Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary Review

It’s time to return to the world of Pegasus Seiya and friends. This CGI movie is certainly one that never got big but always sounded interesting. Whenever a movie tries to adapt an entire saga in one shot it gets my attention because that is incredibly ambitious. I don’t think many movies can effectively match an anime or manga because of how much you have to cut out. On the other hand the movie should in theory still be great because that means they will have to be squeezing in a ton of fights into a short amount of time and shouldn’t that be a recipe for a great movie? Well this one ends up being pretty good although I wouldn’t be able to call it great per say.

The movie starts off with mysterious beings battling it out in the skies. Two of them end up being shot down. Some local excavators come into contact with one of them who dies but not before showing them what happened through telepathy and then entrusting the baby Athena over to humanity. 16 years pass and she has been raised to be known as a lady named Saori. Her car driver starts to explain this to her but he was at least a day late because they are attacked by enemy saints sent by the Grand Pope. Fortunately Seiya and friends save her. They explain that Sanctuary has marked her as a fake and will be sending everyone to murder her so they have to head to Sanctuary and explain the situation quickly. This is a whole lot for Saori to take in all at once but it’s not like she has much of a choice in saying no to the adventure since the assassins will keep on coming. So the heroes head high into the sky in order to take down Sanctuary once and for all.

Now this probably does sound a bit crazy and that’s one of the things about doing this so fast. There’s a whole lot of convenience in the air like the Saints attacking right after the guy explained everything to Saori. Then you also have the power levels to worry about since the Bronze Saints shouldn’t be any match for the Gold Saints without a lot of dramatic power-ups in order to unlock their cosmos. Well the film has an interesting way of dealing with that which is to have some of the Gold Saints help out. This is actually a change that makes sense because some of the Gold Knights look way more reasonable as a result.

Virgo Shakka is a big one. Here he realizes that the Pope is evil pretty quickly and steps in to help the heroes. Mu and Taurus can also be counted on and so just like that you have 3 Gold Saints who are back to being heroes. Aphrodite definitely gets the shaft as he’s one shotted and Libra doesn’t get to appear while the rest mainly get their usual roles, even if they are really condensed. Of course the problem of Virgo Shakka being a good guy is that he doesn’t get to fight Ikki. So Ikki’s only role here is to destroy the archer saint and then to lose to the Shura saint. It was too bad that Phoenix couldn’t have looked better because in this version you would definitely assume that he is all talk at all times.

I still like what they were trying to do with Phoenix’s personality but you know that it only works because you knew him previously. To anyone going into this film fresh you would be wondering what to think of him. I would only put Seiya above him from the main cast but usually even Seiya would fall before this guy. Ikki is just way too awesome. Hyoga, Shiryu, and Andromeda look good here but of course there isn’t much time for their personalities. Shiryu is in a way one of the more comedic characters as he likes rambling and wearing his armor which the others poke fun at. Andromeda is not averse to fighting this time around so he gets his hits in and Hyoga is generally confident. He flat-out took down Camus with a draw where his opponent fell first and didn’t need any help which was impressive. Shiryu also took down his opponent.

Deathmask was an odd fellow in this version as we get a really random musical number during his fight. I was definitely not expecting that at all since it really came from out of nowhere. I guess the movie wanted to have some singing in here but it was still not quite what I had expected and the song went a bit longer than I thought. The movie made him appear to not be quite as evil since he said the faces were all people who challenged the temple as opposed to murdering civilians but even so he still comes across as super petty like when he tries to stab Shiryu in the back. So this guy just can’t win in any setting.

Seiya is of course the stand-out character. He’s always willing to put his very life on the line to save his friends and is the first to jump into battle. He never hesitates and continues to get even stronger. He uses a pretty cool attack to end his fight with as well. His determination is unmatched and he’s also just a fun guy who has a good time throughout the movie. So the adaption definitely did him justice.

In general the humor could be on the weaker side for the film but on the whole the writing was pretty solid. The story is good and a lot of the decisions the film made you could understand in terms of the pacing. It may have been an abridged version but in the end we did adapt the arc which is definitely impressive. The film cut out the fluff and even a lot of main events and focused on getting to the end. Not all of the choices were winning ones but I appreciate the boldness of it all. This was a movie that was not going to do anything halfheartedly.

In terms of animation, this one’s CGI so you shouldn’t expect it to look as good as the original anime but the colors are sharp here. I liked the style of CGI here better than in the CG show. The main drawback is that the armors don’t look quite as good. They remind me a lot of the Mortal Kombat suits but then mix in the colors that blend together like in Transformers. At least each character has a light that glows when they power up their armors but those aren’t color coded the way you would expect. Seiya gets red so Andromeda gets green and I think Shiryu’s may have been blue or purple. The colors don’t match the armors. Maybe this was to make them stand out more but it’s just a bit odd because the whole time you’re expecting the armor and the color to match.

The actual fights are on point and this is where it passes the show in that I felt like we got a lot more actual movement here. Each fight really showed off the speed of the Saints. It’s also all played in real time so there are no video game type cinematics for the super moves. The characters just use them. If the live action movie were to follow this template I think it would work fairly well. The Saints already have their training and meet up with Saori who would be the general audience in this case. It’s a fine script, you just need to touch things up and preferably keep this as a two part movie and you don’t have to sacrifice as much.

One thing I would cut out entirely is the climax though. As seems to be movie tradition we get a giant CG creature which shows up so he’s basically a damage sponge as everyone attacks. That just about never makes for a very thrilling fight scene. Only Fate Grand Order pulled that off for the TV show and even then it was because all of the heroes were so OP so it was intense to see a monster just take all of that and keep it going. Gemini Saga should still be the main villain and just have him be dominating the heroes the whole time until they start fusing powers. It would also make sense since he’s so strong.

This film has serious power level issues that can’t be ignored so you would probably want to clean that up as well. Maybe add some kind of rule that you absorb the cosmos of the opponents you defeat so they get stronger after each battle and begin to approach the gold saints. I think that would work as a quick (albeit a little convenient) solution to taking on Gold Saints so quickly. I did like how they remodeled the temples though. It’s clear that the movie took a lot of inspiration from Final Fantasy in terms of the layouts and character designs that worked really well.

The soundtrack could also use some work. A lot of the tunes sounded like something out of Tiger & Bunny which is a reasonable soundtrack but a bit more generic and public domain type than what you expect to see in Saint Seiya. We need more thrilling tunes for battles between Saints to really get you involved and so you can appreciate all of the hype feats. Also, the movie completely ditched the fake Athena plot which was odd. Where did she even go? I have to assume there was a scene cut out where the Pope destroyed her or something because otherwise it’s odd to just have a subplot vanish like that with no resolution. Based on the mask she was wearing it was likely Shaina or Marin but we need confirmation.

Overall, It was pretty cool to see what this arc would look like abridged. At the end of the day there is certainly no reason to watch it this way as opposed to the whole show but it’s worth checking out as a fun experiment. It’s too bad they couldn’t continue and try out the Poseidon arc next. The most important thing is if you know that you can’t possibly beat the original format, then you should absolutely re-tool things so that you deliver a different experience. The movie completely changed the context around the arc and altered a number of things which was smart to avoid a direct comparison. It could have still done things better but in the end this is a movie that I’d be able to re-watch because the replay value is there and it’s still a pretty good movie.

Overall 7/10

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