Tuesday, July 15, 2008

DO NOT PASS GO(LION)!

It is not possible to spend countless hours at a library in front of a microfilm reader watching dozens of 23 year old newspaper ads for Voltron toys going by without suffering some sort of brain damage side effect. That was the situation I found myself in one day last month in the Anchorage library. As I saw ads for everything from remote controlled Voltron to Voltron ViewMaster reels to Voltron underwear and Voltron dress up sets I started wondering, "Who was Voltron anyways? What do I remember about him?" And most importantly, "How can I have a personal relationship with Voltron so that I may spread the word to others about how he is defending the universe?"

It was weird but the more I thought about it, the more I could not recall the specifics of the Voltron story as I experienced it during my childhood. I didn't remember a single plotline or ongoing story arc. All I remembered was Voltron had about ten thousand episodes and they all went something like a) a robeast showed up, b) the lions got their asses totally handed to them by said robeast and then c) in a brilliant show of strategy they decide to form Voltron and they slice the robeast in half with the Blazing Sword (which is what they should have done in the first place). Somewhere in the english lexicon there should be a catchphrase like "Fucking form Voltron already!" It seems dumb now but when I was a kid that robeast/lions/Voltron formula must have been storytelling gold because I kept watching all ten thousand episodes.


Voltron was one of those Japanese robot casserole shows where they took a couple of unrelated existing cartoons and mashed them together to make enough episodes for a US syndication run. This method of creating a show requires lots of editing to make the individual source cartoons gel together and also to appease the US censors. Consequently Voltron suffered from some odd pacing and strange character dialogue. Even when Media Blasters began releasing the original Voltron on DVD back in August of '06 I was reluctant to pick it up because that cartoon has problems. But back in May of this year Media Blasters began releasing on DVD the uncut original show from which Voltron was made-Beastly Beast King GoLion the King of Beasties. I got volume 1 at Best Buy last month and it was definitely worth the 20 bucks. I dare say, It is GoLicious.

I will admit that at first watching GoLion was shocking to me. Not just because all the characters have funny Japanese names with twice as many syllables, but it's pretty much gratuitously violent. They really go overboard in trying to paint the character formerly known as King Zarkon as a terrible space bastard doing awful things. In Voltron they never show how the parents of the character formerly known as Princess Allura died, but in GoGo Beasty GoLion that camera is all up in their faces as Zarkon cuts their heads off. Maybe that's why Princess Allura has such a friggin' potty mouth in Battle Beasty Go Lion King.

One thing that took some getting used to is how Zarkon's henchmen are constantly whipping the alien slaves in Zarkon's slave camps. At first it seemed extremely brutal and sadistic how they'd whip out the lashings at any moment, but after a while I kind of got tired of those slaves doing things to piss off their captors and I stopped feeling sorry for them. I mean, seriously mister alien slave guy, if you know that talking about Voltron will piss off the guy with the whip, why do you keep doing it? The beatings kept coming so often that not only did I become desensitized to them, I began looking forward to seeing those dumbass aliens get the beat down. The whippings eventually became comedy relief and it seemed like the more the aliens screamed the more I laughed. I thought it was funny how my reaction to the beatings went from "Holy crap how can they show this in a kids' cartoon!" to "Oooh that's gonna hurt tomorrow, ain't it, Mork?"

The DVD packaging for King Beast GoLion of the Beasty Boys totally sucks. There's no booklet or liner notes or any extras. Each volume is just three discs in a fold out cardboard case with some of the worst cover art I have ever seen for a robot show. But what you're paying for here is content. Sweet, sweet, head rolling, slave whipping, robeast slicing content. I'm sure that if Voltron aired unedited back in '85 when I was eleven years old I would have remembered more about it today. I also would probably have grown up to be a serial killing cannibal cat rapist. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

8 comments:

Sean said...

Great post, though I do have to be a bit of an annoying nitpicker and point out that Voltron was just two unrelated shows that were put together IIRC. All of the Lion Voltron stuff came from Go Lion but the Vehicle Voltron was some other unrelated series. The mashing of the two different series for Voltron never really bothered me as much as Harmony Gold slapping Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeda together for Robotech did. The Go Lion series and whatever the anime version of Vehicle Voltron was called seem to mesh together pretty well whereas Southern Cross following the Macross Saga just really didn't work as the two respective anime series' were just so different from one another. I'm okay with Mospeda being part of the Robotech saga though because that had valks and some other things here and there that reminded me of Macross so the mixing of Macross and Mospeda never really bothered me as much as the Macross/Southern Cross thing did. I'm just really hoping they skip over all the Robotech Masters shit if they decide to go all out and do five or six Robotech live-action films.
I really like that clip of Go Lion though. It makes me curious to check out that series as Voltron was one of those things that just didn't really age well for me seeing it again recently after seeing it as a little kid.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Yeah, that was a sort of an editorial decision on my part. I figured that describing Voltron as a casserole of a couple of unrelated shows in the third paragraph was good enough. I originally went on a bit about Robotech and Vehicle Voltron/Dairugger but I decided to cut that out because I wanted this to be more about GoGoGoLion Beastman King. I felt I was veering off tangent with the vehicle team exposition and I figured anybody who watched Voltron would get it and go on from there.

