I was the perfect age for Voltron when it first debuted in the mid 80s. I was around 7 or 8 and I loved robots and monsters and space... All of which prominently made up the basic story of Voltron (the Defender of the Universe). Though, even back then I realized that the show had really shitty production values and terrible voice acting. But watching Keith, Lance, Hunk, Sven, Pidge, and the Princess battle Emperor Zarkon's war machine (and most importantly, his unending supply of giant robeasts) more than made up for all its shortcomings. I am probably in the tiny minority here, but I also enjoyed Vehicle Force Voltron... But that's neither here nor there.
I remember that show. Five "space explorers" piloted 5 giant lion robots that formed an even larger human robot... "And I'll form the head!" That thing, right?
Anyway, after a reeeeeeeeeeeeally dreadful sequel series in the late 90s that looked like the ultra-cheap and horribly written sister-series to Re-Boot (known as Voltron: The Third Dimension), as well as a horrid, should-have-been-aborted-with-turpentine sub-sequel in 2011 (Voltron Force), we finally got something fresh and new (while constantly referencing the original 80s' toon): Netflix's 2016 Voltron: Legendary Defender. And I ignored it for two and a half years.
I honestly didn't believe that the writers and producers would do anything special with the premise. I assumed that it would be aimed at toddlers, have a garbage production budget, not have any decent storytelling, and be filled with nothing but fart and booger jokes. It took two and a half years of constant needling from friends and readers to get me and Cupcake to give it a real try. Once we started (only a few weeks after the final season went online), we couldn't stop. We finished all 78 episodes in less than 2 weeks. We stayed up waaaay too late way too many nights in a row, but in the end it was so worth it. It will probably take multiple viewings to cement it, but I believe that Voltron: Legendary Defender is already in my top ten favorite TV series of all time (with Avatar being number one, and Parks and Recreation being number ten, for reference).
Whatever. Just tell us what it's all about.
You in a rush? You have things to do? Last I looked at your calendar on your phone you only had a few hours blocked off for "New ways to enhance 'The Stranger.'"
It's what separates us from the animals!... Anyway, just tell us what it's all about.
Voltron: Legendary Defender is about an intergalactic war that's been raging for eons. Emperor Zarkon of the Galra Empire has been conquering everything in the universe, planet by planet, and galaxy by galaxy, turning all of his captured enemies into slaves for over 10,000 years. But there is one thing that he fears: the re-emergence of Voltron — a giant robot formed by combining five color-coded robotic lions, each of which is piloted by a paladin of justice.
Voltron's been missing for a few millennia though, but the Blue Lion has just been discovered on Earth by four cadets and an officer of the Galaxy Garrison. Together they pilot the Lion into a funky-looking wormhole, come out on the other side of the universe and find the hidden Altean Castle of Lions (which houses the cryo-hibernating Princess Allura and Royal Advisor Coran). The humans and Alteans (who look like Tolkiensian elves, but with Australian accents) then make it their mission to find the remaining hidden lions in order to combine them to form the Beast King Voltron and stop Zarkon and his troops from enslaving all life in the cosmos.
That sounds boring. And like a kids show.
That's what kept me away from it for two and a half years! But, like Avatar - The Last Airbender before it (coincidentally where V:LD got its showrunners), the cartoon looks simplistic and aimed-at-kids at first glance, but it is actually filled with mature themes like war, death, betrayal, and genocide. By the eighth and final season we all said aloud to each other, "There is no way this is aimed at kids." There are so many storylines that get dark — really dark (that cloning-tank episode comes to mind) — and the feeling of dread at some points in the tale are almost overwhelming. And I loved the shit out of it for it!
Really? I just can't believe it. Isn't this just a half-hour toy commercial?
It doesn't feel that way at all. There are very few robeasts in this series (giant monsters for Voltron to blow up), and most of the battles fought are political and not "slash, boom, blow 'em up" like I expected. That's not to say that the robot lions and Voltron itself don't see any action, just that they mostly take a back seat to the paladins trying to infiltrate a Galra-run planet in order to instigate a rebellion from within the enslaved population, or Coran coming up with new ways to raise the morale of the rebellion forces, or Keith going out on a "Blade of Marmora" ninja-like espionage mission with some Galran traitors. There is surprisingly a lot less Voltron in this series than I expected. And that is a good thing.
But... CAN YOU buy toys of Voltron?
You bet your ass you can!... But there's so few toys out that it's obviously not the main point of this project.
Cool... Anyway, do you want to get back into the plot any? Your synopsis above didn't really appear to cover eight seasons too deeply.
I don't really want to say much more other than this thing takes lots of twists and turns, brings in great characters from the original (like Lotor and Haggar) and builds upon them greatly (adding tons of personality and dimension to them), and it even incorporates aspects of the "Vehicle Voltron" in the final two seasons as the Voltron Coalition gathers more and more allies despite numerous setbacks and failures. The way that they planned this narrative out, it deserves no major spoilers from me. The best way to experience it is by going in blind, but with knowledge of the original 80s series (just to catch the tons of references that they liberally spice up the scripts with).
