For the first time ever, the complete original run of the Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac anime series has been released in full English dub—thanks to Netflix. That’s right, all 114 original episodes—which aired from 1986 to 1989—are now available to English language audiences completely uncut and with restored visuals and audio. The series has previously seen release in heavily edited formats, such as the ADV Films dub which retitled the series as Knights of the Zodiac and commissioned punk band Bowling for Soup to cover A Flock of Seagull’s 80s hit “I Ran (So Far Away)” for the theme song. The dub was widely criticised for being almost unrecognisable from the original series—with its plentiful alterations and censorship.
Having no legal manner in which to watch the series, many English speaking fans had to resort to fansubs; not anymore. As a long-time fan of the Saint Seiya series and franchise, I decided to give the Netflix dub a spin and found myself amazed at its production quality and incredible dubbing effort. As such, I have decided to go through the Netflix dub story arc by story arc and provide my humble opinions on each. The first of these is the “Galaxian Wars Arc”—which comprises the first eight episodes of the series.
The series kicks off in a big way: beginning by introducing us to the concept of Saints and Cloths. We are given a glimpse at a colosseum full of spectators watching on as two Saints do battle; soon after, we are introduced to our protagonist, Seiya, a brash orphan from Japan who has been sent to Greece in order to claim ownership of the Pegasus Cloth—mystical armour which Saints don in combat. Seiya, after literally karate chopping a dude’s ear off, claims the Pegasus Cloth and sets out to return to Japan. However, the other would-be Saints aren’t too happy that Seiya was able to get the Pegasus Cloth and try to stop him—particularly encountering a roadblock in female warrior Shaina. Despite her efforts, however, Seiya taps into his Cosmo—a mystical energy that grants a Saint power—and ultimately overcomes her, breaking her mask in the process (something that will be of importance in the future).
After returning to Japan, we learn that Seiya was separated from his sister by Mitsumasa Kido, a wealthy businessman and head of the Graude foundation. As the arc rolls on, we learn that Kido had taken many orphans and sent them off to potentially become Saints. His reasoning for doing so at this point remains a mystery, but through that mystery we are introduced to the rest of our heroes: Cygnus Hyoga, Dragon Shiryu, and Andromeda Shun.
Mitsumasa Kido’s daughter, Saori Kido, now heads up the Graude Foundation after his death. She decides to host a tournament for the Saints, with the prize being the Gold Sagittarius Cloth. It is a bold choice to begin a series with a tournament arc, but it actually goes a good ways to introduce us to the main cast of heroes and set up an antagonist for them to rally together against. After each of the four main Saints have their individual fights, the tournament is abruptly interrupted by the appearance of Phoenix Ikki, the brother of Andromeda Shun who had been thought missing on Death Queen Island—a place described simply as “Hell on Earth”.
Through flashbacks, we see that Ikki had taken Shun’s place in being sent to Death Queen Island and whatever occurred there has completely changed him as a person. The tournament ends in chaos as Ikki steals the Gold Cloth with the aid of his minions, the Black Saints. The arc ends with our heroes chasing down Ikki hoping to retrieve the Gold Cloth, which leads us into the “Black Saints Arc”.
Overall, I thought this arc was a great introduction for the series, and the Netflix dub was fantastic throughout. While normally I feel a tournament arc is better when we know the participants a bit more beforehand, Saint Seiya did a great job of fleshing these characters out through their fights in the tournament; establishing some narrative momentum as the story propels forward and the Saints must come to blows with Phoenix Ikki and his Black Saints. The animation is obviously very much of its time but, with the restoration done by Netflix, the series looks crisp; as long as you don’t mind the classic 80s animation style, you’re sure to be hooked on Saint Seiya by the time this arc reaches its thrilling climax.