Let me start this review by telling you how much I know about Voltron prior to seeing this Netflix series: Five robot parts that join together to form Voltron to defeat evil. I know none of the canon and I easily interchange this with any of the next hundred cartoon TV series of the same premise. In fact when I was a kid, and given my attention span, I only look forward to whenever they form Voltron to defeat the enemy. I didn’t care much for the story, but I don’t think that’s entirely my fault, because honestly, every episode is just almost the same. Having said all that, I believe you would benefit from this article if you’ve just recently picked up interest on Voltron: Legendary Defender, as this is DreamWorks Animation and Netflix’s reboot of the ’80s cartoon series, which you do not need to see to be able to enjoy this. There will be a few spoilers here and there as I discuss the series so proceed at your own risk.
Voltron: Legendary Defender is an animated television series produced by DreamWorks Animation and animated by Studio Mir. It was released in Netflix fashion on June 10, 2016 with eleven episodes, the first being a triple-length feature. The episodes average about 23-25 minutes in length, so it is perfect for binge watching over the weekend, but still good if you want to watch in installments. There’s very little CG and the overall animation brings back the good old afternoon cartoon television of the 80s feel to every episode, which I’m sure will be all the rave for new and old followers alike.
After being put to sleep for 10,000 years by her father King Alfor in the wake of the destruction of Planet Altea, Princess Allura was awakened by a band of teenagers from Earth who have been brought by a blue lion mecha. This lion is one of 5 lion mechas that form Voltron, a 100-meter tall robot that is the last line of defense for the galaxy in an intergalactic battle against the evil alien force led by Emperor Zarkon of the Galra Empire. Princess Altea, along with her royal adviser Coran, must now train these teenagers, Shiro, Keith, Lance, Pidge and Hunk, to become Voltron’s Paladins and be able to wield the power of the lions that altogether form Voltron. Together, they must defeat their evil adversaries, and prevent Voltron from falling into the hands of Zarkon, who is very adamant in claiming the legendary defender for himself. This is the underlying theme that runs all throughout the first season.
Takashi “Shiro” Shirogane, voiced by Josh Keaton, is the team’s leader who wields the Black Lion. He was, at the beginning of the series, captured during a mission, and was experimented upon before escaping back to Earth. He remembers very little about what happened during his capture, but he returns with a weaponized robotic arm, which has proved useful in many of his fights later on. By the end of the season, he still hasn’t unlocked all of his memories, and it seems that there’s still a lot shrouded in mystery that the audience will uncover in the next seasons. I like how he’s able to re-focus the team in tight spots, and how he uses what little memories he remember to get out of difficult, but similar situations he has experience while captured.
Keith, who mounts the Red Lion, is the most talented pilot of the team. Considered to be a lone wolf, he refuses to follow the rules, and mostly chooses to stir his own course. There wasn’t much history to his character save from the fact that he was orphaned at a young age before enlisting in the galaxy garrison. Given his demeanor, despite his talents, he was dismissed while in training before he became a part of Team Voltron. During one of his fights toward the end of the season he was exposed to a quintessence component, which I thought affected his judgment on one of the scenes in the final episode. I think we will see the effect of this exposure more on the next season.
Pidge Gunderson is the go-to tech “guy” of the team. She controls the Green Lion. She originally joined the team as a guy to search the galaxy for her missing family, but then later came to understand the larger goal of freeing the universe from Zarkon’s nefarious plans. Pidge is the brains of the team in terms of tech gadgets and computers.
Hunk, who mounts the Yellow Lion, is the team’s mechanic, and quite easily the heart of the team. Given his size, it is safe to assume that he is also the team’s brawn. He’s got a goofy sense of humor and has a knack for food whether it is from earth or from Coran’s kitchen of gross. Aside from delivering the laughs, Hunk’s character is well written. He is funny when he needs to be and relieves some of the tension when called for. The only thing you need to be concerned about is that he’s not a fan of flying. Being put in that situation will result to some difficult gastrointestinal situations.
If Hunk’s antics aren’t enough for you, Lance is more than willing to fill in. Being the Blue Lion’s pilot, Lance completes the 5 lion mechas that form Voltron. He is a happy-go-lucky, laidback person full of confidence, and even fuller of himself. He isn’t one to think twice about throwing some pickup lines to some of the ladies he meets. However, none of these distract the team from the goal. In fact, I think in an episode or two, Lance has actually proven himself to show heart as well. His back and forths with Keith is one to look out for throughout the season.
