Macross Delta – 13

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In case we forgot, Macross Delta reminded us it can present an epic climactic air-and-space battle, augmented with the dualling, increasingly powerful songs from Prince Heinz and Walkure. But before the aerial battle down on Ragna, both Johnson and Gramia play a little game of chess with their respective armadas, and the Sigur Valens’ stereo system gets knocked out. Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Squadrons engage the Valens, but Hayate, Mirage and Delta go after the Aerial Knights led by Keith.

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Delta also has to contend with NUNS, which considers their gambit a failure and detonates a nuke-type reaction bomb in the Protoculture Ruins, causing a massive explosion that threatens to consume Delta Squadron. Hayate manages to escape the blast radius, but his plane is wrecked and he has to eject. Freyja steps down from the stage to check on Hayate’s status, but it’s Mirage who rescues him, and gets a warm, unexpected hug in return.

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Not long after that, the ruins reappear in a different form, and connect with the Windermeran flagship, enabling Heinz to pipe his song out to the masses of Ragna, resulting in instant Var contamination. Johnson orders all units to pick up as many civilians as they can and retreat from Ragna, meaning for all intents and purposes the Windermerans have won.

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Walkure fights to counter Heinz’s song, but Heinz risks his life to boost his output, and the Windermerans take a shot that shatters Walkure’s stage shield, injuring Mikumo (who shilds Freyja from harm, showing she’s not all about herself). The Valens fires a huge cannon to finish the Island ship, but Johnson swoops in just in time to absorb the hit before plunging into the sea in one of the many fist-pumping moments in the episode. With that, Freyja realizes her song simply must reach Hayate at all costs, so she jumps off the ship and starts flying, using her rune and her voice to ride the wind.

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Hayate gets his groove back, is able to read Keith’s moves, and actually seems to best him, While Mirage rescues Freyja from a watery grave. Both Freyja and Mirage then risked their lives to keep Hayate—and their longstanding flames—alive for Part Two. Walkure joins Freyja’s extended arrangement of the OP, the Elysion emerges from the waves and takes a shot at the Valens, and Keith takes a nosedive towards the ruins (it’s unlikely he’s dead though). Walkure, Delta, and the Ragnan evacuees escape Ragna, now a Windermere-held world like the others, and Gramia dies shortly thereafter.

Lord Roid is put in charge and announces the completion of the Starwind Sector. But they’ve surely only won this latest battle. As long as Walkure have a voice and the Deltas have their planes, the war isn’t over yet. Until next season.

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Macross Delta – 12

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To quote Ron Burgundy, of all people: “Boy, that escalated quickly.” I thought we were being set up for a huge battle in Al Shahal, but Heinz’s song is so powerful, Al Shahal falls in fifteen minutes, putting a very large target on Ragna, the last world they haven’t annexed.

I like how off-guard Walkure and Delta Platoon are by this news; it matched my own surprise quite nicely. I knew our heroes would be heading into battle very soon; I just assumed Al Shahal would last longer than fifteen minutes—shorter even than the running time of this episode.

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But you know what? I’m glad the stakes have so rapidly escalated. I like the mild sense of dread and disquiet everyone wears on their faces, and the desperation in all of the remaining forces amassing at Ragna for what could be their only shot at a serious counterattack. The only reason they have any time to prepare at all is because King Gramia won’t allow Heinz to sing again so soon; though Heinz says he’s ready to sing again at once.

While Heinz rests, Arad promotes Mirage to 1st Lieutenant and puts her in charge of Delta Platoon, while Keith continues to question Roid’s dedication while Roid worries that Heinz, Keith, and Gramia are all intent on burning out in a blaze of righteous glory…without any plans for the future of Windermere. As Roid puts it, a new wind must come to take the place of the old, just as Mirage must step into Messer’s place.

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Ernest Johnson is prominent this week, and not just because he’s the commander of the counterattack; he actually trained King Gramia when he was a lad (the king is 35, old for a Windermeran, but no one else). He knows how proud he is and how far he’ll go to preserve his people’s honor. Then a liason from NUNS arrives to inform Johnson that his forces are to destroy the Protoculture ruins on Ragna to prevent the Windies from taking control of the planet and the cluster.

This plan seems akin to releasing all the ghosts from their custom-built storage facility in the basement of a run-down firehouse in Ghostbusters (the original, not the upcoming film): a bad idea that could have unpredictable, possibly cataclysmic consequences. Put simply, the ruins are dug in too deep in Ragna, who knows what destroying them would do to the planet? Probably nothing good.

