Director: Keiichi Satou
Cast: Kaito Ishikawa, Ayaka Sasaki, Daisuke Namikawa, Go Inoue
Genre: Animation, Fantasy
Opens: 9 October 2014
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)/93 mins
There’s a certain risk to be had in rebooting any kind of franchise, whether film, television, or in Saint Seiya’s case, manga. And unfortunately, that risk doesn’t appear to have been fully mitigated in Saint Seiya: Legend Of Sanctuary, the fifth spin-off film from the immensely popular manga series. Sanctuary has gorgeous animated tableaus and breathtaking action sequences, but is ultimately bogged down by its overly busy plot and crowded cast of characters.
The film’s overly busy plot makes it kind of hard to cob together a coherent summary, but for your sakes, this reviewer will give it a shot. Basically, the film centres on Saori Kido (Sasaki), a sixteen-year-old girl who is the reincarnation of the goddess Athena. She’s supposed to reside within Athena’s temple in the magical land of Sanctuary (hence the film’s title), but as an infant, she barely escaped with her life after an unknown party tried to kill her. The film’s other main protagonist is Seiya (Ishikawa), a brash youth who is one of a band of warriors (Saints) tasked with protecting Saori. On her sixteenth birthday, Saori’s mysterious enemies return to finish the job, and that’s when Seiya and his friends must step in to protect her from harm. In order to ensure Saori’s safety, Seiya and his fellow Saints must take Saori back to Sanctuary to reclaim her rightful position, and the only way they can do this is by passing through twelve temples and defeating their respective guardians.
If all of that sounds a tad confusing, it’s mostly because the full context in which the characters of Saint Seiya operate is an extremely rich and detailed one. Sanctuary may be the fifth spin-off film in the Saint Seiya franchise, but it is also the first to attempt a re-tooling of the original manga (the other four featured brand new storylines). As such, Sanctuary has had to undertake the unenviable task of compressing the Saint Seiya world’s abundant lore into a compact film extending just over ninety minutes. The inevitable trade-off is that many plot points end up barely touched upon before the film has to speed off on its way again. The same applies to the characters, which include Seiya’s comrades Shun, Hyoga, Shiryu and Ikki, though it’s unlikely that anyone who isn’t already familiar with Saint Seiya will be able to identify who’s who unless they’re deliberately keeping track (like this reviewer did).
That said, Sanctuary does have its strong suits, especially if you are able to disregard the plot and just focus on the battle sequences. As previously mentioned, Seiya and company have to battle through twelve temples in order to reach their goal, and while not all twelve guardians actually fight, enough do such that there is nary a dull or static moment in the film. The special effects are also generally good, and no expense seems to have been spared in recreating the majestic temples and vistas of Sanctuary, which are an absolute feast for the eyes. The voice actors do an admirable job of injecting life and flavour into their characters, which goes a long way towards making up for the faults of the plot. There are genuine moments of action gold in Sanctuary, but it’s a pity that many of the film’s nuances or homages will only be comprehensible to existing fans.
For all its flaws, Sanctuary is still a reasonably solid addition to the Saint Seiya series. The care lavished on translating the original manga’s characters from 2D print images to full-fledged CGI animation is likely to bowl over fans, but the incomprehensibility of the plot is unlikely to win the series many new ones.
Summary: An excellent choice for a movie outing if you already have some knowledge of the Saint Seiya universe. Otherwise, prepare to get at least a little flummoxed.
RATING: 3 out of 5 stars