Beautiful design and artwork elevate routine anime adventure
AMON SAGA (1986) is a sword-and-sorcery anime tale that runs 75 minutes. Amon, the hero of the piece, is reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian but has the long light hair and pretty features of a "bishonen" character. It's not clear where or when this is set although it has all the trappings of standard sword-and-sorcerymonsters, evil lord, castles, princess-in-distress, musclebound sidekick, crafty spy, wizened sorcerers, etc. An original touch here is the giant turtle on which the evil Lord Valhiss's kingdom and castle are situated. The turtle tromps slowly through the countryside, stopping to pick up mercenary warriors along the way, including our hero Amon who soon makes it his business to rescue Lichia, a princess from another kingdom held hostage so that Lord Valhiss can get a map showing the way to the Valley of Gold, where all the competing parties will eventually converge for the climactic confrontation.
The storyline isn't terribly compelling since we don't really know what's at stake for the protagonists or what kind of world they're occupying. The best sword-and-sorcery anime, like the 1997 TV series "Berserk," makes sure to ground the viewers in the geopolitical specifics of the setting. Sure, Amon and Lichia are sweet and endearing, but the only reason we'd like to see them get together is the fact that they're the only good-looking people in the entire piece. Amon is quite handsome and Lichia quite beautiful, with her long blue-green hair and slender, pale, delicate body, but it's not unreasonable to ask for more reason to root for them than that.
The main reason to watch AMON SAGA is the artwork, including participation in the character design by renowned pop artist Yoshitaka Amano, who's designed video games and anime and done artwork for fantasy and graphic novels. Much of the artwork in AMON indeed resembles some of the best fantasy fiction illustration. We see many breathtaking landscapes and occasional multicolored magical effects. The character design is marked by that great 1980s anime look of bold lines, straightforward detail and bright colors. It's always eminently watchable, but one wishes the story was a little more interesting and the action a little rougher.
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