Thoughts on Macross Delta

macross_delta_logo_smallLife as a Macross fan is hard. Harmony Gold’s copyright jerkery makes it difficult to obtain in the West. Installments are infrequent, usually years apart. (Compare that to the Gundam meta-universe, which appears to have a new series in some continuity every other season.) When those installments do come, I, for one, start this whole emotional rollercoaster: Yay, a new Macross! But what if it sucks? You’ve still never watched Macross 7 because it kind of sucks! Oooh. Pretty airplanes. It should at least have good dogfights…. And so on. Macross Delta was no exception, and, to make it worse, Delta‘s initial episode painted the weaponized idol group Walküre in a very magical girl sort of light. That’s fine and all. I’ve enjoyed at least one magical girl show, but Macross is a mech series. I’m here for the giant robots.

I have a suspicion, but can’t prove, that the non-preview version of that first episode was edited to cut some of the techno-magical girl vibe and emphasize the mech combat when the series began airing in March. Now that the show’s over, I can certainly say that it got to be much better than I was expecting it to be based on that first episode…. and then it ultimately fell a little flat again. Spoilers ahead!

elysion-cannonIf you’ve followed my other Macross posts, or just follow the franchise in general, you’ll be familiar with the shtick: Love triangles, beautifully designed fighter aircraft that turn into giant robots (the Macross universe is full of very large aliens, and the robots give an ability to engage them in combat), and music. Over the course of the franchise we’ve seen the slow weaponization of music, moving from disorienting an invading alien armada to mind control, with mind control slowly becoming a running theme. In Delta, we have a conflict between two opposing forces, both using music in the conflict. The initially unknown aggressor, Windemere, is a planet that rejected colonization and diplomatic ties with the New United Nations before deciding to assert their belief that they are the true heirs of the Protoculture (The alien progenitor race of the humanoid life scattered throughout the galaxy). Making use of mysterious Protoculture ruins left scattered throughout the globular cluster that host’s Delta’s story, Windemere broadcasts mind controling music for a swift take over the cluster.

On the other side of this is Chaos, a zaibatsu-style entertainment company responsible for funding a small PMC, Delta Platoon, that’s been active in the area. Because the place has been prone to outbreaks of a particular rage inducing virus that can be combated with song, Delta Platoon includes a weaponized idol group, Walküre. And, as it so happens, Walküre’s song’s are capable of counteracting Windemere’s mind control broadcasts, at least on a local scale.

So how was it?

young-mirageOne of the things that tends to make Macross shows special are the characters. Previous shows have had some incredibly well-crafted characters, memorable in the way Kirk and Spock and McCoy are memorable; Delta never quite rises to that height. The characters are fine, but when you compare them to, say, Macross Plus, they never achieve that sort of life-like vibe. Plus gave us three people that you care about long afterwards. It was a show that was at least as much about their character growth as it was the awesome airplanes and the rampaging AI. Even the original Macross, a product of the low budget early 1980s, created characters distinctive enough that we’re all still waiting with bated breath for their next appearance. Only a few characters in Delta come close to being this memorable; one of them, Mirage Jenius, is the granddaughter of two famous aces from original Macross, and being forced to come to terms with the fact that despite her famous last name, she isn’t a terribly good pilot. It’s a wonderful idea, but Delta gives her the short shrift by focusing on her competition in the show’s love triangle.

In terms of plot, Delta does some good things. Exploring the Protoculture has been something I think a lot of us have been waiting for, and Delta takes some nice steps in that direction without over doing it.  There are some strong suggestions that characters from the original Macross who have been MIA (Literally; their ship disappeared near the galactic center a few years after the end of that series) might be behind some of the moving and shaking of Macross Delta. We get to see some more of the way the Macross franchise’s galaxy does politics, which I find strangely interesting. But the show just kind of leaves all of this just lying there. (Well, beside the Protoculture stuff; too much of that is probably bad. You don’t want to ruin the Protoculture’s mystique.)

mirage-valk-gerwalkWith the 26th and final episode in the can now, I’m kind of disgruntled with Delta. It felt like it squandered a lot of opportunities to do something wonderful, and retreaded a lot of territory. The finale felt suspiciously similar to Macross Frontier‘s in a lot of ways; Frontier‘s antagonists wanted something very similar to Delta‘s. And that’s sort of okay… if you make an intentional theme out of it. Which wouldn’t be hard to do, frankly. I could probably do it in about three lines. But that’s sort of been Delta‘s MO; line up these wonderful moments of potential…. and then ignore them. The good thing is that with the way Macross’ creator, Shoji Kawamori, works, TV shows versions are sort of a dress rehearsal. If Delta gets a movie– and I enjoyed it enough that I hope it does– it’s likely to be a retelling that’s much more fleshed out in a lot of areas. Macross Frontier’s TV version was okay, but when he retold it in the the two movies, it became something significantly better. I’ve got my fingers crossed for that treatment with Delta. Until then, it’s probably worth a watch if you’re a fan. Otherwise, it’s an okay and mostly enjoyable series, but in a franchise that’s mostly great, that’s with faint praise.

Josh Young is  a seminary student, Castalia House author (featured in God, Robot and author of the forthcoming Do Buddhas Dream of Enlightened Sheep) and blogger at Superversivesf.com If you enjoyed this, we’d love to have you visit our main site!