Saint Seiya is a very well known series. To call it a legendary title would actually be pretty accurate. It was effectively the DBZ before that title actually came out. It’s got a ton of quality action and solid characters. While the show is a little more formulaic than most with each arc following a lot of similar beats, the anime adds a new arc which really changes things up. it’s an example of a filler arc that’s actually pretty solid. (Still the weakest arc in the series but solid nonetheless. You’d never know it was an anime original) I’ve had this review on the backburner for an extremely long time so it’s time to finally take a look at it.
The series starts by introducing us to Seiya. He’s an orphan who grew up in a rather tough place. One day he was sent out along with a few others to different parts of the globe to train to be a Saint of Athena. Seiya has no interest in this but he was told that doing so and obtaining the Bronze Cloth (Proof of conquering the Saint trials) would be the only way he could ever see his missing sister again. So Seiya has conquered this task and arrives back home where the agreement has been changed. He will have to win a tournament against the other bronze candidates now. Well, Seiya’s up for the challenge because nothing will stop him from finding his sister.
This was a really great way to start the series. After all, who doesn’t like a good tournament right? It’s always a solid way to set up the characters and let us learn about them. It also weeds out the rest of the Bronze Saints who would never really be main characters after this. Only the main 5 would continue on. I thought Unicorn left more of an impression on me in the anime than the manga though. I liked his rivalry with Seiya here even if he would ultimately be out of luck early on. Seiya just surpassed him by a ton and never looked back.
Additionally we then got to see the Dark Saints and that was a really fun arc as everyone fought their shadow selves. One thing I greatly enjoyed was seeing the characters actually fighting out in the real world here. One fight was on the highway for example. While that may not seem like a big thing, you’ll never see that for the rest of the series. All other battles take place in enemy territory or at Athena’s home. I suppose there was no reason to fight in the city after that but I always get really excited when it happens. I find the city environment to be the perfect backdrop to a fight.
We are introduced to quite a lot of the characters in this arc. First off lets talk about Athena I suppose. She is effectively a lady who has been imbued with Athena’s spirit and has effectively become her as Athena is born again in every generation. She has one of the highest cosmos (Power level) in the series but for the most part can’t use it in an offensive context. She is great at using it for defense and healing though. I’d say she’s a solid character but I do think she allows far too much corruption to occur at home.
For example, her butler Tatsumi gets away with absolutely everything. We see that he would actually beat up the Saints when they were kids and in particular he really would beat up Ikki. At the time it was Athena’s father running the show but the all knowing Athena should have certainly let him go after that. This is mostly a comedic plot later on with the Saints messing with him, but Tatsumi never actually changed his ways. They just became stronger than him. In some ways I feel like Tatsumi was the real villain behind all of this. Athena is a good character otherwise but I do wish that she would fight more. For example, instead of jumping into the water chamber to stop Poseidon I’d prefer if she called in the Knights to assist. With all of the Golden Saints they would have beaten Poseidon’s generals with ease.
Seiya is of course a great hero. He never really wanted to be a part of this but when Athena is in danger he steps in. At his core Seiya is a hero of course so he can’t just leave someone behind if they’re in trouble. He’s also a lot more hot headed than some of the other characters and is quite willing to invade any territory to help Athena. While the Gold Knights are just holding back and staying at the castle Seiya is actually jumping in to take center stage. From all of the Knights he may be the quickest to jump into action and his dedication is rewarded time after time with his power ups and the fact that he surpasses most of the characters right away. His fighting style is the most basic and yet because of that he can move with so much speed and power that it is hard to stop.
Next up we have Shiryu and he solidly represents the third most powerful Bronze Knight. Every good Shounen series always has a guy in the solid third place. You’ve always got the main character and the rival, but then you also need the dependable third in command who stays near the top of the power scale to the end. That’s Shiryu’s role and it’s a painful one because the show really liked to put him through the ringer. He’s a fairly solid character though. All of his scenes are definitely on point and his Shield is probably one of the most impressive equipment items in the whole series. While it isn’t 100% completely indestructible, it is still durable enough to block almost any blow and gets him through most of his fights.
