I Finished Reading the Saint Seiya Manga

Five teenage boys all clad in extremely ornate, shining armor, joining fists while shouting, "Time to unite our lives and cosmos, and strike at Hades!!"

I can finally say that I am hip to the trends of 20th-Century South American anime and manga fandom, as well as other fandoms worldwide. I have continued my reading of the original Saint Seiya all the way to the end, and I now know who the characters are, where their appeal lies, and what makes the series so memorable. At least, I think I do.

Saint Seiya (also known as Knights of the Zodiac) is a 1980s Shounen Jump manga about Seiya, a teen orphan who earns the power of a mystical armor called the Bronze Pegasus Cloth in order to find his missing sister. However, taking this path results in him having to fight rival Saints, before eventually teaming up with them to take on greater threats—including the forces of Greek gods. The series takes a while to find its footing, but once it all coalesces, the result is a work full of passionate pretty boys with intense camaraderie whose many battles take readers through a roller coaster of emotions as one shocking development leads continuously to the next.

It’s very clear to me that the series plays things by ear rather than possessing a more concrete long-term plan. Many seemingly important plot points fall by the wayside, as if the author, Kurumada Masami, wasn’t always sure what Saint Seiya should be. It takes a circuitous path to becoming the tales of Athena’s Saints protecting the Earth, and even after that, many arcs conclude feeling like they might be the last. Characters frequently come back to life or have their armor seemingly irreparably broken only to be restored in some never-before-seen way. According to George Horvath, a big Kurumada fan, the author actually let the readers decide who would join the team, and the series does really feel like it was built in part off fan input in a manner similar to pro wrestling.

But what carries the manga through is just the sheer spectacle and excitement built around its core cast, the Bronze Saint, all of whom have very distinct personalities and appeal. Pegasus Seiya is brave and clever, as is befitting a shounen protagonist. Dragon Shiryu is wise and righteous like a kung fu master. Cygnus Hyoga is cool yet fierce. Andromeda Shun is gentle and compassionate. Phoenix Ikki is headstrong and stoic, his sparse appearances akin to a much less merciless and infinitely more effective Tuxedo Mask who throws traumatic hallucinations instead of roses. Every time one of them gets to shine, their most prominent qualities are on full display and add to the drama of the moment.

One thing that increasingly stood out to me is how every character is extremely willing to sacrifice themselves for others. Again and again, warriors both major and minor try to throw their bodies into the jaws of doom to help save the day. At one point, in what’s called the Poseidon Arc, a critical moment goes from Seiya willing to attack in a way that could cost him his life; to the female character Eagle Marin using her body to shield Seiya; to Seiya trying to shield Marin instead; to Shiryu shielding both; to Shiryu, Hyoga, and Shun forming a wall. It’s a whole lot of wreckless selflessness.

Saint Seiya is the origin of the once-notable “boys in armor” genre, but its reach extends beyond that immediate purview of Samurai Troopers and Brave Command Dagwon. The series is known for being huge with BL fans in the 1980s, and was a major force in the doujinshi scene at that time. It really is no wonder, what with all these fit-looking guys with expressive eyes acting passionate and emotional as they get bloodied and bruised in combat. Without even knowing beforehand, Shun and Shiryu would seem incredibly popular in this regard, the former with his soft and feminine aura, and the latter with his sharp features and long black hair. I don’t know for sure how aware Kurumada was about this fandom, but there are multiple times where Saint Seiya seems to try to get more hetero (are those sparks flying between Seiya and Athena???)—though it always ends up receding into the distance. Call it a template for future works in shounen.

Famously, the manga artist group CLAMP got their start drawing Saint Seiya BL doujinshi. When I think about that fact, I feel like I can tell that the CLAMP aesthetic owes itself in some part to the look of Saint Seiya. Especially in something like RG Veda, the handsome and beautiful characters, the detailed yet confusing full-page attacks, and the general atmosphere evoke the struggles of Seiya and his allies to a certain degree. 

Speaking of art style, I know that there is some debate among the fandom about Kurumada’s art style, which tends to be less conventional than the anime adaptation’s character designs. I can see why this divide exists, but I think there’s a certain charm to the manga’s look—an extension of its overall nonstop intensity. Even if the characters’ faces look kind of lopsided, it still carries an energy befitting Saint Seiya.

Although it rushes to wrap up a few dangling plot threads, Saint Seiya ends pretty decisively, making the reading experience satisfying overall. As is the case when I check out big titles from the past, it’s both entertaining and helps give me greater context for both manga history and manga fandom. As both a standalone work and a series that would inspire so much, it stands the test of time.

