Why Saint Seiya never became as big as DBZ

Saint Seiya, a beloved anime series cherished by fans across the globe, presents an intriguing paradox: while it has achieved significant popularity in many countries, it has struggled to gain a foothold in the United States.

In dissecting the factors that contributed to Saint Seiya’s limited popularity in the USA compared to the massive success of Dragon Ball Z, we unearth a complex interplay of timing, cultural disparities, animation evolution, competition, and dominance of a cultural phenomenon.

This article delves into the reasons behind this divergence, shedding light on the factors that prevented Saint Seiya from attaining the same level of success as its counterpart, Dragon Ball Z, in the American anime market.

P.S.: if you own the image in this article, contact me so I can provide credit.

1. Late Arrival to the USA

One of the pivotal factors contributing to Saint Seiya’s limited popularity in the USA is the timing of its introduction to the American audience.

Managed by DIC Entertainment, the English dubbed version of the series made its debut on American shores during the early 2000s. Unfortunately, this arrival placed Saint Seiya at a distinct disadvantage.

The anime landscape in the United States was already populated with a myriad of well-established and highly acclaimed animated series.

By the time Saint Seiya’s English version reached American audiences, viewers had already formed deep connections with existing shows.

The delay in Saint Seiya’s entry into the American market meant it had to navigate the formidable challenge of standing out amidst a sea of animated competitors.

This timing issue, while not the sole reason, played a significant role in limiting the series’ initial traction in the American anime scene.

The handling of the English dubbing and adaptation by DIC Entertainment could also have influenced Saint Seiya’s limited success.

Factors such as dubbing quality, accurate translation, and voice acting can significantly impact how a foreign show is received by a new audience.

It’s worth noting that Saint Seiya found tremendous success in Latin American countries, highlighting the complex interplay between cultural factors, timing, and localization.

2. Mismatched Animation Styles

For Saint Seiya, the challenge extended beyond timing and competition; it also encompassed animation style and aesthetic preferences.

The initial story arcs of Saint Seiya were created in a different era, and as animation techniques advanced, the series’ early visuals faced a discrepancy in comparison to the standards set by anime released in the early 2000s.

During that period, animation had undergone a significant transformation, with more intricate and refined art styles that showcased fluid motion and meticulous attention to detail.

The American audience, accustomed to contemporary animation styles that were characterized by their sophistication, may have found Saint Seiya’s animation less engaging due to its divergence from these emerging norms.

By the time Saint Seiya made its debut in the American market, it carried a certain nostalgic quality. While nostalgia can certainly be a powerful tool, it also posed a challenge.

Saint Seiya’s animation, while undoubtedly captivating in its own right, could have faced difficulty competing against the novelty factor that accompanied newer, more visually refined shows.

The American audience, driven by a fascination with the new and the extraordinary, may not have readily embraced an anime that, although beloved in other regions, did not offer the same level of visual sophistication that contemporary viewers had become accustomed to.

In contrast, the show found significant fame in Europe, where cultural sensitivities and tastes potentially aligned more seamlessly with the art style and storytelling approach.

3. Dragon Ball Z’s Dominance

In the landscape of American anime during the time of Saint Seiya’s arrival, one name stood tall – Dragon Ball Z.

The widespread and enduring popularity of Dragon Ball Z had not only captivated the minds of American anime enthusiasts but also set a formidable benchmark for other series to attain.

Dragon Ball Z had etched its place in the hearts of viewers with its compelling storylines, iconic characters, and intense battles.

This phenomenon, often referred to as the “Dragon Ball Z fever,” had a profound impact on the anime scene of the era.

For Saint Seiya, this prevailing dominance posed a significant challenge. Breaking through the stronghold that Dragon Ball Z had on the minds of anime fans was no small feat.

The fervor surrounding Dragon Ball Z not only consumed the attention of many viewers but also set a high bar for other series aspiring to gain recognition.

The impact of Dragon Ball Z’s dominance extended beyond its narrative; it had created a cultural touchstone, a shared experience that united fans across the nation.

Saint Seiya’s attempts to carve out a niche for itself were intricately interwoven with the challenge of overcoming Dragon Ball Z’s towering presence. However, many countries still love the show.

4. Intense Competition

Saint Seiya’s journey in the American anime landscape was not a solitary one. It navigated a highly competitive terrain where numerous anime shows were vying for attention, each offering its own distinct narrative and allure.

The challenge for Saint Seiya was not only to stand out but also to create a deep and lasting connection with its audience.

Imagine a vast buffet of anime offerings, each presenting a unique dish with its own flavor. Saint Seiya was among these diverse options, aiming to capture the hearts of American anime fans.

However, in this sea of choices, the series faced the daunting task of becoming a standout favorite.

Much like trying different dishes at a buffet, viewers were sampling various anime series to find the one that resonated with them on a profound level.

Saint Seiya’s ambition extended beyond being a mere show to watch; it sought to be an experience that left an indelible mark on its audience. It aimed to create the kind of connection that prompts discussions, sharing with friends, and cherished memories.

In this fierce competition, Saint Seiya was not just competing for viewership numbers; it was striving to occupy a special place in the hearts and minds of American anime enthusiasts. And it was very famous in regions like Brazil.

5. Cultural Differences

A key aspect contributing to Saint Seiya’s limited popularity within the United States is the challenge posed by cultural differences.

The series’ narrative, themes, and cultural nuances were deeply intertwined with Japanese traditions, myths, and societal norms, creating a potential barrier for seamless understanding and resonance among American audiences.

Concepts such as constellations being linked to powerful warriors, the incorporation of Eastern spiritual elements, and the emphasis on honor, loyalty, and destiny were all reflective of Japanese heritage and philosophy.

However, these cultural elements might not have seamlessly translated to the cultural sensibilities of American viewers. While they held immense significance within the context of Japanese society, they might not have held the same resonance for American audiences.

For instance, the reverence for zodiac signs and mythological figures, so prevalent in Japan, may not have elicited the same familiarity or emotional response in American viewers.

In contrast, Saint Seiya found substantial recognition in regions with cultural similarities, such as China and Hong Kong too. The shared cultural threads helped bridge the gap and create a connection that resonated more effectively.


In conclusion, Saint Seiya’s journey in the American anime market illustrates the intricate interplay of factors that determine the reception of foreign media.

  • The timing of Saint Seiya’s introduction to the American market placed it against established animated series, making it challenging for the series to find a solid foothold in the minds of viewers already engrossed in other narratives.
  • The mismatch in animation styles, though a reflection of its era, may have hindered its reception among viewers accustomed to more contemporary aesthetics.
  • The formidable dominance of Dragon Ball Z not only set high standards but also overshadowed Saint Seiya, limiting its potential to emerge as a prominent player in the American anime scene.
  • The intense competition within the anime landscape further compounded the challenges Saint Seiya faced, as it worked to stand out and forge deep connections with its audience amid a plethora of choices.
  • Cultural differences, while integral to the charm of Saint Seiya, created a barrier for full resonance among American audiences, contrasting with its success in regions with cultural similarities.

It serves as a testament to the delicate balance required between timing, cultural adaptation, visual appeal, competition, and cultural alignment for an anime series to attain widespread recognition and resonance in a diverse and dynamic landscape.

Vítor Costa

Brazilian otaku addicted to classic anime. PhD in Polymer Science and Technology.

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