The Macross Frontier Appreciation Festival (マクロスフロンティアキラっと感謝祭！) was originally scheduled to be held on March 19. After the Great Sendai Earthquake on March 11 the event, along with pretty much everything else in peoples lives, was put on infinite hiatus until a new date was announced – April 16. I was actually quite surprised that the organizers managed to get the event rescheduled so soon – most anime related events were cancelled and even the aftermath tremors have caused some damage and delays (ie, Maaya Sakamoto’s Tokyo concert was suddenly rescheduled over a month after the quake due to the constant aftershocks playing havock with the electrical wiring and equipment at the Tokyo International Forum Hall).
The Appreciation Festival was to be held at the Nippon Seinen Kaikan Hall, not too far from Sendagaya Station – I had never been to this particular venue before and was surprised at how small it was – the main hall could hold only 1370 people at maximum capacity. This was obviously an event for the most hardcore fans – tickets were only available to fan club members
and membership cards/ID were checked before being allowed to enter the venue. The event was to be held twice – once at midday and once in the evening and, in theory at least, even Fan club members had to pick one of the sessions to attend – having said this, I know quite a few Japanese fans with more than one Fanclub membership. Now I know why.
This was to be the 2nd official Mac F fanclub exclusive event. I missed the first, which happened back when Macross Frontier was actually on air. And to be honest, I had no idea what to expect.
Upon arriving, the atmosphere was much more subdued than I was expecting – there was none of the cosplaying and, karaoke or figure displays that the Gira Summer Festival had. In fact, I spotted only 2 cosplayers among the fans who were lined up. To one side of the hall, two Sheryl fans who had not been fortunate enough to get tics for the event had parked their Sheryl-adorned ‘ita-sha’ cars anyway. The designs apparently took about 6 months to complete. Among other things, high resolution scans from the Wings of Farewell movie booklet were also used. I have to admit, I’d love to try my hand at designing one of these someday.
Another thing strangely absent at the event was goods. Apart from the obligatory DVD/CD table, the only item for sale was an event-specific set of 3 stick-posters (Alto, Ranka & Sheryl). These were limited to 2 sets per person and would not be sold again once the event supply had sold out – which they managed to do approx. 30 people before I managed to reach the head of the line. It turns out that all fan club members were allowed to come and buy said posters – regardless of whether they actually had a ticket to the event or not. The result of this was that the hall had been swamped earlier that morning. Fortunately I found a set on Yahoo auctions that evening for only a few dollars more than regular asking price.
But in the meantime, posterless, I entered the hall and waited for the event to start. A pre-event message telling the audience how and when to yell out ‘thank you!’ to the guests was looping while everyone waited (at the end of the event, after a specific cue from the MC, if you must know!).
Then, at 5pm on the dot, the lights dimmed.
Kawamori came on stage to thank everyone for their support and talk about the earthquake. He had thought of cancelling the event but decided that holding it was the better way to honour those affected, since Macross had always had a positive message about perseverance, trying ones best and living life to its fullest. A set of 6 quake relief illustrations by Ebata, Kawamori and Tenjin (most have popped up online) had been made into a set of postcards and would be sold at a Farewell Macross F Ikebukuro Sunshine 60-jack! event on April 24th – postcards were 1000yen per set and all proceeds would go to a quake relief fund.
The rest of the event’s special guests were then called out on stage, following a brief off-stage voice over skit with Grace and Ozma freaking out that Sheryl was unable to pronounce ‘Appreciation Festival’ (Kanshasai) properly (she kept saying KanshasHai – a cute mispronunciation which was a running gag). The lineup included:
Yuichi Nakamura – Alto Saotome
Megumi Nakajima – Ranka Lee
Aya Endo – Sheryl Nome
Kikuko Inoue – Grace O’Conner
Katsuyuki Konishi – Ozma Lee
Unable to make it due to the rescheduling of the event were:
Megumi Toyoguchi – Klan Klan
Jun Fukuyama – Luca Angelloni
The guest lineup for the midday and afternoon sessions were slightly different. People at the midday session didn’t get Kikuko Inoue, but were supposed to get Hiroshi Kamiya (Michael Blanc), meaning that most of the female fans chose the midday session. Not me though. Oh heck no. The chance to see Kikuko Inoue – Belldandy herself – in person meant that I was ALL about the afternoon show. While she still gets plenty of bit-parts, it’s fairly rare that Inoue gets larger roles at her age (she is pushing 47 – which is a fair bit older than the age range of most anime characters, after all) – the character of Grace put her at least partly back in the spotlight again – and she didn’t disappoint.
