Saturday, June 22, 2024

Why Knights of the Zodiac is the Best 90s Anime You’re Not Watching

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Knights of The Zodiac, also known as Saint Seiya, is a manga property created by Masami Kurumada in 1986. The story follows the adventures of a group of five teenage Saints (or Knights) tasked with protecting Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom. The story is set in a world where gods and mortals coexist, and humans bear the power of Cosmo energy to fight against evil forces. It’s a straightforward Shonen with tons of nuance and great storytelling.

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The Knights of the Zodiac anime series was first adapted for television in Japan in 1986 and ran for 114 episodes. The show was popular worldwide, gaining incredible traction in Europe and Latin America. North America seemed to be excluded from this phenomenon. It wasn’t until the show was added to Netflix’s lineup in 2019 that American audiences took notice. Since then, it has become one of the streaming service’s most-watched shows.

Knights of the Zodiac is a show with strong characters, epic battles, and beautiful artwork. Toei treats the property with the same reverence as popular IPs such as Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece. It’s also one of the few Shonen anime series with a predominantly mixed cast of characters. It’s likely the best show you haven’t watched yet, and you are missing out.

We are getting an upcoming live-action film this year, so here’s why you need to catch up with the original show before going into the movies.

10 A Classic Shonen Adventure

Toei Animation

If you’re a fan of Shonen anime, then you should check out Knights of the Zodiac. The epic adventure follows the story of Seiya, Shiryu, Ikki, Shun, and Hyoga, who must protect the goddess Athena. Like most shonen stories, the Saints must focus on overcoming their limits and be stronger to protect the goddess. The plot is full of intrigues and twists. The opening saga pits the saints against their own by making them fight to win the mysterious Gold Cloth. The story eventually evolves to discovering why Athena’s Sanctuary is hunting the goddess and fighting the master manipulator behind it until the end.

9 Anime with Feeling

Saint Seiya_012
Toei Animation

Knights of the Zodiac is an emotionally charged anime. Seiya is our surrogate character, and he’s been through hell and back with a single goal in mind: to find his long-lost sister who went missing after he departed to The Sanctuary. The struggles and tribulations of other characters are equally painful: Ikki takes his brother’s place by going to Royal Queen Death’s Island to train and become the Phoenix Saint. He loses most of his humanity and only manages to get back in the fold after his brother Shun manages to reach out to him. He would eventually die and be reborn to fight with his fellow Saints to protect Athena.

8 Epic Battles and Fights

Saint Seiya_013
Toei Animation

Regarding Shonen anime, few things are as exciting as a good old-fashioned fight scene. Only some anime can match the scale and intensity of each confrontation in Knights of the Zodiac. The first few episodes are mainly focused on the physicality of the power of each Saint. As the plot moves forward, we understand that a Saint’s physical prowess doesn’t come only from all the training or cloth but from the Cosmo as well. Each fight is wonderfully choreographed, with many delving into the realms of mind, especially regarding the main cast fighting the 12 Gold Saints.

7 Complex and Multi-Dimensional Characters

Saint Seiya_003
Toei Animation

Knights of the Zodiac is a story that borrows heavily from Greek mythology, especially the myths about the twelve Olympians of the Greek pantheon. Each Saint is protected by a star constellation defining the cloth they wear and their techniques. Each character has extensive lore attached to them. Masami Kurumada expanded so much about the individualities of each Saint that all the data had to be compiled in a single encyclopedia called “Saint Seiya Taizen.” The book features not only information about the main cast but also all their foes and the fellow Olympian Gods who wage war against Athena for the duration of the show and their troops.

6 Exploration of Mythology and Astrology

Saint Seiya_014
Tencen/Toei.

