Is “Voltron: Legendary Defender” Copying Anime?



The fact that a new Voltron is coming seems almost inevitable. In the United States, Voltron is a quintessential part of pop culture. While the original Japanese versions, Golion and Dairugger, are more or less footnotes in the grand scheme of animation in Japan, Voltron is woven deeply into the nerd consciousness of America. Following in the footsteps of the 90s CG cartoon Voltron: The Third Dimension and the more recent Voltron Force, this newest iteration, titled Voltron: Legendary Defender, is being made by DreamWorks and set to premiere on Netflix on June 10th, 2016.

To promote the series DreamWorks  released a video showing the new Voltron’s combination sequence (a must for any super robot series), but one thing you might not have caught is the reference it makes to one of Japan’s most beloved mecha anime: King of Braves Gaogaigar.

Along with a sleek and revised design derived from contemporary sensibilities (in contrast to the classic boxy design), the new combination sequence features many more internal shots as the pieces of Voltron link together to form its titular robot. One moment in particular, the formation of Voltron’s feet, is clearly taken from Gaogaigar’s “Final Fusion,” seen below:

While combination sequences in mecha anime tend to be fundamentally similar in purpose (creating excitement for the unlocking of the heroes’ real might and acting as stock footage to save on money overall), there is no mistaking the similarities between Gaogaigar and Voltron: Legendary Defender. The preparation for the joining between the legs, the angle of entry, and the red glowing light are all taken from Gaogaigar.

In a way, it only makes sense that Voltron: Legendary Defender would take a page from the King of Braves. Final Fusion is one of, if not the best robot combination sequence ever. The scene makes you feel intimately familiar with the inner workings of Gaogaigar, and each moment of metal clashing against metal just exudes power and majesty. The new Voltron also takes a lot from the original Voltron, so it’s more of a mix between Golion and Gaogaigar. (Incidentally, both of these series involve robot lions.)

Voltron: Legendary Defender (above) vs. Gaogaigar (below)

 

Whether or not this reference to Gaogiagar is more homage or more imitation ultimately comes down to how much Voltron: Legendary Defender uses its callbacks to support an overall high-quality product or treats it like a crutch in lieu of any real creativity. It is potentially a problem because the Voltron franchise often deals in nostalgia and reverence for the past more than new ideas.

At this point prior to its release, it would be unfair to judge the new Voltron. I’m holding out hope that Voltron: Legendary Defender will shine some new light and bring some new perspectives for the “Defender of the Universe.” Maybe they could make reference to the other, non-lion Voltron. Do the owners of Voltron still hold the rights to Kousoku Denjin Albegas (the so-called Gladiator Voltron)? That would be quite a sight.

What do you think of the new Voltron? Are you looking forward to it, or do you feel that it’s going to be yet another mediocre addition to the franchise? Let me know in the comments!