Reviewby Chris Shepard, Apr 15th 2002
TV Season 1: Sanctuary
It is said that once every 200 years, evil will return to our realm and attempt to take over. With this, the Goddess of Athena is reincarnated to prevent this evil from its greatest intentions. Five Bronze Saints, warriors that have spent their entire lives training to become stronger and to be better fighters, have been chosen to help protect Athena and to aid her in doing away with the evils that threaten her.
The anime market in Japan during the late 80's is generally said to be less than stellar. Hosts of forgettable shows were shown on TV averaging in little to no quality. However, there were still a few shows, which reigned in popularity during this time. Saint Seiya probably had the most among them all.
Along with Ronin Warriors, Saint Seiya was one of Japan's most popular “God-Warrior” shows, though never released in America. As with most series in this genre, Saint Seiya has its five warriors with one being the lead, they all wear mystical armor known as cloths, draw power from their “cosmos”, and so on. It's a perfect example of a clichéd and stereotypical show of its nature.
Though yes, Saint Seiya is technically better classed as one of these “God-Warrior” shows, it's much easier to just call it a fighting anime, which it essentially is. It's also simple to see why Saint Seiya was one of the best shows of its time. It was epic and violent and generally well pulled off compared to what-else was airing at the time. With this, Saint Seiya simply rose to the top. However, compared to what's available today, this once great “God-Warrior” anime will have a hard time holding its own.
While those forever trapped in late 80's nostalgia will probably have a hard time understanding this concept, Saint Seiya has way too much cheese for its own good. The show places a heavy emphasis on trying to have flash and style. Characters pose at every chance they get, gabber on about their power, their opponents power, the power of some totally random character, pose a little more, and then finally do a flashy looking attack while standing in place, all with the same stock animation seen in each and every episode. Younger children may be happy with all this but in this day and age, with things being more realistic, it's going to be hard to get into. Saint Seiya did not age well.
Beyond the posing, even actual battles are much less exciting than what's available today. Combat is filled with much less physical fighting. Even the “power blasts”, where each character always uses their own respective same damn technique time and time again, aren't that exciting. The receiving character either takes the blast and then either falls or stays standing. It's definitely not a 90 miles an hour show with characters flipping around and exchanging blows with intense action. Being the older series that it is with its TV budget, such action just wasn't possible. Occasionally things do get taken up a notch, but very rarely. If you want your exciting blow-by-blow fights, Dragon Ball Z and Yū Yū Hakusho are much better suited.
Saint Seiya's plot, like most fighting anime, is essentially second to action. Though this does not hold true for all of the antagonists, evil saints do seem to show up for no other reason than to have a spectacular battle with one of our good-guy characters and then either die or disappear forever. Saint Seiya does try to keep things interesting with tons of references to various forms mythological creatures, which did indeed keep the show from becoming too bland, but it really meant nothing in the end. This anime still became a series of long draw-out battles spanning from 2 to 3 episodes between a good character and a bad character (though he may have been fooled into becoming a bad character), and that's about it. Sure, there are all the lovely clichéd themes of pride, friendship, endurance, and so on, but they have all been beaten to death already in the past. Saint Seiya doesn't do very well in trying to spice things up.
Fighting anime usually must have at least one of two main basic elements in order to be considered good. The action must be fresh and exciting and the audience has to like the characters for whatever reason. Saint Seiya's action just isn't as stimulating compared to what else is available today and unfortunately, the characters aren't developed as well either. Saint Seiya does do a good job in developing each main character's past and how they became what they are today, but nothing really separates them all in the end. They all eventually overcame trails and tribulations and now fight for justice, pride, and what's right, without questioning it at all. It's good to know the entire past of our main heroes but all this time spent on informing the viewers on how these characters got so strong completely fails in truly fleshing them out. Barely any time at all is spent on letting the characters interact with the outside real world and therefore none of them ever develop a real personality. All the five do are fight for justice. One almost became evil and another was a pansy for a little but that's about it. Once every 25 episodes or so Seiya spends about five minutes of an episode at an orphanage where he becomes a tiny bit fleshed out with nothing else ever happening. To truly relate to the cast of Saint Seiya is a hard hurdle to overcome.
It must be mentioned that Saint Seiya does have an extremely interesting cast of females, yet they're all basically shafted and never developed at all. There are also hints of a potential love triangle involving some of them yet this isn't developed either. The potential was there for some interesting love themes but right after their initial spark, they're caste aside and never heard of again. Then the saints enter another series of battles fighting baddie after baddie.
Despite all of the flaws discussed above, Saint Seiya does have one area in which it excels greatly. Saint Seiya is definitely pleasant to listen to. Great tunes fill the battle scenes as they heighten the drama while slower pieces make the emotional scenes feel much more real. If not for the fantastic performance in the sound department, Saint Seiya would have been much more of a drag to tread through.
Saint Seiya's first season, the Sanctuary saga, which is considered to be the main meat of the series, has so much painful potential in many different areas but almost none of it's developed. Characters aren't fleshed out enough, they're hard to relate to, and bluntly, the action is sub par to today's standards. The cheese factor isn't overwhelming but there certainly is a lot in there and it gets old very fast. Nostalgia freaks (and those who still love Ronin Warriors to this day) may really enjoy this yet it offers very little to the fighting fans of today. Saint Seiya has enough interesting themes to keep it from being considered absolute crap, but compared to what else is out there, it's no where near the top tier. For anime fans interested in epic fighting series, this may be a good series to invest in, but make sure you've seen all the other great shows with fighting first. This includes the above-mentioned Dragon Ball Z and Yū Yū Hakusho, among others such as Flame of Recca and Rurouni Kenshin.
+ One of the better fighting anime shows with epic battles.
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