Shiryu also works as the voice of reason a lot of the time. He isn’t quite as headstrong as some of the others. Next is Hyoga who can be one of the meaner saints at times. He never actually turns evil like Ikki though but takes the whole thing very seriously. His Diamon Dust technique is certainly a classic and he holds up with the rest of the Saints pretty well if you ask me. I probably wouldn’t put him quite above the others power-wise (Aside from Andromeda) but he’s got a good amount of skill. I like all of the Bronze Saints and Hyoga is no exception. He’s a solid hero who is always ready to step up.
Then you have Ikki who is easily my favorite Saint. I would argue he is also the most powerful one. He can keep on coming back to life forever thanks to the regenerative abilities of the Phoenix cloth. That’s an incredibly useful ability to have at your disposal and it really sets him apart from the rest of the characters. What can you do against a character who just keeps regenerating like that right? Ikki did have a period of time where he turned evil but he did have to go through a whole lot of craziness so you can see how it happened. From there he would end up being the most dependable character on the squad. Whenever his brother Andromeda is in danger you can count on Ikki to jump in immediately and start saving lives. It’s just what he does and he makes it look easy.
Finally we have Andromeda and he’s probably the weakest of the Saints. He’s one of those characters with a ton of potential but ultimately doesn’t like fighting so it takes him a while to actually get serious You can draw up a lot of parallels with him and Gohan from DBZ. Andromeda does have one of the best weapons in the series though with the Chains he carries. They can follow an opponent across whole planets and even into other dimensions. They automatically protect him from harm and attack on their own as well. It’s a very versatile weapon to be sure and as Andromeda grows stronger, the chains will as well.
Then we have the two Silver Saints Marin and Shaina. Both of them are pretty helpful characters who assist the Bronze Saints in times of great peril. They’re both reasonably tough although I would definitely take Shaina in a head to head battle. She’s much fiercer in combat and has beaten Marin in the past. Both of them have to hide a lot of secrets and appear to switch sides a lot as a result. I never became a big fan of Marin but Shaina was always fun. She was definitely willing to risk her life quite a bit to help Seiya out of a pinch.
The next big arc is the famous Gold Saints saga. It’s an incredibly long one and deserves the praise as it really took the series to a new level. Well, after some Silver Saints showed up to cause trouble and were thwarted, Athena was struck by an arrow. The only way to keep the arrow from claiming her life is to get to the top of Sanctuary and turn the shield monument. To do so the heroes will have to get past the 12 Golden Saint temples. Each Golden Saint is thousands of times stronger than the bronze ones and their armors have been created to effectively be indestructible. Attacks simply bounce off of them or get absorbed entirely. The heroes also have a time limit of 12 hours so they can’t afford to waste time. Can they surpass their limits and save Athena?
This arc’s just a blast. Seeing the heroes have to go into the temples and take down the Gold Saints is just incredible. You can feel the tension in each match particularly as the heroes are completely outmatched each time. Each of the Golden Saints are far more powerful and faster than the Bronze ones. Their armor is better as well so all of the advantages are at their disposal. It means you can prepare for a lot of good heroic speeches from the Bronze Saints as they call these guys out and dredge up their inner power.
The Golden Saints do deserve to be called out because they all either get played for fools or just make the wrong decision. I couldn’t call almost any of them heroes to be honest. I would just say that about Aiolos because he was willing to stand up to the other Golden Saints to save Athena and stop the Pope’s evil plans. Nobody else tried helping, in fact they actively tried to fight him off. Others simply ran off never to be heard from again. So Aiolos is easily the best Golden Saint and it isn’t even close. The rest of them should probably have renounced their titles after this arc was over.
Aries doesn’t play a big role in this arc as he is one of the Golden Saints who decides not to interfere anymore. He prefers to just watch over everything without picking a side. I’ll remind you that choosing not to pick a side is actually choosing one anyway. As a result this guy’s definitely one of my least favorite Saints. He is not someone you can count on and could have helped the Bronze Saints so many times but chose not to. As a result I’d think of him more as a villain if anything. Particularly since he actively threatens anyone who says they are going to help. Definitely a very poor character I must say.