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When Lady M gets NUNs to agree not to destroy the ruins until after Johnson’s forces counterattack, I felt very relieved for the people of Ragna. Meanwhile, Walkure and Delta mentally prepare for the imminent battle of their lives. Hayate, Freyja, and Mirage all independently end up on the same flight deck, though Mirage hides while the other two talk, though I like how she doesn’t know why she’s hiding.

She catches a couple of tender nuggets between the couple about things like how far they’ve come together, the mutual respect they’ve developed, and their commitment to keep fighting for each other, their friends, and their freedom, but it’s not like they snog or anything. Even better, Mirage’s comms blow up, giving away her position, and rather than run off in a tizzy, Hayate has her stand her ground and encourages her as he and Freyja encouraged one another. All three intend to get through this, together.

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When the previously stationary Macross Elysion finally burbles to life and lifts off into orbit and fold space, it’s a pretty impressive and awe-inspiring moment: very much the ‘good-guy’ equivalent of the Windermeran flagship launch last week.

Then the Windermere fleet intercepts them, and we see how comparitively puny the Elysion is, and I got a lump in my throat. Okay, maybe this isn’t going to be as easy as giving the aggressive schoolyard bully a bloody nose…

In terms of raising stakes, building tension, putting us in the heads of its characters, and sheer adrenaline extraction, this episode of Delta put all the pieces of the previous eleven together and delivered a must-watch experience, even absent the actual battle. I hope the payoff matches the excitement of the setup.

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Macross Delta – 11

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Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance: the Five Stages of Grief. Macross Delta wsn’t going to cheapen Messer’s apparent death by bringing him back, so no one is really in denial.

Hayate, Freyja and Mirage are angry that they didn’t do everything they thought they could to prevent his death. Others still have more or less moved to acceptance, or at least the veneer of it, in the case of Kaname and Arad; keeping busy so the veneer doesn’t crack.

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Heck, even Lord Keith is angry about to loss of his wind-dancing rival, putting a blade to Bogue’s throat when he mocks the dead. It’s an interesting moment for Keith, who shares a moment on the balcony with Roid, reminding him of their promise to make their world strong again.

Clearly Keith is pretty miffed Messer had to die for that end, but will get over it, while Roid worries for Heinz because no one else (including Heinz) will. Hayate has to storm off when Arad brings up the necessary matter of re-filling Messer’s cockpit, while Freyja keeps getting up and running no matter how many times she faceplants in the mud.

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As everyone processes, the tech boffins sort out why Windermere is annexing planets with ruins: annexing them all (and they only have two to go) will allow them to exert mind control on all 8 billion inhabitants of the Globular Cluster (AKA Starwind Sector), bending everyone to their will.

To show he means business, the ailing king gets out of bed (possibly inspired by Hundred’s Karen) and leads the attack himself, overseeing the launch of the positively gargantuan, Final Fantasy-esque baroque flagship called the Sigur Valens, which was being hidden under a retractable mountain range.

It seems to me, if you have this much power, you’re probably set. But this is also about revenge. Revenge for that mysterious scar in Windermere; and perhaps also due to a powerful collective envy at the other races of the sector for their longevity. Windermere is committed to burning brightest, even if briefly.

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A fire burns on the beach, with the whole gang assembled, when Hayate arrives. They have a kind of wake for Messer there, during which they eat, drink, sing, and be merry. A model plane is constructed as a symbol of Messer, which in a Ragnian ceremony will be committed to the sea to become one of the endless jellyfish beneath the waves.

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The music during this scene is top notch – soulful, moving; especially when Mikumo finally shows up and starts singing, and the rest of Walkure joins in. They also read from Messer’s log, which is full of detailed critiques of his kohais.

Even though we didn’t see all that much of Messer, the outpouring of emotion here makes it clear that he was loved and appreciated, and will be hard to replace. That being said, I’m not sure Hayate is being very sensible when he assures Arad no replacement pilot is necessary.

The beach wake also kinda contradicts Arad’s comment about their being no time to mourn, as they had an entire evening to do so. However, that’s all they get, because not long after the sun rises on Ragna, the huge Windermere fleet arrives at Al Shahal—and they’re not their for R&R.

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Macross Delta – 10

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Walkure/Delta earned themselves a little respite, and so their mission pivots this week to cultural interaction on Ragna in the form of participating in the Jellyfish Festival, which is a big draw for lovers, which of course makes the likes of Mirage very nervous, but also brings to the forefront a potential Kaname/Messer pairing.

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Maki and Reina aren’t trying to be matchmakers per se; they just want Messer to have at least one more happy memory with Kaname, since who knows what tomorrow will bring. Well, we can kinda guess it will bring hard times and tragedy, since Messer is surrounded by death flags before his sendoff, after being reassigned from Delta following his escapades last week.

