05 Jun 2008
In this day and age where so much anime and manga is sold onto the UK market from US companies (yet still only a fraction in real terms), it may seem hard to believe that at one time, we wouldn’t see some titles at all.
One such example is Voltron – Defenders of the Universe.
Originally aired in Japan in 1981, and then translated and broadcast in America in 1984, it’s taken a staggering 24 years to reach us in the UK, but now it’s here in a 4 disc box-set thanks to the efforts of Manga Entertainment.
Voltron is a series that comes from an age where the original integrity of the product wasn’t well respected – adhering to the source material wasn’t much of a consideration, and so, like Robotech, Voltron has been heavily edited to make it palatable for the US market (though not to the same extent as Carl Macek’s epic).
The plot (if you can call it that – I swear this makes He-man look intellectually challenging) follows the adventures of Keith (hot blooded hero no# 225), Sven (winner of the worst Swedish accent in living memory award), Lance (dark, brooding template for Naruto’s Sasuke perhaps), Pidge, a gravity defying midget, and Hunk, who acts as the team’s muscle.
The team acts as the top members of the Galaxy Alliance (which doesn’t say much for the Alliance, frankly) who are captured by King Zarkon, ruler of the aptly named planet Doom. After escaping his clutches (which makes the lead villain a bit inept) the team land on the planet Arus and find not only a beautiful princess, but also the long-lost Lion mechs that form the mighty Voltron.
Which is handy.
The recurring plot of each of these episodes follow the same basic pattern:
King Zarkon’s Witch, Haggar creates a monster and sends it to Arus.
The Voltron team attack it in their separate vehicles, and fail to kill it, while Zarkon’s armada closes in on the planet
The team combine to form the Voltron mech to step on the pesky creature
The creature gets enlarged to fight Voltron, and gets killed
Zarkon’s fleet scarpers, rather than back up their pet or take part in a fair fight
And if that sounds vaguely familiar, you probably grew up watching the Power Rangers ^^
The scripts themselves, which were often the saving grace of the Power Rangers to an extent (being awfully cheesy but at the same time strangely enthralling), require moments of utter stupidity from the main cast – this may have been made for kids, but some of the situations are just ridiculous. That said, if you like cheesy dialogue, you’ll be well served.
Even taking into account that this is an old show, and respecting the level of effort that went into restoring this series, I have to wonder why they bothered. The nostalgia factor is practically non-existent since the show never aired in this country, plus the fact that the series doesn’t hold up well in the way that Cities of Gold does, and you have to wonder who will actually pay for this release.
All in all, if you’re a hardcore fan of Mecha shows or Power Rangers, or are interested in early Japanese animation translated for a Western audience, then you may find some value here. Though in all honesty, if you want to watch an early mecha show from this era, you would be better served elsewhere.
More curiosities than extras, but:
A short display of the original linework for the characters and the Voltron mecha, a collection of grainy, low quality video recordings of displays of the Voltron toys and an equally low quality recording from some American news report about some American Voltron fans being taken by plane to Disneyland Florida (with some woman cosplaying as princess Alura)
A US TV trailer of the series
Altogether this total less than 5 minutes of extra footage.