Judge Sandra Dozier gets to revel in the flip side of the Knights of the Zodiac hell we put Judge David Gutierrez through.
"One of you is the true Golden Saint, worthy of wearing the Gold Cloth,
and destined to save mankind."
This volume of Saint Seiya opens strongly, with Hyoga locked in mortal combat with his former teacher and mentor. It is a great battle, made poignant by the confusion Hyoga feels at having to face his master this way—he doesn't yet understand that Crystal Saint is under the influence of Pope Ares.
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 on the show, 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, love.
In the postapocalyptic world in which they live, children are trained to fight in tournaments to determine status as Saints, with different rankings based on experience and skill. Seiya, the title character, is a Bronze Saint. Along with the other Bronze Saints, he fights for Saori, who (along with her family) ran the tournaments for many years but who has a greater calling that is finally revealed to the Bronze Saints in one of the episodes on this volume.
They also fight for control of the Golden Armor (also called the Gold Cloth), a legendary suit of armor that grants its wearer tremendous protection and ability in battle. Pope Ares wants it so he can take over the world, and Saori wants it so that doesn't happen.
Things really start to get rolling with these episodes, as Seiya and his teammates, individually and together, go up against super-powerful villains such as the Fire Saint and Lizard Misty, and an important ally returns. Gigas organizes a series of attacks meant to divide and weaken the Saints and their protection of Japan, with his ultimate goal the acquisition of the Golden Helmet.
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 personally quite like the late '80s style of animation), or the fight sequences, which pan over static scenes and show the 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.
Video transfer for Volume 5 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 it 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 mythology and a clean opening sequence. Subtitle/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 fact that the sound quality is mushier than in the English dub.
If Saint Seiya looks familiar, it may be because it was cut up, redubbed, and released to television in a significantly different form as the (by all accounts) terrible Knights of the Zodiac. Frankly, just the name alone makes me believe some of the horror stories I have heard about this release. Saint Seiya is the title for fans to get. 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 American television version.
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