Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac

Alt title: Saint Seiya

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ParaParaJMo's avatar
Mar 13, 2014

Story and Characters
What really appealed to me about this story was the inclusion of Greek mythology and the use of the constellations to each represent a guardian to Athena. As a modern day re-telling of those qualities, I find that it's adapted very excellently. I like how the concept of chains for lets say Andromeda is transitioned from the original mythology to the character Shun, and of course everybody knows what the legend of the phoenix is, and its used very conveniently with the character Ikki. If you pretty much know the original Greek stories on a basic level, I say it can add a bit more to the enjoyment. If you're expecting something very accurate and 100% faithful, don't bet on it. Keep in mind this is a semi-retelling of Greek mythology with some Asian cultural twists to it which add a unique element to it in that sense. 

The pacing can be slow, but very spread out. The amount of episodes put into this series allows each character to have their own contribution to the story, as well as to have their own individual and relationship development. For example, the main character, Seiya, wants nothing to do with being a saint for Athena, and wants to find his long lost sister. But after awhile, he discovers that he can use his role to hopefully have his sister also find him early on in the series. But after a short while, Seiya comes to embrace his role as Earth's protector. But it's not only interesting that Seiya only develops, but the rest of the cast and even some of the villains have their own unique development as well. And when you get to know some of the characters in an individual sense, you do get drawn to them because of how well they are presented with their personal traits and background. 

The personalities of the main cast overall can be considered stereotypical by modern day standards with Seiya as the act now/never think leader; Ikki as the lone wolf; and Shun as the more soft and feminine guy, but at least the chemistry is balanced and each character can be a foil to one another. Anybody can be a foil to Seiya in the group, and Seiya can be a foil to anybody and so on. 

Of course being a Shounen Jump adapted anime, there are its share of fillers. The worst part about this series is certainly the Steel Saints. I felt their concept really negated what Saint Seiya was about with manipulating the cosmos in your body and really cheapened the value of that. But thankfully they are only in a few episodes and they disappear without a trace never to be seen again. But after the Sanctuary Arc, there is a filler arc called the Asgard Arc where the Bronze saints must fight the God Warriors inspired by Norse Mythology. I felt this is one filler arc that I found to be very productive and in some ways advanced and contributed to the development of the story, and finds a way to connect the last story arc of the anime TV series. I thought the respective characters were an excellent represenation of the myths they were adapated from and matched up very well with the Bronze saints. 

Art and Animation
I have to say is that I really liked how the design of the characters and I find to be a bit better than the original manga version. I like how it feels more "cleaned up," and not as rough looking. Granted Saint Seiya is an action series, but the way Kurumada inks makes it difficult for me to follow sometimes. Then again, I got bad eyes. I like how the anime makes the characters faces a bit wider and more circular. In that sense, the characters come across more convincingly as teenagers. In the manga, I wouldn't believe that Seiya was thirteen, while in the anime, I believe he can. I also like how Ikki kind of looks like a Nagai Go design. It really makes him stick out and suits his big frame since Nagai liked to sometimes design characters like that. Sometimes I wonder if Ikki was meant to be a tribute to Nagai Go's style. 

Of course what some people may have problems with is Shun's design. I'll admit that I first thought he was a girl looking at the pictures. His face, his figure, the design of his armor just makes you think he's a girl. Apparently thanks to this design of Shun, it pushed way for yaoi. Not only did Kurumada-sensei pave way for Shounen Jump with his original manga, Ring ni Kakero, his creation of Shun paved way for yaoi. Kind of interesting that Kurumada is the father of both Shounen Jump and yaoi. I don't know why I can forgive Shun for looking like a girl, I guess in series like these, you may not directly need a woman, but a guy with a feminine side and Shun fills that role very well. 

What also makes this series very appealing is of course the various designs of the armor that ALL the characters wear. A good fraction of the armor isn't of course 100% accurate to what you see in Greek mythology, but I felt it works with the characters' individual builds, along the way the action and the individual techniques are performed with more emphasis on speed. The armors well represent their respective constellations, and I like when they don't wear their armor, the pieces will form the constellation they represent. 

