At the beginning of 1986, Masami Kurumada debuted Saint Seiya in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, a manga that would change his entire life. While he had seen notable success from 1977-1981 with Ring ni Kakero (through which the modern shonen fighting manga would be introduced) & respectable non-failure with 1982-1983's Fuma no Kojirou, Kurumada bombed hard with 1984-1985's Otoko Zaka, which he had conceived of as his magnum opus. He directly addressed this in the author's note section in the first volume of Saint Seiya:
"I started creating my current title, Saint Seiya, to target a mainstream audience from the start, totally unlike my previous work... Although there are pros & cons to this, going mainstream will most definitely light up fireworks for my manga."
Thirty years later, I'm sure Masami Kurumada would call that an understatement.
At this point, Kurumada was only a domestic success, with his work having never been released outside of Japan. With Saint Seiya, though, his old-school, action-focused, romanticized style would be seen around the world, where it would become one of the biggest & most iconic manga & anime around the world, where it would be renamed Knights of the Zodiac (in various languages). At the same time, however, Saint Seiya essentially became the anime & manga equivalent of soccer (ignoring Captain Tsubasa, of course), i.e. it's a giant mega hit around the world (or at least Asia, Europe, South & Central America, & Mexico), but in North America (i.e. the United States & Canada) it's only a cult favorite, at absolute best (& even that's pushing it). While it started off extremely rocky & slow back in 2003, when DiC botched their attempt at KotZ on TV, at this moment there's a bunch of Saint Seiya out there for American anime & manga fans to check out... So where does one start?
Therefore, to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Saint Seiya, allow me to give a guiding hand to those who are Seiya-curious but have no idea where to start or even what to try out. While I'm certainly no absolute expert on the franchise, I have experienced more than enough to at least give newcomers a better start than having them simply dive in deep & blind; I'll also focus on what's legally available right now, because this is going to be long enough as it is. Therefore, let's not waste any more time & start with where it all began.
Knights of the Zodiac (Saint Seiya)
Physical Availability: Complete 28 Volume Series (Viz) [Various Volumes Out-of-Print]
Digital Availability: Complete 28 Volume Series (Viz) [Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Google Play]
Plot: Seiya is the young Bronze Pegasus Knight, & alongside his Knight brethren will fight to protect Princess Sienna, the reincarnation of Greek goddess Athena, & fight back any & all evil that threaten mankind, whether it's a coup from within Athena's own Sanctuary or attacks by Poseidon & Hades themselves.
Pros: Masami Kurumada is a master of action manga, and 1986-1990's Saint Seiya is a prime example of that. He set his aims high & never let go, resulting in a series that hits hard & on all cylinders. The pacing is generally extremely tight & always moving, the characters are immediately memorable, the various attacks are simple but highly effective, and almost every single page of this manga screams a hot-blooded love cry for the genre. It's influence can be seen in too many anime & manga to count, but some noteworthy ones include Bleach, Sailor Moon, The King of Fighters, & CLAMP's early work (the group originally started out doing yaoi Seiya doujin). In fact, Saint Seiya effectively created its own sub-genre of armored warrior anime, with Tenku Senki Shurato, Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers (a.k.a. Ronin Warriors), & Wild Knights Gulkeeva all being obviously "inspired" by Kurumada's work. Some even feel that Kurumada helped introduce the concept of the heroes being a quintet of pretty boy fighters, which became all the more popular from the 90s on with series like Gundam Wing, Reideen the Superior, & Brave Command Dagwon. Once Saint Seiya hits its groove, it's still one of the all-time greatest action manga out there. The fact that it was translated by super-fan Mari Morimoto, who had tried to get Viz to bring it over for years, & edited by fellow fan Shaenon K. Garrity only results in a top-notch release that matches the passion Kurumada had making it.
