Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sleeping in Light

It is now several weeks after the last two episodes of the Meikai-Hen Kosho were aired in Japan. Several weeks since I’ve watched those episodes, first raw, and then subtitled. That is quite a while, considering that for the first four episodes, I practically jumped on my keyboard and started writing a review on what I had just seen. This time—well, this time is a bit different.

If you read reviews out there, you may find a majority of furious fans raging about how these last two episodes were handled. You may also find people who enjoyed the episodes, and people who enjoyed them, with reservations. I belong to that last category.

Most of the people who simply enjoyed the episodes aren’t rabid Saint Seiya fans, who know all there is to know about their favorite universe, and have known that for fifteen years and more. Those are the ones who will never forgive the change of cast, the eviction of Yamauchi Shigeyasu, and the bone-headed attitude of Masami Kurumada. They are also those who will always measure everything they watch against the Juunikyuu Hen, and thus find mostly everything unworthy. In my opinion, that is just too bad for them, and I would advise them to stop watching any further episodes of The Hades Chapter when they materialize on SkyperfectTV in a year or two. They will never again find something they will enjoy, and they will only bring themselves more bitterness, frustration, and anger. Incidentally they’ll also be bringing those who have the gall to enjoy what’s been done so far and will hopefully be done next serious cases of headaches, and their constant complains and temper tantrums will severely try the rest of the fan universe’s patience. And the gods and the goddesses, named and unnamed, imaginary or real, know how little patience I have for this sort of thing. I am easily irritated, and it gets worse with old age.

But enough with me. Those who unconditionally enjoyed those last two episodes were casual fans of Saint Seiya. People who haven’t read the manga, didn’t know verbatim every line and image of what was supposed to happen, and also who don’t expect Saint Seiya episodes to be outstanding works of art.

And then, there are those who enjoyed them, with reservation, like your humble servant. What reservations? Well, easy enough: episode five features a “what’s been going on last” moment that lasts a full five minutes thirty-six seconds (roughly), OP excluded. This means that a good seven minutes out of the twenty-four minutes thirty seconds of the episode, OP and ED included, are gobbled up by a simple copy-paste of images and dialogues already known and aired. That is one hell of a lot: almost one third of the episode’s time completely wasted. Of course, this “what’s been going on before” moment is a common occurrence in TV episodes of long series. Take Bleach, for instance: these days, every episodes starts with around two minutes of summary. Two. Not five and a half, and those are TV episodes, not OVA episodes. One can only surmise what happened: lack of time, of means, of motivation, overall exhaustion…who can tell? But that’s not all. Episode five also features a truly horrible moment: the Gold Cloths’ call to each other. Whoever came up with the sound effect was under some bad weed’s influence. Either that, or s/he had way too much alcohol poisoning his or her bloodstream. To this day, I shudder whenever I hear that completely stupid, horrible and pathetic excuse for what should have been a beautiful, dramatic moment.

So that’s about it for the bad stuff. The musical selection was correct, but lacked the touch of class I had grown used to. Many repetitions in the chosen themes, but Saint Seiya music remains wonderful, whatever you do with it. Unlike many of the die-hard Saint Seiya fans, a category I thought I definitely belonged to, I really did enjoy the end of the confrontation between Kanon and Rhadamanthys. Yes, Kanon is powerless. Yes, Kanon is beaten and flung to the ground as easily as if he were an infant. Well, that is all rather natural: the Gemini Cloth just left him, and he is still confronted to the most powerful Judge of Hell. So, hey, what’s the problem with that? Hm, I think I know: the Greatest Caution isn’t as beautiful as it was in the Juunikyuu. Well, yeah, that’s true, but then again, it hasn’t been that way in the Zensho either. So why would it be now? Does it matter? It’s just an effect, just an attack. It really doesn’t matter so much how it’s portrayed. What goes on between the two opponents is much more important, if you ask me. The way those two interact is way more important. And I find it all rather well done. I was happy with how that ended. Kanon supporter that I am, I found myself satisfied, and gifted with a gorgeous image of Kanon leaving this life to go to whatever awaits beyond, serene and smiling. Beyond that, I was also happy with the small scenes from the Sanctuary, as well as the with the short flashback on the Poseidon chapter. So, yes, all in all I was satisfied with the episode, and happy with how the Kanon vs. Rhadamanthys matter was settled.