Another thing that sticks out to met before I talk about the action is of course the design of the God Warriors and the Asgard characters in general. Obviously they were not designed by Kurumada, and their coloring is a lot lighter and brighter, and their hair is much thinner compared to how Kurumada draws more wild and thicker hair styles. The designs reminded me of a Josei style manga. But I suppose it does allow more diversity to the style of Saint Seiya if you want to look at this more postiviely. But lets move on. 

Another high and low point of this series is the action. A lot of recycled animation is used, but Saint Seiya of course isn't the only hit anime series guilty of this feature so I think myself along with a good amount of fans can forgive that. The fighting is explosive with some super bad ass techniques, but not to a point where it gets ridiculously over the top. Despite the more emphasis on special moves, the fights are still strategic, and I like how the concept of styles makes fights is applied here. For example, one character can't beat this guy because of such and such, but this character may be able to beat this bad guy because they have a technique or a feature with their cloth in which it gives them the opportunity to win. So in some ways, it makes you feel that this character isn't the strongest amongst the saints and so on. It's all about who matches up with who. 

And I have to say that Saint Seiya has some of the coolest techniques I have ever seen in action anime. I think some of the techniques used in this anime are way cooler than what you see in Hokuto no Ken and Dragon Ball Z. So, if you want to see some cool action with some sweet moves and bad ass looking armor, then Saint Seiya is for you. 

Music and Voice Acting
All I have to say is that Pegasus Fantasy by MAKE-UP is certainly one of the best opening themes of an anime in history. If anybody is going to make a top anime theme list, you are no true anime fan if this song is not on your list. The opening guitars just insantly grab you by the balls and the drum beats are catchy. The singing is very energetic and passionate, and the lyrics pretty much tell you the basics of what Saint Seiya is, and that it's about masculinity, the burning fire of youth being a hero,and kicking ass. It's just the talent of MAKE-UP just makes it sound so epic. If I were a pro-wrestler or professional fighter, this would certainly be my top choice of an entrance song just like how MMA fighter Josh Barnett comes out to Ai Wo Torimodose from Hokuto no Ken. The song is so awesome that this French guy went on French Idol, and actually sang it. Granted he wasn't a great singer, but I felt from his posture and his tone, that his inner cosmos igniting for the world to see made up for his lack of talent. Hell, I think he's far more talented than a majority of idiots who go on shows like that anyway. 

The second opening theme, Dream Warrior sung by Kageyama Hironobu, who is also famous for doing the songs for Dragon Ball Z is also excellent in its own right though I don't think it compares to Pegasus Fantasy. The ending themes tend to be more relaxed and is a good way to cool the audience down after seeing the intensity of what this show has to offer, so it shows another good balance to the series. It still tells the same stories of living out your dreams and being a myth come to life. 

The voice talent consists the best of what anime has to offer. I'll admit the one seiyuu who impressed me most was Horikawa Ryo, the voice of Vegeta from DBZ, as the voice of Andromeda Shun. With Vegeta, he's always angry and hostile and is ready to kick somebody's ass. While as Shun, he's very soft, feminine, and a pacifist. His acting is so convincing as this character, it makes it very hard to believe this guy would later voice Vegeta. It just shows how well talented he is. Another great name is of course the voice of Seiya himself, Furuya Tooru, who is world known as the voice of Amuro Ray from Gundam, and as Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon. His talent allows Seiya to be very young and yet masculine and hot-headed. The late great Suzuoki Hirotaka, famous for playing Captain Bright from Gundam, Kaifun from Macross, Kuno from Ranma, and Saitou Hajime from Rurouni Kenshin plays Shiryu. He makes him sound calm and contemplative. And I can't deny the presence of Ikeda Shuuichi as the voice of Milo, The Scorpio Gold Sait. This guy origially played the Mother Fucking Red Comet, Char Aznable from Gundam, and Hiko Seijuro from Rurouni Kenshin. 

As for the many dubs out there, I can't speak much for them. I tried watching the English dub, but I found it horrid with the static acting, and the mispronunciating of names such as Shiryu as She-ru, Hyoga, as Hai-oh-ga, and Saori as Sei-o-ri. I just couldn't get past that. I know that Saint Seiya was already popular in Europe and Mexico, but I can't speak for the dubs of those countries. But as an English speaker and as a mediocre Japanese speaker, I can only speak for the Japanese and English version. But watch this in Japanese, you will get one of the best ensemble voice acting casts of all times. Not just for their names, but for their talents and how they bring their characters to life. 

