To tell you the truth I am surprised myself to be giving such a good review to this Saint Seiya outing but the movie is simply stunning. It captures what Saint Seiya is about very successfully. However, I would not really recommend it to ones unfamiliar with the series as a lot of it requires the context.
The backgrounds are gorgeous and, the colours vibrant and luscious. The time and care that went into this movie's creation shows in every scene, be it the gorgeous desert backdrops where you actually feel the mass of the fighters because of the way the texture of the sand is used, or the quieter moments reflected in symbolic scenes depicting Athena's devotion to humankind. So many scenes are different in their depiction of nature and human emotion, but the result is still cohesive and emotive. As I've said before, the team of Saint Seiya knows what they are doing and this movie just demonstrates what they do best.
The music is splendid with a lot of new compositions that are just as beautiful as the ones found in the TV series or the 3rd Saint Seiya movie. Music from the score is similar to what one would find on any Saint Seiya soundtrack but overall they are quieter tunes than the series'. This brings a new level of meaning and performance for the stellar seiyuu cast as they are called to perform in a more subdued way and it really works here.
One would think that subdued and shounen jump animes do not mix but Saint Seiya once again shows that anything is possible. The only disappointing thing about the sound in general is that there is not really one standout song or tune in it. This is due to all the music being strong, which is good but a standout that showcases the movie would have been an advantage.
The story itself is wrapped around in layers that you are just drawn into because of the technical magnificence at play with the breathtaking sceneries and fluid animation. The style of the storytelling is similar to what is found in the 80s TV series, where battles are engaged but not shown to their end until later on as scenes as edited to depict things that happen concurrently. This was a letdown in the TV series, however it works a lot better here as the movie aims for greater symbolism and the editing heightens the dreamlike quality of the story.
The characters are so well played by the seiyuu cast that a new dimension is actually added to already well defined personalities such as Seiya and Athena as this movie has a tighter focus on them. This opens new doors of possibilities for the series as the producers were willing to take a chance to show some romantic flaws to these two not seen or imagined before. The only letdown this focus on Seiya and Athena had was that the other bronze saints were not as developed, which is a shame as they have consistently made the series all the more fascinating. New characters do their fair share for the movie though with Tohma and Artemis especially drawing great parallels with their relationship next to Athena and Seiya's.
The character design as always with this series is simply gorgeous, in fact I can't name another anime that has such consistently beautiful characters except for Utena. That said, this movie or prelude, whichever you want to call it, takes the surreal road towards an unconventional and rewarding conclusion much like the Utena movie. I personally adore the Utena movie and this one is just about as good. If you are familiar with Saint Seiya see this; if you have been dying to see what all the fuss is about with this anime, which is still popular and relevant after about 20 years, this movie will draw you into its world. Be it just to answer some questions this movie raises or to enhance the experience.
The other thing I wanted to add is for you not to see this movie expecting many fighting scenes. As opposed to the previous movies, this one is a lot more character driven. And although the fighting scenes are gorgeously choreographed, it takes a backseat to allow Seiya as a character to come out of his shell and the beautiful Saori gets some new layers to her character.
As such this movie could find itself being a tough sell for fans who do not really like Seiya and Saori but the handling of their character and relationship is beautiful. A must see.