VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDER
Voltron is a name the likes of which I doubt that most have not at least heard of in passing. He is one of the forerunners of the mecha-genre of animation and all but pioneered the concept of multiple robots combining together to form a greater, far more powerful one. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance of watching the original series in recent years. I had seen the reruns once when I was younger but what few memories I have of them are buried beneath the more… abhorrent… attempts at restarting the series.
To be fair, the first attempt, that being Voltron: The Third Dimension was entirely computer animated and while such shows like Beast Wars and Reboot really rolled with it, this one… didn’t. There was far too much silliness and needless exposition on the part of the characters, especially during the fights to be a good show. As for the second attempt, Voltron Force, it, like its predecessor, was an attempt at continuing the original series but whereas Third Dimension suffered from bad animation quality and silly writing… Was three times worse and was cancelled before with a massive cliffhanger of an ending.
So you can imagine then my trepidation when I heard that another attempt at Voltron was underway with DreamWorks Animation Television spearheading the attempt. Because DreamWorks, at least to me, seems to consistently be a hit or a miss with both their feature films and their cartoons spin-offs. Save for How To Train Your Dragon, which seems to be scoring nothing but homeruns lately.
However, there were three names that appeared that turned my opinion around. Joaquim Dos Santos, Lauren Montgomery, and the animation company Studio Mir, who were all behind Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two of the greatest cartoon series to ever be put to television. Yet, even this did not wash away all of my worry. The chief problem with any series, be it a reboot or a continuation, is that any attempt to try and bring back that same spark often fail in spectacular fashions.
I am pleased to say that Voltron: Legendary Defender has not in any way, shape, or form. At least to one who has not had the chance to watch the original series and thus make a truly fair comparison of the two.
Regardless, I can say that this series blew each and every expectation I had straight out of the water. The animation quality is unbelievably top notch, both with the traditional animation of the characters themselves and the CGI utilized for Voltron and his various adversaries be they ships or other “robo-beasts” as they’re so aptly named.
Speaking on the animation side, there’s one aspect in particular that I really liked and it is something that I’m sure may confuse a lot of you. The five Lions of Voltron, both separate and combined, have minor damage to their paintjobs.
Not anything that could be noticed unless one was looking really closely at the edges but it’s there regardless and I like it. Though a small detail it still shows that the Lions, and Voltron himself, are still susceptible to time and so show signs of their extreme age, which is somewhere of upwards of ten-thousand years at minimum.
Like most action-orientated series, this one does not have a theme song with actual lyrics, which is a huge plus considering the sheer atrocity of music that was the intro for Voltron Force, but regardless, the opening is one that is short enough to not be a bore to sit through but long enough showcase each individual character, both heroes and villains.
As to the actual show itself, where do I begin? I suppose with what was really the most surprising aspect of the series thus far is the degree of effort put into the overall story. Contrary to most cartoon series where one can enter into the fray without need of watching previous episodes, for the most part, Voltron: Legendary Defender is explicitly not one of them.
In point of fact, I’d dare say that it is the only cartoon, not anime as that’s an entirely different genre altogether, where one cannot miss a single episode as everything, from grandiose to the tiniest of details, always comes back into play.
Following the same vein of most other notable cartoon series, such as Disney’s Gargoyles, the first episode of Voltron: Legendary Defender is not a singular episode but three combined into one but contrary to most other opening multi-part episodes, it is impossible to find the “seam,” the division where the credits maybe inserted for when the episode is split into its typical half hour runtime.
As to the episode “The Rise of Voltron” is quite easily the best of the series though not strictly my favorite overall. We are introduced to everyone of importance without any of the usual standoffish introductions that often accompany cartoons wherein characters’ names are blatantly stated outright or are otherwise said with extreme emphasis in some manner. More to the point though, this episode, and this episode alone mind you, is one that could easily be described as a film.
It has a clear beginning that shows us the who’s and what’s, the climatic middle where we see not only more depth to the characters but truly see just what’s on the line should they fail, and an ending that, while satisfying, leaves us all hungry for more. All of this and some hilariously funny moments sprinkled in too like this scene below.
Yet, my favorite episode overall is the following episode, “Some Assembly Required” wherein the Paladins of Voltron, as the team is so named by Princess Allura, are training to try and form Voltron on their own as their first instance of doing so was chalked up as being most fueled by the heat of battle and survival instincts.
It is here where we see the differing personalities of the Paladins and how distinct they are from each other, but more importantly, we see what kind of person Princess Allura is, which I’ll save for next time dear readers as she, thus far, is my favorite character in the show. Though, if at least one example is needed…
In the episode, as a means of trying to kill two birds with one stone, Allura helps to motivate the Paladins into forming Voltron by way of testing out the Castle of Lions’ defense system on them. As Keith, Paladin of the Red Lion, demands to know just what the heck she thinks she’s doing, and she responds, “Running a diagnostic test on the Castle’s defenses and inspiring you! I believe in you, Paladins! Let fear be your guide! Form Voltron!”
That she says all this with the kind of smile one would expect on Christmas morning, says quite a lot, don’t you think?
Overall, though the series is but a few weeks old at best and will, hopefully, be continued for many more seasons to come, I can say that if Voltron: Legendary Defender continues on this same path than it more than deserves a solid five out of five stars. The animation quality is amazing and the story is both epic and light-hearted. It may not be the original series remade in the modern era, but it certainly has the heart and soul beating strong.