If episode 7 of Macross Delta promised – and provided – several key answers, episode 8 provided little more. It was more focused on showing the determination and development of the characters – their newly-formed relationships put under strain when face-to-face with the enemy and presented with an intractable ideology. Episode 7 offered a chance to see through Windermere’s ideology both in practical and emotive terms; one saw both their rage and its effects, and it was difficult to reconcile this with their stated intentions. Mecha anime, I would venture, works on catharsis as a reward for conflict (which is part of its inability to adequately engage with the morality of war; it presents villains against whom armed force is inevitable and right). The payoff for seeing bad people prosper is the hero demolishing them – and this episode of Delta is a good example. Its first half is Hayate, Messer and Mirage taunted, beaten and provoked – then its second half is them fighting back.
It quite puts paid to the idea that Hayate is some flawless yet adorably irresponsible savant; he has to work hard for his victories, alongside others. He is able to – with Freyja’s help – save the Voldoran ace from Var control. He is able to – as part of a squadron – shoot down Bogue. He does both without hesitation. If this is going to be the Hayate that will make up the rest of the series – someone who is visibly improving as a pilot, who has to work for his victories but is nevertheless skilled – it is much better than the less well-defined character previously seen. In this case a formulaic character progression is better than an ambitious yet unsatisfying one. In this second major battle of the series the distinction between how Delta fights the unwilling and how it fights the willing is made very clear; fighting to save lives is difficult but necessary (and puts pilots at risk for taking the high ground), while fighting to kill (or at least put out of the fight) is equally challenging, but a chance to cut loose. There is an intentional humour, I would say, in how the apparently pragmatic Messer who derides ideas of duelling (a tactical realist approach that undercuts what is expected of mecha anime) consistently ends up singled out and in an ace-versus-ace duel. He is the one who acquires a rival, and as a result their duels are free from pontificating and posturing and are simply some of the best action in the series.
There is an interesting parallel in this episode’s action climax; visually there is much to remind one of Macross Plus. I mentioned in a previous article my opinions on Hayate as an Isamu homage – that it was an unearned homage – but now there is more to this, and in strange ways. Mikumo’s stage presence initially evokes Sheryl Nome of Macross Frontier in its theatricality but in episode 8 one sees the most direct “weaponisation” of Walkure, and it is most reminiscent of the “evil idol” of Macross, Sharon Apple. Beyond the superficial references – Mikumo and Sharon both have purple hair and a derisive expression – the choreography of Walkure “fighting” the Aerial Knights is very close to parts of Isamu’s showdown with Sharon at the end of Plus. The way in which the holographic idols appear intimately close to the Knights, taunting them and disappearing when attacked while singing songs (shown throughout the series) with incredibly lewd and innuendo-filled lyrics is every bit the homage to Sharon’s destructive concert.
Delta is engaging with mind-control very directly and from several angles; on rewatching the final battle of Macross Plus a key visual is the crew of the Macross itself brainwashed by ephemeral singing (see Heinz’ song, and the mind-controlled Voldorans), and the pervasive, personal-space-invading hologram controlling everything. Delta offers the visuals as a good thing, but the effects as the tool of the villains. On its own this visual incongruity would be one thing; set in context of other details in the episode the parallels become more complete. Messer is shown in the episode to be susceptible to Var, and so hampered in his fight by rage (complete with flashback to his literal blood-on-hands moment of past rage) until he is freed from it. This is not a great distance from how Guld’s reconciliation with his past goes (although there the ending is very different), and (and this may be more tenuous) there are slight visual homages in how, once freed from his controlling emotions, his highspeed dogfight with Keith goes. Indeed, the whole idea of the fight – on the one side the irresponsible ace sets off to try and find a bloodless end to the conflict (and succeeds by virtue of music and love), while on the other the emotionally-repressed hardliner pushes plane and body to the limit to fight a superior foe and in the process both are reconciled with each other feels much too close to how Plus‘s fourth episode plays out to be wholly discountable (especially in such a self-referential series as Macross).
Outside of this action-climax which is apparently rich in visual homage, the episode does not do much to further the plot in the way the arc’s first part did; the Windermere forces do a poor job of rationalising their position with talk of their martial honour setting them apart from humanity while they happily used enthralled servant races to fight for them. Indeed, Bogue and Keith’s quarrel with Freyja is that she is a cultural traitor, someone who abandoned the protected national identity of Windermere to side with the “enemy,” a multicultural force that uses soft power (rather than the most absolute strong power of removing free will) to form an alliance. One can imply the perverse logic behind this; assimilation is the opposite of tolerance, and almost works as a kind of revenge. Windermere would not lose its culture to a human empire that simply absorbed alien races and exported stuff to them, so it turned its culture (right down to its national foodstuffs) into a way of war. It is a Zentradi culture that bothered to have civilians, in a way; a single-minded dedication to the preservation of a culture and the subjugation of enemies, albeit without the “race bred only to fight” aspect.