Overall
Sadly, despite it's popularity overseas, America was stupid 20 years ago and didn't pick up this series when it had the chance. It could have been a HUGE success and put anime on the map 100% worldwide long before Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z did. But for some reason, somebody just looked over this awesome classic and not many American fans have seen this old school epic, and it's one of the most influentional titles in the history of manga. But you know, that's the way it is. As for who I recommend this to, of course people who love old school for starters. And I say if you love Hokuto no Ken, then you gotta check out this baby. The basic premises are very similiar with using constellations and the presentation of the action is kind of the same but gives a different flavor with a different type of explosiveness.

8/10 story
8/10 animation
10/10 sound
9/10 characters
8/10 overall
ThatAnimeSnob's avatar
Jul 23, 2012

Sometimes change is not only improvement. Sometimes a shift in the formula may be better entertaining-wise or money-wise but beyond that worse than before. And this is the case with Saint Seiya (SS), the forefather of all modern fighting shounen.

This anime is not really the first in its kind. A few years back, there was Hokuto no Ken, which was far more violent and mature in its themes, and which I will constantly compare to just to prove the several points I will make.

Hokuto’s main advantage ended up being its worst snag when it came to making money out of the franchise. You see, most of its characters would eventually end up dead and they wouldn’t return to life, thus pretty much making it hard to keep them perpetual interesting and endlessly sell merchandise about them. Oh sure, they still make a ton of Hokuto stuff even today, but most of them are the same old arc, repeated again and again. SS on the other hand opted for a different method, which as sillier as it may have been next to Hokuto, it kept the spice flowing for decades. Its winning formula was very easy actually. NEVER KILL YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS OR IN CASE YOU DO RESURRECT THEM SOON AFTERWARDS. And although most think it was Dragonball which established the trope, in reality it was this anime a few years before it.

Beyond that, SS has lots of things for one to prefer this shonen over Hokuto. It has a large team of fighters instead of only one unbeatable one, each one with his own special attacks and personality. In a way SS improved the formula of shonen in a similar way as Getter Robo did with Mazinger Z. It simply increased the number of main characters in order to make the whole story more interesting. It also gave each character his own signature moves, demeanor, different power ups and accessories, making the whole deal a lot more interesting than just one God-powerful character who hardly needs further power ups or character development.

To be honest, Hokuto has all that too but in a lot more subtle way, since all the antagonists Kenshiro faced ended up being allies or fleshed out villains and Kenshiro himself had to slowly learn how to develop his technique by studying others in order to face the final opponent. But all that happened in a very simplistic way and you end up thinking he just copied others and now his fists move as fast as Big Bad’s. Which does count as a far smarter form of development but then again it doesn’t have anything for the kids to notice and more importantly, to buy. SS on the other hand had clear developments in powers, in the form of using numbers and analogies. Like, this attack is three times the speed of sound or that one can run with the speed of light and stuff like that. Also, the internal power measure of the series, called Cosmo here, is far catchier than the typical and impersonal Ki, which Hokuto vaguely used just as spice.

It all comes down to preference actually. The Saints in the show were separated into classes, each one could upgrade his armor and power attack, each had his own allies and antagonists in his personal backdrop story, and above all nobody was killed permanently and was constantly returning with more tricks up his sleeve. There was simply way more variety and colorful suits and pretty super attacks going around, which as sillier as they were compared to the more subtle ones in Hokuto, they were still far more eye-catchy. And it was not even a matter of realism at hand here since even Hokuto’s martial arts weren’t really more realistic or practical. They were just far more lethal and gory, and thus cooler in their own way.

Almost every character has a backdrop story, including the secondary ones and most minor villains. This is a worthy note, even by today’s standarts. Most series don’t try to spice the secondary cast and Saint Seiya showed a lot more respect than most in this department. All major characters get to have a variety of side stories and decent coloring, which is a good thing.

Then again, all said backdrop stories and character motives are very simple. Avenge/defeat/save someone, find/destroy/win something, prove your power/resolve/point. All these elements are identical in all shonen and like in all shonen, they are not enough to flesh out a character properly. Oh, sure, in terms of the genre they are great but in terms of really unique and interesting characters, they are not. Watching the same archetypes repeating in all the series gets boring after the 1000th time. As far as characters go, Hokuto did it better.