Cons: Again, though, that's "once Saint Seiya hits its groove". As much as I love this manga, it has an intensely poorly thought out beginning. The Galaxian Wars was Kurumada deciding to start things off with a tournament arc, because those are always super popular with readers, and when Phoenix Ikki comes in & steals the Gold Sagittarius Cloth it only improves slightly by focusing a little more on developing the main characters. Truly, the manga doesn't start getting worth reading until halfway through Volume 5, when the Silver Saints are introduced & Kurumada finally pinpoints where he wants to go with the story. The beginning also has a major plot hole by bringing up that Sienna's father is also the father of every single Bronze Saint that fights in the Galaxian Wars, making Seiya & his friends all half-brothers. While this was no doubt done as an homage to how Zeus essentially did the same thing when he sired many children, it's completely absurd in this manga & is essentially forgotten about almost as soon as it's revealed. In general, too, this isn't one of Kurumada's strongest narratives, as there are some plot holes that may pop up when you think about it too much; if you want Kurumada's best narrative, then check out B't X, instead. Thankfully, from the Silver Saints on the manga truly hits its stride, and once you get to the battles with the Gold Saints it truly becomes the legendary action manga it's regarded as... But that's definitely one hell of a hill to climb to reach greatness.
Also, & this is solely in regards to what North America got, Viz was forced by DiC to maintain any & all of the name changes that were done for the aborted Knights of the Zodiac anime adaptation, even years after it bombed & was forgotten (& DiC itself was purchased by Cookie Jar Entertainment). Therefore, Saori Kido is renamed "Princess Sienna", Saints are called "Knights", & Cancer Deathmask is now "Cancer Mephisto", the last of which amuses Mari Morimoto to no end, because the new name is shorthand for Mephistopheles, which is a German demon. In other words, DiC accidentally made Deathmask sound even more demonic! Luckily, the DiC-enforced name changes stop after the end of the Sanctuary Chapter, though Garrity & her team did decide to rename Poseidon's giant pillar from the Main Breadwinner to "the Mainstay", if only because the original name sounded silly.
Is It Newcomer Friendly?: Obviously, the answer to that is Yes. This is the manga that started it all, and though I'd love to see Viz re-release Saint Seiya with a modified translation to brings back all of the original names & terminology, the Knights of the Zodiac translation is fine enough on the whole. While Viz's original print release is now highly out-of-print, with some volumes going for way too much now on the secondhand market, it is fully available digitally for $6.99/volume, which is a great price, and sometimes goes on sale. This is the only way to legally experience the entire Saint Seiya story from start to finish, so if you're fine with reading manga digitally, then this is the way to go.
Saint Seiya [TV]
Physical Availability: Eps 1-60 of 114 DVD (ADV) [Out-of-Print]/1-73 of 114 DVD (Cinedigm)
Digital Availability: Eps 1-73 of 114 (CrunchyRoll)
Plot: Seiya is the young Bronze Pegasus Saint, & alongside his Saint brethren will fight to protect Saori Kido, the reincarnation of Greek goddess Athena, when a coup from within her own Sanctuary results in the Bronzes having to take on hired assassins, as well as their own higher-class Silver & Gold Saint compatriots.
Pros: 1986-1989's Saint Seiya TV is the anime which helped solidify some people's careers in Japan, if not outright made them superstars. Character designers Shingo Araki & Michi Himeno became an iconic duo through this series, music composer Seiji Yokoyama had his biggest work by scoring this anime, original director Kozo Morishita (eps 1-73) has since gone on to become a powerful producer for Toei, & Tohru Furuya (Seiya), Hirotaka Suzuoki (Shiryu), Ryo Horikawa (Shun), Hideyuki Hori (Ikki), Keiko Han (Athena), and too many other voice actors found themselves iconic & beloved roles here. Though the pacing is a bit slow at points, mainly because the anime started up when the manga was not even a year old & Toei didn't want to catch up too quickly, everything is worked around that pacing, giving the series a bit more of a methodical feel to it compared to the manga. This helps bring the great voice work & Yokoyama's excellent soundtrack to the forefront, which is never a negative for this anime. While there is a variety of "filler" to be found, the Asgard Chapter, which is not available legally yet, is highly beloved by fans, while I can personally vouch for episodes 33 & 34, where Shiryu fights his old friend Ohko; it even works within the framework of the actual story, making it feel canon. When the Saint Seiya TV anime follows the manga it's based on, it's pretty much just as great of Kurumada's original work, only with voice work, music, & moving animation.
