ADV Films // 1986 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // April 29th, 2004
"It was Saints of Athena who brought these tyrants to their knees, wearing the Golden Armor of Sagittarius!" -- Saori's Grandfather, in a vision
Saint Seiya was originally released in Japan in 1986 and immediately earned a huge following. By popular demand, the show extended its originally scheduled run, then spawned a second series and a few stand-alone specials. Fans loved the heavy influence of Greek mythology, the huge cast, the fighting, and the epic drama. This is the simple, yet compelling appeal of the show. Whereas Robotech had gorgeous dogfights in space, Saint Seiya is a love song of martial arts and special attacks. With a large cast of characters, there are dozens of stories to satisfy every dramatic whim. There is literally something for everyone -- nobility, evil, brotherhood, betrayal, death, life, and love.
The post-apocalyptic world of Saint Seiya is set in the near future, after a great catastrophe that sends the governments of the world into chaos. A tournament for fighters from all over the world is arranged by Mitsumasa Kiddo, the leader of an organization called the Graude Foundation, with the prize being the divine Golden Armor of Sagittarius. After his death, his granddaughter Saori continues the tournament.
Some years previous, hundreds of children were kidnapped from orphanages and pressed into service as fighters in the tournament. If they made it out of Sanctuary, a brutal training camp, they became Saints (warriors) and received their Bronze uniforms (the color describes ranking more than hue), which are all named after a constellation. There are also Silver Saints and Gold Saints, with the latter being the most rare. The title character, Seiya, is one of the Bronze Saints -- he wears Pegasus armor and has a signature move named after the winged horse. Although there are several characters and dozens of plots interwoven in the story, the thread of the story basically follows Seiya as he grows, matures, and realizes his importance to Saori and his fellow fighters.
The Bronze Saints fight against terrible foes (like Docrates, who comes back for revenge in this volume) in a battle for control between Pope Ares (the master of Sanctuary) and Saori. In Volume 4, Saori discovers a closely guarded secret, and Docrates, thought to have been buried under a landslide in the last episode, returns for revenge and doesn't care who gets in his way. Once he kidnaps Saori, it's up to Seiya and the other Saints to get her back without giving up the Golden Armor.
Due to the epic story arc, it's difficult to get into Saint Seiya unless you've seen the whole thing. If you watched this volume alone, you might not be terribly impressed by the animation, which shows its age (although I quite like the late '80s style of animation made popular by series like Robotech), or the fight sequences, which pan over static scenes and show action more artistically than literally. However, the point is the drama of the fight, which can only be felt if you are invested in the characters that are fighting, and you care about what happens. When the fight with giant-sized Docrates turns desperate, as he evades and survives wave after wave of attack, Hyoga throws himself down into a vulnerable kneeling position to freeze Docrates' legs to the floor so the others can attack him as one. Doctrates, of course, takes the opportunity to brutally beat Hyoga, knowing he can't fight back, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I didn't want Hyoga to die! Looking at that scene later, I realized the pacing and staging was fairly sedate compared to more modern fight scene direction. That's not what mattered, though. What mattered was how into it I was, how much I cared about what they were fighting for.
If Saint Seiya looks familiar, that might be because you've seen it as the horribly butchered Knights of the Zodiac, which was sanitized of coarse language, blood, and the more brutal bits of fighting so that it could be aired on television. The English dub, by all accounts (I have never seen KoTZ myself), was just awful, with lines spoken over previously silent scenes, characters changed into jokey show-offs during serious moments, and (I still can't believe this one) "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls as the opening theme. Needless to say, fans everywhere are breathing a collective sigh of relief now that ADV has released an uncut, unedited version that has a new dub with a better translation, original score, and original ending. I still wasn't happy with some of the elements, such as one of the villains repeatedly taunting a pink-armored fighter by calling him "pretty boy," but I did enjoy the voice work -- the actors got their parts just right overall.
Video transfer for Volume Four is about as good as can be expected for a series from the late '80s. The colors are somewhat washed out and the print has fuzz and grain, but is still completely watchable. The soundtrack suffers a bit from tinniness and scratching in certain parts, and the 2.0 Dolby Surround is not very lively, but it is robust and even the smallest grunts and sighs come through clearly. Again, these are due to the age of the series. Extras include liner notes about the mythology of the Saint Seiya universe and a clean opening sequence. Sub/Dub settings are slightly different for this release than usual -- the choice is English Dub without subtitle, or original Japanese with subtitle (however, subtitling can be turned off or changed to signs-only subtitling via the DVD remote options). It's worth listening to the excellent performances in the original Japanese at least once, despite the sound quality being mushier than the English dub.
This DVD series is the one to get for fans of Saint Seiya. At five episodes per disc, the price is right, and the bonus of seeing it uncut and unedited should make it seem like a completely different show for those who saw the television version.
Review content copyright © 2004 Sandra Dozier; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
* English (Signs Only)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Mythology of Saint Seiya" liner notes
* Original Japanese opening