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Perhaps to the disappointment of the colleagues who brought them together, Messer only manages a heartfelt thank you to Kaname—no confessions and no kiss, just gratitude—and the next morning, he’s off to his new assignment. While he’ll probably never be allowed to fly combat missions, he’s being allowed to keep his plane. Hmmmmm.

Meanwhile in Windermere, Roid tries to stop Keith from using his little brother’s song when he needs rest. An ally of Keith’s has come up with a way to amplify the power of the song, at the cost of more strain on the little prince. But after Keith beats Roid in a duel (for the first time), Heinz insists both but their swords down: he’s made his decision: he’ll sing, and die, for his people.

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The song that follows resonates in the ruins across several planets, including one where it wasn’t known there were ruins. Walkure and Delta quickly scramble, and Mikumo sings like a songstress possessed in order to counter Heinz. What results is an unprecedented “clashing of winds”, which puts both Mikumo and Freyja out of commission at a crucial time.

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The Aerial Knights also harass Delta, who immediately miss Messer…only for Messer to show up in the nick of time to protect Kaname from a direct attack from the Knights. He’s Var-ing again, and begs Kaname to sing. With two of her girls down and seeing the protruding veins on Messer’s face, Kaname does the only thing she can do: belt out “Axia.”

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With Kaname’s song, Messer is able to not only stay in control, but ride the wind, garnering impressed comments from both Keith and the older Windermereans. But then all those foreboding lines about living the life you have to the fullest (since you never know how long that life will be) come home to roost, Keith looses a single shot that goes straight through Messer’s canopy, filling the cockpit with blood.

In short: shit’s in a bad way for Walkure and Delta. Offing Messer was all but inevitable, but the death still stings, as this episode let him be less hardass training officer and more nice guy with bad luck and a special place in his heart for a certain someone. Kaname’s crestfallen look to close the episode had real impact. She sang as hard as she could; he fought as hard as he could; yet it just wasn’t enough.

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Macross Delta – 09

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This week Hayate officially learns (in a noxious cloud of technobabble) that he possesses fold receptors just like Freyja and the other members of Walkure. Specifically, he “resonates” with Freyja; something that causes Freyja to blush when she hears about it. Poor girl doesn’t realize she’s in a love triangle the show probably isn’t that concerned with resolving, like the one in Frontier.

Also this week, Messer puts his own pride and personal desire to “repay” his savior Kaname (the one who first saved him from the Var) above his safety and the safety of Delta Platoon and Walkure.

Hayate and Mirage follow the chain of command and honor their colleagues wishes, but insofar as their overarching duty, it seems like a very bad idea to put a ticking time bomb like Messer in a Valkyrie and hope for the best.

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For their part, Hayate and Mirage are conflicted over how to do with what they know about Messer, and try to put their heads together to come up with a solution throughout the episode.

Of course, because they’re largely doing this alone, in front of a romantic sunset, everyone, including Freyja, thinks these two are going out now, or something. Freyja is overcome by a combination of jealousy and FOMO, but is too timid to interfere, so she doesn’t, and thus never finds out the truth until the end of the episode, after much emotional stress.

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She didn’t happen to stalk Mirage while she was talking with Kaname, for instance, about how Kaname used to be the lead vocalist of Walkure before Mikumo joined, and before that, she was a solo idol.

Kaname is very harsh and frank in her assessment of herself, and flat out believes she doesn’t have the talent to be lead vocalist, and has to be content with leading them in every other way. But as far as Messer is concerned, hers is the only voice that can save him.

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That’s pretty strongly demonstrated when the Aerial Knights arrive to do some scans on Ragna’s Protoculture ruins. The camera focuses on Kaname both singing and talking Messer through his Var flare-up as he duels with the White Knight, Keith. Meanwhile, Hayate and Mirage protect Walkure from Bogue’s bold but ultimately fruitless attack.

The Knights retreat almost as soon as they arrive, but not before learning they can use Ragna’s ruins, and Keith is impressed enough with Messer to want another rematch in the near future.

But let’s be honest here: Delta Platoon dodged a bullet here. Had their ace Messer gone fully berserk, he would have fallen under enemy control, and as we saw in training, it wouldn’t take long for him to waste the rest of the platoon.

That being said, Freyja’s misunderstanding is cleared up, though she’s already shown her hand, Hayate-wise, and has to bug out to scream at the night to relieve the embarrassment, in the same place where Messer is alone, thanking his own personal god things didn’t get too out of hand due to his own selfishness.