Realism on the other hand appears to be undermined more than it should as almost all battles are taking place in tournament arenas or arena-like locations. Wherever the characters go, everything feels like an arena, made just so they can come and fight in it. Even high angle views of the wide areas the characters have to cross look like linear obstacle routes, filled with incohesive landmark features that resemble those in tv action games, like the American Gladiators or the Knights and Warriors. In a few words, the world in which the story takes place is fake, it is made just for the fighting and nothing more. I mean, sure, it is made to be a theme part or something so the kids can enjoy it more but it doesn’t mean I like how they turn everything to a goddamn videogame.

The story is not exactly excelling somewhere either, which is a commonplace in most shonen. All the fuss about the war with the Gods for the salvation of humanity is just a poor excuse for endless fighting. Even worse, it has saviors specially destined to do it, which I am not fond of. Sure, all shonen are about super special teenagers with untapped true potential and a mission to save the world because some prophesy said so but it doesn’t mean it gives the story any more credit. I would prefer if it was all open to an unknown future. I also never liked how this renders 99.9999% of humanity totally useless but then again I understand that the boys watching this are supposed to identify and feel like they are special and such.

The story is character-driven, as it usually is in shonen. Someone wants to accomplish something (Avenge/defeat/save someone, find/destroy/win something, prove his power/resolve/point) and faces others who think differently and want to stop him. This is not bad by itself but it really sucks if you try to reason the way it is presented. Plus, there are no actual deeper messages in the story. There are some poor shots at making this Cosmo power being the means to enlightenment and cosmic balance or something but the whole this plays out way too superficially to actually make you think or question stuff.

The artwork motives of the anime are full of Ancient Greek and Viking trademarks that make it rather interesting. The saints’ armors which are all based on star constellations and make allusions to the myths are a nice touch too. The pronunciation of them was awful, the myths were debunked to resemble fairy tales but I still liked the whole idea.

The animation has poor frame rate, jerky movement, lots of repeating footage during transformations and special attacks. Apart from the age it was made they still overdo it with the repeated footage to the point some describe this series as “the shonen equivalent of Sailor Moon ” (which I liked a lot more than Saint Seiya, despite being a guy).

There are close to no tactics in battles, as we get the usual case where the heroes are losing and then find the resolve to magically get extra power and defeat seemingly far more powerful opponents. That is what technically kills all the excitement, since all the action ends up being repetitive and predictable.

The character designs are nice most of the time. But not so much the facial expressions or the body proportions; those felt one of the same. The Saint suits are really cool to look at although it may get tiresome to watch all the men wearing animal-themed armors and all the women wearing revealing robes all the time. But in general, it is good in this section.

Voice acting is decent but not great; probably because of the silly context. I mean they keep repeating their names and seem to describe in detail even the most obvious detail. Yeah, that remains unchanged even today…

Music themes kick ass! Completely take you into the trip.

I personally watched SS way over my teens and AFTER viewing Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Bleach, One Piece and the like. Everything in SS felt fake, shallow and stupid before them. All the fighting scenes and the characters are simple and superficial in comparison with what we get today, which are also quite superficial on their own. All its good aspects are INDEED being shoveled at us in all similar series thereafter and what was original back then, is clichéd today. So, it’s not that much memorable and leaving sentimental values aside, it is boring by today’s standards.

This is exactly what makes the show feel better and worse at the same time. On one hand it is very good to see how following fighting shonen used this as a role model and slowly improved the finer details instead of carbon-copying everything for decades. On the other hand, the show simply didn’t age well because all its elements are now completely surpassed by its successors. A thing that I can’t say about Hokuto, because it was never copied by any other show to the fullest, simply because it was not that profitable to kill major characters in perpetual on going fighting shows.

5/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
8/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
ohtoriakio's avatar
Oct 5, 2009

This series is a hard one for me to rate at all. It is one of my all-time favourites, has amazing nostalgic values + I like to think of it as the father of all Shounen Fighting Anime. This is because it started a lot of storylines that have now become cliches Naruto, Bleach and many more use quite often. These include giving the opponent a backbone by giving him a backstory. Tournament arcs are touched on. The attacks of those shows are also very reflective of Saint Seiya and two other animes from its decade (DBZ and Fist of the North Star.) Even Yakitate Japan uses ideas born in Saint Seiya, but obviously in a more satirical way...

