The question is: are idols born, or are they made of the circumstances of their universe? In Macross, you might say it’s a little of both.
I’m ignoring Macross 7 because A) I haven’t seen it yet, and B) because it doesn’t feature a headlining idol in the way Superdimensional Fortress Macross, Macross Frontier, and Macross Delta do – but this is convenient for me because, as with many facets of the franchise’s treatment of idols, the three “main” idols of these shows exist on a clear continuum. That is, there seems to be a progression of sorts (at least so I like to call it) in the way successive Macross entries handle their feature idols. In SDFM it was Minmay, in Frontier it was Ranka, and in Delta it’s Freyja. I don’t mean to dismiss Sharon Apple, Fire Bomber, Sheryl Nome, or the rest of Walkure – but I think the parallels between this trio are sufficient to limit this discussion solely to them.
The idea is such: at the beginning of their respective series, Lynn Minmay, Ranka Lee, and Freyja Wion each begin as amateur, wannabe singers/idols. Unlike the other musicians of the franchise, who already have established followings at the beginnings of their respective series, these three young girls begin with nothing but a voice and a dream.
And so, three galactic songstresses-to-be set out on their respective journeys to the bring peace to the galaxy by singing – but the conditions of their quests, early on and throughout their stories, vary a great deal. It’s these differences that I want to examine, and at the way these systems of support contribute to the development of the idols they’ll later become. Obviously, as far as Freyja goes, I can only speculate as to how things will end up, but perhaps by first looking at Minmay and Ranka we can effectively chart a potential trajectory for where Freyja eventually land.
When Lynn Minmay debuted her first single, “My Boyfriend is a Pilot,” she was all alone on a spaceship in the middle of nowhere. Sure, she had Hikaru and some family and (barf) Kaifun eventually, but as an space idol… she was trailblazer, walking the stars alone. There were no galactic idols of legend for her to model herself after, and so all she had was her dream of being a singer and the forces of the industry pushing her forward. And, unlike Ranka, Minmay had no metatextual guidelines pushing her in one way or another (if you’re willing to exclude the Mari Iijima thing). No mold, just the guiding hands of commerical producers. In other words, the pressures that eventually create Minmay the peacebroker of the human-Zentradi do so unintentionally – and thus create an idol unprepared to suffer the weight of this role. Minmay cannot be blamed for being human; likewise, she cannot be blamed the she was originally created only to be a commercial product.
The same cannot be said of Ranka Lee, who exists both with in Frontier as a reinvention of SDFM Minmay (but not DYRL Minmay, as ghostlighting would tell it) and in relation to the pre-established figure of Sheryl, the Fairy of the Galaxy. These dual signposts indicate early on where Ranka will go: Macross idols, especially those with already galactic rivals, are destined for universe-impacting careers. So, in Sheryl, Ranka has her own idol – which is something Minmay never had. And not just any idol, but an idol custom-made for the masses in the legacy of Sharon Apple. Is Ranka trapped by having to become a new Minmay and chase after Sheryl? To a degree, and the terms of her relative success are thus different than they were for Minmay – as is the road there. Rather than becoming an instant celebrity, she must work her way up the predetermined idol path with the sort-of-not-really help of Shreyl (although Sheryl also sabotages Ranka’s love life), a kind manager, and the cocoon of Minmay’s legacy. And all this without mentioning Grace’s plot to use Ranka as a devise for literal universal unification.
And so, if Ranka Lee becomes the idol-savior, it is by less accident than it was for Minmay.
Freyja Wion’s circumstances differ further. Although, like Ranka and Minmay, she dreams of singing, Freyja is explicitly a product of their legacies – both within Delta and within the metastructure of the franchise. A young girl with a dream of singing? Check. Cites Minmay, Fire Bomber, Sheryl, and Ranka as inspirations? Check. But Walkure is already exists – not just as an ideal Freyja looks up to in the way Ranka looks up to Sheryl, but as an active galaxy-altering force. And so, the cradle made for budding idol Freyja is far softer, the path better marked, and the companionship along the way far warmer and more encouraging. In other words, Walkure is basically a machine for churning out universe-busting idols. DYRL Minmay has been commodified for mass production, and Freyja is what we get.
What might this mean for Freyja? Does it mean she becomes a vacuous repository for the culture-power so resented by the Windemereans? As I see the complaints made by some fans of the franchise, this is basically how they see Delta: an empty container shaped like Macross that now only holds a poor imitation of the genuine article. But I doubt think a post-AKB0048 and post-Aquarion EVOL Kawamori capable of taking Freyja in such a direction. If anything, by easing the path towards space idol glory via Walkure, Delta has also freed Freyja to strike out as a new sort of idol – perhaps one who can save the galaxy and win the heart of the boy she loves.
As a final point, I feel I ought to note that just because Freyja’s way to becoming an idol of legend is less set to be less laborious and painful in some ways, it will surely be more so in others. Ranka discovered her affinity for the Vajra eventually, but Freyja has been a Windemerean her entire life. Mikumo may be a better senpai than Sheryl and Kaname a better manager than Kaifun, but Freyja’s personal losses are sure to come eventually. Do not despise her for joining an establishment tailored to help her song bloom.
[Sidebar: Mikumo is impressive in that she’s some how even more spacey than AKB0048‘s Acchan was. These kinds of hyper-idols are truly something. Freyja is weird, but not in the same way Mikumo is. Being a dork is not like being an alien who stands nude in the wind pondering the nature of song. Freyja cannot be an Acchan type, but she may become a Nagisa.]