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Monday, May 9, 2011

Saint Seiya: Warriors of the Final Holy War: A Fine End to the 80s Movie Series

In my review of the third Saint Seiya movie, Legend of the Crimson Youth, I said that it felt almost like Toei had this movie planned as the last theatrical entry the series would get. It certainly had the length, scope, and feel of a final movie, after all. Toei, however, was able to get one last movie out before the TV series ended in 1989, and here we are: Saint Seiya: Saishu Seisen no Senshitachi/Warriors of the Final Holy War. This movie is certainly an odd mix of the previous entries: It has the length of the first two movies, some bit of the epic scope the third movie had, plus a little bit of the same feel that the first movie had. All in all it's at least worth checking out.

This movie debuted in theaters on March 18, 1989, the same day episode 112 of the TV series aired. Yeah, this movie came out right at the very end of the anime's life and Toei certainly decided to make the stakes in this movie pretty high. One day in Sanctuary mysterious beings take out the remaining Gold Saints that are in Sanctuary, all with one blow. When the beings arrive at the base of Athena's statue they welcome their master, Lucifer, the fallen angel of Christian mythology. Lucifer announces that the world will soon be his and he beheads Athena's statue, followed by creating destruction and mayhem around the world. The next day Athena sees the destruction of her statue and cries, followed by the Bronze Saints coming to her side. At this moment Lucifer appears and everyone sees why he's returned: Eris, Abel, and Poseidon, who the saints have defeated previously, have given their souls to Lucifer so that he can exact their revenge on Athena. In return, Lucifer will give the three each a portion of the world for them to rule over. Lucifer heads away to a pantheon of his own creation and tells Athena that if she walks the path to him on her own, which is filled with nothing but torture, then he might reconsider. And to make sure the Bronze Saints don't get in the way, Lucifer has his Fallen Angels: Seraph Beelzebub, Cherub Astaroth, Thrones Moa, and Virtues Eligor.

Certainly, this movie puts a lot on the line: The planet is pretty much on the edge of destruction and only the Bronze Saints can save everything. But at the same time this movie kind of starts off on the wrong foot by showing the Gold Saints getting defeated so easily; even Virgo Shaka, the "Man Closest to God", goes down in one hit, which is just completely unbelievable. Granted, it was nice to at least see the Golds in this movie, since the previous movies never showed them (Did they just think that all the previous enemies were below them?), but if this was all that was going to happen to them then I would have been fine with them just not appearing.

Anyway, this movie certainly has some interesting things about it. Like I said, the overall scope is about as large and potentially epic as the previous movie, and here the Fallen Angels are all shown to be extremely powerful... Well, except for Thrones Moa, who gets defeated pretty easily when all is said and done. The Bronzes all are taken to their limits in each of their fights, and the fights in general are all pretty enjoyable. And the amazing thing about this movie is that it's able to maintain this scope while being the same length as the first two movies; in fact, just like the first two movies it even uses an opening theme from the TV series, this time being "Saint Shinwa ~Soldier Dream~" by Hironobu Kageyama. Seeing that opening footage used with no real changes made makes you think that this movie will end up being more like the first two movies, yet it ends up being more like the third movie. I have to say that I was certainly surprised by that and it definitely made me happy. Finally, I also did like how this movie actually acknowledges a sort of movie continuity by bringing back Eris and Abel. Dolbar seems to get the shaft, though, but since the Asgard Chapter filler arc had fully aired by then one would guess that Toei just simply ignores that movie when it comes to continuity.

When it comes to flaws, though, this movie does still have it's share. First off, it kind of directly contradicts the main Saint Seiya story, as Poseidon never dies in the actual story. I don't know if the TV series changes this in any way, though, but at the same time the last episode didn't air when this movie debuted, so it might just be a case of creative liberty. Also, the movie relies on the Gold Sagittarius cloth at the end. I already mentioned how rarely Seiya actually uses that cloth in the actual story in my last review, so seeing it used across all four movies is kind of annoying. Finally, for all the time the movie builds up how powerful Lucifer is, he's taken out very much like how Eris was in the first movie. After seeing how the last two movies handled their respective final fights, seeing this movie take notes from the first movie when it came to the ending was a little disappointing; yeah, the fight with Dolbar was stretched out too much, but at least it did have an epic feel to it.

After directing the last two movies, it's important to note that Shigeyasu Yamauchi did not direct this one. Instead, Masayuki Akehi directed it. If you haven't heard of him don't be surprised, as his resume looks to be not much more than episode direction for a number of Toei anime, though according to ANN he apparently was an animation supervisor for the cartoon "The Real Ghostbusters". Still, Akehi seemed to do a great job, as this movie was able to maintain an epic feel, unlike the second movie's dropping of that ball (the first movie didn't even really bother for an epic feel). In terms of voice work, there really aren't any bad performances from the exclusive characters, and the normal cast deliver their usual excellence.

Saint Seiya: Warriors of the Final Holy War is certainly an odd mix of the previous three movies. Even though that sounds like nothing but a problematic movie, it manages to keep itself together, somewhat disappointing direct ending aside, and overall I have to put it at least on part with the first movie, if not better. There really wasn't much hope for it to surpass the third movie, but it did maintain a quality that let me certainly know that the second movie could have easily been as good as this one, at least. In the end, these four Saint Seiya movies are all worth watching, though you could skip out on the second movie due to the Asgard Chapter filler existing. After 1989 there wouldn't be anymore Saint Seiya anime made until 2002, when the Hades Sanctuary OVA came out, which used some pre-existing work that had been started back before the TV series was canceled. That OVA did so well that Toei decided to make another new Seiya production that would be released in 2004. It would be a theatrically-released movie that would be the start of something never seen before in Saint Seiya... What happens after the original manga ended!


  1. I vastly preferred the second movie to this one. Like you mentioned, Crimson Youth definitely felt like it was meant to be the last movie, and if you want to be cynical this movie could be described as a quick cash grab. The movie is very much by the numbers and hits all the key SS cliches systematically. Which is disappointing given the scope of the story being that every major villain comes back to enact their revenge.

    Granted I had just marathon the entire series, along with the other movies, prior to watching this one. So I could concede judging it too harshly for doing what the rest of the series is known for. Maybe due to Crimson Youth doing this same cliches, but executing them the best, is why this movie just felt like more of the same without much of a highlight.

  2. Shame the remaining Gold Saints got worfed in this story. To be honest also, considering what we see Eris and Abel do here, why couldn't we maybe see them do that in the other movies they were in (Eris poisoning people and animals in the first film and Abel destroying a city with a volcano in the third one)? Oh well.

    Also, which Fallen Angel was Thrones Moa again? That two headed cobra one?