MISSION 01: Battlefield Prologue
ICONIC SCENE: Music is Mystery!
STORY DATE: April 2067
BROADCAST DATE: December 31, 2015 (MISSION 0.89) + April 3, 2016 (MISSION 01) + July 26, 2016 (MISSION 01+)
1. Just like Macross Frontier, there are three versions of the first episode… one incomplete version that aired a few months before the series started, a second incomplete one that served as the first official broadcast episode, and a complete one that was included (along with the other two) on the first blu-ray disc. Also like Macross Frontier, once that complete version came out, there are virtually no reasons to watch the previous versions ever again, unless you’re a total fanatic (like I am).
That said, for the purposes of this rewatch, I’m only watching the complete version.
2. So, Macross Delta was initially announced in March 2014, at the end of the broadcast rerun of Frontier. At that time, all they said was “New Macross TV series coming!” with a silhouette of the SDF-1 (which caused a number of people to think it was going to be a remake of the first series). It wasn’t until fall 2015 that we started getting more information about it. One of the things that was done to promote the series was, for a while, posting a new character profile every day for two weeks, going through the Delta Flight pilots, Walküre, and most of the Aerial Knights. There were also a couple of trailers.
I don’t think anyone was prepared, though, for how little lead-in the show itself would give us. Within its first minute, it plunges us into an entirely new world for Macross. We’re no longer with an emigration ship, as we were with Macross 7 and Frontier. The threat of the Vár is already well-advanced, and Walküre has already been formed to combat it.
A lot more came out at the early screening of Episode 1, featuring a talk show with Kawamori. His main points were first, the fact that there was a planet in the logo was significant, because (as he also said before the Frontier movies) he somewhat regretted that Frontier was mostly space battles, and he wanted to have more atmospheric battles. Second, that the way the triangle in the logo didn’t connect was a symbol for how the love triangle wouldn’t be a traditional one. And third, that the series as whole would have serious tonal shifts throughout, and was an attempt to fuse the musical aspect of Seven with the fighter action of Plus.
3. The beginning is definitely an attention-grabber, as a guy chomps on an apple (SIGNIFICANT!) and then reveals himself to be a suicide bomber.
The opening space map also has some significance. You may remember that in the first episode of Frontier, the Macross Galaxy fleet was also shown very close to the Frontier fleet. Well, here, we see two named planets: Ragna and Windermere. Neither will appear in the episode, but both will be extremely important soon.
No, in THIS episode, we’re on Planet Al Shahal, a kind of Space Dubai. And indeed, many of the Macross Delta locations are based on real places on earth, as revealed in one of the “Making of” specials on the DVDs. The world design is one of the best things about Delta, honestly: we see a number of planets and each one is completely distinct and instantly recognizable. The landscapes and architectures were all designed by the brilliant Thomas Romain, who directed and did designs for the French/Japanese series Oban Star Racers and who eventually was hired by Kawamori’s studio Satelight (along with fellow French designer Stanislas Brunet), and has since worked on Aquarion Evol and the various Symphogear series, as well as co-creating Basquash. Brunet, for his part, did the non-Valk mecha designs for Delta, with one big exception, which I’ll get to later.
4. For those old-school western Macross fans who still had their ear to the ground about Delta news, generally through Gwyn Campbell’s regular updates (either through the Speaker PODcast or his Twitter account, @GwynCampbell), a number were feeling rather apprehensive about the show based on the revealed character designs. I doubt Hayate’s dancing workroid did much to reassure them. But it’s a beautifully done scene, with the heavy Destroid-Cheyenne-based mech moving with real grace and agility. Maybe one of the biggest surprises of this type since we saw the Macross Quarter acting like a battroid back in Frontier Episode 7.
Also, the song playing during this scene, the Makina/Reina duet “Jiritic Beginner,” is the most hated song in the series by most if not all of the people who worked on the official English subs (I’ve never heard Adrian Lozano say anything about it one way or another, but both Gwyn Campbell and Mike Aguirre both quite vocally despised it, and Peter Kim apparently shared their opinion), mostly because of how difficult it was to translate. Now me, not tied as closely to it, I absolutely love it, especially in the full version on the album (“C’mon, c’mon, don’t touch me, and keep off! Oh, oh, wait, wait, it’s joke!”). And the live version is GREAT.
