The long-awaited Saint Seiya Hades Chapter! I can still remember the excitement I felt when I heard that my favourite Shounen series was going to be continued in 2002. I had high expectations for this Hades Sanctuary Arc as the original series was one that moved me in ways very few animes manage. This was largely due to the moving characters, intricate and passionate storylines as well as amazing, epic scores. Well good news everyone!
All these things can be found here as well as so much more as Yamauchi really taps into what makes Saint Seiya a benchmark in Shounen anime by also adding spectacular visuals to the winning formula.
The animation, as mentioned above, was and still raises a new benchmark in how to incorporate 2D and 3D graphics coherently and convincingly. The characters are beautifully drawn (like it has always been with Saint Seiya) and the armours or "cloths" are rendered to spectacularly results. They shine and reflect the mass and proportion of the characters convincingly, but also enhance the lighting of particular scenes.
The backgrounds are just about all 3D looking and it suits the 12 temples exceedingly well (especially the Gemini and Virgo ones).
I can't find any faults in the animation here as Yamauchi is just an incredible director and this is his masterpiece. His vision incorporates all the important elements of Saint Seiya with CGs in an amazing fashion!
The soundtrack of this Arc is of the same high quality one comes to expect from Saint Seiya. Feelings are conveyed with class because of the epic and appropriate symphonies created for this Arc. The heartfelt use of harps, piano and violon pieces helps shape the series into the appropriately godlike state it aims for.
These scores are matched with subtle and heartfelt performances from the cast. The orginal voice actors are all back for this series (except Mu's original seiyuu as he passed away before the production started) and they capture the essence of these characters that have made idols out of them (especially Seiya's) as though about 20 years hadn't passed since they first voiced these characters.
The overall story of this arc is about fallen Gold Saints coming to kill Athena under the leadership of Hades, King of the Underworld. Although this is fairly straight forward, the execution and editing of the Arc make it incredibly engrossing.
As one knows, Saint Seiya is a series where there is always more than meets the eye; and some of the sub-plots are executed so well that they surprise, entertain and make you feel in equal parts.
The amazing animation and score really elevate the story as it becomes moody and powerful in its depiction of the Saints' struggle.
The main players of this Arc are surprisingly not the Bronze Saints but rather the remaining and fallen Gold Saints. This creates a new layer to this amazing franchise that appeals to hardcore fans as well as ones who just joined the bandwagon.
The feelings of characters like Saga, Mu and Shura are depicted effortlessly by the incredible seiyuu cast. Athena, Shaina, Aphrodite and some other favourites have smaller roles in this Arc but their emotions come accross just as well.
Stand out characters include Shaka, Kanon, Milo and Aiolia as the storyline really allows the audience to connect with them on a very deep level.
A special mention must be made to the villains of the piece, Pandora and Rhadamanthys, as they are subtly and effectively evil as opposed to cardboard cutouts.
The value of this anime is where it lacks slightly as this is an incomplete Arc (some episodes of the next Arc HAVE been released but they lack the certain something that makes this arc so incredible). As a result, I cannot recommend it completely to anyone since they would have a lot of unanswered questions dropped along the way (one can always pick up the manga though!).
Saint Seiya - The Hades Sanctuary Chapter is just an incredible experience. For the magnitude and quality of feelings, visuals, vocal performances, characters, story and score; it is a very rewarding journey to take. If you are a fan of Saint Seiya - track it down and see it. This is probably not the best place to start for Saint Seiya newbie as you need the background on the characters to appreciate it to a deeper level. It is nevertheless an incredible piece that just relentlessly delivers.