Taurus is the first true Knight to take on the Bronze Saints so he looks really good but we can probably say he’s the weakest one around. He’s a very direct guy who has an honor code and just lets his fists do the talking. He seems like a Saint who can at least be reasoned with so I’ll give him some respect there. He’s a fun guy so it would just be nice if he could fight a little more. I suppose at this stage it is relative though because there’s no shame in being a little weaker than his fellow Gold Saints since those guys are so powerful as it is.
Gemini Saga has a huge role to be sure. He’s a critical part of the Sanctuary arc and makes his presence felt at all times. I would put him as the strongest Golden Knight. I think there is a case to be made that Virgo or Aiolos could take him on 1 on 1 but it would definitely be a great fight either way. I’m a big fan of this guy for sure. He’s definitely dealing with a lot of issues and you can probably guess based on what sign he represents what is going on here. His Galaxian Explosion technique is also famous. It’s sort of like how Sephiroth blows up the solar system in his cutscene. Gemini Saga has an attack that’s like a galaxy crushing into you. It definitely looks cool and his “Another Dimension” ability definitely deserves some praise as well.
Virgo Shaka is low key one of the most evil Saints around though. He knows exactly what was going on the whole time and chose not to do so. He seems to think that he is above good and evil and that’s exactly why you can’t trust him. When someone gets such an inflated opinion of himself it can be quite dangerous. Virgo is basically saying that anything he does is justified. I’ll give him props for being able to fight so well with his eyes closed though. He is undoubtedly powerful. It’s just a shame that he always picks the wrong side. I’d have to list him as a villain here.
Deathmask is an interesting Golden Saint because he is the only member who is downright evil 100% through. He really couldn’t care less about fighting for justice and actively goes around murdering people. It’s a shame that the other Saints allow this…. I was not expecting one of the Saints to be truly evil back when I first read the manga though so that was interesting. He makes for a pretty intense villain to be sure but definitely not a particularly likable character.
Aiolia is a fun Saint and as one of the most heroic ones that naturally means that he has to be mind controlled so he can fight the heroes. Without that there’s no way he would have gone to blows. He did really well even while mind controlled so at full power he should definitely be one of the most powerful Golden Saints. He actually acts like a true warrior worthy of his position so he is definitely one of the best knights around. You can’t go wrong with this guy.
Scorpio is one of the more vengeful Seiya characters. Due to a big misunderstanding he thought he was fufilling the will of Sanctuary. For that reason I’ll give him a little credit as he was at least trying to protect Athena in his own way. It just didn’t work out the way that he thought it would. His abilities are definitely pretty good. I wouldn’t say he stands out as much as some of the other characters but he’s a well developed character all the same. Then we have Shura who has some of the most impressive scenes in the series. He can strike with his fast energy blows in the blink of an eye. Most of the characters can’t even keep up with him and even Shiryu’s defense couldn’t hold his power. Shura was very impressive throughout the series and is one of the best members of Sanctuary. He’s at least one Knight who acted quite heroically in the end.
Next up is Camus He’s an ice user and has some history with Hyoga’s mentor so this naturally ends up making them rivals. Camus is a pretty interesting member. He seems to be one of the most senior Saint members so he doesn’t blindly take orders like some of the others. He even voluntarily leaves his temple to seek out a fight which was pretty neat. I liked him, Camus may not have been one of the most reasonable guys and his methods are rather drastic but he’s a solid fighter and at least his motivations did make a lot of sense.
Finally we have Aphrodite, but this guy wasn’t particularly noteworthy. His fighting abilities are good and the rose based abilities are neat but compared to the rest he felt tacked on to an extent. I don’t believe he ever gets a big role after this. I’ll take him over Aries any day though. At least this guy stays by his temple and actually contributes to the plot instead of waiting for it to come to him. I should also mention that Dohko appears but that guy annoys me as well. He basically hides from the fight and chooses to pretend to be an old man so that he does not need to get mixed up in any of the action. Not exactly the heroic nature you would expect from a Saint now is it?