An interesting bit that would pass by first-time viewers happens when Hayate picks up the container with Freyja in it and she hears the music: even though her hood is covering her rune, as soon as she realizes the music is “wind-colored,” there’s a little glow from under her hood. Delta in general is full of little touches like this which show that the animators really CARE about the series. I point this out (as I did with previous shows) mostly because viewers seem quick to leap on mistakes or recycled shots, but rarely note when something is done well.
5. A running gag throughout the series will be just how many weird expressions Freyja’s face can pull. She goes through quite a number of them just in explaining to Hayate why she ran away. Mylene has, bar none, the most outfits of anyone in any Macross series (almost a new outfit per episode). Freyja definitely has the most facial expressions. If they come out with another edition of Macross Chronicle, I wonder how many pages those will take up…?
Also, this is probably the best “meet-cute” moment between a Macross hero and heroine since Hikaru’s VF-1D smashed into Minmay’s bedroom.
Oh, and although you can’t really tell from the subtitles, Freyja has a strange, mostly made-up accent. Along with catchphrase words like “hoina!” and “gori-gori,” just in general she sounds like a hillbilly, although it’s not an ACTUAL Japanese hillbilly dialect. All credit to Minori Suzuki for being able to act while maintaining the accent. As any voice actor can tell you, this isn’t an easy thing to do, since focusing on the accent can interfere with “being” the character. For an eighteen-year-old’s debut, in a starring role in a fast-paced (production-wise) TV series, this is astonishing.
6. Since even in Frontier, people were playing CDs, it’s nice to see that the Macross universe finally has mp3 players.
Also, the picture on the leaflet that Freyja pulls out about the Walküre audition is moving… technology we first saw in the gossip magazine the bridge bunnies are poring over in Do You Remember Love.
The fingernail devices ARE new, however. We first see Mikumo (in disguise) using one as a communicator. Later, we’ll see that they can project screens and other cool stuff. I assume they’re quite new, expensive, and rare, since of everyone in the series, only Walküre (and Delta Flight…? Definitely Arad…) has them.
And yes, Mikumo’s in disguise, as (I guess…) is Makina. Since we initially meet Walküre members doing undercover reconnaissance, I found it mildly surprising that it strained some viewers’ credulity when they go on another undercover operation some episodes later. This is clearly part of being in Walküre… they find where a Vár outbreak is likely to happen, covertly stake the place out, and get ready for defense.
Makina, by the way, was my initial favorite Walküre member, mostly because she was cutesy-cute (“kyawawa!”) but totally nerds out over the mecha. In idol-fan parlance, your favorite member is your “oshi-men” (“pushed-for member”), and if you (say) like Makina, you’d be MakiMaki-oshi. But by the end of the series, I found myself more “hako-oshi,” which is when you’re a fan of the group as a whole rather than any one girl in particular.
Oh, and the glasses she uses to identify the “Type 104 Regulds” are actually part of the “rabbit-ear” headband that she’s always wearing. She just rarely ever uses them this way.
7. And yes, there ARE many characters introduced here in a short span of time (and we haven’t even gotten to the Aerial Knights yet), which a lot of people had problems with, saying that fifteen characters was too many.
Unlike, say, the first Macross series, which introduced… fourteen. Or Macross 7, which introduced… fourteen.
Honestly, I think they do it smartly here, since most of the characters are easily grouped and don’t need to be individualized yet. There’s Freyja and Hayate, of course. All the other girls (except Mirage) are Walküre. All the guys here (and Mirage) are the pilots. All the guys that show up at the end are the Aerial Knights. If we hadn’t had four months to pick apart the preview before the series proper started, I doubt it would’ve bothered anyone.
8. Also, we get the first of many mentions of “Lady M,” who appears to be the big boss for Walküre and Delta Flight. It’s so obviously a pseudonym that right from the get-go, we might be wondering who she REALLY is. And of course we’ll never find out (despite what some crappy fansubs have to say).
9. I find the conversation between Hayate (the boy who doesn’t know what he wants to do) and Freyja (the girl who knows EXACTLY what she wants to do) after he’s rescued her from the spaceport authorities to be convincing and charming. They seem like authentic teenagers… smart, but not as smart or as worldly as they think they are. And Hayate is easily one of my favorite Macross heroes. Not as bland as Hikaru, or as annoyingly cocky as Hibiki or Isamu or Basara, or as mopey as Shin, or as irritating as Alto. He’s a likable guy. To me, at least.
