When Chimaki Kuori (A Mangaka more known for her Gundam Wing and Seed Manga spinoffs) was asked to make the new Saint Seiya Spinoff, she sought herself in front of two crossed paths. One would be to make this manga based on a property that, according to her, she loves, and the other to use the ideas she has in her head and do an original… In the end she chooses to make the Spinoff called: Saint Seiya- Saintia Sho. The history of the women who fought against the forces that tries to destroy Athena!
Kurumada revealed when the manga was announced (words more /words less) that it was always his intention to have a some form of female guard protecting Athena, that a lady should be surrounded by other ladies who can help her, since while the Saints (ergo the Men) can protect her and even give their life for her… They in truth wouldn´t understand the thoughts of Athena and wouldn´t be able to cover the other side of her spectrum…Also since Athena is a Woman, then she would need help regarding certain things that a man couldn´t do.
Now having all that into account let us check it out this manga in a little more close way.
What is a Saintia?
Saint Seiya since the beginning has had Female warriors, talking about the Female Saints, who were Women who in order to become Saints they had to leave their feminity behind and occult themselves behind a mask. If a man watched her face she had 2 options: Kill him or love him.
Having that into account and given the fact that the Female Saints exist... Then what is a Saintia?
A Saintia is a woman who can use the Cosmo as the other Saints, although her difference is that they are the women in charge of the personal care of Athena and/or the Sanctuary. They can fight and protect Athena if the situation demands it, so they have their own armors. Since they are openly affirming they are women, they can be feminine and don´t use mask, contrary to the Female Saints already mentioned.
This is also a somewhat of a story arc in itself that plays on the background, since from the beginning Shoko and the other Saintias are seen by the majority of the Saints and Female Saints as mere Maids who should be cleaning and attending the Sanctuary rather than protecting Athena. So time and time again, these women have to demonstrate to everyone on the Sanctuary, their enemies and even themselves that they are not merely symbols to look good and clean the place; but also someone who can fight and protect what it´s worth protecting.
A Tale of separated Sisters
One of the central points in Saintia Sho is the story regarding two Sisters, who besides sharing the same blood; they shared the same guardian Constellation…The Equuleus (Minor horse) one and an evil star.
I am talking about Shoko and Kyoko.
Shoko, the younger sister and the Protagonist of this Manga, she is an expert in martial arts whose elder Sister was taken by the Graad/Kido foundation to study abroad.
She came in contact with Saori Kido (Athena´s Reincarnation) when she had to go to the same school for a few days in order to present certain exams to fulfill her studies.
What Shoko didn´t know is that before she was born she was destined to become the Vessel/ Resurrection of the Goddess of Strife, Eris.
Kyoko, the elder sister, she was chosen by the Graad/Kido foundation to study in another place, so she leaved her home long time ago. While she was getting her studies, she was also being trained as a Saintia, and was chosen as the Equuleus one. When the destiny of Shoko came to her, she chooses to replace her and become the new Eris Reincarnation.
To protect the loved ones, to defy your destiny and even try to save someone dear to you are some central points of the story of Saintia Sho, where Shoko, even without training, her love and desire to save her Sister made her a suitable user for the Equuleus Armor.
On Kyoko side, we see how at first she was fighting Eris even possessed by her, although later she is entirely consumed by her and became one with the Deity, which makes a clash of desires and intentions on both Sisters, since their enemy and their most loved one clash into one figure in both cases, giving us all the makings of an interesting storyline.
We go to see the growth of Shoko and how she can learns , in a very express Training, how to awake her Cosmo, use her techniques and everything that a Saintia must know.
Place in the Timeline and throwbacks
Unlike the other Spinoffs like The Lost Canvas, Episode G or Omega; which either acts as prequel or sequel to the main Story. Saintia Sho occurs little before the Manga and goes alongside it hand by hand regarding the progress of the original work. Ergo…It starts some days before the beginning of the Galaxian Wars Tournament and the fights between the Bronze Saints for the Gold Armor.
While the story centers on the fights against the Dryads, Eris forces; a lot of important events concerning the original Saint Seiya are seen. From the iconic fight between Seiya and Shiryu, the fights on the 12 Zodiac temples and so forth are mentioned and even give another look at some events regarding the fight against the sanctuary that Athena had to fight with Seiya and his friends.
Conspiracies…Strife and Mistrust
One of the points that I like the most about this manga, are the different conspiracies and alignments every characters have…Especially on the enemies side.
Eris Army is composed by 2 fractions. The Dryads, her loyal warriors and more aligned to the Specters or the Marines, ergo an official army of the Deity.
