Knights of the Zodiac 23

Masami Kurumada – Viz – 2008 – 28 volumes

I… completely skipped this volume. I don’t think I bought a copy, and I definitely didn’t read it. The big Shun reveal in 24 is slightly less random after reading a little bit of the foreshadowing in this volume, but I love that it is completely in-character for this series to throw a random curveball like that, so much so that I did not suspect I had skipped a volume.

I think volume 24 starts with Seiya in… some sort of lake of forgetting, or something, so I just assumed he’d been blown there when he took the leap from reality. This volume shows that he and Shun entered Hades through the Dante-like gate and got a ride from the Celestial Interval Star Acheron Charon, who is a huge jerk and more-or-less antagonized Seiya and Shun all the way across the river Acheron, rather than simply fight him. It was a nice break from all the serious fighting, especially with the childlike exchange between Seiya and Shun about whether they should save Charon after he falls into the river, and when they do, he predictably beats them up. There’s also a lot of super-awesome discussion about Mach 18 punches here.

In case the juvenile break wasn’t quite long enough, we get more when Seiya and Shun confront Celestial Imminent Star Balron Rene, the one who Judges the dead. Balron Rene prefers quiet, so of course Seiya does a lot of yelling, sneezing, and farting while wandering the halls of Judgement.

And because nothing awesome had happened in a long time, Balron Rene wraps his whip around Shun and shreds him into tiny pieces, then picks up Shun’s disembodied head, that then begins to bellow at him.

That’s why Saint Seiya is awesome. I’m so happy I found this volume tucked away, because now I’m remembering how badass absolutely every page of this series is.

There are other fights, with Cerberus and a Sphinx and the generals, and even Gemini Canon. But really, all this leads up to a scene where Seiya’s still-beating heart explodes out of his chest, much to Seiya’s amazement.

It’s magic.


Knights of the Zodiac 28

Masami Kurumada – Viz – 2010 – 28 volumes

I was a little afraid of finishing this. I knew that the ending wasn’t going to be as over-the-top as the parts I liked best. I knew it was just going to finish itself off like a good shounen manga should.

It did. The bronze knights fight Thanatos, and they fight Hypnos, and then they fight Hades. Athena gets to put on her cloth and fight Hades, too. Everything goes about how you would imagine it. They fight, get beaten down, then their cosmos explode infinitely and they somehow triumph. Unusually, the characters do give up at several points, which has never happened before… but because this is the final battle in the final volume, it doesn’t quite have the impact it should.

There were two things that surprised me. Well, three. One involves the cloths. It’s not… really a surprise, but it was something I had wondered about the whole series. After all, Seiya and company are always the last ones standing, and yet they have the lowest ranked cloths of all the 88 warriors of Athena. The second involves Seiya. Something random towards the end. Something I like to see in my shounen series, but rarely do. Possibly because it’s super-unsatisfying. Which brings me to the way the series just… kind of stopped. To be fair, there weren’t a whole lot of loose ends to wrap up other than the one I just hinted at. But still. Series don’t end like that anymore.

I couldn’t really get into the last volume, but I was behind most of the rest of what was going on for all 27 that came before it. It took me a few volumes to understand what makes this series special, but watching the characters throw each other at enemies again and again, making up new limits for themselves with every attack, was something I’m glad I didn’t miss.

Plus, Virgo Shaka was well worth reading every page of this series for.


Knights of the Zodiac 27

Masami Kurumada – Viz – 2009 – 28 volumes

What can I say? All those cameos in Please Save My Earth reminded me I only had two volumes to go to finish this series. It sorely deserves it. It’s brought me a lot of pleasure over the years.

Alas, there wasn’t very many instances of the over-the-top, insane magic that makes this fun to read. There is a really funny story about Pandora that turns her into a good guy while simultaneously referencing mythology (it was the myth reference that made me laugh), and some strange business about her mother birthing a “soul,” but somehow not birthing a body with it. Whatever.

Elsewhere, Seiya fights Thanatos, who is a surprisingly unexciting villain for being the God of Death revealed at the end of the series. He’s a pretty standard shounen bad guy, powerful and full of trash talk, and he and Seiya trade blows in a fairly uninteresting way. I suppose it is amusing that he can kill people with his thoughts, no matter the distance. He uses this in an extraordinarily unlikely fight that involves all the Knights watching in Greece.