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Macross Delta – 08

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Like Kabaneri last week overcoming the Fused Colony boss, this week’s Macross Delta seems to let its heroes off a little bit easy, considering the hole they dug themselves in. I’d also question why so many high-ranking Windermereans not only end up on Vordor, but end up cornering Hayate, Mirage and Freyja…only to bascially quarrel with each other about what to do with them (kill or capture to interrogate).

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Let’s be honest here: Hayate and Mirage are no match for these guys in hand-to-hand combat. Bogue alone mopped the floor with them in the blink of an eye. And yet despite having our heroes right where they want them, the Windermereans muck it up, giving Walkure time to launch a counterattack, aided at least in part by the ruins.

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As a result, our triangle is freed, Hayate, Mirage and Messer hop aboard their Seigfrieds, and the battle moves to the air, as Walkure counters the sad wind song of Prince Heinz. That song actually infects Messer, who’s already sustained a bullet wound, and Hayate comes very close to having to kill the father of those kids he and Freyja saw (another odd coindence), but Freyja steps up to the plate and gives a solo performance that cures the pilot.

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Hayate’s flying actually resonates with Freyja’s song, and he’s able to shoot Bogue out of the sky without killing him, but keeping a guy that dangerous alive is probably going to come back to bite him. Meanwhile, Lord Roid is fascinated by Freyja’s song, and will surely try to capture her again, Mikumo is both proud and impressed by Freyja’s newfound voice and reason for singing (to end wars), and Messer, poor dude, still has the Var. All in all, another serviceable but not particularly exceptional outing.

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Macross Delta – 07

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It’s Hacking Time on Macross Delta, with Mechanical Makina and CyberReina combining their talents to break through Windermerean orbital security, using a little bit of song to help things along. The good guys get an undercover team down to the surface, composed of Walkure, Hayate, Mirage and Messer. They have to disguise themselves as cat-people, which I guess is cute?

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On Vordor, they learn a great deal: the minds of everyone in the military and police are being controlled by the Var. Even an elite pilot is in the thrall of the Var, unable to hear the cries of his own children. Freyja wants to help in addition to being useful, but Mikumo pulls her back; they’ll only be able to fix this planet if they find out what’s going on. Vordor would seem to be a stategically middling world, but it does have one thing: ruins from the Protoculture.

Walkure surmises that the Windermereans are interested in the secrets the ruins may provide, including on dimensional weapons, a form of WMD that caused the “wound” on Windermere, but which Mirage insists was detonated by the Windermerans themselves, then passed off as an attack from offworlders in propaganda (which Freyja consumed).

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Even Prince Heinz would seem to be under the impression the wound he saw wasn’t self-inflicted, but an act that must be avenged using the Song of the Wind as his weapon, even if it kills him. As the show darts from one exotic locale to another, we’re treated to awfully gorgeous establishing shots that would look great framed and hung on my walls. Also Freyja continues to be not-that-useful on this trip.

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The rest of Walkure, on the other hand, prove they’re far more than just var-nullifying songstresses. Mikumo does her surveillance with robotic cicadas, Kaname leads the operation, and Reina and Makina, who were once so repelled by one another early shows with them had to be cancelled, are in perfect sync now, in addition to being something between BFFs and sisters.

They get the rest of the team down to the bowels of the ruins, where they find…bottle water and apples.

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Mikumo goes off on her own—as is her wont—drawn by a song that seems to be calling her; perhaps the Protoculture? As for the others, Hayate makes the connection between the apples and water, which when ingested together create the conditions for var infection.

Now they know how Windermere is infecting and conquering worlds, now they have to find a way to stop them. But first, they have to book it out of there, and once alerts are raised, that becomes more difficult.

Hayate, Mirage, and Freyja fall behind and are caught in a trap set by Bogue, who is looking forward to dealing with two “NUG dogs” and a “Windermerean traitor”. Our main triangle finds themselves in quite a bit of hot bottled water…

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Macross Delta – 06

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Hayate’s pilot-soldier training gets off to a rough start, as Lt. Messer delivers a frank and devastating critique of both his and Mirage’s skills. It’s an old story: Mirage is precise but too by the book; Hayate is suitably unpredictable but has all kinds of other problems, including the lack of the killer instinct all soldiers must have.

The third vertex of the triangle isn’t spared harsh criticism, delivered to her by Mikumo, who coldly remarks how Freyja’s song conspicuously lacks the surging life of the voice the Windermereans are using to annex planet after planet after infecting them with the Var.

Those victories are coming at a cost to Heinz’s health, as the strength and endurance of his voice, so crucial to his world’s war effort, decrease by the day. And yet rather than fall back or rest, Heinz (egged on by Keith) is determined to keep singing, no matter the cost.