The animation for this series is obviously going to seem dated because of the poor frame rate and some jerkiness in its presentation. However new masters have been made available recently and I had a chance to get a look at them. Overall, it has stood the test of time fairly well. The only things that might be a problem for some viewers are the (as mentioned above) poor frame rate, repeated footage but also the fact that some episodes have inconsistent artwork.

Overall, these series has beautiful character designs for both the boys and the girls AND some beautiful backgrounds to match. It's just that some episodes reflect those better than others. Of course, at the time the series was made and with the demand for more episodes, its fidelity to the art is amazing. It does not make the characters look cheap so that they stay on budget. This already makes it better (animation wise) than later shows like Ranma or Naruto where the quality just drops as the series progresses.

In the second and third series of Saint Seiya (criminally not given their own sections by most sites) the animation quality raises a bar. The artwork looks a lot cleaner and sharper. The saints are given better armors (or cloths) to fight in. The backgrounds are even more detailed (the Asgard series just looks breathtaking).

The sound of Saint Seiya is made up of JRock intros, JPop outro and symphonic compositions within the episodes (with vocals on some tracks). Overall, this gives the series a magnificently epic feel as all types of music are produced incredibly well to suit the mood/s of the show. Soldier Dream is the stand out vocal track for me. The stand out composition in a sea of greatness is Athena's Theme. The only reason I did not give sound a 10 is because these symphonies are reused a few times and as lovely as they are to hear, I just kept wishing for more of them. This does not mean the series is a one trick poney as it does have about 13 soundtracks at last count.

The story is what will get you into this series as first. As the synopsis describes it is about a war for humankind (yeah I know, a cliche in today's anime climate but not so much at the time it was made). The interesting thing about this though is that it uses mythological aspects to move the story along. A lot of mythologies are explored, with the obvious ones being Greek, Norse and Bhuddist. The saints themselves wear armors that are derivative of mythologies but in an astrological sense. Like Seiya having the Pegasus armor, Shun having the Andromeda armor or Algol having the Medusa armor.

The best thing about the story is how it manages to keep a lot of mysteries to itself in the first series (the Sanctuary Arc) as you do not know if the protagonists are actually right until about episode 50. Preceeding episode 50 are wonderful episodes that develop the characters so well that its climax just moves you to tears.

The second and third series have different stories that are persued but despite the length (25 and 15 eps respectively) they still maintain the epic atmosphere and have some of the most touching characters in all of anime.

The characters in the Asgard series are probably the best antagonists (as a group) that anime has to offer. They are marvellously well developed so that you feel their triumphs and failures like they were transcending you. Mime, Fenrir, Thor and, Syb and Bud are the best of that cast and their respective stories have the potential to move you to tears (Think Now and Then Here and There). The best part of it is how they actually affect our leading team of five (Seiya, Shun, Shiryu, Hoyga and Ikki) which makes them connect with us even more.

The main five are also very successful characters. Of them my favourite is Shiryu because of his values and willingness to sacrifice himself. Shun and Hyoga are close seconds as they have interesting backstories and a powerful bond. Ikki has a very interesting personality that is developed very successfully as the series goes. Seiya, although the main, is my least favourite of the five as he is a little childish and annoying (yet, still well developed). I have grown to like him a lot more with the newer releases of the series though.

The great thing about this series is that you are sure to connect with at least one of the characters as there are quite a few of them and, even ones that don't feature for very long have enough of a story that you don't feel they are a waste of time.

The sanctuary arc has Aphrodite, Camus, Shura, Saga, Shaka, Shaina, Cassios, Aiolia and Aldebaran as stand outs for various reasons I do not want to spoil. The poseidon arc has Krishna, Scylla, Lymnades, Canon and Poseidon himself to keep you interested. All these characters are so well done that some of their characteristics have become cliches. So you should watch Saint Seiya to see where it all starts.

