WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac Season 1, streaming now on Netflix.
Netflix's Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac adapts Masami Kurumada's famous Saint Seiya manga from the '80s into a CG reboot series, updating the franchise for modern anime lovers.
Like the source material, it focuses on the journey on young Seiya as he seeks to find his sister and become a Knight of Athena, all to protect the world from vengeful gods and lethal armies.
Along the way, however, the first six episodes comprising Season 1 takes a lot of liberation, making quite a few changes from the source material. With that in mind, let's look at some of the major deviations.
THE FATHER OF THEM ALL
In this reboot, Alman Kido kidnaps Seiya after the latter manifests his powers six years after his sister, Elizabeth, got kidnapped. Alman's granddaughter, Sienna, is actually the reincarnation of Athena, and he's been working to protect the girl, using information from a fallen Gold Knight, Aiolos, to discover more about the Knights from Sanctuary. To him, Seiya's the key to uniting Sanctuary and humanity.
In the manga, Alman's character is actually the sinister Mitsumasa, the father of all these Knights. There, he ran an orphanage that collected all 100 kids of his, where they'd be sent for training.
While Seiya, Magnus, Shirya and Shun all met each other coincidentally in the show, in the books they were all friends who grew up alongside each other before being rostered for training.
Vander Guraad (the villain in this reboot) also wasn't a foil in the manga, with Mitsumasa being the shadowy overlord trying to groom his own legion.
THE SISTER COMPLEX
In the series, after Vander Guraad attacks Alman's base, Seiya escapes and ends up on an island where he's trained by Marin, a masked warrior, to become the Pegasus Knight. While she looks like Elizabeth, it's never confirmed as she turns out to be a traitor in the finale, looking to kill off Seiya's friends for some mysterious mission from the gods.
The manga took a different route as it revealed she was actually Elizabeth, but before that, when Seiya left Marin's training camp after he won the Pegasus armor, he asked to see her face.
She showed him, although he didn't recognize her as Elizabeth. Seiya doesn't ask this in the anime and there's not much connective tissue linking them as siblings as Marin is way older than him here.
Also, rather than the young girl being a Gold Knight kidnapped in the show, in the manga, Seiya's sister is actually sent off to train by Mitsumasa, only to become a lost warrior.
THE GALAXIAN WARS
This tournament in the series is a quiet battle of gladiators that pits Seiya and Co. against each other to see who'd become Athena's Gold Knight. There are no crowds, though, because the Knights can't fight for personal gain.
The manga did it differently with 10 saints fighting for the Gold Armor in front of thousands in what was a sanctioned competition. This was Saori and Mitsumasa's plan to see which warrior could earn the Gold Cloth the Kido family held for decades when the Gold Knight fell to Earth and told Mitsumasa of the destiny of Athena's battalion.
THE BLACK SAINTS
The series has Vander Guraad deploying Black Knights under Phoenix Nero's (Shun's brother) watch to try to steal the Gold Armor from the Galaxian Wars.
They're warriors who lost in various training camps and couldn't become Knights, only for Vander Guraad to use his tech and knowledge gained by partnering with Alman in the past to power them up. However, Seiya and Co. easily dispatch them as they're mere thugs.
In the manga, they're way more powerful as they're led by Phoenix Ikki (aka Nero). They were groomed on Death Queen Island with him, and once he killed their mentor in battle, he took over the Black Saints (who were actually evil versions of Seiya and his Knights).
Ikki's role was to use them to kill all Knights, as he hated finding out Mitsumasa was their father. He wanted every remnant of the man dead, including his own sibling, Shun. They'd also steal the Gold Armor and split it into pieces in the manga, which doesn't happen on the show.
In the series, Cygnus Magnus (who can harness the power of ice) arrives at the Galaxian Wars not to compete, but because Sanctuary (the governing body for Knights) wants him to kill Sienna for having a personal tournament. His role is simply steeped in duty and there's no emotion or anything hinting he's more than a frigid human.
The manga painted a different story because Cygnus lost his mother while crossing the Siberian Sea to meet his dad. There, her body was preserved and he constantly visited her a la Sleeping Beauty.
This helped Cygnus become the most elite of the ice warriors, with his role as Sanctuary's enforcer not really being a major point. He also endured a brutal battle, nearly dying against the Phoenix, while taking some serious bruises from the warrior known as Hydra, two key events in his life which didn't make it into the show.
THE PHOENIX AND THE DRAGON
Shiryu is very powerful in the series, using his impenetrable armor to help Seiya fend off Nero and the Black Knights when the finale rolls around.
In the manga, his mentor, Mu, played a bigger role in helping him and Seiya during this time, repairing their armors in a ritual that involved Shiryu making a blood sacrifice. None of this happens in the anime, which also leaves out Shunrei, his sibling, as Shiryu's turned into more of a support character to Seiya.
As for Phoenix Nero, he had mental powers in the manga, creating illusions we never see in the show. He also had a brutal rivalry with Shiryu, almost killing the Dragon warrior, which is also heavily reduced for the anime in order to give Shun (who's changed from a boy to a girl for the show) a more prominent role.
Shun acts as a love interest for Seiya as well, altering the dynamic of Nero drastically from the lore as he's reshaped into Vander Guraad's main general to find the Gold Cloth rather than a vengeful and spurned son.
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