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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Arion: It's Not That Hard to Kill a God...

Seeing as this month's reviews have been all Saint Seiya movies, I have decided to end this month off by keeping with the same mythology and reviewing another movie... I hereby posthumously declare this "Greek Movie Month"! Anyway, one of my favorite YouTube video posters is Johnny Millenium, a.k.a. the Happy Console Gamer. Though he is all about video gaming he's also a big anime fan and in his, as of this review, most recent video he showed off his recent pickups and one of them was an anime art book for an "anime that no one remembers at all" called Arion. He talked about how much he loved this movie, and the artwork looked really great. His enthusiasm about the movie made me want to watch it, and after some searching I was able to find it with English subtitles (unofficially, of course). So is this obscure movie as great as Johnny says it is?  Let's see...

Arion was originally a manga that ran in Monthly Comic Ryu magazine from 1979-1984 and was the creation of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. If that name sounds familiar, it should... Or at least his art style should, as he was character designer of multiple shows within the Mobile Suit Gundam UC universe, not to mention being the character designer of Zambot 3, Brave Raideen, the Crusher Joe anime, and Choudenji Robo Com-Battler V, among others. The man is right now still working on Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, a manga re-telling of the original One Year War. But Arion is nothing like the man's most well known works, as there aren't any giant robots nor any sci-fi elements; Arion is hardcore Greek fantasy. In 1986 Sunrise decided to turn Arion into a theatrical movie, more than likely due to Gundam making Yasuhiko a recognized name.

Arion is a little boy, the child of Poseidon, God of the Seas, and Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest. Poseidon left his family early in Arion's life so that he could start his war against Zeus over control of the land. Zeus has also cursed Demeter with blindness as punishment for Arion's birth. One day, Hades, God of the Underworld, visits Dememter and tries to convince her to help him fight his brothers. She refuses, saying that she's contempt with her life with Arion, but Hades tricks Arion to come with him, promising a cure for Demeter's blindness that doesn't actually exist. Before he knows it, Arion has been kidnapped and is brought to the underworld, where he is forced to become a strong warrior and is told the truth: If he wants his mother to see again then he has to kill Zeus. Years later, Arion is sent out to go after Zeus and it is here that Arion's epic adventure begins, one which will reveal the secrets behind Arion's very being and determine the fate of the Titans themselves.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saint Seiya: Tenkai-hen Jousou ~overture~: Prologue to Nothing

Well, we've come to the end of the Saint Seiya movies, and for a blog that focuses on obscure and forgotten anime & manga, this movie hits pretty close to being too well-known for me to actually want to talk about. But since I reviewed the quadrilogy (or "tetralogy", if you want to be grammatically correct) of Saint Seiya movies from the late-80s, I might as well review this movie as well, especially since it has become downright ignored ever since Masami Kurumada started doing real work on Saint Seiya: Next Dimension, the official sequel/prequel to Saint Seiya.

When Saint Seiya debuted in Weekly Shonen Jump it became a giant hit, and an anime TV series quickly came afterwards; some could argue a little too soon, though, due to the large amount of filler in the first 30-40 episodes. Anyway, both the manga and anime enjoyed great popularity, but for some reason (possibly viewership getting smaller) the anime ended in April of 1989, resulting in the Poseidon Chapter adaptation being truncated slightly. The manga was also canceled in late 1990, resulting in Kurumada being unable to truly finish his story. The funny thing is that Shueisha supposedly told Kurumada that Saint Seiya was being canceled so that he could create a new manga that would be similar to Seiya and therefore be another big hit; the result, Silent Knight Sho, ended after 2 volumes.

In 2002 Toei, the animation studio behind the Saint Seiya TV series and movies, decided to dust off the pre-production work they started for the anime adaptation of the Hades Chapter of Saint Seiya. The result was the 13-episode OVA Saint Seiya Hades Sanctuary, which debuted in November and told the first portion of the story arc. The OVA was a big hit and Toei decided to do more with Saint Seiya by bringing Kurumada himself in to help out. The plan was to actually continue the story where the manga left off at in 1990, and the best way to start it was by bringing Seiya back to the theaters with a movie that would act as a prologue to a brand-new TV series, Saint Seiya: Tenkai-hen/Heaven Chapter.

*NOTE: If you haven't read or seen the end of Saint Seiya then I must warn you that there are spoilers regarding the ending in this review.  Continuing from here on out is at your own risk*

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.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Saint Seiya: Legend of the Crimson Youth: Now THIS is a Saint Seiya Movie!

Like I said in the previous review, in 1988 there were two theatrically-released Saint Seiya movies, and while The Heated Battle of the Gods was an enjoyable movie, there was still some things holding it back. Thankfully, the third Saint Seiya movie, subtitled Shinku no Shounen Desetsu/Legend of the Crimson Youth, completely makes up for the previous movie's flaws and is easily the best of the Seiya movies so far. The story was the best, the new characters were interesting, and it definitely feels more like an actual Saint Seiya movie and not just a filler story.

This movie debuted in theaters in July of 1988, while the TV series was in the middle of the Asgard Chapter filler arc. Again, much like the previous two movies, it's canonicity can be argued but this one most definitely takes place between the Sanctuary and Poseidon Chapters of the actual story, and just like the second movie this one takes no time to get started. Saori Kido/Athena is visited by a man called Phoebus Abel, God of the Corona, who in the age of myths was one of Zeus' sons, making him Athena's older brother. Abel has decided that humankind has not been able to improve and must be destroyed, but asks Athena to come with him so that she won't suffer. She agrees and tells the Bronze Saints that they don't need to protect her anymore; instead, she'll be protected by Abel's Corona Saints: Carina Atlas, Lynx Jaoh, and Coma Berenike. Also, Abel resurrected the five Gold Saints who died in the battle with the Bronze Saints not long ago: Cancer Deathmask, Picses Aphrodite, Aquarius Camus, Capricorn Shura, and Gemini Saga.

Seiya and his friends are understandably dumbfounded by this reveal and don't know what to do. In reality, though, Athena knew that Abel and his Corona Saints are too strong for her Bronzes and agreed to go with Abel in an attempt to stop him herself. Unfortunately, her attempt fails and Abel kills Athena, guiding her spirit towards a passage in the afterlife that will lead her to Elysion, heaven for the gods. The Bronzes feel Athena's cosmo disappear and decide to fight back in order to save her before she's gone forever. The idea behind this story is in all honesty even better than the second movie's plot, and one thing that I have to say is that this movie's pace is excellent, which is due in part to the longer run time this movie has in comparison to the previous two: roughly 75 minutes compared to roughly 46 minutes. This extra time allows fights to be paced more naturally and it allows every character their chance to shine... Except for Shura and Camus, who after finding out about Athena's death try to kill Abel but are killed in about a minute. Outside of those two, though, this movie's pace and character usage is nothing but very well done.

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.