Cons: Again, though, that's "when the Saint Seiya TV anime follows the manga it's based on". As I hinted earlier, this anime debuted in October of 1986, barely 10 months after the manga debuted, which results in the first 40 episodes being absolutely inundated with filler at points. The first 15 episodes are mostly accurate, though with an innocuous alteration or two, but once Ikki is dealt with the anime suffers through six absolutely dreadful filler episodes, and you can't simply skip them because the anime ties these fillers into the main story; skipping them, though doable, would result in more headaches due to the viewer not knowing some things that are important. The anime recovers slightly at episode 23, when the Silver Saints are introduced, but only for a short bit, because episode 26 introduces the worst filler of all, the Steel Saints. Literally nothing but a trio of characters forced into the story by Bandai so that more toys could be made & sold, the Steel Saints are absolutely insufferable & contribute absolutely nothing by being nothing more than literal annoyances for the characters in the anime itself. Even worse than those dreaded six filler episodes prior, however, the Steel Saints are interjected into actual canon story & fights, literally making them impossible to skip over. The Steel Saints are so pointless that they are literally ditched by the Bronzes once they get on their plane & fly over to Sanctuary to fight the Gold Saints; they aren't even given a proper farewell.
F--- the Steel Saints!!! I'm sorry, that was rather boorish of me, wasn't it? Anyway, moving on...
The only other con to bring up is that the currently available translation that's on Cinedigm's sub-only DVDs (sorry, but ADV's okay-ish English dub is only available on their DVDs) & the current streams can be a bit rough at times. The earlier episodes suffer more than the later episodes, which on the whole are fine, but this is definitely a case where Cinedigm simply used whatever Toei supplied to them in terms of English subtitles. Just take that into consideration when watching the anime via either of these means.
Is It Newcomer Friendly?: On a simply technical level, the Saint Seiya TV anime is newcomer friendly, as it starts from the same point as the manga & goes from there. That being said, the hill the manga already has due to its rough start is only made all the more steep for the anime due to the absolutely terrible filler that you mostly can't just skip over. While one could skip over episodes 16-21 with only a little bit of important information being lost to an extent, and the Ohko filler should definitely not be skipped over at all, the Steel Saints are maddeningly unforgivable. While they don't appear in every one of the 15 episodes that cover the story they're involved in, the fact that they are absolutely pointless & useless, mixed with the fact that they outright interfere with the actual manga story itself, is really the biggest hurdle to get over if you want to give the anime a chance. Thankfully, from episode 40 on the anime, while a bit too slow paced at times, is an overall great adaptation of the Sanctuary Chapter, minus the final battle being screwed over somewhat. Sadly, that's all that we can see of the Seiya TV anime legally, as the Asgard Chapter filler & the Poseidon Chapter adaptation have yet to see legal distribution in North America.
Saint Seiya [80s Movies]
Physical Availability: Four Movies Across Two DVDs (Discotek)
Digital Availability: None
Plot: Four theatrically released (mostly) short films, where Seiya & Co. take on Eris the Goddess of Discord, Dolbar (the reincarnation of Odin) in his own Asgard, Athena's brother Phoebus Abel the God of the Corona, & Lucifer, respectively.
Pros: These movies, which were shown in theaters in Japan from 1987-1989, vary in overall quality, but none of them are by any means bad. Evil Goddess Eris feels a bit like a two-episode filler from those first 40 episodes of the TV series, but at least it's good filler, like the stuff with Ohko. This is also the only movie of the four to have had support from Kurumada himself, as he designed Eris & the four Ghost Saints that she commands. The Heated Battle of the Gods is essentially a prototype of the Asgard Chapter, and that's because it was the success of this movie that lead to that giant filler arc's creation. This movie also marks the first time Shigeyasu Yamauchi was the main director of a Seiya production, having only previously been an episode director here & there for the TV series. Yamauchi really showcases his visual flair & style in this movie, and those who love it will enjoy the movie greatly (I personally feel he goes a little overboard here, but it's no less effective). Legend of Crimson Youth is my personal favorite of the four, and is the only one to actually be a feature-length production. Yamauchi fine tunes his style here, the pacing is perfect, and the original villains are easily the best of the movie bunch, with Carina Atlas (voiced by Akira Kamiya) topping them all. Warriors of the Final Holy Battle suffers a little in comparison to what came directly before it, but manages to still be a fun ride in its own right, especially with the use of Christian mythos here. This movie even kind of ties into the previous three (well, Movies 1 & 3, at least) by having Lucifer act on the behalf of the deceased Eris & Abel, as well as a deceased Poseidon, which give the movies their own alternate universe continuity, & that is cool.