And then, there was episode six, and the sacrifice of the Gold Saints. Many people found it botched, found the moment didn’t manage to draw out the right emotions of heartrending loss. I disagree. There is no heartrending loss to be felt here. That took place before, in the Juunikyuu where Aries Mu, Leo Aioria, Taurus Aldebaran and Scorpio Milo are concerned. What takes place before the accursed Wall is nothing more than a repetition, a second ending and, what’s more, one which brings the possibility of hope, whereas the loss experienced in the Juunikyuu was full of impotent rage at watching such fantastic characters be slaughtered by an incredibly powerful opponent who was playing on his own turf, and not playing fair (remember, I go with the kekkai theory, and I will stick to it to the end). But still, even if we, as spectators, do not truly lose the Gold Saints there, the Bronze boys do. And the moment during which we see Seiya, Shiryu, Hyoga and Shun run in slow motion, past their elders who smile gently upon them, those they call friends and brothers, well that moment is well done, and does draw out the right emotions.

Of course, I admit to not have put as much stake in the Gold Saints sacrifice as many other people have likely done. In my opinion, the moment is anti-climatic. It is even, if you think about it, ridiculous scenario-wise. We know that the Gold Saints are powerful enough to trigger a mini Big Bang with the Athena Exclamation. And a mini Big Bang, no matter how mini, certainly DOES equate to the intensity of the sun’s rays. To pretend otherwise is, well, stupid. But plot holes are part of the original Saint Seiya manga story, and this one is no exception. I was mad at Masami Kurumada when I first read the manga, back in the early 1990s, I have gotten way madder at him recently, but I will not blame the anime adaptation for flaws that belong to the original. I may regret there was neither latitude, nor means to correct the flaws and shape a fantastic story (ask me to rewrite that Hades Chapter sometime, no crossover, I just may do it one day), but that’s all.

To tell you the whole truth, being definitely a true Andromeda Shun afficionada, well I didn’t focus so much on the Gold Saints’ individual farewells to the Bronze Boys they were particularly close to. Shun having always been kept away from such friendship and closeness, and thus being excluded from such farewells, I never did care so much about them. Still, it was a nice touch to have Pisces Aphrodite tell Shun he had to pull another miracle, the way the Andromeda Saint had when defeating him. It was also a nice touch to have Seiya go to Aldebaran while the two, long separated brothers could at last be reunited. And Shiryu’s tears after the deed is done are also rather moving. However, a special hilarious moment is dedicated to all the fans gifted with the ability to smile when stuff in their favorite work is badly botched: a longish race during which the Bronze Boys really, really look like awkward ducks trying to flap their wings to lift off from the ground. That, as the sound effect of the Gold Cloths calling out to each other, was outstandingly badly done.

And then there is the end of the episode, with the rather satisfying appearance of Minos, and most of all the non confrontation between Ikki and Pandora, who watches the Phoenix Saint from the shadows as he strides toward the now breached Wall. And, as she watches, memories rise and grip her soul. Tears well in her eyes, and start to run down her cheeks. As Ikki continues his walk, Pandora starts moving from behind the shadows. All along the Kosho episodes, she has been watching, pondering, wondering. And wavering. Little by little, she has gone from referring to Hades as “Hades-sama” to simply “Hades”. And the horror of events past is like a rising tide she cannot and may even not feel like fighting down. The last image we have of her and Ikki show her almost about to rush after him, or call out to him. It’s not the longest moment of the episode, but it’s definitely a very, very good one.

Eventually the episode ends with the Bronze Boys jumping into the hole in the Wall. They do not know what awaits. They do not know that Athena has been trapped. And we…we have to wait for long months before watching the conclusion to the Hades chapter. Fortunately in the meantime, we’ll still be getting our weekly shot of Saint Seiya thanks to Shiori Teshirogi and her Saint Seiya, the Lost Canvas, which to this day continues to be an excellent read.

I will not finish this series of reviews concerning the Meikai-Hen Kosho on an unhappy note. I am not unhappy, on the contrary. I am happy. These six OVAs provided me with four excellent episodes, moments of magic to be treasured. These six OVAs gave us two fantastic three-fold faceoffs: Shun, Ikki and Hades, and then Hades, Shaka and Athena. What is, in my humble opinion, one of the key moments of Saint Seiya kept all its promises. What’s more, as a bonus, we got to see a very, very good Shaka in episodes three and four. Now the Meikai-Hen Kosho is over, and we have bidden a final farewell to fantastic characters, to godlike figures, both gifted and cursed with humanity—with a heart and a soul. The Gold Saints are gone, a smile on their faces, gone to wait for the next turn of the wheel, sleeping in light. So, to hell with disappointment in the last two episodes, even though it may be warranted. Who cares? I am still happy they made them. And I want more. Let those who hate those episodes be coherent and stop even trying to watch further episodes. I want more. I will wait for more.

And so will a great many other people.

The EndGame is about to begin, and I will be there when it starts.

PS: as usual, you can find this review, illustrated with a selection of screencaps from episodes 5 & 6 here, in my web home.
PPS: yes, B5 titles. I know. :P

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