Saint Seiya (Second Season)
How very disappointing. The tapes I got were labelled 'episodes 1-10' but aren't. They're actually from somewhere in the second season of the TV series. Still, considering that Saint Seiya was a massive success it's still interesting material.
Note that I have, in a way, already reviewed this material. I watched four movies the second of which seems to be a compressed version of the whole second season. Oddly enough in terms of story they seemed to match up fairly well. I imagine the main difference is that the fights are an awful lot shorter in the compressed movie version.
Being the second season you are expected to know the players, which can be a bit of a problem. The important thing is that the gods and powerful mythological forces still exist and have powerful influence on the modern world. A case in point being a young lady named Saori who turns out to be the modern re-incarnation of Athena (Greek goddess of wisdom and war). She has also gathered a small group of martial artists, all young and cute, who have pledged to protect her. To aid them in this goal they have divine armor, which incorporates a mythological power and enhances their own personal power (called cosmos) and enables them to kick butt.
And they'll need it, because there are no shortage of forces who want Athena out of the way. And these forces tend to have divine warriors of their own. In this case it seems an evil force has interfered with the followers of Odin (Chief god of the Norse Pantheon) twisting the mind of his earthly priestess Hilda. Not only has she abandoned her duties, which will lead to Earth being flooded when the polar ice-caps melt, but she has also resurrected the holy warriors of the North. Her aim being to kill Athena and all who would protect her, destroy her sanctuary, and then take over the world, stopping only for a bit of insane laughter along the way.
This is a magic warrior show in its truest, most pure, form. If you don't want to see long, super-powered fights between young proto bishounen then you're probably not going to enjoy this much. The fights are the heart of the show and they are long, with many individual encounters covering three episodes. There's also a lot of them, with virtually no episode not containing a heavy proportion of combat.
The story and character elements exist entirely to frame and support this element. As does the background to an extent, the frozen lands of the north providing all sorts of interesting environments in which to fight. Meanwhile the story is arranged in the form of a quest. Saori is draining her own power holding back the melting of the ice-caps, thus removing her from combat and providing a time limit to race against. Each enemy must be defeated in order to collect an `item' that can be combined to defeat Hilda and save Saori. It plays out an awful lot like a video game.
The characters add to the effect of the combat in various ways. To begin with both sides have a `heroic' outlook (or `idiotic' for those who don't subscribe to the heroic ideal). They will in general seek one on one combats, with no assistance of numbers, and will never back off or surrender even when completely outclassed, out maneuvered or even the wrong person to fight this battle. For example one character has entirely ice based attacks, yet when an enemy lures him into a lava cave to fight it never occurs to him to move the combat to a more neutral ground. Part of the reason for this is because everything is seen as a test of will and courage. Should our hero's believe in themselves, get in touch with their inner cosmos, then they shall win in the end....no matter how many episodes they spend getting pounded on.
As for the powers and combat, well, each character wears a `cloth' which represents a mythological force. It also generally interacts with the sort of person they are and the powers they use. For example Seiya wears the cloth of the Pegasus, symbolizing courage one would imagine, that lets him survive the massive damage he takes and utilise a couple of `named' attacks. The enemy has similar armor, special attacks that must be understood and beaten, and even a personality to explain why they wear that armor that generally comes out during the fight. This could be in conversation or as a flashback that only the audience gets to see. Some of the cloths are better than others though, the guy with `duck' armor and the diamond dust attack has to work hard to maintain his cool factor.
The animation itself has aged well, but is still clearly in an older style. The backgrounds tend to be dense and quite complex in how they are represented. The character designs, clearly meant to be cool and attractive, don't necessarily do this as well as they used to. There's a lot of use of battle auras, huge blasts of energy and special moves that have become such a standard element that they now look a little bit corny. It also means there's not so much actual martial arts, although when it does happen the blood flows freely. The armor itself looks fairly unexciting, although some of the weapons (Andromeda Chaaaain) are good and the more modern Norse warriors in this series do much better out of it. The character movement is not always smooth, and is often too static, but still quite enjoyable, especially for a TV series. Music, and voice acting, is competent but not particularly exciting.
There is a small, very small, review of the TV series at the Anime Review....but I suspect it's an older review in need of some expansion. Other than that none of the sites I source from have a review of this material.