Cons: Simply put, every single one of these movies follow the same exact beats when it comes to plot: Athena is put into some sort of danger, the Bronzes fight the followers of the villain, Shun can never win his own fight & needs the help of his brother Ikki, Seiya winds up wearing the Sagittarius Cloth to fight the villain, etc., etc. In essence, if you see one of these movies, you've kind of seen them all; it comes down to the small details for each film. But, seriously, the two biggest annoyances for me, personally, are Shun's uselessness & the overuse of the Sagittarius Cloth. In the main series, Andromeda Shun is a pacifist by nature & doesn't want to fight, but when push comes to shove can more than hold his own & may even be the most powerful of the main five, but each & every movie has him unable to mount any sort of real offence, resulting in Phoenix Ikki, his brother by blood, having to appear out of nowhere & rescue him; it's a complete misunderstanding of Shun's character. As for the Sagittarius Cloth, take this information into consideration. In the main story, there is a total of three moments when Seiya actually dons the Sagittarius Cloth, & only one of them is for more than just a plot point; the Asgard Chapter filler adds one more useful moment for the TV anime. Therefore, the movies wind up using the Sagittarius Cloth more than the entire main story does! If that isn't lazy then I don't know what is.
Is It Newcomer Friendly?: Personally, I'd say that if you've been curious about Saint Seiya, but are hesitant to buy a bunch of manga digitally or start watching 73 episodes worth of anime, then the movies are an ideal starting point that give you a short but concise feel as to the kind of series that this is; any potential spoilers are rather vague & general, i.e. nothing major. The lack of any sort of streaming option is a definite downside, since that's how anime is generally consumed by fans nowadays, but Discotek's two DVDs are still in print & can generally be had for less than $20 each right now. While the movies are a bit samey in terms of plot beats & execution, they are still all very enjoyable on the whole, and make a great introduction into Saint Seiya for newcomers.
Saint Seiya Hades
Physical Availability: None
Digital Availability: Complete 31 Episode Series (CrunchyRoll)
Plot: Athena & her remaining Saints have to take on the 108 Specters of Hades, God of the Underworld, as he incites a new Holy War in order to take over the planet. From an initial invasion of Sanctuary by the Specters to the Saints invading the Inferno in return to a final battle in the mythical Elysium itself, Seiya & his friends have their hardest battles ahead of them.
Pros: A series of OVA productions released from 2003-2008 (the first episode had an advance showing in late 2002), Saint Seiya Hades is split up across three series & essentially acts as episodes 115-145 of the original Seiya TV anime, adding another 31 episodes in total. The first part, Saint Seiya Hades Sanctuary, is a nostalgia trip & a half for old-school franchise fans, bringing back Shingo Araki, Michi Himeno, Seiji Yokoyama, all of the original Bronze Saint & Athena lead actors (plus a few others), & even Shigeyasu Yamauchi returns to direct. While there is some early CG at the beginning that doesn't age well, this OVA on the whole is easily the best part of the "original" Seiya anime in general. The returning actors on the whole sound more or less exactly like they did back in the 80s, though a couple can't hide their age as much as others, Yamauchi's directing is infinitely better than it was during the 80s, and the changes that were made from the original manga more or less make sense, as Shiryu was originally the only Bronze to really be around for this part of the story. Saint Seiya Hades Inferno & Elysion marks the debut of a brand new cast for the Bronzes & Athena, as Kurumada felt that some of the original cast had aged too much, but the cast figuratively said, "It's all of us, or none of us." The new cast, though trying too much to imitate who they replaced a little too much at first, slowly grow on you & are still generally used for the characters to this day for new productions. These other two OVA series also bring with them an outstanding new opening theme that still holds up excellently, not to mention two stellar ending ballads, and it's just really cool to see the rest of the manga adapted into anime form. If you've already seen the Seiya anime in full, there's really no reason to not check these OVAs out.