Freyja, on the other hand, seems poised to become the “annoying cute girl,” and it’s great that she never does that. She also, especially in this first episode, seems to have a lot of effort put into animating her energetically. There’s A LOT of motion wherever she’s around.
Also, in the scene where Hayate ends up on top of her, we see her rune not only light up but move… the first hint that it’s not just a hair ornament.
And then Mirage shows up.
Mirage, of course, is the most direct link to previous Macross shows, being Max and Milia’s granddaughter, although what she’s doing so far out in the boonies of the Brísingr Cluster is an open question. It was a while before Kawamori revealed that her mother was Miranda Jenius, the girl with the brown hair in the bottom left of the family portrait from the Macross 7 movie.
So yes, we’ve now met our primary triangle (although, like most Macross shows, there will be more), and it’s pretty clear that since Hayate and Freyja met-cute and Hayate and Mirage met-hostile, Hayate’s obviously going to end up with Mirage. Right…?
10. We knew the Vár would eventually hit, but we didn’t know it would involve singing or a mysterious shot of what looks like the inside of a temple. Anyway, it makes the Zentradi that Makina saw earlier go quite berserk and really tear up the city, which is the first time we’ve seen battle pods run amok in a really long time. There’s an odd hybrid mech which looks like a Reguld with Queadluun-Rau arms on it, which a couple of Robotech fans were CERTAIN was inspired by the battle pod seen briefly at the beginning of Robotech II: The Sentinels, because it had arms… never mind that the early sketches for the battle pods during the preproduction of the first series in 1982 also had arms…
And when they’re blowing up the city, it’s strange to note that all the cars on Al Shahal seem to be models from earth circa 2015…
Oh, and another tradition rears its head: Destroids being ineffectual and then getting blown up.
But of course, all this is just prelude to what appears to be the defining scene of the episode (and the entire series, for people who turned it off in disgust here): Mikumo shouts “It’s showtime!” and then she and the other three Walküre girls go through magical girl style transformations, complete with dramatic poses and catchphrases.
Now, I’ve said this before, but I think it bears repeating: this is NOT what the series as a whole is about. It’s a little mischievous wink at the audience. It’s meant to make your jaw drop a little and make you think “What the hell…?” But it was never meant to make you TOTALLY LOSE YOUR SHIT and run to the nearest social media outlet saying things like, “It’s f***in’ SAILOR MOON!” or “Macross has become gay GAY GAAAAY!!”
Was that an inevitable reaction among some Macross fans? Probably. And I don’t want to say it’s SOLELY an age thing (I mean, obviously it isn’t, or I wouldn’t be writing this right now), but I think it mostly is. A lot of older fans, by which I mean guys in their thirties and forties, were really turned off by this, but generally, they hadn’t been entirely comfortable with Frontier (or, for that matter, Seven or Zero) either. The original Macross was, essentially, aimed at young boys who could beg their parents for a Takatoku Valk. Most of us old-school fans were young boys (some girls, but not as many) when we saw it. Plus was aimed at those same fans, ten years later, and it did… okay. Not a huge success. Zero was aimed at those same fans eight years after THAT, but no one seemed to really get into it, and it failed pretty hard. But those fans were the target market. Those series were aimed at them, and those fans saw them at the right age(s), which is why you have a lot of fans who say, “I only love SDF Macross and Plus.” Seven was NOT aimed at those fans, and was a big success, more through music sales than toy or model kits. Frontier came out at a time when the Macross name was nearly forgotten and the creators had to have a hit at any cost. Thus you had the homages thrown in for the old fans and everything else to bring in a new audience. And the new audience came. In droves. Completely overwhelming the old fans. So at this point, they would ideally want to keep the old fans, the Frontier fans, AND get a new audience as well. Which is probably an impossible task. Someone will always end up disappointed. And in this case, it was the old fans.
