Reviewby Kim Morrissy,
Gekijō-ban Macross Delta: Gekijō no Walkūre
Macross Delta is set in the year 2067, eight years after the events of Macross Frontier. The story focuses on Walküre, a team of talented idols and the Delta Squadron, a team of experienced Valkyrie pilots as they battle against the Var Syndrome, a mysterious phenomena that is consuming the galaxy, alongside the mysterious Aerial Knights Valkyrie fighter team of the Kingdom of Wind. This film recompiles scenes from the television anime with new scenes to tell a different story.
Like all Macross properties, Macross Delta occupies an awkward position in the West. The Macross Delta TV series never got a release in English-speaking regions, and there are no prospects of an English release for this compilation film either. But Macross is also a cultural landmark in Japan, and now's as good a time as any to comment on the latest iteration of the franchise.
I've never watched the Macross Delta TV show, so I approached the compilation film without any prior context. On the whole, the film does a decent job of conveying the story in an accessible way until the second half, when a lot of characters and plot developments are introduced out of nowhere. Returning fans will probably get more out of this half - I am told that it rewrites events significantly and is overall a stronger finale than what the TV series offered. It's not an ideal way of experiencing the story as a newcomer, but the climax does deliver what you'd want out of a Macross property: bombastic action scenes and catchy pop music.
The main thing that struck me was how unfocused the overall story is. Freyja's coming-of-age story as a Walkure (basically an idol unit member) was completely buried after the first half hour or so. The narrative then spends a significant amount of time recounting the backstories of the other Walkure members, all of whom functioned primarily as side characters in the scheme of things. The climax itself hinges on Mikumo, a character who got almost no attention in the earlier parts of the film. All of this made me confused about whose story this film was trying to tell.
This doesn't mean that the story is without charm. It says something about the charisma of these characters that I found them all entertaining to watch, even despite the uneven development. Freyja and Hayate's relationship was especially cute, and they seemed to click as friends from the moment they first met. Again, I am told that this is quite different from how they're portrayed in the TV series. The love triangle was downplayed, but I found the lack of relationship drama refreshing in a film that was mostly about an ensemble cast.
The songs were also a strong part of Delta. Turning the idol characters into a unit has allowed the voices to harmonize with each other in interesting ways, although none of the other girls seem to match the sheer strength and charisma of JUNNA's singing voice as Mikumo. The frequent timing of the songs gave this film the feeling of a musical, which I thought worked pretty well overall. Presenting all the important plot points through a musical number gave this film a snappy sense of pacing, ensuring that the spectacle never stopped for a moment.
I wish I could praise the visuals to the same degree. The battle scenes are fantastic, of course, featuring all the elaborate setpieces and the Itano missile circuses that were codified by this franchise. But the concert aspects don't always hit the mark. There's one scene that's done in CG, and while the faces were hand-drawn and the models moved without any awkward jerks, it still threatens to take the viewer out of the experience, simply because it doesn't resemble anything that happened before it.
As for the animation in general, it struck me as surprisingly good for a recap film of a TV series. Part of that must be because there was apparently so much new footage in the film, but I'm also struck by the core visual strengths of Macross Delta. The character designs are very attractive, and Freyja in particular is animated with so much energy. There do appear to be occasional problems in getting those complex character designs to move flexibly, however, and this might be why even the hand-drawn concert scenes are a bit underwhelming in the animation and choreography departments.
It's the mechs that deserve the most praise, though. I've always been a fan of the transforming mecha concept; there's a sense of cohesiveness to Shoji Kawamori's designs that not a lot of mecha designers can capture. This lends itself to battle choreography with lots of unpredictable and thrilling moments. After all, an Itano missile circus is especially fun to watch when the pilot manages to weave their way past all those homing missiles converging on them. You can expect to see a lot of moments like that in the Macross Delta film.
I may not have been the target audience for this compilation film, but I'm glad I watched it. The story of Macross Delta is a bit of a mess, but its setpieces are so ambitious and entertaining that I can't help but get swept up in the pace. I can't compare my experience to the TV version, but I suspect that returning fans will be pleased.
Overall : B-
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Great action setpieces and designs, strong musical pieces, second half of the film tells a different story from the TV series
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