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).
Episode 6 of Macross Delta is one of the “difficult episodes” of robot anime in many ways, one of the points where a series must make its moral compass plain and present its heroes and villains (not simply the antagonist army to be fought but the relatable and repellant characters on both sides.) It is an episode, ostensibly, about the crisis of confidence of the soldier’s first kill. This is, obviously, a vast and challenging topic explored in more depth and nuance in fiction not intended to present an exciting adventure about idols and robots – for a more serious discussion of the morality of war and the crises of moral confidence faced by soldiers go anywhere but a Macross series (or indeed robot anime in general).
Five episodes into Macross Delta and I still have some reservations about its protagonist, but these are being challenged continually; my distaste is currently that he remains a very arrogant and almost petulant figure – as shown in his tirade to end episode 5, an almost Tomino-esque nonsense about how he wants to singlehandedly end the war against Windermere to once again be free to do as he pleases. The tone of it annoyed me, but in consideration it revealed less of a problem with Hayate himself (who excels as a character earlier in the episode) but with the whole story of Chaos and the Delta Squadron. Macross Delta has yet to really provide much of a good reason to relate to Delta Squadron as the military focus characters beyond they are the ones the camera focuses on.
Four episodes into Kiznaiver it seems a show exceptionally well-pitched for a target audience I am not a part of; it is a series which has a very strongly put across moral message universal in its importance, but expressed in a way that does not satisfy me. The premise is simple and potentially interesting; a group of misfit children, claimed to embody a “new seven deadly sins”, are abducted and given an experimental treatment whereby they all share each others’ pain; whenever one is hurt, they all feel it. From here a conspiracy plot builds, regarding who has done this and why.
One fine day, after he had joined a fighter squadron, it would dawn on the young pilot exactly how the losers in the great fraternal competition were now being left behind. Which is to say, not by instructors or other superiors or by failures at prescribed levels of competence, but by death. – Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff (1979)
Episode 3 of Macross Delta is indebted visually and thematically to my personal favourite of all Macross productions, Macross Plus. It remains, however, a somewhat weak episode for this. It cleaves closely to its inspirations in a way which simply does not fit what has been built up in the previous episodes. While the allusions to Macrosses II and 7 and Frontier have been equally evident, there has been a thematic framework – the marrying of soft and hard power, the militarisation of the non-military, etcetera, to ground this. It has built up Hayate and Freyja as outsiders inducted into what Tom Wolfe calls in his book The Right Stuff, which is in part about the business of fighter-piloting, “the ziggurat pyramid of flying”, unready but determined. An episode about Hayate’s training should have him, by this metric, the person working their way up. It does this, in a fashion, but undermines it in how else it depicts Hayate and for this to make sense one must understand Macross Plus.
Episode 2 of Macross Delta built on some of the ideas in episode 1 in a way that somewhat allayed my potential concerns about the direction of the series; I initially was worried that its depiction of a take on the Macross formula based on cultural industries being intertwined with military force would go unchallenged, or otherwise not be shown as fundamentally different to the series’ core conflict. In a comment on my previous article, Macross fan @ghostlightning pointed out I neglected to mention one of Delta’s strongest franchise homages – the Jamming Birds from Macross 7, an idol group created by and funded by the military to imitate the successful use of music by the resolutely anti-establishment rock band Fire Bomber. At the time of writing I had not thought of a good way of tying this into the article I wrote but now I see that there is an undeniable point of comparison.
Among the most interesting, and at the same time the most if not concerning but question-raising, aspects of the Macross franchise is the interplay between “culture” and war. In the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross “culture” was exactly that; artistic endeavour, leisure activity and consumer goods as pillars of cultural power exported to a warrior race (who one could read as savages should one wish, possessed only of the urge to conquer and destroy until a “civilised” species tames them) in order to uplift them. This is one of the things the TV series does significantly better than Do You Remember Love, the very good film retelling of the story; in Do You Remember Love, it is music – an alien song found in the ruins of a precursor race’s city – which divides the invading armies and allows mankind to decapitate their fleet and save the world. In SDF Macross it is a slower, less clear-cut process; the alien Zentradi are won over to mankind’s side in part through music but also through the simple experience of living a “human” life. Even after this the process of integration is gradual and fraught with resistance; while SDF Macross is flawed in its storytelling it raises a number of interesting questions and handles a large topic in a relatable way.
Episode 48 of Eureka Seven is arguably an episode-long opening to a final battle, the final clash between Nirvash and theEND, Holland and Talho and Jurgens’ last charge against Dewey’s fleet. All the ingredients, and all the visual language, of a truly epic battle are set forward. An immense enemy armada protecting a superweapon, heroic ace pilots going on against impossible odds, and the final showdown between the two experimental units – the two mecha that have fought each other to a standstill every time they have clashed. Yet as it progresses it is very clearly not an action climax in any traditional sense. The episode is the culmination of Anemone’s plot, of Dominic’s journey of moral awakening, and an intensely personal thing within an epic framework.