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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary.

You know what? After three days of doing half-series of US TV shows, I am bored of talking about white people with nasal accents staring soulfully at each other.

Let's talk about CGI Japanese people staring soulfully at very large, shiny buildings instead.

Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary.

I have been wanting to watch and review this film ever since I saw the first proper trailer for it, and if you go look at the trailers, you will probably see why. I was relatively new to Saint Seiya at the time - in a fit of boredom I had started watching Saint Seiya Omega, but apart from that my interaction with it was limited - but even if I'd known nothing about the series, I probably would have still watched it.

Set in a world somewhat like our own, but with more monsters and at least one technologically advanced holy city with a castle in the sky, a young woman named Saori Kido is informed by her butler (in somewhat disturbingly matter-of-fact fashion) that she is the reborn goddess Athena, protector of Earth and leader of shinily-armoured constellation-themed soldiers called Saints. Saori's been in hiding for most of her life, due to the designs of the evil Pope of Athena and his imposter Athena. Deciding to prove her identity after an encounter with Gold Saint Leo Aiolia, Saori and five young Saints - including the titular Pegasus Seiya - set out for the holy city of Sanctuary.

Now with 20% more helmet.

If that sounds like a complicated plot, that's probably because it is a complicated plot, having been the plot for an entire sizeable arc of a television series before it was stuffed into a ninety minute film. How that problem is dealt with is a matter we will get to shortly.

It's certainly a visual spectacle. I talked much about how compelling the trailers were earlier, and this is why: The film is beautiful. There isn't a single solitary frame of this film that isn't absolutely stunning, the animation is smooth and fluid, and each of the twenty-five characters is distinct, detailed and brims with personality.

Some characters.

Take note, Disney. Legend of Sanctuary was working with a gigantically smaller budget than Frozen, and is only ten minutes shorter, yet its animation is infinitely better. What did you spend all of that money on? 

But animation quality will only take you so far without a good story, and the story of Legend of Sanctuary suffers from more than a few problems. The biggest, most gaping problem is that they've attempted to stuff a very long storyline into a ninety minute film, and it hasn't led to good things. The third scene of the film includes several minutes of one character providing exposition of all of the relevant information the audience needs to know to Saori, who responds with what can only be described as 'dull surprise' to the revelation that gods exist, superheroes exist (literally, when told this her only reaction is to peer out the window and ask if he thinks she should become one), and that she is a goddess. 

The pacing is such that for the first thirty minutes you get about two minutes of calm at any given time before a fight scene barges in, and for the last sixty minutes, it's all fight scenes, most of which never get resolved in a satisfactory fashion. The first and second fights in the 'ascend Sanctuary and fight the Gold Saints' section of the film both simply stop without a conclusion, while the same happens for fifth and sixth fights. Of the fight scenes that do actually get concluded, one of those we don't even see, another is barely seen, and the remaining two are the 'final boss battle.' For a film which has about sixty minutes of non-stop fight scenes composing its second and third acts, that's not great.

Norwegian Rock Star Leo Saint.

(The one break we get is during a musical number delivered by a Gold Saint. I'm not joking, and indeed I can't even think of what joke I would even make about that, and it takes up a good three minutes. Let's move on.)

The other we-have-limited-amounts-of-time-oh-god problem in this film is characters. Seiya and Saori both get plenty of interaction time, and some good development. Nobody else does: Seiya's friends are basically just guest characters, the villain appears rarely (and the plot twist regarding his true identity falls completely flat, because we've barely encountered his secret identity except very quickly in the first scene), and the Gold Saints on whom the film was marketed do remarkably little. It gets so bad that one character, Pisces Aphrodite, literally shows up for all of twenty seconds before he dies. Then he is immediately forgotten about. 

Pictured, nobody remembering their fallen comrade.

(Also, we never got to see Aiolia without a helmet, and that makes me sad.)

Obviously, time constraints being what they are, this was always going to be a problem. I kind of knew that going in, and I went anyway for the spectacle of it all. But in an ideal world in which anything could happen, this should be split into two films, both two hours long: Have the first film build to Seiya's battle against Aiolia, and the second film build up to the battle with the Pope. 

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this film, and I do recommend it. It doesn't take up much time, after all, and it is very pretty.

1 comment:

  1. It really sucks Aphrodite only appeared 20 seconds here...he actually is a really powerful character in the original anime, this shot from one of the video games shows one of his most powerful moves: