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Monday, May 2, 2011

Saint Seiya: The Heated Battle of the Gods: It's Asgard But It Also Isn't...

The second Saint Seiya movie, subtitled Kamigami no Atsuki Tatakai/The Heated Battle of the Gods, is an interesting creation. It has the feeling that it's epic, it has a cool story behind it, and it's the first time Shigeyasu Yamauchi was in complete charge of a Saint Seiya anime production (he had done episode direction on some episodes of the TV series previously). But, after watching it, you can tell that it easily could have been better.


This movie debuted in Japanese theaters on March 12, 1988, and was the first of two Saint Seiya movies to be shown that year. Much like the first movie it was only roughly 46 minutes long, but unlike the first movie it wastes no time in getting started. Right off the bat we see Hyoga in his homeland of Siberia saving a man from some unknown warriors. Unfortunately, it's too late for the man but before dying he warns Hyoga of an upcoming battle between the gods and that Asgard, the Norse equivalent of Sanctuary, is in trouble. Hyoga tells Saori of this and she has his act as a vassal to Asgard, but when he seemingly disappears Saori, along with Seiya, Shiryu, and Shun, head over to Asgard to find him. 

There they meet Dolbar, the human reincarnation of Odin, who tells them that his men will look for Hyoga. He also has Freyr and his sister Freyja take them to their room for the night, where on the way the Saints run into Uru, Rungu, Midgard (who emanates a familiar cosmo), and Loki, who are Odin's 'God Warriors'. Soon, Freyr realises that Dolbar wants to kill Athena and rule over Sanctuary himself, and gets locked up. Naturally this results in Saori getting kidnapped and Seiya and the others have to rescue her, as well as stop Dolbar's evil plot.


And, honestly, that story is pretty cool. It's a good bit more complex than the first movie's plot, and there's a lot of potential for it to deliver. Unfortunately, there are problems, with the biggest one being that the movie isn't exactly well-paced. The first-half is pretty slow, dealing solely with story and introductions, which is nice but it partially leads to the other big problem: The fights aren't balanced out well. What I mean by that is the fights against Uru, Rungu, and Loki are pretty short, with Loki's fight being the biggest issue. In the early part of the movie Loki is shown off as being a big fight to look forward to, as it's obvious that he'll be facing Seiya, but when the fight finally happens it's over in about a minute or two. Shiryu's fight with Midgard is actually well-paced, which is great, but the final fight with Dolbar is horribly stretched out. It's understandable that the fight is the longest of them all, since he is Odin, but rather than it feeling like an epic final fight it instead just feels like it's getting padded out and could have been shortened in some places. I will credit where credit is due, though, as the end of the fight is surprisingly gruesome (not in a gory way, exactly, but rather in what you see happen).

All that said, though, there is a lot to like about the movie. Unlike the first movie, which not only felt like an extended TV episode but also looked it, this movie does actually look a lot more like a movie version of Saint Seiya. The fights are well-animated, and there does seem to be some new music made just for this movie. Also, Yamauchi's directorial style is in full-force here, making it look different from the TV series in general. At the same time, though, Yamauchi's style might be a little too forced in this movie. You see, one of his seemingly favorite things to do is stretch out the shape of characters faces during especially forceful moves and moments, and this movie is absolutely full of them... Almost to the point of making you say "OK, Yamauchi, we get it!  It's powerful!". And, like I said in the beginning, this movie does have that epic feel to it, so much so that you get the feeling that if the movie was twice as long it could have completely delivered.


But all was not lost with this movie, as it apparently did very well in theaters. So well, in fact, that a little over a month later, after finishing up the Sanctuary Chapter in the TV series, Toei introduced the Asgard Chapter to fans of Saint Seiya TV, a 24-episode filler story that told a variation of the story told here. Now while I found this movie to be unable to fully deliver on its potential, the Asgard Chapter of the TV series is generally considered by anime fans to be one of the absolute best fillers ever created and is looked at as a textbook example of how to properly do filler. I personally only saw a few episodes of that arc, since the only English subs of the TV series beyond episode 60 come from horrible bootleg DVDs and is a textbook example of how not to translate Japanese into English, but I definitely did enjoy what I saw and could actually understand properly.


Saint Seiya: The Heated Battle of the Gods is still an enjoyable, though flawed, movie entry in the Saint Seiya anime series. I still definitely say that it is worth watching, but at the same time I do have to warn that it doesn't fully deliver on what it could have been. I personally still prefer the first movie over this one as well, simply because the first movie did what it was it meant to do. Had the second movie been able to do the same, then it would have been truly epic. The good news, though, is that the third movie looks like it might be able to deliver. It's almost twice as long as the first two movies and it looks to be a prototype of sorts to what the fifth movie, Tenkai-hen, ended up being. Here's hoping for the best...

2 comments:

  1. Yeah, I enjoyed that movie as well, and actually received as a gift, in VHS - it was 1995. And you are also correct in that SainT seiya Asgard Act for TV is good, indeed is good. Being that SS was heavily broadcasted for spanish speaking countries, france and Brazil, I got to see the Asgard act a couple of times, and it is (it was) very enjoyable - don´t know if above Poseidon (TV), but at the same level at minimum. The best part is the classic saga from the sanctuary though.

    Cheers man, your posts of SS are awesome.

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  2. I'd say the Shiryu/Hyoga fight alone makes this movie well worth watching, but it's annoying how they once again made Shun a wimp who needs to be saved by his big brother. Considering there were two God Warriors for him and Ikki to fight, couldn't they just have him beat one of them?

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