Netflix’s CG remake of the classic anime Saint Seiya will include a major change from the original series — the gender of one of the principal characters

If you were a kid growing up in Japan in the ’80s, you’re almost sure to have at least a passing knowledge of the Saint Seiya anime/manga franchise created by manga artist Masami Kurumada. You may even be able to sing a few phrases (or more) of Pegasus Fantasy, the iconic opening theme of the TV anime series (an awesome song, by the way, which was a perfect fit with the feel of the anime and the times).

So, naturally, it attracted the attention of many fans when the announcement was made last year that a CG animated remake of Saint Seiya was going to be released as a Netflix Original Series titled Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya.

▼ The initial poster looked promising:

Although it’s been thirty years, Toei’s original anime series that aired in Japan from October of 1986 to April of 1989 was a particularly huge hit with anime fans, and to this day, Saint Seiya has a significant following both in Japan and internationally.

Like the original manga, the Netflix series will feature the adventures and battles of Seiya and his fellow “saints”, who have developed extraordinary fighting skills to protect the goddess Athena, and according to the released information, the show’s first season will cover the “Galaxian Wars” and “Silver Saint” story arcs.

There was quite a stir among fans, however, when the first trailer for the Netflix series was released recently and it was revealed that one of the principal characters, Andromeda Shun, would be portrayed as a girl, and not a boy as in the original story.

▼ Here’s the trailer that has fans shocked:

Looking through the trailer, it does indeed look like Andromeda is a girl. Just to be sure, we contacted someone at a company involved with the new series and sure enough, we were told, “Yes, Andromeda is a girl. They’ve apparently received permission from Masami Kurumada, but we don’t know the full details, as the series is being produced overseas.”

Okay, so Andromeda’s character is definitely a girl. Hmm… but for fans of Saint Seiya, a big part of Andromeda Shun’s allure is that he is an incredibly beautiful boy — one of the earliest “androgynously beautiful boy characters” to feature prominently in modern manga and anime, in fact. Do we really want to take that away from the series?

▼ Andromeda as seen in the Netflix trailer:

▼ She still fights with Andromeda’s trademark chain.

So why the gender swap? Eugene Son, producer of the new Netflix show, explained the reason on Twitter. While taking full responsibility for the change and admitting that “When we started developing this new updated series, we wanted to change very little. The core concepts of Saint Seiya that make it beloved are so strong,” he went on to tweet, “The only thing that concerned me: the Bronze Knights with Pegasus Seiya are all dudes.”

He explained that “thirty years ago, a group of guys battling to save the world with no girls around was no big deal. That was the default then.” He further tweeted that “Today the world has changed. Guys and girls working side-by-side is the default. We’re USED to seeing it. Right or wrong, the audience could interpret an all-male team as us trying to make a STATEMENT about something.”

So that’s the reason Son gives for changing Andromeda Shun into a girl. To his credit, Son does mention in his tweets that they also thought about creating a new female character but that they didn’t want to add someone who “was not created naturally and has no character/personality except ‘to be the girl.’ ” But judging from the reaction on the Internet, fans don’t seem to think this is a good enough explanation.

▼ Shun, as he appears in the original Toei anime series:

In fact, the consensus among both Japanese and international fans seems to be that Shun was the one character they shouldn’t have gender swapped.

Shocked and outraged fans all over the world are voicing their opinion that Shun is the character who was already breaking stereotypes and embodying inclusivity by being the somewhat effeminate and kind-hearted yet fiercely powerful warrior, and that changing him into a girl negates that concept. We feel there’s considerable truth to that argument, since Shun’s struggle with his compassionate, non-violent side, which he sometimes perceives as a weakness, is a big part of his character development. In short, Shun is meant to represent a different kind of strength that men can have that doesn’t necessarily involve physical aggressiveness, and that message is lost if the character is turned into a girl.

Further, fans are afraid that the gender swap is bound to change the dynamics of Shun’s relationship with his older brother Ikki, and we have to say this also sounds like a valid point, because making them a brother and sister pair will certainly complicate some very important parts of the story.

▼ Plus, one of the reasons that Saint Seiya is popular not just with men but women as well, is that there are five gorgeous boys in flashing armor fighting together.


It’s interesting to note that Eugene Son’s Twitter account, in which he made the statements introduced above, has since been deleted. Could it be that the backlash from fans in response to the gender swap was harsher than expected? We guess we’ll have to wait and see if he has anything more to say.

The Netflix Original Series Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya is slated for release in the summer of 2019. Would you watch it with a female Andromeda?

Reference: Toei Animation press release, YouTube/@Netflix
Top image: YouTube/@Netflix
Insert images: Toei Animation press release, YouTube/@Netflix, Amazon Japan (1), Amazon Japan (2)
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