Saint Seiya: Movies
Saint Seiya is, or was, very popular in asia. And its combination of modern world, greek mythology and pretty boys pounding the stuffing out of each other was pretty novel. But these people are going to have to live with it, because what i'm reviewing here are the four `movies', which, as far as I know, are the only Saint Seiya material in english.
Well, it's pretty obvious that lots of events go before the material we see here. To be more specific there's about 50 TV episodes of previous material, so we're starting after the main story is basically over. What is clear is that the greek god's have been re-born in the modern world. The lead of these stories being the re-incarnation of Athena, greek goddess of wisdom and war. She's gathered a group of mortal champions, the saints, to be by her side and protect her. These 4-5 youths all wear mystical armor and have access to `cosmo' powers in addition to a large serving of martial arts skill.
In these four movies athena and her saints are confronted by a powerful and evil force. The first movie featuring a golden apple filled with a powerful evil spirit. The second movie containing lots of references to norse mythology and a plot by Loki and the pope of the holy sanctuary. The third movie, by far the best, features the return of Apollo who's more than a little twisted. While the fourth and final has a king of hell returning to earth along with the spirits of all the villains from the first three.
Naturally enough each of these forces also has an attendant group of saints, with weird powers, costumes and personalities. The fact that, in about half the cases, these guys have just been resurrected from death giving a quite ghoulish feel to the whole thing. In any case it falls to Saint Seiya (Athena's foremost saint and seeming romantic interest) and the other saints to oppose these forces and foil their dastardly schemes.
Now you might wonder, given that these are actually 4 movies, why i've only got one review? The answer is simple, they're incredibly formulaic and downright tedious. If you've seen any shounen anime `magic warrior' stuff before you'll feel right at home with this material. Although for fun i'll describe how the plots develop.
Here goes. An evil force awakens in the world and makes, or reclaims, it's own evil temple. Athena (goddess of wisdom remember?) doesn't notice and is entrapped and rendered helpless by the evil power. In one case she resists (movie 3) with absolutely no effect. This goddess of war is a real wimp. The saints come to the rescue, but only after athena has been captured, and demonstrate their lack of brains by splitting up rather than acting as a team. They then meet the evil saints, get the crap absolutely pounded out of them, but eventually manage to overcome the saints. One saint, the youngest, works a bit differently. He simply get's beaten up until his brother (another saint) comes to rescue him. Finally Seiya, who's already trashed, get's beaten again by the villain. Until, with the emotional support of the team, he calls up his golden armor of power-up and saves the day. At this point the surroundings collapse/explode.
It's a little bit more complex than that, but not enough that you can't see this is formula stuff. Athena is a complete wuss, Seiya is simple minded and the rest of the saints do their best to exhibit a personality while being pounded into cliffs. The bad guys are evil and awesomely powerful until the end of the story at which time they suddenly become vulnerable and drop like flies. It's really just an excuse for some over the top action with some of the most outrageous special attacks and weapons yet seen in a fighting anime. And the mythological element ends up being nothing more than a stylistic element and a source of bad guys to beat up. It's really poor and without much in the way of character. Perhaps if you've seen, and loved, the original material this is great fun. However, as a stand-alone experience, it's largely meaningless.
Now to be honest I can see how it *could* work. Some of the symbols and scenes that refer to greek mythology are fantastic. Watching athena's soul walk through the land of the dead (she's the victim again), strapped to the front of Lord Odin's boat (and again) or tormented by the vampiric vines of a lord of hell (and again) has a certain majesty. There's a real power to a lot of world mythology, with greek and norse being prime examples of rich pantheons simply loaded with character and story. However the fact that some of this shines through does not make up for the fact that these elements are simply background for simplistic stories and corny fight scenes. I'd love to see the original material, but this stuff is not an acceptable substitute.
The animation itself is quite dated looking in style and appearance, especially in character art. There's some complex scenes which remind you they have a budget, but by and large it's nothing special. The fights are alright, but overly dominated by huge `power' attacks which are sort of boring, especially because each saint seems to only have a couple of attacks they use repeatedly. There is some originality in the characters, powers and fighting styles however, so if all you wanted was a fighting anime you might still enjoy this. The character and dialogue seems limited, although this being an asian region DVD doesn't help. It is funny watching them stuff up translating the english names for mythological figures, the translator seems to have given up and guessed phonetically...and in most cases missed by a wide margin. The voices are generally average, probably due to the limited dialogue. The music is a real grab bag, some choral stuff for `divine miracles', rock music to fight to and instrumental stuff for musician gods (such as apollo). None of it is particularly memorable though.
None of my sources has a review (yet) for this title.