Sometimes life just gets busy and you end up late to a party you know you’ll love. That’s how I felt this month. While scrolling through Netflix in a particularly nostalgic mood (after watching The Last Unicorn for the umpteenth time), I stumbled across Voltron: Legendary Defender. How could I have missed this?
As a confirmed tomboy, I was a dedicated fan of the original American TV show, Voltron: Defender of the Universe. I have many fond memories of the flying lions, their drivers, and the ultimate robot—Voltron. Despite its genre stereotypes, it was fun weekend morning watching. Seeing a reboot of a show I had such fond memories of made me both excited and concerned. What if I hate it, like so many reboots? What if they completely changed things, and basically only kept the name? But despite these concerns, which I have with every reboot, I just had to watch anyway and I am so glad I did. I was quite impressed with the new version.
First I compared looks. The original Voltron always had nice graphic appeal. Voltron: Legendary Defenders features all the colored lions we came to love from the original, as well as their beloved paladin drivers. Actually, there was little changed from the original robot designs and uniform, which helps appeal to those looking to relive their childhood. The characters themselves only have minor changes made to help diversify the ethnicity of the cast while still trying to be true to the original designs.
As I binge-watched the whole first season, new aspects to the storyline caught my attention. Namely, Voltron: Legendary Defender actually had an honest-to-goodness storyline. Mostly, the original Voltron fell into the trap of having a monster du jour almost every week. There was little story to tie the whole thing together; not that it mattered, it was still fun to watch. But in the reboot there are actual storylines, in true anime fashion, and they just make everything better, even the monsters.
The reboot also has some nice character development and backstory. They still have some of the same aspects from the original: fearless Keith, skirt-chasing clown Lance, always hungry Hunk, and super-smart techie Pidge. But other aspects have been improved. The Black paladin Shiro has a cybernetic arm and quite a mysterious backstory to explore. At the beginning, Pidge is hiding things from the team. And the Princess, Allura, is a force to be reckoned with. Stronger than the male paladins, she is the General of this fighting force and definitely not afraid to get her hands dirty to help. No damsel in distress here.
Not only did the Voltron: Legendary Defender teams do well with the look and story, they made some good calls on the sound. They have a talented voice cast, including Steven Yeun (Keith), Josh Keaton (Shiro), Tyler Labine (Hunk), Bex Taylor-Klaus (Pidge), Kimberly Brooks (Princess Allura), and Cree Summer (Witch Haggar). However, the background music is the one place the reboot needs to improve. I have heard from a few people lamenting the use of new opening music versus rather than somehow recycling the original with its bright heroic trumpets. Some of the background music is also lack-luster. But these are little things; they don’t distract from the quality of the reboot as a whole.
Overall, Voltron: Legendary Defender is a worthy reimagining. It hits great nostalgia chords while forging its own identity with good storylines and character development. It is well worth the watch, especially if you are fond of the original. As my little girl (age 3) says, “Let’s watch the robot with the lions. I like them.” I hope you agree.