I’ve always been a Saint Seiya fan, back from the earliest manga to the original anime, I’ve enjoyed Seiya face-planting and over-the-top battles. I have every series, every movie, every manga that has featured Seiya and the guys and I just got around to watching their most recent movie, a full CGI affair called Legend of Sanctuary, which tries to recap the biggest arc of the original series in 93 minutes. It’s flashy and pretty, but is it really a good movie? Let’s take a look and see how it stacks up.
As the Greek pantheon returns, Seiya and the other Bronze Saints try to protect perennial pincushion Saori Kido, the modern embodiment of the goddess Athena. In this movie, as Saori turns 16, she begins to exhibit her powers and this brings her to the attention of Gemini Saga, who has unknowingly taken the position of the Pope of Sanctuary. He has his own version of Athena that he’s fooled all of the Saints into accepting, thus granting him tremendous power. He sends his minions secretly to kill Saori, but four of the five Bronze Saints step in to save her. Unfortunately, she’s later shot by an arrow and they realize that if they don’t get her to Sanctuary, she will die. You get that a lot in the Saint Seiya mythos. Therefore, Seiya, Hyoga, Shun and Shiryu combine their powers to open a gateway to Sanctuary and they set out to fight their way through the 12 Gold Saints that stand in their way.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way. No, this movie does not do the Sanctuary saga justice, but there’s really no way they could. In the original 114-episode series, the first 73 episodes are dedicated to telling the Sanctuary arc. That means that nearly 27 hours of television is spent telling the same story that they try to retell here in 93 minutes. You can see the problem. That means they had to take a hatchet to the story, eliminating huge swaths of plot to make it fit. The entire tournament storyline that explains how Seiya and the rest got their armor is gone. The long, dramatic battles with the 12 Gold Saints are gone, replaced with short snippets of just a few fights. In fact, we only see 5 of the Gold Saints in the entire movie. It’s not a bad thing but it’s not a good thing either. It’s guaranteed to leave the uninitiated scratching their heads about the whole mythology.
That said though, the movie is beautiful and for people who have been Seiya aficionados for any length of time, understanding what’s going on isn’t going to be a problem. I just wish there was more of it, or that they had attempted a different story that was less ambitious. They were doomed to failure to do the whole Sanctuary saga justice. The CGI works, although I find myself missing the original costume designs. In particular, the helmet designs just didn’t gel with me because now, they cover the complete face of the characters and it’s sometimes hard to tell who is who. Due to the lack of time, the Bronze Saints were simplified and their personalities were rather limited. There was little time for Seiya/Saori’s relationship, they tried to shoe-horn in Ikki’s antagonism against the rest of the Saints and the importance of Seiya getting the Sagittarius armor was barely addressed. Blink and you’ll miss it.
I don’t want to say this is a bad movie, it just makes me want to go back and re-watch the original series. What’s more of a crime is that they didn’t even use the original music in the movie but they did use it in the trailers. Come on!
I’m going to give it high marks for effort but middling marks for execution. Visually it’s stunning. Story-wise, they try too hard to stuff too much story into not enough time. It’s great for existing fans but I doubt that new fans are going to know enough going in to make much sense of the movie. That’s a shame because Saint Seiya has been around for 30 years and I’d love to see them go above and beyond the original Masami Kurumada manga.