In case you've been living upon an asteroid for the past few years, the opening scene of Macross Frontier's second theatrical outing, Sayonara no Tsubasa, opens with a pretty typical example of what you can expect from it - a lavish Sheryl Nome musical number, accompanied by a raid and subsequent dogfighting as part of an attach on a Vajra hive. The music, of course, takes precedence to the action - this is the world of Macross, after all.
Anyhow, after a quick recap of the first movie, the victory over the Vajra hive falls into the background compared to Sheryl's collapse on-stage as her illness finally enters the public eye. Not that her manager Grace seems incredibly concerned, given that Sheryl is little more than a replacement for the "true" songstress who can play a full role against the Vajra, and even more so seeing that a blood transplant from the naturally immune Ranka could save her anyhow.
Speaking of Ranka, our wannabe singing superstar is well on her way to a notable career of her , with her first live concert scheduled. Winning over her fans should be easy enough, but can she win over Alto's heart? Such concerns abound within both herself and Sheryl as the plot twists and turns, with an attempted coup against Frontier with Grace as its mastermind (albeit a a puppet controlled from higher up herself) used as an opportunity by the powers that be within Frontier to hatch a plan to control the Vajra's power for their own ends with the potential to control the entire galaxy within their grasp.
Of course, putting the entire populace of Frontier in danger goes against the grain of SMS's beliefs, and with Sheryl interred with a death sentence hanging over her for spying, they have the perfect excuse to turn against their would-be masters via a prison break to free Sheryl before trying to stop any plans to take control of the Vajra. Cue a massive finale with dogfights, big explosions, and of course music aplenty, before a climax which actually proves brave enough to resolve its major love triangle before cruelly putting the whole thing on hold once again.
In many ways, it would actually be rather unfair to compare this second Macross Frontier movie to the original TV series - but what the Hell, I'm going to do it anyway. Overall, this is a very different beast to the Macross Frontier that we know, stitching together a far more complex plot across the two films that has more threads running through it, but perhaps feels a little less directly compelling as a result - there's such a thing as trying to do too much with your story, and at times Sayonara no Tsubasa skims the surface of doing just that. On the flip side of this, the film's bigger budget stands it in great stead when it comes to those set pieces I mentioned earlier - the concert scenes are stunning (if you can ignore the odd moments of clunky CG), and the dogfights breathtakingly more so, all backed up by a soundtrack which loses nothing of the energy, intensity and beauty of the TV show's soundtrack.
I might as well just go ahead and admit it - my heart does, and probably always will, remain with Macross Frontier in its original format (and not just because Ranka doesn't lose out to Sheryl in that one, honest). That said, Sayonara no Tsubasa is very much a case of the show done differently rather than better or worse - it mixes things up and takes a different angle on its story with good effect, and ultimately works very well in its own right and with its own set of positive and negative elements that you can take away from it. Ultimately, all of the important elements that make this series what it is are there, and that's the main thing we can hopefully all agree on - that Macross Frontier is still pretty damn awesome no matter which version you enjoy.