The second one is the Ghost Saints. Who are warriors who were or trained to be Saints; but for one reason or the other they decided by their own free will to Join Eris.
The most prominent examples are Orion Rigel and Aison, whose constellation is still unknown.
I have some theories regarding Rigel (He loves Kyoko <3) although nothing concrete now.
These 2 groups of warriors have different objectives with Eris and more than one time we will see how there are conflict between them. Especially Athe and Rigel, where the first love Eris a little too much, the other it seems cares more for Kyoko.
Men aren´t left behind either
Saint Seiya is originally a Manga catered to young man, a Shounen, so when Saintia Sho was announced, a product that it is more focused in order to bring more female readers, was announced one of the worries that it came to my mind was that maybe the Male cast would be weak or even reduced to Zero.
Luckily this is not the case on Saintia Sho, where the male cast, while not being the focus, doesn´t gets a thrashed or is seen as weak or unnecessary. They are able to also do the job required. I am talking about Georg, Juan, Rigel and Aison.
Yeah I am not counting the Gold Saints :P
There it is to say too that this even makes it good for the Saintias, since as the men are strong, then when the Saintias does some awesome things, they get the playground leveled on her own way. Ergo the male characters weren´t weak in order to lower the bar for the female ones, rather they are strong and kept it high, so when the female ones reached and even surpass them it is truly an accomplishment rather than a condescending action.
Amazing Character Designs and drawings
I can´t say this enough, Chimaki Kuori´s drawing are beautiful! The most beautiful and amazing that I have seen in the franchise. While Kurumada´s drawing look retro (and one that doesn´t age well), Okada´s art is only enjoyable with Color, and Shiori´s art while good and beautiful in its own way. There is no point in comparison, Chimaki Kuori shows that she can draw Animals, Monsters, Beautiful Girls, handsome boys, strong men and everything in a very good and beautiful way! Either in black and white or in Color, she doesn´t stop to amaze me.
I have to say that, without counting the designs of the classic characters, every design it is amazing. From the Armors of the Saintias to their civil attires, the Dryads and the original Saints of this manga aren´t left behind either. Every character has shown such a good design.
I have to say special mention to Elda, where her design is amazing and in every clothes she has used, it truly shows her personality and traits. A perfect 10 if you ask me!
Rushed and Lack of Development
Saintia Sho is a good and beautiful Manga by itself. It is one that falls on the Rushed note most of the times, like if Kuori tried to cover a lot of things and was unable make it meaningful or developing it in a satisfactory way.
It is not helping the fact that most characters are undeveloped, so while Shoko, Kyoko/Eris and Mii (Counting Saori/Athena if you already have read the original Manga) have some nice development. Most of the other so called “Main Characters” aren´t truly development until a little while ago. I am talking about the other Saintias like Katya, Elda and Xiaoling. Who after their original presentation where forgotten during a lot of time that I even have called them “Pretty but unremarkable” characters.
Luckily on the next point I will say how Kuori is rectifying that.
Good on the Magazine Awesome on the Volumes
Saintia Sho is released on Akita Shoten Champion Red Magazine, a monthly one. And, as I said before, the manga feels very rushed in a lot of areas. Luckily for the fans, the Volumes rectify that in a very successful way.
It is either by adding some pages to a chapter or modifies a drawing, when one reads and compares the Volume version to the Magazine counterpart, the enjoyment of the work increases highly.
The Motivations change from only being mentioned to being knowledgeable; the fights from being quick, predictable and almost a second though to being good unpredictable and exiting; the characters passes to being stale and unidimensional to likeable, relatable and multidimensional and so forth.
I will dare say that if you want to truly enjoy and love this Manga, the best way is with the Volumes.
Too Much Gold
One of the weakest points in Saintia Sho is that, just like in The Lost Canvas, when a Gold Saint appears, they become the focus and steal the show, even though their actions are more of a side story. Being the past Arc (Second war against Eris- Eris Temple fight) a prime example about that. Even though their actions could be told in 2, 3 short paragraphs tops they took lots and lots of space leaving Shoko and the rest of the Saintias looking as a side Story rather than the main one.
Luckily as of right now, the new Arc involves more the Saintias than the Gold Saints.
Saintia Sho is an interesting take on the Saint Seiya universe, where if you are either a fan or a newcomer you might as well enjoy.
Regardless of that, if you read the Magazine version, it´s bar entry or the development aren´t quite well exposed. So I truly recommend reading the Volume version of the chapters, where this manga truly shines with its own light and it shows that it’s an amazing entry of the Saint Seiya franchise.