The second season of Saint Seiya Lost Canvas just finished and I believe it's high time I took both series into consideration and shared my thoughts about them. Forgive me for collapsing the two into a single entity, but once the whole show is completed most reviewers will actually do the same.
For starters, it's worth mentioning, that although the series has been up as an OVA for more than 2 years now, we are still only half-way through. This is because at the time the first episode was aired, the manga was still ongoing and only recently came to a spectacular end (at least for
those we have no experience with SS franchise), therefore the animators took their time to polish Lost Canvas OVA instead of come up with poinstless fillers, like most people would do. Thank you dearly for that. I believe that it's a good thing, that the series is split into 13-episode-long seasons which end at crucial moments in the series. By doing so, the studio managed to pace the title just exaclty right and omit adding extra content or re-cap episodes just to buy some time for the manga to gain the distance. However, now that the manga is finished I'm sincerely hoping that the two final seasons will be delivered sooner than the previous ones. Otherwise those will be really painfull 4 or so years...
The story may appear a bit cliched with straightforward shounen backtracks at the first glance, but if one looks just a little bit deeper it may appear that the initial thoughts are somewhat invalid or distorted by the fact, that shounen series these days offer very little and in consequence blunt our-the viewers' hopes for new franchise(s). The grieveness of this idea is multiplied by the sincere lack of anything that would only little go beyond the accepted cliches of good guys fighting against bad guys. In Lost Canvas this small glimpse is represented not so much by the plot but by the characters and their overlapping development over the course of events. The authors are not scared by the fact that they have to deal with so many people (if we only consider the Golds it's 12 people already!!) and this accounts for supreme control over the content which appears on the screen. Every character gets his or her 5 minutes (the leads of course more), most motivations are solidly backgrounded and although some situations may apper too 'captain-obvious'-like, it's still refreshing to see the characters struggle not so much to defeat the enemy, but rather to survive in the end. Of course, this appears to be rather difficult in the rough SS world (sorry for the abbreviation, it's Saint Seiya obviously :] ) and people really die when they are killed, but it's for the best: we can move with the plot and grieve for all those who lost their lives, not necessarily reminiscenting about them every moment possible in every flashback possible (Hello there Naruto bozoos!).
The characters' strength lies in their difference. Even among the Saints or the Specters you will rarely find the two alike characters. Sure, the Golds are obsessed with fighting (you can tell just by their spiky hairstyles though :> ) and the Specters are obsessed with killing the Golds (this, well, you can tell just by looking at them :] ). Both the teams fight for their own leaders though, and although I do understand why 12 men wearing gold pants are into a lovely 18-year-old goddess from the Age of Myth, I still find it difficult to accept the other side of the fence admiring a dark-haired boy who loves to lick blood from the floor or play with his puppy-of-a-cerberus.
I also like the main character - the Pegasus Saint Tenma. He's a much better folly then his 20th century counterpart - Seiya, more decisive, less annoying and definitely more intelligent. He also appears to be slightly more talented than Seiya, which comes across as being crucial in some of the battles and saves his life on occasion. As we will learn from the upcoming seasons his background is also more solid than Seiya's and includes much more twists and wicked characters. Through the 90s' series Seiya appeared to be more of an 'accident' of a Saint, than a fated warrior whose destiny is to aid Athena in her final battle against Hades. Tenma is..., well exactly this definition with the small add-on: 'Oh Gods, I carry a torch both for Sasha and her brother Alone, who, erm, happen to be the Athena and the Hades'. Aside of that, he's a perfect protagonist. He shows up occasionally, isn't omnipotent and is far from being strong, even by the end of the series. He also understands, that since he cannot bring Alone back, he will have to take him down eventually.
The other characters are also a far better counterparts to their younger brothers and sisters from Saint Seiya the original. That may be, because we live with these people and most of them serve as not only mentors for Tenma, but also a rather eloquent battle subjects. The original was, at this particular point really scarce. At least half of the Sanctuary warriors died in the initial battles against the Bronze, only to be later revived by Hades - thus we know very little about them in general.
Another kudos should belong to two other protagonists: Sasha aka Athena and Alone aka Hades. They both play their roles splendidly, while introducing a more complex twists into the plot. Although you may find Sasha to be a bit too kind and extraverted at first, her 'alter ego' - Alone, is exactly the opposite. Cruel, decisive and a bit emotional version of one of the darkest and most well-known villains in the Mythology and yet you nearly believe in the world he's pointing at: without wars, killing and cruelty. The only problem is, this also means the world without humans.