It was always going to be tough to follow up such a masterful arc but the Asgard arc would try its best. In the remote land of Asgard, Queen Hilda has been corrupted by an evil influence. She summons her God Warriors to prepare for a war on the human world and even attacks Sanctuary. This forces the hand of Athena and the Knights who show up to stop them. Athena can hold back the ice and water for a while but not forever. The Saints must now defeat all of the God Warriors and take down Hilda before Athena perishes. This will be difficult as each of the God Warriors are as powerful as a Golden Saint! The Bronze Knights will have to once again surpass their limits and claim victory.
One nice thing about this arc is that as an original one it could deviate from the usual Saint Seiya script a bit. As a result we actually got some group fights and even Athena got to very briefly show what she could do offensively. The God Warriors were also introduced well so you could see why they were a threat. The only thing holding it back is that this arc introduced some animal violence which the other arcs had been good about. One sob story involves some bears and of course Fenrir uses a lot of wolves at his disposal. What’s even the point of using wolves against a Saint of Athena anyway? I think everyone knew that Shiryu would take them out yet Fenrir acts surprised and even gets super upset with Shiryu for doing that. He only has himself to blame for making such a poor decision in the heat of battle.
Hilda is one of the big players here and she works well as a foil to Athena. Effectively she is an evil version of the goddess and she actually fights from time to time which is pretty neat. She’s a lot more interesting than her sister Freya who doesn’t really fight and just pleads with Hilda to stop the madness all the time. I think it’s safe to say that there was never such an option once Hilda had been corrupted. I would have liked to have seen Freya fight a bit.
Siegfried is effectively the leader of the God Warriors and he is naturally the strongest member. His fight at the end against all of the Saints is definitely a blast. In particular he has a really good fight with Ikki before Seiya eventually steps in to have his tur at back. Siegfried definitely made a few wrong calls near the end of the arc that had me shaking my head but otherwise I did like the guy. His final scenes are also on point as he contributes and takes on one of the future villains. I should mention that the ending of this arc directly connects to the Poseidon arc which I thought was a really cool twist. It was like a sneak preview of what was to come.
Hagen is the lava warrior. He’s a good friend of Freya but I have to say that he was completely unreasonable the whole time. He was given so many chances to stop and keep his life but he just kept on going. It makes it a little harder to feel bad for this guy. I did like him in the flashbacks though. In the present he just wasn’t smart. Meanwhile Thor’s more of a fun fighter. All of the God Warriors have tragic pasts to an extent but Thor’s really just here to fight and take the Saints down. His battle with Seiya is a lot of fun and man, Thor’s huge! Probably the biggest fighter in the series, taking him down wasn’t easy.
Alberich may not have been the strongest member of the God Warriors but he got the most done. If he had any real backup then that would have been game over for the team. What I like about this guy is how cunning he was. He’s got a lot of big ideas even outside of working for Hilda. He takes down almost all of the Saints back to back which is absolutely crazy. It’s really just lucky that he didn’t finish them all. He has a lot of cool abilities and absolute confidence. I would definitely say he’s my favorite villain of this arc and it was sad to see him go.
Meanwhile Fenrir is the worst member. I already spoke about the wolves so I’ll keep this brief. He just failed as a pet owner here and didn’t even realize that it was his fault and started blaming Shiryu instead. You can’t do that, he needed to at least own up to his mistakes and that would have gone a long way. He brought the worst fight of the series in so I could have done without this guy. Even for Saint Seiya standards the fight was one sided too. Am I really supposed to believe that Shiryu could get up after the injuries he sustained? The guy was getting beaten up, bit, and stabbed for whole episodes and then managed to get up. I dunno about that one, but it’s a great durability feat for Shiryu that’s for sure.