I'm very conscious of being too wordy when I write and I felt all that extra rambling about non-Lion Voltron veered dangerously into TL:DR territory, plus I didn't think it contributed enough to the main focus of the post. The word count was nearing 900 with the extra Dairugger jokes and since I simply will not read blog entries over around 900 words I decided to leave that stuff out. I do see now how eliminating all reference to Dairugger makes the post very Lion force centric but I went with it.

Sean said...

Yeah, I hear you on the TLDR stuff. I think most of the stuff I write usually gets into that territory. When I was in college and graduate school I never really got into trouble for writing stuff that was too short; I mostly got shit for going way over whatever the length was supposed to be. Being concise was just never my thing.

Veering off-topic a bit: My brother and I really wanted Lion Voltron when we were kids but he was, as your old ads have shown, pretty expensive at the time (the Matchbox one anyway). Somehow our rich uncle found out we wanted one so we went over to his house one day and he was like"I got you Voltron" and we were really excited until he handed us the box and it was like "Oh...Vehicle Voltron." That was like getting Galvatron when you really wanted Megatron. Pretty crushing. Still, we played with Vehicle Voltron a lot and he was pretty durable. We rolled him down some stairs and he would pop apart back into the individual vehicles but he never broke. Over time though we managed to lose/break him.
A couple of years ago I got really into Lion Voltron stuff again and I bought an old, beaten to hell Matchbox Voltron as well as some Panosh Place Voltrons and I was thinking that it would be really great to get a Vehicle Voltron again. I looked him up on eBay and realized he actually goes for a lot more than Lion Voltron stuff which is pretty great because he was clearanced in a lot of places when I was a kid and was the "Oh...Vehicle Voltron" to my brother and I. I don't remember the Vehicle Voltron cartoon to save my life but I definitely remember that toy.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

TL:DR

Just kidding. I think you and I with our somewhat upbeat 500 word essays are the odd men out in the toy robots blogging scene. I don't know about you but my stats are really low mostly because I don't think this particular subject matter attracts people with attention spans over 500 words. And those that are attracted don't want to read about someone having a good time with it. They either want to read people who goof on them for collecting or someone they can goof on for collecting.

I think people like to read short concise snippets about whatever the toy of the week is and I don't do that either. I'm also not much of a collector nowadays so I can't be all butthurt about collecting, which is a point of view that attracts swarms of internet readers. Lately it's very hard for me to read that style and not be put off by the emo-ness of it. For me, being all butthurt about toy robots is so 2007. I think Nala's the only one that manages to keep that style entertaining but his imitators I find sorely lacking.

I know there's not much of an audience for what I write but I am grateful for every reader. There's some satisfaction knowing someone is looking at the blog, but mostly I keep doing it because I'm extremely narcissistic and I think I'm funny and interesting. It's not like I'm gunning for the Pulitzer of toy robots blogging but I do hope that my handful of readers think it's good enough to go through every last word.

Sean said...

Well I for one think your stuff is great and as I've said before somewhere here on your site, I find your self-deprecating views on "adult collecting" to be hilarious and refreshing. Your posts and Nala's posts are the standards by which I try to judge the quality of my own stuff because I really like the idea of taking an upbeat and humorous approach to writing about collecting toys when you're in your late twenties or early thirties. Personally I think it just seems kind of weird and creepy to take collecting deadly seriously as a lot of the fat creepy old guys who review transformers toys on Youtube tend to do. I really think something is wrong with you if you collect and review toys as an adult without realizing that other, as you put it "neuro-typical" people think you're a weirdo so it's best to have a self-deprecating sense of humor about it. I really like that you and Nala take that approach as that is kind of the approach/mindset I've always tried to have whenever I deal with my more neuro-typical friends and family.
But I do agree with you that we're probably the only people who like toy robots enough to write/read the big essays. Most people want to either read a quick review on the toy of the week or bitch about the price of collecting figures and the downhill quality of Hasbro stuff. The post that always seems to get the most hits on my site is the review I did for Ultimate Bumblebee which is kind of annoying to me because I'd like to think I've written better reviews and essays concerning toy robots.

Weasel said...

I tried watching Voltron on Toonami. I couldn't make it through three episodes. I just couldn't get into it. (And I used to watch The Sonny and Cher Show just to try and catch a glimpse of Peter Cullen!)

Now if this had been on the air, I might have enjoyed it. I do so love gratuitous violence.

Sean said...

Yeah, I know what you mean, Weasel. I was only two or three when Voltron premiered so I don't remember the cartoon too much. I do, however, remember getting Vehicle Voltron from my uncle near the end of its run in stores in like '86 or so.
I saw most of the series on Toonami back in '96 and I thought that they had a couple of pretty cool episodes here and there but that they had a lot of cheese as well.
I recently purchased a bootleg DVD set of the entire Lion Voltron series in 2005 and it was so campy and cheesy I couldn't even get through the first half of the series. The Macross Saga of Robotech had a lot of cuts and changes from Macross but it still was a really good series and I'd argue it was almost as good as SD Macross. Somehow I don't get the feeling that it's like that with Voltron and Go Lion though. Judging from that clip it looks like Go Lion is probably far superior to the Voltron stuff.

M said...

PSMR ruleia.

 

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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.