DVD Review: 'Voltron: The Legend Begins'

I feel that before getting too far into my review of this seven episode set--containing the origin adventure of the "Lion Force" team--I should note that the Anime Works (formerly Media Blasters) Voltron sets from about five years ago are still available,* and may represent a slightly better value for fans and completionists. You see, although Voltron: The Legend Begins likely has higher visual quality, the Anime Works sets contain double the episodes for about half the money. I won't make any kind of full-throated endorsement for the earlier release, not having seen it, but I'm just saying it's out there. [Edit: Hm, it looks like there might be a "buyer beware" situation with the Media Blasters sets, which may contain discs with a defect that cause them to wobble in DVD players.]

That's not to say the disc under consideration today from World Events Productions and Classic Media is exactly a slouch. Returning Voltron to DVD, the two outfits have put together a decent package, albeit one with a couple of curious presentation choices.

Watching Voltron could be kind of a micro history course on of a number of transplants from Japanese afternoon TV to U.S. syndication, and the winding roads of cuts, edits, dubs, mis-translations, and assumptions that got some of our favorite shows to us during the beginning and middle of the 80's. We're almost spoiled today with the nearly 1:1 faithful releases for foreign language titles today, but back then, shows which didn't have the resources for English translation were chopped up, liberties were taken with the plots, and assumptions were made to simply get the product out the door and on your TV at three in the afternoon. For example, the original anime upon which Voltron is based, Beast King GoLion has a plot that carries some of the broad outlines of the show we all know and love but, man are the particulars different.

The Legend Begins doesn't really touch on any of this history or provide any real background to the show (in fact, save for a three minute summary of the origin of Voltron, this disc is pretty scant on special features), but it does present the first seven episodes of the show, so you get the opportunity to see how everyone's favorite robot made of lions got its start. It's a shame about the lack of features, too, because the series employed quite a few voice actors who would later become luminaries in their field (or at least instantly recognizable to the ear of the average person who grew up watching cartoons back in the 80's).

Visually, we're promised remastered visuals on the back of the box, and while the image is a lot cleaner than one would expect, it appears slight stretched with the visuals formatted to fit widescreen TVs. It's exactly distracting and there's far less cut off of the top and bottom of the image than you would expect, but it remains noticeable.

So what's the verdict? Should you pick it up or not? Well, you're not going to get the special features of the earlier sets, or the longer running times, but you will get a dependable disc with everything as advertised on the back of the box.

Voltron: The Legend Begins is on shelves now.

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