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Insanity has struck. I've decided to make a section dedicated to the Hades OVA. What you'll find in it is the review right below, a gallery of images with my story-telling comments, and a homage to the OVAs series with pics from the last three episodes.
This review was originally written for the French anime and manga newsgroup. I've added some screencaps I made from the first episode. Just click on the images if you want to enlarge them ^_^
What can I say about the first episodes of an OAV series I've been waiting for for more than ten years?
Aiming for objectivity is a waste of time, but it just might be that the opinion of a Saint Seiya afficionada could reveal itself useful: all you need to do is to remember how fans of certain series can trample underfoot adaptations that they judge do not respect the original work. Fans can be much more demanding than a chance spectator who just happened to drop by and decided to sit down and watch because he had nothing else to do.
|There's no need to present Saint Seiya to the European, South-American or Asian public, but nevertheless some things must be clear in the mind of the would-be viewer of these OAVs: Saint Seiya The Hades cannot be considered as a standalone series that can be watched without knowledge of Masami Kurumada's manga. To watch these OAVs without knowing the universe of Athena's Saints or the bonds uniting the characters is most likely a waste of time. These first episodes won't feature any trace of explanation for the behavior and/or reactions of this or that character. Neither will they feature a development which could be used to explain the aura of power or respect that some characters carry from the very moment when they appear. All that is depicted in these OAVs can only be correctly understood if the viewer has gone through the learning journey through the Sanctuary and Poseidon chapters.||What's more, the Hades Chapter concludes a story which had left quite a few important points unexplained. This chapter is here to shed light on decisions or lack of them from previous chapters -- weird events which could have been attributed to basic weaknesses in the scenario, for instance when the author himself interferes with the story to push events to go the way he wants it even though there is no chance of them to happen the way it's depicted. In fact, this chapter focused on the god of death is a key that will close a series of door which had been left ajar. The Hades Chapter is where everything is revealed, where knots are untied, but the viewer will not realize any of this if he has no knowledge of what happened before, even though this is the main interest of this Hades Chapter.|
The first thing that comes to my mind after watching those first two episodes is this: it's beautiful.
The character design is superb, and in my opinion (except for some precise scenes in episode one which are simply breathtaking concerning Aries Mu), even better in the second episode than in the first. Of course, it bears the mark of the TV series, and this can give the viewer the feeling of watching an "old classic". Obviously, this was deliberately done, and it was a wise decision to insure a coherence between these OVAs and the TV series that came before them. Graphical and musical coherence are as important as they are in the scenario and the characters' development. And if you look at these first two episodes with that in mind, you'll find it's a success. The only thing I personally regret is the abusive use of Computer Graphics, but then these are often badly and overused in recent anime series. One big flaw: the scene where the Pegasus Cloth appears to set itself on Seiya's body. As beautiful and thrilling as it was in the TV series, here it's simply ugly. It looks like a commercial for Bandai's action figure, but as those have always been especially awful, for once the buyers won't be cheated by the ad...
|A second thing: the OP and ED. To be honest, I was afraid they were going to be hard, fast techno-like music (I hate techno :P). The OP is rather slow, and its rhtyhm is set by a piano. The images are fantastic, even if I regret the use of CG once more, especially for the card revolving in the mirror. It's such a shame to ruin a good idea like that. The scene of the doors opening to reveal the chamber where the Twin Sala await is breathaking. The music itself has a certain originality, and surprisingly enough it easily sticks into the viewer's mind. As to the ED, I'm going to have to use the word beautiful again. It's very simple, no animation, just a scene that slides from left to right, accompanied by a soft melody, a bit like the ED of the Fuma no Kojiro OVA.||A third thing: apparently, the episodes follow the manga very closely. This means that the flaws in the manga's scenario are visible here too, but it also means that we should be at last allowed to watch the mythic scenes of the Hades adapted in animation. What's more, the flaws in the original scenario are more than balanced by the revelations of the Hades Chapter. With a bit of luck there won't be any useless digressions and we won't have to bear with too many delays. I really feared the use of Silver Saints, but it looks like the OVA's script writers were wise enough to limit their intervention to the strict minimum.|
|Finally, I think it's fair to warn the random viewer who'd just stumble upon Saint Seiya Hades Hen, or be forced to watched by rabid fans like myself: the purpose of these OVAs is not to make the spectator discover what Saint Seiya is about. They were clearly made for those who know its universe and enjoy it. Their ambition is not to revolutionize the world of animation and feature things never seen before. It's more than likely that amateurs of "recent" anime will find themselves shrugging it off after a few minutes of vision, but they should keep in mind just how old Saint Seiya is. It's an old series which inspired many things, directly or indirectly in many recent shounen series. Saint Seiya doesn't come after those series without even bringing the slightest touch of originality, it comes before all those series, and the originality truly belongs to it.|
|Moreover, it's also fair to warn the fans of "fight" anime that they will certainly be disappointed. Oh, there are battles in Saint Seiya, there are combats. They can be very beautiful, spectacular, deadly and bloody, but the distinctive feature of the old TV series fortunately still holds true in the OVAs: what matters is the emotions that come out of the confrontations, emotions tightly linked to the music used during the fights.||To complete the above warning, I have to add that the events depicted in the first episodes in those OVAs throw the viewer in the middle of a confrontation which seems to be without roots. The viewer is dumped into a conflict which begins without any explanations of justifications. As mentioned before, the OVAs follow the manga's scenario, and that is built so that hints and pieces of the whys and wherefores are dropped little by little as the story advances. To understand the motivations of the characters, the viewer must follow the story's flow and wait for moments when the protagonists will be given the opportunity to detail their reasons as well as events long past.|
|And to conclude this long review, I'd like to say one last thing: I'm extremely happy of what I've been able to watch, much like I was when I first discovered the Fellowship of the Ring movie. Not only does the scenario follow the manga closely, but what's more the musical and graphic atmosphere of the TV series is kept and used. You won't hear anything on the technical side of things, not only do I lack knowledge in the domain, but what's more what matters to me is what I feel when I watch an anime, and there those OVAs have perfectly met their objective.|
|The number of OVAs scheduled is presently of 13 and cover only the first half of the Hades Chapter, to finish at a horrible cliffhanger. Add to that the fact that the second half brings many revelations and contains fundamental elements where come characters are concerned, and you'll understand my fear...and my hope.||The scene of Shun and the pendant in the OP seems to indicate that the script writers are aware of the vital importance of the second half of the Hades Chapter. The only thing I can hope is that the OVAs will meet with a great success in Japan, and that it will encourage or decide the producers to start making this second half...|