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Saturday, 26 September 2015

Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold

Saint Seiya: 
Soul of Gold

When Sailor Moon Crystal started airing, many people saw its low production values, bizarre fortnightly schedule, and mangling of everything the original series had in its favour and quite rightly wondered: Is this misogyny? Would Toei have treated an anniversary series for a shounen anime with the same disrespect, or is the fact that they put so little effort in to Sailor Moon Crystal to do with it having a predominantly female audience?

Well, wonder no more! Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold is here to set the record straight, showing that Toei is not (on this one occasion, at least) guilty of misogyny, just of being cheap, cynical cash-grabbers.

Set shortly after the deaths of all twelve Gold Saints, Soul of Gold sees the twelve return to life in Asgard. Leo Aiolia is soon approached by Lyfia, handmaiden to Odin's representative on earth, who tells him that Asgard has come under the rule of a prophet called Andreas, who is growing something evil in the heart of Yggdrassil. The Gold Saints set out to destroy Yggdrassil and stop Andreas, and in so doing come into conflict with Odin's seven God Warriors.

Good god, this series is terrible. Also, much like Sailor Moon Crystal, it's airing on an odd fortnightly schedule instead of weekly, meaning that it gives you just enough time to lose interest between every episode. So well done there, I guess.

I think this is a hallucination, but I don't actually recall what happened in that episode.

The animation in the last Saint Seiya series, Saint Seiya Omega, often came under fire for being low quality, but compared to Soul of Gold it's beautiful. Lazy at best and jarringly awkward at worst, Soul of Gold looks like it was made in the late nineties by three underpaid, exhausted animators and one monkey. Occasionally, Toei ekes out a little bit more budget for showing each Saint's God Cloth, a super mode that increases their power and makes them briefly much better animated - and which they can conveniently only maintain for a couple of seconds, because Toei has to keep those costs down somehow.

The writing isn't any better, combining a tired and prosaic plot ('We have to journey to x place to stop y villain, facing z smaller villains along the way') with utterly boring characters. Most of the Gold Saints don't get more than a few minutes worth of screentime - and even main protagonist Aiolia gets markedly little time to shine - but the ones that do aren't very good at actually holding an audience's attention, since they're all so flat and lifeless. With the exception of a couple, every one of them has the same stock personality, making every episode essentially just twenty minutes of watching roughly the same characters do roughly the same things in quick succession.

(It doesn't help that about a third of them have long blue hair, meaning that not only is it difficult to tell their personalities apart, quite often it's difficult to tell them apart by appearance.)

Aiolia appears to be wearing armoured pyjamas.

This makes it all the more laughably hilarious when the show tries, in the most cynical and hack-handed way possible, to make you care. Two characters have an ongoing subplot in which one is working for the villains because of a terrible torment in his past, and the other is trying to persuade him to rejoin the good guys, and I felt nothing. This winning combination of five minutes per episode spent on two stoic, two-dimensional characters going through the motions of a tired, rehashed plotline in a way that suggests that nobody - from characters to writers to animators - actually cared about it produced nothing but apathy and boredom in me.

Nor is it just those two characters that suffer from this. Aiolia and Lyfia, ostensibly our two main characters, have what's meant to be a sad moment of having to part at the end, maybe even with some romantic undertones to it - but since they'd barely interacted before this, and since both of them had the personalities of planks of wood, it wasn't sad at all.

Ah, ye olde tavern.

While the series does try to throw a few 'what a twist' moments at you, they are all (well, both, there's only two) pretty goshdarn predictable, and almost any viewer will see them coming about five episodes before either of said twists get their shocking reveal.

I'm not sure if there's anything good I can say about this series. The opening theme is very nice? I guess? Aiolia has nice hair? 

It's rare to see a series that's as much as an unmitigated mess as this one, but at least we now know for sure that Toei really doesn't give two hoots about the anniversaries of its big name shows. That bodes well for Digimon Adventure Tri! (It does not bode well for Digimon Adventure Tri). Even if you're a massive fan of Saint Seiya, give this series a miss.

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