MISSION 04: Shocking STAGE DEBUT
ICONIC SCENE: FINALLY! The Drakens transform!
STORY DATE: 2067
BROADCAST DATE: April 24, 2016
1. We open with the Aerial Knights, just as we closed with them last time (the early episodes of Delta remind me of Macross Zero in that the closing scene of one episode seem to dictate what the opening scene of the next will be). To be honest, we never spend as much time with the Knights as I would like (and not only do I doubt I’m alone, but I’m guessing the staff knew it would be a problem, which is why one of the four manga series related to Delta was entirely devoted to fleshing out their backstory). Ultimately, I think we get BARELY enough about each of them for them to become genuine characters rather than stick figures (except maybe the twins, who remain little more than fuzzy snapshots in the show and only get more personality in the “Delta Mini-Theater” shorts that come as bonuses on the blu-rays), but not much more. It would be kind of interesting, I think, if there were a movie or something telling the story of Delta from the Windermerean perspective, although I know that no one would ever make that movie. Still, it’s a testament to the scriptwriters and actors that I’m interested in them at all. They could have easily just been cardboard villains, but they’ve definitely got more going on than that. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you like delving into secondary material like novels and manga, I guess), I get the impression that there’s a tremendous amount of detailed biography given to them that we get only small glimpses of on screen.
And yes, most of them are pretty-boy-bishonen characters, designed pretty clearly to draw in a specific segment of the female audience. That’s fine by me. At least they’re not BORING bishonen.
Overall, plot-wise, the most important points here are Roid’s comment about the “ruins” which are “resonating,” and about Heinz’s failing health. Both of these will become central as the story progresses.
2. Rangan TVs look quite old-fashioned, don’t they? I’m reminded of Planet Zola from Macross Dynamite 7 and how backwards the inhabitants seemed, since they were still more radio fans than TV fans. Although there’s a twist when it turns out that the entire television is actually just a projected screen.
When we get to what’s REALLY going on – the welcome party for Feyja (and Hayate) – there’s a bit that Japanese fans probably found hilarious, where Captain Johnson (who is a total pimp in his white suit and black fedora) is about to launch into what is undoubtedly a very long speech, only to be cut off by Nina and Makina. Anyone who has ever been to a Japanese wedding can sympathize, as the speeches there typify “long-winded.”
(Although I note that Johnson’s statement about being asked to help assemble Walküre seems to contradict the episode about how they actually formed. They already existed before he got involved.)
And the music that starts up once they say “Cheers!” is one of my favorite tracks in the show… it’s officially titled “Rune-Pika” but got nicknamed by one of my friends as “Rune-Pika-Polka.” Basically, it’s the ending theme played (badly) on trombone with an accordion for backup. It’s hilarious.
Back to the topic, as far back (at least…) as Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” party scenes have been used as a great way to delineate many characters at one time, and so it works here, with the way each character toasts Freyja and Hayate saying something about their personality. Even further, I note that it looks like Messer has ice in his beer (although, knowing him, it probably isn’t beer. I assume he’s straight-edge).
This scene is also where Beth Muscat became my favorite bridge bunny of the series, for drinking everybody else under the table. Although it becomes clear later on that she’s just a total lush.
And look… I love seafood. ADORE it. If I were stuck on a barren island with nothing but fish to eat, I’d count myself lucky. But Ragnan jellyfish and sea spider simply don’t look appetizing (which is, of course, the joke).
3. As everyone starts talking about the “Vaccine Concert” that Walküre has been requested to give of Planet Randall, the reason that Walküre has to actually be present at their anti-Vár concerts is given: that is has to be LIVE. Recordings don’t capture the Bio-Fold Waves in their voices. Although one might wonder why electronic amplification works, as in here and Episode 6. I mean, it’s all filtered through electronics either way, right…?
(In this scene, please note Reina eating live jellyfish, and Q-Lulu licking off her plate while she’s oblivious.)
4. I really like Freyja’s drinking “Appa-ju” and declaring that Ragna feels like her home in Windermere, even though the environment is entirely different. It’s proof that Walküre is her true home, and whether it’s snowy or tropical has nothing to do with it. I try to point out the little touches in the animation that are brief but speak volumes, and this is one of the scriptwriting touches that does so. No one understands why Freyja feels at home on Ragna, and Freyja doesn’t understand it herself, but the viewer is (or, at least, should be) led to understand that Freyja views Ragna as like her home because this is where she truly belongs (regardless of what Mikumo thinks).
5. Speaking of whom, we get our first (YOWZA!) naked Mikumo, asking herself why she sings. Mikumo, of course, will be naked a lot in this series. In this case, it doesn’t seem sexual at all to me, it seems more like an expression of total freedom. Which will turn out to be ironic, as Mikumo is the most constrained (first figuratively, then literally) of all the members of Walküre. But for now, it just reinforces Mikumo’s reputation as the “Mysterious Venus,” whose actions and sentiments seem odd to us mere mortals.
6. The next scene briefly shows us “Ranka Beach” (I wonder how it got that name?) before the Aether separates from the Elysion. And yes, if you check your mythology dictionary, you’ll understand why the Aether’s twin is named the “Hemera.”