Then we have Syd and Bud who are effectively two sides of the same coin. I liked the dynamic here as it was sort of like Gemini Saga only they weren’t quite as aware of each other as Saga was at all times. It also explains why Taurus lost so easily or at least partially. I still don’t see Taurus going down like that. As a Golden Knight of Athena you have to be able to take a few hits and keep on going. They did give us some of the better episodes with the battles involving Ikki and Andromeda though.
Finally we have Mime who had a pretty emotional fight with Ikki. There were quite a few plot twists in that battle to be sure as Ikki kept showing the guy more of his own past in a way to force him to see the truth. I should mention that Ikki’s ability to mess with a person’s mind is pretty impressive. Mime’s a solid villain either way though. I wouldn’t say he’s one of the absolute best but he did well in his appearances.
So the Asgard arc had a lot of great moments. It easily would have passed the Poseidon arc if not for the various animal backstories. I liked that we got more freestyle fights here and I also thought the initial attack as the Asgardians approached Sanctuary was cool. This arc did feel like it was stepping up the intensity at all times and the villains were developed very well. It’s just a solid arc through and through.
Finally we end with the Poseidon arc. While attending a fancy party, Athena is approached by a man of great renown. He is the reincarnated vessel of Poseidon and he has decided to flood the entire planet. Athena pleads with him to stop but he will only do so if she marries him. Athena refuses and offers her one chance to slow the flooding down. To do this, Athena will go inside of a locked chamber where the water will drown her. This will keep the Earth from flooding for as long as she lives. The Bronze Knights will have to defeat all of Atlantis’s powerful Generals in order to break the pillars down and rescue Athena. The issue is that the generals are around Gold Saint level in power. Can the Bronze Knights surpass their limits one last time in order to save her?
Poseidon’s cronies all have a whole lot of confidence and I suppose it’s easy to see why. They are very powerful and did manipulate Asgard into getting destroyed with ease. With Sanctuary weakened as well this is the perfect time to strike. The arc also gave us one of the better Saint Seiya bonding moments as Ikki explained to Hyoga that they’re never allowed to give up while they fight for Athena. The other characters thought it was harsh at the time but Hyoga explained that Ikki was right. It also gave Ikki some time to shine as he went straight for Poseidon instead of bothering with the minions. I always liked that guy’s confidence.
Poseidon is the big bad here and he’s probably the weakest leader villain. Mainly that’s because part of his motivation here is just to marry Athena. Not quite the villain mastermind goal you would really want to see from this guy. He can fight decently well thanks to the powers of Poseidon but the human host isn’t super skilled so he really has to rely on the power as a crutch. The arc as a whole is still excellent but I definitely wouldn’t say that Poseidon is a big reason why. Thetis a loyal minion and the first one to really get a role here. She’s around Silver Saint level so this gave the Sanctuary Silver Knight a chance for a real fight. Beyond that Thetis is reasonable but doesn’t stand out a huge amount.
Baian probably has the least amount of character from Poseidon’s warriors but he has a ton of confidence which is all that I need. His punches are insane to the point where he can knock you across an ocean. He’s very simple, no gimmicks and no tricks. Baian just takes you on face to face and I can appreciate that. Io was cool because of his attacks more than because of his character. Each of his attacks is based on a different animal and it can be tough to predict which one he will use next. It was a good fight with Andromeda and the guy was pushed to his absolute limit in trying to counter each move. Without the animal skills though, Io would definitely be out of luck so he needs to work on his fundamentals more.
Krishna was a fun member of Poseidon’s army. His unstoppable spear was an excellent match to Shiryu’s indestructible shield. Their battle was very solid to be sure. At the end of the day Krishna’s not the kind of guy who’s going to back down in a fight like this so naturally it went all the way down the wire. Caca is more of a deceptive villain. His physical abilities aren’t amazing but he can shapeshift which makes it difficult for the heroes to really go all out against him. It makes sense that he wouldn’t fare quite so well with Ikki though. His fights are always a bit sketchy because you do feel like the heroes shouldn’t take it so hard. He does a number on pretty much the whole cast though so while I’m not a big fan of the guy…he definitely gets results.