Graphically and soundwise the production nearly reaches perfection. Of course, it's an OVA, anything lower than perfection is unacceptable, but the studio put so much care and heart into making this beatifully drawn manga into something of this quality, that it cannot remain untold. Every aspect of it, starting from extra smooth animation, detailed drawings and beautiful backgrounds to nearly non-existent CGI is a work of art. There is not a single episode of a less format than it should be, and that's good. It's the kind of enjoyment many of us have been waiting for for nearly a decade. The graphics also prove, that making the series into OVA rather than regular TV show was a much better solution. By doing so, the animators could retain the original concepts and beauty of the manga without rush and with more money to spend. Action scenes are really good and some could easily become a good show-off for all those, who aim at superb quality but end up doing rubbish instead. Special attention is required when we want to discuss the way the Cloths (armors) look. It's a completely different level from the ones availbile in the old series. Although I do like the old designs, the new cloths, while retaining the spirit of the originals, are far better looking, slicker and more modern.
The music is composed by Kaworu Wada, who made the entire OST for D-Gray man. Back in that show, I loved his creations and Lost Canvas is no different. The music is for most part fantastic, climatic and well suited with the tone of the series and the development of the characters. For some scenes you don't really notice it's there but for others it's crucial and without it the moment wouldn't be even half that good.
A separate paragraph should also follow the opening and ending sequences - those are fabulous. At first, I didn't quite like them as I'm not a fan of the Japanese artists singing English lyrics. This time around, however, what I usually assume to be something weak turned out to be so good, that I tend use my utter singing abilities to perform it occasionally in bath :] (a joke). The Realm of Athena, obviously, is a living proof of the Japanese using English consciously and nearly flawlessly - and for only that, you should check it. The ending is also good, but it gets old pretty fast, on the contrary, The Realm of Athena is a neverending feat that, when pops up on my playlist, reminds me of this great series instantly.
Voice acting is definitely the weakest part of the OVA, and although the studio hired pretty well-known people to do their work as seiyuus (Hirano Aya, Hiro Shimono, Tetsuya Kakihara) some parts just don't go too well with the epicness of the scenes. I tend to like Aya-san which voices Sasha and Tetsuya-san as Tenma, though. These two seiyuus really did their best to input as many emotions into their animated characters as possible and it paid off.
It's really difficult to credit something which is still on-going, but I'll try to pass the final verdict. Lost Canvas is a v.good OVA series, mainly because it follows the manga consequently and consistently leaving aside no room for fillers or recap episodes. Therefore it borrows all the good and bad parts of the manga, while retaining the general idea intact. For a shounen it sure is refreshing, to see the series which ends in 200-- chapters rather than a thousand or so, but I still can't get this odd feeling off, that it's a sheer rip-off from the original series. Although you do get a lot of new characters, a more developed protagonists (Saoru from Kurumada's manga was very very weak) and a better development of the other Saints beside the Pegasus and his henchmen it still is a good old Saint Seiya show. Thus, if you have nothing against battles that end in one-two attacks, overpowered and shiny armors and are into beautiful animation, epic ost and memorable characters - the series is for you!
Is my first review, english is not my first language, don´t be harsh XDDD.
SS Lost Canvas, is like a dreamed SHONEN adaptation, nice animation, a real war, no plotkai. Shonen series should imitate lost canvas
Im a classic Saint Seiya fan, but I consider Lost Canvas as the superior one.
Now, first I will introduce people about saint seiya:
This anime tells the story of the previous Holy War, taking place in the 18th century, 250 years before the original series, in the Saint Seiya universe. The story centers on the relation between Tenma, the Pegasus Saint and his beloved friends, Alone, who eventually becomes his greatest enemy,
Hades and Sasha who became Athena.
You don´t need to watch the original SS series.
Characters 8 of 10. Tenma starts as the generic shonen hero, but the setting and certain events will turn Tenma in something different. The good thing about LC, is that the side characters the Gold Saint receive a lot of attention, they have interesting backgrounds, you will care about them. The specter (hades army) represent the opposite you will hate them, but they are awesome too.
Alone is a hit or a miss, (wont spoil).
Animation 9 of 10: Great Backgrounds, awesome character and cloth (designs), fluid combat scenes. Saint Seiya is more "skill based" and "shout my hax move type" than melee brawl.
