Sunday, January 21, 2007

No Surrender, No Retreat !

It’s a strange sensation, when you feel a shiver run up your spine, and when you feel your heartbeats speed up. Strange, and full of childlike wonder when the cause of these symptoms is your watching two episodes of the Meikai hen Kosho, raw (meaning unsubbed).

It’s a bit like electricity coursing your bones, and rewinding almighty Time to younger days, when you could still call yourself a kid and be completely into an anime series like Saint Seiya without having those close to you blink too openly at your weird behavior and taste…although, to be honest, it doesn’t matter much how old you grow, nothing prevents your from still enjoying and loving what you did when you were 18. Nobody can make you change what thrills you, nobody but yourself, and the truth is there is no age limit to enjoy oneself, unless you make it so.

So, back to the topic. Today, I watched both episodes 22 and 23 of the Hades Chapter, also known as OAVs 3 and 4 of the Meikai-hen Kosho or as OAVs 7 and 8 of the Meikai-hen as a whole. And the very good news is that I keep being lifted up on the wings of that series. The very, very good news, is that all the things that define Saint Seiya are present in these two episodes: fantastic characters, gorgeous art, incredible seiyuus, and what remains, in my humble opinion, the best part of the whole Saint Seiya story, except for the Twelve Houses race in the Sanctuary chapter.

Now, for some detailed comments:

In episode 22, the major change is the lengthening of the Valentine/Seiya fight. Not exactly needed, the more so since there were other things to develop further than what Kurumada did, but it was well done. Some good cuts and transitions, and a tad more fluidity in the motions, good! But what really won the day there was the confrontation Shaka/Hades/Athena. For the first time in the anime’s history, I enjoyed the performance of Virgo Shaka’s seiyuu. It was thrilling and moving at once. The reason for that is very simple: for the first time we are offered a Virgo Shaka with feelings and emotions. A human being, a man of flesh and blood, who goes through anguish when the Athena he loves above everything climbs up the stairs to confront Hades, who experiences anger and sorrow when evoking the fate of Shun, whom he believes forever lost. A Virgo Shaka who shudders and must make a visible effort to keep a shout of protestation and outrage from escaping his lips when Athena kneels down before Hades and pleads for humanity. A Virgo Shaka I’m glad to perceive at last as a man of flesh and blood, with a heart that beats inside his chest, a heart that hammers inside his ribcage while he watches Athena stride toward her arch-enemy weaponless.

Yes, Gold Saint though he may be, man closest to the divine though he may be, Virgo Shaka is and remains a human being. And it’s this ability to keep feeling that justifies the Gold Saints' status as protectors of humankind. Only those who can feel as ordinary people feel, those who can have a moment’s weakness or fragility, those who have had to struggle and fight to gain the strength of the soul that allows them to rise even against impossible odds can be entrusted with the safeguard of humanity. Of course, it’s true that I’d have loved to see Shaka react, to have seen him ignore the command of Athena at some point, but it couldn’t be: this sin’t the way Masami Kurumada wrote the character, and to change that would have meant a major change in this key scene of the episode. Given the restrictions put on the Saint Seiya anime adaptations since Mr Kurumada lost the little bit of brains and wits he ever had after the Tenkai-hen affair, there was no way the scenarists could have changed that in a good way while respecting constraints such as “no major changes and a strict respect of the manga”.

This episode also contains a very nice performance by Saori’s seiyuu, and a very good picturing of Hades’ soul.

And of course, I cannot help but regret that there was no development of Shun’s release by Hades, no showing of Shun fighting Hades’ hold once Athena’s blood has reawaken his spirit. We know it is happening, all the other characters explain what’s going on, but we do not see it. It’s a lack already present in the manga, and I must admit that I had hoped it would be filled by the anime adaptation, but once again, knowing how things stand with Mr Kurumada and intelligence and creativity these days…well, I couldn’t expect any miracle of the kind.

