SUPERVERSIVE: Thoughts on Macross Delta

Tuesday , 4, October 2016 11 Comments

macross_delta_logo_smallLife as a Macross fan is hard. Harmony Gold’s copyright jerkery makes it difficult to obtain in the West. Installments are infrequent, usually years apart. (Compare that to the Gundam meta-universe, which appears to have a new series in some continuity every other season.) When those installments do come, I, for one, start this whole emotional rollercoaster: Yay, a new Macross! But what if it sucks? You’ve still never watched Macross 7 because it kind of sucks! Oooh. Pretty airplanes. It should at least have good dogfights…. And so on. Macross Delta was no exception, and, to make it worse, Delta‘s initial episode painted the weaponized idol group Walküre in a very magical girl sort of light. That’s fine and all. I’ve enjoyed at least one magical girl show, but Macross is a mech series. I’m here for the giant robots.

I have a suspicion, but can’t prove, that the non-preview version of that first episode was edited to cut some of the techno-magical girl vibe and emphasize the mech combat when the series began airing in March. Now that the show’s over, I can certainly say that it got to be much better than I was expecting it to be based on that first episode…. and then it ultimately fell a little flat again. Spoilers ahead!

elysion-cannonIf you’ve followed my other Macross posts, or just follow the franchise in general, you’ll be familiar with the shtick: Love triangles, beautifully designed fighter aircraft that turn into giant robots (the Macross universe is full of very large aliens, and the robots give an ability to engage them in combat), and music. Over the course of the franchise we’ve seen the slow weaponization of music, moving from disorienting an invading alien armada to mind control, with mind control slowly becoming a running theme. In Delta, we have a conflict between two opposing forces, both using music in the conflict. The initially unknown aggressor, Windemere, is a planet that rejected colonization and diplomatic ties with the New United Nations before deciding to assert their belief that they are the true heirs of the Protoculture (The alien progenitor race of the humanoid life scattered throughout the galaxy). Making use of mysterious Protoculture ruins left scattered throughout the globular cluster that host’s Delta’s story, Windemere broadcasts mind controling music for a swift take over the cluster.

On the other side of this is Chaos, a zaibatsu-style entertainment company responsible for funding a small PMC, Delta Platoon, that’s been active in the area. Because the place has been prone to outbreaks of a particular rage inducing virus that can be combated with song, Delta Platoon includes a weaponized idol group, Walküre. And, as it so happens, Walküre’s song’s are capable of counteracting Windemere’s mind control broadcasts, at least on a local scale.

So how was it?

young-mirageOne of the things that tends to make Macross shows special are the characters. Previous shows have had some incredibly well-crafted characters, memorable in the way Kirk and Spock and McCoy are memorable; Delta never quite rises to that height. The characters are fine, but when you compare them to, say, Macross Plus, they never achieve that sort of life-like vibe. Plus gave us three people that you care about long afterwards. It was a show that was at least as much about their character growth as it was the awesome airplanes and the rampaging AI. Even the original Macross, a product of the low budget early 1980s, created characters distinctive enough that we’re all still waiting with bated breath for their next appearance. Only a few characters in Delta come close to being this memorable; one of them, Mirage Jenius, is the granddaughter of two famous aces from original Macross, and being forced to come to terms with the fact that despite her famous last name, she isn’t a terribly good pilot. It’s a wonderful idea, but Delta gives her the short shrift by focusing on her competition in the show’s love triangle.

In terms of plot, Delta does some good things. Exploring the Protoculture has been something I think a lot of us have been waiting for, and Delta takes some nice steps in that direction without over doing it.  There are some strong suggestions that characters from the original Macross who have been MIA (Literally; their ship disappeared near the galactic center a few years after the end of that series) might be behind some of the moving and shaking of Macross Delta. We get to see some more of the way the Macross franchise’s galaxy does politics, which I find strangely interesting. But the show just kind of leaves all of this just lying there. (Well, beside the Protoculture stuff; too much of that is probably bad. You don’t want to ruin the Protoculture’s mystique.)

mirage-valk-gerwalkWith the 26th and final episode in the can now, I’m kind of disgruntled with Delta. It felt like it squandered a lot of opportunities to do something wonderful, and retreaded a lot of territory. The finale felt suspiciously similar to Macross Frontier‘s in a lot of ways; Frontier‘s antagonists wanted something very similar to Delta‘s. And that’s sort of okay… if you make an intentional theme out of it. Which wouldn’t be hard to do, frankly. I could probably do it in about three lines. But that’s sort of been Delta‘s MO; line up these wonderful moments of potential…. and then ignore them. The good thing is that with the way Macross’ creator, Shoji Kawamori, works, TV shows versions are sort of a dress rehearsal. If Delta gets a movie– and I enjoyed it enough that I hope it does– it’s likely to be a retelling that’s much more fleshed out in a lot of areas. Macross Frontier’s TV version was okay, but when he retold it in the the two movies, it became something significantly better. I’ve got my fingers crossed for that treatment with Delta. Until then, it’s probably worth a watch if you’re a fan. Otherwise, it’s an okay and mostly enjoyable series, but in a franchise that’s mostly great, that’s with faint praise.

Josh Young is  a seminary student, Castalia House author (featured in God, Robot and author of the forthcoming Do Buddhas Dream of Enlightened Sheep) and blogger at Superversivesf.com If you enjoyed this, we’d love to have you visit our main site!

