Knights of the Zodiac Vol. #1 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Luis Cruz
Review Date: Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, January 27, 2004



What They Say
Led by Bronze Knight Seiya, the Knights of Althena draw upon their amazing martial arts skills as well as their mystical powers, each keyed to a diferent sign of the Zodiac. They pit themselves against the most formidable fighters in the universe, and struggle to return Althena, Goddess of Wisdom, to her rightful throne and assure the peace of the world.

The Review!
ADV presents the first volume of Dic's broadcast friendly version of Saint Seiya. With a loyal core of fans worldwide, will an English language version prove to be successful?

Audio:
As it was the only audio track, my viewing session consisted of the English language track. It does not suffer from any dropouts or distortion; the music, effects, and dialogue are sharp and balanced with none overshadowing the others.

Video:
For a series produced in 1986, the prints have held up fairly well. Grain is present throughout the episodes but is mostly noticeable only in the darker scenes. There seemed to be few nicks or defects in the print; the colors seem a bit flat when compared to modern anime, but they hold up well against other series from that time. While not the most vivid art, it does provide some nice looking scenes.

Packaging:
The various bronze knights are featured on the front cover with Seiya in front and center of them all. The show's logo is at the top while a small and tasteful volume indicator and volume title are at the bottom. Tiny ADV and Dic logos flank the sides of the volume indicator.

The back cover features the requisite synopsis, episode titles, screenshots, and disc details. The insert is a reproduction of the front cover image with adverts for other "ADV kids" titles on the reverse side.

Menu:
The main menu features the wheel of the Zodiac while an instrumental loop from the opening theme plays in the background. The top of the wheel features the various menu items while the bottom has pictures of the main cast. Quick and functional, the menu fits the overall tone and style of the series.

Extras:
With only trailers for other ADV titles geared towards the younger set and DVD credits, I may have to rethink my definition of an "extra". If not for the collectible game card inside, this should probably be graded "N/A", but these are technically "extra" pieces of content.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Coming into this volume, my knowledge of Saint Seiya was that it featured heroes in powerful, mythological-based suits and had a large base of fans that grew up on a Spanish dub of the show. As the series opens, we are introduced to Princess Sienna; to fulfill the wish of her grandfather, she is holding a tournament in Japan. The world's most powerful knights compete against each other for the right to wear the sacred "Gold Cloth of Sagittarius". While she watches two knights do battle, she longs for one particular knight to show up and claim the prize.

This knight is Seiya, a Japanese orphan who was sent to Greece to train in the martial and mystical arts. After six years of training, he claims the right to wear the bronze cloth of Pegasus and a chance to fight in the Princess' tournament. However, he is only interested in finding his sister as they were forcibly parted by Sienna's grandfather when he sent Seiya to train in Greece. Of course, events change Seiya's mind, and as Seiya fights in the tournament, we are introduced to other knights who all have their own personal reasons for fighting in the tournament.

This is the broadcast version of the series, which means a lot of blue fluid flies about in place of blood, and cheesy cut sequences abound. However, credit does have to be given to Dic for managing to keep the flavor of the series intact. There are a few name changes, most notably Saori renamed to Princess Sienna, but most of the Japanese names are kept intact. The Greek references do not seem to have been altered much either outside of a few minor changes mostly to fit the target age range.

However, the dub dialogue and acting is an entirely different matter. The dialogue has been modernized quite a bit as characters routinely use modern slang and make references to modern advances such as web pages. The voice acting is decent enough and provides a tolerable viewing experience. The notable exceptions are Seiya's actor and Sienna's butler; Seiya's voice actor has yet to find the character and routinely does not provide the same emotion in his voice that is being conveyed by the images on the screen. Most grating though is Sienna's butler; despite having a very Japanese name, he seems to have a random Scottish accent. At times, he sounds normal, but then suddenly it sounds like a Sean Connery imitation.

The content itself is mediocre fair as Seiya does battle with one powerful foe after another. Each time he seems beat, he recalls the sage teaching of his masked, female teacher Marin. A few other characters are introduced in the tournament, some of them friends and some of them rivals. The battles are unimpressive and dry as they contain little action but plenty of dialogue.

What seems to be missing at the moment is a sense of the larger picture. We are told that powerful knights would arise when the world is threatened by great evil, and the plan by Sienna's grandfather seems to be in response to a growing evil threat. Yet, there is no sense that anyone or anything is threatened; the tournament proceeds as a grand sporting event. The knights seem to care only about winning the power of the Gold Cloth for their own personal needs.

So, the opening episodes are a lackluster series of battles between Greek themed power suits. While I am sure the series will form a larger picture, these episodes do not provide an auspicious or engaging introduction to the series. This is a series I would likely have enjoyed more in my younger days, but the eye of an adult finds little to draw it into the series from the first four episodes.

In Summary:
Unedited or otherwise, the first volume of Knights would probably have appealed more to me in my younger days. For its target audience, I can see this being a decent enough draw though it lacks the glitz of more modern titles. Despite the collectible card inside, it will likely have a difficult time capturing a large audience away from the Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh set. While I find this, at the moment, a mediocre entry in the power suited hero genre; I would rather pop this disc in for the kids than most of the other imported shows available these days.

Features
English Language

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: D+
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Knights of the Zodiac