For my 500th post on this blog, we go back to my June series poll once again, to review one of the joint runner ups: Choujikuu Kidan Southern Cross~
As mentioned in my summary back in said poll post, long-time anime fans and / or American 80s kids may know this series better as the middle part (episodes 37 – 60) of the first Robotech TV series. I’ve not watched Harmony Gold’s creation myself so shall not pass any judgement, but unsurprisingly they had to change quite a lot in order to make it coherently follow on from the events of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, and then lead into the completely unrelated Genesis Climber Mospeada! Seems like they shifted the setting to Earth, and had the bad guys invading in search of Macross’ ‘protoculture’. Any changes or inconsistencies in technology between the series are apparently explained away by saying that each ‘saga’ happened a generation after the other. But enough about Robotech. What was the series originally supposed to be about?Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross is the third series in the ‘Choujikuu’ or ‘Super Dimensional’ trilogy, the first being the aforementioned Macross, and the second being Super Dimension Century Orguss (which Harmony Gold couldn’t get the rights to, hence why they went for Mospeada instead). Unlike in Robotech, the three are not linked in any way aside from the similar names, which was just for advertising reasons since all three shared a sponsor.
Southern Cross is set about a century in the future, predominantly on the planet Gloire, one of many colonized by humans after we rendered Earth uninhabitable. One day, another advanced alien race known as the Zor arrive on Gloire. They were the planet’s original inhabitants, and now they want their home back… war ensues, and like all good sci-fi series is fought using mechs and beam weapons. 😀The heroes of the series are the Southern Cross army’s 15th Squad, lead by Jeanne Francaix. She constantly shirks her duties, disobeys orders, and spends most of her time in the military police’s solitary confinement, but is a skilled enough soldier and leader to get away with it. Other squad members consist of Charles, a notorious womanizer who was briefly Jeanne’s superior officer, until he slept with a Major-General’s partner and got demoted back to a private; sergeant Andrzej, now 2nd in command and the most dutiful, rule-abiding guy of the bunch, if a bit boorish and inflexible; Bowie, the son of a high ranking officer who was forced into the army, despite being a pacifist and dreaming of a career in music; and Louis Ducasse, a genius when it comes to technology and mechanics.
As you may guess from the brief character descriptions above, this anime is not entirely serious, at least at first. Episode 3 sees Jeanne volunteer for a vital Space Corps mission (despite her being part of the ground-based military), just because she hasn’t been in space for a while, and figures she’ll be able to get some reading done on the journey. In episode 4, she throws a tantrum until Bowie asks his father to give their squad permission to bring down a Zor spaceship, purely so that she can use the bonus money to buy a dress that she and her friends/rivals each had their eye on. However, as the series progresses, the war against the Zor intensifies and the death toll rises, she does mature to a great extent, while still maintaining the rebellious and risk-taking attitude that brings her victory after victory.But what exactly are the Zor? After all, at the start of the series nobody has seen them outside of their mechs or spacesuits! It came as no surprise to me when as early as episode 4 they were revealed to look identical to humans, but thankfully that was only part of an answer that turned out to be far more original and less boring. From that first visual confirmation of a Zor soldier without his helmet, to the first glimpse of their society while infiltrating one of their ships, to the first capture and study of one of their fighters, this mystery is revealed little by little over the course of the series. They turned out to be my favourite part of the anime, but as much as I’d like to write about them, the most interesting parts came so late in the series that they’d definitely count as spoilers, so just trust me when I say they’re pretty awesome as far as anime aliens go!
So, fun main characters vs surprisingly interesting enemies, 80s sci-fi mech and space battles – what’s not to like? Well, the characters could be better developed, for starters. Too much focus on the story and the war leaves all apart from Jeanne, Bowie and maybe a couple of others feeling pretty shallow, despite there being a lot of attempts at romance between other members of the cast. It felt like the writers didn’t really know what they wanted to do with the series at times. But by far the worst crime was that ending… which again I can’t really talk about for fear of spoilers, so I’ll just say four words: too abrupt, answered nothing.It wasn’t the most well-animated series I’ve seen either, recycling a fair bit of animation, having guns show up where there were no guns a few frames earlier, stuff like that. The mech combat wasn’t really that exciting to watch a lot of the time, I guess I’m used to shows having more movement and more impressive explosions. The character designs were very nice, however!
I’ve seen a few reviews criticizing the voice acting, particularly for main character Jeanne (though it wasn’t always clear whether they were talking about the original Japanese, or Robotech); personally I thought the voices were all brilliant. The background music was very decent, though again limited and recycled a lot. Opening and ending themes were great, with the OP being my favourite of the two.
While hardly a must-see, and not quite as visually impressive as a lot of other 80s mech shows, and in spite of the ending, on the whole I think I would still recommend Choujikuu Kidan Southern Cross. If only for the Zor!
Anime-Planet average rating: 3.1/5
My personal rating: 3/5