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Saint Seiya: Collection 1
I certainly have to applaud ADV for adding long running classic anime to the list of their respective titles. When you tackle such an endeavor you have a few obstacles on the road ahead of you. First and foremost there is the popularity factor of these series. Most of the time only the die-hard of the die-hard would really care to take the time to watch a show like Gatchaman. The other challenge involves the dating of the material. If a series looks too old or is too cheesy chances are good that it won't win over a new audience in today's market. Fortunately there has been a resurgence of sorts and more otaku seem to be open to classic animation.
While Gatchaman is currently about half way through its cycle, another series from decades past to see some DVD treatment from ADV is Saint Seiya. The anime originally started getting released on digital format back in 2003, but it wasn't until recently that a thinpack collection was released. Of course given the long-running nature of Saint Seiya (1986 to 1991) ADV could only cram 30 episodes out of 114 on to the set.
If you start watching the show and think it looks familiar, it's probably because the anime saw very limited release here in America not too long ago in the form of Knights of the Zodiac. It was shown in censored form censored due to the amount of violence and blood, but still garnered a cult following. Fans will be pleased to see the show here in its unedited original format with both the original Japanese language and English dubbing.
For the uninitiated let's get one thing straight; in order to appreciate Saint Seiya you have to love Dragon BallZ. The two have a very similar atmosphere with classic style animation, eccentric characters, and lots of over-the-top fighting. Sure the concepts may be different but the core of fighting genre remains intact. That means every episode features the many characters battling it out with each other as they scramble for a particular prize of some sort.
The series focuses on a young Japanese boy named Seiya who was sent to Greece in order to train to be a warrior. While there he not only attained the ability to summon the cosmos (universal energy) within him but he also received a special armor known as a Saint Cloth. Once he put on the suit he became a warrior akin to Pegasus and joined the ranks of the Bronze Saints. This basically means that he now has to fight a bunch of other Saints to get some cooler clothes and rip Greek mythology apart.
Unlike other installments in the fighting genre, Seiya is actually a main character that isn't gung-ho about stepping into the ring. Sure he willingly learned how to fight and likes his new duds well enough, but all he wanted to do was go back to Japan and see his sister. Unfortunately the guy that sent him to Greece in the first place has died and left his granddaughter in charge of his operation. Her whereabouts have since been "lost" but the granddaughter is willing to use her resources to locate her if Seiya wins the tournament.
Throughout the course of the episodes here you'll be introduced to all sorts of warriors and quite frankly there are too many to keep track of. Most of the major players join Seiya as evil Saints emerge to steal portions of the Gold Cloth. Shiryu, Hyoga, and a slew of others step forward and get some screen time but to be honest the cast changes so much you never really get to know any of them. The same goes for the horde of villains that stand between Seiya and his ultimate goal.
While watching the 30 episodes that are featured on the set, I can honestly say that the show bored the heck out of me. There is a story (kind of) that stretches across the entire set, but the episodes make the progression of it so painfully slow that it's almost unbearable. Fighting anime has advanced a lot since the days of Saint Seiya and sitting down to watch series like Baki and Tenjho Tenge offers a prime example of that.
It's not that Saint Seiya is necessarily a "bad" show; it's just that compared to other competitors in the genre the series just isn't as interesting. The creators were really stretching when they decided to go with the Greek mythology setting, but for many that undoubtedly adds to the appealing cheese factor of it all. There's just a certain lack of quality to nearly every facet in this series that makes me wonder how it was broadcast for as long as it was. Then again, I've never really been into Dragon BallZ and just look at how popular that is among its crowd.
At the end of the day Saint Seiya just isn't as strong or timeless as something like Gatchaman. The characters and story just didn't grab me the way other fighting series have and I found myself laughing at the show more than I was actually enjoying it. There are a couple of moments in the 30 episodes here that make the show borderline recommendable, but those are too few and far between. Unless you adore older animation that features people kicking the crap out of each other for seemingly no reason you can easily file this one under the skip it category.
While Saint Seiya may have been produced in the mid to late 80s, it looks like an anime from the late 70s thanks to the quality of the DVD. The show is presented in color with a full frame aspect ratio and there are quite a few problems with the transfer. For starters there is a lot of grain in the image as well as a bunch of speckle. As if that weren't enough most of the colors here are faded and the picture has a soft edge to it. The animation is another gray area that Saint Seiya is plagued by visually and the show is rather choppy when you get right down to it. Fans may not care too much, but for newcomers there are much better managed series on the market.
For Saint Seiya the DVDs come with two audio tracks to choose from though the original Japanese is arguably the best. The English dubbing features too many irritating voiceovers to make it worthwhile watching for my personal taste, but to each their own. The quality is fair enough with a Dolby Digital 2.0 presentation but there really is no channel separation to speak of. The volume also carries over at relatively the same level so sound effects and character voices sometimes mesh together. It was rare but I also found that many of the louder audio bits featured a little bit of static at points.
Apart from a few previews on the first disc with some accompanying DVD credits there is nothing on this set to speak of when it comes to talking about bonus material.
If you enjoy shows like Dragon BallZ then you'll most likely like Saint Seiya much more than I did. I'm all about revisiting classic anime that we missed here in America, but this particular show just didn't float my boat. The whole Greek mythology concept mixed with galactic superpowers and tournament fighting just didn't fit well together in my opinion. To make matters worse the 30 episodes here progress at such a slow pace that going from one episode to the next yields very little gratification. If you're interested in it you're much better off treading cautiously and maybe giving it a rent first, but otherwise you could probably skip this set and go on living.