Is it really that cohesive? It's a cartoon about giant color-coded lion robots...
I will be honest with you all: there were a few times during the whole 78 episode storyline wherein I thought to myself, "Where the hell is this thing going? Did they forget about 'plotline C'? What about 'character Z'? Are they ever going to resolve what happened in 'episode R'?" But then, maybe even four or five seasons later, they tied up a potentially loose end, and they wrapped it together with the current plotline so well that it was obvious that this was the showrunners' plan from the beginning. This happened numerous times, and it was a fantastic and unexpected payoff every time.
There is only ONE loose strand in this entire show that still bugs me though: the fate of the Galra robot that Pidge, Hunk, and Lance reprogrammed in the fifth season episode "Bloodlines." This robot was one of my favorite characters in the whole thing (just below Bii Boh Bi), but the last that we see of him he has the Garrison Trio tape him to the front of a giant robeast coffin-ship and blast him off into eternity for one last thrill. I was hoping beyond hope that he'd come flying into the middle of a battle on his coffin-ship at the end of the series and take out one of the enemy vessels or something. But alas, he's never seen again. Such wasted potential.
So one of your favorite characters was a robot that got blasted off into space by the good guys?
Was he a main character or something? Did he save lots of lives before that?
No. He was an enemy robot that they reprogrammed to want to live and party instead of kill and destroy, and he only appeared in one episode. But Bii Boh Bi showed up in a few episodes, and he's the best thing that ever happened to Team Voltron!
I don't care. His name sounds stupid. Like he's aimed at children and only says shit like, "Bii boh boh bi boh bi bi."
....................Um... Anyway, the rest of the characters are really well written and amazingly well acted. Both the good guys and the bad guys all have realistic and satisfactorily-pleasing motivations, and they all sound like real people... even Coran (who's over-the-top Aussie accent took me a while to accept). The main baddies (Prince Lotor, Emperor Zarkon, and even the space witch Haggar) all have great back stories and different ways of looking at the universe. And I really enjoyed how they made the paladins, Allura, and Coran interact with each other. Team Voltron only gradually (very gradually) merges into the perfect team over the course of multiple seasons. They're not just "the best bonded, coolest, greatest, most awesomest team evar" right out of the gate, and they're all so different, but they're not just cookie-cutter tropes like "the dopey one," or "the cool one," or "the brainy one." They're all well-rounded people.
One of the other things that made me fall in love with Voltron: Legendary Defender is that they never just introduced a big character and then forgot them (except that one robot I told you about). Everybody (from unknown family members to enemy generals) has some sort of role to play in the grand scheme of the overall tale. The amount of outlining this series must have had prior to any sort of production must have been intense and ultra-detailed.
Anything else you liked about this rainbow-colored-lion kiddy show?
Yes. The animation quality of V:LD is almost constantly amazing. Out of 78 episodes there really only appeared to be five or six overall that seemed to be farmed out to the "B Studio." And these B Studio episodes weren't really all that bad either. I have no idea how they had such high caliber animation in so many eps in just a two and a half year time span.
Hmmmm, I already mentioned the great plotlines and how the narrative constantly twists and turns, frequently subverting your expectations (but in ways that are even MORE entertaining than what you expected). And I covered the great characters and voice actors, not to mention the clever references to the original series (like "megathrusters," Sven and his accent [and his ultimate fate], and Vehicle Voltron). It's all good!
Is it REALLY "all good" though? Is there nothing you disliked about this show?
Well, nothing is perfect after all. But the only real problems that I had with it were just some weird script choices that indicated that the Galra Empire conquered the majority of the entire Universe... Not just a galaxy, but all of existence. And the Galrans didn't have wormhole technology (that was just the Alteans), just fast ships... But even a super fast fleet would still not be able to make it from one end of the known universe to the other to conquer a planet on the far side of existence and keep it under a centralized-monarchy's thumb. I just ignored all that talk about a universe-wide enslavement and went with the flow. It's just a small bump in an otherwise extraordinary tale.
Hmmmmmm. I guess that I have one other complaint about Voltron: Legendary Defender that I can't just sweep under the rug. It continues to bug me even now... It needed more Bii Boh Bi. MUCH MORE Bii Boh Bi. He was totally under-utilized despite the fact that they wrote him to be one of the most talented and intelligent beings in the Voltron Coalition. Maybe they're saving him for a sequel series.
That can't be all that you have to complain about. I've seen tons of forum posts from dweebs like you who HATED the last two seasons.
Did you? Did you really?
