If you haven't heard of it, Voltron: Legendary Defender is an ongoing Netflix series that retells the story of the 1984 cartoon. Both the original and the remake are heavily influenced by anime. You can tell just from looking at it. The art style and animation, even the character writing and plot, scream anime. And it’s great. I’ve never watched a Netflix original before (still waiting for that Death Note movie) but Voltron gets an A+ in my book. It is an exciting, vibrant show with good characters, fun plot twists and an engaging story. As a bonus, it can be bestowed one of the greatest compliments in the history of television:
It reminds me of Avatar the Last Airbender.
Both these shows fall in an undefinable category: sort of an anime but not really. Yes, they look, feel, and resonate with their audiences like anime, but they’re not made in Japan. So are they just cartoons? Personally, I disregard country of origin when I watch something like this. It may be wrong, but if it looks and feels like an anime, then, to me, it’s an anime. But besides their strange categorization, there are plenty of things these shows have in common. The one trait I want to focus on is a refreshing surprise that makes Voltron and Avatar feel related, like a brother from another mother.
They share the same sense of humor.
Avatar is laugh-out-loud funny. When I was 12, I was in hysterics. Ten years later, I’m still laughing my guts out. One liners, comedic build-up, visual gags, the comedy in the show is spot on. In the first episode of Voltron, Lance delivers a joke that nearly made me pause the video. "That’s something Sokka would say," I thought. His jokes were more than just for laughs; they was thematically and thoughtfully funny. They established character and setting in a lighthearted way, just like our favorite alpha male from the Southern Water Tribe.
Hunk is the other main source of comedy in Voltron. Our big-boned, food-loving engineer is a major outlet for comic relief. His friends constantly make him the butt of the joke, but they never degrade him. He’s an important member of the team, an engineer with useful knowledge, who also happens to be scared of heights and prone to motion sickness (not useful when driving an intergalactic lion robot).
I liked the first episode of Voltron but I wasn’t entirely impressed. The humor is what brought me to watch episode 2. Voltron, like Avatar, utilizes comedy in a way that builds character, setting and theme. They share more than just a playfully spirit and thoughtful commentary; they’re from the same vein of television. If that’s not a reason to give Voltron a try, I don’t know what is.
I just finished watching the third season of Voltron. Season 4 comes out in October, so there’s plenty of time to see this modernized American anime. It’s a delightfully fun show that's worth your time. If American anime to come have the same ambition, execution and hilarity, then we’re in for some quality TV. What a time to be alive.