On board the Aether, Hayate meets his first real variable fighter, “Delta 05,” a VF-31J. I’m not sure what the “J” stands for anymore. Hikaru’s VF-1J was made in Japan, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t.
Oh, and Makina and Reina (but probably just Makina) have modified the fighter so that Hayate doesn’t need to wear a helmet while flying it… which will cause a little hiccup later. (Makina’s nicknames of all the other characters get full exposure here, and Freyja will also adopt them: Kana-Kana, Kumo-Kumo, Rei-Rei, Fre-Fre, Haya-Haya, Mira-Mira, and, presumably, Ara-Ara, Messa-Messa, and Cha-Cha).
And then when Freyja shows up, she explains that she got her mp3 player from an earthling who visited Windermere. You may not guess right now who that earthling was, but it’ll become more obvious as the series continues. She mentions that she listened to Minmay, Fire Bomber, Sheryl Nome, and Ranka (plus, in the novelization, the Milky Dolls and Chelsea Scarlet), which may seem tame to YOU, but to ME, remind me of Václav Havel, a political prisoner in Czechoslovakia, who later became Czechoslovakia’s last president and the Czech Republic’s first, and who secretly carried about a pamphlet of the lyrics of the songs of the Velvet Underground, which were forbidden under the law at the time. See? Pop songs CAN be revolutionary! (And yes, by my standards, the Velvet Underground are “pop.” I like pop.) You can see a similar thing (apparently) happening in North Korea, as Hong Kong and Taiwanese dramas get smuggled in, and North Koreans grow interested in the lifestyles of the characters. Reruns of “Dallas” (again, apparently) had much the same effect upon Soviets: they were shown a kind of life they had never thought even possible before.
On the down side, we also learn here that Windermereans only live for roughly thirty years, because of their amazing physical capabilities.
7. Wow, Kumo-Kumo isn’t terribly nice, telling Freyja that if she doesn’t perform well on her debut stage, she’ll be fired. Again, in contrast to Sheryl, who was always supportive of Ranka.
That said, we get a scene of Walküre pumping themselves up before showtime, which humanizes them to a degree, and the second appearance of their “magical girl” freeze-frames.
(Oh, and Freyja’s final “Music is ENERGY!” bit, which cements her into the Walküre lineup, focuses on her butt for a few too many frames.)
And THEN when they start singing “Uncertain COSMIC MOVEMENT,” their poses became rather iconic… from dudes at cons to Hi-Metal R VF-1 figures to cosplayer dabbing… the poses were definitely studied by fans.
And the choreography here, Walküre plus Delta Flight, is some on the best in the entire series. Since as soon as Walküre start singing, Hayate is dancing. And you have to admire Mirage for playing along with him. It makes for a great air show.
That said… the whole scene feel unrealistic to me, because Freyja has the lead part of the song. As anyone who follows idol groups that switch out old members for new can tell you, the newbies never get the lead until they’ve proven themselves especially popular.
And THAT said, the song is pretty cool… a nice disco song with a good string section and an exceptionally funky bass. And the “Blüme” costumes are among my favorites of Walküre’s wardrobe.
Oh, and hey, remember in “Sayonara no Tsubasa” during the “Rainbow Bear-Bear” song, where mini-Rankas appeared delivering teddy bear to crowd members? Mini-Freyjas and Mini-Mikumos give high-fives to the crowd here. Much as, after the first (free) Walküre live concert, Minori Suzuki (Freyja) and JUNNA (Mikumo) (full name: Junna Sakai) gave high-fives to the audience members.
8. And naturally, it all gets interrupted by the Aerial Knights, who finally reveal who they are… in one of the greatest transformation sequences since Episode 1 of the the first Macross series.
Apparently, how the Drakens transformed and what exactly they transformed into was a closely-guarded secret until this episode, which meant that even at the toy fairs, the Draken toys had to be posed in such a way that no one could see the underside well (and photography was strictly prohibited… but that’s usual in such situations). A number of Bandai people were apparently terrified that fans would figure out how the Draken transformed before this episode aired, and indeed, one Japanese fan NEARLY figured it out (and posted his idea on Twitter).
9. The OTHER surprise here is that the NUNS pilots who show up are infected by the Vár, but are still able to fly (and fight) in formation. Before this, any Vár-infected people simply went berserk, but this indicates that the infected can be controlled in some way.
Oh, and when Heinz starts singing, everyone kinda of flinches, but Messer seems especially affected…
And the whole thing is a diversion… distracting Walküre while they take Planet Voldor.
10. And this, to my way of thinking, is the end of the introduction. Finally, everyone is in the right place and the war has been declared. The story truly begins here.
Again, the episode looks better than it needs to, with the climaxing concert and battle looking especially good and the Draken transformation being the stand-out. And this is almost a perfect episode, with humor, action, plot and character scenes, and music all balanced effortlessly.
And of course it was during the scripting (NOT THE PRODUCTION OR AIRING) of this episode that the decision was made to extend the series from thirteen episode plus a movie to a full twenty-six episodes. For better or for worse.
OP: “If I Love Only Once”
ED: “When My Rune Shines Bright”
EYECATCH: VF-31J (Hayate Type)
NEW SONGS IN THIS EPISODE: Uncertain COSMIC MOVEMENT
NUMBER OF TIMES BOGUE HAS LUNGED FORWARD: 1