Last week, Netflix released the latest iteration of the Voltron franchise. I’ve been cautiously optimistic about the new series, Voltron: Legendary Defender, since I heard about the project. The more I saw animation clips from Dreamworks and interviews with showrunners Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, the more torn I became. Legendary Defenders looked amazing. It sounded like the folks involved were on the money and trying to create a show that both old and new Voltron fans could enjoy. Still, I couldn’t let myself get too excited. I’ve been burned by too many lackluster reboots and updates, and Voltron is important to me. I don’t think I would’ve made it through fourth grade without Voltron. I debated whether I should tune in on June 10, and after much angst, I decided I would watch the first three episodes. I ended up watching the whole series. This post is not so much a review but a reaction. I’ll have reviews and more indepth commentary in upcoming weeks, once Comparative Geeks makes its move to self-hosted.
Editor’s Note: post includes a few excited expletives.
First and Foremost:
I. LOVE. THIS. SHOW.
OMG, you have no idea!
Legendary Defender is what I imagined the universe of Voltron to be like. When I was nine or ten, I had a whole imaginary world of Voltron in my head. It filled in the gaps in the story and fleshed out the characters. My headcannon went beyond the formulaic pattern of the original anime and explained or corrected all the inconsistencies that came from trying to mash two (or 3) Japanese series’ into one universe. If I’d been a little older, I would have written it down as fanfiction.
Now I don’t have to, because Legendary Defender has fucking OUTDONE ME. It’s a rich, complex space opera with compelling characters and a blend of science and magic that makes sense when held up to my ever-critical magnifying glass. It’s not quite the story I would have written, but it’s pretty goddamned close.
On top of that, after watching through the 13 episodes of Season 1, I only have a handful of complaints. If you follow my blog, you’ll know that this is nothing short of miraculous. I’ve been quite vocal about my dislike of or disappointment in the sci-fi genre as a whole over the last five or six years.
Legendary Defender is the space opera that I’ve been waiting for — and no, I don’t care if it’s targeted to 7-10 year-olds. It’s a quality science fantasy that deserves to be taken seriously.
What I Love Most
- Character Development — I love how much all of the Paladins grow from their points of introduction until the end of the season. Pidge and Hunk especially get a lot of development time, and I wasn’t expecting them to get much this season. I’ve seen some fans voicing dissatisfaction with Keith’s characterization in the series, and I agree that it’s a departure from how the character’s been interpreted in DotU and Voltron Force, but I find it exciting. In previous iterations, Keith has been the heroic leader from the start. He’s always upstanding, charismatic, honorable, etc, and that’s all well and good, but there’s only so much to do with that sort of character on a children’s show. The new Keith has so much more potential for growth and development. Allura is flat-out amazing and Shiro brings something dark and edgy to the leadership position that will contrast well with both Keith and Allura later on, regardless of which way the series takes their roles.
- Awesome Female Characters — After the first few episodes, I was all set to start griping and complaining about the lack of female characters in the field. Allura isn’t piloting a lion (yet?) and even though I like what they’re doing with her character, I felt like she needed to be more active. I didn’t like the sense of the Paladins being a “boys club.” Then some awesome things happened (I won’t spoil.) and I had to take back all my gripes. I was more than willing to do so, and I’m with the writers all the way here.
- Worldbuilding — I already mentioned this, but it bears repeating. The worldbuilding on this series is A M A Z I N G, especially for children’s science fiction, where usually the worldbuilding is lazy and relies on the fact that the audience is young to skimp on world development.
- Ship designs — the Castle of Lions and the Lions themselves look incredible. I get chills looking at those Lions. They’re everything they should be and then some.
What I’m Not Crazy About
- The score— Seriously, the music in this series needs a facelift.
- Coran as comic relief— On the one hand, Coran is more useful than he was in the original. On the other hand, he acts like a buffoon and he’s annoying.
What I Really Can’t Stand
- The transformation sequence —I tried to get on board with it, but it’s dull and uninspiring. The transformation should be a kick-ass, heart pounding experience. This one is so boring I get up to get a drink while they form Voltron.
- That. CLIFFHANGER. Oh my God. I hate you, whoever wrote that. I hope you get chronic, incurable athlete’s foot.
Go watch Voltron. Go. Right now.