I've always been fascinated with Greek mythology, spending many a day in my youth watching and rewatching a tattered VHS copy of Clash of the Titans and reading various compilations of the famous tales. Those days are long past, however, and although you occasionally see a "movie of the week" on TV that's based on some ancient hero, it's rare to see mythology in popular culture. However, even if I didn't enjoy Greek folklore so much, I would still enjoy Arion. This movie has virtually disappeared in the recent annals of anime fandom--not even one fan page is listed for it at Anipike, and finding information from other sources is virtually fruitless. And what a loss it is! Although the artistic styles are slightly dated, this movie is an action fest that, unlike many of its modern brethren, has a solid plot, interesting characters, and great animation. It's a film that shouldn't be missed.
Throughout all my studies of mythology, it was always interesting to note that there was very seldom a real conclusion to the stories concerning the main pantheon of Greek gods; they all seem to fade away rather than suffer any true fate. Arion solves this problem, providing a logical, fascinating end to the age of the gods that begins the age of man. At the beginning, the title character is a young boy, living with his blind mother Demeter. His uncle Hades visits them, and the evil god of the underworld tricks Arion into following him down to the depths to attempt to find a cure for Demeter's sightless world. Arion proves himself worthy, however, and Hades lets him in on a secret...Demeter's blindness is caused by a curse given by none other than Zeus himself. Arion grows during his time in the underworld, and emerges a young man ready to take on this ultimate challenge. Along the way, he and his entourage become a part of the intrigues of the pantheon as they march to war, ready to finally determine once and for all who will rule the earth. It becomes a violent, emotional coaster as Arion discovers himself and the secrets that could destroy him.
For those of you who like your mythology consistent, you may want to step aside unless you can handle this fast-and-free interpretation of the Greek stories. This particular tale is set further along the timeline, and the gods have developed along logical lines, but some characters are a bit distant from their original counterparts. This is not really a huge concern, however, because Arion is really about telling a compelling, epic-sized action adventure story. The scope of Arion is extremely large, but it emphasizes the personal stories, never letting the vast scale overcome the main story. The fight sequences are choreographed well; even in its quiet moments, Arion has energy. If there are some quibbles with the artistic styles, they are due to the age of the film, which is close to 20 years old. The actual animation quality is excellent, and there's really nothing to distract from the great story being told. Arion was developed by Sunrise, well known for the Gundam series as well as Crusher Joe and Dirty Pair. Its heritage is impeccable.
Arion was also written and designed by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu of Gundam fame, so it's amazing that it's been seen so seldom outside of Japan. At one point in time, Arion was popular, showing up in many guides from the late 80s, but it's a gem that's all but disappeared. It also hasn't been picked up as of this date for release in the US. If you can find a copy through an anime club, pick it up--it's almost certain you won't be disappointed. If you appreciate action adventure stories in the least, it's a must.
Arion -- realistic violence, mild profanity, adult themes, extremely brief nudity -- A