Saint Seiya and the Myth of Ganymede: One’s Destiny Can Be a Lonely Road

The myth of Ganymede has been very much on my mind as of late. Most likely because I love astrology and in particular traditional approaches of the craft that go back to the the late Hellenic world. This was a time where the craft became solidified into the usual practice we know today and also this was the twilight of the culture that brought us the familiar mythologies we have some exposure to, including the story of the youth of Ganymede.

Ganymede is often attributed to Aquarius, the fixed air sign ruled by Saturn (not Uranus!), the water bearer, or the cup holder. Aquarius holds a special place for 2020 because of the great conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn happening on the Winter Solstice in the first degree of this sign. My placements of the Sun, Mercury and Mars are in this sign in case any of you are interested; strong Aquarius tendencies. Perhaps you can see why Ganymede’s tale has been of such interest to me, but it also made me consider that his story has much to do with a favorite anime of mine as a couple of the themes cross paths. That anime is no stranger to Greek mythological references, it is Saint Seiya.

Searching online I found a few callouts to Ganymede and Saint Seiya, such as the mythology of the Aquarius cloth, a fanfic of the legend and a host of fan art of Ganymede if he was in the series, but these are not what I am presenting here. Let us first go over the tale of Ganymede. Considered the most fair of all humans, too beautiful to behold, Zeus would set his prize onto the Trojan youth. Yes this sounds like homoerotic attraction, but this is a myth, an image, and to only look at the exoteric without the underlying esoteric is only looking at the bottle, but not the internal contents. Still, Zeus, king of all the gods, bi? I can only imagine the expression on his wife Hera? She was furious by the way, but she put up with it. Transforming into an eagle, Zeus would take Ganymede away from the human world to serve him and the other gods as his cup bearer. Later Ganymede was hoisted to the heavens and christened as Aquarius.

Much like the odd kid at the popular kid’s party, or the tag along amongst celebrities, or the wealthy, Ganymede is an outsider that is beloved as something different. A trophy, or showpiece perhaps? Amongst this crowd one feels that they are special, unique and belong and yet one is still very much the outsider and alone. Even originally when at home in familiar surroundings, perhaps one still has the same odd one out feeling? So true for Aquarius as well. An archetype for the odd one out, a force for change, or even an upholder to rigidity, Aquarius can be friendly, but aloof and sometimes too theoretical, or intellectual for many. I am very guilty of this. Lovers of humanity, but not always the best with individual people who are the status quo. Four paragraphs have been written, so where and when do we get to discussing Saint Seiya?

Primarily I will look to the heroes of Saint Seiya, the Bronze Saints, for this outing. Seiya, Houyga, Shiryu, Shun and Ikki were all orphaned and eventually taken into an orphanage. There was something special about these five in particular that they were sent away to be trained to become Saints, or Knights of the Zodiac. All five are youths, have ties to a constellation in the sky and are in exile from their homes in the service of an aristocrat, Saori Kido, or Athena. Very similar to Ganymede from a certain point of view these five will eventually serve as the guardians of Athena. Outsiders who are now inside, but does anyone know the pain and struggles these boys go through when they fight for the bigger picture instead of just living the mundane life many of us get caught up in. I am not sure if original manga creator Masami Kurumada had Ganymede in mind when creating Saint Seiya? I can only say this is either my own theory, or happy accident of finding a particular Greek myth that can have an affinity with an anime.

Being out of this world can be a very rewarding thing and yet also a very lonely path. As long as you have someone to share the experience with it is then you know you are not alone or completely strange. Those who are the most conformed are perhaps the most out of touch with, or far out from the truth of life. It is when you walk the rocky path, live the alternate lifestyle and feel a little pain is when and where you know you are truly alive. For the Bronze Saints they at least have each other and are like a brotherhood that can’t be replaced. Destiny and life can sometimes be so ironic.

… and for you astronomers out there, guess the name of the planet Jupiter’s largest moon? Ganymede!; how fitting.

#5 : Saint Seiya

SS05Doing a Shonen Jump title finally? Oh yeah. This is Masami Kurumada’s Saint Seiya for crying out loud; my favorite Shonen Jump title period, bar none (well… I love Cobra too). Fist of the North Star laid the ground work, Saint Seiya’s 1986 fellow classmate Dragon Ball went globally huge and beyond and every show in between Rurouni Kenshin to Naruto and beyond owe a debt to this show. Don’t ask me how cool this show is because you can feel it from the opening credits sequence songs, first Pegasus Fantasy and then Soldier Dream. Air guitar time baby.

SS01The draw to this show was a natural given for me. Combining a free interpretation of Greek mythology, with an astrological bend of how a constellation provides power and how unlocking the inner cosmos in you makes you a stronger individual. All all it I love and hold a strong belief in. “As Above, So Below” defines this show. And also, what a heavy use of melodrama, unlike that of Dragon Ball, which of course is a very fun show, but does not hold a candle to the seriousness of Saint Seiya. Interesting as both of these productions came to air in 1986, a year that kind of kicked television mecha to the floor (something that I still need therapy for). In 1985 we had Zeta Gundam, then 1986’s ZZ Gundam. And to be honest as a huge fan of Zeta (intense drama), seeing ZZ (goofy comedy) was a bit of a let down. And Saint Seiya, at least for me, filled that void (not that I saw the show live in ‘86, but you know what I mean).

SS02Like many Shonen Jump styled fighters the basic plot is pretty simple and very formulaic (though that is not a bad thing). You got your heroes defending justice and the goddess incarnate Athena/Saori (the devine feminine for the win), you got your baddies (many end up seeing the light and change sides), they tangle and in the end our heroes triumph, though they get a bit beat up. And in Saint Seiya, they get their asses KICKED (I will never forget episode one with Seiya fighting the giant Cassius as an example). But that’s ok, our bishonen-like quintet wear armor to protect them, although it takes as much of a beating as our heroes. And who are our heroes, the Bronze Saints? We have our main man the headstrong Seiya, rational and momma obsessed Hyoga, Shiryu who ends up fighting bare chested because he is cool like that (or gouges his eyes out! DUDE?), pretty boy and gentile Shun (popular with the ladies) and then Shun’s older brother Ikki who learns to overcome his anger and hatred to become possibly the most powerful of the group (that is when he is around). A good mix of personality for this “sentai” squad, but they are only the just the tip of the iceberg. Add in the minor characters, baddies and the just as awesome Gold Saints and we got ourselves one hell of a ride.

SS04For a long time I thought that Shonen Jump derived shows were too ‘casual’ or not for me (the snobby mecha sci-fi otaku that I am). I tried a few Shonen Jump shows and liked some of them, but none of them really clicked. Then I thought, why not, Saint Seiya is a classic for many around our globe and it has several themes that I love. So I gave it a big chance (114 episodes for this original series is no small feat). The one thing that I could identify is that Saint Seiya reminds me of what I loved about classic sci-fi or mecha anime, many from the same animation studio the powerhouse of Toei, heavy melodrama. Kind of like Japanese styled tragedy with Greek tragedy and it worked oh so well. It goes to show, you never know if you will truly like or not like something until you give it a chance. And I am glad I did, though I now like to call out the signature fight moves all the time like… PEGASUS RYU SEI KEN! or DIAMOND DUST! or NEBULA CHAIN! The joys of being an otaku.