Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas – An Earlier Holy War

Where Lost Canvas Exists in Saint Seiya

After watching those mediocre Saint Seiya film discussions, it’s time to talk about the actual good stuff. Lost Canvas is a very well put together series that is hard to really recommend to new people in order to get into the Saint Seiya franchise. It exists in that interesting place where it is a prequel series from 250 years ago (despite it not being actually canon), but also it requires a lot of information from the Saint Seiya Hades saga to get the full context of. How does that happen? I don’t know. It’s very hard to handle things like that, but yet it did. Kind of amazing.

That lack of canonicity doesn’t mean that this series isn’t worth watching. Some could say that it is a fanfiction, but it is such a well produced piece of fanfiction. You know, if that is what we are calling it. Lost Canvas does a fantastic job of taking Saint Seiya story lines and material then throwing it onto the modern age. It’s fast, agile, flashy, and everything that you would want from a shonen battle series. That is a quick review right there, but there is so much to say about this series. Especially since I just really, really like it. 

The Lost Canvas’ Story In General

Following some words from the end of the Hades saga where Hades mentioned being involved with a Pegasus saint in his past life, this is supposedly that story. In the middle of Europe somewhere in the 18th century, later found to be Italy, three orphans are living happily together. Their names are Sasha, Alone, and Tenma. Each one fated to be someone different. The kind hearted Alone eventually gets possessed by Hades himself. Sasha gains the spirit of Athena, and Tenma becomes a legendary Pegasus Saint.

So essentially, that is the story of Saint Seiya. You get Sasha as the god all the gold saints and pope protect with their lives, Tenma who is getting training and making friends with othe saints, then the bad guy side with Alone. We see a Pandora, Thanatos, Hypnos, and so many other gods and spectators as they go to war with the sanctuary. One could call the whole show just an entire holy war and that would be correct. However, it really feels like one as saints and hades’ minions fall all over the place in some emotional combat scenes that the og would be proud of.

One thing that I should mention to me is that there feels like a Naruto approach to the show. I have read some of Naruto and there are a lot of groups of threes and saints being masters and apprentices to each other. Like how Tenma is the student to Dhoko who will be a part of the next holy war with Shiryu. Or the action trio of the show: Tenma, the wonderful Yuzuriya, and the most useful Unicorn Saint Yato as they face off against many different threats and somehow survive it all. Not to mention the number of gods and saints that go to war with each other in different dimensions. 

Old Versus New

I’m never going to say that the original Saint Seiya series looks bad. For it being produced quickly in the 1980’s, it still looks amazing. Some are still pretty decent and fluid animation and clear art. Would recommend it if you can find it somewhere. Really good shonen storytelling with a rock solid emotional core. I also think the pacing works out pretty well because there is so much going on there all the time.  Still, The Lost Canvas is what happens when something from the 1980’s is brought into the 2010’s from a storytelling and animation/art perspective in a good way.

From a writing perspective, the pacing behind The Lost Canvas is almost at hyper speed. Almost. You can meet one character, Gold Saint or otherwise, and then they might disappear in two episodes due to the bad guys finally killing them. The thing is that The Lost Canvas is so well written that you will easily get attached to that character faster than you would ever expect. It’s like Mami in Madoka Magica level of good, crisp writing. Yes, the characters are simple but a small amount of time is a way to get to know them in an extremely quick manner. Still, I love this aspect because of how many characters appear on screen at a time.

I’m about to hammer down a bit on some of Saint Seiya’s animation, but The Lost Canvas is as clean of a look in modern animation and art as it can get. Characters literally fight Hades, the gods he has on his side, in multidimensional locations with powers that go beyond normal human comprehension. The Lost Canvas nails that feeling of these small characters who are barely silver saints, or in cases the Pope and Gold saints, fighting forces beyond their imagination and either pulling off a win or dying in ways no one expects. It’s so exceptionally well directed that I am sad at how underrated it is. Then again, it is a weird thing to watch too. 

