My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a beautiful volume of manga this is! This is what I love about the Saint Seiya world--it can make you cry and smile at the same time at the beauty and tragedy of life. <3 And this particular story and its lead character are especially moving--the beautiful, solitary Pisces Albafica utterly won my heart with his heroic last stand in volume 3 of the original "Lost Canvas" manga, so I was THRILLED when I saw him featured on the first volume of the Gaiden series! This story does everything you hope it will--tells you much more about Albafica, his past/how he came to be the Pisces Saint, what his day-to-day life was like, how he feels about his destiny as the solitary Pisces Saint whose tainted blood doesn't allow him to live amongst people, etc. Ahh, and there's even two brief but wonderful scenes of interaction with Aries Shion--thank you so much for that, Teshirogi-sensei!!
As for the story itself, it recounts a certain mission Albafica was once sent on by the Pope of Sanctuary--to go to a nearby island where there lived a famed healer, said to be able to heal any illness in the world. However, an unholy star of Hades had appeared above the island of late, and the Pope sends Albafica to investigate.
Earlier that day, Albafica had saved a very raggedy, little farm boy named Pefko on the outskirts of Sanctuary, when he was being attacked by some Specter skeletons. The boy took an immediate shine to Albafica, but as usual, Albafica quickly distanced himself. Despite his coldly beautiful looks, he actually has a very kind heart and feels bad when he sees the child looking hurt at his curtness, but it's just easier for Albafica to make people think he's cold and superior, so that they won't feel sorry for his cruel lot in life and try to befriend him (and eventually die from exposure to his poisonous body).
Naturally, the "guide" the Pope sends Albafica off with (to the island) is little Pefko. The boy had made his way to Sanctuary specifically to ask for help after he'd noticed some ominous things happening on his island home. He turns out to be the apprentice of the famed healer, Luko, whom Albafica is shocked to see bears a striking resemblance to his own late master, the previous Pisces Saint Rugonis. He recalls the final days he spent with his master, allowing us to see the tragic fate of the Pisces Saints--how, as with the Sith in Star Wars, there can only ever be one master and apprentice, and how the completion of an apprentice's training ends with his master's death. It's a cruel fate, especially as Albafica chose to accept the poisoned blood of Pisces specifically to be with his master, who (like Albafica now) lived a horribly lonely, solitary life. Doomed to live the rest of his days alone at such a young age, it is little wonder Albafica's personality has become what it has.
But in any case, without spoiling the rest of this beautiful story, Albafica discovers Luko was Rugonis's younger brother, and that he became a healer specifically to heal his brother of his poisoned blood. He claims he has finally found the antidote and offers it to Albafica. Will Albafica choose to forsake the path of the Pisces Saint and return to human warmth and love? And what of the unholy star of Hades, and the mystery of the sudden influx of Specters in the area? You've got to read the volume to find out. ;-)
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