Isaac was a very interesting figure. I do find it a bit hard to believe that we had someone who was important to Hyoga’s childhood but wasn’t even referenced earlier. This is one time where some advanced foreshadowing would have been good. The guy was excellent in the flashbacks we see of him though. He is put into a very difficult situation in the present but did as well as he could have. If things could have been different then maybe he would have really been a good ally. Then we have Sorrento who is such a major player that he even appeared in the Asgard arc earlier as a preview. His playing on the flute makes him a tough enemy to deal with to be sure. I’m not really sold on the guy though. He’s decently good but I wouldn’t call him a standout character either.
When Kanon appears he definitely changes everything quite a bit. He’s certainly got big ambitions and it was really nostalgic in a sense seeing him since he’s so similar to Saga. At the end of the day I prefer Gemini Saga but both of these guys are really close and also evenly matched so you can imagine some pretty good battles behind them. He feels like he wasn’t 100% needed in the arc but he adds an extra level of drama to be sure. He’s a wild card that nobody can trust so that’s always interesting to see.
So as mentioned earlier and you can probably tell from the plot descriptions, most of the arcs have that same format. Athena is always at death’s door and the only way to save her is to defeat a specified number of enemies within a restricted time. The Hades arc would actually change this up quite a bit but that’s really the plot for every other arc of Saint Seiya. In a lot of ways it reminds me of the classic Justice League stories from around half a century ago or older where each story would be divided into 4-5 parts and they would all follow the same format with new villains. I suppose repetition may have been encouraged back in the day to show consistency or something. It’s purely conjecture as I don’t know.
Regardless, I’m fine with the arcs having the same format because at the end of the day it’s the execution that is truly important. Each arc is handled really well and the fights are always excellent. Saint Seiya is a series where the action and characters are super important. So long as those areas continue to be strong then the show succeeds. There’s always a great sense of heroism and self sacrifice among the knights. They’re heroes through and through and it makes each fight compelling.
I do have big issues with the Gold Saints at large though. In the first arc I guess I can accept the fact that most of them were following the Pope over Athena since they figured he was telling the truth. Well, not all of them can use that excuse since some knew better and didn’t act. There is 0 reason not to jump in during both the Asgard and Poseidon arcs though. They stand idly by while Athena and co. are in danger. Their entire job is to protect Athena. That’s the number 1 priority even over Sanctuary and yet they never actually act. I’ll give Aiolia some credit for at least assisting by sending his armor in the Poseidon arc but the rest of the characters should have done something. I’ll never be able to come to terms with the fact that the Gold Saints just leave Athena to her own devices each time. Perhaps some of them still hold a grudge against her for the events of Arc 1.
The animation is also very solid. It’s got that classic look and feel to the old days of Shounen. You really feel each and every blow. The heroes are put through the wringer time and time again. I dare say that few main characters have endured the same level of abuse and punishment as the Bronze Saints. Every arc ends up having them beaten to an inch of their lives repeatedly with each battle. In particular Dragon Shiryu takes the brunt of this. His fights tend to rage on for a long time with him taking every bit of punishment possible. At the end of the day though the Saints always get back up and it’s pretty inspiring.
The soundtrack is also good although I wouldn’t call it stellar or anything. The soundtrack as a whole seems a little limited considering how long the show is. That said, the main battle theme is sound though and I never had a problem with the music while watching the show. The songs match the scene in question really well so they did a good job of making sure that things were pairing up nicely.
Overall, Saint Seiya is a timeless classic. It’s aged really well and I expect that this will still be true 20 years from now. This anime doesn’t adapt the Hades saga but it covers the rest of the manga and is a great starting point for fans. The franchise has definitely expanded quite a bit since these original days and I look forward to seeing how the sequels fare someday. The show can be pretty intense so you may be surprised when starting it how badly the heroes get beaten but it’s all in a combat context and never gets too crazy. I’d say that anyone who enjoys a good action anime will definitely like the series. It’s just a blast. Between the strong writing and solid pacing, you’re bound to love the series.