When fans heard the classic cartoon, Voltron was going to get a new reboot they responded with guarded enthusiasm. After all, previous series such as Voltron: The 3rd Dimension and Voltron Force were less than thrilling even amongst diehard admirers. They had tried to recapture the original energy of the show by presenting both as sequels to the original and with Lothar as the main villain. Would this new show, Voltron: Legendary Defender, a Netflix original, finally be one fans would gravitate towards?
The series opens with an exploration team on one of Pluto’s moons being captured by aliens. A year later, members of Galaxy Garrison, an interplanetary research program, stumble onto the return of one of the crew members and frees him from captivity. Comparing notes about the aliens, they discover an ancient robot in the shape of a lion. The lion takes them to planet Arus and discover the Castle of Lions, which is inhabited by Princess Allura and her advisor Coran. Allura, discovering how much time has passed and the threat of the evil Galra Empire still at large, declares the team of Shiro, Hunk, Pidge, Keith, and Lance to be the new Paladins and task them with gathering the remaining lions so the five of them can come together and form the greatest weapon in the universe: Voltron.
Is this the show which will capture fans of the old series and also bring in new ones? The answer is an enthusiastic yes. This show is exactly what fans have been looking forward to complete with references not only to the original show but also to the original anime which became Voltron, Beast King Go-Lion (One the best examples is how Sven is the original Voltron is now using his Japanese name of Shiro). The series is beautifully animated with rich details scattered throughout the episodes. From the distinct looks of the aliens the team encounters on different planets, to the impressive blending of CGI effects for the robots mixed with the flash animation for the characters doesn’t distract at all from the viewing experience and instead is a marvel to behold.
The characters in the series each has their own distinct bits of motivation and development scatter through the first season. Each comes with a skill they can contribute to the team from Hunk’s mechanical skills, to Pidge’s computer abilities and by utilizing them are able to conquer adversity by working together. Princess Allura, thought to be a weaker character who was constantly kidnapped in the original series, starts in Legendary Defender by putting one of the characters in an armlock after she wakes up from her hibernation. These are no longer the one dimensional characters with one trick as a personality trait and the new show is better off because of it. Also, the comedy and one liners from the first season really helps to keep the show entertaining.
The villains themselves are not nearly as one dimensional as they were in the original show either. Zarkon is not the sit on this throne and give order leader he used to be and instead finds ways to show just how much of a menace he is and why he truly is the Emperor of most of the known universe. His forces also find ways to correct their mistakes and present challenges to the Voltron Paladins which aren’t simply as easy as using the same strategy every time. In one episode the team tries to go straight for the finishing move but discover the monster has been modified so they can’t. This is obviously the show runners picking fun at the original formula of “forming the Blazing Sword and kill the Robeast” which was common place in the old series. The sword is still there and utilized a lot through the series but it isn’t the only weapon at the team’s disposal.
This series isn’t without a few flaws to it. Keith, the character who was previously the leader of the team is not and doesn’t get nearly enough character development or backstory. He’s brash and reckless but no explanation why he is this way.
Also for a show about a robot which fights giant monsters, there are only two actual giant monsters which appear in the first season. Obviously this is to break the whole “Monster of the Week” formula from the original show. Still, these are minor complaints overall from what is a fantastic piece of animation.
Voltron: Legendary Defender should not be missed. Whether you are a fan of giant robots, nostalgic cartoons, or enjoy animation in general, this series should be binged watch at the earliest convenience. The true problem with this series is the long wait before the second season arrives.