Soundtrack 8 0f 10: Good tunes, reall fits. But inferior to the original anime soundtrack.
Setting 10 of 10: If you like mythology, unique clothes, badasses, also bishies (for the female fan).
Epic holy war, there´s no clear victory, for both sides, BOTH SIDES HAVE LOSSES, something nowaday shonens don´t have
Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas is a spin-off to the original series Saint Seiya by Masami Kurumada. For those who have not seen that original series, it is based on the greek mythology, where the universe is ruled by greek deities and each of them counts with a group of warriors called "saints" (for the warriors of the goddess Athena, the one the author decided to be the main one of the series and the goddess of the Earth) or "specters" (for the warriors of the god Hades, god of hell and the underworld), who swear allegiance to
them and fight for their cause. These warriors wear "cloths"; armours made of rare and very resistant materials, which have the shape of the "concept" of each warrior; in the case of the saints, greek constellations (for example, the Leo warrior, representing the constellation of Leo, wears a cloth with the shape of a lion). The saints representing the 12 zodiacal signs are called the "gold saints" and are the most powerful servers of Athena.
First of all: is it necessary to have seen the original series to understand this installment? No, but it is highly recommendabe to do it, since it works as a complement to understand with more depth many of the elements and characteristics of the world presented here.
The argument: this installment narrates the events that took place 243 years before the Saint Seiya times; the "holy war" between the aforementioned goddess Athena and the god Hades (in this sense, this one works as a prequel to the original series). Main characters are Tenma, Sasha and Alone, a group of three orphan friends that live in a small italian town. Sasha is the reincarnation (of that era) of Athena, who comes back to life every time evil threatens the Earth, and is taken by the Sagitarious gold saint at early age to Athena's "Sanctuary"; a montainous and hidden place in Greece from where Athena reigns the world, directs her saints and where some future saints are trained. Tenma, a cheerful and strong boy, is discovered by Dohko, the Libra gold saint, and is taken by him also to the Sanctuary so he can become the Pegasus bronze saint, where he meets once again Sasha and comes to know that she is Athena's reincarnation. Lastly, Alone, Sasha's brother and a boy with a very pure soul, was the chosen human being by Hades to make use of his body as his vessel. Sanctuary eventually becomes aware of this and a new holy war, for the control of the Earth, among saints and specters, ignites.
Even though not all the focus goes to Tenma (a lot of attention is put on many gold saints too), he is undoubtedly the central character, just as his Saint Seiya simile, Seiya of Pegasus. Besides Sasha and Alone, he has Yato as his training-friend, another saint who wears the Unicorn bronze cloth, an election that ends up being very welcome to previous Saint Seiya followers since this saint was very underwritten in the original series. The relationship among these friends is used to add the usual comic-relief moments, since they treat each other like two naughty boys, both are very likable and their interactions are fun to watch (this does not imply they are immature; they are still very aware of the critical situation the world is facing). This is an innovation to the original series, since comedy was virtually completely removed there save some moments at the beginning.
The gold saints that receive the most attention are Dohko of Libra, who's Tenma's grandmaster, and Shion of Aries (who are besides the only characters also present in the original series). Many other gold saints have their fair share in the series, with the exception of Gemini, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius, who are barely shown. A priori this looks unfair, but in the end, it in fact adds more naturalism, because showing them all would be very stereotypical.
The same as the original series, main characters have some female-warrior company; in the original they were Marin and Sheena, while in this occasion is Yuzuriha, who eventually joins Tenma and Yato's team. It's worth noting that in Saint Seiya's universe, women are not allowed to become saints unless they use a mask that hides their female identity. Yuzuriha is more than a mere companion, and the series takes some time to show the viewer who she is, what's her background story, and what her motivations are. She serves as a guide and support to these two young somewhat clueless and disoriented bronze-saints.
One of the aspects this installment improves with respect to the original series is definetely in regards to characterization and character development. In the original, even though character-backgrounds are mentioned and their intentions are explicit, there isn't much psychological evolution and many characters are somewhat one-dimensional; they are instead used as story-building tools. In the original, focus was centered around the story rather than characters, but in Lost Canvas, they have a better and more complex treatment, and relationships are much better depicted; they feel more natural and deep.
