8 Reasons You Should Watch Voltron: Legendary Defender

On June 10 Netflix released their new animated show – a reboot of the classic cartoon Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Titled Voltron: Legendary Defender, it tells the story of a group of humans who discover a giant blue robot lion – and with it, they find out it’s part of the only weapon in the Galaxy capable of defeating the millennia old conqueror, Zarkon, and his Galra empire. The Blue Lion, along with its four differently colored counterparts (Yellow, Green, Red and Black) are used to form Voltron – a powerful giant robot and the only thing standing between Zarkon and total domination. The humans become Paladins, defenders of the universe fighting this threat.

Being a Netflix show, all episodes are available right now – and here are some reason why you should watch them as soon as possible.

1. It’s made by people who worked on Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra

Avatar is often held as one of first cartoons of the current Golden Age of Animation, and as one of the best shows ever. Its sequel series, after a bumpy first half, reached the same heights and manage to differentiate itself from its predecessor to stand on its own.

While both shows’ creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, have for the time taken a hiatus from animations in favor of personal projects, their team is still busy at work. And Voltron: Legendary Defender is their new work – and more specifically, Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery’s, the show’s creators. Both are veteran directors and storyboard artists who, aside from the Avatarverse shows, have worked on many other cartoons and animated features over the years. Dos Santos directed half of the beloved Justice League Unlimited and is praised for his mastery of fight sequences. Montgomery meanwhile directed or co-directed most of DC’s early animated movies, from the famous Wonder Woman movie to Green Lantern: First Flight, and has also worked on the deeply missed Young Justice show.

Add the fact that they’re working with the Korean Studio Mir that was in charge of the Avatarverse TV shows, and you’ve got an all-star team working on a reimagining of a classic cartoon.

2. Consequently, it has fantastic action sequences

Avatar and Korra were praised for their storytelling, character writing, world building – and action sequences. Not surprising, considering their creative team consisted of a guy nicknamed Dr. Fight and a woman who directed a movie with this glorious battle.

Now, the fight sequences in Voltron aren’t as clever and creative as the Avatarverse shows. But that’s to be expected, considering the latter feature people controlling the four elements. They still are awe inspiring, whether we have the space battles, hand to hand combat, laser shootouts, or the titanic battles fought every time the Paladins form Voltron itself.

3. Princess Allura is completely boss

The Paladins aren’t the only main characters of the show. As soon as they make their first wormhole jump, they meet two survivors of the species that created Voltron: Princess Allura and Coran. They’ve been in stasis for ten thousand years, since Zarkon entirely defeated their kind. With no choice but to entrust the five humans with the only weapon to defeat him, they join forces and take lead in the rebellion.

Allura is simply stellar. Voiced by Kimberly Brooks (who also lent her voice to Steven Universe’s Jasper and Mass Effect’s Ashley Williams, among others), she’s an unquestionable leader of the team and the closest to a main character Legendary Defender has. She’s a fun yet complex character, a rare WOC in charge that needs to be celebrated. While most of the cast gets developed over the course of the season, she’s the one who gets the most focus except for the one I mention below.

4. Pidge is simply amazing (in a spoilerific way)

The other MVP of the show is Pidge Gunderson, voiced by Bex Taylor-Klaus – and, sadly, the only character I can’t talk much about. Pidge is basically a walking spoiler, and if I talk any longer, I will ruin everything for you. Suffice it to say, there’s a certain moment at the end of episode 3 that will make you look at that character differently – in a positive way.

5. Actually, all the other characters are great

While Allura and Pidge are the most praiseworthy, by the end of the season I enjoyed every single one of the main characters. Shiro (voiced by Josh Keaton) is somewhere between Captain America and the Winter Soldier, sharing an almost legendary in-universe status and leadership skill with the former, and the tortured past and cybernetic arm with the latter. And for a stoic leader, like Steven Universe’s Garnet, he’s unusually playful. Hunk (voiced by Tyler Labine) seems like the weak point of the team at first, but quickly reveals amazing technological know-how. And as the season goes, he’s the one that probably grows the most, while still remaining the same character we meet early on. Coran (voiced by Rhys Darby), Allura’s servant and her de facto second-in-command, starts out seeming like an example of the „small name, big ego, great cowardice” so-called comic relief. But instead, he quickly reveals to be very competent and knowledgeable about Voltron, Paladin training rigor, and the Castle of Lions, the team’s base of operations.

Out of those seven characters, the only ones you could argue don’t grow that much are Lance (voiced by Jeremy Shada) and Keith (voiced by Steven Yeun). The former remains the „what if you combined Sokka from Avatar and Finn from Adventure Time” character he starts as, while Keith is still the hot-blooded loner. What happens instead is a change of relationship between the two, with the pretty one-sided rivalry becoming an actual friendship.

Add the fact that only two main characters (Pidge and Coran) are white, and you’ve got a diverse and fun group of characters to follow the adventures of.

6. It’s incredibly creative with its alien designs

Speaking of diverse! One of the advantages of animated shows over live action ones is that as long as it looks good within a chosen style, you can do anything you want. Add the immense creativity this team has shown in the Avatarverse show with animals and spirits – and you’ve got some of the most interesting alien designs in history of animated space opera. Arusians and Balmerans, who we get to see the most over the course of the season (the latter is shown in the GIF above) are especially well created. Especially if you note how the difference between male and female members of those species look like, without the typical „weird-looking males, basically human-like female” crap that generally happens.

7. It’s taking advantage of Netflix's release method

While I haven’t seen the original Voltron, reading about it reveals a show similar to its contemporary rivals, very episodic in nature, with often reused animation. That’s not to say I think it was terrible – merely that with the budgets cartoon teams at the time had, it was common to fall back on a formula that worked, with an enemy of the week type of storytelling instead of something more long-form.

Instead, Legendary Defender takes advantage of the changes in cartoon-making that happened over the years, and especially of the Netflix release model. If all 11 episodes (with the first one the length of three regular ones) are available on the same day, why make it completely episodic? Thus we’ve got longer arcs, with a couple breather episodes between them, and whenever a giant monster appears to challenge Voltron, it’s a pretty big deal since the Paladins don’t defeat a similar one every episodes. Heck, the giant robot itself isn’t formed every episode – while still appearing often enough that you’re not left wondering why the show is titled Voltron.

8. It has this scene

Any show that has a scene like that is honestly a must-watch. QED.

Dominik Zine is a nerdy lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.