Swans have never made Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger cry until now.
"And I can win…with the power of the swan!"—Hyoga, the "Swan" Knight
Watching Saint Seiya: Collection 1 reminds me of the old grandpa wagging his finger as he talks about the good old days. "When I was a boy, we walked barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways. We played with rusty barbed wire and we liked it, because that's all we had." Saint Seiya is anime, make no mistake. It has the ponderous standoffs, colorful cast of characters, and deep intonations of arcane moves like "Mysterious Pegasus Wing Flaming Rain Attack!" set to a background of giant, writhing beasts. It has chicks with purple hair and extra thick eyeliner. It has bad guys who cackle and fall off a cliff, only to show up two episodes later. In short, it contains every cliché of the genre delivered in workmanlike fashion. Back then, that's all you needed.
Saint Seiya is huge in South America and other Latino parts of the world. Saint Seiya has an extensive cast of characters who build up intricate relationships throughout the series. Like the Hispanic answer to Dragonball Z, Saint Seiya's formulaic characters, scripted fights, and soap operatics caught the popular imagination. I have a fondness for Speed Racer and Star Blazers, which in their own ways are as bad or worse than Saint Seiya; I don't begrudge Latin America its enjoyment of this series.
Nonetheless, I side with Judge Gutierrez. DVD Verdict has already reviewed most of this series. Judge Gutierrez stuck with it until he could stand no more, at which time Judge Dozier took over with a much more favorable outlook on the show. Judge Gutierrez summed it up thusly:
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.
I won't go quite that far, but I will say that Saint Seiya offers nothing I haven't seen thousands of times before. I'm completely burnt out on anime stories that are peopled with warriors who are described wholly by affiliation with some structural element, be they Norse gods, planets, Crayola crayon colors, the periodic table of elements, or even Zodiac constellations. I'm no longer stirred by three-minute-long sequences where opponents stand toe to toe and stare while each summons glowing orbs of energy and pronounces the spiritual technique of death about to be unleashed. It no longer surprises me when "dead" enemies come back. Long ago I gave up on the idea that an anime protagonist could walk from point A to point B without confronting a parade of one-dimensional foes.
Even when compared to clichés, Saint Seiya is generic. Each warrior represents a Zodiac Constellation, replete with a spirit animal, corresponding attacks, and pieces of flair to decorate his armor. For example, Saint Seiya has little Pegasus wings on his helmet. Essentially, these Zodiac knights fight. They fight each other. They fight mythical incarnations such as Ares. They fight crow dudes, and robot women, and dolphin men. They fight, they get injured, they heal, they fight some more, they get injured…you get the idea. Between each battle, or even in the middle of battles, the characters all stop and relate long flashbacks to their childhoods. Though the ante is upped moderately as the series wears on, the last episode in this set is not fundamentally different from the first.
There's no need to rehash former reviews. What does Saint Seiya: Collection 1 offer beyond the former Knights Of The Zodiac releases? The only real change, and it is a big one, is that the Japanese track is included. This is a big deal. The English dub of this series is so abysmal that I wanted to cry. It is the lamest, dullest, cheesiest dub I could possibly imagine. The Japanese track is blissfully nondescript by comparison. Otherwise, this release retains the washed out, grainy, poorly detailed transfer of the former releases along with the tinny, thin soundtrack. The long stretches of static imagery are just as dull here as they were on the previous releases. One oddity is that each disc opens with a disclaimer that the opinions expressed in this DVD are not those of ADV, yet for the life of me I could find no opinions expressed in any form.
Saint Seiya does have a rabid international following. The highly structured histrionics that I find boring and trite can also be considered classic anime. I'd strongly caution those with American tastes to stay away from this series. If you like it, now you can listen in the original Japanese, which is a big improvement.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
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