Cons: Oh boy, is it impossible to write about Saint Seiya Hades without bringing up the sheer hatred it gets from the hardcore Seiya fanbase... Well, 58% of it, at least. As mentioned, Hades Sanctuary is more or less absolutely beloved by the hardcore, old school fans. Hades Inferno & Elysion, on the other hand, are usually looked at with nothing but disdain. The simple fact of the matter is that there was a bit of a intellectual scuffle (to put it lightly?) in 2004, after Hades Sanctuary & the successive Heaven Chapter movie (which was planned to be the actual sequel to the manga), which resulted in Yamauchi being taken off of any & all future Seiya anime productions, & Toei seemed to not give as much care towards the Hades OVAs from this point on. This resulted in the last 18 episodes of this entire OVA outing to suffer from a highly noticeable drop in animation quality. While Hades Elysion does look a little better than Inferno on the whole, both definitely look like they were given only a minimal amount of budget & care, especially when compared to how lavish & beautiful Sanctuary looks. Combine that with the previously mentioned cast changes, and it's easy to see how hardcore Seiya fans felt absolutely crushed; their nostalgic feelings were seemingly taken to the woodshed & then thrown into the wood chipper. While I do feel that some of the ardent hatred it gets is a little much, especially towards the new cast, there's no denying that the Hades OVAs start off exquisite & then essentially fall off of a cliff.
Is It Newcomer Friendly?: Considering that this adapts the final story arc of the original manga, I think it's easy to answer with a simple No. While there is a slight re-introduction at the very beginning, that's mainly because there was a literal 14 year gap between the final episode of Saint Seiya TV & the first episode of Saint Seiya Hades, so they wanted to welcome back the old-school fans. These OVAs assume that you are already familiar with what happened before in the story, so while I guess one could theoretically start with these OVAs, it's not a good way to get into Saint Seiya by any means. Sadly, with the only way to legally experience the Poseidon Chapter in North America being via the manga, & maybe the last two fighting games by Bandai Namco on PS3 & PS4 (but those are essentially Cliff Notes), there's no ideal way to properly get to this OVA if you're just going with the anime route. Admittedly, one can go from the original Sanctuary Chapter to the Hades Chapter without losing a ton of detail, but there are a couple of fairly important references to what happened just before the battle with Hades.
While these OVAs on the whole are essential if you want to know the entire Saint Seiya story, there is a bit of viewer beware if you're trying to experience this franchise, legally, only through anime when it comes to this trilogy.
Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas
Physical Availability: Complete 26 Episode Series DVD (Discotek)
Digital Availability: Complete 26 Episode Series (CrunchyRoll)
Plot: Over two hundred years before Seiya & crew fought Hades, the God of the Underworld attempted a prior Holy War in the late-1800s. This prior time brings about a fractured relationship between Tenma, the Pegasus Saint of his time, Alone, the new incarnation of Hades, & Sasha, the current incarnation of Athena & Alone's own sister. With seemingly unkillable Specters & a plan to rule the Earth by utilizing Alone's own love of painting in his way, Tenma hopes to not only end the war but also save Alone from Hades' control.
