Please note: ‘what’ not ‘who’.
So I watched Macross Frontier: The False Songstress last week. This was actually my first encounter with the franchise at all, shockingly enough, although I had hemmed and hawed about checking out Macross Frontier TV while it was airing. As I never did but have maintained a low-level interest in watching it, the movie seemed like a perfect opportunity – much faster than watching the series, after all, and especially so when I only have a minor interest in seeing it.
First of all, I was pretty much blown away by the animation quality. I realized that its been a very long time since I’ve watched a theatrically-released anime. I was also surprised as the length of the film, although that isn’t terribly shocking considering how many episodes-worth it covered in its runtime. And, finally, I’m in favor of pairing… Sheryl and Ranka. Haha. Alto’s kind of boring, honestly, even with the pretty hair and hint of gender issues (and it really is merely a hint, an itty-bitty whiff), and a love of flight. I wasn’t anticipating liking Ranka very much, and I can’t say I really liked her, but I liked her better than Alto, and I find the idea of SherylxRanka more interesting than either one being with Alto. Although what really put the idea in my mind at all was when Ranka blushed right at the beginning when Sheryl was performing Space Bunny, the performance of which was a bit homoerotic.
However, what stuck with me after viewing was something Alto said – he admits to hating fighting and being a soldier, but says that he does it because it was the only way he knew how to be able to fly. (Well, the line from one of the minor characters about hating private military contractors also stuck with me, too…) I was instantly reminded of Simoun, as Aeru, too, doesn’t really like her soldierly duties and only continues to carry them out because she wants nothing more than to fly.
(A few of the other ladies in Simoun also keep fighting despite not having a real taste for it so that they can continue flying, but Aeru’s the most straightforward one in this regard since with a few of them the decision to keep being Sybillae is also because they do not wish to have to choose their gender quite yet. Aeru doesn’t want to grow up in a sense, yes, but its all about the flying for her – growing up means no more flying; she’s fairly single-minded in that regard.)
Aeru’s case is a bit more complicated than Alto’s, as implied by the parentheses paragraph. Aeru doesn’t really think about the war or what fighting means when she starts off, since she’s just in mad pursuit of flight. It is only after an encounter with a fatally wounded enemy pilot that she understands what exactly war is and what its costs are. She is shaken by the experience, and it is clear that it bothers her… but not enough to keep her from the sky.
Alto’s motivation isn’t gone into in nearly as much detail (perhaps the TV show does that), but his vocalization of it is nevertheless striking, as is his recurring paper airplane motif.
This idea of doing things one dislikes in order to be able to pursue something one loves is a compelling one to me. It isn’t uncommon for characters to be motivated to do things for the sake of loved ones or out of duty/fate, and while most of us can relate to those, this fight for flight thing is more intriguing. There’s something beautiful about its deceptive simplicity. Its a degree of love beyond what we can usually consider; the act is what is loved, and because it is an act and not something concrete (a person, an object) there is a purity to it, even if the pursuit of the loved action is inherently selfish (and from our examples this is particularly true in the case of Aeru). Purity, after all, is not truly a matter of values – consider the phrase ‘pure evil’, for instance. Pure just implies that something is one thing and one thing only. If anything, pure is something that is impressive, which, too, carries no value judgment. The effect of a nuclear weapon is impressive. It is also bad. The amount of money given to aid groups after the Christmas Tsunami was impressive. It was also good.
Anyway, purity runs toward being impressive since the nature of the universe is toward impurity. Entropy says that everything will get messier and more disorderly.
So both Aeru and Alto’s willingness to risk life and limb to fly is impressive, at least to me, and carries a beauty in it as well. It also displays a strength and singularity of will which also possesses that purity factor. Their motivations do shift somewhat throughout the course of their respective narratives, but their shared staring point (e.g. love of flight) is a compelling one. The shift of motivations also seems to carry the implication of maturation in both characters, and a suggestion that such purity of emotion is something that only children are capable of. It makes sense; tunnel-vision is difficult once one starts carrying an awareness of consequences. Perhaps it is this love that we would be best to remember.
(By the way, in Yukikaze one of the characters loves flying so much that he is in a love triangle with his friend and his plane… and he picks the plane!)