In regards to the story and its development, the series hooks the viewer up since the beginning, and nicely shows a well-balanced rythm; it doesn't rush nor slow down. It's definetely much better executed and directed than original's own Hades arc, which was promising in the first episodes but from the middle onwards it starts getting truly weak, rushed and dissapointing, leaving the watcher with a bitter feeling.
Series also improves with respect to original's Hades arc in regards to the treatment of the other two main god enemies: Thanatos, god of death, and Hypnos, god of dream. In the original, their introduction is very late, and the full extent of their power is never properly shown. Now, they are introduced early, have more intervention and their relationship as twin brothers it's also better shown. Being both the two main and more powerful enemies after Hades, one expects them to have a lot of screentime, and a well-developed intense confrontation, but you see nothing of all these in the original adaptation. The TOEI team just didn't make them justice, and it came to be very dissapointing after spending so much time with a ton of less-relevant episodes and some irrelevant enemies during the middle. These mistakes were gladly corrected in this occasion.
First 13 episodes are nimble, dynamic and rythmical. They are entertaining to watch, they deliver. However, some problems start arising in the second half (or second season); series starts feeling repetitive and tiring.
A pro this series has with respect to the original is that it moves away from the repetitive narrative structure of the original's last 4 arcs: "Athena is in danger, we must save her before time's up, each one of us will fight one of the warrior servers of the main enemy in turn, we defeat all of them, we get where the main enemy is and after an epic confrontation, we defeat him too and we save our goddess Athena and the world". That typical Saint Seiya storyline is abandoned here. Nonetheless, somewhere in the middle, this one turns repetitive too, this time, in the way characters are introduced (essentially, gold saints and specters) and in the way situations (essentially, fights between them) are developed, to the extent the watcher starts feeling some fatigue and tedium.
The watcher eventually realises that the story ends up being nothing more than a group of combats that, besides, have little relation between them. Despite the predictability of the original's storyline, anyway that ordered-sequential aspect of it allowed that in every arc a natural progression that kept the thrill and suspense, could be gestated, moreover considering that they were all about races agains time. By contrast here, leaving that sequential treatment aside, the second half starts feeling uninteresting, because every episode starts feeling disconnected to the previous and following ones, what then causes some intrigue to be lost. It is precisely because of that lack of episode-connection, that the story somehow falls into randomness, what ultimately reduces the appeal of it, and generates a feeling of wanting to get to the end as soon as possible.
Another aspect that pales in comparison to the original relies in the epic-nature of the story. Although the action moments are heavy-weight, they do not feel exciting enough, because, despite the series being about a war, it does not show anything that reveals that there is truly "a lot at stake", which was precisely one of the strengths of the original series, having as a narrative the duty of saving Athena and the world before time's up. The aforementioned randomness of events doesn't help much either in regards to this.
It also does not stand out above the original in regards to story-complexity; what the original didn't have in character development, it did have it on an interesting well-constructed story. Despite it's repetitiveness of the narrative structures, it's stories were more intricate, more intriguing, had more mystery, presented a lot of twists by the end that left viewers with their mouthes wide-open, and were concluded in a truly epic and exciting way (with the exception of the Hades arc), since all the accumulated intrigue unleashed in a fascinating way. The original, by presenting stories that were virtually races against time, managed to keep the thrill in every single chapter, and therefore the interest in knowing how those stories unfolded. You unfortunately don't see much of all this in Lost Canvas.
In regards to the animation and arts, for someone who has previously seen the original, character designs are substantially different, what initially may feel bothering, but after watching some episodes one can get used to it and start realising that the artistic work is indeed sublime. Animation is top-notch and it's among the best that has been seen in the franchise so far. Characters have a more human-realistic look too, with face and body features that adjust more to reality.
Music may not be as stimulating and epic as the one in the original series, but anyway it doesn't dissapoint in it's goal of setting atmospheres and moods, and indeed some tracks are truly wonderful, specially those that have a medieval and italian vibe.
To sum up, Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, is an interesting proposal that narrates the events that take place two centuries before the events of the original series, and that while it's true that it improves and corrects many aspects of it, specially in regards to characterizations, it stays behind of it in many others too, mainly the execution of the plot, which near the middle starts feeling repetitive, tedious, and starts losing intrigue and thrill. It doesn't help the fact that the continuation of the series was suspended, because in the end it leaves the watcher hungry of more, since it is only by the end that it starts truly taking off. It's a pity it didn't have the expected success and it's continuity was left in suspense. Nonetheless, it's definetely an improvement over the original Saint Seiya's own Hades arc, which promised a lot but which in the end it felt flat and just didn't deliver. In this way, it can be said that it worked as a kind of compensation to every Saint Seiya follower who got dissapointed of the conclusion of the original series.
