Idol Incubation: The Circumstances of Fledging Idols in Macross

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.

Macross

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 MacrossMacross 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.

Superdimensional Fortress Macross

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.

Macross Frontier

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.

Macross Delta

[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.]

 

9 thoughts on “Idol Incubation: The Circumstances of Fledging Idols in Macross

  1. Good article! Something I am very intrigued by is how Walkure/Chaos are a reactive force in a way, seeking out Var hotspots – whereas the Zentradi and Vajra sought out their respective idols who helped defend. It seems an interesting distinction.

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    • Yeah, it’s interesting as well that they’re almost like a vaccine – preventative reactive – in the way they’re sent out to inoculate populations before a Var outbreak. It syncs up with the idea of Walkure as the establishment, perpetuating a specific kind of order. When we first met them, they’re already at “Aimo O.C.,” which got turned into an active-aggressive force despite the Vajra pulling the trigger first. I guess you could argue Walkure actually is sort of the same from the timeline the show gives in the first episode: Var appeared, then Walkure. It’s very muddy, though.

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  2. In some ways Macross 7 does feature in the DNA of Delta. In the former there was galaxy’s biggest jerk Basara attempting to do deliberately what Minmay achieved somewhat by accident, stopping violence through song, with the rest of Fire Bomber joining in once they finally got it through his thick skull he couldn’t do it alone (and the military trying to weaponise it).

    Walkure could be seen as a distant descendant of Fire Bomber in this role, again countering violence with song, but having switched back to idols rather than rock, embedded within the UN Spacy military in a way FB could never be.

    This sort of thing is why ideas about Delta being not really a Macross series fall flat: it builds on previous series, is too aware of its own history without being a slave to it.

    I’m not sure btw whether Freyja really has it much easier than Lynn or Ranka: she made her debut on an active battlefield after all and had to go through a somewhat harrowing psychological test to make it into Walkure. And it’s still early in the series, her troubles may be far from over.

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    • I’ve actually seen more comparisons between Walkure and Jamming Bird than Fire Bomber, but not having seen 7 I can’t really comment either way.

      Rock music, though, kind of has a natural anti-establishment bent to it (thus Basara doing whatever he wants), while idols are the music establishment in their purest form. That only could probably distance Walkure from Fire Bomber, but since this is Macross it’s not as if the distinction has to be absolute.

      And I wasn’t really trying to argue that Freyja has it easter than Minmay or Ranka – just that the path forward for her is much clearer and the sources of assistance far more prominent and powerful. But even the examples you give are very strong evidence along this same path of argument I’m making. These are trials designed by the narrative structure and by the characters within it to vet Freyja as a potential Minmay successor. Oh, hey, more AKB0048 language.

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  3. “I’m ignoring Macross 7 because A) I haven’t seen it yet”

    I’d say you’re better off keeping it that way. It’s not worth seeing unless you really want to see an obnoxious space hippy try to convince everyone that music alone can save the universe with a script that consistently conforms to his ideas and frames everyone else as “wrong people who need to change”.

    Delta already feels like a somewhat less naive version of 7 anyway since it’s already been established that music is the way to go with regards to stopping conflict since we know from the get-go Var is erased by fold waves. And even then there’s the conflict between the humans and Windermereans to complicate stuff. I was kind of worried it would be another excuse to showcase a simplistic “singers vs aliens that can only be stopped by a biological reaction to singing” story that 7 ended up being.

    Going on a bit of a tangent, but as a whole, I have to say the idea of turning music into something that lacked instrumental value but had the power to influence hearts into some magical plot-device that biologically forces enemies into submission has been one of the major failings of the Macross sequels as a whole. I guess it was the only way to make a franchise out of this universe without simply redoing the original but I can’t help but feel a large part of SDF’s hearts has never carried over into anything else going forward.

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    • It’s too late, I’m committed to watching M7 at some point. I appreciate the warning (and you’re not the first to warn me off).

      I personally like the fold-wave stuff, but only as sci-fi noise. I don’t think it detracts from the force of what’s going on, but that might just be me.

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  4. I’m surprised that Frejya is getting this kind of criticism — though I can see where the broader accusations levied towards D is coming from. But as you said, post-Frontier, post-Aquarion, and post-AKB0048, this show seems like a natural next iteration, if not to call it an outright progression.

    In any case, even in AKB0048 where the girls are vying for the opportunity to play characters, in the theater of the idol group, there’s an organic sense to their narratives — as organic as a Ranka lee origin story is, or can be.

    The members of Walkure are fully formed, aside from Frejya — who necessarily must dominate the narrative space. We’ll see if there’s more to the collection of types and tropes the other idols are at the moment. There’s so many characters, which makes the task rather difficult, but who knows? AKB0048 had the personas to lean on, and to play against. Here they’re almost all a bunch of Sheryls/DYRL Minmays. I don’t think Macross wants to trot out disposable idols so they’ll have their moments.

    But for now, everyone not Mikumo are playing roles that the “Bridge Bunnies” used to get.

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    • Oh, I haven’t seen Freyja take that kind of criticism; it was more that it occurred to me that one could make the same kind of critique of her that I’ve seen made of the show – and so drew the connection myself.

      It’s funny that you mention the bridge bunnies in relation to the other Walkure idols, since Delta ostensibly other characters that more directly parallel those roles – but of course we’ve seen very little of octopus-in-hair girl.

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