I own this whole series and it a definitely a must see. If you're unsure as to whether you will like it, ADV Films is releasing an affordable thinpak with the first 30 episodes for you to decide whether it is your cup of tea. Also try www.rightstuf.com for good deals on the singles. I think they are something like $5 at the moment for 5 episodes a disc, which is amazing value.

I thoroughly enjoy this show everytime I rewatch it as a whole or in parts so I think all of you shounen fans will find something to like too. The chracter design also allows for a few bishounens so the girls are thought of as well.  

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9/10 story
8/10 animation
9/10 sound
10/10 characters
9/10 overall
ferrero2003's avatar
May 25, 2019

I found this anime just epic!! It was my first anime and therefore it's sentimental for me. I love the greek mythology inspiration and the music is just incredible! 

10/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
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apoc9's avatar
Jul 24, 2012

This anime is one of my timeless favorites.

Story 9 / 10
Story is true original. It is based on various myths, mostly Greek. The cosmo is clearly eastern concept of chi (ki in Japanese) and the Saint Seiya's universe heavily relies on reincarnation. It contains archetypes of Shounen anime (friendship, fighting, heroes resurrected after death). However there is much more to Saint Seiya than this.

First lets look at the Saints. They are not only required to be exceptional fighters, but also to abide by strong moral code of conduct. The medieval knighthood is the closest description of Saints. Saints are useless against overwhelming powers of evil without the faith and divine support of loving god (Athena). Those concepts are Christian. The strong blend of religion is unique in anime. I must not forget the concept of universal truth (universalism) and even more surprising an argument why is Buddhism wrong. This aspect is rather anime specific. Manga is more subtle and more eastern philosophy centric. The most strong moments of the series is definitely sanctuary arc (12 temples). Even if it sometimes has characteristic of Dragonball Z "five minutes to Namek explosion over several twenty minutes episodes".
While the story starts in rather dull manner (fighting tournament) it takes several episodes before you start to see the bigger picture and why is this happening in the first place.
Why isn't it 10? Many reasons actually. First, there is filler arc (the Azgard arc). Yep, this arc is not in the manga. There are more fillers (for example detour in Sagittarius temple), very few of them add some real value to the series. Most of them make anime repetitive and unnecessary long. The second reason is the story development is not as logical and smooth as in the manga.

Animation 8 / 10
Animation of TV series is state of the art of 80' including all nasty habits like repeating scenes, etc. Each saint represents unique stellar constellation (Pegasus, Andromeda, Bear, etc.). This defines properties and look of their armor called "cloth" and fighting technique. It's little bit more complex as there is 88 saints in total and they are 3 categories of saints - bronze, silver and gold. What is amazing that each saint has unique design of the cloth. Each piece of the cloth is used as part of saint's armor. However this fact you can appreciate more in manga, where are included detailed posters of various cloths with detailed explanatory images how to rearrange it from constellation representation into the armor.

Sound 10 / 10
Japanese dubbing is simply awesome in Saint Seiya. I've seen also part of series in Spanish and English, but those are hardly good enough.
Music is masterpiece. It can't be better. Music carries strong motives of love, faith and bravery. It makes this anime truly epic fantasy.

Characters 9 / 10
Characters are strong point of Saint Seiya including minor characters especially in Sanctuary arc. Each character except small fries has his own past, motives, etc. My favorite Saint character is Phoenix Saint Ikki, because of his determination, hard outside shell and gentle heart. Whereas his brother Andromeda saint Shun is my least favorite character for his annoying to the stupid level pacifism. There are many excellent characters including main villains and especially Gold Saints. Seiya, Shiryuu and Hyouga are great characters. Most of the time I really doesn't see Seiya as the leader, but I see all five bronze Saints as a team. In manga Seiya is more leading character. Because of fillers there is a lot more characters than in manga. Some of them have therefore copy&paste feel. Also because of filler arc the main characters development is screwed. After sanctuary arc the five bronze saints are more experienced in battle, but because of filler they are somehow set back to their previous level of skill and thinking. Manga does a much better job.

Overall 9 / 10
It's action fantasy based on Greek myths, medieval knighthood ideals and spirituality, eastern beliefs (reincarnation, chi). As strange as it may seem this mixture works really well. Saint Seiya is classic anime and it's a great anime.

9/10 story
8/10 animation
10/10 sound
9/10 characters
9/10 overall