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Hayate, Mirage, and Freyja also decide they won’t just quit in the face of withering criticism or risks, but resolve to continue moving forward. That resolve is tested in the first big space battle since the first episode, and is bursting with all the awesome space battle goodness one would expect of Macross.

Freyja and Hayate resolve themselves before departing from Ragna, and once in space, Hayate cheers up Mirage—who can’t obsess over the fact she inherited her grandfather’s legacy, but not necessarily all his talent. The two sortie in good spirits, to provide cover for Walkure while they purge Ionideth of the Var with their song.

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What follows is part space battle, part music video, with the Walkure members projected on meteorites as fighters dark through them; capital ships’ flak curtains dazzling as heavy beam weapons demarcate the screen, and lotsa shit gets Blow’d Up Real Good. Mirage and Hayate initially make up for their deficiencies by having each others’ backs, and it mostly works.

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Things take a turn for the dark when an Aerial Knight goes straight for Freyja, condemning her as a traitor. Hayate knocks him away before he can fire his weapon at the weakened glass which is all that stands between Walkure and the vacuum of space.

In doing so, Hayate leaves Mirage’s side, and she gets cornered and very nearly turned into a younger knight’s first kill, until Hayate swoops in and makes that kid his first kill, saving Mirage in the process. The other knights are ordered to retreat without further bloodshed.

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After the battle, Freyja gets another earful from a frustrated Mikumo, after she had to step in when Freyja’s voice wavered after being called a traitor. Mikumo, like Messer, isn’t here to coddle anyone, and tells it like it is: as things are, Freyja can’t last or be useful in Walkure. Not until she learns why she risks her life, why she takes the stage, and what feelings she puts into her singing.

It’s a tough assignment, to be sure; but then again, perhaps the answer is staring her in the face. Isn’t she working hard and singing for the same reason Hayate is working hard and fighting? Why, even after he took a life, won’t he won’t back down?

It’s because he (and Mirage) are motivated by everyone else risking their lives and fighting and enduring the pain of having taken lives, and having to take more before all’s said and done. Freyja sings, and Hayate and Mirage fly and fight, to protect one another.

Hayate deals with his first kill pretty well, and Mirage no doubt feels a bit closer to him, now that they’ve been in battle and taken the lives of adversaries in order to protect allies.

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I’m not sure Heinz needed any more motivation to protect his world, but perhaps Keith thought that seeing firsthand the horrific scar in the landscape would light a fire under him, that he can find a second wind with his voice. He may have a head start over Freyja when it comes to the power of his voice, but the cost may well prove too high.

The more Heinz helps Keith fight this war, the more planets are annexed, and the hungrier Keith and the hardliners get, thus extending what Heinz insisted must be as quick and bloodless a war as possible into something neither quick or bloodless. And yet even if he were to refuse to sing, the war would not simply stop on a dime. There’s too much inertia for that.

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Macross Delta – 05

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Since Windermere’s bold declaration of war against the NUG and bloodless invasion of Vordor, there are no further advances this week. Everyone kind of takes a breather, coming to grips that whether or not Ragna feels any different, war is upon everyone, and while many are committed to fighting it, others must make the decision for themselves, including Freyja and Hayate.

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As it’s a “breather” episode, we dart from one side of the conflict to the other. Even among the higher-ranked Windermereans, there’s argument over whether bloodshed should be used should Prince Heinz’s voice or health fail before their invasion is complete. Hardliners and pragmatists squabble in gilded towers while ordinary townsfolk in villages like Freyja’s gawk at the Aerial Knights’ formations.

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The grizzled veterans of Delta feel a bit of nostalgia, since they’re now poised to fight the Windermereans like they did seven years ago. As for the Freyja, she is caught up in a maelstrom of media attention over whether she’s actually spy for the enemy.

Sensing her inability to wrangle this kind of media circus, Hayate helps her escape to the beach, where the two of them contemplate whether to join the fight, and lament the fact everyone can’t just get along.

Enter Mirage, whose human and Zentradi grandparents got along despite their peoples being at war, inspiring peace. Hayate thinks she brings this up to suggest a similar path for Freyja and him, and they descend into childish bickering (which Freyja laughs her creepy laugh at).

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The fate of the three becomes cemented with Walkure and Delta when Hayate “borrows” a Siegfried so he and Freyja can blow off some steam. As she sings, they dance in the moonlight…but there are volatile extant rumors about Freyja, and they’re in serious violation of regulations in a time of war, so when Messer threatens to shoot Hayate down for mutiny, he sounds serious.

