Air Team unite…
What They Say
The Galaxy Alliance's home planets have become overcrowded, and a fleet of explorers has been sent to search for new planets to colonize. Along the way, they attract the attention of the evil Drule Empire, long engaged in an ongoing war against the Alliance, and the Drules proceed to interfere in the mission of the explorers and the colonists. Since the Voltron of Planet Arus was too far away to help the explorers, a totally new Voltron is constructed to battle the Drule threat.
For this viewing session, we listened to the English only dub of Voltron. The stereo mix for this series is nicely expansive as it makes good use of directionality throughout the program both for action and dialogue effects. The sound effects may be a bit dated, but the sound quality is excellent. The transfer to Dolby 5.1 sounds great due to the fact that Voltron was the first American TV program to ever be recorded in stereo. The dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track. The other added perk to this series is that Peter Cullen, the narrator for both Voltron series, plays as Commander James Hawkins.
Originally airing back in 1982, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With this show being nearly 24 years old, the transfer for it looks great. The digital remastering of the video footage closely resembles the care that was used for the lion collections. As with any restored footage this old, there is some graininess to the video that causes some of the solid color areas to look a distorted. This is only noticeable when sitting about three feet away on my 62" widescreen LCD screen and is often the case with older animated TV series. When viewing from a nine foot distance, the video footage looks pretty smooth. There are some minor areas of print deterioration and scratches, but are minor. One will also notice that there is quite a bit of recycled footage of both Voltron and the Explorer. This was done in order to make the Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV footage fit into the Voltron story.
The packaging for this collection is not as impressive as the lion collections. That’s not to say that the packaging for this collection is not good, it’s just not as impressive. The lion sets came in colored tins where this one comes in a cardboard box. The cardboard case features a nicely rendered image of Jeff’s fighter that is set to a blue colored box. The theme of this collection nicely fits the Air Team’s blue insignia and uniform colors. The back of the box features Jeff in his full Space Explorer uniform with a silhouetted image of the Air Team’s Strato Fighter.
As with all previous Voltron collections, a folded cardboard disc holder is used to keep the discs secure in the box (atypical packaging of most multi-volume anime collections). An episode guide is also provided that gives a short synopsis of each episode along with its original air dates. Despite the cardboard, one can obviously tell that the packaging design was a priority in this release in how it represents the Air Team. Folded, the disc holder features a nicely rendered group image of the Air Team members. This is candid image does a good job of reflecting each team member’s personalities. There obviously was some thought put into this image. On the back side is an image of Quark, one of the Drule baddies that is featured in this collection of episodes. An image of Jeff in front of a silhouetted image of the Air Team Strato Fighter is also found inside the cardboard fold-out. Again, as with the previous Voltron cases, this is one impressive package design that will please any Voltron fan
Clean and simple, the main menus for each of the three discs are based on the Air Team theme. The disc menu uses the same image of Jeff’s fighter as the main menu background. The Voltron theme music loops in the background while the main menu is displayed. The menu options are along the right side of the screen and there were no transition delays switching between menus. The scene access submenu contains an image of the Air Team members on the left side of the screen while screen caps of the chapters are vertically arranged on the right. As with the main menu, a looping musical theme plays while the submenus are displayed.
This collection runs really light on the extras as compared to the extras released in previous collections. The extras on in this collection are no dispersed throughout each of the three discs. This is different than the lion collections where the extras were put on one disc.
Disc 1 contains Media previews of upcoming and currently released anime by Media Blasters. There is also a trailer called Team Up, which features clips from the Fleet of Doom movie where both Lion Voltron and Vehicle Voltron put the smacketh down on a Robeast.
Disc 2 contains the pilot episode for Vehicle Voltron. This is the best extra in the whole collection as it gives you a little perspective on how it was presented in its raw format. This pilot, like the Lion Voltron pilot is rough, but it’s a nice piece of history that fits right with the collection.
Disc 3 contains the “Vehicle Featurette” extra that explains in detail about how Vehicle Voltron came into being. The feature also focuses on the evermore debatable question, “Why is Lion Voltron More Popular than Vehicle Voltron?” Another extra, “Vehicle Voltron Fans Unite” presents a little history lesson on the Voltron saga. It primarily focuses on fans who have a real zeal for Vehicle Voltron. It’s too bad that there are not any fan interviews, but just quotes from the fans at Voltron.com.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).
