icon_uk: (andromeda shun saint Seiya)
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So this week has already seen two rather different incidents in the world of long running manga and anime franchise, Saint Seiya. One good, the other... well, I'll get to that.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a long time Saint Seiya fan, it's one of my favorite anime, had amazing music, and has produced multiple lines of excellent action figures. It's also one of the first anime I read the whole manga for (even if I had to do it in French). It dates back to 1987 and so predates Sailor Moon (one suggestion is that SM was deliberately chosen for promotion as a Saint Seiya, but for girls) and the likes of YoRaiden Samurai Troopers (also known as Ronin Warriors)

It was massive in Japan, much of Europe and South America in the late 80's and into the 90's with various follow ups and re-versions appearing every few years, and a new spin off coming to anime in Japan in December (Saintia Sho, which I really do intend to do a post about sometime.

There was one less than succesful attempt to adapt the anime into English in the late 90's, but it came at the tail end of the anime boom at the time, and the dub was both uninspired, with them giving the emotionally repressed Cygnus Hyoga a surfer dude voice a stand-out. And as for the action figure line which didn't even make use of the core "transforming armou"r gimmick, well...

Still, it's the franchise that just won't quit!

As an example of this, the first news is that the anime of the female-led Saint Seiya spin-off "Saintia Sho" just aired!

The animation style is very close to classic Saint Seiya, which I know disappointed some who were looking forward to them adopting more of tha manga style. (and yes, I will post some of it soon, I promise!). The end theme is illustrated with images from the manga though, so you can see the difference.

The second news is a little more disappointing to me as a fan.

When Netflix announced they were remaking the series for 2019, I was optimistic, that this was a chance to introduce the series to a new US generation, and hopefully update a few of the unfortunate tropes that the series had (Much as the likes of the Voltron and She-Ra reboots have done).

Also, as the icon I used for this point might hint, I'm a huge fan of Shun, the Andromeda Saint, about whom I made a couple of posts about a few years ago, one about his origin, and the other about the range of his powers.

Shun is a male character in a team where the other members are all muscular, athletic young men who enjoy combat, but he stands out because despite his power being basically greater than any of the rest of the Saints, his basic nature is pacifistic, gentle and sensitive with a definitely androgynous appearance and armour which is both patterned after a specficially female constellation, and is bright pink. He will fight, but will make every effort to avoid a fight if he can,

So this is the trailer that's just been released;

So they did what I feared they would, and took the seemingly laziest method of adding some gender diversity to Saint Seiya, by making Andromeda Shun female (Under the new name “Shaun”, which is even more confusing to me, as Shaun is an exclusively male name in my experience).

Now, I was genuinely hoping at least one of the core five Bronze Saints would be genderflipped, because love the show though I do, it could do with some better female representation in the core cast. By the same token, I was also hoping that Shun would be left male if any of them were, precisely because the core character traits he displays (gentleness, pacifism, a sensitive nature, and open-ness with his emotions) are NOT ones associated with males in such series’ but are, alas, almost exclusively given to female characters, he was a mould breaker character and those aren't easy to find.

Give me a female Phoenix Ikki, with all their anger and rage making them dangerous as hell, or a female Shiryu, with all their dedication and focus on their skills to the exclusion of almost all else in their life, but a female Andromeda Shun seems like such a wasted opportunity.

Eugene Son, the new show's producer comments on Twitter haven’t really helped my mood here (which is "disappointed" rather than angry, because I don't want to be that sort of a fan, EVER), but you can read that for yourself.

I will also say from the outset that he has also been extremely professional and courteous towards those he knows will be upset/annoyed/angered by the change to a particularly beloved character, (which he acknowledges was contentious even at Toei) and might well be put off having anything to do with the new series, and I do respect his approach there.. even if I find his given reasons for the change to be debatable at best. (Not wanting to create a new female character to add to the cast, but then doing more or less exactly that by changing Shun that much? Not seemingly considering changing the gender of anyone else?)

Now, my Pollyana-ish streak is saying to give the new show a chance, maybe I will be blown away Shaun's character and development and whatever other changes they might make... but still, this just doesn’t feel like progress for 2019, this actually feels like reinforcing the most blatant gender stereotypes of old (Boys are all ardent warriors, girls are a gentle and pacifist). That's almost an achievement, in it’s own weird, disappointing way. (And if they're changing Shaun to remove the pacifist part, what on earth is the point of the character)

On the other hand, I do wonder if, by reacting like this, I'm falling down the same hole as fans of Doctor Who who believe (and some who clearly still believe) the Doctor shouldn't be female? Why shouldn't Shun be female after all?

I don't think I am, since the reasons that Shun was important as a male character were pretty much unique to his place in the Bronze Saints team, but it's something I might have to watch myself with, as I watch the show, which I will, because it's Saint Seiya and I'm weak.
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