While there are many "classic" series hitting DVD now-a-days few of them are to be as well received among audiences as Voltron. To be honest anime from the 1980's just does not get a lot better. It's as simple as that.
This iconic classic debuted in the early 80's over in Japan as GoLion. The show was re-edited for the American audience and spawned a toy line, comic book, sequel series, and even an upcoming film. Sure the concept was nothing entirely special and the fact remains that several shows released since have copied it to the nth degree, but Voltron had a certain spark that has never been duplicated. Fans have kept this one alive like so many other shows from this era such as Transformers and Robotech. It is without a doubt fans that Media Blasters has tailored this collection towards.
If you are one of these diehard fans then you should enter this collection with a fair bit of knowledge ahead of time. Purists looking for an authentic Japanese experience are going to be left out in the dark because this version of Voltron is strictly the American edited one. I liken it to Gatchaman in the sense that Battle of the Planets was the edited American version of that show. Thankfully ADV garnered the rights to the original untouched Gatchaman so maybe some day Media Blasters will be doing the same.
The story behind Voltron is quite simple and it truly isn't anything that we haven't seen before in other shows of this nature (mostly due to copycats). The Galaxy Alliance is locked in war with an evil organization ruled by King Zarkon. While fighting Zarkon's forces five pilots are captured and taken back to Planet Doom where they are to be monster food. Using their wits and talents they break out of the cell they are being held captive in and make their way to a shuttle. While fleeing Zarkon's men they crash land on Planet Arus, find Princess Alura, and discover the Castle of Lions. Each of the pilots gets a mechanical lion to call their own and when they join forces they become the unstoppable Voltron.
The leader of their group is stereotypical hero figure Keith. He's about as straight cut as you can get and in many ways reminded me of Ken the Eagle from Gatchaman. The rest of the Voltron team fills somewhat generic roles as well. Hunk is the fat strong guy, Lance is the Han Solo-like cocky guy, Pidge is the brainiac kid, and Allura is essentially the token female. At the start there is a pilot named Sven who works along with Keith and the others but he bows out early on in the show to allow Allura the chance to operate a Lion.
As fun as Voltron was and as fond as my memories are for the show it's hard denying that its concept was built by following numbers. Most every episode churns out the same general style of plot with only a few rare exceptions. The bad guys show up, Voltron comes to save the day, Voltron gets their butts kicked, Voltron comes back with their Blazing Sword to win, and everyone lives happily until the next Zarkon attack. Animated TV shows from this particular era and age group generally fell into this rinse-wash-repeat trap. That doesn't mean that Voltron was a bad show mind you; in fact this was arguably the best of its kind.
Going back twenty years later to watch the show didn't quite give me the same thrills as it did back in the day but I still had a good time. The English version remained just as I remembered it and every one of these episodes was entertaining on some level (especially the origin story). Nostalgia was the driving force for my enjoyment because I felt like a kid again while watching Voltron. Unfortunately those feelings did subside during the drier episodes (there were a couple of them here).
Despite the ups and downs found in the edited American version, Media Blasters has done justice to the series by releasing these tin collections. It has brought the show back from fandom obscurity to become a viable retail giant once more. Hopefully interest will be enough that one day we'll get the unedited Japanese version of the series but until then this is the best that you're going to get. If you were a fan of the show then picking these collections up is a no-brainer. If you're into anime and you haven't seen Voltron you may want to hold out for the slightly more adult Japanese cut (if it comes out that is).
With Voltron's source material being over twenty years old I didn't know what to expect from the video quality. Fortunately the show's transfer looks remarkable and arguably better than it ever looked here in the States. This is due to the fact that the DVD uses a recently digitally mastered source produced by Toei Animation. This means that Media Blasters had to re-edit the new Japanese material to be identical to the older, known English edits.
The result of their effort is a much cleaner presentation than I ever thought possible for Voltron. The picture quality is very sharp with a great deal of clarity and noticeably less grain and dirt than you'd expect. It isn't flawless work and there are plenty of areas where softness and dust permeates the image but you'll never see this show looking better.
Many of you may not know this (I didn't until I watched a special feature on this set) but Voltron was one of the first animated shows dubbed in stereo. The original track has been restored and presented here in all its subdued glory. The real draw for this collection is the re-mastered 5.1 mix. Sound effects and music create a decent amount of immersion for a show of this age but the results could have been more profound. Still the quality is crystal clear and I didn't encounter any technical problems while listening to the audio track.
One of the biggest draws to older shows on DVD like Voltron is the attention to supplemental material. On the lighter side of things there are some trailers here as well as a skit from Robot Chicken featuring Voltron getting "served". An interesting feature is present in the set that takes a look at the original pilot for Voltron and presents an episode as part of a Voltron Trilogy. The show that we knew was actually considered to be the Far Universe rendition of the mechanical hero.
An interview featurette is included with some of the original crew that was involved with bringing Voltron to America. They talk about nearly every aspect of the show from the translation to the reception by the audience. From a fan's standpoint it's definitely interesting to hear about what they have to say. The last feature that you'll find on this collection involves the production of the DVD and the steps that the Media Blasters' crew took to bring the show up to speed.
The first release of Voltron by Media Blasters is truly a labor of love. The American version of the show has never looked or sounded so good. Twenty years later the program still proves to be entertaining and though it may have lost some of its punch (due to saturation of the market) it remains as one of the most prominent science fiction anime every produced. Sure the characters have stereotypical personalities and yes some of the episodes are dry but the battle between good and evil has never been so good. Hopefully one day we'll receive the original Japanese version but until then this is a collection worthy of an appearance on your DVD shelf.