It is notable that Shun lands a punch. I don’t think he’s done that in about 15 volumes.

At the very end, all of our favorite Bronze Knights join up in Elysium for one final fight. That final fight… will take place in GOLD CLOTHS. It will happen in the next, and final, volume.

I can’t be the only one who’s excited that Shun got the Virgo cloth.


Knights of the Zodiac 26

Masami Kurumada – Viz – 2008 – 28 volumes

Aww. These kept getting better and better, and I was a little sad to see things level off here. Actually, come to think of it, when I say “level off,” I just mean that the fighting was way less insane. There are still some mind-boggling plot points on display here.

My enthusiasm was diminished somewhat by a rather stereotypical scene of Hades being… purged, for lack of a better and non-spoiler word. If there’s one thing this series is not, it’s stereotypical. The characters are constantly doing things that defy logic, so seeing them sit through what is mostly a long pep talk, spouting the usual lines for this situation, wasn’t that cool.

What was cool was the fact that the characters then face… the Wall of Lamentation. The Wall of Lamentation is a wall that can only be passed by the gods, and of course Sienna/Athena and Hades go behind this wall after the initial purging. So how can Seiya and the other bronze knights follow? Virgo Shaka uses his powers to try to get through, and I’d like to think he’s almost a god, but he doesn’t make a dent. And if the cosmic powers of Virgo Shaka can’t make a dent, Seiya’s Meteor Punch doesn’t do much good a little later, either.

So how can we get past the Wall of Lamentation?

It will take all the Gold Knights. There is a power that triggers only when all 12 are together. I don’t even know how they figure out they need this power, but they do.

“But half of them are dead!” you say.

That never stopped anybody in Saint Seiya.

And it was spectacular.


Knights of the Zodiac 25

Masami Kurumada – Viz – 2009 – 28 volumes

You know, I keep thinking this series can’t top itself. It can’t get any more awesome. And somehow, in every volume, it does. The first 13 pages of this volume are probably among the best pages of shounen manga ever written. The splash page for the chapter features a flaming corpse in the foreground of a landscape shot, and from there we see the beginnings of a fight between Ikki and Garuda Aiakos. Long story short, Aiakos has an attack which involves throwing Ikki so high up that he vanishes, then comes down at an appointed time directly on an X that Aiakos has drawn and marked as his grave. The second time Aiakos does this, Ikki lands on his back at terminal velocity and knocks him into the crater, saying “The spot you marked was your own gravesite.”

Little did Aiakos know, he was already dead.

Now, Ikki is pretty badass. Pretty much anything he does is awesome, mainly because he can’t be killed, and every time you do “kill” him, he comes back at you stronger. Because he’s the Phoenix Knight. He has a long, drawn-out fight with Hades that isn’t that interesting, unfortunately, save for the fact that Ikki keeps getting up and spouting choice lines. There are some other elements in play that I do not want to spoil, because I would hate to ruin the only plot-related surprise the series has to offer. But the surprise does make this fight more interesting than it needs to be. Also, weepy.

At the end of this fight, my favorite gold knight comes back for no reason. In fact, he’s about the only gold knight that I bother to remember, simply because he is so mind-blowing amazing every time he appears. The extremes this character goes to are exactly what the finale to this series needs. Thank you.

Later, we catch back up with Seiya, who is frozen in Cocytus with a bunch of really disturbing-looking gold knight corpses. A fight ensues that should carry us over into the next volume.

Worth mentioning is the reader survey results at the end of the volume that shows what attacks were the fan favorites while the series was running in Jump. While the Galaxy Explosion did win second place (a forbidden move that generates more force than the big bang that created the universe), I feel that the Meteor Punch, which cannot create or destroy galaxies and won first place, had no place on this list. Also conspicuously absent were all of Virgo Shaka’s attacks. I’m not sure why the readers didn’t just list all his moves in the top ten, because they are clearly superior to anything else in the series.

I really should not be enjoying this as much as I am. It’s not good. It is, however, extraordinarily entertaining.


Knights of the Zodiac 24

Masami Kurumada – Viz – 2008 – 28 volumes

Guys. Andromeda Shun.

What.

WHAT.

I’m used to the insanity and non-sequitors that this series loves to dish out. I know that this particular revelation is either going to turn out to be not true, or a temporary condition. But even so. SHUN? The biggest wuss? We haven’t even seen Shun do anything in, like, ten volumes! What’s up with this?

