Saint Seiya: Hades: Chapter Sanctuary Review


It’s time to take a look at the first Seiya OVA. I debated back and forth about how to style the title since there seem to be a ton of ways to put it out there, but I figured modeling it more after how the recent Transformer trilogy went down made sense. I’d keep the Hades chapter structure and then add the sub title after that. It makes for a busy title but works well enough.

The story starts with a lot of dead Saints reviving. It turns out that the time for the next Holy War has commenced. Usually it is every 250 years but for some reason it has started early. A mysterious man appears along with two Gold Saints and tells Mu that he needs to murder Athena. Mu doesn’t want to obey but this man is hard to deny. Seiya showed up to help but Mu doesn’t want any of that so he beats the hero up and sends him off. Now Mu will have to try and defeat multiple opponents on his own.

On a grander scale, the heroes have to try and protect Athena for 12 hours. If they can do that, then the danger will be passed. The issue is that this will be quite difficult since Hades is not only sending his loyal spectres but also several traitors from Athena’s own squad. Seiya and friends murdered a great deal of her followers back in the day and it looks like they want revenge. Looks like Seiya and friends will need to help out one last time. Although if the heroes continue to get in their way, Seiya may have to take them down first.

Right off the bat you can tell that although the OVA is newer than the show, the animation went downhill. For almost half of the OVA, there is virtually no animation. Characters barely move during the fights and it’s all very disjointed. I was puzzled because you’d expect everything to just look really amazing in an OVA. I mean, that’s not always the case but that’s still how you go in.

That said, I thought the director did a good job of making the most with what he had. Since the animation wasn’t up to snuff, we had some solid CGI cuts. Now, the CGI does look obvious but it’s styled as a very fancy thing. We often get CGI visuals when the characters are preparing to walk up some stairs or go to the next temple. The show cuts away to Athena’s statue numerous times as well. So while this may not be considered top tier animation or anything, the CGI is used in a way to make you feel just how grand this whole thing is. It’s like you’re stepping into a battle of the gods here.

So if we did have top tier animation it would be even better but at least this way you don’t feel bad. Also, the last few episodes actually do give us some solid cuts and fights so things do pickup. The whole OVA has a fairly sinister feeling of dread since it feels like the heroes can’t possibly win. Everyone is turning traitor and the heroes that do remain are all pretty stuck up so it’s hard to assist them even if you wanted to.

Saint Seiya has always made a big deal about honor and true friendship. Like in the original series when Hyoga is beaten near to death and Ikki doesn’t even look back to help Hyoga as he declares that he will conquer the next enemy. Hyoga then explains to the other characters that this was the correct decision since it allowed him to keep his honor. It’s not a system I agree with but they are big on pride.

Unfortunately that comes back to bite the Gold Saints a lot. Take Mu for example, he’s easily the worst character in this OVA. He has great respect for his mentor and so he must obey the guy even if it means doing something that will put Sanctuary in danger. By the time he does actually start standing up for himself, he’s already badly beaten. Beating up on Seiya was also the wrong move since the guy was here to help. Not only did it seem like Seiya was holding his own against one of the villains but he probably would have won.

By this point in the series Seiya is incredibly strong so the whole scene made no sense at all. Throughout the OVA Mu continues to make the wrong decisions. He always either sides with the villains or holds the other heroes back. It was the same thing in the original series, just not to the same effect. So any respect I had left for the character definitely vanished in this one. His crystal wall technique is still good but ultimately can’t stop the villains anymore. He needed Seiya and just didn’t want to admit it.

You can’t help but think that the arc would have been over a lot quicker if either the traitors had stayed on Athena’s side or the heroes had accepted the help of the Bronze Saints. That would have really changed a whole lot, that’s for sure. Now, there is a lot to be said that the destiny of the dead Saints is a bleak one so you can see how they would change sides, but it’s still disappointing in the end.

The soundtrack is pretty nostalgic. You’ve got some of the classic tunes from the main series as well as some new ones. The opening song is very emotional which is odd for the series. You’d expect something a lot more action packed but it does work with how this OVA is being so dramatic though. It’s a sad song I guess since everyone’s dying and there isn’t really a way to win in this Holy War. Since it’s a cycle that happens every 250 years, deep down everyone probably sees how it feels a bit futile the whole time. I prefer the classic theme song, but this one did grow on me as I heard it more.