But I think that’s only partially due to Walküre and their magical girl-isms. A lot of it is that guys in their thirties and forties often prefer stories about other guys in their thirties and forties, rather than about teenagers. But anime (ESPECIALLY late-night TV anime) has ALWAYS been a youth-driven market, like pop music or horror movies. Young adults tend to like stories about other young adults. Anyway, it leads to weird cognitive dissonances like old-school fans who ADORED fifteen-year-old Minmay’s naked butt now complaining about sexualization of minors when sixteen-year-old Ranka wears a bikini (one especially dim bulb called Delta “a very disturbing anime – rude and crude” and “almost porn” because of Makina in a bikini. I hope he never goes to the beach…). So yes, as Bob always sez, “the times they are a-changin’,” which leads to more CGI and certain character types or plot wrinkles becoming popular, but some things very definitely stay the same: Hikaru was sixteen, Minmay was fifteen (at the beginning of the show), Misa (the “old lady”) was nineteen. Hayate is seventeen, Freyja is fourteen, Mirage is eighteen. The oldest Macross main hero is Isamu, who was twenty-four. Anime will always be aimed at young adults, just as Jason and Freddie will always be eviscerating teenagers, and your kids will argue that New Hip Band’s cover of that old eighties classic you love is WAY better than the original, even if you want to smash their iPhone in rage whenever they play the new version.
Or, to quote Abe Simpson: “I used to be ‘with it,’ but then they changed what ‘it’ was, and now what I’m ‘with’ isn’t ‘it,’ and what’s ‘it’ is WEIRD and SCARY. It’ll happen to YOU…”
Although rather than “weird and scary,” it seems (here at least) that it’s angering and feels like a betrayal. Because you were expecting something aimed squarely at you, and instead you got something that your niece in college would like.
The good news is that if you don’t like it, you can always ignore it (unlike New Hip Band’s cover of that eighties classic, which gets played EVERY FRIGGIN’ PLACE YOU GO).
*whew* Sorry. Had to get that out of the way SOMEtime…
11. All that said… yes, the whole idea of Walküre is kinda ridiculous. Even if you accept the idea that fold resonators in their voices affect the Vár, there’s no real reason why they have to sing pop songs or put on a concert to pacify it. The “origin” episode kinda covers this (and the novelization tries to justify it a bit), but it’s still silly.
But hey… I (eventually) accepted Basara flying out into battle and singing, and this is just a step further than that, so sure, why not?
And, if you wanted to look at it from a “serious SF”/”future history” perspective, you could make a case that thanks to the Zentradi annihilation of earth and Minmay’s role in winning the war, the way humanity looks at pop music in the Macross universe is very different from the way we look at it in ours.
Oh… and about those magical girl transformations. Another reason why I don’t get why old school fans were so put out by them is that, again, this technology has existed since Do You Remember Love. Did everyone forget the room where Hikaru and Minmay jumped from circle to circle, and each one gave them a different holographic costume? It’s the same thing here. Heck, I even saw some people complain about Walküre’s outfits glowing, even though Minmay and Hikaru’s glowing outfits were REALLY IMPORTANT in the scene in the movie when they got trapped inside the SDF-1.
Similarly, a number of people seemed to forget the underskirt “gas jet clusters” that Sheryl and Alto used to fly around for short distances in the Macross Frontier movies (or, more likely, they just never watched the movies).
12. And then the VF-31s arrive. These break Kawamori’s own rule that only the Valks with numbers ending in “nine” have forward-swept wings, but that’s okay. I think they look cool. The most immediate technological advance we see are the Multi-Drones, which can do an astonishing array of things (at least, I assume they’re projecting the holograms around the city. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Sharon Apple never had any projectors, so perhaps holograms can just appear anywhere these days…).
Whatever. If you can accept Walküre, the battle sequence is a real tour de force, with lots of great shots (my favorite being the battle pod about to attack Kaname, but which gets brought down by Messer. Messer nods. Kaname gives a thumbs up. Totally nonchalant, totally understated, totally AWESOME).
It was mentioned in the character bios that came out before the series that Mikumo is the only one who can ride on a Valkyrie the way she does on Arad’s here, which is our first clue that there may be something… not natural… about her.
The battle is also noteworthy as one of the few times we see Arad really kicking ass, as he cuts the arms off the Reguld/Queadluun-Rau hybrid and then shoots off its legs.
Still… during the Vár outbreak, it never seems like the Delta pilots or Walküre are ever in real danger. This also seems to have annoyed some people, but it’s deliberate, because the whole point is that Walküre is taking care of the Vár according to well-used strategies. It’s nothing they can’t handle, and nothing they haven’t handled dozens of times before. But these strategies become useless when the Aerial Knights show up. NOW, they are suddenly in a new situation, and have no idea how to handle it.
13. So yes, just as it seems like the situation’s under control and the episode is winding down, the Aerial Knights arrive and screw all that up. It also means we meet a bunch of new characters. It’s an interesting fake-out, since it’s been plainly stated that the big threat here is the Vár, except now we’ve got a new threat coming in, and this one is more serious because (as I said) Walküre doesn’t know how to handle it. For all that detractors say, “Oh, they always just sing at the bad guys in Macross,” music doesn’t work against THESE guys. I mean, hell, Reina almost gets killed.
