Judge David Gutierrez finds the Knights of the Zodiac series about as entertaining as Celine Dion and Michae Bolton starring in a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Starlight Express". There's plenty to see, but nothing you really want to watch.
"And I can win…with the power of the swan!"—Hyoga
What are the ingredients necessary to create something worthwhile that will capture and hold a viewer's imagination? What is that elusive thing so many writers, directors, and actors try to access to make a project worth seeing again and again? I don't know, and neither does Knights of the Zodiac: Battle of the Bronze Knights (Volume 1).
Facts of the Case
A tournament is held in which the world's greatest armored fighters do battle for a set of armor. One warrior, Seiya, fights to win a chance to see his long lost sister again. Channeling the power of the Pegasus, Seiya makes his way up the tournament ladder. Unfortunately for Seiya, other warriors, with motives as equally pure or darkly evil, stand in his way.
First in a series of DVD releases, Battle of the Bronze Knights features the following episodes:
"A New Ear of Heroic Legends"—Seiya must learn how to use the Pegasus armor in battle and defeat the Silver Knight Shina. (Grade: 30)
"Burn! Meteor Touch of Pegasus!"—Seiya must defeat Geiki the bear in battle. He also learns the only way to see his sister again is to win the tournament. The sophomore episode establishes the formula the series will follow. (Grade: 10)
"Swan, Warrior of the Ice Field"—About as threatening as he sounds, Swan must win the tournament to obtain armor that will release his mother from her perpetual nap. (Grade: 20)
"Dragon's Invincible Fist and Shield"—Shiryu the Dragon Knight fights for his master, but learns a lesson in humility. This episode ends in a cliffhanger that's resolved in Volume 2. (Grade: 20)
To paraphrase my favorite online cartoon character, "Imagine the smelliest piece of crap you ever saw. Now imagine that took a crap and that's what that guy smell's like." Substitute smelly guy for smelly DVD and that's exactly what Knights of the Zodiac Volume One: Battle of the Bronze Knights is.
While character motivation is present, character is most definitely absent. I don't care about any of these "knights." None of them are appealing. Imagine a WWF where all the wrestlers dress like Goldust in armor and that will approximate the ridiculousness of the "knights." Filled with empty asides and long-winded soliloquies, these characters are empty advertisements for action figures and a card game. An embodiment of their hollowness is the Swan Knight Hyoga. Often making references to life in Siberia, he is more like a dopey teenager from Orange County. I don't understand this. Care for more poor characterization? Try the Dragon Knight. A dragon knight sounds threatening. A dragon knight in legwarmers isn't.
What passes for story here is terrible. What's the point of the tournament again? Give the DVD two seconds and it will remind the reviewer time and time and time again why these people fight. Sadly—and I never do this—I found myself rewriting the dialogue in my head. I tried to come up with something for these guys to say or do that would make me want to keep watching.
Do you like reused footage? This DVD has plenty of it. Time and time again, when the Knights perform their special power move, the same transformation sequence is used. I remember watching Voltron and wondering why the enemy never attacked when the lions/vehicles were busy trying to assemble the giant robot. It's like kicking a man when he's down—is there a better time? I understand reusing footage is done for cost effectiveness, but having to see it repeatedly is tiring. Anytime the story gets remotely interesting, it will cut to a memory or a montage or those weird floating heads that tell the character what to do. These devices grow thin by the second episode, but continue to be used throughout the series.
With the exception of the final episode, they all follow the same formula—guy fights, gets beaten up, and wins when he summons his Zodiac chi. It's like seeing Rocky every half-hour without the benefit of Paulie.
The acting is horrendous. It's overdone and trite. Anyone who watches this stands a better chance of muting it and doing the voices themselves. It's that bad.
The picture quality is mediocre. I don't expect much from a cartoon that's almost twenty years old. The sound came and went and lost any consistency early on. I wasn't impressed by presentation either.
No extras were included, save some previews for other ADV releases. Very thoughtful of ADV to include the Knights of the Zodiac toy commercial.
Additionally, the DVD comes with a free playing card for the Knights of the Zodiac Role-Playing game.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's certainly an easy story for kids to follow. Since every episode begins with a recap, a viewer can catch up lickety split. Every character is visually distinguishable and has its own animal identity.
How about that theme song? A cover of Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran" performed by Bowling Soup (available on Jive Records!) sets a nice peppy pace for episodes to follow. Sadly, nothing following the title song quite measures up.
This is one of the worst DVD releases I've ever seen. I just can't follow a dragon knight in legwarmers and long green hair. Nor do I find the lead character of Seiya the lease bit interesting. It's not a good sign when I want the main character to get badly beaten in every tournament he enters.
Knights of the Zodiac: Battle of the Bronze Knights (Volume 1) is sentenced to life without the chance of parole. Let this serve as an example to bad anime and its dealers everywhere. This court will not stand for it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
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