Book Review: Voltron: From Days of Long Ago: A Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration

A new coffee table book for grownups who once loved a robot.

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Book Review: Voltron: From Days of Long Ago: A Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration

These days, everything from giant robots to mutant superheroes to sword-weilding dwarves to classic horror monsters get grimly serious treatment in movies and on TV. We live in the age of the nerd – and while that trend has lots of sources, 1980s children’s cartoons have got to be one of the most important. There was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, an easy entrypoint to J.R.R. Tolkein, and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, which in its surreal, over the top TV incarnation was already more X-Men than Bunker Hill.

Then there was Voltron: Defender of the Universe, which first aired in the U.S. September 1984 – not just the same year, but the same month as The Transformers. In many ways, Transformers was a more sophisticated, complicated show (culminating in the epically weird, death-and-profanity-laced Transformers: The Movie in 1986), but that can partially be put down to the fact that the Voltron team was working with repurposed footage from an existing Japanese series that they had to edit heavily for violence.

There are a few bits of behind-the-scenes info like that in Voltron: From Days of Long Ago, a hardcover coffee table book celebrating this year’s 30th anniversary. The book also includes in-universe info on all of the Voltron characters, villians, and technology, including some on relatively obscure side characters and abandoned storylines. It would have been a mind-blowing resource when I was eight and watching Voltron.

But it doesn’t give the grown-up me a lot to chew and reflect on. Behind-the-scenes glimpses are limited to a brief chapter about the American adaptation, with no attention given to the original Japanese creators. There’s also no attempt at providing critical perspective, evaluating Voltron’s place in the nerd pantheon – at least nothing more serious than the breathless fan tributes that line the inner covers.

Maybe that’s as it should be, though - too much thinking about something as simple and beautiful as a giant robot would only ruin it. This is a beautiful book, and a definite must for the anime and science-fiction die-hard.

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