Pros: Based on a 2006-2011 spin-off manga helmed by Seiya superfan Shiori Teshirogi, The Lost Canvas is an alternate-universe prequel OVA from 2009-2011 & the only anime adaptation of a Seiya manga not drawn by Kurumada; it was that popular. Being (eventually deemed) an alternate universe really works in LC's favor, though, since that allows the story to be whatever it wants to be, though it still maintains some thematic references to the original Hades Chapter. With the manga originally being done by a female mangaka who worked as an assistant to Aria's Kozue Amano, it's no surprise that this spin-off focuses a good bit more on character drama than Kurumada's original manga, and that helps give LC a notably different feel in some ways. While there are still simply outstanding fights to be seen here, there's also a heavy focus on how Tenma is evolving as a person, as he doesn't just want to stop Hades from ruling the world,since he also wants to somehow rescue his friend Alone in the process, even if it seems impossible. The various Gold Saints also receive some really great development, usually during their main battles against all sorts of Specters, and many Seiya fans actually prefer the LC "Goldies" over the original ones that Kurumada created due to how they all were given some sort of character development. Essentially, Kurumada's Gold Saints are like mythical legends, while Teshirogi's are superhuman heroes; a seemingly simply difference, but large in execution. Combine all of that with absolutely spectacular animation by TMS, possibly even better than Hades Sanctuary, a majestic score by Kaoru Wada, & an excellent voice cast, and Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas' OVA adaptation is probably one of the best Seiya anime out there.
Cons: Being a superfan is more or less how Shiori Teshirogi got the manga gig in the first place, but it's also likely the main reason for the major flaw of the manga, which does carry over to the OVA adaptation to an extent. In short, The Lost Canvas can often feel like nothing more than an officially approved Gold Saint fanfic. While Tenma is technically the main character, there's no doubt that the real stars of this series are the Gold Saints, all of whom are so intensely powerful & skilled that their fights often take center stage, usually to the point of taking a lot of focus away from Tenma & his friends. The first half of the OVA series, a.k.a. "Season 1", doesn't show this quite as much, though it's noticeable, but it's definitely more obvious in "Season 2", where Tenma & Co. are either knocked out, effectively useless, or outright not shown for entire episodes at a time. This is even worse as the manga goes on, but I'll hold off to where the anime stops. Speaking of which, the anime adaptation doesn't really have an "end" to it, instead stopping at a point roughly 44% into the overall story; it covers into Volume 11 of a total 25. TMS was hoping to continue making LC OVAs after Season 1 did extremely well, but Season 2 did nowhere near as well, & a year later Toei would return to making Seiya anime, effectively killing any chance for TMS to make any more money off of LC anime. I know that a lot of anime fans in general hate these "read the manga!" non-endings that anime often have, especially when the manga isn't available legally in their home country, so that is something to take into consideration.
Is It Newcomer Friendly?: Even with the whole "Gold Saint fanfic" feel being a little too intrusive at times, & the non-ending does sting, I still stand by what I said in the "Pros" section, while also adding in that Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas is a superb starting point for newcomers to the franchise. While it does initially feel like it assumes viewers are already familiar with Saint Seiya in general, the story does a great job introducing the general thematics & concepts of the franchise, and while those who are already fans will notice the references & similarities, you don't need to understand or even notice them to enjoy this OVA series. Whether it's via streaming or Discotek's DVD release, The Lost Canvas is a perfect starting point.
Saint Seiya Omega
Physical Availability: None
Digital Availability: Complete 97 Episode Series (CrunchyRoll)
Plot: It's been 25 years since Seiya & his fellow Saints stopped Hades' new Holy War, and in the time since a new generation of Saints-in-training have come about. Whether it's first having to retake Sanctuary from the evil God of War Mars or engaging in a war against Pallas & her Pallasites, Pegasus Saint Koga & his fellow new generation of Saints will have to prove their worth not just to themselves, but also to the legendary prior generation of Saints that are still alive.
Pros: 2012-2014's Saint Seiya Omega is the first product in the franchise to have absolutely no input from Masami Kurumada, and instead owes more to Toei's highly-successful Pretty Cure franchise, but that's not a bad thing; it should give a good idea how the series operates, though. This is, quite literally, "Saint Seiya for a New Generation", taking the general style, motif, & concepts of Kurumada's creation & both introducing them to young viewers who likely only ever heard of Saint Seiya, while also giving them some new twists & turns for those who are already fans. Some concepts are revamped & expanded upon, like the old, giant cloth boxes Saints used to carry on their backs now being replaced by cloth stones that they can wear like jewelry, or how every person's individual cosmo now has a certain element associated with it. It helps give Omega its own identity for the newcomers, while the old guard are given something new to chew on. The series is also split up almost evenly across two major story arcs, which themselves are split into two sections, which means that every 20-some episodes you're bound to get something new & different to an extent, which helps keep things fresh across all 97 episodes. Regardless, the second half of the series brings back more of the older ideas, concepts, & characters, letting the newcomers get a feel for what came before while also pleasing the old fans who are still nostalgic for what they enjoyed.
