Saint Seiya

Good afternoon, class...Professor Clamp here. I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes today about our Anime 201 class, Bishounen. What is bishounen, you ask? Well, simply enough, in Japanese it means "pretty boy." There's a whole line of anime and manga in Japan centered around "pretty boy" characters, but they span all sorts of genres. Though their primary appeal is to girls, some of the most successful bishounen programs have productively picked up a male audience. In fact, some bishounen are aimed directly at that male audience and pick up female audiences along the way.

Saint Seiya is one such property. Originally, the manga version ran in Shonen Jump, a weekly comic-book collection designed for guys. However, when it started airing in animated form, girls liked the bishounen character designs, and the show was surprisingly popular during its run in Japan from 1986-1989, spawning four feature films. A lot of anime clubs in the US were fans of it back then, too, but it's never been picked up for a Western release. For most of fandom, it's not a big loss.

You in the back row...what was your question? What's it about? Well, set in a near future after an unknown catastrophe, the gods return. According to legend, every 200 years Ares comes back to try and rule the world, and Athena comes back to stop him. Both of them employ warriors, known as saints, to fight their battles for them. Seiya, our main character, is known as the Pegasus saint, and he and his friends help Athena in her quest. Along the way, they fight for various armor that hold legendary powers, discover the secret behind their mythological and astrological counterparts, and battle their own angst.

Fans of the series are vocal about it, and the show has been successful in a variety of international markets. It's really not surprising, since it has multi-level appeal. The guys like it because of its battle sequences, some of which last a few episodes! Meanwhile, it appeals to some girls because not only are the male characters very cute, but the whole thing is like a gigantic soap opera. Anyone familiar with Greek mythology knows the twisted ways that every character in the pantheon is related to everybody else. This makes a complex web of relationships that can captivate a female audience.

However, save for Mexico where the show has been rerun countless times, Saint Seiya normally disappears after its initial popularity. That's because people throughout the world have found that a storyline worth maybe 30 or 40 episodes of warfare and pretty boys gets pretty old after 114. Saint Seiya gets in a habit of repeating itself. Without significant character development, it starts to feel old very quickly. The show also takes some time getting started, so there's another strike against it. Add to it that the storyline gets so convoluted that its difficult to jump in later in the series, and you've got some serious problems. Even loyal fans admit the show starts losing steam.

Now I admit my viewpoint is biased--I've only seen several episodes of the show, out of order, over the years. However, there's been absolutely nothing I've seen that would make me want to sit down and watch more of it. The character designs aren't extraordinary, and I've never seen a single relationship in the series worth caring about. There's a lot of yelling, a lot of fighting, and then some more yelling. Add on only passing television quality graphics, and again, you don't wind up with much.

For big fans of mythology (even when run over roughshod), Saint Seiya might still be worth the effort, and I'd encourage you to look at for more information. However, those who want fantasy duels would be better served by the Lodoss Wars OVA series, and those seeking bishounen will at least be entertained by the graphics in the new X television series. So go watch them instead. Class dismissed.

Saint Seiya -- violence -- C