Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac

08 August 2019
Four years have passed since the release of the Saint Seiya animated film made by Toei for the 30th anniversary of the series and is now in worldwide distribution Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac, a new incarnation linked to the universe of the Knights of the Zodiac. Although the hype is high every time a new product of Saint Seiya world is presented, I can't help wondering what sense all these reboots, remakes and spinoffs can have, while there would still be so much original material to develop (someone said Next Dimension?).
However, this production was strongly supported by Netflix in an attempt to revive the product on the American market, which was never too enthusiastic about the original series.
Before giving my impressions of the first 6 episodes published, I must have a brief summary of the plot because those who have followed the historical manga/anime could be displaced by the changes made in this new story.
Seiya is a young boy with a strange power that makes his hands shine and develop extraordinary skills. Shoot with a cell phone during a fight, where he subconsciously makes use of his dormant powers, he is led by the millionaire Mitsumasa Kido who introduces him to his adopted daughter Saori and informs him that he is the reincarnation of the goddess Athena. According to legend, every few centuries a Sacred War between gods is repeated, which have Poseidon and Hades opposed to Athena for the conquest of the Earth. To protect the goddess an ancestry of knights with special powers rises and Seiya can be one of them. However, the legend is now associated with a sinister prophecy that indicates Athena and her knights as those responsible for bringing the Earth to destruction. For this reason Vander Graad, old business partner of Mitsumasa and Knights expert, and a mysterious organization called "Sanctuary", try to assassinate the goddess.
The story proceeds following the timeline of the manga (so after the clash with Ikki we see the Silver Knight Misty) and at the moment Netflix has released only the first 6 episodes of a first season of 12.
What stands out immediately when looking at this new adaptation is the evident simplification of the characters and the narrated events. Everything is transposed into a world that is no longer set in the 80s but in contemporary society enriched by the technologies that accompany us every day.
Although this undoubtedly helps to take hold on younger generations, it deprives the series of epic and pathos elements that were one of its best quality. Nevertheless there are pitched battles between knights and soldiers, helicopters and tanks, reducing the noble clashes between the knights in brief chapter: forget the ultra-high-voltage duel between Shiryu and Seiya during the Galactic War which lasted two episodes, here all is completed in 5 minutes, including flashbacks.
The desire to introduce a third adversary like Vander Graad, who in this remake lurks behind the Black Knights and presumably the Steel Knights, and wants to transform the Sanctuary from a place to a secret organization (in reality we don’t really know because at the moment in history it has only been named) it certainly helps to create more original elements but perhaps shake the cards a little too much.
One of the most disputed points was the sex change of Andromeda/Shun that now takes the name of Shawn (except in the Japanese version that remained Shun) and became the younger sister of Phoenix. As explained by the producer of the series, the choice was made to increase the woman in the story and, leaving aside speech about politically correct, it did not arouse me too many complaints because the gentle side of Shun already in the original version approaches very good to a female character.
It will remain to understand, if ever they will arrive at that point, how to justify the choice of Ade to reincarnate in a woman rather than a man, but at the moment the plot has not been affected.
Then we come to the crucial issue of graphic animation, a modern CGI that for too many verses is reminiscent of a video game. I do not hide the fact that I have always been a lover of hand-made animations, in total agreement with the philosophy of Hayao Miyazaki, which make the image much more vivid. Certainly a moderate use of CGI allow to simplifying, speeding up and improving the quality of the work of the animators and  enrich certain types of scenes, but here it seems to see a "cutscene" of videogames such as Zelda: Breath of The Wild.
The producers have justified the choice of this graphic style with the possibility of having maximum emphasis on the details, and it must be recognized that for example the details of the armor are spectacular, but again there is also a total loss of epic, already aggravated by the choices in the scripts.
And what happened to the wonderful music of the master Seiji Yokohama?
The original soundtrack of Saint Seiya is a masterpiece as well as a pillar that has made the history of animation music but not only, why not use these music in this remake? Hiromi Mizutani had also done a good job on Soul of Gold while I have to say that in this remake the new music by Yoshihiro Ike, despite used roughly also by director's choice, does not leave the mark at all.
In the end, the goal of this remake is quite clear but I doubt that it will achieve the desired results: if Saint Seiya were not a historical title that carries a tight fanbase but was a totally original product, I think it would be a great flop. The decision to purify the series of its most epic elements by transforming it into a sort of cliffsnotes of the original one, only modernized in appearance, cannot be a winning element. It is certain that at least in the early times he will still be able to bring with him a bunch of old fans (more attracted by its “trashing” than by quality) interested in following the revisitation of the old classic, but I’ve the feeling that the masterpieces are better archived to the story then changed once more in attempt to earn some extra money.
Netflix has released the first 6 episodes of the first season and has not yet announced when the rest will be published. But is breaking news that the series has already been renewed for a second season of 12 episodes that will cover the narrative arc of the Silver’s Knights.
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