Title: Macross Delta aka Macross ∆
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 3 Apr 2016 – 25 Sep 2016
Synopsis: Var Syndrome, a disease of unknown origin, has run amok in the Starwind Sector, causing its victims to transform into mindless berserkers without notice. To counter this menace, the paramilitary organization Chaos has established Walküre, an idol group whose singing has the power to ameliorate the symptoms of Var. Following an incident of the disease on the planet Al Shahal, two newcomers join Chaos’ ranks: Freyja Wion, a runaway with dreams of becoming a songstress, and Hayate Immelmann who finds his calling as a pilot for Walküre’s escort unit Delta Platoon. As struggle to prove their value to their respective groups, the two are soon thrust to center stage as the source of Var proves closer to them than anyone could imagine.
Music: Spectacular, hits the high Macross benchmark.
Aerial Combat: Ten years ahead of the competition.
Voice work: The A-game of a massively talented seiyuu.
Characters: Likable but boring.
Narrative: Uncompelling. Too bogged down by Macross lore.
One thing remarkable about Macross is that despite nearly 35 years of history, it is spectacularly tight in terms of themes and style. It’s not merely the universe or aesthetic; it’s the attitude of optimistm, crying “love conquers all” in the face of behemoths and leviathans. Sticking closely to this has kept the franchise’s tropes fresh through the decades even where clones prove stale upon entry. Rooted in this core identity, Macross Delta is an extravangza of music and dogfighting like no other. Admittedly though, it is perhaps the most shallow interpretation of the Macross ethos date.
From DYRL to Plus(1,2) to Frontier, Macross has always upped the ante when it comes to aerial and mecha combat. Unsurprisingly, Delta follows suit while still possessing a unique identity. In contrast to the giants and monsters the franchise generally offers, fight sequences are primarily squadron on squadron dogfighting, with each encounter as much a ballet as a brawl – and that’s before the dancing robots. The spectacle of the series is two fold as virtually each action sequence is accompanied by not just a singing, but a full on performance with holographic sets, dresses, and effects that make a the Super Bowl halftime show look like a folk concert. Aerial combat may have been at the core of the original Super Dimension Fortress, but let’s not delude ourselves. Macross is about pop music, and no entry has elevated it quite like this incarnation.
If Macross 7 (1,2) was the logical extreme of the power of song concept when played for laughs, then Delta is what happens when one goes a thousand light years beyond that and plays it straight. Walküre is not merely singing from afar; they are engaged in battle, often themselves at the epicenter of dogfights. And from start to finish, it is never any less ridiculous to watch the team assess combat, dodge bullets, and talk amongst each other all the while maintaining their harmonies. As much though as I snicker at the execution, the music is enough to forgive everything, which is as memorable as ever. As with Frontier before it, the premise of Delta gives the opportunity for an anime veteran to work along side a newcomer with Koshimizu Ami and Suzuki Minori fronting Walküre. The backing members are nothing to shake a stick at either with Yasuno Kiyono’s solo piece “Axia” being the most moving in the entire series. The incredible vocals extends equally impressive voice acting. Freyja’s creepy laugh will forever haunt my nightmares for all the right reasons.
Unfortunately despite proving itself one of the most entertaining anime of the past few years, Delta utterly fails to be engaging. From exploring the group dynamics of Walküre to discussing the implications of having a stunted lifespan, storytelling opportunities are aplenty. Yet the series never takes advantage of them, preferring to remind the audience of plot and lore. Where previous incarnations were oddly unconcerned with mythology beyond pineapple related fanservice, Delta is smothered in it, leaving nary a moment to properly develop its characters. Walküre itself is a stock sentai even by stock sentai standards. Even at the forefront, Freyja experiences little drama outside small bouts of anxiety. Likewise, her relationship with Hayate is treated less as a budding romance and more of a foregone conclusion. Despite Macross’ reputation for love triangles, there is barely a token one, as Freyja’s supposed rival Mirage expresses few signs of affection.
It causes no shortage of frustration to think that in 26 episodes, Macross Delta invokes not an iota of pathos. Tantamount to the kind of pop songs presented here, beyond the high production value, the series isn’t really about anything. Being shallow, however, doesn’t make the show bad necessarily, and I still implore all fans of spectacle to watch it. It may be a far cry a far cry from the best anime to bear the name Macross. But it might just be the greatest extended music video of all time.
The Rating: 6
Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx