Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Dec 14th 2006
Dub.DVD: DVD Set 1
Voltron is the tale of the five members of the Voltron Force and their brave battle against evil megalomaniac King Zarkon. It's a world of clear delineation between the forces of good and evil (evil people have scaly blue skin, good people look like, well, people), a world where all that stands between the good people of the universe and chaos is a silly looking combining robot and the five pilots who operate its arms, legs and body. Will good triumph? Will evil taste defeat? Need you ask?
The nostalgia surrounding Voltron is a palpable, living thing. It hovers over the show like a shroud, blinding the eyes and fogging the brain. How else can you explain why so many people are so fond of something that is so obviously ill-made, ill-written, and just plain stupid?
The wonder of Voltron is that any show can fail on as many levels as it does. Characters, story, execution; it is unwatchably awful in every category. One of the oldest effort-saving tricks in the history of fiction is to make your characters sub-humanly stupid. That way one doesn't have to construct elaborate plot devices to place them in mortal danger. Voltron does this at every turn. It's difficult to believe that grown men and women could ever be as consistently idiotic as the Voltron cast. Pidge charges a platoon of enemy soldiers with a single pistol for no apparent reason other than to put himself in peril and the leads are consistently fooled by the obvious spies that Zarkon sends to their headquarters to destroy them. And why is it that, even though Voltron is so powerful, the Voltron Force always attempts to attack the enemy in their lion-bots before transforming? Not an episode passes that you don't want to reach through the screen and slap some sense into the heroes. The plot is no better. It is crowded with plot developments predicated on various characters' stupidity, and each episode is structured so rigidly that one can easily pick up the plot even on fast-forward. Those instances in which the show breaks from its moribund structuring are refreshing, but end with Voltron fighting yet another of Zarkon's giant beasties with exhausting regularity.
The dubbing (only the American television version is available here) far from helping, makes things worse. This isn't to say that the acting is bad (although on occasion, especially with supporting characters, it is hideously so); all of the leads are obviously professionals, but the dub so resolutely aims for the younger demographic that the acting most closely resembles American cartoon staples such as The Smurfs and Scooby Doo. That aside, the only serious casting mistake is Pidge, whose voice is so aggravating that the urge to see someone, anyone, give him a wedgie is almost uncontrollable. But these problems pale in comparison to the effects of the obvious changes the dub makes. Character's expressions (for anyone versed in the conventions of anime) are often hilariously at odds with what the characters are saying. Some changes result in narrative discontinuities. In one episode Zarkon says "Bring Princess Allura to me," yet in the next episode, he is shocked to discover that Princess Allura survived the ravaging of her planet. Huh? How does that work? Amnesia? Another character disappears with a vague mention of off-world recuperation even when he has obviously been killed.
The result, in narrative terms, is a show with flat, bone-headed, infuriating characters, and a repetitious, uninspired plot.
The show's execution follows a similar pattern: a heap of problems associated with the original product, exacerbated by the changes made to the American TV version. The animation is atrocious: flat, stiff, and ungainly. Whatever flashes of quality and effort it has are either during scenes that are repeated each episode, or during scenes in which there is no discernible reason for it. The art is the same: dull, flat and uninteresting except where continuously repeated (and what is with the nipples on the Robeasts? Were they designed by someone with some serious Madonna trauma?). Character designs are standard for the era, except for the absurd, pointy-toothed villains. Far more damaging than the poor quality, however, is the inconsistency of the art and animation. Monsters, robots, weapons, people, and towns inexplicably shrink and expand; perspective problems make objects in the foreground look gigantic; Voltron's body proportions change depending on how it is moving. The boring plot and insipid characters make the problem even worse; it's hard not to slip into a game of spot-the-mistake in order to distract oneself from the mind-destroying story.
The artless edits made to the English version introduce continuity errors to this already potent stew of animation atrocities. Obvious edits render many of the action scenes incomprehensible, while others contribute to the WTF? factor. Princess Allura is unconscious in Keith's arms. A millisecond later she is standing, conscious, talking to her comrades. OK... Not sure how she got there, but the kiddies won't notice, right?
The music is loud and repeated with a frequency that transforms it from merely obnoxious to well-nigh lethal. After watching fifteen episodes, the trumpeting main theme steals into your subconscious, infects your dreams, and interrupts your sleep several times nightly with pounding headaches and cold sweat. It's the musical equivalent of a highly infectious, very unpleasant disease.
Media Blasters goes the extra mile with the extras for this set. Included are the original pilot episode, staff interviews, an overview of the remastering process, and, most importantly, the “You Got Robo Served” episode of Robot Chicken featuring a break-dancing Voltron. Ironically, the parody is not only funnier than the original, but has better animation as well.
The only positive thing, aside from its monstrous nostalgia value, that one can say about Voltron is that it periodically achieves a kitsch value akin to that of the Flash Gordon serials of yesteryear; only without the critical temporal distance that would render its chasmic shortcomings as quaint quirks. There is nothing quaint or even remotely appealing about Voltron. Upon completing this set, my one reaction was an overwhelming desire to throttle the show and demand that it return the hours of my life that it had stolen from me.
Overall (dub) : F
Overall (sub) : N/A
Story : F
Animation : F
Art : D-
Music : F
+ Excellent presentation of the show for the nostalgic.
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