A Filipino Fan’s Reaction to the Philippine Live-Action Voltes V Remake

To show off how old I really am, let me confess that I actually grew up watching the Voltes V anime when it was first shown over here in the Philippines way back in the tail end of the ’70s. At least I think it was during that time. It might have been in 1980. I was very young then so my memory is pretty hazy. Anyway, a local channel, GMA 7, would have a block of programming for “Japanese cartoons” featuring an assortment of Super Robots just before the news. These Super Robots became a mainstay of my viewing habits. While I was more partial to UFO Grendizer myself, the most popular one was definitely Voltes V. I don’t really know why. Anyway, Voltes V became a cultural phenomenon here in the Philippines.

Well, it looks like the Philippines and GMA 7 hasn’t forgotten about it because, throughout the years, Voltes V has been used in various ways, from a skit show using the anime’s theme song, to it being rebroadcast and finally showing the show’s conclusion. More on that later. But what I want to talk about is how GMA 7 is really going hard on Voltes V this year as, after so many years in production, their live-action version, named Voltes V: Legacy, will start showing sometime this year.

They recently put out a really long trailer for Voltes V: Legacy and, as someone who’s a fan of the original (not a big as UFO Grendizer, but a fan nonetheless), I have some thoughts on it.

Before I get into my thoughts on the upcoming live-action show, I guess I have to tell the majority of the readers what the heck Voltes V is first as you probably have no idea. The original Voltes V anime had invaders from the planet Boazania, a technologically advanced race, attacking Earth. However, Earth were informed of the attack in advance and, in preparation, created five ships capable of combining together to form the Super Electromagnetic Voltes V. The individual ships were, of course, piloted by five teenagers, Kenichi Goh, Ippei Mine, Daijiro Goh, Hiyoshi Goh and Megumi Oka.

The Earth knew about the invasion thanks to Kentaro Goh, the father of Kenichi, Daijiro and Hiyosho, as Kentaro is actually the true crown prince of Boazania but his family was deposed as he was born without horns, which is supposed to be the sign of nobility among Boazanians. In fact, all Boazanians without horns are automatically thought to be lesser and subjugated into slavery.

Besides trying to hold off the alien invasion, the Goh siblings are also in search for their missing father, who returned to Boazania to lead a rebellion against the new tyrannical rule. There’s a lot more subplots like leader of the invasion force, Prince Heinel, trying to prove his worth as he’s been branded as the son of a traitor. But, if you were a very young kid like I was then, you didn’t care for all of that. You just wanted the ships to “volt it,” play the theme song, form Voltes V and beat the giant Beast Fighter of the day by slicing a giant V into him with a Laser Sword.

Anyway, a few things were changed when Voltes V was shown in the Philippines. The biggest thing would have to be all of the Westernized names the characters got. The Goh brothers because Steve, Big Bert and Little John and the last name was changed to Armstrong. Ippei Mine and Megumi Oka became Mark Gordon and Jamie Robinson, respectively. The Boazanians also got more “alien” names, such as Prince Heinel becoming Prince Zardoz. Other than that, the Philippine airing really didn’t change much of the plot. All of the subtext, like racism and slavery being just plain bad, no matter what planet you’re from, is all there.

This leads us to the new live-action Voltes V: Legacy. As someone who actually grew up with the show, I can see why a lot of Filipino fans are hyped for it. For one thing, it does look like GMA had a big budget… for a Philippine production. As someone who’s watched a lot of movies, television shows and cartoons since then, I can’t help but compare Voltes V: Legacy to its contemporaries. And, well, it does still look like it’s on the cheap side. The costumes are accurate to the show but, at the same time, look like some cosplayers put them together instead of a professional costume department. The CGI for Voltes V does look okay for a Philippine produced show. The animations look fluid enough. It’s not bad… but it’s not exactly good either.

