Based loosely on Greek mythology, this is the story of a youth, Arion, who gets entangled in the machinations of the pantheon of Mount Olympus as the world he knows is caught in the throes a cataclysmic war. He falls in love with a maiden, Lesphina, and to save her from the wrath of the gods, he must challenge everything he knows.
With beautiful art and intriguing characters, Arion is a literally classical tale that puts an anime spin on a genre that many Westerners are quite familiar with. While the Greek mythology portrayed isn't exact, it is used as the basis of a powerful fantasy epic that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Unlike Yoshikazu's rather messy sci-fi opus Venus Wars (which is available Stateside), Arion has a very coherent, if sprawling storytelling style, taking us from Arion's kidnapping by Hades to be trained as a super-warrior, through the nasty civil wars between Poseidon and the children of Zeus, up through the end. Arion is epic in every way, with magical battles, fearsome monsters, and gargantuan armies, but it never loses sight of its core themes of love and war. You really get a feel of the dissipation of the Titans, and unlike what we think of the Greek gods, the Titans are powerful, but mortal, and just like their mythological counterparts, extremely morally flawed. Arion himself is the eternal underdog, and his background isn't as straightforward as you would think, but it's fairly easy to root for him, even when he is confused and railing at the world. The movie is a classic hero's journey of finding self-identity and worth in the face of relentless and deadly opposition - and it's telling that some of the enemies Arion must face eventually become his most powerful allies.
The animation and art are twenty years old, but still quite effective and skilled, with plenty of exciting action sequences and appealing designs. While it's tempting to wonder what this would look like remade with modern animation techniques, it's almost best to just leave that aside and enjoy it for the classic it is.
With music by Joe Hisaishi (famed for his work in many Studio Ghibli films, from Castle in the Sky to Spirited Away), it's hard to see where this movie can go wrong aurally. Honestly, the only real misstep is the ending, a mid-80s J-pop ballad that seems out of place with the film, but admittedly, probably fits perfectly with the tastes of mid-80s Japanese movie audiences. Everything else is excellent and appropriate for the tone of the film.
Arion is a real treat, and it's a shame that it's been passed up by so many for so long. It just makes no sense that a ripoff like the cult-derived and patently ridiculous Hermes: Winds of Love gets North American release while this languishes in relative obscurity. I'm glad I finally got to finish this review after so long -- exciting, stirring fantasy epics are hard to find, and if you enjoy Greek mythology and fantasy in general, Arion is an absolute must-see.
Again, I'll raise the caveat that if old-school graphics don't do it for you, drop this a star or two. However, this is a solidly written, impressive epic that deserves watching. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: The violence in this gets rather graphic at times. There is also at least one rape, attempted seduction, and a few brief scenes of nudity. Teens and above.
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Arion © 1986 Yoshikazu Yasuhiko / Sunrise / TMS
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