I Started Reading the Saint Seiya Manga

Pegas Seiya and Dragon Shiryu facing off with their armors shattered, their respective constellation animals prominently shown in the background

Saint Seiya is a series I’ve long known about, but one I’ve never really engaged with at its core. Sure, I loved Saint Seiya Omega. The opening theme and anthem of the franchise, “Pegasus Fantasy,” is always great at karaoke. When the characters came around on SaltyBet, things were bound to get interesting. And years before all that, I caught episodes of the English dub that committed the sin of replacing the aforementioned anthem with a middling cover of “I Ran.” Yet, I put off experiencing the original works—until now. I began to read the manga (available in English on the Shonen Jump app), and I certainly have Some Thoughts.

Because of subcultural exposure and the fact that I explore and research a lot about manga, I already have an image in my head of Saint Seiya as a work about guys teaming up to fight gods from Greek mythology using special celestial armors called “Cloth.” I know it is the pioneering work in the “boys in armor” subgenre from which spawned works like Samurai Troopers, Shurato, and Reideen the Superior. I’m fully aware that in terms of worldwide popularity, the US is the exception rather than the norm: the franchise is a beloved classic. And as for its reputation for featuring pretty boys engaging in passionate battles rife with blood and tears—a combination has made it a hit with all genders—that really says it all. Intensity, thy name is Saint Seiya. What I wasn’t prepared for is just how different the manga feels at the beginning, and how many twists and turns it takes even in the first handful of chapters.

Nothing says a certain series or franchise has to stay the same forever. Consistency can be good, but it’s not the only path to greatness. When it comes to classic Jump manga especially, there’s more than a few examples of significant pivots. Kinnikuman starts as an Ultraman parody and ends up as a wrestling story. The card game that defines Yu-Gi-Oh! in pop culture was originally a one-off story. YuYu Hakusho goes from detective mysteries to tournament arcs galore. While Saint Seiya doesn’t stray quite that far from its early roots of armored boys fighting fiercely, there are definitely points at which it feels like the author, Kurumada, was playing it by ear. 

There’s a lot about different characters defying established order without readers having knowledge of what that order is, exemplified by the protagonist Seiya. He’s trying to find his sister, and in order to do so, he has to get this magical Greek armor, but then he refuses to play by the rules and instead escapes to Japan to…enter a tournament? But even that ends up being a pretense to meet the other “Bronze Knights,” who are adversaries turned eventual allies. And the incarnation of the goddess Athena, whom they’re apparently meant to fight for, begins the story as a snobby rich girl whose dad has adopted like a hundred orphans to be potential Cloth bearers. Well, okay.

Saint Seiya seems more built on spectacle than anything else, or perhaps its plot is just a pretense for putting on display these cool guys in hot fights. I say that not as a criticism but more as an observation, because I think that such an approach does make for a memorable work, as it’s more about the aura of excitement than trying to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” This early on, I know that Saint Seiya hasn’t reached the pinnacle of its power level yet, and I think I’m going to appreciate that journey. 

Love Live! April Fool’s “CYaZALEA☆Kiss”: References and In-Jokes

This year’s April Fool’s brought out one of the best things ever from Love Live!: the “announcement” of a new 80s-style action anime called CYaZALEA☆Kiss

But the Love Live! fandom and the 80s anime fandom generally don’t overlap, so I’m here to explain some of the jokes/references on both sides.

The name itself: “CYaZALEA☆Kiss”

The characters featured in this video are collectively known as Aqours (pronounced “aqua”), and are the heroines of the Love Live! Sunshine!! iteration of the franchise. These nine girls, in turn, are composed of three idol sub-units with their own distinct styles called CYaRon!, AZALEA, and Guilty Kiss. In the “plot” to this video, the three sub-units must join forces, but rather than calling them “Aqours,” their separate group names have just been mashed together.

It’s sort of like if you called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “Leodonphalangelo.”

The narration is a spoof on Fist of the North Star

The introduction of a post-apocalyptic backdrop set in the year 20XX is a reference to the opening narration of Fist of the North Star, a violent 80s shounen series about a world-saving martial arts hero who can make bad guys explode with his fists. In the anime, the narrator explains how in the year 199X, the Earth was ravaged by nuclear war, setting the stage for the series. 