The Princess and her Royal Advisor
Often all business, Princess Allura is a whip-smart alien princess. She is the daughter of King Alfor, the original creator of Voltron. Upon waking up from a cryogenic sleep for 10,000 years, she takes on the responsibility of guiding the team to defeat Zarkon. After reading a few articles about Voltron, it appears that this series’ Princess is a bit different from the old series, in that being a princess who can very well fend for herself, and can stave off from damsel-in-distress tropes. I like her sense of authority in the series, and the way she’s managed to be someone who can operate the Castleship with command.
Her Royal Advisor, Coran, adds to the comic-relief of the series. Well-respected by the team for the challenges he puts in front of them during training, but also well-hated for his culinary tastes, Coran provides wisdom to the Princess, and to the team as well. Another deviation from the serious tone of this character in earlier series, Coran supplements additional humor to the new series.
Voltron is 100-meter tall robot formed from 5 mecha lions controlled by the paladins. The Black Lion is the robot’s head and body. The Green Lion is the left arm and holds the robot’s shield. The Red Lion is the right arm, and from it emerges the blazing sword when needed. The Yellow Lion is the left leg, and from it, the laser cannon is being controlled. Last but not least, the Blue Lion is the right leg. It’s specialty? Tripping on things especially whenever Lance is on the helm.
Here’s a video of how these lions form Voltron:
I like the fact that the producers have opted to keep Voltron more hand-drawn than CG throughout the series. I think it does maintain the tone of the 80s animated cartoon television series by doing this, and so for old fans, the feeling of familiarity is there. Not forgetting the new followers, Voltron has been updated with cool animation of the lions actually forming together to create Voltron.
Emperor Zarkon leads the Galra Empire, and has been on the quest of finding the lions that form Voltron since King Alfor hid each of them in different corners of the universe 10,000 years ago. There’s a nice character twist for Zarkon in the series finale, but the audience will most probably see how that twist plays out on the next seasons. Zarkon seems formidable, but to me, not menacing enough for a villain. The fight scene at the end though was thoroughly enjoyable as Zarkon surely did not make it easy for our heroes to achieve their goal.
One of Zarkon’s minions, Haggar is an ageless evil space witch with psychic powers, which has proven useful to Zarkon. Over the years she has formed a coven of druids, her own order of followers to do her her bidding and aid her evil plans. In a couple of episodes, she sent Robeasts to battle with Voltron in an attempt to defeat the legendary defender.
Commander Sendak is a cold-blooded fighter and Zarkon’s number one military leader. At one point in the series, he was captured by the Paladins, and while in custody, they decide to draw out his memories in order to learn information about Zarkon and the Galra Empire.
I have never followed an animated television series (so ungeeky of me, right?), and initially, I got interested on this only because of Netflix’s binge-watching platform success with the Daredevil series. When I was a kid, I mostly only watch the mechas form the robot and that’s about it, I went on with whatever it was I was doing. All the same, Voltron: Legendary Defender brings nostalgia to the kid in me, and so I went on to watch the series. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I’m really glad I watched it. There is a distinguishable element of complexity in the story that none of the earlier series had. The writers of this Netflix series surely did not make it easy for the characters to adopt their roles right off the bat. There is a sense of melding that the paladins will need to have before they even accomplish forming Voltron. There’s a very important emphasis on teamwork, and that has been demonstrated all throughout the series after they have figured it out.
Also, the complexities of the situations that they handled were no simple scenarios. There’s a good chunk of science being thrown in as well, and even if some ideas will probably just fly over children’s heads, it will make sense to more mature audiences. In this series, not everything can be solved by forming Voltron. In fact there was an episode where the Castle Ship had to step in to save the day. There’s also a good portion of individual lion action and they are definitely entertaining. I like the fact that the showrunners did not dumb it down so that the younger audience can follow along. In every situation, each of the characters have a role to play and it’s actually a breath of fresh air to see that the show does not shy away from having our protagonists fail at some point. When there’s a problem, as an audience, you will mostly see yourself trying to solve the issue at hand as well. These things make Voltron: Legendary Defender quite an experience on its own. It’s full of heart, filled with humor and fun, and never short of action awesomeness. The season finale left me wanting more and soon.
Finally, I can say that the whole series is a visual treat. As I mentioned, I like the fact that it is more hand-drawn animation than CG effects. The opening sequence is fun (probably will set the music as my ringtone), the soundtrack is great and the story is well written. The whole series still circle around the team coming together, and that in itself would be literally the challenge at the start of the next season. The voice work is perfectly cast, and the producers have made the series light and complex all at the same time without being dark and gritty. It is a great entry point for Voltron newbies like myself, but I am certain that long-time fans will definitely enjoy it as well.
This is one of the easiest 9.5 out of 10 rating I ever have to make. I am truly looking forward for more.
Have you seen Voltron: Legendary Defender yet? What scenes did you like the most? Sound off at the comments section, and let’s talk about it.