Cons: All that being said, however, Saint Seiya Omega is definitely a bit of a case of split personality. The first half dealing with Mars changes up a lot of the status quo for those who are already familiar with the franchise, which has rubbed the hardcore fanbase the wrong way at times; cloth stones & giving cosmos elements is a bit of a sudden reveal, admittedly. Once Omega switches over to the battle with Pallas, though, the anime does a sudden about face & tries to essentially be aimed more towards the old fans. Cloth boxes are brought back, the prior generation of Saints are given a much larger focus after they only made a few appearances in the first half (& are generally treated as absolute badasses in every way), and even a new generation of Steel Saints are introduced, hoping that they can somehow redeem the ones from the original anime. Because of this, Omega doesn't have a consistent feel throughout the entire show. Old fans might feel that it takes too long to feel familiar, while newcomers might wonder what the point of the first half's concepts & ideas were when they're somewhat discarded in the second half. The general consensus on the quality of the show should also be taken into account, as the first section of each major story arc is generally looked at as the lesser part of their respective stories. In other words, there might be a bit of a hill to get past for some viewers.
Well, at least Saint Seiya Omega captured that part of the original manga & anime.
Is It Newcomer Friendly?: Seeing as this was meant to be a series that would hopefully make a new generation of fans, Saint Seiya Omega is definitely newcomer friendly, though its near-100 episode length may make it too much for some people. The general reception is a bit mixed, as some people just aren't into action series like this in general, while some pre-existing fans found it hard to enjoy as much as what came before it. Those who never experienced Saint Seiya before, though, seem to have found this an enjoyable series, if maybe a bit uneven in quality at times. Still, if you are newcomer looking for a starting point, are fine with longer-form anime, and want the entire story available to you via one single medium, then Saint Seiya Omega fits the bill just fine.
Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold
Physical Availability: None
Digital Availability: Complete 13 Episode Series (CrunchyRoll, Daisuki)
Plot: The 12 Gold Saints of Athena put their lives on the line in order to allow Seiya & his Bronze brethren to enter Elysium in order to stop Hades. Instead of eradication, however, the Golds mysteriously find themselves strewn about Asgard, which had already been saved by their Bronze allies once before. A new evil has encroached into Odin's realm, though, & this time it's up to the strongest of Athena's Saints to save the day, even if a new group of God Warriors stand in their way.
Pros: 2015's Soul of Gold is very interesting in that it acts as a side-story to the original Saint Seiya TV anime, while also being a sequel-of-sorts to that show's Asgard Chapter filler arc. Luckily, one does not really need to know what exactly happened in that prior filler arc to be able to enjoy SoG. While those who have actually seen the arc will know who Polaris Hilda is & understand why it's so impressive that Grani Sigmund is the little brother of Alpha Dubhe Siegfried, those details are explained for those unfamiliar, and overall the only thing you should know beforehand is that Seiya & his friends once saved Asgard from a corrupted Hilda. It's also interesting to see an anime that's all about the Gold Saints, and the anime takes advantage of that by actually giving some well needed character development to them. For an existing fan like myself, it was really damn cool to see Capricorn Shura & Leo Aiolia finally bury the hatchet between them, and seeing the outright redemption of a louse like Cancer Deathmask was amazing; without a doubt, the writing for these characters was great. The story even bothered to fill in a plot hole from the original manga that was so minor that I'm sure most fans didn't even bother to think of it until it was brought up at the very end. The final battles strewn about Yggdrasil itself were also generally really fun, and actually stayed true to Kurumada's style by being very quick & impactful, not wasting time at any point. Finally, bringing in Hideyuki Motohashi as the character designer was the perfect choice after the death of Shingo Araki in 2011, as Motohashi was the only other man to directly adapt from a Kurumada manga, as he did the character designs for the B't X anime. This made SoG look similar to Araki's style, but just different enough to be its own look.
