.
  • Klan Klan: Oop, there went her role.  Without her foil, Klan is reduced to tears…though seeing her crying in the cockpit was a bit of a misty-eyed moment.
  • Alto: has some serious soul searching to do now.  Does Ranka’s actions and Sheryl’s mysterious disappearance back to the Saotome mansion make him the last beacon of hope?  The lighting and color use seems to think so, but it remains to be seen whether Alto actually has the capability to make a decision for once in his life.  After all, Alto really can’t read girls if his life depended on it, and with Michel gone, who is he going to turn to…Luca?  Yeah right.
  • Ranka: Now with memories!  It seems a little strange, though, because she is remembering images but doesn’t really act on anything.  In fact, her relationship with Brera hasn’t changed from her side; it’s Brera who’s changed more.  This episode, however, really irritates just about everybody, and even the Ranka fans have to admit that.  Here is a girl who has the fate of the fleet in her hands, and she sings basically against her will since she realized that she can never reach the one person she always looked to.  In spite of her unique ability and her importance to the fleet, however, she bails out, running away from everybody.  The night she spends with Alto is testament to her continued lack of development; “Ranka is still a little girl who will run away from her problems if she can” is a popular opinion these days.  However, you do have to consider that this was her first love, and her entire world just collapsed around her (Ozma believed dead, Alto doesn’t love her back, etc. etc.)  Yes, I totally understand how these are childish whims that she is giving into.  However, it’s not that I HATE Ranka.  It’s more of pity than anything else, and I don’t think the main heroine should be someone that’s pitied.  I firmly think that the producers are going to pull out the Macross Zero script and have Ranka disappear in the end.  Given her actions of turning her back on humanity, it seems unrealistic that she would be able to set foot on Frontier ever again.
  • ‘Blue Ether’: Brilliant song.  It’s a slow paced piano-grounded ballad that sounds the same as any other, but Nakajima Megumi’s voice is still amazing.  I will admit, however, that I am spoiled by the acoustic version of Diamond Crevasse that May’n did in the last episode.  I don’t think this song comes close to the impact episode 20 had.  However, the lyrics certainly cry out with Ranka’s situation, and the confusion she must be feeling.  Heck, it made me sit for a while at the piano kind of fiddling with the tune…that’s not a bad thing at all.

In all, it doesn’t hold the shock value or emotional impact that the previous episode did, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?  Nobody saw Michel’s death coming, and I think viewers have been feeling that Ranka has been slipping away for quite some time.  Cheers to the producers.  Let’s see this ‘surprise ending’ they’re so secretive about.

Preview:

Q: How do you get anime fanatics to study biology?

A: Stick it in an episode.

Next week: “Northern Cross”.  Also, care to take a guess on what the ED song will be?

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6 Responses to Macross Frontier Ep. 21: Blue Ether

  1. shinz says:

    I agree ao no ether is really a beutiful song.
    And when she says sayonara daisuke deshita, this was unexpected and full of emotion. Alto is so dense… He was surprised , even more than that. He was the only one who didn’t know Ranka loved him !
    Next episode, Sheryl attack :heh:
    By the way, why everyone likes this picture?! She doesn’t show how Ranka became beautiful(ahem, only for some mn but that’s a debut)! 🙂 !!

  2. genesic says:

    Ranka is almost single-handedly ruining this series for me. I’m loving pretty much everything else, and I’d even be okay with Alto wavering between the two love interests (hell, I made it through the Ichigo 100% manga) as long as one of them wasn’t so clearly superior. No…it’s not even that I think Sheryl is better (though I do). It’s that I find Ranka so bad that I can’t even fathom someone choosing her, regardless of Sheryl’s presence.

    Ranka is just so weak and self-centered. She can’t handle anything without being pushed by other people. She isn’t even consistent with herself. To wit: episode 19: I want to go out and sing to help everyone! Episode 20: No, I don’t want to sing because I feel sad, even though people are DYING ALL AROUND ME! Later on, after Sheryl slaps some sense into her? Okay, I’ll sing now. I’m good. Episode 21: Nope, just kidding, I don’t want to sing after all. I’m just going to drop everything I care about and run away so I can return my pet, who’s trying to kill all the people I know, to the rest of its kind. kthxbye. I like to think that I would’ve been more accepting of this if she had grown out of it and developed, even a little bit, but she hasn’t! Her entire character is based on being this pathetic, cutesy moeblob that I’m supposed to sympathize with. Well, I refuse to.

    Sheryl is more attractive (okay fine, this is totally subjective), is a MUCH stronger character, has better chemistry with Alto, and she even has better songs! Yeah, Blue Ether is better than Ranka’s other songs, but her other songs have been derivative pop-y stuff that I can’t stand. And even Blue Ether is a pretty generic piano ballad. Ranka’s songs have no hook, nothing unexpected that set them apart. Sheryl’s songs haven’t all been home runs either, but at least they’re interesting. So far, Diamond Crevasse = Lion > Northern Cross > Iteza > Blue Ether > What Bout My Star > Seikan Hikou > Aimo. The only song that Ranka is involved in that I would consider good is Lion, and even then, it’s clearly Sheryl’s voice (May’n?) that’s carrying the song.

    On another note, the one annoying thing I found about Lion is that they reused that same stupid dance that Ranka does. Couldn’t they at least have given her some new animation? *sigh*

    (this is Howard, btw)

  3. phelan says:

    Howard, you grabbed about half of the things I was going to say before I got around to writing it >_<

    Yeah, if they were going for sympathy, the producers screwed up. Like I said, I pity her more than sympathize.

    And Ranka has…yeah, moeblob-style songs, really. What amazes me about the songs, though, is Megumi’s voice and her delivery. Yes, Sheryl’s songs are much better (except for her version of What Bout My Star, which I think is just annoying now…), but all the better to highlight the difference in character and experience, in my opinion.

    Kira~!?

  4. shinz says:

    Ranka looked beautiful at the end of episode 21 in Brera’s VF.
    I think you guys will be surprise to see how hot she will be when she will come back 🙂

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