Southern Cross Box Set - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 99.98
  • Running time: 575
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Southern Cross

Southern Cross Box Set

By Luis Cruz     December 14, 2003
Release Date: October 21, 2003


Southern Cross Box Set
© ADV Films


What They Say
The year is 2120, and the planet Gloire has been successfully colonized by descendents of Earth, who set about to establish new, self-sustaining outposts to keep the human race alive following a near fatal apocalyptic war on Earth. However, these colonists are unprepared for the return of the Zor, the original inhabitants of the planet, who left in the wake of a similarly devastating war that turned their world into a harsh, uninhabitable wasteland.

A brutal war ensues. The action focuses on an elite group of human colonists who battle the returning Zor in powerful transformable weapon systems. As casualties mount on both sides, and real negotiations seem out of the question, the endgame deteriorates into a no-win situation.

Southern Cross is a powerful, bittersweet series from the golden age of Japanese animation and many of the roots of the ROBOTECH storyline can be seen in the complex science fiction plot of Southern Cross.



The Review!
Having never seen this particular arc of the Robotech saga, I had few preconceived notions about this series. After watching all twenty-three episodes, I understand why my local television station did not bother to air it.

Audio:
The Japanese audio is listed on the packaging as "stereo". However, the audio track does not provide any noticeable directional effects. All of the action occurs from the center channel making this feel more like a mono track. Considering the age of this show, this is not overly surprising. The track does hold up well, as there were no distortions, drop-outs, or other problems. It was sharp and clean but did not provide much depth.

Video:
The video is a mixed bag throughout the series; there are some episodes that look great. For most of the series, you can readily see its age; grain, dust, scratches, and other defects can be seen in most episodes. However, the video looks much better than I expected and still provides a good viewing experience. Subtitles were legible without obscuring much of the action; there was one small subtitle glitch at the beginning of episode two. A previous subtitle was displayed for a fraction of a second in another scene.

There are two significant problems that do merit attention. First, the original Japanese opening and ending credits are not present in this collection. The opening and ending sequences have been replaced with English translations mastered directly onto the video print. Having watched the City Hunter collection prior to this title, having English translations directly on the video print was something that was expected. However, the City Hunter collection had the English credits in addition to the original Japanese credits; the English version was placed around the original Japanese credits and did not obscure them.

It is odd that ADV did not use this approach for the Southern Cross collection as well. While the entire credits appear to be present, my preference is still to have the original Japanese credits present as well. The second problem is one ADV appears to be working to fix. The endings for episodes sixteen and nineteen are improperly encoded; on my equipment, the video begins to experience severe jitter. It occurs for only a minute at the end of episode sixteen, but nearly the last five minutes of episode nineteen experiences this problem.

Packaging:
The set comes packaged in a five disc brick. On the front cover is a shot of two mechas; outside of the logo for the show and a brief sentence at the bottom, there is not much else on the front cover leaving the image relatively unspoiled. The back cover features the requisite synopsis, disc specifications, and images from the show. Inside the brick is a wonderful booklet that contains the liner notes for the show. It is made from a sturdy paper stock and is entirely in color.

Menu:
The menus are simple but look nice. The episode titles are listed to the right of some line art from the show. A segment from the opening song loops in the background. There is no "Play All" feature, but the episodes will play one after the other after selecting an episode.

Extras:
The liner notes provided with the set are extensive. They contain the usual items such as character information, plot background, and a glossary of terms. Where the notes really shine are in the mecha information. Provided in the notes is a hierarchical chart of the various mecha in the show; it gives you information about the mecha along with a small picture of it. It should be noted that they do spoil various plot points; one might want to hold off reading them until after watching about half of the series.

Disc four contains previews for other ADV titles. The remainder of the extras is contained on disc five. There are clean versions for the opening and ending sequences. Also included is a production portfolio, which is a slideshow of production sketches with a piece of music playing in the background.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After establishing a thriving colony on the planet Gloire, humanity finds itself cut off from its home planet of Liberte by an alien invasion fleet. Humanity's fate is in the hands of a squadron of misfits, as they must defend the planet from the mysterious Zor. This is the background for Southern Cross, the third entry in the Super Dimensional brand. What follows is another tedious and mediocre entry in the mecha genre.

The heroes of our story are the members of Squad 15; Squad 15 is known as a group of misfits whose commander is usually confined in the stockade. This is exactly where we find Jeanne, a young woman more concerned with her waistline than her duty as an officer. This begins to change as she finds herself the new commander of the squad after leading them to the only success in the first encounter with the Zor. Sadly, the writers chose to focus more gratuitous shower scenes rather than provide her with decent character development. Predictably, Jeanne learns to accept her responsibilities, falls tragically in love, but still retains her youthful charm through it all.

The lack of character depth is not confined to Jeanne; all of Squad 15 represent some familiar cliché. There is the gruff soldier concerned about his commander's lack of discipline, the playboy private, the obligatory electronics expert, the expendable ensigns, and the young man who is forced to be a solider rather than a musician by his father who just happens to be a general in the Southern Cross Army. Each character is set on autopilot and is given no real depth to endear the viewer to them or to have the viewer care about their plight.

The plot fares little better as it simply throws our cast from battle to battle. While their comrades-in-arms are continually annihilated by the Zor, Squad 15 always manages to get the job done. Eventually, they find their way onto the Zor ship and encounter the civilian population aboard. Like clockwork, Bowie, the musician, encounters a kindred soul in the Zorian girl Musica, and they fall in love with each other. We learn that the Zor were the original inhabitants of Gloire, are technologically superior, have purged emotions from their race, and are born as triplets. Also, the Zor are using captured humans as pilots for their Bioroid forces.

The major problem I have with the plot is with the behavior of the Zor. They have three or more heavily armed ships in orbit around Gloire. Outside of Squad 15, the forces of Gloire pose no threat and can do very little damage to the Zorian forces. When you combine this with the fact that the Zor hold logic to be the highest standard, one has to wonder why the Zor spend most of their time sitting idly in space. Logic would dictate that they should make a quick and nearly effortless strike against the human settlements and regain control of the planet.

It is this gaping plot hole that causes the series to stumble to its unsatisfying ending. In the end, the logical Zor defeat themselves as they sit in orbit wasting their energy and letting their people become more restless and influenced by the emotions of humanity. The writer's attempt at an explanation is that the Zor do not wish to harm the planet. However, given the other elements revealed during the series, this makes very little sense and provides little reason for the events to unfold as they do.

If the plot is not entertaining, can the viewer find comfort in the mechanical eye candy department? Sadly, viewers will find disappointment in this aspect as well. None of the designs stood out and seemed very simple; compared to the Macross designs which came before, the Southern Cross designs are almost a step back in quality.

There were some interesting concepts in the series, but the writers just did not capitalize on them. Southern Cross could have been a much better series than what it was. While not horrible, the characters and plot provided very little entertainment.

In Summary:
While not a horrible title, I would be hard pressed to call Southern Cross entertaining. The plot was laborious; the characters were uninteresting; and the mecha designs were uninspiring. It was interesting to watch this series from a historical perspective, but I could only recommend it to hardcore mecha fans or those who absolutely must see how the original compares to the Robotech rewrite.

Features
Japanese Language,English Subtitles,Booklet with interviews and information on the series; production sketches,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable


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