Why didn’t Saint Seiya break into the US market?
While Saint Seiya has a huge fanbase worldwide, it never went mainstream in the US. The series premiered on January, 1986 in Japan, and went on to become a huge success, airing for three years until 1989. It won Animage’s Anime Grand Prix in 1987, voted by the magazine’s readers, and was runner-up in 1988 to My Neighbor Totoro. Also in 1988, it made its debut overseas, in France, where it became successful under the name “Les Chevaliers du Zodiaque”, or “Knights of the Zodiac”.
It went on to become a massive success in Europe, Latin America and Asia in the late 80s-mid 90s, and achieved great commercial success with its tons of merchandise: from games, the manga series, albums and action figures. At that time, the anime that had broken into the American market was Dragon Ball Z, in 1996, which aired for 2 years with lots of cuts on the dubbing.
The main reason why Saint Seiya never made it into US is because of the cultural difference. The classic series has a very Japanese feel to it and a wonderfully scored soundtrack by Seiji Yokoyama. It was very different from what the American audience related to. It had blood, characters that slit wrists, violence, nudity and androgynous characters that were considered too risqué for the audience.
It was only in 2003, after the series had gained cult status worldwide that it finally aired on Cartoon Network in America. This dub was heavily edited; the edits included cutting overly violent scenes, adding in previously non-existent digital transitions, coloring all instances of blood blue and renaming it “mystical energies,” re-writing the scripts, and replacing the opening theme, ending theme, and background music. It was basically a mess.
The anime ended up being cancelled by Cartoon Network after only 32 episodes. The manga, however, had all volumes released. According to Wikipedia, to this day the US never saw a proper release of the series, uncut or not. However, you can find the dubbed version of Knights of the Zodiac in YouTube up to episode 60. The OVAs were released in an uncut version with original audio in Japanese.
A complete DVD box of the original series is set to be released on December 2013 and Namco Bandai confirmed the new PS3 game “Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers" will be released on the States via digital download to gauge the fanbase of the series in the country.
(images via google)