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.
This story is a follow-up to A Train to Meravia, detailing the conclusion of its characters’ journey. It is perhaps a smugger, more snarky piece of writing than I would usually write but it seems thematically appropriate to have self-confidence and arrogance pierced by experience in a story about unwilling visitors to a remote place. It is still strongly inspired by Trails of Cold Steel‘s bizarre yet in the end genius practical examinations, but put through a slightly different lens.
This story is a follow-up in setting terms to The Meravian Officer, and is really me accepting that the original piece was unknowingly a kind of hybrid of my take on Valkyria Chronicles and Trails of Cold Steel. It doubles down, in effect, on the industralised central European aesthetic that makes those games so aesthetically interesting while trying to add a more “period” feel to the high-school tropes of Cold Steel‘s military academy.
A group of military cadets are being sent to the border of the Austria-esque Prenzer and the Turkey-inspired Meravia, and none of them want to be there…
I wrote this story, about trains, and unusual local customs and about the different ways the laws of an empire might be understood in its remotest quarters, a long time ago but I never put it on this site.
It came to mind again as I played Trails of Cold Steel, which seems to be very much like this in its strange little towns, its Austro-Hungarian-German-Russian aesthetic, its quirky military postings and so on. Trails has made me return to this fantastical counterpart to Austria to write more, and so I decided to put this story up.
Recently I have been playing two games from the Legend of Heroes series; Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel. Both have impressed me with their storytelling decisions; although their stories may not be those of the most novel characters, and their settings at first glance do not seem significantly original, a number of fine details make the games stand out as a quite different approach to well-worn ground. The games make use of their protagonists’ inexperience in a way that does not immediately suggest some world-changing destiny and thanks to more leisurely pacing provide a much stronger sense of a coming-of-age story. Any development into the resolution of a nationwide conspiracy thus becomes a political awakening as much as a heroic destiny.
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.
Recently I thoroughly enjoyed the televised adaptation of War and Peace – it was a tremendously entertaining piece of drama. It got me thinking back over the fantasy setting I devised some time ago, one focused on elven city-states and a strange theocracy. Specifically, it made me think about two things – the feeling of uncertainty that an impending or distant war brings, and the harshness of a Russian winter. I always imagined in this fantasy setting that the kingdoms I described would have a harsh winter; the so-called “high winter” that has the beauty of freshly-fallen snow and frozen lakes, but the almost-lethal cold that comes with it.
It is something of a cliche to say that the Russian winter defeats invaders, but it is nevertheless true; a geographically vast nation with particularly bad weather is not easy to invade. Something of this inspired this story – not the problems of invading a country like Russia, but the opposite – what if a nation in the depths of its own harsh winter is called upon, by a treaty, to mobilise for war against an invader attacking a neighbouring ally?
Recently there was some heated discussion online about a “new poetic form”, the “anchored terset.” Described in the literary media as “radically condensed” and coined by Lisa Matthews as part of the Northern Poetry Library’s celebration of National Libraries Day, the form comprises three words and a full stop. It is argued that such a condensed form is democratic and suited to social media; anyone may find the time to write three words. This was at the core of criticism of the form, and while much of the vitriol can be discounted there are fruitful lines of critical enquiry concerning the form. Poetry can be described as compressing or abbreviating complex ideas in concise ways which are then unpicked by the reader. Compressing an idea into three words that evoke the right associations to paint a picture or provoke thought is immensely challenging: it may be easy to write three words but picking the three best words is not easy.
One question that has not been frequently raised in all of Eureka Seven‘s discussion of religion and godlike planetary intelligences is the matter of an afterlife; it is by now proven as fact that a planetary intelligence exists, and that its intention towards humanity is, in a way, peaceful. It has reached out with a messianic figure twice now and found a proper counterpart for Eureka in Renton. It is faced with humans led by Dewey who believe themselves superior to the divine, who would seek to enforce mastery over it. At the end of episode 47, Dewey claims that mankind will not bow down to, or live in fear of, an “unknown creature.” If God is supposed to be inscrutable, incomprehensible and omnipotent, then the line between faith and fear is – from this perspective – blurred.