When I was ten, I spent a lot of time out of class watching animes. I was an only child with two working parents. They had nothing against TV. My father said if I had freedom to choose what I watched, I would learn to make better decisions. My mother believed in giving me free rein as long as I did well in school.
At the time – it was the late 80s – Japanese animes, dubbed in French, were playing back to back. I watched across genres: sports and friendship, school adventures, magic and pop stars, robots and aliens. Looking back, there was a clear favourite: Saint Seiya, which I knew then as ‘Knights of the Zodiac’. I avidly collected figurines, recorded episodes on the family VCR, and impersonated the fights of Pegasus and Phoenix with my school friends at lunchtime.
Today, I decided to watch the first episode of the series again. I wanted to look back on what I learnt as a child – role-models, attitudes, values.
In the first ten minutes of the series, young Japanese Seiya fights a Greek giant among broken columns. The stake is the sacred armour of Pegasus. Against all expectations, Seiya triumphs. A flashback sequence explains how he developed his power. His mentor, a red-haired woman with a silver-mask, tells him of the relationship between the cosmos and his body. “To break a stone with your bare hand,” she says, “you must feel its atoms. Concentrate on the point of weakness, concentrate on your hand, then hit.”
Raw strength is not enough in Seiya’s world. Armors are only metal, they need human will and intelligence. True power comes from understanding the structure of things, through concentrated efforts of perception. Victory comes to those who can pause, watch and understand. This wisdom, I still apply today, and might have learnt from anime.