Still, all in all, a very good episode. A superb Virgo Shaka and a rather interesting Saori/Athena, so I for one am happy ^^

Episode 23. Here, I must start with another regret: when Seiya enters the Guidecca, he discovers a still unconscious Shun, who wears the Andromeda Cloth although we left him still wearing Hades’ full garb, his Cloth put away somewhere in the Guidecca’s many chambers after Hades’ taking over him. This is incoherent, as incoherent as it was in the manga, but contrary to scenes developing Shun’s struggle against Hades, it could have been easily fixed: take five seconds out of the totally useless and futile scene with Miho and the kids wondering at the unannounced eclipse in Japan, and you could patch that plot hole. But it wasn’t done. Ah well.

Again, Virgo Shaka is breathtaking. Those two episodes really favor him and help in giving more flesh, more stature and strength to this character who had appeared much too arrogant and aloof in all that went on before. I know I've said this just above already, but I really used to have a very hard time liking the voice of his seiyuu and imagining it fit with the character’s, but once you turn him into a real human beings, into a person with guts and a heart, both the character and his voice become absolutely fantastic! The scene of Virgo Shaka’s cosmo unfolding fully for the first time in the whole Saint Seiya story is simply fantastic.

And of course this episode features the reawakening of the three Gold Saints imprisoned in the eternal ice fields of the Cocyte. Aries Mu, Leo Aioria and Scorpio Milo are magnificent (ah, Aries Mu’s smile when he steals a glance toward the now empty spot where Ikki had been imprisoned as well). Their arrival before the unbreachable wall behind which Hades has retreated, taking Athena with him, in time to rejoin Dohko and Shaka (yes, Seiya and Shun are there, in the background, but they do not exactly matter here ^^), and Mu’s returning the rosary to Shaka are much awaited moments, and ones that keep their promises.

There is a lot of dialogue in that episode, and quite a few repetitions among them, but then who cares? The anime isn’t responsible for the manga’s flaws, and since there was no freedom to make real changes during the adaptation process, it’s futile to attribute to the anime what belongs to the manga and to Mr Kurumada. Still, if you try to think about it, the TV series was more than flawed as well, and yet a great many people loved it, and love it still. So my opinion remains that anyone who watches those OVAs in search of more than what they found in the TV series as a whole, bad episodes included, will always be disappointed, but I also believe that they’re looking for something that’s not there, and that’s never going to be there.

The episode ends with the gathering of all the Gold Saints that were still alive, and switches to a very nice view of the Sanctuary’s immediate vicinity in sunlight, where we see Marin dragging a very timid Seika along. Then comes the very nice ED song, and the preview of episode 24...and a very frustrating month-long wait for more.

After the revelation of the harsh, merciless truth of the nature of the wall standing before the Gold Saints, and of the only thing that can breach it, after despair’s bone-gnarled hand worming its way to enclose and crush the hearts and souls of Shaka, Mu, Aioria, Milo, Seiya, Shun and Dohko, we switch over to the sunlight. The only thing that can crack the wall shaped by the gods. And hope...hope is kindled, breathed back to life, blown into a bonfire from the embers and the ashes that the dark, very well done atmosphere of the wall’s vicinity had almost managed to annihilate for good.

No, no despair, no matter what.

No surrender, no retreat!

Onward…to the next, and last episodes of this Meikai-hen Kosho, and the heartrending sacrifice that is about to take place.

PS: As usual with Saint Seiya reviews, you can find this one with rather nice screencaps on my web home here.

PPS: yes, I know, I am way too fond of Babylon 5 episode titles! :P


Virgo_Andromeda said...

"PPS: yes, I know, I am way too fond of Babylon 5 episode titles! :P"

oh no, I was on the point of making the remark... :P

Even if the comments are quite the same than on cyna, I read them with pleasure again :)
I think the attitude of Shaka can also be explained by the fact that Athéna does not approve his will to try killing Hadès.
After she catches the spear he does not dare intervene even if he would like...

I have seen the 22 again and I agree, this confrontation is thrilling... :)

Fuu-chan said...

