While the giant robot genre seems to have all but disappeared in anime (or at least if it still exists none of the anime reviewers I follow acknowledge it and I see little promotion of it), there was a time when they were all over the place. The closest nowadays are war mecha anime like the Gundam franchise. But in the 1970s and 1980s there were a ton of these guys. Sadly not to many made it to states. Some of the concepts were packaged into a toyline called Shogun Warriors, which had a comic book series from Marvel (two issues of which I’ve reviewed), but not much else. The two exceptions were Tranzor Z, a dubbing of Mazinger Z, and the show that captured kids hearts…Voltron: Defender Of The Universe! You know that Mighty Orbots show I bring up a lot? That was partly inspired by Voltron, only the robots were sentient mechanoids in the traditionally Western style of robots rather than simply machines. Japan usually only uses those for comic relief or something, with some exceptions.
I remember when a new station in Connecticut, Channel 61 would run this one section of the show as a teaser prior to the channel’s full launch, and I was so looking forward to this series, and man did it not disappoint. Having to miss the finale of a multi-part storyline made me unhappy and disagreeable for the rest of the day, and that was bad timing considering what I was doing. (Not illegal, but personal. Please respect.) I really loved this show, which may be why I was as critical as I was to Legendary Defender, which seemed like a really good show. But it changed far too much of what I liked about the original, and not because I can’t accept change. My reviews of the Devil’s Due comics should be proving that. I also own the Panosh Place version of the five lions and their pilots, although the various Matchbox toys were closer to the show model. They also didn’t have to hold Star Wars-sized action figures.
Last week we looked at the first five episodes of Beast King GoLion and I said this week we would look at the first five episodes of Voltron. World Events Productions purchased the rights to three giant robot anime (although only two of them were ever produced, more on that in later installments) to create the “Voltron Trilogy”. Elements of one of those shows, Armored Fleet Dairugger, were used to bridge it with the other show they ended up keeping, GoLion. You’ll see people in military uniforms, which comes from Dairugger, since in Voltron the Earth was never destroyed in a world war. There are also some minor changes, like when we learn about the robot, what Voltron’s origin is compared to GoLion, and also some minor details. See if you can spot them all before we’re done, and I don’t mean the lack of death.
Occasionally clumsy exposition aside, it’s interesting that they used Earth’s self destruction and turned it into Arus’s fight against Zarkon. They also break out the Voltron exposition as early as possible, since American audiences aren’t used to waiting a few episodes to explain things. That leads to a lot of build-up to Voltron’s first appearance. I wonder if World Events had a translation of the GoLion dialog or just created original dialog from scratch. I should double check the special features on the first Voltron DVD set I own because they had a behind-the-scenes of the creation of Voltron. Sometimes it lines up with its predecessor but there are also plenty of times the dialog becomes its own property, like reducing the Space Explorers arrogance when they try to rally the people of Arus compared to their counterparts on Altea. I also want to know how Zarkon knew the Space Explorers were renamed the Voltron Force, since Hagar and her cat doesn’t seem to have the same clairvoyance Honerva and Jaga, their Japanese counterparts, had.
These are also recreated edits; that much I remember from the extras. Using the original audio recordings they went to a remastered GoLion and matched the edits of the original Voltron which didn’t have a workable master, thus allowing for a clearer picture for the show. It looks as good if not better than it did on TV.
This is not where the legend ends. After the first season used up all the GoLion footage, there was a second season, but there was also another Voltron. More on that next time as our exploration of Voltron continues. We’ll need to meet these guys before we get to them in the Devil’s Due comics. Remember this Voltron?