Voltron Force: The New Defenders Trilogy
Studio: World Events Productions
Publisher: Beyond Home Entertainment
Release Date: 02/05/2012
Voltron Force: The New Defenders Trilogy is the first official DVD release of the Voltron Force series which started airing last year and is still ongoing. It contains the first seven episodes of the series, with the first three episodes packaged together as the ‘The New Defenders Trilogy’.
Voltron Force is a follow up to the original Voltron animated series that aired during the 1980s. While the original Voltron was animated by a Japanese studio, Toei Animation, the new Voltron Force series is animated by an American studio, World Events Productions.
The original Voltron series, at the time, was one of the most popular shows and was part of the golden age of animation. There was nothing quite like it back then and the show has aged really well as it’s as endearing today as it was all those years ago.
The new Voltron Force series aims to kick start the franchise for the new generation. While many elements of the original Voltron have been retained, it becomes clear from the opening minutes of the first episode that this is a whole new show that does things its own way.
The Voltron Force itself is a team of five pilots, namely Kieth, Lance, Pidge, Hunk, and Princess Allura, who each pilot one of the five ancient Lion robots that come together to form the humanoid-like Voltron robot. Think Power Rangers.
The story of Voltron Force is actually a follow up to the original series, as the characters, locations, and overall lore have all been retained and it stays true to the canon. Voltron Force takes place several years after the original, and although it’s not clear exactly how many years have passed, the returning characters have aged quite a bit. The New Defenders Trilogy, comprising of the first three episodes, sets the scene for the series as it shares a bit of the history, reintroduces the old characters, and also introduces some new characters that become the focal point of the show.
The story opens up with a brief retelling of how the Voltron Force, and their mystical Lion robots which together form the legendary Voltron robot itself, were able to vanquish evil and defend the universe. But soon a political conspiracy forces Voltron Force to disband, with the Lions locked away by the military. Some years have passed since that controversial incident and everyone seems to have moved on and dare not even mention it or Voltron.
This is where the new characters come in, with the first one being this thrill seeking boy named Daniel, who is huge admirer of the Voltron Force and continues to be inspired by them even after their disbandment. Upon enrolling in the military academy, he finds himself disappointed to see how the Voltron Force has been buried, even by the former pilots who seem to serve as instructors for the academy. However, a series of events soon makes it clear that the original Voltron Force pilots have been secretly working on their reunion. At the same time, a familiar evil force is regaining power.
This new series really makes a strong connection with the series’ past, as most, if not all, of the characters and even villains from the original make a return and the history they share is strongly referenced. That said, this show is meant for new comers, and as such does not demand knowledge of the previous story. Everything is about the same, however the Voltron Force pilots have been given a major makeover in their characterisation and the new characters, three young cadets who become honourary interns for the Voltron Force, become the main focus of the show.
The flaws in the premise and storytelling of Voltron Force become really clear from the start as the events in The New Defenders Trilogy happen far too quickly, especially the way the new cadets are introduced to the story in such a rushed and ill-thought manner. The worst part is that they’re just not very likeable. One of the cadets, Daniel, who essentially becomes the protagonist of the show, is the most unlikeable and annoying of all the characters and his behaviour will very quickly get on your nerves. The other two cadets aren’t particularly interesting either and overall, the three ‘New Defenders’ are the least appealing aspect of the show, as they just never jell into the Voltron universe well and their characterisation just isn’t very compelling. You’ll most likely end up not liking them after seeing some of the downright nonsense they pull and how they often fail to look relevant. Perhaps they fit in better as the show progresses, but as far as the episodes in this DVD collection goes, they just don’t.
As mentioned before, the original Voltron gang is present, and most of them have been given a major makeover in both design and behaviourisms. The creators have tried to remain faithful to the source material while adding their own fresh twist to it. Perhaps the best part of the show is the original Voltron Force team because as generic as they are, they can be charming and interesting. The dialogue isn’t bad as it has its moments and the humour is good for the most part, sadly the original Voltron Force often take a backseat to the new cadets, which as mentioned earlier, are more of a nuisance than a valuable addition.
All that said, the biggest problem with the Voltron Force series is that the show is clearly targeted to a whole new audience, mainly children, and apart from staying faithful to the source material, it does very little to satisfy fans of the original Voltron series. The original Voltron is obviously a bit outdated in its voice acting and dialogue, but the overall demeanor of the show was something that allowed interested viewers of any age to really enjoy it for what it was. Voltron Force on the other hand seems to alienate longtime fans as the overall premise lacks the same appeal and maturity that made the original such a timeless classic. This is a show written solely for kids, and it succeeds in that regard, it just could have benefited more if it reached out to older fans that still hold fond memories from the original 1980s run.
Visuals and Audio:
This is where Voltron Force really falls apart. Visually and artistically, it is absolutely awful to look at as the animation quality and character designs look lazy and rushed to say the least. If you look at the original Voltron from the 80s, that character designs, animation quality, and artistic direction still hold up remarkably well, and it is in fact miles superior to what Voltron Force offers.
The 2D animation and character designs are awful to look at, and it looks like a typical low budget American animation from the 90s given a better resolution, and mind you, there was some really good animation from America during that era that still look superior to Voltron Force.
There are some subpar 3D effects and animation thrown in that mix awkwardly with the 2D animation. Worst of all, the artistic flair is practically nonexistent. The character designs have very little originality and personality, and the backgrounds and set pieces are horribly bland and poorly drawn. This just isn’t a pleasant show to look at, and it’s odd that the prequel that’s now over two decades old still looks leaps and bounds better.
The sound design isn’t anything special, as it tries too hard with generic rock music to look cool and edgy for the kids. The voice acting isn’t anything special but thankfully not unbearable either.
Voltron Force is a missed opportunity. This was a franchise with so much history and such a good reputation that they could have created something special to win over both the longtime fans and the new comers. Instead this is a show targeted solely at young children, who are most likely going to be the ones who will beg their parents to buy the related merchandise that comes out in 2012. If that was their goal then they have succeeded, as Voltron Force is a show that children will have a lot fun with. As for fans that hold fond memories of the franchise and still to this day enjoy watching the old series, they are going to feel very alienated.