After they land, Messer makes it clear that the time for messing around is over, and if Hayate doesn’t like it, he can leave. Obviously, he doesn’t leave. Instead, he resolves to fight in Delta Platoon, so that he can return the skies to the kind of place he can screw around without risking getting shot down.

It’s a bit selfish and petty, but it’s not the only reason, just his stated one. He also feels bad for getting Freyja and Mirage in trouble, and after Freyja commits to sticking with Walkure to “cheer the galaxy up”, he can’t very well leave her side. As for Mirage, things are still rough, but they’ll now be fighting on the same side in a war against Freyja’s people. A deepening of bonds all around is inevitable.

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Macross Delta – 04

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First some quick observations on our Windermeran boy prince songster: he’s the key to his people’s plans for galactic domination, he’s a pawn of his big brother Keith, he likely has misgivings about hurting people with his song, and the song hurts him; indeed, he may be running out of time, necessatating an acceleration of those plans.

On the other side of the galaxy, fellow Windermeran Freyja Wion and her friend Hayate are at a party welcoming them to Walkure and Delta Platoon, respectively, but neither are (yet) carrying the weight of his little highness, they’re kicking back and relaxing with their new family. Mikumo solitary, solemn audience with the stars is a stark contrast to the frivolity of the party; and in lighting and mood, a lot more like the prince’s milieu.

But the lighthearted fun, for both for our star idol and pilot and the show, has to hit a snag at some point: we need to start seeing some stakes and some danger if I’m going to become dramatically invested and take the show seriously (that is, as seriously as one can take a show in which a berserker syndrome is cured with song). This week provides that necessary snag.

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Mind you, there’s still a Nostalgia Corner, for those watching Delta because of all the Macross that came before. Not only does Freyja name-drop several musical personalities and groups from previous shows, they’re on her playlist and formed her inspiration.

Mind you, this mirrors the real life cyclical inspiration of the idols who got their start with Macross: no doubt Freyja’s Suzuki Minori was inspired by Ranka’s Nakajima Megumi, and so on.

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But however inspired Freyja is by her forebears, Mikumo informs her in no uncertain terms that if she can’t deliver the goods in her debut, she’s fired.

This time it’s not a highly controlled simulation: Planet Randor has requested a “Waccine” to preemptively inoculate its population from the Var. Freyja inadvertently plays up her clumsy nervousness as a virtue in her debut, and the adoring crowds eat it up.

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Freyja also gets better as the show goes on, able to mostly keep pace with Mikumo, even if her fold receptors don’t activate at first, which was the whole point of recruiting her.

Things then take a turn for the perilous when a formation of Var-infected Spacy planes arrives and attacks Walkure/Delta. I was a little confused whether the Var was being caused by the Windy Prince’s song, but it sure looked like a connection between the two was implied.

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When shit hits the fan, the Walkure members scatter for safety, and the adrenaline of the first episode returns as they feel terribly exposed to the firepower and brawn of bogeys.

Of course, that’s where Delta comes in, and Hayate has Freyja’s back, keeping her alive until Mikumo regroups with a Var-eradicating solo Freyja turns into a duet, finally activating her fold receptors and avoiding summary termination.

Turns out harrying Walkure/Delta was only an elaborate diversion by the Aerial Knights of Windermere, as Chancellor Brehm announces a formal declaration of war against the New Unifed Government, while Delta confirms that Planet Vordor has been invaded.

First the Var, now a war with Windermere, a people who are short-lived (~30 years max) but powerful. The fact the newest member of Walkure is from the same planet should make things interesting. A quarter-cour in, things are finally starting to spice up.

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Macross Delta – 03

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The plot: Mirage and Messer don’t like Hayate and Hayate isn’t helping his case. He skips class and doesn’t take his training seriously and only survives his final examine because Freyja sings to him.

And until Hayate needs help, Freyja was under-performing as well. However, in her case she both takes the training seriously and her fellow songstresses are far more supportive and understanding.

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The Problem: This episode paints a bleak picture for Macross Delta. When all the extraneous, predictable and force-fed nostalgia is stripped away, all that is left is a beautifully-rendered but vapid show.

Worse, there are so many characters fighting for screen time, and each is so distractingly over-designed, that there’s no room for the main characters to breath. For goodness sake, the three street children from last week’s throwaway phone joke did not need to become recurring secondary characters.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.03.25 PMIncluding the girl with the ai octopus hairpiece on her head, 5 of these characters have speaking lines and I have no idea who any of them are beyond ‘pilot’ or ‘deck crew’

Counting the slap-stick Mercat, who’s antics are clearly telegraphed as a teaching tool for Hayate to using in his exam, this episode features sixteen secondary characters, three main characters and that’s not counting the Aerial Knights who teaser us after the ending credits. Too much!