Basically, an… important plot point, if Knights of the Zodiac can be said to have any, hinges on Shun. He is… somebody else. And I probably would have blown that warning off, because everyone is someone else in this series. But it is honestly shocking this time.

I didn’t even have time to dwell on the random out-of-place retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice at the beginning of the volume. There are some fight scenes, namely with the three generals of the Hades army, but all that pales in comparison to Shun’s revelation.

And as soon as it happened, I was really hoping we’d get to see Ikki again. We haven’t seen him in about ten volumes, either.

We did. And he was just as awesome as I remembered. It looks like he showed up to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and next volume, he’s all out of bubble gum.

I’m ready.


Knights of the Zodiac 22

Masami Kurumada – Viz – 2008 – 28 volumes

This… this volume had plot in it. I don’t even know what to make of that. It’s mostly exposition and explanation. I guess we need some reasons as to why the Gold Knights of Athena have turned traitor, and, of all the things to explain, how living Knights can enter Hades. It’s pretty cool that we learn about that, and yet two Big Bangs colliding goes mostly unnoticed at the beginning of the volume.

Does the reasoning behind the traitorous Gold Knights make sense? Mmm… yes? And no? I mean, what is going on is revealed as suddenly, then disregarded, as quickly as anything else in this series.

There is one major event having to do with Athena. She suddenly takes an active and somewhat tragic role in the battle, and the story does pause to consider this longer than it has anything else so far. It’s kinda cool, what’s going on, and I’m curious to see what kind of role Athena will ultimately play. I’m sure it will be spectacular.

No exciting fights this volume, though the Bronze Knights re-enter the fray, only to be completely disregarded by the Hades Knights as too low-rank.

Then they jump into hell.

The end.


Knights of the Zodiac 21

Masami Kurumada – Viz – 2007 – 28 volumes

Oh, Saint Seiya. Remember how last volume I said I couldn’t think of anything that would top the Celestial Faerie Star battle against Mu? Well, I forgot all about Virgo Shaka. The only way to make the Virgo Knight cool would be to make him as cosmically (no pun intended) awesome as Shaka is. His fight against the Bronze Knights was probably one of the most memorable from the Palace of Athena storyline, but his fight against the Hades/Gold Knights here brought tears of joy to my eyes.

First off, he has a rosary with 108 beads. Each bead represents one of the Hades Knights. He just kinda… waves his hand or something, and a bunch of them die. For every dead Hades Knight, a bead turns black. So he holds that in his hand during the fight to reinforce just how thoroughly he is winning.

Also, nobody seems to really be wounding Shaka. They just… don’t even touch him, which is unusual in this series since people are always punching other people. Shaka’s moves are energy-based and rooted in Buddhism, so every time he yells an attack, he gets a very ornate background. Also, he kills everyone when that happens.

So it comes down to Shaka and three Gold Knights who have turned traitor. Despite the fact that nobody lays a hand on Shaka, there are many pages dedicated to the fact that Shaka is prepared to die by facing the three Gold Knights, there is some symbolism when he takes them behind his temple to do battle under a grove of Sala trees, et cetera. Very theatrical. Shaka uses his ultimate attack, which traps the traitor Gold Knights in a dimension and robs them of their five senses, one by one. The only thing that can shatter Shaka’s spell is… The Athena Exclamation.

The Athena Exclamation is a move that must be performed by three Gold Knights. It is forbidden because it is so powerful, it’s like unleashing all the power of the Big Bang on one spot.

The Big Bang. Yeah. The Athena Exclamation is performed three times (sorta) in this volume.

There’s not much else that happens in this volume. At the beginning, there’s a brief fight between Leo Aiora and the Earthly Low-Lying Star Worm Knight of Hades. As creepy as he is… he’s just no match for the Athena Exclamation. Or even Shaka’s Heavenly Dancing Dharma.

Basically, what I’m saying is that this series still has some of the most over-the-top and entertaining fight scenes I’ve run across in a shounen manga (which is pretty amazing given the fact that they don’t even need the benefit of plot to occur), and also that Shaka may be one of the best characters ever.

Of course, the way things have been going, I’m sure that the next volume will somehow top this one. I have no idea how this series does it, but it does.


