Series was phenomenally popular in Japan and Latin America, but will English-speaking audiences show up?
Over the last few years, there’s been a rush of anime-to-live-action-film adaptations. The most recent, Ghost in the Shell, has received mixed reviews and struggled to gain traction at the box office, but that hasn’t stopped producers from green-lighting another non-Japanese live-action movie based on anime source material, and this time it’s Saint Seiya getting the nod.
In many ways, this is a head-scratcher. Saint Seiya, a story with heavy Greek mythology motifs, tells the story of a team of celestial warriors who fight against evil while wearing brightly shining armor and sporting high-volume hairdos. The original manga ran from 1986 to 1990 and was quickly adapted into an anime TV series, which then grew into a series of sequels and side projects which expanded the animated works to over 250 episodes and six animated theatrical features. Saint Seiya was a huge success in Japan, and while it’s lingering fanbase isn’t as active as the ones for, say, Dragon Ball or Sailor Moon, the franchise still has a strong nostalgic appeal.
▼ Nostalgic enough that you can find a few Saint Seiya stickers around our Tokyo office.
Likewise, Saint Seiya did well in overseas markets where it was quickly released, becoming especially popular in Spanish-speaking territories. However, the English-speaking anime fan community showed remarkably little interest in the franchise. During the U.S. anime boom of the late ‘90s, the series was too old to feel fresh and too new to feel venerable, receiving neither a reworked TV or authentic home video release, and also never made a major impact on the unofficial fansub front. Saint Seiya did finally come to the U.S. in 2003, but failed to light the (English-speaking) world on fire.
So it’s actually quite surprising that producers would want to put the time, effort, and money into making a live-action Hollywood movie out…