The time has come for Hades and his 108 Spectres to awaken. For after 243 years, he is on a mission to start a Holy War and take Athena’s head, using fallen Gold Saints to do his bidding. It’s up to Seiya and the others to keep Athena safe, but the remaining Gold Saints at the Holy Sanctuary are less than excited about their interference. Can Seiya and the Bronze Saints save the day once more?
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.
Story and CharactersBefore I go onto the review part, I want to say for those who have not seen the original TV series, you will be unable to have a complete understanding to the significance of what goes on in this oav. Yes, the original TV series may be 114 episodes long, but it's worth watching to get to this point and it will make the story a lot more exciting. But if you don't want to go through the TV series or read the manga, I heard there is a recap special that summarizes the anime series and I suppose if you can find it, you can watch that instead. But moving on, what makes this story great are the very edge at your seat plot twists. Things will keep you guessing, and things just come out of no where, and it's one of those moments where it's just really cool to the audience, and it's not one of those stupid lame ass deus ex machina out of no where twists. There is so much I want to say what makes the story itself awesome, but it'd be spoilers if I gave any significant examples, so it's one of those instances where I really have to say you have to watch it yourself if you want to see how deep and far the story can go. What I can also say is that the story compared to the other arcs from the TV series is much, much darker and very intense, but when you consider who the new main enemy is, the atmosphere is very appropriately reflective of that. The pacing is very even and the presented characters each have their time to shine. Speaking of the characters, it's really cool that the Gold Saints are the featured characters of this part of the Hades OAV series. And one thing that I'm willing to reveal to give my opinion on why this installment is so awesome is the usage of the character, Aries Mu. You finally get to see him fight and I must say he has some pretty bad ass moves. I just have so much to say why I love this oav, but if you watch it with what I said, then hopefully, you'll love it too. Art and AnimationThe character design and art overall is still faithful to how the original series did it. Of course being made after 2000, the obvious things we call praise it for is more detailed coloring and more fluid animation. Also take in consideration of the story's atmosphere and it mostly takes place at night, the lighting is accurately executed. What's also distinct about this series is of course the inclusion of computer graphics with some of the buildings and techniques. This movie was released during a time when CG was still in the early stages of anime, and for its quality, its pretty excellent. For most of the series, the armor of the Bronze Saints will still show battle damage from the last fight with Poseidon and I like how it shows this consistency through the majority of the series. And the fights themselves are very breath taking. It's still central around the usage of special techniques, but the new techniques presented are very mind blowing and like I said in my review of the TV series, they demonstrate a really kind of super cool destructiveness but not to the point where it gets ridiculously over the top. It still uses recycled animation, but it's not as abusing as it was in the original TV series. The design of the newer characters presented are very deep and detailed in their own unique way. But these newer characters won't have much more presence until the later OAVs. Music and Voice ActingWhat's really sweet is that this anime uses two opening and ending themes. The new opening theme is Chikyuugi. It's not as in your face or intensive as the original song, Pegasus Fantasy, but it's softer tone reflects it's darker atmosphere, but also symbolizes the themes of hopes and dreams of this series overall. As for the other opening theme, after they play Chikyuugi, it goes to Pegasus Fantasy, and I can't complain about that and neither can any fan who loves Saint Seiya. I'm happy they didn't remix it. And not only is Pegasus Fantasy and Eien Blue part of the soundtrack, the original background music track from the old series is still utilized as well such as the orchestrated versions of Pegasus Fatnasy and Dream Warrior and so on. So it feels like even when there was a 10 year gap between the ending of the tv series and the release of this oav, that Saint Seiya still has this distinctive feature with it's soundtrack. Also returning is the original voice cast for the Bronze Saints. Furuya Tooru, Suzuoki Hirotaka, Horikawa Ryo, Han Keiko and so on reprise their respective roles, but of course some of the characters from the original show were changed, but for the right reasons. Mu is now played by Yamazaki Takumi who replaced Shiozawa Kaneto who died a couple of years prior to the release of this. I think Yamazaki did an excellent job in emulating Shiozawa's original performance, and adds a great twist by making him sound more aggressive considering the situation he's in this series. Another character was re-casted due to the passing of another terrific seiyuu, but revealing that would be a spoiler. But one change that really got to me was the changing of Milo, originally played by Ikeda Shuuichi. This time, he is played by Seki Toshihiko, the voice of Mousse from Ranma 1/2, Duo Maxwell from Gundam Wing, and more interestingly, he also plays another masked Gundam antagonist, Lau La Cluset from Gundam SEED. I don't know why Ikeda Shuuichi of all people was replaced, but I thought Seki Toshihiko did a great job in capturing the character in his own way, though it doesn't compare to Ikeda Shuuichi's. OverallLike I said, if you have seen the TV series or read the manga, I say this is certainly a must see. I feel if you choose to watch this installment without any knowledge of Saint Seiya, I still believe that the audience can still feel the bond that the saints have with each other and you do get to know the characters in an individual sense. But I feel you'll get a better understanding if you've already seen the TV series. But as a Saint Seiya fan, not only I reccomend this oav, but the franchise as a whole.
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