Astrology and mythology play a significant role in the Knights of the Zodiac. So much so that a real-life star constellation guards each Saint. You can explore the skies and find constellations for Pegasus, Dragon, Swan, Phoenix, and the Andromeda nebula. However, the most famous constellations belong to the greatest warriors in Athena’s temple: The 12 Gold Saints guarded by the Zodiac Constellation, who protect the road to Athena’s temple. Kurumada went to great lengths to ensure each of these Saints had a strong background and matching personalities with the attributed features of their Zodiac signs. This exercise is an excellent example of world-building done right.

5 Thought-Provoking Story Arcs

Saint Seiya_009
Toei Animation.

Knights of the Zodiac has numerous thought-provoking story arcs. The anime tells the story of the trial and tribulations of multiple characters tangled in an ongoing conspiracy from an unknown assailant plotting to take over the world. When the divine origins of Athena are uncovered, numerous Gods come back to life to test Athena’s worth. Athena’s Sanctuary must face civil war and then go on to wage war against the Gods of Asgard, Poseidon, and ultimately Hades. Several side stories are told across multiple OVAs and films since the 80s, where the Knights of the Zodiac must fight the Goddess Eris, Phoebus Abel, Artemis, Apollo, and even Lucifer. Throughout most of these stories, the saints face difficult choices and must grapple with complicated moral dilemmas closely tied to loyalty, betrayal, and what it means to be a hero.

4 Beautiful Animation and Artwork

Saint Seiya_002
Toei Animation

Just as the visuals created by Tadayoshi Yamamuro define Dragon Ball, all the visuals in Knights of the Zodiac are characterized by a team who closely worked with the original author of the manga. Shingo Araki and Michi Himeno’s original designs are considered timeless classics for fans worldwide. Toei went all-out on this one. It’s a beautiful and colorful anime with top-notch art and animation that is simply gorgeous. Even if you’re not a big fan of the anime genre, it’s worth checking out Knights of the Zodiac for its visual splendor alone. If you want to see something visually stunning and packed with great action, look no further than Knights of the Zodiac.

3 Memorable Soundtrack

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Toei/RCA.

Japan is home to many of the greatest composers of classical tunes in the past century and most of the new millennium. Seiji Yokoyama is a name that will always echo across the world of anime lovers, especially Knights of the Zodiac fans. Every piece of music in the show is perfect for the scene it’s used in, whether it’s an upbeat track for an action scene or a more subdued and emotional piece for a character’s backstory. The original show has three different openings and ending themes, and each perfectly captures the show’s tone. If you’re not watching Knights of the Zodiac, you’re missing out on one of the best anime soundtracks ever composed.

2 Critical Acclaim and Recognition

Saint Seiya_007
Toei Animation.

In the years since its release, Knights of the Zodiac has garnered considerable critical acclaim and recognition. The show has a massive fan base worldwide, yet North America has excluded itself from the party. The series has been constantly kept in the zeitgeist of popular culture even after the original story ended. Kurumada-Sensei has allowed fellow mangakas to expand the story’s lore with multiple manga and novels, some of which have been adapted into successful spinoffs. The most popular stories include Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, Saint Seiya: Omega, Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold, and of course, the controversial Netflix adaptation of the original story made with 3D animation.

1 Sweet Merchandise

Knights of the Zodiac Movie
Bandai/Tamashii

What’s not to like about an established anime other than all the fantastic collectibles we get from them? Knights of the Zodiac has one of the most prolific toy lines ever made by Bandai Spirits. The vintage action figures that initially came out in 1986 have been reissued multiple times. A new line of action figures was launched by Bandai in 2003 to coincide with the continuation of the story in Knights of the Zodiac: The Hades Chapter. Bandai Spirits developed The Myth Cloth line, and they have been pumping figures since then, with nearly all the saints being produced or reissued multiple times. If these prove too expensive, you can always go for Bandai America’s Action Stars, which has already released five key characters from the show.

You can stream the original Saint Seiya on Crunchyroll, while Netflix offers the modern remake Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac. Now go and enjoy this beloved nostalgic property!

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