The Bronze Saints don’t get a whole lot to do, but it’s nice to see them. Ikki in particular only gets a scene or two and yet he does steal the show in those moments. He seems to at least know a bit of what’s going on and has plans of his own. It’ll definitely be a blast to see him jump into the fray. The rest of the team eventually get to match up against Rhadymanthis. He’s not exactly an easy opponent to defeat but they still put up a good fight. This season’s more about getting them prepared for what is to come.

Seiya gets the biggest role as expected though. When the other Saints begin to give up, he’s still fighting as hard as he ever did. Nobody’s keeping him down and his Pegasus punch always gets stronger with each use. I also liked how he went to Sanctuary immediately when Athena told him to stay away. She historically has pretty bad judgement and sure enough, this was the right move. If not for being backstabbed, Seiya was really starting to cook there.

As for Athena, she does have to share in some of the blame. Mainly I said Mu did everything wrong, but she is not without fault since she also put in the order to keep the Bronze Saints out. That was just such a bad move. Did she forget how they already beat all of the Gold Saints back in Arc 1? If there is anyone you want to have by your side here, it would definitely be them. I also heavily disagreed with Athena’s final act in the OVA. It’s never good to just give him and stab yourself. I’m sure we’ll see more of her plan soon but I was definitely not impressed.

Virgo Shaka looks pretty good here. He’s always been known as one of the most powerful saints and may even be the strongest depending on where you put Gemini Saga. He has unlocked the deeper senses that most Saints struggle with and the fact that he is taking on 3 Gold Saints combined in this OVA is incredibly impressive. It’s got to be the best fight here and Shaka really shows them a thing or two. It would have been nice if he was just a second quicker on the draw but ultimately his effort was second to none. It also seems like he may not be done yet.

Tauros gets some hype as well but it’s a lot emptier to me. Lets just say that his fight involves the most delayed counter I have ever seen. Usually when someone gets sliced a minute after someone slashed I’m already calling foul. This one is several magnitudes greater than that so you already know what I’m thinking. That just doesn’t work but at least he got some dignity as a result.

Scorpio Miro gets a role here too but the guy is also doing a lot of in-fighting. One thing about the Gold Saints is they love picking on fellow heroes. Perhaps the villains just aren’t strong enough to be worth their time? Whatever the reason is, Miro spends a good amount of time beating up on someone who won’t even fight back which will make you shake your head. The guy talks tough but there was just no reason for that. Athena also isn’t able to command enough respect among her subordinates in order to put a stop to this either which is unfortunate.

Finally, we can’t forget about Aiolia. That guy is easily the best Gold Saint here. He acts quickly and without hesitation. One of the best moments in the entire OVA is when he shoves Mu out of the way and speed blitzes all 3 of the traitor saints. They couldn’t even see him coming as Aiolia just pounds them into the dirt. It was amazing and that’s the kind of response you would expect when someone just murdered one of your friends. Aiolia is a credit to the gold saints that’s for sure.

As for the villains, well Hades does not actually appear yet so don’t expect to see him. Instead, Pandora is acting as the leader of the villains. She’s also pretty tough here as just playing her harp is enough to bring one of the 3 judges to his knees. It’s hard to say how powerful this Pandora is without her weapon but at least she is confident enough to talk tough to the heroes and villains so we can assume she is fairly high up there.

Interestingly though, Hades army itself doesn’t really do a lot of the heavy lifting. The 3 traitor knights handle most of Athena’s men. It’s heavily implied that the Gold Saints would have wrecked all of the spectres with ease. Only the Judges or Celestial Stars would have been able to do much. One of them volunteers to go and fight but Pandora says it is not part of the plan.

That’s all well and good but take away the traitors and I have to say that Hades is at an absolute disadvantage. In fact, if not for Seiya and friends murdering about half of them, this could have been a landslide win for Athena’s group. So far at least, Hades army just isn’t nearly as impressive as you would expect. The only powerful member we have met thus far is Rhadymanthis who to his credit is very powerful.

He was able to take on multiple gold saints at once but granted, this was at their castle. This series hasn’t said anything yet but usually the castle heavily decreases a Gold Saint’s abilities so we can’t say for certain if he could have done that in a level playing field. Perhaps since he is so high ranked but then again, Aiolia is definitely no pushover.

As for the evil saints, Gemini Saga carries the team quite a bit. Not only is he the one with the big plans the whole time but he’s also shown to easily be the strongest. It’s not surprising since he has always been a whole lot more impressive than most. I don’t think any Saint aside from Shaka would be able to stop him. So here when the other two saints are getting rocked, Saga is always able to get up and keep fighting. He seems to have far more drive and determination than the other two, not to mention that he can see through the tricks as well. Twice, fighters try to use illusions and the other two fall for it while Saga is able to break the spell.

