When you look at Macross Delta, two things stand out right away: the magical girl-esque idols and the transforming fighter planes. But while those are both key facets of Macross Delta, on a much grander scale, it is a story about the effects of colonization–both positive and negative–on native peoples.
By the end of the original Macross TV series, Earth has become a barely habitable wasteland. Moreover, mankind’s first contact with alien life, the Zentradi, has led toward the near extinction of the human race. Because of this, the heroes of Macross set their sights on the stars. Only by leaving Earth and settling as many worlds as possible can humanity guarantee its continued survival.
From there on, colonization is a main theme in Macross. Both of the subsequent sequel TV series, Macross 7 and Macross Frontier, are set on colonization ships searching for new worlds to settle.
Over the course of those series, humanity does encounter intelligent aliens. In Macross 7, they are extradimensional invaders called the Protodeviln. In Macross Frontier they are the Vajra–an insectoid race with a hive mind. However, both of these races are space powers on par with humanity.
Macross Delta introduces several more humanoid species of alien–only these have yet to leave their homeworlds before their first contact with humanity. Moreover, like humanity and the Zentradi, these peoples were created by the first galactic civilization: the Protoculture.
A bit of Macross galactic history before we go further. When the Protoculture first headed out into the stars, they found themselves largely alone. With no one to unite against, the great civilization fell to civil war–with the Zentradi created as a proxy army. At the same time, the Protodeviln first invaded, mind-controlling many Zentradi and Protoculture and thus fanning the flames of war to even greater destruction. Eventually, the Zentradi too turned on their creators and the last of the Protoculture, knowing their time was at an end, began seeding worlds with intelligent life in the hopes of preserving their legacy.
In Macross Delta we learn that humanity is among the oldest of the Protoculture-created species. However, the area where Macross Delta takes place is not only full of habitable worlds, but was the final area seeded by the Protoculture before their extinction. And with no prior alien contact, these people naturally have a much lower level of technology than humanity.
So as the colony ships reached these worlds, they attempted peaceful contact and settled alongside the natives, massively transforming the indigenous cultures in the process. Most of the natives enjoyed the massive jump in technology this offered and more or less assimilated into human civilization with their worlds becoming a combination of human and local cultures.
On the other hand, the short-lived Windermerians came to feel they were being exploited by an older–and thus less perfect–race. They then felt that they had not only a right but a duty to fight back. And frankly, who’s to say they are wrong about being exploited?
Of course, the parallels between what happened in the Macross world and in our own human history are obvious and intended. Where Macross Delta breaks new ground in that while native peoples in our world really had no practical way to battle western colonists and their advanced technology, the Windermerians discover and use the equivalent of a nuclear weapon to force humanity off of their world.
This victory then turns into plans for a new empire with Macross Delta set during the time where the Windermerians use both biological weapons and rediscovered Protoculture technology to conquer and enslave the humans (and any other native species who side with them).
This rich background is one of the best aspects of Macross Delta. With all the aerial dogfighting and great music, it can be easy to miss the war of cultures in the background. And best of all, Macross Delta provides no easy answers. It shows both the good and bad to come from colonization and leaves it up to you to decide who is ultimately in the right.
Macross Delta airs in Japan on Tokyo MX, Mainichi Broadcasting, TV Aichi, TV Hokkaido, TVQ, BS-11, and the d Anime Store. It is not currently streaming outside of Japan.