Hehe ^^

It's true the reviews I post here are most of the time translations of what I said on cyna (or the reverse if I post here first), with little bits added here and there ^^

As to Shaka not daring to intervene even though he wants to, well of course there's coherence there, but if I want to be picky, I'll say that there was a way to scenarize this a bit more fluidly as to Shaka's movements and position. But, hey, that's only if I want to be picky. As it is, I'm quite happy with what we got, even if there's always room for better things! ;)

Somewhere Between said...

Hi,I really appreciate these comments on episodes 22 and 23. Can I repost and translate your article to some Chinese fans' forums?

Fuu-chan said...

Somewhere Between: thanks ^^
And of course, please go ahead, if you think people will enjoy reading it, then I'm honored and happy to have the article translated and reposted ^^

Sweetyhemlock said...

Thanks^_^ I'm that 'Somewhere between'.

I translated your article and posted it here:

This's one of the major Saint Seiya fans' forums in China. Yet I suppose you got no idea about Chinese... So you cann't check my job.

Fuu-chan said...

Hi again ^^

Well, I went to the forum and saw your post, but you're right, I have absolutely no knowledge of Chinese, so I can't check it, but don't worry about that. Thanks for the translation work, and for letting other people know about it *bow* ^^

Sweetyhemlock said...

Fuu-chan, hello again^_^
The translated version has been reposted somewhere else, by, other fans.

I think it's my duty to tell you some strange response to this artile. ('strange' simply means anything other than appreciation, agreements or disagreements = =)

1. You could never believe that you've 'created' some Shaka X Athena fans. Well, it may be not your fault LoL- it's Mr Kurumada who lets people think of that strange but cute couple.

2. Fans are curious about where you'r from. Somebody thought your're a Chinese-American, others guessed you're from Asia. Frankly, I just don't know how these people get those weird imagines. I just suppose you're a common American living in Atlanta. Am I right? Do you have any Asian backgroud or something?

3. Some fans are waiting for your comments on Epi 24 and 25...

Fuu-chan said...

Hi, Sweetyhemlock ^^

Firstly, thanks for reporting those comments, it's very interesting for me, because I'm not used to having my articles be read by other people than mostly French-speaking people. So finding out what other people think about what I write is really, really nice ^^

As to the questions, here goes:

1. Oh, my. Did I do that? I mean create Shaka X Athena fans with the article? Well, it wasn't my intention, but still, why not? After all, there are enough plot holes in the universe of Saint Seiya for fans to fill them with what their imagination creates. After all I spend a lot of time doing that too, so there. ^^

2. I am absolutely not from Asia or from the US. I'm actually from Belgium, in the heart of Europe, and I'm a French-speaker in love with the English language ^^
It just goes to show how universal the contents of Saint Seiya can be: you can find fans all over the world, from so many different cutltures and backgrounds, and still we enjoy things very similar in that show, and see very similar things ^^

3. I know, I need to kick myself in the butt and do something on the last two. They kinda disappointed me, so I haven't been as keen on writing a piece about them, but I'll get around to it, as soon as real life stops being a bit on the chaotic side and leaves me some time to choose images to illustrate the article, and also to come up with something balanced to say about them. Anyway, the day I write something, it'll be up here, so you'll see it. But I can't tell you when. Sorry. ^^;;;;

Sweetyhemlock said...

Belgian? = =

It seems I made a serious mistake, cause I told people you're from the US. I remember you mentioned in one of your articles that you were in Atlanta...Or maybe I just beheld you as someone else. Anyway, I'll keep quiet about this nationality issue>_< So, just pretend that you're an American.

By the way, have you read Chapter 27-28 of The Lost Canvas? What do you think of this virgo? Quite different from Shaka, isn't he?

Fuu-chan said...

No worries about the mistake in nationality. It's not as if that mattered so much to me ^_-
I do talk of the US a lot, it's true, but I'm not american ^^

About the Lost Canvas, yes I'm still following it, and enjoying it a lot. Asmita is an interesting character, the more so in chapter 29. The Tokyo Babylon/Sakurazukamori moment is particularly interesting, even if the whole confrontation with Tenma closely resembles that of Ikki and Shaka ^^
Anyway, I look forward to reading more, and to finding out how Teshirogi-sensei will portray the other Gold Saints. ^^