Friday, August 29, 2008

Super Robot Profiles: Voltron

Voltron is one of those really odd ducks. It's one of the most famous and popular super robot series that aired in the United States-one of the few I would consider describing as "mainstream." But its history is a rather tangled one.

After its origins as Golion, Voltron was heavily edited and dubbed under the name Voltron, and released here.

Oops! Who was that?

That was Vehicle Voltron. Chances are, even if you're familiar with the other ("Lion") Voltron, you've never or rarely heard of this one. (Darned shame-his toy was half again as tall and a bit more fun, and that was after he lost most of his accessories.) Vehicle Voltron was based on a different series called Dairugger XV. So, here we go, Voltron:

Whoops! That's not Voltron either. That is Lightspeed God Albegas (or something like), who was almost a third Voltron ("Gladiator" Voltron-and there were toys released under that name, by the way). That is a fan-made trailer that was entered in an official contest. So, let's try again:

Man, this is embarrassing. That's Daltanious, who was almost some other Voltron in some stage of development. (Voltron fans rejoice-you dodged a bullet.)

So, here's Voltron.

Anyway, Voltron is quite the odd duck, as I mentioned. Why is it odd? First, it was popular enough that, even though Golion creator Toei had no intention of continuing the series, its dub "owners" were hungry for more material. So they hired a Korean animation team to produce a second, less-well-animated season, and a movie as well (which provided a crossover between the two Voltrons, who were totally unrelated in their respective Japanese incarnations).

Odder still, while Toei has not displayed any interest in Voltron since then, World Event Productions decided more recently that, with the resurgence of popularity of Transformers with the Beast Wars series, it was once again Voltron's time. First, they re-released the Korean-animated series with updated intros (a later one of which used extensive CGI animation). However, this was only to buy time for their true diabolical plan: "3D" Voltron!

(The sad thing is, while the show wasn't bad by the standards of the time in terms of animation quality, it found itself sitting next to another but far superior CGI program, War Planets/Shadow Raiders. This series was produced by Mainframe Entertainment, the same company that created the Beast Wars series-small world.)

There are even plans, no doubt inspired by Transformers' more recent and even greater success, to produce a live-action movie. The sad thing is, and this is something that its producers don't seem to realize, the similarities between Voltron and Transformers are actually superficial ones-they have science-fictional themes, Japanese roots, large robots, and originated in the '80s. While these tie the two together in the minds of many, they are basically the only major features they have in common. (Off the top of my head, I could probably list a few dozen series that these terms described.) So Voltron's owners (Toei no longer seems to have the rights to the series) are dooming it to playing second fiddle to Transformers.

Kinda sad for the Defender of the Universe.

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