What is one of the most annoying things that someone has ever said to you regarding media? I’m sure everyone has their own pitfalls, right? Mine has always been “it gets really good after _ hours or _ episodes.” The most difficult part of that is even if the person saying that is right, you still have to sit through hours of content just to get to what other people consider the good parts. Even then, it might not be good according to your own standards. All of that might lead to what we call a waste of time. Still, call me a hypocrite because that’s how I feel about season 4 with the caveat that the rest of the seasons are fun to watch in their own right. Season 4 is the payoff of all of those seasons and it pays in dividends along truly defining what it means to be a Saint. It also helps that it’s one of my favorite types of Shonen arcs to..
Spoiler Warnings: This post focuses on the fourth season of an older show that is now available on Netflix. You can read that review here. I can easily say that there shouldn’t be a spoiler warning thing herebecause this is a fourth season and it’s kind of obvious that you need to watch the first three before hand. Still, spoiler warning regardless.
Saint Seiya Season 4 opens up with our four saints (Seiya, Hyoga, Shun, and Shiryu) and Athena arriving at Athens, Greece ready to take on all the Golden Saints and the evil pope himself. Since each one of them is still a bronze saint that has barely been able to power up their cosmo as much as the golden saints consistently, it’s a suicide mission. Of course, since the suicide stakes weren’t enough, Athena has been hit by an arrow that gives her only 12 hours to live and can only be cured by the pope himself. All of which leads to a mad dash through all 12 Saint Temples guarded by golden saints of different abilities in which a lot of them are completely unknown. Fun times ahead guys except replace fun with dramatically hard times.
Yes, the suicide mission is my favorite type of shonen jump arcs because it never fails me to work for me ever. The character drama, the growth in dire circumstances, and everything else. You get to see who our main characters really are when the cards are down. I’m going to be bold in saying that Saint Seiya is probably the first shonen series to do that maybe? I can at least say that it’s one of the earliest because the manga was written in the mid 1980’s. I do think other shows have pushed the envelope a little more with Rurouni Kenshin’s Kyoto Arc, Bleach’s Soul Society arc, and Hunter X Hunter’s Chimera Ant arc to name a few of them. Still, they all had to start somewhere so going to tentatively say here. Not planting my flag on that though.
When I mention what it means to be a Saint, this arc is where the ideals are brought onto display. I don’t mean just in terms of character development for our four saints and Ikki when he shows up to save the day, but what the values are for the golden saints themselves. I’ll get to our saints in a paragraph or too. I’m just going to say this straight out, not all of the Golden Saints are bad people. To the contrary, most of them are good except Cancer Death Mask, Pisces Aphrodite, and the evil pope figure who is the former Gemini Saint Saga. Most of the Golden Saints have just bought into the what the fake pope propaganda. You know, the real Athena is guarded by the pope and the bronze saints saying Saori Kido is the reincarnation of Athena is wrong. Their fellow Golden Saint Sagittarius Aiolios friend died a traitor until they opened their eyes to the truth eventually.
The Golden Saints are just fun people full of personality. I do have to mention that we met three already. Those being Aries Mu who can repair Saint’s Cloths, Libra Dohko the master of Dragon Shiryu, and the brother of the betrayer Leo Aiolio. So we know these people are good. That list of good saints grows even if they have their own heart and motivations. Taurus Albebaran didn’t want to believe our bronze saints where traitors. Scorpius Milo and Carpricorn Shura also fully believed in the false Pope’s propaganda too. I’m not completely sure about Aquarius Camus because he was Hyoka’s teacher’s teacher. He used this opportunity to teach Hyoga how to use his ice abilities better and died for it. All of them are very reasonable and strong people, but even the best people can be led astray when told the wrong things.
All of which leads to the character development of our five saints. Yes, I’m including Ikki because he played a strong part in this series too. The major plot point driving this season has always been about saving Athena. That never changes and visiting the Sagittarius temple reinvigorates them on their mission. Still, there are other arcs like revenge and growth that play a part too. Shinryu had a thing with Cancer Death Mask in the previous season, so they must fight. Shun must finally be able to push himself into actually fighting people and defeat the person who killed his master and his island so he doesn’t rely on his brother Ikki all the time. Same sort of Hyoga who Camus defeated his master and he wants revenge. Seiya has all of those motivations too because this is where he trained. All those sorts of motivations are sub things because they become the ideal no turning back saviors for Athena herself. The fight for Athena is something they must do even if it costs them their lives.
So let’s talk about some incidental things. You know, besides the fact that Athena is dying. In a spiritual sense, Athena is always watching over her saints as they fight for her. Even without being able to move her body much. She provides means for them to get power, shows the evil saints they aren’t worthy of their armor because they are meant to protect Athena, and so many other things. With that display of power and the fact that Saint Seiya plays with the realms of gods anyway. So when the season ends and Athena comes back and brings some people back who have died along the way, it all makes sense in context of the story tell that it’s been setting up. Especially since this wasn’t just a test for the Saints. It was also a test for Athena to show all her worth when the going gets rough.
So I have been praising a lot of things in this season, but there some negative sides to this season too. For instance, this episode is 32 episodes in length. The length really weighs down some aspects of this season. Mainly in the middle section with Shiryu’s fight with Cancer Death Mask that is the slowest fight in the season. One episode is just him laughing for the entire episode with little of plot development happening. There is also the amount of repetition that comes from the arc itself. The Golden Saints are winning, our saints gain power in an emotional moment, and then either tie or win against the saints. There is also the fact that there is a lot of fights. Still, each temple is different enough to really give you the personality and thoughts of the golden saints in question even if they seem like “after thoughts” and “have to be there” because of the narrative the season constructed. That’s ok. I still loved this season regardless.
Those sorts of strengths and weaknesses also come into the visual aspects of the show too. You know, just like the past few seasons. There are some stellar moments of animation and power usages that still look impressive to this day and this is an 80’s series. I suppose this Netflix high definition visual upgrade has really been doing wonders for this show for us. Considering that there is a wide variety of powers, that’s a good thing. From straight up sword slices to sending people to other dimensions, there is a lot to play with in this story. At the same time, there is a lot of stock footage too. The footage before the abilities happen are always the same and the locations look the same too. That’s where the short cuts start. Can’t complain too much though. It’s an 80’s series that has far more quality then realized.
I think I’ve said it enough at this point, right? I really love this season far more then I ever thought I would. That means it’s getting a solid rating and I am not turning away from that at all. It was never going to be perfect, but it works so strongly on a plot, story, and character level. I’m not even lying here. Everything works in a much more cohesive manner then anyone would expect. Especially since you get an explanation for how their powers can flair up in the middle of a conflict on screen which makes everything feel more genuine then you would think. There is the length and visuals that give advantages and disadvantages to it. (Did you know that what is happening is almost in real time because 32 episodes is slightly above 12 hours in content.) If you have watched the past three seasons, then you know you have to watch this season. I can’t recommend it enough. You will being have some strong emotions by the end of this season for sure. Absolutely guaranteed.