Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Saint Seiya: Saintia Shō
Eris has managed to revive in Kyoko's body, and the remaining Saintia are determined to stop her. To that end, they've followed her cosmos and are currently engaged in fighting off Eris' underlings, while Shoko remains behind with Athena as her protector. But this is Shoko's sister, or at least her body – can she really bring herself not to intervene? And is Kyoko truly gone for good, or might there still be hope to save her?
While Saintia Sho is a direct spin-off of the original Saint Seiya series, the past few volumes might have done a bit better to forget that fact. Beginning with the tournament, where Shoko briefly meeting Seiya is the highlight, the series has been relying too heavily on readers already having experienced the main storyline, throwing in compressed versions of major events when instead retelling them more fully from Shoko's perspective would have worked better and made the series better able to stand on its own feet. Those problems do persist a bit in this sixth volume (the halfway point of what's been collected in book format thus far), but with the return of Eris in Kyoko's body, things are starting to move in a more positive storytelling direction.
That said, there isn't a whole lot that feels like plot progress here. The most significant piece of the overall story is the way that Shoko and Athena don't take action. Despite what their inclinations might be, both girls have learned to temper themselves and not go charging headlong into danger just because it's what they want to do. For Athena, it marks a fuller departure from her life as Saori, forcing her to adopt a maturity that she's always had the appearance of without the actual reality. This is important not just because it shows that she's growing up (albeit faster than we might wish she had to in a more peaceful world), but also because it shows her beginning to embody another facet of the Greek goddess she is: although it isn't mentioned much (if at all) in the series, Athena is not only a goddess of war, but also of wisdom. While Saori hasn't been utterly without that quality, she has been struggling to find the best path to it, and after her issues with the Pope in the previous volume, she has finally come to understand that at times discretion is the wiser part of valor. That's something she's trying to pass on to Shoko as well – when she tells her that they're not charging headlong into the temple because it is likely to be a trap, she's demonstrating that newfound wisdom, and it also feels like a sign that she's developing that into something that will truly help the Saints and Saintia going forward: a tactical mind.
That Shoko is able to bring herself to listen to Athena (and the gold Saints who have come to help) also indicates that she's truly moving forward as a Saintia. She does need to be a strong fighter, yes, but she also needs to learn when to listen and hold back. She's largely been lucky thus far in her battles; even when she ended up in the hospital, she was physically and spiritually strong enough to survive the tasks she set herself. But a recharged Eris and her dryad followers isn't something she's ready for yet – maybe she'd pull through again, but then Athena would be left alone with no one to protect her. Katya is in no position to help, Elda is still trying to wrap things up where she is, and Mii and Xiaoling are currently trapped in a place where they have to fight their own battles. While Milo and the other gold Saints are around and doubtless will help, that's technically not their role. If Shoko wants to be a true Saintia, she needs to stand by her goddess here and be ready to protect her in the moment.
Those are the insecurities plaguing Mii that Emony tries to invoke during their battle in this volume. It's some of the best character development we've had for Mii, Saori's devoted secretary who has always taken a backseat to the more aggressive characters. Previous to this book, Mii was easy to overlook as the less interesting Saintia, fulfilling the role of the good submissive woman. While she's still able to be slotted into that role, her exchange with Emony and her refusal to lie down and die shows us that she's much stronger of will and heart than we might have believed. Emony's words are carefully chosen to make Mii think that she's useless, both as Mii and as the Dolphinus Saintia, preying on her memories of a peek into Athena's mind, where she saw how deep the goddess' sadness runs and wonders what, if anything, she can do about it. That Mii is able to ignore the other girl's words and taunts and to find the strength to stand by her convictions tells us that Mii isn't so much submissive and weak-willed as she is a quiet believer in both Athena and in herself. It's a good contrast to the other Saintia, Shoko in particular.
As with the previous volumes, Chimaki Kuori's artwork is a major draw. The color pages Seven Seas includes in each volume remain rich and beautiful, and Kuori's ability to echo Masami Kurumada's style while still making it unique on its own is impressive. While some pages can be confusing, particularly when multiple vaguely similar-looking Saints are all shown fighting at once in angled panels, it largely helps to propel the story along. Each book reads quickly to the point where it's nice to have a stack of a few volumes piled up so that you can stay in the story's world a bit longer.
This volume begins to recover from where books four and five started to drop the ball. Although it isn't a perfect shift, it is a move in the right direction, and hopefully volume seven will continue to keep the focus where it needs to be: firmly on the Saintia and their stories.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B+
+ Beautiful art, story focuses more stringently on the Saintia
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