Even if Delta weren’t choking to death on frivolous characters and predictable plots, other plot elements feel purely nostalgic. Flying in VF-01 trainers (and being told they are ‘cute’) feels forced and without in-show purpose.

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You will probably enjoy it: because it’s wondrously rendered and packed with details. Even Elysion Colony floating in the bay itself is a visual callback to Frontier and Macross 8, and anchors this show within the greater universe.

You may not enjoy it: because the plot is predictable and the characters, what little we get to see of them, are Macross archetypes: Low-stress anti-war fighter ace, bright eyed loli-songstress whose spunk will win the day, and a rainbow of inconsequential ‘advance the plot’ secondary cast characters.

Sadly, Mirage’s tsundere character is about the most original thing here, and it’s only somewhat original to Macross, not anime in general. I am seriously tempted to rate this a 7.

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Macross Delta – 02

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Delta quickly wraps up last week’s cliffhanger with Mirage swooping in to rescue Hayate & Freyja’s falling, crippled variable fighter and the Aerial Knights retreating, having collected the data they were after.

The remainder of the episode sets out to establish more of the world, context for Freyja’s ability, character relationships and how Hayate & Freyja ultimately join Walkure.

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From mer-cats to gilled street kids with webbed fingers selling organic fish cellphone bracelets, the world around Macross Elysion, Delta Platoon’s HQ, is a fantastical buffet of extraneous but enjoyable details.

It’s all lovingly rendered but Hayate literally grabs Freyja and runs her out of the scene because they have so little narrative purpose, beyond a minor nod to Ranka Lee’s squeezable organic cell phone in Macross Frontier. Even the brief scene in the Aerial Knight’s mountain castle, which includes a column-like pipe organ in the background, only repeats information we’ve already been told.

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As to the joining Walkure part, Freyja is given an audition, which she fails and Hayate is outright offered a piloting position by Delta Platoon Arad Molders. Later, on her way back to the city, Freyja’s tram suddenly halts and one of the passengers goes var-mad. Freyja is knocked to the ground but she sings her way to safety and passes Walkure’s final, secret audition test.

Delta deserves serious credit for its solid sound design.  Music cues are tight. We can feel Freyja’s frustration in the droning elevator-pop of the tram ride and feel her surprise as that music cuts off with the lights and is replaced by something more ominous. Subtle too, that omens music is fun-house style goofy, which softly hints that not all is as it seems to the viewer.

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As to the character relationships, Mirage and Hayate are immediately set up as rivals (and, probably, long term love interests) due to Hayate’s natural skills and matter of fact criticism of the military and rules following. It doesn’t help that Mirage was out of sync during combat too and they both know it.

More broadly, we see Arad’s fatherly relations with with his pilots and other admin, as well as how most people are scared of Elysion’s Captain Ernest Johnson, who is probably Zentradi but looks like an adult version of Teen Titans’ Beast Boy. We also see the Aerial Knights have a lot of internal conflict, which will no doubt be their undoing.

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Stray details and speculation: The Aerial Knights’ SV-262 Draken III’s appeal to be capable of docking with a Ghost on the end of each wing. This not only looks pretty cool, but could imply reliance on artificial intelligence to bolster their numbers. (AI is also generally outlawed in the Macross universe, following Sharon Apple’s rampage in Plus and whatever the heck the androids of Macross Galaxy were up to in Frontier)

Also worth noting the Aerial Knight’s resemblance to the pre-space era earth villains in Macross Zero. The fighters look similar, also had purple, and the characters had feudal sounding titles and ranks…

Also also, Walkure’s VF-31 “Siegfrieds” are named after a dragon slayer, which is important because “Draken” means dragon in swedish.

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Delta’s strength is that it is very well produced: tremendous precision went into its sound design, visual styling, animation and world building. It somehow even keeps its 17+ characters recognizable and coherent.

Delta’s weakness is it has 17+ characters to show us, tons of world building to get through, and some technobabble about singing/fold-space potential, and even more alien races than Macross has ever tackled before.

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It does a good job balancing that all out, but there is so much packed into this episode, I found it hard to absorb in one sitting. More critically, despite the extraneous detail scenes that serve as points of ‘rest,’ the shows maximum level of information density stops individual elements from standing out.

It’s like playing a game for the first time with 2 years worth of DLC turned on from the very beginning!

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Macross Delta – 01

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Note: This is a repost of my January review of the preview special, updated with the rest of the episode that more recently aired.