Cons: Notice something missing from the section just above? Like the complete lack of any mention of the new God Warriors? Sadly, while there are some interesting enemies, the God Warriors on the whole are a bit lacking in instant memorability. Gullinbursti Fródi works fine as a rival to lead character Aiolia, & Sigmund manages to work due to his relation to Seigfried, but of the rest of the crew, only Nidhogg Fafner really manages to make a strong, lasting impression by being the mad doctor of the group. That's not to say that the God Warriors don't make their mark when needed, but most don't do more than that. Part of that is simply because almost all of them can't possibly stand up against the Gold Saints. It is mentioned at least once in this series that the previous God Warriors were the cream of the crop, & they were taken out by the Bronze Saints, so what chance do a group of (mostly) second-stringers have against Athena's top level of soldiers? Hell, this is even a bit of a plot point when Sigmund fights Gemini Saga, the strongest Gold Saint of them all, as it's obvious from the very start that he has no chance of stopping Saga. In terms of who the "new evil" actually is, it's honestly pretty obvious if you know your Norse lore... Or at least have watched the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Finally, the animation quality on the available streams can drop here & there, as Soul of Gold was originally an ONA/Original Net Animation, much like Sailor Moon Crystal; luckily, SoG at its worst is nowhere near what SMC was in general during its original net airing. Much like that series, though, the animation for this was likely improved a good bit for the home video release, & the TV airing that happened recently in Japan, but we here in North America will likely never get to see those improvements, as I doubt we'll ever get a physical release for SoG.
Is It Newcomer Friendly?: Since Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold is a side-story that takes place near the very end of the original manga, and mostly assumes some familiarity with who the Gold Saints are, I would normally say that this isn't a newcomer-friendly anime... But then I remember that I actually have anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Kate, a.k.a. Narutaki, from the Reverse Thieves blog & podcast actually watched Soul of Gold while it aired, and (to my knowledge) used it as her introduction to Saint Seiya in general. In the end, she seemed to have a fun time with the show & found it very enjoyable and watchable for someone who may have never seen anything Seiya before. Therefore, while I won't exactly say that it'd be my first choice, I will admit that Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold welcomes newcomers in well enough to make it a good first entry, but it definitely is most enjoyable if you have familiarity with who the Gold Saints are beforehand. While the development of characters like Aiolia, Deathmask, & Shura work well on their own, they work even better as final chapters to what came before.
There is plenty more Saint Seiya out there that I didn't cover, but what's left is mostly manga that is not legally available in the first place. In fact, the only bit of animated Seiya that isn't available here in North America is the rest of the original TV anime (Episodes 74-114), & the two most recent movies (2004's Heaven Chapter~overture~ & 2014's all-CG Legend of Sanctuary), which is actually downright shocking compared to how it was only a few years ago. When I first got into this series I only had two options, which were buying Viz's release of the manga (which I slowly did as they came out) or buying ADV's incomplete release of the original anime (which I eventually did, too). In 2011 we got the Lost Canvas OVAs simulcasted, which itself was unheard of (simulcasting a straight-to-video series?!), but it wasn't until the past two or three years that we really got as much as we now have.
Hopefully this guide can be as helpful as I would like it to be, as I am a fan of Saint Seiya & I think it deserves better over here. Sure, the original series is from the late 80s, and many anime fans aren't as big on watching older series like that, but there are some great options for first-timers that I don't think are stated as such. If you want to start with The Lost Canvas, Omega, or even Soul of Gold, then by all means do so, because they all have their benefits for newcomers. If you feel that those series are enough for you then I can understand that; at least you gave them a try. If you liked those & want more, though, then there is still plenty out there to check out, and that's what I wanted to help out with.
Happy 30th Anniversary, Saint Seiya!