Episodes 16-17 of Macross Delta combine advancement of the romantic plot (something that is proceeding nicely and adorably) with some subtle – and then not at all subtle – bombshells regarding the main conflict. These articles have not really discussed the love-story aspect of Delta too much; it feels gauche to dissect the very cute relationship between Hayate and Freyja, and as soon as one begins factoring Mirage in as the other wing of a love triangle I feel a distinct ennui at how Mirage is being handled as a character.
After an episode of Macross Delta focused on developing the interactions between the main cast under pressure, and establishing exactly how much of a back foot Chaos has been put on, the viewer is given an episode showing the true effects of the battle for Ragna on Windermere. They may have “won” but it was a much harder victory than initially expected, and the next – and most interesting question – is what will they do now they have won?
One of the defining features of SDF Macross was not just that humanity was on the back foot militarily, but that it was playing with technology it did not understand and was as a result barely able to survive in space, let alone with constant enemy pursuit. This has been a theme that has received steadily less focus as the franchise progresses, and with good narrative reason; Macross as a long-form entity has been about humanity’s evolution from dabbler in space to colonising power, and about how lessons learned in one adventure are rarely applicable to subsequent encounters. It would not make sense, as human technology has gone from a retrofitted alien artefact to a slickly-manufactured fleet of super-technology ships, for there to be the same lack of understanding of how a Macross ship functions.
I have recently got very into playing Horizon Wars, not only enjoying the rules but enjoying the freedom a highly customisable wargame gives to create interesting an unusual armies. When the Biowar expansion came out I felt there was only one thing to do – combine my love of super robots with my love of wargaming and make stats for a whole army of deadly monsters-of-the-week…
There was little to say about episode 12 of Macross Delta that had not already been said about previous episodes; it simply reinforced the ideas of Windermere’s perverse ideology and Hayate’s development as a pilot in the wake of Messer’s death. It was ultimately a preparation episode for episode 13, the series’ midway climax – yet unlike the previous such example, the two-parter on Voldor which went some distance to explaining at least part of Windermere’s plan, it offered little to progress the plot. Indeed, even after episode 13’s closure of the mini-arcs created in 12, there are still mostly the same mysteries remaining; Mikumo’s role in the plot (and her apparent centrality to Walkure’s Var-curing power), Windermere’s endgame beyond apparently being able to control the minds of everyone in a space sector (which is a fairly strong position to be in) and the nature of the Sigur Valens and the Protoculture ruins all remain questions to be answered in the series’ upcoming episodes.
As with almost all Macross Delta episodes the war plot and the character journey plot proceed with little interaction; they intersect when the war affects the characters, when the Aerial Knights do their thing and Walkure and Chaos Ragna have to fight them. There is not so much the sense of constant harassment and open war that one gets in, say, SDF Macross; Windermere has the upper hand, and remains on its fortified homeworld sending out raids to strengthen its position and challenge its enemies. This is, I think, something that makes the series good. It gives the series time to breathe, to allow for personal moments with an implied pressure but without the feeling that any diversion from the main conflict is frivolous or an impossibility.
I mentioned in a previous article how the development of Messer’s character in Macross Delta was interesting and troubling in equal measure, how he was depicted as a poor mentor and yet also an interesting self-destructive figure. That episode 10 continued his story was to its credit; the ideas hinted at in episode 9 were the sort of plot points that could not be handwaved away or pushed to the back. However, the episode also introduced another plot development that – as so many of Delta‘s developments do – left me with an interesting mixture of concern and intrigue.
I am increasingly of the opinion that Macross Delta is using past franchise entries as a kind of visual language to communicate a first impression of a scene, and then developing the ideas; a visual cue can create contextual (or metatextual) associations in a contextually-aware audience, and then the text itself can build tension through subversion or development of the concepts. For the moment the visual cues are largely those of Macross Plus; I mentioned in my previous article the way Mikumo’s song routines evoked Sharon Apple and Messer’s troubled past was framed in a tamer version of Guld’s flashbacks. This continues into episode 9, a focus episode for Messer which goes more fully both into the mechanism of Var and his issues with piloting.
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.
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).