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Voltron: Defenders of the Universe Collection #1: Blue Lion PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Wednesday, 28 May 2008 16:00
VoltronBlasts from the past. They're dangerous things. When I reviewed Robotech, I'd never seen it before - a positive advantage, as I had no rose-tinted vision of the past to compare it with. Now, though, we have Voltron, and that I do remember. Fondly. Or at least I did, until not so long ago...

For the episode summaries and screenshots, check pages 2-4 of this review.

I'd like to introduce you to a good friend of mine, who's going to help me review Voltron. He's someone who's very well-acquainted with the show -– in fact, he thinks it's the best thing on TV. He's, well, me - only 20 years younger, and living in a country where there's only one TV channel, and even that only broadcasts in black & white. Some of us had to wait until we were 35 to see what colours those lions were. For ease of reference, Bryan "the younger" will speak in italics, while old & decrepit me will speak in normal text. But first, a quick introduction to the show:

On approach to Planet Arus, the band of space explorers led by Captain Keith witness the planet being attacked by the forces of the evil King Zarkon. Investigating the aftermath, Keith's ship is attacked by one of Zarkon's ships - forced to eject, they're captured and transported to Planet Doom, Zarkon's home base, to become part of his slave army. Forced to take part in one of Zarkon's fighting tournaments, they're able to escape from his clutches and, looking to thwart Zarkon's plan for universal domination, they head out in search of the legendary fighting robot Voltron. Legend has it that the machines that make up the robot can be found in the Castle of Lions, but if they're to stand any chance of reaching the Castle the team have to travel through hostile territory - traumatised by Zarkon's attack, the planet's residents are no longer trusting of any visitors. Arriving at the castle, they're met by Princess Allura, who offers to help them retrieve Voltron in exchange for their help in defending their planet - and so the new Voltron Force is born. The five components of Voltron were scattered across the planet with Zarkon first attacked - to revive Voltron, they'll need to recover the pieces...

Where to start. Voltron is like nothing I've ever seen on TV before –- sure, I watch all the latest cartoons (Inspector Gadget and Dangermouse used to be my favourites, until now), but since Voltron came on there's really nothing else I want to watch. There's just so much about it that different from the other stuff I used to watch –- for starters, there's the story, that carries on each episode instead of starting again. You know how all episodes of He-Man really turn out the same way? Voltron doesn't do that. It's a great idea -– even if it means that missing an episode kinda leaves you wondering what you missed. The robots are also cool –- the way the five of them join together (I love the animation for that) and become one huge robot is the best part of each episode! I know Challenge of the Gobots does something like that, but it just doesn't look as good. Voltron's different, and cool, and does things that other cartoons don't – how can you not like it?!

Ah, the innocence of youth. I vaguely remember Voltron, and all the good memories that went along with watching it -– they're locked up inside me with my inner child, who's still busy enjoying the experience. All of that made me jump on the chance of watching the show again now that it's finally getting a proper UK release.

But you need to go into it with a certain frame of mind, by putting away your adult sensibilities and making sure that you watch it like a little kid, with all your nitpicking sensibilities switched off. – Bryan, aged 15, still loves the show after all these years, and in some ways he was looking out through my eyes through this set and enjoying every minute of it. Bryan, aged 35, is a different kettle of fish, though. I'm older, I see things now that I didn't then, and having seen a frankly scary amount of both anime and other science-fiction in the meantime, I've got a much more jaded attitude to pretty much anything that goes into my DVD player –- and looking through those eyes, Voltron initially didn't pass muster. Some of it's the little things (during the joining sequence, you get the four lions giving their roar before Voltron stands back nice and rigid, as if to say "look, kids! This is what the toy looks like! Go buy it now!!"), but there are also more fundamental things -– taking off the rose-tinted glasses, Voltron is a hugely cheesy show, with a story that's very simplistic by the standards of more recent shows and really full of holes.

Really? I hadn't noticed – I was too busy just enjoying the battles and seeing Zarkon's dumb sidekicks get whipped again.

There's that -– and if you sit down in a particular frame of mind (sinking a few pints seems to do it) there's still plenty to take from the nostalgia value of the experience. I just got caught watching most of the set when I wasn't in the right frame of mind for it, and that spoiled the experience. Coming back to the final episodes a week later though, in a different mood and more juvenile frame of mind, was a different – and far more enjoyable – experience. You just have to put the rose-tinted glasses aside and enjoy the show for what it is - not the greatest thing ever made, no matter what your memories may tell you, but a simple show that's nothing but mindless fun.

What you get out of Voltron depends a lot on what you think you're sitting down to watch. For best results, put away all your preconceptions and memories from so long ago, as it'll never live up to them. Just sit down, switch off, and enjoy what really is entertainment from another time -– and if you can do that, there's plenty of fun to be had. If you can't, then be prepared for disappointment.

Rating - ****/*