While Nakamura and Konishi both came out in jeans and SMS jackets (and, after much haranguing, talked Kawamori into wearing one as well, much to the audience’s delight), Megumi, Endo and Inoue wore clothes that their respective characters might. This is not to say that they were cosplaying, but rather dressing in the styles that their characters might also choose. Endo and Nakajima, for example, were wearing outfits by Metamorphose, who recently did clothing designs for the recent Oshare Macross exhibition.
Inoue was dressed as similar to Grace as possible – business skirt and suit top, black stockings, hair pulled back and glasses – it was pretty amazing how much she actually looked like Grace.
Everyone did a little swirl to show off their outfit – yes, even Nakamura, although in his case, in typical Nakamura fashion, it was more like a reluctant shuffle.
Inoue is known among fans for a rather particular habit – she claims to be eternally 17. This, she says, is an aesthetic choice that best captures her personality and style. As a result, there were quite a few ‘But Im only 17!’ gags peppering the talkshow.
Looking back on Macross Frontier – experiences and memories
Introductions out of the way (as if any were needed), the cast started off by talking briefly about their memories of working on Macross Frontier.
-Megumi probably had the most to say– she stood on the very same stage when she made her debut as Ranka 3-4 years ago. She was still in High School when she originally auditioned for the competition/role, yet now she has a career, a fanbase, and has even sung at the Budokan. This, of course, set Inoue wondering aloud about what her future career would be like since, at 17, she was obviously still younger than Megumi.
Aya talked briefly, as she has on several occasions in the past, about how the character of Sheryl gave her a chance to play a strong character and how this was different to her regular roles (ie, in End of Eternity/Resonance of Fate as Reanbell, etc)
Nakamura noted how the role of Alto gradually grew on him. By the end of Wings of Farewell he felt that Alto had made his mark, whereas the character was overshadowed by Ranka and Sheryl in the series. The main problem he had now, having made his peace with the character, was wondering what on earth became of him at the end of the movie!
A couple of guests who couldn’t make it had sent in video messages for the audience and cast. These were fired up next.
Megumi Toyoguchi had originally been included in the guest lineup – in fact her name was still on the commemorative pencilboards that were made up for the event and still had the original March 19 date on them – but had a scheduling conflict when the new date was decided. This was unfortunate because she had decided she was going to debut in full Klan Klan cosplay and had already prepared her costume. To at least get some use out of it, she prepared a video message for the fans – and yes she made a pretty good chibi-Klan! Even her hairstyle was spot-on, although she stopped short of dying her hair blue. Toyoguchi apologized to everyone for not being able to make it in person, before posing a question for Kawamori: In the end, was he a Ranka fan or a Sheryl fan?
The crowd went completely silent and watched as Kawamori squirmed in his seat for a moment, saying that while he was fond of both characters, he previously might have replied Sheryl, but now…turns to Inoue… is a Grace fan! Totally understandable what with Grace now being 17 and all, right?
The same question was posed to the other male cast members with mixed results. Nakamura shrugged the question off, saying that, as Alto, the answer was obvious by the end of the Wings of Farewell. Konishi looked at the MC (who was on stage moving the conversation along) somewhat incredulously when the question put to him as well. ‘I’m not qualified to answer that question. I’m Ranka’s big brother right? What do you think I’m gonna say?’
The second video message was from Jun Fukuyama who wasn’t in costume, but appeared with his arm around a life-sized Luca cutout. He talked about how much fun he had playing Luca, how happy he was that the series had been popular, and asked everyone to see the new movie multiple times while it was still at the cinema. Man he could talk. Halfway through the message the MC asked if she should cut it short, to everyones amusement. Finally though, he hit Kawamori with three questions – Firstly, what on earth did Kathy see in Leon anyway? More importantly – what was with Leon’s hair? And finally, what was his favourite Macross Frontier song?