Knights of the Zodiac 20

Masami Kurumada – Viz – 2007 – 28 volumes

I always forget how much I love this series after I’ve let it lapse awhile. In my head, I can never figure out why I would want to read something where a bunch of boys fight each other, constantly break the story’s own logic, and are always trumping each other with a way stronger move they’ve somehow failed to mention before all their other strongest moves. Then I read it, and I remember.

I’m having a little trouble with these volumes, since none of the main characters are currently involved in the fight. The main event is being handled by side characters, but unfortunately they are fighting side characters that appeared in the story at the same time but died, so I can never remember who’s fighting for what and who survived the earlier battle, et cetera. But it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the size of your cosmo, of course.

Literally, it doesn’t matter. They are constantly killing each other, coming back to life, then killing each other again. Usually one of them will yell something about Athena, or Hades, and then the sides will be clear, but it doesn’t matter.

What does matter are these… these fights. One of the Hades warriors starts out as a blob of goo, turns into a caterpillar, then a cocoon, then into a man wearing a proper Surplice armor. He is Hades’ Butterfly, the Celestial Faerie Star, and he gives Mu a run for his money even in his goo phase. Rhadamanthys, the leader of the Hades army, tells us that only Butterfly will be needed to wipe out every single one of the Knights of Athena. This fight is great because Mu constantly acts beaten, and may die twice, then somehow pulls off two of the ultimate moves that kill Butterfly twice. Mu seems like the underdog the whole time, what with the Faerie Throng attack that transports you, body and soul, to the underworld via a cloud of relentless butterflies. And they have psychic battles. With their mind. They’re both pretty strong when it comes to this. But ultimately, I guess Mu’s cosmo is just a little bigger. Unless Butterfly isn’t really dead. But for someone strong enough to wipe out all the Knights of Athena, I’m sure there’ll be about a dozen people who are ten times stronger than him in the pipeline.

I know my description sounds sarcastic, and it is, a little. But that’s because there’s not a good way of putting into words what makes this series so fun to read. It’s exactly because it makes so little sense, and makes things up as it goes along, and is somehow really awesome at doing so. I know there will be a hundred battles in the coming volumes that will be way better than this one with the Celestial Faerie Star, and right now I can’t even begin to comprehend how that’s possible. But I trust Saint Seiya to pull that off, because it is forever hardcore.

I mean, reading this, it makes you wonder how anybody could ever write a boring shounen fight scene, because this does it extremely well without even trying to make sense.


Saint Seiya 19

Masami Kurumada – Viz – 2007 – 27 volumes
This was released in English as Knights of the Zodiac.

Yes.  YES.  This is what I wanted from Saint Seiya.  Thank you, Hades, for wandering into Sanctuary and raising hell.

Favorite moment: Mu delivers a Kenshiro line when he passes one of the Hades knights and says something to the effect of “Aldeberan struck you with his horns.  There’s no use fighting an opponent who’s already dead.”  To which the knight acts confused, then promptly explodes.  After being alive for the length of time it took to hold a conversation and exchange attacks with Mu.

Also?  Seiya’s dead again.  I’m sure it won’t be for long, but you know.  These things happen.

So yes, so far the Hades saga is great.  They don’t even waste time with a transition or exposition.  I think Princess Sienna is beheaded within the first few pages of this volume, and the fighting only gets better from there.  Lots of people walking around in cloaks to hide their true identity, only to reveal that it’s an underwhelming surprise later.  Then they issue their greatest attacks at one another, only to find that they are ineffective and they need to use their greatest greatest attacks.

I have to admit, though, I do like the focus on Mu rather than the Bronze Knights.  The four main characters do put in appearances, but I suspect it will still be awhile before they enter the story proper.  If the series has one flaw, it’s that it has way too many side characters, but on the other hand, it really makes no difference at all who these characters are.  Canon and Saga?  Meh.  Knights that died several volumes ago at Sanctuary?  Meh.

The open graves are nice.  I know I’m supposed to recognize the names of all those characters, but the fact that we learn of their resurrection by surveying the cemetery is an awesome way to do it.

Also awesome: another glimpse at the Unicorn Knight, possibly one of the wussiest in the series.  Also, Aphrodite, the Pisces Knight makes another appearance with his roses, to reinforce the idea that this is a volume of weaklings kicking each other’s asses, so the best is yet to come.


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