Voltron

Imagine you are a child in the year 1984, seeing and hearing this for the first time:

That opening theme is every bit as iconic as those of Star Wars, Indiana 
Jones and Buckaroo Banzai. It isn’t just triumphant; it’s Christmas, your birthday and post-orgasm in half a minute.

Don’t get me wrong; I was a serious Voltron collector. By which I mean, I had awesome grandparents, who gifted me the five-lion and three-man versions for different Christmases. I bartered the fifteen-vehicle set from my cousins, who’d previously received it from Santa Grandparents. It was a good childhood in a lot of ways, what can I say. The love was tangible.

However, a huge part of what made me want the toys so badly in the first place was that spectacular opening infotisement, and that extraordinary musical fanfare. Here it is again:

Hear how it’s almost the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme, but isn’t? If you’re a newbie to the franchise, does it not make you want more?

For many kids, Voltron was their introduction into the world of anime. At first I confused it with Battle of the Planets, not just because I was very young and the outfits were similar, but because that show was on wicked early in the morning and I assumed it was a dream.

Like Scooby-Doo and most kids’ cartoon shows of the ’80s, Voltron was redundant, with the same basic formula every episode. The bad guys would unleash a “RoBeast”, and Voltron would fight it. Voltron would be close to losing, then form a blazing sword, and slice the RoBeast to bits. The backstory was limited and simple to grasp because learning about Voltron wasn’t intended to take precedence over, say, learning about history, or social studies.

I never wearied of that theme music, which is a good thing, because it plays every time Voltron is formed. On the thousand-to-one odds that you’re on the Internet yet still don’t know this, Voltron is a combiner robot, formed from smaller vehicles piloted by humans. In the first season of the show, it was five robotic lions (as seen above). The time would come for Voltron to be formed, the formation scene would be reused to eat up a minute, and boom. We never complained because it was dependably awesome. Awe-inspiring, even.

It is impossible to put into words what it felt like to receive that toy for Christmas.

It was heavy, tall, and its spring-loaded missiles could hurt you at close range. It could launch the heads of the red and green lions. Attaching the legs (the die-cast metal blue and yellow lions) was like loading the magazine of an expensive and powerful handgun. The mouth of the black lion opened to reveal Voltron’s face, just like the cartoon. Excepting the disappearance of the legs of the lions that form the arms, the toy pretty much functions as depicted.

It came with more weapon accessories than I’d ever seen a toy come packed with before, not even original Megatron. All shiny silver chrome, in seemingly endless variations of shields and rocket launchers. And of course, the Blazing Sword, which was over half a foot long. If ever a single toy could spoil you rotten, this was it.

The game was forever changed. Even the following season’s robot (with three times the vehicles/toys) and combiner robots from the same era in other franchises (like Transformers’ Devastator) couldn’t top this for sheer exaltation. The third Voltron, affectionately known as “Gladiator Voltron”, didn’t even have to compete; the plans to import that show were aborted.

You could have three individual guys that are only articulated at the shoulders and elbows, or one really big one. It’s like a Neapolitan ice cream robot, and you can pick the order of the flavors. Legs do not bend as depicted, or in any way whatsoever. From the TV series that does not exist.

I bought the above toy with my own money because of the thought that it was from the same universe as the other two Voltrons (it is), with the association of the music cued in my mind by that totally metal logo. (The fantastic painted art’s toy-accuracy didn’t hurt, either.)

The cartoon show I loved so much in grade school doesn’t hold up well to viewing in the current times; it’s actually a dub of a Japanese super robot anime called Beast King GoLion, with new names, dialogue, and mythology that could be called dumbed-down. I would hazard a guess that the theme music came from the original anime, and not World Events Productions, the producers of the dub that made Voltron famous in America. The source cartoon is better left a memory. Suffice it to say, sometimes cartoons really are edited for children’s benefit.

But much like TRON, and a few other beloved ’80s properties I could name, a lion’s share of its enduring popularity is thanks to its indelible theme song.

Almost every vehicle that formed Voltron I (Voltron of the Near Universe) has a pullback motor. Some people think the giant cars as roller skates are stupid. Don’t you dare count me amongst those people.

Comments Off on Voltron

Filed under Bad Influences, Faint Signals, Idiot's Delight, Nostalgic Obsessions, Robot Toy Fetish, Thousand Listen Club, Unfairly Maligned