Recently, I started watching Saint Seiya, an old anime which has enjoyed more popularity overseas than in America, placing it in a similar category to The Rose of Versailles. The nearest series I can compare it to is Yu Yu Hakusho–probably due to the tournament, in which our cocky hero is compelled to compete. At any rate, our heroes, the Saints or Knights of the Zodiac (that’s the title many of you know it by) can draw power from the cosmos and a special power from the constellation to which they are aligned. As you might guess, I could not help but start comparing them to real saints and how different the power they wield is from the power exercised by the saints.
One curious feature of the Knights of the Zodiac is how they are attached to the goddess Athena, who is naturally less than the cosmos and therefore less than the power they call upon. The Japanese concept of a god or kami is rather limited compared to the God we find in Abrahamic traditions. Of course, most of our ancestors, pagans, started out with a similar limited understanding of what a god is, which we can see in Greek, Roman, Norse, Celtic, and Egyptian myths. Yet, a combination of theology and developments in Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy brought us to the inescapable conclusion that the Prime Mover must be greater than the universe itself. If God truly is the Uncaused Cause, then the universe could not have brought Him about, but God must have been the cause of the universe. On the other hand, outside of Japanese monotheists, kami never gained that connotation of Prime Mover, Uncaused Cause, or Infinite/Pure Being, which is why Spice and Wolf‘s Holo could make statements like: “The universe is too big for any god to have created it.”
So, one can’t help but think that Saint Seiya and his companions might possibly be stronger than the goddess they serve. After all, the cosmos is greater than Athena, and the saints wield cosmic power by virtue of their prowess and gift of armor (called a “Cloth”). Could some sort of power exist in Athena higher than cosmic power? Since the cosmos is greater than the gods, no. Divine power would naturally be less in this case, because an effect cannot be greater than its cause.
Conversely, the true God, the Most Holy Trinity, sustains the universe in existence and all power comes from Him. In our religion, saints don’t train hard so that they might obtain God’s power, but so that they may follow the divine will. All acts of power and miracles we see the saints perform derive from their closeness to God’s will and the grace which God has poured into them. Moses parted the Red Sea at God’s command, soldiers fell prostrate before St. Benedict because they tried to deceive one enlightened by the Holy Spirit, St. Simon the Tanner’s faith in the Father’s providence moved a mountain, and St. Padre Pio’s intense union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus converted hundreds of thousands to Christ.
If God’s friends and the Knights of the Zodiac have anything in common, it is their adherence to training. The knights train their bodies and will to overcome their enemies; the saints disciplined their bodies and wills to overcome themselves. It is far easier to overcome an enemy than to overcome oneself, which is why Scripture states that the patient man is greater than he who conquers a city (Proverbs 16:32). In the array of knights, one finds plenty men of courage, but none with the virtue of humility. Yet, all the saints in heaven shine with the virtue of humility: the other virtues are tainted unless planted in the ground of humility. Very few of us can become great martial artists, but, for the sake of our fellow men, let us all strive to become as holy as God called us to be, which we can accomplish through the omnipotence of the Father, the wisdom of the Son, and the love of the Holy Ghost. God’s will be done!
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3 thoughts on “Examining Old School Anime: Cosmic Power of Saints”
I love taking a superficial connection (the use of the qualifier, “Saint), and expanding the conversation into why that superficial connection exists at all. After some digging, in most cases, the superficial leads to the true connection!
Your Spice & Wolf connection is also fascinating! That series is a real guilty pleasure of mine, and despite it being set in a decidedly Western fantasy, its Japanese roots cannot be separated!
As usual, you made me want to watch some more old school anime… which is good because I’ll be starting Legend of the Galactic Heroes in the next few days!
The Japanese have some interesting ideas about what makes one qualified to be called a saint. Miyamoto Musashi is called a “kensei” or sword saint, and if you replace the “ken” kanji for sword with the “ken” kanji for fist, one would get a concept approximating the sort of saint we see in Saint Seiya.
Spice and Wolf is one of my favorite shows and light novels, mostly because of the heroine. (Both Ami Koshimizu in the sub and Brina Palencia in the dub do a great job bringing Holo to life.) I have read seven of the light novels and have the next eight volumes sitting on my shelves. I like how Hasekura sets his story in a fantasy world reminiscent of northern Europe during the latter part of the Teutonic Crusades. He comes at things from an interesting perspective–even if I find myself disagreeing with him much of the time.
I’m glad to hear that you’ll be starting LOGH! That series is truly something unique.
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