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When you think of Macross, you probably think of its three core aspects: transforming fighter planes, excellent music, and a love triangle. What you likely don’t think of are magical girls, which is one reason the newest anime in the franchise, Macross Delta, stands out so much.

Members of the female pop idol band Walküre certainly look the part with their cute outfits, transformation sequences, and sparkly “magical” effects. They also have the power to fly about, create hundreds of false images of themselves, and take on far more physical damage than a normal human. However, what sets them apart from most magical girls is that they aren’t really magical at all: All their “magic powers” and abilities (save one) come from technology–technology we’ve been introduced to before in past Macross anime.

Take their near invulnerability, for example. This is likely thanks to a miniaturization of the pinpoint barrier system from the original series. In that show, covering a full ship in a barrier takes an enormous amount of energy, so making tiny movable barriers to cover only the points of expected damage works nearly as well for a fraction of the power cost. Decades later in the time of Delta, it now seems possible to create a temporary barrier around a human, one that makes the girls glow whenever it’s activated.

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Then there’s flight, though the girls aren’t really flying so much as jumping using boost jets attached to their waists. A prototype version of this equipment is seen in Macross Frontier where singer Sheryl Nome wears it in case of emergencies–e.g., falling from a great height (as she has a bad habit of doing). In the film Macross Frontier: The Wings of Goodbye, pilot Alto uses one such rocket skirt in a daring prison break.

Of course, that’s not the only technology to carry over from Macross Frontier. The magical girl costume transformation technology comes from that series as well. The trick is that the Walküre girls aren’t actually transforming or changing clothes. They’re actually wearing special bodysuits. The clothes we see–both pre- and post-transformation–are holograms. The suits in their actual form were shown a few times in Frontier, so it’s safe to assume the same tech is at work in Delta.

In Frontier, holograms are used extensively, from billboards to cell phone screens. By the time Delta takes place eight years later, hologram projectors (which can then form the interface of anything, even a computer) can be the size of a fingernail–and are actual press-on fingernails in the case of Walküre.

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When it comes down to it, the only real special ability the girls of Walküre have is the power to connect to people through the power of song and cure the mind-altering VAR virus. Everything else is just technology.

But what’s great is that it’s not just technology pulled out of the air for the sake of the story. It’s all old technology we’ve seen in various forms before. This is just the first time that these various technologies have been used together. And that makes even the idea of magical girls feel at home in the Macross universe.

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.

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