The Kathy-Leon attraction was, Kawamori admitted, rather odd so he explained it the best way possible– by removing it entirely from Wings of Farewell and replacing Kathy with Luca’s sister. ‘See? It never happened!’ he laughed.
As for Leon’s hair, well that was just Leon’s own personal fashion sense.
Where music was concerned, Kawamori said that he really liked ‘Hoshi Kira’– the closing song (the first of two credit roll songs) from the final scene of Wings of Farewell. Actually, he had originally planned to end the movie with ‘Anata no Oto’ (which would be a good fit as well as far as lyrics are concerned, even though it’s quite different from Hoshi Kira in terms of tempo).
Then, at one of the ‘Merry Christmas Without You’ Christmas concerts, Yoko Kanno had approached him saying that she had come up with a new song – she had a rough cut, non-vocal version with her for him to listen to on the spot and he was completely taken with the song from the first time he heard it.
Inoue jumped in at this point saying that while she was embarrassed, as Sheryl’s manager, to be saying this, her favourite song was Niji Iro Kuma Kuma. She then started talking with Megumi about how she had an unfulfilled dream that she was hoping the audience was willing to help her with – she wanted to do the Seikan Hikou dance with everyone in the hall. Megumi agreed to give the hall a quick dance lesson while Inoue slipped off stage to ‘get ready.’ Megumi ran through the basic hand movements for the chorus with everyone a few times, before Inoue came back out ….in a Ranka costume – yellow dress, bows, white leggings, the whole deal. The only thing missing was a green wig. Seikan Hikou started and Inoue, Megumi, and all 1370 fan club members did their little dance number together. Inoue would remain in the Ranka costume for the rest of the event.
(There was apparently a Kamiya video message during the midday event according to some Japanese blogs – meaning that he must have ended up having a schedule conflict as well.)
Voice Over Session
The cast then read lines from 4 different scenes from Wings of Farewell, accompanied by select screenshots on the big screen.
(1) Alto and Ranka on the pier talking about the Vajura (Nakamura, Nakajima, Konishi)
(2) Ranka visiting Sheryl while she is on death row. (Nakajima, Endo)
(3) I have an idea! Ranka explaining how dressing Alto as a gothloli will help their prison break plan. (Nakajima, Endo, Nakamura, Konishi)
(4) Grace’s final scene with Sheryl (Endo, Inoue)
Of these, the two that most interested me were (3) and (4).
(3) was of interest because it was actually cut from the final edit of the movie, in which Ranka exclaims ‘I have an idea!’ before the scene cuts to an exterior shot of space Alcatraz (honestly it flows better this way). In the deleted scene Ranka continues on to explain what everyone’s roles are – ‘Michael, you can play the guitar, Klan, you are on bass, and Alto, you can be a female backup dancer!’ After some complaining by Alto, Ozma makes the cross-dressing an official order! The Goth-loli dress (actually, it looked like a goth version of something that Sarah from Macross Zero might wear) was, as explained by Kawamori afterwards, chosen because it could best hide the gas jet cluster that Alto had on underneath it. He also noted that he wanted to somehow include a cross-dressing Alto in The False Songstress but couldn’t fit it in. This time he managed to fit it in, but had to cut Ranka’s explanation instead.
(4) was of significance to me personally because it included Sheryl’s best line in the movie, the one I feel will go down in Macross history along with Basara’s ‘Listen to my song’ – ‘Even if I die, the music will live!’ （例え、私は死んでも、歌は死なない！）. I must admit to being a little disappointed though as Endo seemed a little off her game – she did the line (as well as most of her previous ones) a bit too quickly, thereby losing some of its impact.
This is where the fanclub element – the idea of giving something back to the fans – really came into play. Two games were held, each pitting a randomly chosen team of 5 fan club members against the Macross F cast with Kawamori acting as referee/judge.
