The inner strength of Mirage Farina Jenius
August 28, 2016 4 Comments
As many people would know, Macross Delta is the show that I’ve been following most fervently these past two seasons. The vibe on the show has been somewhat mixed, though relatively positive until the show took a quiet and information-heavy turn over the last few weeks.1 Relatively positive, that is, except with regards to Mirage. Many of the fans who declared for her in the early episodes have become increasingly disillusioned with her character and story arc. Unlike Sheryl from Frontier and Misa from SDFM, the word is that she does not have the qualities that a main character deserves. In a word, she just isn’t anything “special.”
It took me quite a while, but I can now confidently say that I completely disagree with that reading of Mirage. Disclaimer: I’m a Freyja fan, and even now, she’s still my favourite character. Hence, even though I was also amongst the crowd wondering out loud if Mirage was ever going to step up and do something interesting, it never really bothered me that she hadn’t. That is, until the last month or so, when disappointed fans really started ranting about her online, particularly after episode 20 seemingly cemented her place as the ‘support role’ in the triangle. But I found something more in that episode’s key scene, in which Mirage declared that she would protect Hayate and Freyja. I saw a rather unusual character arc for her, one that is grounded completely in the notion that she isn’t special. In fact, that is precisely what makes Mirage so inspirational.
Let’s take a look at the gist of the response to Mirage’s big declaration. “Her skills haven’t improved…they even seem to have regressed!” “I’d have liked to have seen her actually do something before talking so big…” “She’s got no role except in the love triangle, and even there, she’s backed down and resolved to be the wing man!” “Just what is does she want? She’s got no substance whatsoever.” Mirage had already been getting a lot of flak for her passivity; now, she appears to be one of the least popular female characters ever in the Macross franchise.
For me, however, it was episode 20 that opened my eyes to what Kawamori and co. seem to be doing with her character. Indeed, the complaints above point to the threads of Mirage’s character story. That the focus of most viewers has been on triangular relationship with Hayate and Freyja is understandable—if regrettable—but the show has also given her an arc concerning her insecurities about who she is and what she wants to be. The challenge is that Mirage and her arc are, from what I can tell, incredibly rare in the anime and manga world, whose protagonists tend to have some kind of skill or trait that makes them a special existence in the world they inhabit.
Take Naruto, who was the dunce of his Genin class: he turned out to house the greatest chakra of his world within him…amongst numerous other things. And then there’s Deku of My Hero Academia, who gains a Quirk despite (apparently) having been born without one. Macross is no exception. I ran my mind over all the protagonists in the franchise, male and female, and each and every one of them stands out in some way, whether in terms of piloting, music, leadership, or even a combination of skills. Right from the start, they have something ‘special’—if they aren’t already making use of it when we meet them, then their character arc is essentially about them polishing their natural talent.
On the other hand, Delta has gone out of its way to show that Mirage really is not special in any way. Despite being the granddaughter of two of the most skilled pilots in Macross history, she’s decidedly average, someone who works really hard, only to be criticised for ‘flying by the book’. She has yet to stand toe-to-toe with any of the Aerial Knights on her own. After being named second-in-command of Delta Flight, she’s devised team strategies, but they haven’t really worked. And with regards to the love triangle, it’s obvious that Hayate’s largely been captivated by Freyja. If you’re being generous, you might say that Mirage has saved both of them, at least; she also managed to help Hayate get over killing for the first time. But both of these place her squarely in a support role.
Why, then, did I find Mirage so compelling in episode 20? Well, it’s got to do with her declaration and what it means for her character. After scolding Hayate and Freyja for trying to go against who they are, she declares loudly: “Very well. Then I’ll protect both of you.” As I noted above, some viewers raised their eyebrows at this because Mirage really has not shown that she will be able to do this. But that is precisely the point: Mirage knows that she really doesn’t have the skills to protect them both. All she has is her drive, the determination to achieve what she sets out to do. And she’s emphasising that she will accomplish this: the Japanese line includes the sense of “I’ll show you that I can protect you.”
This is all part of the broader character arc of Mirage finding her place in the world. She’s becoming a team leader, a commander who takes her task of looking after her subordinates seriously, and both leads them and also backs them up. And in her case, the declaration is important because it’s about committing to something that she does not know she can do. But consider this: doesn’t making such a declaration make you all the more determined to carry out what you have said you will do? Because you simply cannot contemplate failing? If you don’t put it out there, then you can, after failing, think that “it couldn’t be helped.” But once you put your dream or goal into words, you’ll want to live up to what you’ve said. In other words, the declaration shows your determination to succeed.
To sum it up: it’s not strength. Nor ability. It’s determination. Mirage knows she’s not naturally talented, but because she knows, she gives it her all no matter how many times she gets knocked back, or knocked down. Most importantly, whilst she continues to have doubts over what she can do, she commits herself to achieving what she’s set out to do, or die trying. And for Mirage Farina Jenius, to “die trying” is not an option.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m loving Mirage.2
- I’m also a bit tired of the recent run of episodes, I have to admit. I’m not sure if it’s the negativity in the fandom getting to me, or if it’s the fact that we’ve had three ‘slow’ episodes in a row… But I’ll wait until the end before I come back to what I would have changed—if anything—about the writing and execution of these episodes.↩
- Though, of course, this is pretty cute, too. ↩