While relatively little happens in episode 7 of Macross Delta compared to other episodes, as it is primarily setup and exposition for the first in a continued storyline across multiple episodes, it offers much food for thought in terms of speculation and interpretation of what is known. The nature of the grand conspiracy is beginning to become clear, and this feels like a series which unlike, say, Rahxephon will wear its answers relatively plainly on its sleeve. The heroes proactively seek intelligence, find some and are captured by the enemy; SDF Macross did this (leading to very good rescue sequences both in series and film versions).
That Delta is offering answers – albeit incomplete ones – so early on is good. Vagueness, the stringing out of a mystery or conspiracy across an entire series, is very difficult to do well and can often be a cheat, or unsatisfying. This – and indeed the forthrightness of the “answers” on offer – does not mean that the conflict need be simplistic, which is a key distinction that a lot of fiction misses. Complexity is not inherently linked to confusion or vagueness; retaining information and playing with expectation necessitates a different kind of fiction writing to simply having a nuanced conflict played out on screen, and both have equal chance to be good or bad. If one knows the terms of the conflict in base terms (as one does with Delta – Windermere, by some means connected to the disease Var, are seizing planets because they have quarrel with the methods of the human government), then one can still explore the motivations, rightness of the cause and methods of fighting.
Thus the story takes the cast to the planet Voldor, one of the recent acquisitions by the Windermere forces, and they set out to investigate both the enemy’s plans and methods. In an earlier episode, Mikumo pointed out that Var outbreaks were primarily the result of Windermere action – via their “wind singer”, some kind of weaponised song, but this did not account for them all. In this episode, it is revealed the majority of Var cases affect soldiers, and the reason why is apparently found. The Windermere forces have worked out that by combining a fruit local to their planet with spring water from certain sacred sites on various planets, people can be made susceptible to Var. Fresh fruit and bottled water, it turns out, are key parts of the food supplied on military bases – and to cement their control, the Windermere fleet brings with it supplies of the fruit to the conquered planet.
The depiction in this episode of life under Windermere is a paranoid conspiracist’s Macross, the reductio ad absurdum of the cynical postcolonial reading I mention in previous articles. Here we have a technologically and militarily superior force resorting to straight music-driven mind control to brainwash a whole population – with the help of contaminated water – and bring about regime change. The purity of essence of the Voldor people is being sapped by the bicarbonates in their water to allow external agents to seize control. If Jack D Ripper were a Voldoran, he would finally be proven right. Thus there is an absurd poignancy to scenes of children singing Walkure hits to their mind-controlled father, believing that by music he will be saved because that is the Macross way. It is perhaps overreaching to call these scenes an interrogation of what Macross is, because ultimately they are small vignettes within a larger, yet to be fully revealed plot, but the actions of Windermere are very clearly being shown as the ultimate in “soft”, invasive power to presage an armed occupation. Control the hearts and minds, in a literal sense.
On its own this revelation would be interesting; going from music as a force of social change (for I have come to rather like the reading of the Zentradi uplift as a kind of cultural adolescence, a rejection of past imperialism and embracing of cultural exchange as rebellion against conservatism) to a kind of numbers station conspiracy, activating Manchurian Candidate-style sleeper agents controlled by the water. But the more one learns about Windermere as a culture and the setting as a whole – and indeed their troubled relationship with the “Protoculture”, the progenitor race that is one of the through-lines of Macross mythos – the more this plot is contextualised. Roid, the emissary of Windermere, talks with the leader of Voldor about the past, once again talking about how during the past, the UNS proved duplicitous and unfair in their colonisation. Not only do Windermere apparently embody the postcolonial Macross critique, they accuse others of it. There is obviously a hypocrisy in somone prepared to countenance the mind-control of the enemy and yet criticise economic power and free trade as imperialist, but there is more of interest from this scene. Windermere perceives its right to rule as coming from its being one of the youngest cultures in the galaxy, one of the last creations of the Protoculture and apparently one of the most in tune with its weapons. Exploring this line of discussion requires, I think, a familiarity with Macross Zero (the OVA most closely focused on the Protoculture and referenced in this episode of Delta) I do not have, however. But from an outsider perspective the idea of an upstart, short-lived race, new in evolutionary terms, taking their haste and newness as a sign of their legitimacy is an interesting one. If the Protoculture’s seeding the galaxy was an iterative, cyclical process (the “microns” being the ones to inherit the “love song” in Do You Remember Love and fix the Zentradi) then the Windermereans are humans 2.0.
It remains to be seen where the next episode will take these speculations; Hayate, Mirage and Freyja are now prisoners of Windermere, while Mikumo is exploring the Protoculture’s legacy. However, while the beginnings of answers have clarified the nature of the conflict, there are still numerous details adding intrigue and forward momentum to the plot (proving that one can have dramatic tension and mystery without keeping the audience completely ignorant). The claims that Windermere dropped the dimension bomb on their own planet as a last-ditch weapon keeps up the perhaps tenuous Orguss parallel (which begins with a space war being ended by the deployment of a dimension bomb) and makes them all the more questionable as a force – but also casts questions on the nature of the UNS attack. What kind of thing would have to happen for a nation to deploy a weapon of mass destruction within its own borders?