 

11 Comments
  • Alex says:

    I’d say this makes me glad to be a Gundam fan, but then I remember what an inerasable blemish ZZ is on the Universal Century timeline…

    • Josh says:

      I wouldn’t call Delta an inerasable blemish. Like I said above, I really do have the sneaky suspicion that Delta’s movies will be great. (Assuming a movie or movies are made.) But I -was- very frustrated with it.

      Dat VF-31 variable fighter, though. That bird is sexy.

  • AZ says:

    “Plus gave us three people that you care about long afterwards.”

    Actually I cared more about Freyja and Hayate alone than every single character in Plus.

    • Josh says:

      Huh. That’s very interesting. I didn’t hate Hayate or Freya, but I found Freya unmemorable– and maybe that’s just because she fits the Ranka mold too closely. (Who, to be fair, I didn’t particularly care for, mostly due to Sheryl’s awesomeness.)

      Hayate is a solid “maybe” for me. I have a hunch that I’ll remember him better than Shin Kudo, but I can’t see him as being on a par with Roy, Max, or Isamu. Or even Hikaru and Alto.

      • Jesse says:

        I wish we had had Freyja instead of Ranka to be honest. Both of the Delta leads felt like retreads of the Frontier leads, but done right this time. I’ve never understood the Sheryl hype. Delta had good characters that were never properly expanded, Frontier had bad characters that got plenty of development.

        Altogether, though, the single most memorable Macross character bar none is Basara. Seven is worth it, I promise.

        • Caedryn says:

          ” I’ve never understood the Sheryl hype.”

          Hopes and Dreams, my man…. Hopes and Dreams.

          Also I thoroughly loved watching two tsundere archetypes be complete assholes to each other at the same time. I can’t understand why people thought Renka was gonna prevail.

          And you’re correct, Basara is the best character, but i will give an honorable mention to the power couple of Max and Milia. Love can bloom on a battlefield, it just involves winning at video games and a knife fight with each other before your wedding.

  • Caedryn says:

    “You’ve still never watched Macross 7 because it kind of sucks! ”

    Macross 7 is unironically (I say this because it is almost universally hated) my favorite series, and I think it all hinges on how you view Basara. I think the key that unlocks him as a character is that he is motivated by two causes: a secondary desire to protect and a desire to be understood. The reason he leaps into danger is exactly as he says: he wants someone to actually listen to his song. He never really experiences connectedness till he starts singing at a space vampire in a space egg, space whales, and deculture Zentradi ladies. Also, life can’t be Holy Lonely Nights all the time, sometimes you gotta slog through the Planet Dances to get to a Charging Heart of Love.

    • Jesse says:

      Totally agree. He’s a very, very rare character type, an almost mythic character who really is just that simple. When we become enamored of complex, multilayered personalities we forget that some personalities aren’t, and everyone around Basara is having to deal with that. He is demanding that the universe change to accept him as he is, and the genius of the story is how he does.

      Static characters are highly underrated.

      Plus it’s just so fun. It’s probably the anime closest in mood to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey, actually, and it has a ton of neat SFnal bonuses thrown in.

  • Alexandros says:

    Old post, but looking back I am blown away by how *bad* Delta was. As some people at Myanimelist put it, the 1st cour scooby doo tier infiltration work done by the (critical to the fight!) walkure singers was incredibly cringey, but the second half of the show somehow managed to even top that.

    On the plus side, I appreciate Frontier a lot more than I did before delta.

    • Josh Young says:

      I’m rarely upset by necroposting. I think the thing that really ticks me off about Delta is that it had potential to be good with some tweaking. Chaos needed to be played up as a giant cyberpunk zaibatsu. Walkure needed to be more clearly military. That whole potential signal from the Megaroad 1 thread needed to not fizzle.

      And most importantly, if wide spread mind control is going to become a repeated threat, they need to stop treating it like a narrative surprise and start treating it like a theme the franchise is going to deal with: “Music is life, but music has a dark side that wiped out the Protoculture” or something along those lines.

      I think Delta could wind up as a decent entry with a major overhaul in a movie, but so far they’re not talking about a movie. Hopefully they learn from its mistakes enough to give us something better for Macross 35 or whatever the name of next year’s show will be.

  • KattenKotka says:

    I personally only watched until episode 26 in this show for the music and for Mikumo. The story/plot was mediocre to me at best.

    The character designs/characterization was worse part. The most interesting character for me was Mikumo. She gave me something to wonder about and she had an interesting backstory that could have been expanded on. The character I hated and was more irritated to see or hear was Freyja. She was basically an obvious Mary Sue with a hair boner that reacted to her mood. Why does it have to look like a heart? To make her endearing. The explanation for why it exists? All windermereans have one (not all hearts though!). How did she grow/mature as a character? She doesn’t. Every time something bugs her, someone else has her answer/guides her. The most questionable character to exist for me was Mirage. At episode 26, as it concluded, I literally summed up her non-love triangle role/character story as “I spent 26 episodes discovering I love my job that I’ve been dedicating my whole life to”.

    Delta genuinely pissed me off as a piece of anime literature and as a Macross entry. Every older entry for Macross that I have seen were much better done. I felt I would have been happier if it were marketed as a genuine music commercial. If a movie comes out, I would probably hesitate to watch. On one hand, I like the music and want more. On the other, I can’t be bothered to waste time on 2.1 dimensional characters that for some reason have the spotlight for saving the world even though there are better qualified characters to do it. I’ve seen better writing on fanfiction.net.

  • Please give us your valuable comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *