Saint Seiya: The Hades Chapter – Sanctuary

Saint Seiya. It’s been a bit of time since I’ve finished the original series. You can read my complete Saint Seiya thoughts if you want to see them. What a journey that was. A very stressful one, but incredible in its own way because it has become one of my favorite shonen battle series and that is after watching a lot of shonen battle series. Anyway, the sad thing is that the OG series is no longer on Netflix, but at least the Hades Saga and other things are on tubi for now. I am in the middle of Lost Canvas right now. Oh, I was supposed to be talking about this series. There are a lot of Saint Seiya still out there. I don’t think I will ever watch OMEGA.

Anyway, The Hades Chapter is made out of three different parts following the original series to give the show its actual manga conclusion. Its sections are the Sanctuary Chapter, the Inferno Chapter, and then the final Elysium chapter. So I will be going through all three in separate posts. Not just because they are three different ovas, but the story and their execution from one part to another are so different from each other that each series needs a singular post of their own. Not just to be nice to all the siblings in this scenario, but because it only makes sense to honor all of these ova series by talking about them more separately. 

Following the defeat of Poseidon at the hands of our saints after saving the world from flooding, Athena’s saints (the usual characters Seiya, softer Shu, the calm and reflective Shiryu, the former rival but softer minded Hyogo, and Ikki who does whatever he wants supposedly until he saves his brother Shu in important moments, are separated from Athena. She is at the Sanctuary and is taking her throne as is prophesied or deemed right by the golden saints. So of course everything is peaceful now until they aren’t. You know, the usual shonen stuff.

Suddenly the peace breaks out when 99 specters from the underworld show up to take Athena’s head. Not just the standard stock bad guys, but silver saints and even some gold saints that our main protagonists defeated show up to take Athena’s head. Every single one of them gave their souls to Hades for this one chance to kill Athena and bring her to Hades. Who is in their way? The last remaining five gold saints and our heroes who refuse to follow orders and fight for Athena. So basically this is like the Sanctuary chapter from Saint Seiya, my favorite one, except faster and reverse because villains are running the sanctuary against the gold saints instead of the main cast.

What makes this chapter of this ova so different compared to the rest of the series and even the other Hades ovas is that this series barely even focuses on our protagonist saints. This arc is mainly about gold saints facing off against former gold saints. Our saints are present and do things, but they are, for the most part, a tipping point to turn everything to the balance of our golden saints. They are that slight push needed to make these battles actually succeed even if the ending wasn’t so dramatic. So there is a lot of personal trauma and grief between the former gold saints and the gold saints still there which carries a lot of the weight of it and I really like that mature angle compared to the usual shonen protagonist route. It is just so different.

There is almost no character growth in this portion for our five saints because they all have their very flat arcs. That doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting at all or learn anything. Their relationship with the god saints who the specters has grown on the other side. This is the first time after the Sanctuary arc that we’ve seen them together. It’s the feeling of the gold saints over the bronze saints which change. Slowly, all of our bronze saints are slowly accepted and helped for future events that happen in the story. The gold saints give their lives to make sure our bronze saints with an infinite amount of potential keep going no matter the cost and that is only the start of all of this. It’s wonderful seeing a generation shift like this.

The way this adaptation works is so interesting.There are a lot of choices in this one that focus a lot more on one or a limited number of strengths, for instance, instead of all of the strengths that Saint Seiya has to prevail on. Saint Seiya is not only a dramatic piece of storytelling because characters are put into danger and there is a lot of heart put into the story telling, but it is also an 80’s battle shonen series for the most part. A successful Saint Seiya series should be able to tap into the action and the character drama in an excellent way. This sanctuary chapter focuses much more on the drama while leaving a lot of the action to be not as important as it could be.

I find that all completely fascinating of a choice. For one thing, the action in this OVA is pretty lacking. There are a lot of still frames and just not as good visual fighting to make it stand for itself at all. It is also a very darkly shot or just drawn series because there is a lot of black which leads to some really cool introspective shots but a lot of minimalism too. I’m not sure if that would work for any other series where characters are literal gods fighting each other, but it did work for Saint Seiya to provide an atmosphere we’ve never seen before in this franchise. It’s beautiful, even with the darkness, how it just does what it wants in a creative way.

In the end, the Sanctuary portion of this Hades Chapter is really good. Some classic shonen stuff done in a very unique way that helps it stand out from a lot of series. Did it have to be this way? No, I don’t think so. It could have been a fairly standard execution of this story and it would have been great if it did that too. Especially since the style that Seiya does with its setting and story are simply excellent, even if they are simple still for shonen battle series standards. Especially with the generation concept being pretty unique in its own right. This series has a lot to say still and it makes me happy.

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