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Before I even watched this movie, I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to feel compelled to review it. I mean, I did it for the show and the first movie. It’s only natural I would feel as torn on the second movie as the other stuff and tell you about what Macross Delta did wrong again. Then I watched it. And I’m here, reviewing it, not to say it’s flawed but with potential, but that it’s good. It’s really good. As someone who hasn’t liked any new Macross since the Frontier series (not even those movies), this is a breath of fresh air. Macross Delta: Absolute Live is a sequel to the first movie more so than the show, but you’ll follow along just fine if you’ve only seen the former. Essentially, there is a new villainous organization on the horizon, made of ex-military from the human race, and they’re ready to start war with the galaxy–all for the goal of destroying “Lady M” and the “Megaroad-01.” This blew me away. For the typical Macross casual, such phrases were typically only ever in side content, being consumed by only diehard fans. The Macross Delta series made brief mentions of these phrases, but were nothing more than an aside. Until now… finally. Instead of Delta being a worse off retread of Frontier, Delta has committed to its own original ideas on top of successfully blending fanservice from the past. And it hits a home run. Who is the omnipresent Lady M pulling the strings? Where did the Megaroad-01 go back in 2012? Well, these aren’t questions that Absolute Live is going to fully answer. But they’re much more than teases too. These questions are the foundation of the plot and what consistently drives it forward from scene to scene. Even characters from old shows are back to keep the ball rolling. Not just in cameo rolls, but as main characters here to stay. And with this connective tissue, all relating to lore of the past, Macross is once again the epic space opera it used to be. And I don’t say that just because Absolute Live is cashing in on all the same “member berries” that pretty much all of Hollywood is now, but because this is a genuinely great movie with solid direction, consistent pacing, charming characters, awesome action, and an emotional center at its core. SPOILERS, LIKE SERIOUSLY SPOILERS, if you haven’t watched any of Macross Delta before this. Speaking for myself, and I think many fans, there was a feeling of emptiness in Delta’s first ending. The U.N. and the planet Windermere reached a mutual agreement and their war was over; however, what effect this had on the characters was completely overlooked. What was especially worse was that Delta ended on an empty promise that (best girl) Freyja’s singing was going to kill her. But we weren’t to worry about that right now. In this movie, that thread is everything. In case you need context, Windermerians have a short lifespan of roughly 30 years. Their bodies decay so fast because they are inherently more in tune with Macross’s canon life force “Fold Waves.” And being really good at reading and controlling Fold Waves to give them superior attributes comes at the cost of their short lives. And Freyja is very powerful because she is a Windermerian who uses her Fold powers to make our heroes, the Delta Flight, greater pilots–as showcased by their enhanced reflexes, field of vision, and more aggressive behavior on the battlefield. The opening of this movie is pretty much perfect. It’s Freyja returning home to her village along with her newfound friends. And every character gets to be themselves. It reintroduces the audience in a natural way to everyones’ personalities, while also embracing what was always Delta’s best strength: its characters. Makina is sexy and signs gravure photos of herself. Reina is nerdy and plays video games with kids. Kaname is the oldest and reflects on her youth. Freyja introduces Hayate to her old friends. And Mikumo is getting to relax for the first time ever, discovering her distaste for sparkling water. Right on, that shit sucks. It’s heartwarming stuff and the production staff don’t forget to add little subtleties such as how Freyja forgets to exercise some of the Windermerian mannerisms she used to have. In fact, we learn a lot about Windermerian culture and traditions. It’s cute seeing Freyja’s enthusiasm to teach her friends and it’s way more worldbuilding in about 10 minutes than we ever got in 26 episodes. This is all to contrast the big worry that Freyja is already decaying. Hayate loves her, she loves him, and she’s confused as to how he can love someone that he isn’t going to spend his life with. It’s an empathic question that makes us relate to Freyja and what she’s going through. Hayate avoiding the problem can be comforting to her in some scenes, but extremely harmful in others. I always felt bad seeing Freyja struggle. I wanted her to live the rest of her life happily. But how can she when she’s on the frontlines of war all the time? Oh yeah, the war stuff. Another criticism that can be tossed (the previous) Delta’s way is that its idol music amidst a bunch of epic space battles became unintentionally funny. Not to say it didn’t make sense in the canon. These idols sang because sound is how Fold Waves are used. I get it. It still wasn’t done well. And I can say that with full confidence because it was done leagues better in this movie. Yes, it can be borderline goofy when there are two opposing sides singing idol music and the editing keeps cutting one song off for the other as if it were some battle of the bands. But Absolute Live’s commitment to its stakes sells it regardless. And there’s a couple grounded action scenes to speak of without the idols present as well. These are tense, surprisingly violent, and remind the audience of just how fragile humans are when Walküre isn't around. By the way, why is it that in every idol show, the villainous or rivalrous idols are always the ones with the way better music? Yami_Q_ray, that’s how it's written in the subtitles and in the credits, sings with EDM and rock as their primary genres and it's awesome. These girls aren’t in the movie very much, as they’re simply A.I. built in the vain of past A.I. idol Sharron Apple from Macross Plus, and made to mimic Walküre in order to thwart them. So as electronic beings, they use electronic music, and it’s extremely catchy. All of this is to say that the film culminates in a very daring final scene I wasn’t sure this movie even had the balls to do, let alone have it be the very last shot of the film before the credits just roll right there before your eyes. I was almost, keyword almost, in tears. And the post-credit scene is exactly what all post-credit scenes should be. Not a tease for the future, the movie did that quite enough, but a tribute full of callbacks and payoffs to all of those little characteristics that make Delta’s characters so unique in the first place. Still didn’t cry; but the post-credit scene only got me that much closer. What’s in store for Macross’s future? Who knows. Absolute Live ends on suggesting a new generation of characters are ahead in good old Macross fashion. More than likely to take on the unresolved threat of our new villains ready to carry out whatever their counterattack may be. But as a send off to Delta, this movie was far better than it deserved. I used to make an argument that Macross should have ended with Frontier, but Absolute Live restored my faith in what the new Macross saga could be.
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