After we finished the final episode I did go online to see what others had to say about it (in order to see how many people are smart like me and loved it all the way to the final credits roll). I was surprised at a really vocal minority who had nothing but venom and rage to spew at the final two seasons.
Spoilers. Seriously, don't read the next few paragraphs if you have yet to finish the whole thing.
At first I thought that they hated the show for expanding the core Voltron Force from just the paladins, Allura, and Coran to pretty much the entire Galaxy Garrison base on Earth, or because the final battle for Earth wrongly utilized the Lions and the Galran mirrors in a very silly way... But no, the only things the haters were hatin' on were a certain romantic relationship that bloomed between two leads (which did not come from out of nowhere) and the revelation of who the final big bad was (despite this being telegraphed since the end of season four). Oh, and their largest complaint of all was that characters acted differently in the final few seasons compared to the first couple of seasons... Their reason for detesting this wonderful show came down to them not liking the idea of "character growth."
Meh, fuck the haters. They always gonna hate.
End of SPOILERS?
Yes. And I think I'm done too.
And yeah, I know that the American Voltron was just a redub of the Japanese anime Beast King GoLion... That has nothing to do with this or anything at all. Nobody gives a shit.
Back when I was a kid, I had this loser nerd of a neighbor, yo. He had NO friends, but my mom made me play with him because "He must be lonely." Well, holmes, that kid had no friends for a reason: he WORKED at it. Kid was a dweeb of the highest calibre.
Here's a good example, yo: I was big into Voltron. Like HUGE. Loved that giant robot like a brother. All I wanted more than even a glock at that age was one of those fully transforming, die-cast metal, Voltron toys... The one with all five separate lions that you could twist, turn, and snap together into a giant, 2-foot-tall Voltron of your own! For three years that's all I ever asked for my birthdays and Christmases. Never got it. Instead, I saved up all my money and got the 6-inch, non-transformable, barely moveable, cheap, plastic Vehicle Voltron ('cause that's all the toystore had in stock for the last 6 months).
Anyway, my mom made me play with this kid (let's call him "Kevin"). The only reason I didn't fight it so bad was because Kevin DID HAVE the giant, fully transforming, beautiful Lion Voltron! So I would usually go over and play with his Voltron for a few hours while he sat in the corner of his room and watched, then I'd go home. Fine and dandy, no?
But then one day, Kevin had enough. I had been forced to hang out with him again, but as I walked into his house he met me with accusing eyes and arms crossed. Then he looked down at my shitty 6-inch Vehicle Voltron in my hand (that I brought over in order for Kevin's awesome Lion Voltron to stomp on). Kevin then decreed, "Today, I'M playing with my Voltron. But YOU'RE Voltron can be the MICE'S Voltron."
No matter what the fuck I said or did, G, I could not pursuade Kevin to let me hold (and possibly run away with) his awesome Voltron... That mo'fo' forced me to be the Space Mice's "Voltron" all afternoon. I was only allowed to "squeak" like a goddamn mothafuckin' mouse the whole time too, while REAL Voltron got to go on awesome space missions. Goddammit, Kevin!
Anyway, I never went to Kevin's house again after that. Whenever my mom tried to send me over there I'd just jump on my bike and ride over to this one high schooler's house where he showed me how to make my own fireworks and how to weigh dime bags for his clients.
Oh, well... I guess I did go over to Kevin's house one last time, yo, but I made sure he wasn't home. Jesús the high schooler and I went over to Kevin's when I knew his mom had taken him to his swim class one fine summer day. We let ourselves in, I borrowed his giant Voltron, and then Jesús borrowed a bunch of jewelry and VCRs so that they wouldn't only be missing the Voltron and point their fingers at me. Jesús was a very smart dude... Till that day he tried to kick over some Hell's Angels' bikes to prove what a bad ass he truly was. That wasn't that smart.
I’m going through show withdrawal. It happens when I get really into a show and attached to its characters. After finishing Voltron I got show withdrawal bad.
Voltron explained badly: basically, five giant lion-themed robots mash together to make a larger lion-centric space samurai traveling the universe fighting for cosmic justice.
Let me start by saying that generally space, giant robots, Gundams, and most shonen standard thematic props aren't my favorite. Not to say I haven’t loved each of those things over the years in one show or another — like Macross Frontier — but I don't go out of my way to catch them.
But Voltron was really enjoyable. It had great character growth, call backs from earlier seasons and a few nods to classic '80's Voltron as well. I liked that there were happy endings for most, but it wasn't just happy for everyone and people’s sacrifices actually mattered. And there was a cool space wolf that could teleport. (What did happen to Cosmo the space wolf though?)
They a didn't pad it out with a ton of filler episodes either, which is nice. There were a few episodes that had little to nothing to do with the overall plot, but they were still fun. Like, "Garfle, Warfle, Snick." I so hope that I never end up on that game show if I ever find myself traveling through space.