In this installment, picking up from where the last series leaves off, there is more at stake, more danger, and it gets progressively darker but yet exciting at the same time. Though Tenma is officially the main character, the 3 acts that this story centers more around 3 gold saints.
The 3 gold saints are Manigoldo, the Cancer saint, El Cid, the Capricorn saint, and Sisyphus, the Sagitaurrius saint. And even though their respective original series counterparts didn’t really have much screen time as lets say Saga, Mwu, or Milo did, these characters do a whole lot and demonstrate how fucking bad ass they are.
Formally speaking, they really go in-depth with these characters and explore why they became saints and why they fight.
Hypnos and Thanatos and are given a bigger role as opposed to their original series counterparts. Thanatos is still portrayed as brash, arrogant, and sadistic, and Hypnos is still calculating, manipulative and patient. Those qualities were shown with them in the original Saint Seiya manga, but they were more expanded upon in this season and the screen time in this series makes them more credible villains this time around since they really did almost nothing. OK, they did destroy 5 Gold cloths. That was cool and impacting for what little time they had last time.
Tenma still maintains the archetypical qualities of a shounen hero but I like how these qualities are put in a much darker context. It shows he’s very caring, can be an idiot, and he may be idealistic but yet understands the hard side of life, and yet those qualities are why he doesn’t give up hope. He does have his moments in this series, but this installment belongs to the three gold saints and I don’t mind that. But the series ends at a cliffhanger, but when it ends, it gets really, really exciting because it comes to a point where even though they won a huge battle, the stakes are starting to get higher than ever before and it leaves you wanting for more. And I hope that a new installment is made soon now that the manga is over.
The art and animation is more or less the same, but what really improves is the action. The action this time is just simply bad ass on a level that is just a few leagues below Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Granted it is balls to the walls, but it relies a lot on wit, strategy, and being a man. From beginning to end there is countless tension and intensity. The fights perfectly mixes physical, psychological, mystical and spiritual demands to make the action consistently exciting. The characters are placed in battles where it’s the equivalent of a 60 year old Rocky Balboa taking on a young Apollo Creed, young Mr. T, young Hulk Hogan, an Ivan Drago on every performance enhancing drug imaginable, a loaded Tommy Gunn, and a hungry Mason Dixon all at once on the mean streets of Philly and yet chooses to fight on. Even though Saint Seiya is a re-telling of Greek mythology, the characters demonstrate a good combination of the spirit of the ancient Japanese samurai warrior with the all-American million-to-one underdog. Yeah, they may lose, but the fact they choose to face such a challenge is what makes it more admirable. This is most demonstrated with El Cid. Remember that Rocky analogy I made a few seconds ago, El Cid is who I was talking about and what he does is what made him my favorite character in Lost Canvas so far. Hell, he’s way cooler than Shuura in my book.
Well, the style of the music and the songs used are still the same and I can’t go wrong with Realm of Athena, the best English anime song of all time that’s in the Japanese version. But early on in the series, I like how this organ song was more integrated into the action. At first, you think the music it is setting the mood, but it is of course not doing that for the audience, but for the victim in the TV screen itself. I like how this featured villain was playing an organ to manipulate people and it just really intensified the mood.
The seiyuu cast is still appropriately splendid. I really can’t say anything about it that I already said in my review of the last season. The performances perfectly reflected the nature of their characters. I like how Hirano Aya is Athena/Sasha can’t always act as this school girl who needs to be in the remedial classes and shows she can be this leader in a time of war. I
Well naturally, you do need to watch the first season first to get an understanding of the establishment of the main cast, specifically Tenma, Sasha, and Alone. But this season does a good job of re-establishing these characters in a certain way that may not be familiar to new audiences, but I do recommend watching this series from season 1 to get a better idea of course how the stakes got higher and how the danger gets more intense.
Once again, I do like to state that you don’t really need any previous exposure to the original Saint Seiya series though it will help a lot. But at the same time, the previous exposure does add more. But hey, this series still defines what makes Saint Seiya awesome; explosive action, thrilling adventure, and awesome music that grabs you by the balls.