This movie is a lot. It throws a bunch of different plot elements at the viewer in the hopes that at least a couple of them will stick, and to its credit, this approach does actually work. With its high stakes and deliberate callbacks to Macross history, Zettai LIVE!!!!!! feels like a fitting climax to the Macross Delta saga. One of the more common criticisms of the TV series is that it had an underwhelming end, but between the revamped story in the Passionate Walkūre recap film and the continuation in Zettai LIVE!!!!!!, that’s definitely not true anymore.
For all its name-dropping and pointed references, the core plot of Zettai LIVE!!!!!! isn’t necessarily difficult to follow: A new enemy bent on taking over the galaxy shows up, and he’s able to counter the energy-enhancing songs of the Walküre by pitting them against their “Yami_Q_ray” (a wordplay that roughly means “Dark Walküre”) counterparts. The simplicity was a relief to me because my only exposure to Macross Delta has been through the recap film. This is really more of a story about Freyja and her boyfriend pilot Hayate, who managed to stand out as lovable characters even in the compressed timeframe of a recap film. In other words, even to someone with only a superficial engagement with Delta, Zettai LIVE!!!!!! is easy to get invested in.
Zettai LIVE!!!!!! perfectly understands that when it’s time to go big, you ought to go ham. I’m familiar enough with the Macross franchise to be aware that the specifics of the lore and plot are far less important to the appeal than the lavish space dogfights backed with irresistible pop music, and this film is structured around delivering on those big moments. I especially enjoyed the role that the Yami_Q_ray played, because they create a unique spin on the Macross setpiece formula. The different sides take turns singing to each other, which not only effectively signals who has the momentum in the space dogfights, but is also a great opportunity to represent clashing forms of musical expression in a single scene. It felt like watching a bunch of Eurovision clips back-to-back, and I loved that.
Admittedly, the villains aren’t exactly fleshed out as characters, despite the film’s attempts to contextualize them by calling back to Macross history: “This character fought in this war and used the tech in that series to execute his plan.” To a certain extent, that does come across like a shallow attempt to make up for a lack of buildup or foreshadowing within the main Macross Delta series. But at the same time, it’s not the identities of the villains that matter as much as the feeling of a series coming full circle. Having watched the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross years ago, I was able to catch some references and appreciate their significance, but hardcore fans will probably get a lot out of the callbacks because they do go deeper than simply name-dropping things in passing.
Also, when it comes to the main themes and the emotional conflict of this film, the foreshadowing in Delta was absolutely there. This film is built on a strong foundation established early on in that series, and it ties a neat bow to Freyja’s character arc. The intimate focus on her struggles is what grounds a plot that might otherwise have come across as a frivolous after-story. Whether you’re an old-school Macross fan or just a fan of Delta, this film firmly justifies its reason for existing within its opening minutes, and it keeps that momentum throughout the entire duration. It was definitely a lot more than what I expected from a belated sequel film.
As an aside, the cinema release of this film in Japan came with an extra short film that serves as an epilogue to the Macross Frontier: Sayonara no Tsubasa film. When Zettai LIVE!!!!!! gets its international release (and yes, Big West has confirmed that this film will go abroad), I hope that the short film gets bundled with it. This isn’t a review of that short, so I won’t go into any details about it, but I will say it was an absolute treat to hear Megumi Nakajima singing again, this time in a confident lead role. Between this and the main feature film, this entire experience was fanservice, but when it’s this on-point, I find no reason to complain.