The Brutality of War

Another obvious thing, but this is an early Holy War. Not just send five bronze saints put into a situation to put it to a stop kind of war, but lots of people/characters fighting against whatever Hades throws at them. Not to mention the titular Lost Canvas over in the Saint’s sanctuary that will cause the destruction of humankind just working on it being completed. That is the titular Lost Canvas and it carries that sense of art that Alone wanted to create. That sense of feeling that Alone/Hades wanted to create because he is an artist.

But yeah, there is so much at stake and you can feel it. Entire towns are being destroyed, lots of people die, and the stakes are so pushed on to the Saints because the specters that Hades sends to sanctuary cannot die. They can be defeated and then be regenerated later on. It takes a lot of sacrifices to get that to stop happening. One very important journey (with Tenma, Yuzu, and Yato) to the underworld fighting who knows how many threats just to get a special set of seeds to stop that from happening. Then the gods of the underworld show up to destroy the saints and there are so many sacrifices that happen to gain an edge. It is a series with a lot of hard fights. 

Generations, Trios, and Masters

The battles of generations is always something that is attached to Saint Seiya. Saints inheriting the cloth from someone in their past is a key thing. Same with fighting a holy war every 250 years or so. Some characters who have obscenely long lives from the previous holy wars always appear too. The pope and his brother in The Lost Canvas have been working and preparing for this current holy war ever since the last one. Over 250 years ago and you can feel that sort of mastery from them as they acquired and built special techniques because they know what is going to happen. Both of them want to defeat the gods even at the cost of their lives. 

There is some plot armor for a couple characters in The Last Canvas. Those being the gold saints Shion and Dohko. Characters that play a role in the series, but are the masters that help the current protagonist characters because they played a role in their lives. Having some affect on who they become in the future. Dohko literally discovered Tenma in his village and he trained Tenma to become stronger after discovering his potential. Shion does the same with Yuzuriya because they came from the same place. Then the popes are the mentors to these gold saints. There are literal passing onto generations to generations to generations in this show.

The OG saint seiya series does have mentor characters to the main bronze saints, but it’s never for long or as direct. There are no mentors and students working together to face a god or any sort of threat. No sense of that high level of devotion is there because the masters teach before they die or they could already be dead. The bronze saints go about their lives learning abilities when and where they can which is what makes it more dramatic and high breaking. I’m glad that The Lost Canvas takes such a different approach because it’s so refreshing. Part of that Naruto sort of feeling that I mentioned earlier. 

Complete Thoughts on an Incomplete Adaptation

Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas is just really fantastic. On all levels really because it knew how to take Saint Seiya and modernize it. The only feeling that it has is that it’s unfinished in terms of anime. The manga is apparently complete, but the anime is not because a lot of plot threads are left hanging to be completed later even if the major plot item of the two seasons is completed for now. There are so many hints to character relations and powers that have appeared but haven’t gone into full gear yet. I wish there was what seems like one season left to conclude everything and it just never happened. Man.

But what we got is really, really good. Almost every fan that has watched Saint Seiya and then checked out The Lost Canvas has liked it. The effort put into the whole experience is phenomenal and hits all levels in a good way. Truly infectious and wonderful bits of energy just radiate throughout. It’s addictive in that way and well reminds Saint Seiya fans why they love Saint Seiya so much. Possibly newer fans can see why Saint Seiya is loved by so many people too, because it can be new person friendly despite where it is in the Saint Seiya continuity. Even with the differences it is still a full Saint Seiya experience from a new generation of people. Just amazing in its own right.

One comment

  1. I haven’t watched the show yet but I loved the manga (To me Lost Canvas even surpasses the original as the best Saint Seiya content) so I look forward to checking this out at some point. It’s just a shame that they didn’t adapt everything. I thought it did a great job of fleshing out the mythos around the Hades saga and even expands/ties up some loose ends from the main series where there wasn’t time to go further.

    With Next Dimensions being the canon re-adaption of Lost Canvas, I feel like this one may continue to be buried as an obscure Seiya title but I’ll always remember it fondly.

    Liked by 1 person

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