What They Say
The cosmos is bound together by an incomprehensible web of strength, power, and (some would even say) magic. And only by a select few may these forces be harnessed! Seiya is a mortal from Japan who has been trained and has excelled. The time has now come for him to test his skills in battle and to claim the sacred cloth: cloth that will change the order of the universe; armor that will earn Seiya a place in the cosmos; cloth that will establish his rank among the Saints. Through a series of tournaments and trials, Seiya must not only defeat some of the most powerful fighters ever to set foot in the ring, but he must also defeat the demons within himself Long live the Saints! Long live Saint Seiya!
For this viewing, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 2.0. A Japanese 2.0 track is also available. Despite having a stereo mix, there was very little directionality with this release. Everything seemed to stay centered, effectively giving it mono sound. It is a shame since there is so much action, but since this title is from 1986, it is not entirely surprising. What we do get sounds nice; the dialogue, music, and effects are all mixed well so there is no blending or fade out anywhere.
Again, being from 1986, this series looks as you might expect, with duller colors and visuals than you would expect for a more modern release. As you might also expect for an 80s action title, there is a lot (excess, glut, overabundance, plethora, whatever) of repeated cells and animations, which really stands out more now than it would have then. But despite these issues, the transfer is pretty impeccable. There were no technical flaws and only the occasional speck or blemish on the originals. So long story short, it looks about as good as it could twenty-plus years later.
This collection comes in one of ADVs newer stack packs, of which I am frankly not a fan. The front cover has pictures of all five Bronze Saints in running/action poses, while the back has a summary and some screen shots. The five discs are all on one spindle (hence—stack pack), which makes for a nice compact package on a shelf. But as with all stack packs, I get irritated at having to remove multiple discs to get at discs at the bottom of the spindle, and I worry at the long term scratch potential there is with the discs just essentially lying on top of one another.
Pretty basic affair with the menus. The main menus each have a picture of a Bronze Saint ready for battle, with the menu selections offered in a fancy font underneath. There is no “Play All” button, but the episodes do loop to the next, making “Play All” not necessary. The selections are easy to read and follow thanks to the golden lettering and dark backgrounds, so I have no real complaints, but the look could have been a little nicer.
Aside from a few trailers, there are no extras on this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This most recent re-release of the classic Saint Seiya series collects the first thirty episodes in one stack-pack. Like many action titles from the 80s, Saint Seiya struggles to hold up under any modern examination, but that does not mean it cannot be fun to watch; if you like old-school action, Saint Seiya might just fit the bill.
Seiya is a young Japanese man who has trained in the Sanctuary in Athens, Greece to become a Saint—a guardian of the Goddess of War, Athena. Though he faced unending prejudice from the fact that he is not Greek, Seiya wins the great tournament that grants him the Armor of Pegasus, promoting him to the rank of Bronze Saint. Though the Pope of Sanctuary blesses Seiya’s victory, his status as a Japanese man does not sit well with the rest of the Sanctuary’s residents, and he flees back home.
Once back in his homeland, Seiya is compelled to join in a tournament by Saori Kando, the spoiled granddaughter of his former benefactor who sent him to Greece in the first place. The prize for this tournament is the Gold Armor of Sagittarius, and ascension to the rank of Gold Saint, the highest order of Athena. Seiya has no real desire to fight, only to find his lost sister, but Saori offers to use the resources of her family to help in his search if he fights and wins. Seiya agrees.
The tournament is fought by other former orphans like Seiya who were also raised by Saori’s grandfather and sent off to train and become Bronze Saints. Unfortunately, the tournament is cut short by the return of the final Bronze Saint, Phoenix Ikki, whose training on Death Queen Island has driven him insane. He steals the Sagittarius Armor and manages to kill a few of the Bronze Saints.
This prompts a hunt by Pegasus Seiya and the other three remaining Bronze Saints: Dragon Shiryu, Andromeda Shun, and Cygnus Hyoga. They manage to return Ikki to his former mindset, and discover that Saori is the modern incarnation of Athena in the process, but another attack sees the majority of Gold Armor stay in enemy hands. Though Ikki has returned to the side of good, his attack is the first of many targeted at the Japanese Bronze Saints that will end in a prolonged battle with Sanctuary, whose dual-natured Pope is attempting to challenge the authority of Athena herself.
The problem with watching many action titles from the 80s such as this in 2009 is that they tend to come off as a bit shallow, and Saint Seiya is no exception. The story is incredibly choppy, and it took me a while to really understand who everybody was and why I should care about them. And plenty of shortcuts are taken, leading to some fairly unconvincing moments. For example, it is setup pretty quickly that Saori was a spoiled brat as a child, and as such, most of the orphans wanted little to do with her. As she has grown up, little has changed about her, and many of the Saints still hold a grudge. But the moment Ikki steals the Sagittarius Armor, she changes into the saintly being they all expect Athena to be (though they do not yet know she is Athena), and the Saints still living quickly accept her as their leader and fight all out for her. It is a tough pill to swallow.
And in what I am sure was due to budgetary considerations, the fight scenes get incredibly repetitive. In any fighting anime, it is expected the fighters will have favorite special attacks that they like to fall back on when needed. Goku has his Kamehameha, Kenshin has numerous sword techniques, and Yusuke Urameshi has his Spirit Gun. The Saints in Saint Seiya are no exception, but when Kenshin (or the others) uses a specific attack, he either wins the battle, or it fails and he has to find a new form of attack to move onto.
Seiya and his pals apparently subscribe to the theory that “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” Seiya special attack (his only special attack) is the “Meteor of Pegasus,” which he uses often (read: always). When it inevitably fails, he looks shocked, and then tries it again. And again. The same holds true with Shiryu’s “Rising Dragon,” Hyoga’s “Diamond Dust,” Shun’s “Nebula Chain,” and Ikki’s “Phoenix Illusion Demonic Fist.” Add in that all of the various enemies all do the same sort of thing, and it all gets repetitive.
Frankly, I was ready to write Saint Seiya off fairly quickly. The story was somewhat interesting but too disjointed to really engage, and the action was far too simplistic. It does not help that I am not that big into fighting anime. But then I shut my brain off and tried to accept it for what it was—a fairly low budget 80s action title—and I found that I started to enjoy it quite a bit more. It is not exactly high quality, but it is really no worse than other like titles from my childhood I enjoy such as Battle of the Planets or Voltron; Saint Seiya’s only drawback is that I did not see it growing up, so I do not have the sort of nostalgic feelings towards it that other 70s/80s titles have given me.
With the first thirty episodes gone, Saint Seiya is a title that starts slow but picks up a little ways in. While I would not exactly call it anime at its finest, it is a worthy title for folks who really enjoy the action fare that the anime industry put out in the 1980s. However, I do think it is only for those people as it does not really hold up well against more modern titles. If nostalgia is your thing, it might be worth checking out; otherwise, I’d probably stay away.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: C-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: January 13th, 2009
Running Time: 750 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System