Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: Saint Seiya

When it comes to anime, Saint Seiya (SS) was teh 1st big hit in Brazil. The anime conquered a huge fan base and  had lots of merchandise sold. 18 years after the 1st exibition and less than 10 after the manga arrived, there isa lot of controversy about this series. And I don't mean fans x haters. Yes, there are haters, who tend to ahte things they don't read or watch. But what's interesting is what happens with people that have read or watched it when they were kids and have rewatched it now. Since this might also happen in other countries in which SS was a hit in the 90's, I decided to also write this in  the english version of the post.

Saind Seiya was the first anime many brazilians watched, and the first most really liked. These fans were kids at the time and when they rewatch it, there are two common reactions: some think it's really bad and ask themselves why were they so crazy about it and others think it's the best thing ever. This is something that's starting to happen with Dragon Ball Z too.

IMO, both reactions are wrong and effects of the same cause: the fans' emotional memory. Everybody loved it as a kid, bought toys and pretended they were saints. In the first group, the problem is a rupture between their emotional memory and their opinions while they rewatch the series. In their heads, the anime was good, but now, older and more experienced, they notice the series' problems and end up overstimating them, while ignoring its merits. This is usually worse in hardcore anime fans. In the people of the second group, the emotional memory goes berserk and brings back all those feelings from their childhood, which makes their eyes tinkle while they rewatch it and they tend to ignore the series' bad points. In my point of view, this creates opinions about the series that aren't really coherent with what the series shows.

The manga

Synopsis from the portuguese wikipedia:

Six years before the events in the series, 100 japanese orphans are sent to different places in the world to become legendary warriors called Saints, soldiers under the command of the goddess Athena. Each of these soldiers  is protected by a constellation.

Their power comes from mastering their Cosmo, a spiritual power that originated in the Big Bang. Each atom in the human body is seen as small solar system, and, since the body has billions of atoms, the whole body is considered a little universe, a little Cosmo. Each person has their own Cosmo and the Saints are able to use it in order to accomplish super human feats.

The story focuses on an orphan named Seiya who was forced to go to the Sanctuary in Greece to obtain the Pegasus Bronze Cloth, a protective armor worn by the Greek goddess Athena's 88 warriors known as Saints. Upon awakening the power of the Saints which is an inner spiritual essence, originated in the Big Bang, Seiya quickly becomes the Pegasus Saint and returns to Japan to find his older sister. Because his sister disappeared the same day Seiya went to the Sanctuary, Saori Kido, the granddaughter of the person who sent all the orphans to train, makes a deal with him to go to fight in a tournament called the Galaxian Wars, where the orphans who survived and became Bronze Saints must fight to win the most powerful Cloth: The Sagittarius Gold Cloth. If Seiya goes to compete there and wins, Saori would start a search to find Seiya's sister.

During the series, Seiya befriends other Bronze Saints: Andromeda Shun, Dragon Shiryu, Cygnus Hyoga and Phoenix Ikki. Together, they protect the goddess Athena from harm, like their predecessors have been doing througout the millenia.

Warriors protected by stars weren't new when SS was written. That had already been done in Hokuto no Ken. In fact, Seiya's signature move was based on Kenshiro's. But Masami Kurumada, the author, noticed the relation of the constellations with mythologies, specially classic greek mythology. From that, he managed to create a very interesting setting. The whole idea of the saints, cloths and the special techniques were very good. By transforming the famous ki into the new source of power called cosmo, he created an energy that wasn't limited to normal martial arts and could generate several effects, like heat, cold, soul manipulation and so on. That was very new at the time.

Unfortunately, Kurumada was a poor writer with a good idea. The 3 main arcs of the manga have the same format: Athena is in danger and the heroes have to go through several temples or similar things, each with its own guardian, until they reach the last boss and rescue the goddess. There is no variation, no world to explore and the characters have almost no time to interact and develop, since they are always fighting. At that time, that might not be a big problem, but today it is.

Another thing that wasn't really a problem then but is today are the fights. Even though cosmo is versatile, most fights only have the characters using their special moves, with little to no strategy or use of the battlefield. The protagonists either won easily or kept being beaten until they raised their cosmos to destroy the enemies with one strike.

The plot is also full of inconsistencies. The biggest of them is in the power levels. In the end of the 1st arc, the protagonists fight enemies that are supposed to be the strongest in the world. In the following arcs, since the enemies can't be stronger than the ones from the 1st, the heroes ger a little weaker. They also keep treating those enemies with too much respect, as if they hadn't beaten them early. Not that they should be disrespectful, but you just can't believe they would treat a guy they beat  as if they didn't.

Kurumada's art has good and bad points. The cloths' design is awesome and the metallic effect on them is the work of a master. The scenerios are good and very inspired. But his character design is brand and his character art is weak. The torsos are large and the faces are simple. The characters end not being very different from one another.

The characters have charisma, but they are pretty unidimensional and have no development. And Kurumada also handles most of the cast badly, specially the adversaries of the end of the 1st arc, who show up later.

With all these problems, SS is far from perfect. But you can't ignore its merits, even thou most of them are cliche today. A good choice for action shounen fans, SS anime fans and for those interested in the evolution of action shounen.

Veredict: Average.

The anime

The anime's character design was done by Shingo Araki and it's better than the original. And there is no loss in quality in the cloths and backgrounds. The animation is average for that time. The voice acting is good and the soundtrack is excelleht. The OP and ED themes are anime song classics.

While the anime fixed the problems in the manga's art, it kept the problems in the plot. Not only that, but the addition of filler episodes created plot holes and new inconsistencies. And they also stalled for time a lot. For instance, there is a fight in which Seiya is hit 3 times with a technique before countering it. In the anime he takes almost two episodes to do that. Obviously, he is hit far more than 3 times. And he wasn't supposed to be able to take that much of damage. They even created a totally original filler arc. It has an interesting concept and cool villains, but the same problems of the original arcs.

Finally, the original anime didn't adapt the manga entirely. The last arc was adaptad as an OVA in 2002. The original series ended in 1991. The 13 first episodes of the OVAs, which adapt the arcs fits part, were done in very high quality. Unfortunately, the rest of the arc didn't have the same luck and the animation was very weak. They also changed several voices in the OVAs.

Saint Seiya is not a bad anime. But just like the manga, it has too many problems to be considered good, even though I like it a lot.

Veredict: Average.

1 comment:

  1. I respect your opinion. Regardless of its flaws I still love this series a lot. I also see it as one of the best shounen and don't hold its cliches too much against it because of how old this series is.