Saint Seiya is a classic, action-packed series with an extensive cast of characters and a large and expansive universe that’s even now continuing to grow. Packed with mythology and lore from many different regions, there are manga, anime, movies, and even video games that continue to keep the large fanbase united and strong. Getting into Saint Seiya can be a daunting challenge once one sees how many series are attached to the franchise, but that’s where I come in to help with that.
Where to begin depends on you—there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s all about your own preferences. Some people prefer to start where the entirety of Saint Seiya began – with the original series by Masami Kuromada. Whether you start with the manga that started serialization in 1985 in Weekly Shonen Jump, or the anime made a year later by Toei Animation, just keep in mind that it is an older series. Some things may seem cliché by modern standards, just be sure to keep an open mind. But it’s still action-packed, filled with conflict, a plethora of diverse characters, and a strong sense of nostalgia for anyone who watched it as a child. There’s a chance you may have even began it already and not be able to recognize it by name! Under than name Knights of the Zodiac, it had a very short and heavily edited run on Cartoon Network. A lot of the more violent scenes were edited out and recolored, so even if you had started it in that format, I’d recommend watching its original, unedited run: Saint Seiya: Sanctuary.
If you just want a quick dip into the series, I’d recommend watching the movie, Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary. It’s a gorgeous, computer animated movie that reimagines the first main storyline of the original Saint Seiya into something more modern and compelling for a younger audience. There are major differences between the story of the movie and the anime, but the characters retain their core personalities and it’s a good way to see if this kind of series is for you.
Other people prefer to go in order of the timeline. This is where things get a bit complicated. In the canon universe, technically the original Saint Seiya would take place first. However, within Kuromada’s canon universe, there is another manga called Saint Seiya: Next Dimension (2006) that is technically a sequel, but, through the use of time-travel, primarily takes place 243 years prior to the main series. There is also a spin-off prequel series by Shiori Teshirogi called Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas that takes place at the same time as Next Dimension, but follows a completely different story (aside from a few of the main characters).
In my personal opinion, I would suggest that modern audience begin with Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas. The anime is beautifully done by TMS Entertainment and definitely able to contest with more recent series in terms of animation, soundtrack, and voice acting. It’s very fast-paced to the point where the first episode feels like two in terms of narrative density. That being said, it also doesn’t feel particularly rushed either. It gives you ample time to grow attached to every character, as well as answer nearly every question you might have while watching. The only downside… it was never finished! Though the manga source material that began in 2006 is complete at 25 volumes, the anime was cancelled after a mere 26 episodes. But never fear! The anime follows the original story nearly panel for panel, so picking up the manga at chapter 96 after watching what the anime provides is not out of the question.
Honestly, The Lost Canvas was where I started and I wouldn’t do it any other way. It gave me the ability to watch the older series because I had a connection to some of the characters and to the lore of the Saint Seiya universe without struggling to sit through the cliché moments that simply come with being older. Rather than having to watch several arcs that span a total of 132 episodes (not including the movies), it was a quicker introduction to the lore while still being a series – bonus points for being a prequel which meant no spoilers for the original once I chose to watch it. Being able to be integrated into such a vast fanbase quickly was absolutely a perk and it made me hunger to know what happens in the next generation.
Of course there is much more than just the original Saint Seiya, Saint Seiya: Next Dimension, and Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas. But these three all provide perfect gateways into this franchise. For now, pick your starting point and roll with it! If one doesn’t work for you, don’t be discouraged and consider picking up one of the others before giving up on the whole series.
Happy beginnings, and may your Cosmos burn brightly!!