In my previous Macross Delta article I was highly critical of the series’ massive plot revelations, saying they felt hugely unsatisfying and shutting off potentially interesting thematic readings of the franchise as a whole. These were obviously contentious, but reading the very well-put rebuttal posted by a reader of this blog I re-evaluated my position and think my actual response is a more nuanced one. I still feel that episode 19’s revelations are not personally interesting to me, and are indeed in my opinion a little underwhelming as some great explanation of Macross. But I think this is a lot to do with how they were conveyed robbing them of gravity and wonder. I found myself thinking back to Do You Remember Love, which has a similarly immense moment of epiphany for Hikaru and Misa – the discovery of the song Ai, Oboeteimasu ka?, the discovery of the true nature of the Zentradi and the discovery of the ruined Earth. Those are equally earth-shaking discoveries, for sure.
After a good friend on Twitter mentioned this idea, I felt I had to have a go. We had been discussing the anime Kaiji and Armoured Trooper VOTOMS and the possible interest in a story that combines the grim, dramatic world of cheating and vice that runs through a number of sports and gambling stories with the mecha trope of the gladiatorial robot-fighting arena. VOTOMS has Battling, Heavy Gear has its arena, Battletech has Solaris VII, Infinity has Aristeia.
It seemed a natural fit, and so I tried to write my own arena-fighting story.
Image is a Kancolle-inspired piece of fanart for Hawk Wargames’ Dropfleet Commander
This was a story I had sitting as a rough plan for a very long time. A conversation over lunch recently dared me to revisit it.
It is unashamedly inspired by Kantai Collection, AKB0048 and Macross Delta.
While Macross Delta episode 19 provides numerous answers to the series’ mysteries, it does so in the least interesting way possible; an effective slideshow of revelations divided between Berger talking to Chaos and Roid talking to Keith. This technique of combining both the heroes and villains discussing what they know, and what they think they know, can work; one of the best episodes of Eureka Seven is an early one, just after a significant plot twist, where half the episode is the protagonist coming to terms with events and half is one of the junior lackeys of the villain trying to form a report to his superiors about the same events. That is an interesting episode not because it is expository, but because it provides two distinct takes on a set of events in a deeply personal way that both teach the viewer about the personalities of the speakers and how the different factions perceive their standing.
Note: This article deals with events from the Prologue and Chapter 1 of Trails in the Sky SC, as well as the ending of Trails in the Sky FC
Something I observed on Twitter today was that Trails in the Sky, despite working with quite limited sprite-based graphics has a strong emphasis on personal, intimate character details. This was embodied by the fact it has a set of sprite animations for characters hugging each other; as all cutscenes are done in engine, the repertoire of animations each sprite has limits what actions can be depicted in a cutscene and a good number of things such as sitting down or standing up are elided over with fade effects. Yet nevertheless there are animations for giving a character a hug, a very specific action which is used incredibly well to add a personal, emotive touch to numerous scenes – there is a storyline in First Chapter about an orphanage that is burned down, and so it is natural that there should be scenes of the matron comforting her charges.
Image by “Shikei”, found here
Note: This article contains details of the ending and story of Trails in the Sky First Chapter, and should probably be read only by people who have played the game or do not mind knowing its story.
When I began playing Trails in the Sky FC I was impressed by its small scale and sense of unwilling, unusual escalation; it was a game that, I felt, very well justified its game mechanics of levelling up and gaining rewards through diligent searching for secondary objectives by framing the entire story as an extended examination. The two main characters were being tested, sent on a series of journeys to cities which as a quest was completely secondary to the main plot. A lot of games have their heroes put into the main plot by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or through a mission which changes parameters as the “real” villain shows themselves. In many ways, Sky does this, but does it in a subtle and charming way that, I feel, quite credibly justifies why the unlikely heroes continue being heroes.
My recent game of Horizon Wars brought a new hero into the fray, the former military academy headmaster and war hero Reinhard Muller, brought back to the front line to fight once again.
This is his story, behind the somewhat dry game report…
The thing I most liked about Macross Delta 18’s role in the main plot was that it continued the idea that Windermere will be beaten via empirical investigation of their methods and weapons; while the series’ action is fantastical and supernatural the Macross setting is one where this absurdity is measurable and provable by experiment. After the in-setting events of Macross 7 and the (more relevant) findings in Macross Zero, the idea that the Protoculture’s greatest weapon is probably song-based is not unreasonable at all. There is not the need for a lengthy period of trying to find an explanation that is not song works, because not only is singing proven effective against the Var within the events of Delta from the off, Delta is set so far into the Macross timeline that Nekki Basara has become a legend (admittedly Delta has not directly cited Fire Bomber outside of Remember 16 playing at Messer’s funeral, but Walkure are a competent Jamming Birds and in the previous series chronologically, Frontier, characters were huge Fire Bomber fans).
The Capitoline Knights, newly under the command of Reinhard Muller (following his return from retirement at the time of the outbreak of war) were among the first Laufpanzer units to head to the frontier in 1927. Inclement weather, the remnants of a fierce sandstorm that had immobilised the Novis Eger Rifles (preventing their return from scheduled maneuvers at the time of the invasion), had delayed Muller’s advance and as he approached the supposedly friendly town of Hargas to resupply and rendezvous with the Imperial Academy Supply Unit he was surprised to see it had already fallen into Meravian hands.
Hargas had fallen, but at significant cost to the Meravians’ momentum. The XII Corps, dispatched to capture the surrounding area, had been commanded by the late Tuggeneral Eda bin-Ekber, an unpopular and ruthless officer whose death from a sickness that swept through the XII Corps’ infantry and devastated its command structure was hardly unwelcome. Her successor, Binbasi Kadir Kaan, however, proved no less competent or popular. Kaan demanded his tanks advance through the sandstorm to capture Hargas ahead of Muller’s arrival, and while they succeeded morale was low, many of the men were still recovering from sickness and supplies were hard to come by; the Prenzeran supply repository Kaan had captured had been sabotaged by the retreating Supply Unit.
Thus when Muller fell upon Hargas, Kaan’s forces were in no position to put up good resistance. The battle was fierce and short, resulting in almost total destruction of the XII Corps’ armoured fighting capacity (its infantry having fallen back to the second-line resupply and medical bases), but at the same time the damage sustained by Prenzeran forces and the loss of the vital fuel and ammunition supplies at Hargas slowed Muller’s advance significantly.
The Second Front At Kavakeyli
In the early months of 1928, the Oscanian City-States mobilised in support of their Prenzeran allies, opening a second front at the Eceabali Peninsula via numerous airborne landings and naval attacks. They were able to proceed with significant speed up the largely empty peninsula, sustaining a critical impetus and breaking through the ill-prepared Meravian defences. As the Meravians’ initial objective had been a push towards the Prenzeran capital, they had left Eceabali comparatively lightly defended; the Oscanian Navy was able to avoid the forts guarding the Marmuran Straits and attack the seaward-facing guns in force from inland.
Kavakeyli was the point where the Meravians committed their main force in the region, the under-equipped XXIV Army Corps under the transitional command of Yarbay Halide Handan. Handan was ordered to hold the Oscanian advance as long as possible and then begin an organised retreat towards the port of Sarlice when the situation became untenable. Equipped primarily with equipment from before the mass industrialisation, Handan’s army ended up out of position and at risk of an Oscanian encirclement; with morale poor, water supplies low and the enemy in hot pursuit, the retreat from Kavakeyli was the point where the Oscanians confirmed their control of the peninsula…