Cute, quirky, idealistic heroine whom the serious male protag helps out? Check. Rather than Ranka Lee, we have Freyja Wion. She’s also voiced by a first-time seiyu (Suzuki Minori), who does a pretty good job balancing goofiness, earnestness, vulnerability and determination.

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If you’re not put off by Freyja’s bubbly enthusiasm, you’ll want to root for her almost immediately. She’s on the run from an arranged marriage to audition for Walkure, a “Tactical Sound Unit” that uses music to fight the Var, which unlike the Vajra aren’t a primal alien race, but a disease that infects everyone, potentially making anybody a weapon in its arsenal.

While there’s a lot of terminology right out of the gate, Delta doesn’t drown you in it, and also assumes this isn’t your first Macross rodeo (my other exposure to the franchise is the excellent 25th anniversary series Macross Frontier). Like that show, the world is lush and detailed, only the visuals here in 2016 are even more smooth and refined, particularly where CGI is concerned.

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The male protag, Hayate Immelmann (probably named for the turn), is initially put off by Freyja’s weirdness, but ends up rescuing her, though having been someone who’s dreamed big in the past and gotten nowhere, he remains skeptical of her lofty aspirations.

Something tells me his attitude will have changed when this episode concludes in April. He even seems to come under a little bit of a spell from her overflowing charisma—until she loses her foothold and he has to catch her in an awkward position that has him at gunpoint for suspected perversion by Mirage, a soldier in Delta Platoon, Walkure’s escort unit.

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The misunderstanding is corrected just in time for a city-wide Var Alert. The Var infect the local Zentradi base (as in Frontier, the green-skinned giants are normally allies of the humans here), and Freyja and Hayate become naught but two more ants on a massive battlefield, running for their lives.

Then we’re introduced to the four members of Walkure who run towards the danger, transforming into their magical songstress forms: You have the Sheryl Nome-esque star Mikumo, the tomboyish Reina, the girly Makina, and the sporty leader, Kaname.

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Working in concert with the Delta Platoon, they neutralize the effects of the Var with their music, as the battle on the ground is essentially one big music video. This is a departure from Frontier in that the effects of the singing on the enemy aren’t known until later in the show. Here, Walkure is an active participant in the combat, and also in protecting the hordes of citizens with swarms of multidrones.

As one would expect of an experienced and practiced pop music group, Walkure knows exactly what to do and carry it out swiftly and efficiently, but also with an ample helping of style. So confident is Mikumo in her powers of charm, she gets right in a Var-infected Zentradi pilot’s face and cures him on the spot, getting him to exclaim that iconic line, “Deculture!”

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But that’s not all for enemies. In orbit, the planet’s space fleet is attacked by the Aerial Knights, a group of badass male warriors who look to be the Walkure Girls’ rivals and foils. When they engage the Delta Platoon on the surface, they learn they’re more than a match.

Be it the Huge Capital Ship Getting Blow’d Up Real Good in orbit or the Zig-Zagging Dogfight in the skies, Delta doesn’t separate itself much from Frontier in these areas, but it does distinguish itself in sheer quality and refinement. There’s nary a frame out of place, and as previously stated, the CGI is far better integrated into the regular animation than the older work. The plane, ship, cockpit, and HUD designs are also new and very cool-looking, all with a welcome nod to the past.

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With all the big battles and explosions going on, the episode could be excused for completely forgetting about Freyja and Hayate, but when the Knights push Walkure and Delta into a corner, we come back to them, trying not to get caught in the crossfire. Then Mikumo emerges from the pile of wreckage, ready to rumble anew, and changes the tune—literally—to a more aggressive but still upbeat song.

Freyja’s little heart-shaped stone on her head starts to glow (as it did when Hayate fell on her), and she can’t resist singing along and running towards the battle rather than away. It’s an inspiring sight for young Hayate, seeing her risk her life with a smile on her face and a song in her heart, without a care in the world that things won’t work out.

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So…what does the newly-aired episode add to the preview? Nothing that changes my original score of an 8. Right after Freyja runs off, Hayate commandeers a partially-wrecked mech to back her up. As Walkure detects Freyja adding her voice to theirs (and it’s a nice voice), Hayate takes out baddies with the grace of a dancer.

Eventually, he gets lost in the song, and he and Freyja spend a little time in Glowing Naked Blue Sky Land before enemy fire snaps Hayate out of it, and the two start plummeting to the Earth. With their fates uncertain (though not really; they’ll be fine) the episode really just replaced one ellipsis with another, only now Walkure and Delta Platoon have seen a little of what these two crazy kids can do.

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