SAINT SEIYA: The World's Most Popular Anime You've Never Heard Of
It's crazy that there has been zero talk about the recent revival of the Saint Seiya series. That all changed when the first episode of Saint Seiya: Soul Of Gold received over 2 million streams in the past 10 days on various services. This staggering number, which is impressive for any anime, was oddly enough seen in much larger numbers overseas than here in the U.S. With the second episode set to premiere this Saturday on Crunchyroll, I figured I might try to get us a little better inducted so we can jump in on the craze.
Saint Seiya is a huuuuuge deal in Japan. Its original adaptation is listed consistently in the upper 20s of top anime lists, and as of 2013 its original manga had sold over 34 million copies! Furthermore, Saint Seiya has been noted to be the primary inspiration behind two majorly successful anime — Bleach and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. It has a discography of over 13 albums, and numerous video games to boot. Finally, it is widely considered as one of the staples that helped bring the '80s anime craze to life. With all that hype, I already know you are wondering why we aren't screaming from the rafters about the revival of this series stateside.
The reason, most speculate, is that it got a s*** revamp when it came to America. The original series (which aired in 1987) was picked up by Cartoon Network in 2003 and was heavily edited for American audiences to better fit a children's/afternoon audience. The new edit, "Knights of the Zodiac" cut much of the violence, colored all the blood blue and called it "mystical energy," rewrote the entire script, and only aired 35 episodes of the series.
And they had Bowling for Soup cover Flock of Seagulls for the Intro to the show...
Was it terrible? I watched this episode of Knights of the Zodiac and thought "that wasn't so bad..." Then I watched the original first episode...
In the first two minutes I was convinced I was going to see this series through to the end. First off, the '80s anime style is like Akira meets American '80s action cartoon. Visually, the colors pop and shine in comparison to the contemporary pastels most modern anime use. The setting is dystopian future, but if the future were run by the Greek gods, so it still has that classical element to the design of buildings. The best I can find to show you what I'm talking about is this Youtube clip below. Mind you it's in Spanish, because once again, we never really drank the Seiya flavored Koolaid here.
Hopefully that gave you a brief taste of the superiority the original has over what you may have watched on Toonami in 2003. There has been no English dub of the original series, but if you are down for subtitles, Crunchyroll has the entire original series as well as its spin offs available for streaming right now. I suggest you check that out first to get a general idea of the story because I'll be honest, I enjoyed SS Soul of Gold but had no idea what the f*** was going on through most of it.
If you aren't sure you'll invest that much time for a show you may or may not like here's a quick breakdown.
- The world was in chaos and almost destroyed until the Greek Gods showed up
- Now humans compete for the honor of being bestowed the power of the Gods...making them saints to their corresponding Gods.
- Seiya is the main character of the series, and he becomes a saint of the Goddess Athena.
- The saints of Athena are super powerful and only use their fists and legs to fight.
- Space and our role in the Cosmos plays a big part in the OG series...don't know if it'll play into the new series at all.
That should be just enough to keep you from being completely confused if you just decide to stick with Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold, but I highly recommend you check out Saint Seiya: Sanctuary between episodes because it really lives up to the hype almost 30 years later. Hopefully you check it out as I've gone from a clueless westerner to full-fledged fan in the course of a couple days, and I can't wait for this Saturday's new episode.