Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Seiya, a mortal from Japan, has taken it upon himself to train and compete in the battles of the Gods. Obtaining the sacred Saint armor and represented by the all-powerful constellation Pegasus, Seiya's searching for his missing sister and entering the galactic war tournament, fighting to show his ultimate power and establish his place in the ranks of the Saints. Along the way he meets a host of powerful warriors and proves himself in an endless battle.
Some people only look better as they get older, like Sean Connery. Others, like Buddy Hackett, are grim reminders of the ravages of age. Saint Seiya is, essentially, the Buddy Hackett of anime series. Receiving virtually no restoration for this DVD release, Saint Seiya couldn't look or sound more like 1986 even if they'd tried. It doesn't help, of course, that the series is little more than your average endless tournament show, lightly sprinkled with Greek mythology.
The story for Saint Seiya, which spans over one hundred episodes (and a series of OVAs), is fairly basic. You have your average shonen warrior hero, who in the first episode is revealed to have been a weakling child. Obviously, now that he's the star of an action series, he's the underdog badass, taking down an entire army of mindless grunts on his quest to obtain… well, whatever it is he's trying to obtain. (Does it really even matter?) If you've ever seen Rurouni Kenshin, One Piece, Dragon Ball (or any of its various incarnations), Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Naruto or Hunter X Hunter, you're going to be achingly familiar with the plot. You could swap out any of the characters in this show for any of the characters in another shonen action series and get the same basic result. The tragic thing is, Saint Seiya eschews the things these other series got right. Based on these first five episodes (and after hunting around for plot synopses of the rest of the series), the entire show is one long tournament battle. Most other series try and work in long plot segments that don't include fighting inside a ring, in order to break up the monotony of tournament-style storytelling. Imagine watching Wrestling for around 47 hours, and you've got the Saint Seiya experience. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
Unfortunately, it isn't fun, and the production values don't help. Originally aired in 1986, Saint Seiya received no restoration effort from ADV, so you're watching what appears to be the best-quality original master that exists. The picture, while sharp and focused, is grainy and filthy, and covered in specs of dust. The sound is presented in mono. Restoration efforts can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it's easy to see why ADV didn't put any effort towards polishing Saint Seiya, but it makes an already mediocre show worse. The animation is vintage and therefore has a low frame rate, unbelievably ugly character designs (who all seem to have the same haircut), and extremely generic action music. Don't expect to be wowed by Saint Seiya's production design.
The series is also incredibly violent. The fights are almost always punctuated by heavy blood loss. The first episode features Seiya chopping some thug's ear off, who then spends the rest of the battle spurting blood from his poorly-drawn head. It seems like any time someone gets punched, blood comes spilling out of the wound. Shounen action series these days seem to be a smidgen less bloody than this; it's as if they figured out that people want style and finesse in their action, and gallons of blood aren't necessary to keep the audience watching. Considering this is supposed to be a kid's show, the violence seems excessive. Then again, the entire series is one long fight, so I suppose expecting anything less than wanton violence is foolish.
The dub is mostly laughable. Seiya's voice actor is incredibly awkward, enunciating strange words and sounding not at all heroic. The English script is rife with poorly written lines, dialogue any actor would cringe at. It's one thing when the scripting is poor, but when the delivery only adds insult to injury, the result is a train wreck. Even the “random thug” voice they're using is anemic and somehow inappropriate. The female characters all sound the same, shouting ridiculous declaratory statements as though the entire universe rested on their very words. The Japanese dialogue seems to be a big step up, as it doesn't sound nearly as silly or over-the-top.
Overall, Saint Seiya is a wash. There are a lot of hardcore fans out there for this series, which is proof that people will latch on to anything with an arching storyline and claim it's the best thing ever produced. While it may have played great back in 1986, this is recycled garbage in 2003. It's a shock ADV committed to releasing over one hundred episodes of this tripe. If you've got the stomach for poorly animated, poorly written, poorly acted and downright ugly and insipid tournament fighting, then this one's for you. Everyone else should just watch something else.
Overall (dub) : D-
Overall (sub) : D
Story : D
Animation : F
Art : F
Music : D
+ Hardcore Saint Seiya fans, your dream DVD is here
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