The Lions, or “GoLion”, versions of Voltron are by far, above and beyond, one of my most influential and beloved IPs of all time.
As a child I consumed more hours of cartoons than I probably should have. I continue this consumption well into my adult years. But these cartoons have always been more than just escape into some fantasy. Cartoons inspired me. I’d sit and draw new characters, come up with new stories, and depict epic battles. The original Voltron was the focus of the majority of these. The lion version, not that horrible wannabe vehicle one.
There have been a few attempts to revive the franchise over the years. A number of the projects ended up cancelled or in production limbo like the live action movie. The last series to make it to air was 2011’s Voltron Force (a mix of traditional and CG cell-shaded animation) that worked as a sequel to the original series where Keith, Lance, Pidge, Allura, and Hunk are training a new generation of lion pilots.
However, it was not until Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender that my childhood love for the Five Lions was reawakened. Having just finished the first 7 episodes of Season 3 which just launched on August 4th, I had to take to my review of the series. I can’t contain this pure elation any more even tho the last 6 episodes will not be available to watch til October.
I’ll never forget the moment I knew I was in for something special. It’s a silly little moment actually but for some reason it let me know that those in charge of the new series we’re going to deliver. The scene has Lance and Hunk running around the academy, trying not to be caught, so they jump into two nearby trash bins. For just a few frames they look just like the blue and yellow Lions in leg form. They took this small throw away moment and gave it some love. This is indicative of the entire series so far.
There is no need to have any previous knowledge of the series as this is a reimagining through and through. It has this perfect balance of nodding to its inspirations while providing all new and original content.
There is also a balance of the silly/absurd and serious story beats, though the more serious tone does take precedence and are more prevalent than the slapstick moments. For instance, take the colorful mice. In the original series they got a lot of screentime. Here they exist but in small one off scenes.
The ’84 Nanny and Coran characters seem to have been merged into just the new Coran, who is brilliantly voiced by the new Zealand sensation Rhys Darby (whom I first discovered on the amazing series Flight of the Concords).
The bulk of Season 1 is spent getting to know the characters with actually very little Voltron forming action. However, the show is so well written, animated,and acted that you are too engrossed in the show to realize. Long gone is the old formula of each episode ending with a Ro-Beast showing up, the lions getting their butt kicked, forming Voltron, then eventually forming the Blazing Sword to save the day.
The season ends on a great note that makes you anxious for the next season. Count yourself lucky if you’re just now discovering Voltron: Legendary Defender, because you get to jump right into Season Two without the wait I had to endure.
Voltron: Legendary Defender just gets better and better in Season Two. It felt like there were a few more of the sillier “filler-feeling” episodes, but they’re just as enjoyable as the mainline story arch episodes. It’s a big universe out there, so there are bound to be some silly creatures.
Season Two ends with an epic battle that leaves both sides hurting and an appearance by a character I was curious would make it into this new imagining.
Holy moly. Great emotional beats. The new bad that shows up at the end of Season 2 is in full force here truly showing what a cunning and worthy foe he is. He’s got a long game plan that is never truly revealed. I love what they’ve done with this character from the OG series. This version is very competent, and makes for a nice change in tone from Lord Zarkon as the main bad (really trying to be spoiler free here because the series is full of great surprises for the longtime fans).
But don’t expect to get the full satisfaction of binging a season, as this season stops at episode 7, with the last six not dropping till October 13.
Unlike the first two seasons, there has yet to be a more light-hearted “filler” episode in these first seven. That’s not to say all silliness is gone (Lance trying to sweet talk his Lion, and then another character mimicking his attempts makes for a few chuckles).
You don’t have to be a diehard Voltron fan to enjoy the series, but there is definitely lots of fun little and big nods that old schoolers like me will get a kick out of. I won’t lie, though: I do miss the original musical theme and opening narration by Peter Cullen. Thankfully, Netflix also has Voltron ’84, I can always pop on to get my fix.