One thing I actually don’t like about the trailer is how washed out everything looks. Since this is Voltes V, I can’t help but compare it to the anime, which is bright and colorful. Maybe the faded coloring scheme helps everything, including the CGI and digital backgrounds, blend together better. I do have some mixed thoughts on the new look of Voltes V. I understand they had to do a bit of a redesign as the original Super Robot was blocky, which was the style at the time. But, at the same time, I don’t like how overly busy it comes across, either.

Another issue I have with the upcoming Voltes V: Legacy is that it seems GMA is going to be adding a lot of extra stuff to the original plot. The trailer hints at a love triangle, with Jamie telling some girl to stay away from Steve. This has a lot of OG fans up in arms as GMA is messing around with something they love. I don’t really mind creators adding a different spin to something… if it makes sense. Yes, add biological web-shooters to Spider-Man. But adding a love triangle to Voltes V doesn’t really fit into the whole plot. This just feels like GMA trying to appeal to the general Filipino audience by adding a whole lot of romance/drama because that’s what they think Filipino audiences want. Well, I don’t think Voltes V fans really want a love story mixed in because they want to see some Super Robot action, not this lovey-dovey crap.

Then again, I think GMA mandated all the new plot threads because they ordered 80 episodes! The original anime only lasted a total of 40. So, they’re essentially doubling the number of episodes and they’ll need to fill that up with something! This actually has me really worried as they might focus too much on these aspects. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the acting is typical Filipino mellow drama, with women giving stern looks while telling their rival to stay away from their man and kids trying to be cute. The best I can hope for is they break up one episode from the anime into two episodes for the live-action version. Then again, that’ll slow the pace down to a crawl. So, either way, it’s a losing proposition.

My biggest problem with the Voltes V: Legacy trailer is it shows off too much! Remember when I said I watched the original anime way back? Well, I have re-watched it a good number of times as I would rent the Voltes V video cassette. I also watched the last four episodes much later on, which weren’t shown in the Philippines because the anime was banned for, allegedly, being too violent. The trailer shows off too many of the more memorable plot threads. If you watched the trailer, you already know the Armstrong brothers are going to lose their mother and Big Bert will teach Steve the Butterfly Return technique. In fact, like the idiots they are, GMA showed the climactic battle from the anime! To be fair, they didn’t show how it all ended… but you already know what’s going to happen by episode 80.

I’m also kind of afraid, despite having more episodes than the original anime, GMA will cut out some things. Things like the extended training sequence of the pilot episode, which would insanely expensive to film even if they a ton of the special effects budget on it. I’m also curious if this will have the high body count as a lot of characters do die over the course of the series. I don’t have a basis as to why they may be cutting things out. But I just feel they’d have to in order to make it more “kid friendly” for today’s television standards in the Philippines.

It does sound like I’m dumping heavily on Voltes V: Legacy and, yeah, I kind of am. I can’t deny this is a triumph for Philippine television because it does have high production values for the country. It’s also a victory for Voltes V fans over here. I can also see this attracting a lot of attention from anime fans all over the world because this does seem like a big deal. However, as someone who did grow up watching the original, there’s just something lacking that makes the anime special and it’s just not captured in the trailer. It’s just that there are a lot of visual flourishes that can only be produced in something like an anime. These would be weird things like Prince Zardoz slamming his sword into his sheathe with a big “zing” sound effect and an explosion. Or the tears flying from Big Bert’s face like tiny diamonds while he runs towards his father.

I’m not trying to offend anyone who likes the trailer nor am I saying that GMA shouldn’t have tried in the first place. Voltes V: Legacy isn’t going to be “destroying my childhood” or anything like that. In fact, I do hope it’s a big hit so networks like GMA will take big risks like this again. I’m just saying this just seems like it’s not for me. If you’re looking forward to it and you think it looks like the bomb, well, good for you. I just think I’m going to pass.

What are your thoughts on Voltes V: Legacy? Are you excited for it or not? Let me know in the comments section below!

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