Macross Delta Episode 20: Nobody Knows What Is Happening Any More

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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.

But what Do You Remember Love does differently is the presentation. The whole languid, melancholy sequence on the ruined Earth, with Hikaru and Misa apparently doomed to die with the Macross nowhere to be seen and nothing but flooded cities and wreckage for miles is a very powerful and well-animated sequence. It has real dramatic impact, and when the Macross itself returns, followed by Bodolza and the introduction of the Meltrandi, the climax of the film becomes an excellent piece of sci-fi cinema. Two humans with nothing to lose have discovered the truth about aliens after wandering the ruins of their own planet. The sequence reminds me a little of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, another 1984 animated film which has languid, subtle scenes of exploring an alien landscape – but I think there is as much a kind of reference to Space Battleship Yamato in the saviour of Earth being found within its ruins. In any case, the ending arc of Do You Remember Love makes the incredible feel dramatic and weighty. By comparison, Delta presents this all as a theory devised by a mysterious business cartel via the medium of Powerpoint. With this almost weightless presentation the events feel, in my mind, arbitrary.

Moving on now to episode 20, which is interesting in that it is almost suggesting the series will shy away from the final battle that seemed inevitable at first. Both the human and Windermerean sides seem to be imploding in infighting; the UNS are doubling down on their experimentation on Walkure (and Hayate’s flying-trance has rightfully terrified them because it is a symptom of Var), while Keith and the Knights are increasingly worried about Roid’s motives. Roid’s meeting with Berger, while only a short scene, feels the most significant of the Windermere-set sections of the episode.

Apples and jellyfish have become motifs for the two opposed cultures (for traditional or local food is undeniably a defining feature of a cultural group), and Berger offers Roid jellyfish to eat, inviting discussion of his own duplicity. It is important to remember that the huge, apparently groundbreaking intelligence that episode 19 focused on was delivered by Berger (so of course may not be the whole truth) – and his words to Roid are thus very interesting. He says Epsilon are close to being able to mass-produce “mind-control” weapons to help Windermere. He has just told the humans that music is a Protoculture mind-control weapon.

These scenes on Windermere are half the picture; the remainder of the episode focuses on drama within the UNS. Hayate is grounded, and Freyja might be out of the band because her singing may well be causing him to go berserk. In order to better understand the mechanisms of Var, the pair are put through experiments, and it transpires Freyja is unable to sing. The Macross fan in me sees a Macross 7 homage here; Basara losing his voice is a plot arc in 7 that leads into an excellent scene with Holy Lonely Light that kicks off the series’ climax. It is this scene in Delta that really kicks off the love triangle from obliviousness to sweetness; Freyja is close to being able to admit she loves Hayate, Hayate is unable to put into words his own feelings (but tries clumsily to be selfless) and the pair’s argument at the restaurant feels very real and charming. It takes Mirage to be the voice of reason; she says “you’re irreplaceable, I love you” and there is ambiguity whether she is talking to Hayate specifically or not. I have in the past criticised how Mirage has been depicted; I found her inadequacy complex plot to be quite reductive and uninteresting because it mostly was used to justify passivity rather than explore in any interesting sense the weight of expectation of having famous war hero relatives. But then again Macross is barely a military franchise; it may focus on soldiers but they are very much only one pillar of the themes and plots. A military mecha series would very well use a pilot concerned about their lack of skill as a vehicle for a training or mentoring arc. But that would not really fit Delta, which has always been about Walkure. Freyja‘s is the journey from unconfidence to greatness that matters. This does not necessarily make Mirage’s depiction any better a piece of writing, and I think reducing the series’ leading female pilot to a kind of love cheerleader and impetus for Hayate to sort himself out is a little unsatisfying, but her scene of calling Hayate and Freyja out works nicely in context.

So this is a peculiar episode; it builds up numerous new plot arcs that seem to be undermining the core conflict. On both sides, previously loyal and heroic figures (Kaname and Keith) are going to new lengths to work out where their superiors have gone wrong, and the actual conflict seems definitely to be focused on Berger who is selling some idea of what the Protoculture is that may or may not be true. The love plot is moving along in precisely the way one would expect, and is not bad for this; Hayate’s indecision and amiable nature is very relatable and he has mellowed from an abrasive character at the series’ start to a more likeable one now.

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6 comments

  1. megaroad1

    Delta feels so flat compared to previous Macross iterations. Nothing stands out to me. Even Zero which was pretty limited on most accounts had marvellous action/dogfight sequences. Delta? Characters, story, mecha action, heck, even the music is hit or miss.

    • r042

      It is very close to being very good, because there are some interesting ideas. But at the same time I increasingly feel the execution is mostly just OK.

      • megaroad1

        For the record I’m a big, big macross fan and it breaks my heart to not be enjoying Delta more. I think you’re being very generous at this point with it. But let’s see how it does in the final sprint.

  2. City Seven

    What I think is going to happen for the final is that Mikumo, thanks to Berger and Roid actions, is going to have her protoculture programming awaked and she will try to subjugate the galaxy to her mind control. It will be then up to Freyja to stop her by trying to reach the true Mikumo with her song.

    That final would fit with the “music as weapon” thematic, Frejya’s journey to greatness and with the Macross Plus and Seven inspirations that Kawamori mentioned as part of Delta’s making, by having pretty much a proxy version of a Sharon Apple / Nekki Basara music showdown.

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