Almost 30 years old, its themes are still unique in the giant robot/space opera genre. That of tolerance and understanding.
Which it does through, god help us all, J-Pop.
In the 25th anniversary series, Macross Frontier, they introduced a very interesting adversary, especially within the themes of the show: The Vajra.
They are one of the more original alien species I’ve seen, and remind us all how truly alien such beings can be.
There’s a lot to say about the Vajra’s biology, simply because it’s unlike much anything else in fiction.
Sure, there are a few being similar, but none quite get to Vajra strangeness. They look like giant insects and are capable of traveling faster-than-light by creating “hyperspace folds” and appear to develop various weapons on their body as they grow from massive energy canons to organic missiles. I can already think of monsters that have shown up on Power Rangers that have more mundane powers.
These bizarre abilities are not where the most interesting aspects of their biology reside. The most interesting aspect of their biology is in their minds. The Vajra are a “hive mind” this is a concept sci-fi authors drew from the behaviors of communal insects appearing to act like one organism in their efficiency. In truth, earthly insects do not do that, but the Vajra are not earthly.
They have a single intelligence spread across every member of the species through, of all things, bacteria that live in the animal’s bellies. That is their collective ‘brain’. It appears to be a symbiotic relationship as the bacteria gives the bugs intelligence and the bugs let the bacteria thrive and explore the cosmos. These creatures maintain long range contact with each other through the network of hyper-space-folds—literally bending space-time to facilitate faster than light travel and communication. Because of this, they have a hard time understanding an individual as an independent being rather than part of the whole. Which made killing humans to them appear to be little more than a punch rather than slaughter. They are referred to as “Galactic Organisms” in that there is pretty much one colony per galaxy.
To breed, these beings sing songs (actually, a specific song known as “Aimo”).
Amongst the colony, it is hard to tell much about the species. Some of the larger types of Vajra appear to be purposefully bred. These include large carrier-types and unfertilized queens.
Others, however, go through a distinct life cycle as they age. They apparently lay as eggs, not by the queen, but by the full ‘adult’ forms of this type. This may indicate that the queen either only produces (or primarily only produces) the carrier and queen/drone types, with the soldiers out in space laying their own eggs to further the cause of the hive mind. It may also indicate that the queen acts more as a primary relay/network hub for the intelligence.
Regardless, they begin as eggs, hatching into a larval stage which is mostly a cute green worm about the size and demeanor of a ferret. This stage molts into the larger ‘saucer’ stage, at which it begins to grow claws, gains flight capability and organic weapons (guns on the top of its head). This molts further into a yellow worm like stage, where the organic missiles really start to appear, before taking the red beetle-like form with a large plasma canon on its back. How these things function is about as well explained as Godzilla fire breath, but that’s not the point of them. They are there to make them a viable adversary for jets that transform into robots—which got them a major plot point in the Japanese video game series “Super Robot Wars”.
The Vajra are both the ultimate alien monster, and the ultimate sign of hope.
They could not be farther removed from humans in every biological respect and many philosophical ones as well. They are almost unlike anything else in fiction. And yet, they still understand ‘love’ and with that, communication can occur even with such disparate species.
Before this, to make the message even more pertinent, they are presented as a near unstoppable force.
They appear to come out of nowhere and attack without mercy or reason. They do have motivations and designs, but their inability to recognize individuals as separate, well, individuals is an extreme impasse to any form of communication. As such, they don’t see slaughtering thousands as anything more than, say; a person would at losing a thousand cells of their body. Sure, it might hurt a bit, but it’s not actually killing anyone in their ‘mind’.
Despite this, they are sentient beings who understand love, friendship, truth and all that stuff.
They were not simply mindless monsters to be mowed down in the thousands. This is emphasized when masses of them are slain; a woman’s scream can be heard over their network. The second time this happens is after the Vajra begins siding with the heroes against humans who wish to basically turn all of humanity into a Vajra hive mind with them as the queen. A mass of their soldiers protect a civilian colony of humans from being annihilated by the villain-controlled sect of Vajra. This time the scream is to show their unity with humanity and their final understanding of humans. They are still extremely alien creatures, almost as alien as any horror created by H.P. Lovecraft. Unlike those beasts, they are capable of understanding feelings and emotions.
All done through the power of music.