Shounen Step-By-Step: Saint Seiya/Knights of the Zodiac Episode 1

SnSBS Saint Seiya Episode 1

Plot: The goddess Athena is protected by a group of warriors, fueled by the constellations of the cosmos, called the Saints. They must fight and earn their own specific cloths, which contain the armor of the Saints, and protect their goddess from other gods who want to take over the world. A teenager named Seiya is a Japanese boy attempting to earn the Pegasus cloth in a tournament, though no one wants him to win since they believe the cloth should only go to those of Greek descent. He does manage to win it by harnessing the power of the cosmos within, but his trials aren’t over yet. A masked girl named Shaiya, wielding powers of a snake, wants to truly see if Seiya’s worthy of the cloth by challenging him to a battle.

Seiya can just barely keep up with her and nearly gets killed. He finally decides to unleash the power of the Pegasus. With the armor on, he is finally able to prove his worth and return to Japan.

Breakdown: Ah, Saint Seiya, also known as Knights of the Zodiac. Arguably the most well-known magical boy anime. Some may fight me on that description but I respectfully stand my ground on this. Transformation sequences to suit up, teams with themed powers, trying to save the world, enemies of the week etc. The most leeway I’ll give is that it is really a magical boy show melded with a tournament fighter with more plot than your typical magical girl show.

I first saw this show on Cartoon Network back in the day and I loved it, even if I can’t remember the dubbed voices worth a damn. I do remember one aspect very vividly….the opening theme.

It’s not uncommon for dubbed shows to get completely redone theme songs instead of just using the original, but with Knights of the Zodiac, DiC uh….Well, first of all, they used Bowling for Soup music, which is fine because I actually love Bowling for Soup. A bit of an odd choice for an anime, but they were popular at the time so whatever. The weird part was….the song they were using….was BfS’s cover…..of A Flock of Seagulls’ ‘I Ran.’ The only thing this song has in common with Knights of the Zodiac is that they both came out the 80s. Why the hell they decided to use that song with that band is one of the biggest mysteries I’ve ever contemplated in anime.

But that doesn’t matter much because today I decided to use the original version. As an opener, it’s really good. It introduces the plot well, sets up the Saints and where their power comes from and how its used in an effective manner, and it created a sympathetic main lead…..outside of one thing I’ll get to later.

Seiya is obviously a major underdog. Not only does no one in this place, besides his mentor and teacher Marin, want him there and beats him up on a regular basis, even in spite of the age difference, but they also despise that a non-Greek is attempting to get the Pegasus cloth. He struggled a lot in his training because he couldn’t understand the techniques, though he quickly excelled at them once he did.

Surprisingly, this series actually tackled a magical girl/boy trope before it even became a trope. Seiya acts like the armor will be all that he needs to defeat his enemies. He, not exaggerating, straight out says that the armor should be acting of its own accord and giving him untold power to win instead of him putting any actual effort into his own fighting. It is very annoying when this does actually happen because you become less impressed with the character and more enamored with the powers they’re using. Nice to know the armor’s doesn’t put up with dependent garbage.

I know this is hard to believe, but his reaction is not the exception in his sympathetic personality I mentioned a minute ago.

Another trope they seem to overcome is being ‘destined’ to get these specific cloths. While Marin says some things that hint that it is fate, these cloths must be earned through battle. If you don’t manage to hone your skills enough without the cloth to beat the warriors in the tournaments, you’re out of luck. I imagine some people are just, by default, more ‘worthy’ of these cloths than others, but they don’t seem destined by birth or, if you’ll forgive the cheesy phrase, it doesn’t seem like it’s ‘written in the stars’ for it to be one person or another.

The personality flaw I mentioned before is shown in why his armor stops ‘working’ for him. When he put on the cloth at first, he actually utilizes its power quite well because he, as a fighter, was syncing with the power of the cosmos within him and fighting like a true warrior. His punch was so strong that, even from a vast distance, the air pressure from the strike was able to injure Shaina’s shoulder. However, when he came face to face with Shaina, his armor suddenly felt heavy and started hindering his ability to fight rather than help him.

Why?

………Because, as a man, he could never put his all into a fight against a woman.

*sigh*

Okay, I shouldn’t get so irked at this yet. This show may have been made in the mid 80s, but it’s based on a manga. It’s probably just parroting some sexist bullshit from the 60s or something. You really can’t blame an anime for trying to be loyal to a manga that was written…..in 1986….the same year this anime came out……

So….Seiya’s just a prick? Cool beans.

Seriously, 1986. I know sexism is still not dead, and I wasn’t alive back then, but we should’ve been passed this at that point.

At least Marin rightfully calls him out on his stupidity, yelling out that he’s about to be killed because he’s a sexist dumbass. He does actually almost end up getting killed. He’s about to be hit by another of Shaina’s Thunder Claws, which he stated was more than powerful enough to kill him if he got hit by it again…..then, out of nowhere, the other warriors of the city pop up and stop Shaina, stating they want to be the ones who kill him.

They start kicking the crap out of him and then, because they have penises, Seiya is able to get up, utilize his cosmic power again and blow them all away with his Pegasus Meteor Punch. The air pressure was enough to break Shaina’s mask in half, showing her face and proving to her that Seiya is worthy of the armor, which, in my opinion, is a little bull.

I know I’m acting a bit butthurt about the sexism stuff, especially since I don’t know what time period this is supposed to take place in, but if all you need to drain this guy’s power and kill him is be a woman, he really isn’t very worthy of that cloth. Hell, he wouldn’t have that cloth at all if his opponent in the tournament was a woman, making him even less worthy. At some point, you need to have what it takes to suck up your ‘pride as a man’ and say ‘wow, this woman’s kicking the unholy shit out of my ass. Maybe I should actually take her seriously as a warrior and put my all into this fight instead of thinking she’ll cry and go binge watch Lifetime movies if I do.’

I don’t even understand his logic here. He already injured her shoulder, though he wasn’t able to see her because he was so far away, and before he used the cloth, he attempted a Meteor Punch on her. Those things are fine, but you won’t actually aim to take her down? You’re a friggin’ idiot, Seiya.

How can he even be sexist when his trainer and mentor, Marin, is also a goddamn woman!? AND both Marin and Shaina are both Saints on top of that! AND the guy he defeated to get the cloth was trained by Shaina! It doesn’t seem anyone else is sexist in this world but Seiya.

That stupidity aside, this is a very solid first episode to this series. I have a deep love of magical ‘boy’ shows, tournament fighters and classic art designs, so we’re already giving me all sorts of warm and fuzzies. It addresses certain aspects of shows like this that are commonly brought up as problems or plot holes and aims to actually explain them or simply remove them, and the plot as a whole is very interesting. Greek mythology, constellations, gods fighting gods with themed warriors? What’s not to like?

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3 thoughts on “Shounen Step-By-Step: Saint Seiya/Knights of the Zodiac Episode 1

  1. I remember passing on the manga back when it was being released because of the art (and because there was so much good stuff being published at the time). Would love for this series to get a full English release and revival for both anime and manga.

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