Like many older anime fans, I was brought up on classic anime adaptations from the 70’s and 80’s. Vehicle Voltron is one those series that I got to see, but never got to really finish. Most of us who grew up watching Voltron can probably remember the day the syndicated Lion Voltron episodes stopped airing or at least switched to a different time slot. Its replacement was Vehicle Voltron. Vehicle Voltron took on roughly the same form as Lion Voltron and could unleash the same amount of Robeast stopping, blazing sword cutting power. However, there was one hitch…
To make Vehicle Voltron, you need 15 space explorers instead of 5 as with Lion Voltron. Now, to a young prepubescent teen, this can be a bit overwhelming in the fact that you have to keep up with almost 3 times the number of characters. Not to mention, you have two commanding officers that call the shots for what Voltron can and cannot do. Oh, did I mention that this Voltron can only fight with 5 minutes of solar power? Also, you have a load of villains to keep track of as well. Kids in those days just weren’t ready to apply that amount of mind power towards their afternoon or Saturday morning cartoons. Many an argument can be made about why Vehicle Voltron was not as successful. But, after nearly 25 years, does Vehicle Voltron suck or is it worthy or rewatching? That is the question that I hope to answer in this review.
As many mecha-heads know, Vehicle Voltron was derived from the anime series Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV that aired in 1982. The anime series has no relationship to King of Beast Go-Lion from which Lion Voltron was derived. In the Voltron universe, the series were linked together, somewhat like how Robotech was assembled, to make a long running animated soap opera that would hopefully sell lots of toys. Vehicle Voltron didn’t quite meet up to expectations.
In this rendition of Voltron, the Galaxy Alliance's home planets have become overpopulated. The Galaxy Alliance has sent the Explorer on a mission to search for new planets to colonize. In their search, they attract the attention of the Drule Empire. The Drules have been engaged in an ongoing war against the Alliance. The Drules proceed to interfere with the Explorer’s mission by claiming that the Alliance is encroaching upon their territory in the galaxy. With Lion Voltron of Planet Arus too far away, the crew of the Explorer must rely on a newly constructed Voltron to battle the Drule threat. Under James Hawkins, the Voltron force is consistently outnumbered, outgunned, and outmanned.
The Vehicle Voltron team consists of 15 members. The members are divided into three teams of five, known respectively as the Land, Sea, and Air Teams. Each team is responsible for planetary data gathering and defense of their respective areas. Each team can combine their vehicles to form a super fighting machine, which is a great treat for mecha fans. If you are that kind of fan, you’ll never get tired of the transformation scenes for each team for the subsequent assembling of Voltron. Voltron aside, the Explorer is one cool starship that I remember distinctly as a kid. It ranks highly in my top 10 of capital ships from my favorite anime, including the SDF-1 from Macross.
The plot for this series is a paradox, simple, yet complex. Beyond the simple theme of just trying to find a place to live, there is political spin on this show that requires the viewer to engage with the plights of both the Galaxy Alliance and the Drule Empire. There is plenty of action, but there is also quite a bit of chess playing as well. In some ways, the politicking is almost too realistic.
As stated before, the overall plot for this collection focuses on the Voltron Force trying to repel the Drules while trying to find suitable planets to colonize. Every planet they find results in a Drule attack. This continues onward until the latter half of the collection. A new twist begins to develop as Commander Hawkins tries to negotiate peace with the Drules. Commander Hazar, the Drule leader, seems to be intrigued by this notion and entertains the idea, but his commanders are split on the idea. It seems as if Hazar may be losing his control as some of his commanders are going about with their own agendas.
It is easy to identify with Jeff, Cliff, and, Cric as the respective team leaders for Voltron. Who doesn’t want to cheer for the hot shot Voltron team leader? But, who really made the show enjoyable for me as an adult was Commander Hawkins, the steady, even tempered commander who seems to always make the right call when it comes to dealing with the Drules. He and Captain Newly are the ones that really call the shots from the Explorer. Hawkins’ counterpart, Commander Hazar of the Drule Empire is a cunning and intelligent foe. However, Hazar must deal with his somewhat incompetent commanders who bite at every opportunity to unleash another robeast, or sacrifice all of their soldiers to take out the Explorer and Voltron.
When viewing Vehicle Voltron as a kid, it was easy to identify with Jeff because he was the team leader and was a cousin to Keith, the commander of Lion Voltron. I was all about the blazing sword, the spinning laser blades, and all the other cool things that this Voltron could do. But, I really can’t remember much about the plot. Revisiting this series now has given me a new appreciation for the parts of the story that I did grasp as a child. I am anxiously waiting to see how the story continues to unravel in the upcoming collections. Let’s Go Voltron Force!
Vehicle Voltron resurfaces on DVD after 25 years since its initial TV broadcasting. The less popular version of the two Voltron series, Vehicle Voltron brings about a plot that is more politically focused with many characters. The Lion Voltron series has great heart and great character development, which took many kids in the 80’s hook, line, and sinker. Vehicle Voltron brings about a very cerebral, yet action packed saga that has a new appeal for this big kid at heart who once thought Vehicle Voltron was boring. Nostalgically recommended!
English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Hitachi 62VS69 62" UltraVision LCD Projection HDTV, Samsung BDP-1000 Blu-ray Player with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.