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Saint Seiya | Volumes 1 2 3 | review | dvd | Lollipop

Saint Seiya: Volumes 1, 2, and 3

(ADV Films)
by Tim Den

Pardon me while I wax nostalgic… The year was 1989, the place was Quito, Ecuador, the boy's name was Tim Den, and the obsession in question was Saint Seiya. For that entire year, I slept, dreamt, talked about, and thought of nothing but the anime series. And ever since then, I've wondered what became of my beloved armored "battle saints" because, aside from a few random sightings on Mexican television (I shit you not), Saint Seiya virtually disappeared from the public eye at the turn of the decade. Why, I always wondered, why!? Well, with ADV Films picking up the series for a long-overdue U.S. release, perhaps I will find my answer. But first, I've got friends and memories to become reacquainted with...

Saint Seiya follows the story of orphaned youths being trained in different parts of the world to become "saints" or, more closely translated, "battle saints." After rigorous training, each orphan is rewarded with a "saint cloth" (battle armor) that corresponds to a specific star constellation. Our hero, Seiya, trains in Greece to become Pegasus, while his peers train in China (Shiryu the Dragon), Siberia (Hyouga the Cygnus), Death Queen Island (Ikki the Phoenix), and so on. The purpose of them becoming saints is yet unclear (to be disclosed in coming episodes), but in the first three DVD volumes, the saints are pinned against each other in arena matches to see who is the strongest. As the seat-of-your-pants battle sequences play out, a plot twist occurs and... well, you'll just have to see what happens. I will tell you this, though: Even at the beginning of the series, the adventure always takes a left turn right when you thought you had it pinned down. This first plot twist is no different.

Now you tell me: Doesn't this just sound like a 7th grader's ultimate fantasy? To possess the power of the stars, kick mad ass with your buds, and wear bad-ass armor? Well, I was certainly hooked on it like crack, even making Shiryu the Dragon's shield in woodshop class (got an A for it, too!). Watching the episodes as an adult, I'm still amazed at the series' combination of Samurai spirit and Greek mythology, not to mention stylish fight moves and dramatic storyline. When Seiya and Shiryu face off without their armor at the risk of their bare flesh and bones, the tension in the air is palpable. When Ikki's Phoenix Fist pierces Hyouga's chest, the disbelief is overwhelming. It's as if Saint Seiya plays every melodramatic move like it's its last one: That the entire existence of the series depends on this one moment. It's button-pushing anime fun of the highest caliber.

However, such melodrama and overuse of climaxes just might be the reason why the series fell out of favor with the public so soon after it wrapped (at 110+ episodes). Sure, cliff-hangers and life-or-death moments are exciting and engrossing, but not when there are three or four of 'em in every episode. Eventually, the effects wear off. As a young 'un, I might not've noticed such abuse, but as a full-grown "critic," I can't help but shake my head at the bastardizing of "intense moments."

And then there's the subject of the animation itself… The ultra feminine-looking characters certainly couldn't have helped the series' longevity as harsher, manlier anime such as Akira and Cowboy Beebop entered the scene. I can almost hear the snickering now... Oh wait, that's my roommate laughing at me. "Are you watching that girlie Saint Seiya again?"

Maybe I'm just a staunch loyalist or a sucker for melodrama, but these three DVDs have gotten my heart pounding, nerves tightening, and appetite for interstellar battles raging all over again. And just think, the pinnacle of the series – the battles between the Bronze Saints and the Gold Saints – are yet to come! I remember reading the comic adaptation of the segment, and getting to watch it on screen is going to be like witnessing a miracle.

For all of you without the sentimental attachments, Saint Seiya offers soap operatic plot lines, fantastic costumes, and fiery battles that appeal to both your lowest common denomonator and your appreciation for fine storytelling. In other words, these are classics you must own!


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