I have seen most of the previous versions of Voltron. Of course I grew up with the original Voltron: Defender Of The Universe, and was there when The New Adventures Of Voltron was simply season two of the Lion Force. I’m one of the few people who liked Voltron: The Third Dimension even if the CG was hit or miss. Voltron Force kind of lost me but I gave it a real good try. And I’ve been reading the comics since small publisher Modern put out the three issue miniseries, although the only one I got from the shelves was the first one. (The other two were back issues.) Suffice it to say I’m a Voltron fan. I even like the Vehicle Team and have their Japanese counterpart on home video because I got lucky one year.
But until last night I haven’t been able to see the newest incarnation and the first full reboot since the Devil’s Due comics. (Third Dimension and Force were continuations of the original and I’m pretending the Dynamite comics didn’t happen. Hunt down my reviews of the ones they put out and you’ll see why.) And yet many people I know have both seen and loved Voltron: Legendary Defender, the new incarnation from Dreamworks currently only available on Netflix. All except one episode that recently showed up on the official Voltron YouTube channel maintained by World Events Productions, who turned the original Go Lion into Voltron. So at long last I get to see this incarnation that has become a fan favorite. Or at least the one episode.
They didn’t even release the first episode, unless this series lacks an origin episode. Heck, we don’t even get to see Voltron fight a RoBeast, which just feel wrong to me. When I see Voltron I expect to see him fighting a giant monster, even if it’s in a dance-off. (Yes, I’ve seen the Robot Chicken skit.) And there’s only so much I can judge on one episode. Still, it’s one episode more than I’ve seen before so let’s run with it.
Look, all my complaints are nostalgic so I’m going to go over the good stuff and those of you who don’t like to hear someone complain about nostalgia ruining your favorite take can ignore at your will. Please note that I love the aforementioned Devil’s Due run, which is a reboot but still felt like the original in spirit with all parties intact. It’s how you do a reboot correctly and one of my examples that I judge other reboots by, including this one.
On its own, this was a good episode. The characters have interesting chemistry. I do like that they have to learn to form Voltron instead of being able to do it with ease. I like the animation, especially the second launch sequence. The forming Voltron segment was amazing. Even Voltron Force didn’t mess that up. Speaking of previous versions, it seems they’re still keeping some version of the mystical angle that was started in The Third Dimension, where the lions actually had spirits of their own. The acting is good. Believe me, I do see why so many people love this show. It’s a darn good show.
But then my nostalgia side comes in with a few nitpicks, the big one being “who the heck is this Shiro guy and why did he take Keith’s job?”, which is one of my two biggest problems. (The second is a spoiler that I’ve learned after the fact and I’ll warn you when I get there.) There is no reason for this character to demote the original leader just so they could have the colors match the lions. If you’re not going to have Princess Allura as a pilot (and admittedly having her run the castle defenses and train the team does make up for it), what about Sven? He’s a character from the original and one of the original pilots. I can’t speak for other fans but I’m not that invested in the colors (Japan used the Sentai formula for the costume colors and every Power Ranger fan knows the guy in red is in charge), or you could say “the colors are mixed up but this is who they fit”. Done, no problem. It just feels strange seeing Keith in the Red Lion and Lance, who was always connected to Red, now in the Blue Lion. Red suits Lance better, with the whole “charged by a volcano” angle.
Speaking of Allura, while I have no problem with her new position, I’m not a fan of her personality. Allura, even as she matured into as good a pilot as the others and a decent fighter (granted this was in later shows, not the original to the point I don’t understand why GoLion swapped her out for Sven’s counterpart), was still kind and caring, an inspiration to her people who would gladly go the distance to protect them to the point of jumping right to a laser cannon or taking over for an “injured” Sven as the Blue Lion’s pilot. This one is rather abrasive and pushy. She might have reason to be given whatever Zarkon did to Arus in this version, but Allura’s strength was more subtle and her courage shown through in more interesting ways. Meanwhile Coran comes off as a goofball who lacks the presence and stature of the original. Seeing Allura mess with this one wouldn’t be as fun as when she would shock the original. Although I don’t miss the presence of Nanny and they kept the Space Mice. Somehow I doubt we’re getting their little Voltronish mouse robot though.
As for the rest of the force, Hunk isn’t a bad interpretation but seeing Keith and Lance argue like high schoolers seems off as well. Keith is supposed to be…well, Shiro! Lance is a hothead and maybe a bit of a showoff, but while I don’t hate these characters it was weird watching them act like that. I want to see if Hunk is still a mechanic and Pidge a tech expert. We really didn’t see here. I’m sure they’d grow on me though. And speaking of Pidge there’s that spoiler I mentioned.
Avoid this next paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled!
From what I’ve heard, that girl in the picture is indeed not Pidge’s girlfriend. It’s Pidge, or rather the real Pidge’s sister pretending to be Pidge for whatever reason. I’m not sure that sends the right message to girls. “Hey little girls, if you want to fight with the boys you’ll have to pretend to be one!” Considering Allura’s been knocked out of the pilot seat maybe this was their way of getting a girl onto the team but not really alienating the fans, and Pidge did mention having a sister (as well as his brother Chip from the Vehicle Team, which was meant to connect the two Voltron teams by having them write to each other…oddly dropped the last time I saw it rerun). It’s not too disconnected and I do recall the in-story reason made sense to the story, but I told you my problems were nostalgia-based and Pidge was my favorite as a kid.
Okay, done with the spoiler! Time for my final thoughts!
So do I hate this series? No. Does it push my nostalgia buttons? It pushed a few of them, enough that I’d be willing to see more episodes if I had Netflix or they ended up on home video or the Voltron YouTube channel. It’s better than those M.A.S.K. comics I looked at earlier this year from IDW or the Dynamite run. I do have my nostalgic issues, but it’s a well-done show with good characters and good animation. My heart will always be with the original series, but this is something I wouldn’t mind watching more of. That puts it above some other reboots and re-imaginings oozing out of Hollywood lately. At least it isn’t not-stalgia or mockstalgia, and these days I’ll take what I can get while demanding more.