It’s just a shame that he’s on the wrong side. It does lead to a fun confrontation with Kanon who used to be evil as well. The sides have been reversed now with Kanon serving Athena loyally while Saga is trying to murder her. The irony in this is certainly not lost. This is Kanon’s best appearance to be sure and it’s really when I started to be a big fan of the guy. This is really a good redemption story and when you see him, it’s a pretty great reveal. That’s why he didn’t deserve to be beaten up so much by Miro.

As for Camus, he’s another one of the 3 big Saints but the guy doesn’t do a whole lot. Same with the owner of Excalibur. They’re mainly there as backup for Saga but they don’t tend to do a whole lot. I didn’t realize the gap between Gold Saints could be so large but evidently the Saints are not nearly as close in power as I would have assumed.

We also get to see Roshi finally fight in his true form as the Saint known as Dohko. He battles the previous Pope known as Shion. It’s cool to see them after checking out the Lost Canvass since they were such good friends there. Shion has certainly fallen since then in order to help the Dark Saints out. Granted, personalities tend to shift a bit with such a big franchise and it’s hard to see the old Shion acting that way, but I would have said the same for Camus and Saga. Their plan better be amazing to be worth murdering so many people everywhere.

I was never a big fan of Roshi so seeing him actually fight is cool. It at least gives him a purpose to watching the waterfall for so long even if he was not quick enough to actually warn anyone of what was coming. The entire point of his staying there was to let Athena know that something was coming so what was this guy doing? The whole task seemed a bit pointless in that respect.

This OVA includes one of my favorite moments in the franchise which is the Double Athema Exclamation. I remember reading that in the manga and thinking it was so hype when Aiolia and the other two Saints quickly assumed the pose and told the villains that they weren’t the only one capable of this kind of power. There is something about two groups using the power of a big bang against each other that just gets you hyped. I was certainly feeling good when seeing that.

Even the first use of the technique against Shaka was really hype too. It’s really an incredible attack although I don’t see why Athena banned it. Sure, it’s powerful but sometimes you need that kind of power. If it’s another honor thing…and it’s implied that it is, then it’s even less of a reason to ban the technique. You really need to use everything at your disposal whenever possible and this fight is no exception.

Now, this is less about this OVA in particular, but I think Athena should have attacked Hades before he woke up. We learn here that when a Saint dies he is thrown into the Underworld which is ruled by Hades. He can torment their souls for all eternity unless they join him in his mission. Shouldn’t Athena just dismantle the place then and either rule it or destroy the system? Even if the soul is then wiped out for good, at least it will be at peace and not forced to attack you.

The very existence of the Underworld is just a really somber thought for the Saints because it means that the only goal at the end of their eternal struggle is to be inflicted with more pain. There just isn’t a big grand prize or any reason to celebrate. I wonder if Athena has even thought of that. There may be a plot reason why this isn’t possible but I’d like to see someone mention it.

Meanwhile, another point in the OVA’s favor is that it’s just so good to see the Gold Saints actually fighting. They really didn’t get to do anything outside of fighting the heroes in the first two arcs. This is the first time we get to see them actually fighting the villains on their own. It sure took a while but ultimately it happened which is the important part. It’s definitely something to look forward to. These are the best of the best or that’s what we’re led to believe so lets see how they defend themselves.

Again, the Spectres themselves are mostly unimpressive though so I think they would go down pretty fast. You have the Beetle who doesn’t seem very tough and was getting the hands quickly. You have the guy whose back seems perpetually broken and just likes gossiping the whole time. When it comes time for a fight he goes down extremely quickly. Of course most of the really powerful ones will probably show up in the Underworld but be that as it may, the Spectres who were around were definitely no match for Sanctuary.

Overall, This was a great start to the Hades saga. I look forward to seeing the Bronze Saints get a more active role in the next one. It would also be good if the animation could take at least a bit of a step up. It should definitely keep in the selective CGI shots. I’m usually not all in for CGI but you can’t deny that it really increased the intensity and emotional moments here. It feels like a true war where there are big losses on both sides and in part that’s because we see what a grand place this is. Fighting in the temples really feels sacred. The OVA jumps you right into the action so you’ll probably want to have checked out the show first, but granted you can also leap into action and get what’s going on since it’s clear who the good guys and bad guys are. The villains are all in black/purple while the heroes are in gold. It’s tapping into classic Greek mythology like Athena vs Hades as well. Get ready for the cliffhanger though as the saga isn’t quite over yet. It’s an epic cliffhanger to end on though.

Overall 8/10

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