Without a doubt, our generation lives in an era with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to geek culture. Case in point…
Voltron Legendary Defender from DreamWorks animation.
Let’s go ahead and skip the, “This writer is old enough to remember when…” and cut to the chase: NetFlix has produced the best iteration of Voltron. Period. You’re going to have to trust us, older geeks: your memory is not as good as you wish to believe.
Voltron: Legendary Defender is what happens when all elements of what make up a good cartoon align in the heavens to give us something undoubtedly awesome; writers who care about story, voice actors who bring the material to life, killer animation, and a production studio with cash.
Let’s work backwards…
- The Cash
Obviously, NetFlix is making some wise decisions when it comes to distributing content. They may not have Disney deep pockets, but they’re doing alright for themselves. So before you naysayers spit accusations of scrapping the bottom of the intellectual property barrel, resurrecting the Voltron IP was a smart move. It was an IP that, as previously stated, had potential to actually become a good show. So they threw a sizeable chunk of cash at it till it became exactly that.
Balk all you want, hipster-purists, some things don’t come out right the first time.
- The Animation
What was just released yesterday, June 10th 2016, right off the bat has a very familiar art style. You can thank the former Avatar: the Last Airbender Team for that. A near seamless blend of that traditional anime style, and good ole’ American Saturday Morning Cartoon feeling.
Admittedly, some of the character designs look a little familiar, but it serves to the benefit to the show. It’s kinda like seeing your favorite actor in a new role, if that actor were not a real person.
“Can you pick out the familiar face from the line up?”
Furthermore the action sequences have a fantastic kinetic pacing to them. I would have never in my lifetime thought someone could make giant flying space robots not only look cool as shit, but animate them in a manner where I could tell what the hell was going on.
Everything from the backgrounds, to character designs truly does a fantastic job of keeping the spirit of the original show and grows into it’s full potential. Which brings us to…
- The Voice Work
What the people behind Legendary Defender absolutely needed to do was take top tier talented individuals, and make sure that ensemble cast played seamlessly off each other to form one badass unit. You know, like a bunch of individual robots that form together to make one big robot… hold on… the name is just on the tip of my…
So, again, compared to the original where it sounded like people reading from cue cards with all the enthusiasm of human rice cakes, Legendary Defender’s cast brings depth to what would otherwise have been a collection of stereotypes. Everyone from Voltron 2016 crew, thank Glob, puts forth the effort to evoke well rounded characters with depth, and in some cases a fair amount of intrigue.
Hearing Finn the Human play off his new cast mates was another added plus. But, the delicate balance between the humor and gravitas of this space opera wouldn’t have been possible without the writers.
- The Writing
This show could have just as easily been another cash grab off of a familiar IP to suck us dry of our nostalgia.
Legendary Defender, is NOT.
In fact, Voltron 2016 goes above and beyond the call of duty to expand upon the 1984 original’s foundation. From minor details, to character development, and even the logistics behind robot-space-lions, the development team genuinely cares about the source material, and then some to make it their own.
Stakes are raised, goals are established, and character motivations make sense; all things that didn’t have to happen in a cartoon series, but did. You better believe this show’s got it in spades.
On top of all that, the sound design is also pretty damn stellar too. Even taking into account how much we all love hearing lasers and explosions IN SPACE, another excellent marker of a cartoon show is one that’s not afraid to be quiet for a moment. That’s right, a show about giant fighting space robots isn’t afraid to be still and let it’s audience take in the grand experience this show has to offer.
Having only heard about Legendary defender back in January when it was announced and then completely forgot about it, as soon as YouTube interrupted the video I was watching with the trailer this writer binge watched THE WHOLE SERIES.
All of it.
We highly recommend you go open your Netflix browser and bask in the glory of one of the most badass 80’s robots of all time. When you’re done, give Netflix a Tweet and let them know you’ll want the next season as soon as humanly possible.
*Yes, Super Sentai shows started in the 1970’s, but if there’s a Death Battle between Voltron and the your pick of Mega Zord, my money is on the Defender of the Universe.