The first of these was like an illustrated version of ‘Chinese Whispers.’ The person at the far end of each team was given a verbal description of something. They then had to draw it as best they could in 30 seconds. The person next to them then had 15 seconds to memorize this picture before having 30 seconds to duplicate it themselves, and so on. The final picture from each team would be presented to Kawamori to judge which was the most…legible. The verbal description was (and remember, this had to be drawn in 30 seconds) Ranka doing a Ramen delivery in a Valkyrie.
The first guy on the Fanclub Team actually did a great little illustration – seriously impressive stuff given how little time he had – which then got stranger and stranger with each subsequent version. The Cast Team did great for the first 3 (Megumi, Endo, Nakamura) until they got to Inoue, who drew a wonderful picture of…a teddy bear. Why? Because she felt like it. And Niji Iro Kuma Kuma WAS her favourite song, after all. Sigh – you can never trust a 17 y/o with these things, I suppose.
During this whole process, A camera was right up in the Cast Team’s faces as they drew and then showed their pictures to the person beside them. Nakamura’s reaction was particularly note-worthy – he had this total WTF? expression.
In the end, Kawamori gave the prize to the Fanclub Team since, while their end picture was almost undecipherable, at least it wasn’t a teddy bear.
The second game was a Macross soundtrack version of beat the buzzer. Each team had a buzzer in front of them. Small clips (usually less than 1second) of Macross songs were played. First to hit their buzzer got to answer. Answer wrongly and the other team gets to try. Seems completely simple, right? Actually, the Cast Team got quite a few songs WRONG – the biggest of which was confusing Kaitaku Juki (CM Ranka) with the SMS march. Having said this, the Fanclub Team was a little shy when it came to dashing for the buzzer so Kawamori decided the last song would be worth 100pts (3-4times what the previous songs had been worth). The song was Wings of Farewell. Both Endo and a rather portly chap from the Fanclub Team jumped up and…..both stopped with their hands above their respective buttons. The big guy realized he was standing next to Endo and seemed to get all nervous. Endo looks at him and starts taunting in her full Sheryl voice – ‘Come on.’ ‘You know you want to.’ ‘Try me.’ etc. The look she was giving him was as scary as all heck and twice as hilarious – I guarantee you the guy was thinking of the Alto ‘slave’ scene at just that moment. Or maybe that was just me?
Ultimately, The Fanclub Team won and got some posters as prizes.
Speaking of which, this lead us into the final segment of the event – the Present Draw. Basically seat numbers were drawn at random. If you were lucky enough to get drawn you got a prize. The first prize was the exception rather than the rule – the entire seating row of whomever was drawn got a full-size set of the three theatrical posters from the Wings of Farewell. The guy drawn was is row M. Unfortunately I was in row K. Prizes that followed included full-size display cutouts of Ranka and Sherryl (the type they display in cinema lobbies) and 5 ipod nanos, each signed by a cast member and with a voice clip by said cast member.
Once this was over, each cast member said a few comments in closing. Kawamori thanked the fans again and noted that he would like to do something for the upcoming 30th anniversary but…well, who knows what might happen?
Finally, with the audience yelling out ‘Thank You!’ on cue, the cast lined up and marched off stage to the SMS March.
And with that, the rollercoaster ride that had begun for Macross fans way back in December 2007 finally came to an end. Macross Frontier was officially over. The wait now begins to see what, if anything, transpires next year for the franchise’s 30th anniversary. In the meantime, Macross will be kept alive the same way it always has: By those who this event was for. By the fans.
UPDATE: Kudos to Gubaba, who came across some pics of the cast in their outfits from the Appreciation Festival. These look like they were probably originally taken from someones blog, possibly Aya’s.
It seems that the midday session features Aya in full ‘False Diva’ cowgirl costume!
You can also see Kikuko Inoue in her Grace costume.
During the afternoon session (which I attended), Aya was wearing a Sheryl-inspired dress. Also note the costume change by Inoue – into a Ranka outfit!
Of course, the greatest thing about these pics is that Kawamori is in the background – still wearing an SMS jacket 😉