November 28, 2022

It’s a new Voltron series from writers of Avatar: The Last Air Bender and The Legend of Korra, with the same animation studio as Legend of Korra.

It’s a new Voltron series from writers of Avatar: The Last Air Bender and The Legend of Korra, with the same animation studio as Legend of Korra.

The first thing I’ll say is that while I do have nostalgia for the original Voltron cartoon it’s clearly not any good. It has two things going for it: A really good transformation sequence that took up a not insignificant part of every episode, and a cool robot design. (Also it’s astoundingly better than the anime the bulk of it was ripped out from Beast King GoLion; although that show does open with GoLion trying to kill God and being split into separate lions as punishment.) 

So I actually think Voltron was a franchise ripe for remake; in that its appeal mostly ends at the corporate marketing level. The thing is, Legendary Defender was already kind of beaten to the punch by the last Voltron series: Voltron Force. A series I already watched on Netflix, which this new series is exclusive to.

Voltron Force is actually a sequel series set after the original series and introduces new younger characters to support and learn from the original Lion pilots who’ve all grown up a little. Voltron Force also has a great gimmick that I actually love where each pilot gets their own turn to form the head. The joy that the characters feel when they finally get to do it is infectious. The character writing is the strongest part of the series,  including for its main villain, Lotor;Voltron Force makes him a really compelling villain and it makes the overall plot of the series really work, even though it is mostly built on episodic formula.

There’s a part of me that’s frustrated with the outcry of love this new Voltron series is getting, because of the way it ignores the existence of the previous incarnation. This isn’t a unique case; when the internet grabs a hold of something and runs with it they generally act as if it’s revelatory and unique with little knowledge or interest in anything else. It’s enthusiasm without additional curiosity, that’s what bothers me I think.

But anyway, that’s not to say that I don’t see why Legendary Defender has taken off in a way that Voltron Force didn’t. For one, the pedigree of Avatar is fucking strong, I’d be interested in any animated series with a team like this behind it. Also, this is a Netflix exclusive series and has some actual marketing behind it; this is not simply a random Voltron show sitting in the animated series section. (Which is the only way I discovered Voltron Force: randomly watching it with a friend because we were bored)

Also, frankly Voltron Force doesn’t look very good; it’s a low budget Voltron cartoon and that’s what it looks like. The strength of the writing doesn’t show through unless you stick with it. On the other side, Legendary Defenders not only looks great, it looks like Korra, so it’s a familiar quality. And for all the talking up of Voltron Force I did, it’s not like the writing in Legendary Defenders is bad, particularly some of the character dialogue is really strong. (I REALLY like their version of Lance.) 

Let me make this clear before I nitpick a bit more: Voltron: Legendary Defender is great and I highly recommend it. 

I mentioned that I thought Voltron Force‘s take on Lotor was really good, and while there are some clever ideas here so far, I can’t help but find this version of Zarkon disappointing and bland by comparison as a big bad. He’s too much of just a badass brute, he’s a big threat but so far I don’t think he’s a compelling character. Again, there are definitely some good ideas here though that I don’t want to spoil so maybe this can change in season 2. He’s not a bad villain, I just want more out of him and the other villains. 

This isn’t really a nitpick I guess, but… the Voltron robot itself doesn’t seem that strong so far. A lot of time is spent talking up the power of Voltron, but the action in the series has not really born that out so far. It’s not necessarily a problem, but it does mean that the hype levels surrounding that big awesome robot are never as high as I feel like they should be. Although I will give the show credit for making the individual lions more useful and effective than normal. This series is less episodic and more about building an overall arc, so I understand the choice, but this leads to my next point and the nitpickiest nitpick that actually does bother me. 

The Voltron transformation here kinda… sucks. It’s too understated. Look I didn’t really think of myself as someone with strong opinions on Voltron, but zooming in on all the limbs of Voltron roaring after it transforms is fucking important goddammit and Legendary Defender completely drops the ball on this! 0/10

Also I wish Legendary Defender had a theme song, just like I wished the Avatar series did. (Voltron Force had a godawful “rap” opening, which probably also turned people away and I might be the only person in the world that kinda likes it.) I know you want your cartoons to be more classy or whatever but c’mon. Cheesy theme songs are the enduring legacy of crappy 80s and 90s cartoons. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater is all I’m saying!

But yeah, if you have access to Netflix check out Voltron: Legendary Defender; it’s a high quality cartoon and I can’t wait for season 2. 

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXW1waqRCb0&w=854&h=480]