On top of that callback, the over-the-top voiceover featured in CYaZALEA☆Kiss is none other than Chiba Shigeru, the actual narrator from Fist of the North Star! Famously, he’s known for getting more and more ridiculous and impassioned over the course of that series, and he brings that very style to this April Fool’s gag:

The general feel of the opening is an homage to Saint Seiya

From the team aspect, to the outfits the girls wear, to even the swooping logo (featuring 80s cel-animation shakiness), the whole CYaZALEA☆Kiss endeavor is largely based around the 80s shounen manga and anime Saint Seiya. Following a group of heroes who gain special armor and cosmic powers based on the constellations, Saint Seiya is famous for pioneering the “armored pretty boys” genre, and was responsible for bringing many female readers to Shounen Jump.

The general art style is also very reminiscent of the aesthetics of Saint Seiya author, Kurumada Masami.

Sentai colors run amok

At the beginning of the opening video, all the girls in CYaZALEA☆Kiss announce their designated colors, similar to what’s often seen in Super Sentai and other tokusatsu works. But whereas those shows typically have six, maybe seven members at most, there are nine in this case. Not only does this cause a jumbled mess of talking-over, but the actual colors named can get very specific.

Chika: Mikan 

Riko: Sakura pink

Kanan: Emerald green

Dia: Red

You: Light blue

Yoshiko: White

Hanamaru: Yellow

Mari: Violet red

Ruby: Pink

These are the actual signature colors of their respective characters in Love Live! Sunshine!! too. If you buy a glow wand (or “light blade,” as they’re officially called), it’ll come with all nine of these colors.

Though perhaps not intentional, it also harkens back to the sentai parody anime Shinesman, which featured a team of red, gray, sepia, salmon pink, and moss green.

The character designer and artist for CYaZALEA☆Kiss is a famous 80s manga artist

While the overall look of this parody is based on Saint Seiya, the actual artist himself is not Kurumada but rather Shimamoto Kazuhiko, creator of Blazing Transfer Student and Aoi Honoo, aka Blue Blazes

Blazing Transfer Student is a ridiculous school fighting manga. Blue Blazes is an exaggerated semi-autobiographical work about Shimamoto’s time in art college, when his classmates included modern anime/manga luminaries such as Anno Hideaki of Evangelion fame. The former received a 1991 OVA by Gainax (the original Evangelion studio), while the latter was adapted into a TV drama in Japan in 2014.

What did you think of CYaZALEA☆Kiss? Did you appreciate it as an 80s anime/manga fan, as a Love Live! fan, or perhaps as both?

Ogiue Maniax Wins Bronze at the Anime Blog Awards

Ogiue Maniax wins 3rd place for the Bloggers’ Choice Rookie of the Year at the Anime Blog Awards. Congratulations to Borderline Hikikomori and Animanachronism for winning Gold and Silver, as well as all the other winners.

I’d like to thank Shingo of Heisei Democracy and Shiro of Toward Our Memories for giving me the opportunity to make guests posts on their blogs many months prior to starting my own. I’d also like to thank One Great Turtle of Anime wa Bakuhatsu Da! for blogging alongside me the whole way.

I’d also like to thank everyone who nominated and voted for me, and in fact everyone who reads Ogiue Maniax. There’s plenty of new blogs out there and I’m honored that you consider me among the best.

And of course I’d like to thank this blog’s namesake for being Ogiue and for letting me be a Maniac for her.

I started Ogiue Maniax back in November and it’s really been fun. This blog has challenged me to think harder about the anime and manga I enjoy, the industry which runs it, and the community in which I participate, and I’m all too grateful for it. This blog has introduced me to new friends and created opportunities above and beyond what I have deserved.

I hope that along with everyone in the community and beyond that we can every day reach a greater understanding of anime and manga through not only intelligent discourse but simply passion for the things we love.

Which in my case is Ogiue.

Crossing Gender-oriented Genres and Fan Reaction

I’ve been thinking about those works which cross the line between various genres of anime, particularly those which bridge the gap between “male-oriented” and “female-oriented” labels. Series like Saint Seiya and Cardcaptor Sakura manage to capture an audience beyond their main targets, while others such as Gundam Wing and Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha not only bridge the gap, they cross over and begin to set fire to the ropes.

I know I have some issues with Nanoha, and while I think it’s a fine series overall, it never completely shakes that feeling that yes, this is totally intended for guys like me who love Cardcaptor Sakura (though not in that way personally), and it is kind of creepy for doing so. I know Gundam Wing is often considered far more of a black sheep than G Gundam among male fans of the Gundam franchise, for the way it perhaps overly de-emphasizes aspects often associated with Gundam, never mind that the original series garnered more than a few female fans of Red Comet Char Aznable and his zany (dead) friend, Garma Zabi. It’s just interesting to see this negative reaction in both myself and others pertaining to certain series and our expectations of what a show should entail.

I wonder if it’d be possible for genres to swap almost completely.