They make short work of the NUNS fleet around the planet and then specifically attack Walküre. So many questions… who are they? What do they want? What’s going on? Why are they interrupting our comfortable episode which has already set up a problem and solved it?
The only one of the Knights who really made an impression on me at first was Bogue, because I found him SERIOUSLY annoying and wanted him to die as soon as possible. He lunges forward here for the first of several times in the show.
Now, the biggest problem with this battle is the same problem that the second Frontier movie (and Zero, and the Max and Milia battle in Do You Remember Love) had, which is that everything happens so fast that it can be hard to follow without going through it frame-by-frame. But I guess that’s Macross tradition, too. And it seems accurate, I guess, since these fighters are all so advanced (and have “inertial store converters” to lessen the g-forces that would (at the VERY least) cause the pilots to black out during some of these moves).
Notably, the Aerial Knights’ SV-262 Draken III fighters (what are visually designed, of course, after the Swedish Saab J-35 Draken) barely transform in this episode. Keith’s fighter’s legs come out at one point, but we’ll have to wait a while to see more.
We do, however, see their drones in action, called “Lil Drakens” (“Couldn’t they come up with a better name than ‘Li’l Draken’?” groused one viewer, unaware that it’s a real thing).
And the Vár is back, which means that Walküre gets to sing again, this time with the excellent ska-influenced “Forbidden Borderline,” which is one of the best songs in the series, and was released to iTunes right after the episode finished airing (and hit the top of the charts almost immediately).
So Walküre regroups, starts singing, and Freyja has a flashback and appears to have an orgasm or something, and joins in. And runs off. And that’s where the preview episode ended…
14. But here, with about two minutes of added scenes, we see Hayate get into a damaged VF-171 (STILL the cannon fodder of the Macross galaxy, even eight years after Frontier), save Freyja from getting stepped on by a Glaug (and I didn’t notice until this viewing that all the Glaugs have TWO cannons on top here), pick her up Minmay/Ranka style, and get shot down.
Oh, he also dances. Using the battroid like a martial artist he spins and kicks to the beat, and does a pretty good job. He just can’t FLY very well.
Oh, and an interesting bit about the preview (“Mission 0.89”) version… the creators didn’t QUITE want to reveal the cast yet, so they used the Ragnan alphabet for their names. Some fans figured all of it out quickly, of course, and the names were all there… except Mikumo, whose voice actress’s name was listed as “WHOAMI.” Well, again, fans being fans, some quickly identified her voice as Ami Koshimizu. HOWEVER, Ms. Koshimizu was NOT doing the singing, which was performed by fifteen-year-old singer JUNNA (AKA Junna Sakai), who was making her professional debut here (she was in an idol duo in Nagoya called “Twintail” before, but I don’t think they were truly “professional”). Just another weird little Mikumo mystery…
15. So… I’m not sure you can call this THE MOST controversial Macross series ever, but definitely the most controversial (so far) of the internet age. Some people liked it, some people were unsure but willing to give the series a chance, some people HATED it, and many were just baffled. The people who hated it seemed to be the most vocal, at least at first. The shitstorm was insane, especially once the (again, kinda crappy) fansub came out. I’ve already mentioned most of the big complaints, the biggest one never being stated: here was a Macross series made for a different audience. One that the men in their thirties and forties couldn’t immediately enjoy (hell, one guy even said that it was impossible for ANY grown man to enjoy the show. But then he tried to juice up his cosplay photography Patreon by having a model dress up as Mirage, since his Misa photos weren’t bringing in the bucks that he had hoped for… and that says a lot, doesn’t it?). I enjoyed it but was also apprehensive. Even watching it again now, with the whole series behind us and (nearly) all questions answered, it seems enigmatic. But so did the first episode of Macross 7. It’s not at all what you’d expect, but what Macross series is? At the time, I thought that no matter what happened, we’d all be in for a wild ride.
ED: Forbidden Borderline
EYECATCH: Hayate’s VF-31J
NEW SONGS IN THIS EPISODE: “Jiritic Beginner,” “Love! Halation THE WAR,” “Forbidden Borderline.”
NUMBER OF TIMES BOGUE HAS LUNGED FORWARD: 1