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Friday, 3 February 2017

Voltron: Legendary Defender S2

Voltron: Legendary Defender
Series 2.

Before we start, my review for the first series of this show is over here, so feel free to check that out.

It took me longer than I would have liked to get around to watching this series, in part because I've been pretty busy, and in part because it kind of showed up on my radar very suddenly. If it had extensive marketing, then that marketing completely passed me by -- although apparently enough people did watch on release that a third series was greenlighted before I even got around to watching the first episode, so that's good, at least.

Going into the series, I'd also been told that a lot of people had reacted very negatively to it. I haven't gone seeking those people out, so I don't know exactly why, but based on how fandom usually is, I'm going to guess it probably has something to do with shipping. Big fandom controversies usually have something to do with shipping, and Voltron fandom has often seemed determined to out-do all others in that regard, what with the 'confirmed paedophile' shenanigans and also all of the other many, unending shenanigans, each one piling atop the last.

For those who forgot, we ended the last series on a cliffhanger, with the series feeling oddly incomplete -- the gang had just had their first confrontation with Galra emperor Zarkon, who had revealed himself to be the original Black Paladin, and during their escape had had their wormhole blasted by Haggar, the leader of Zarkon's druids, sending them all flying off to different parts of the universe.

This series picks up immediately where the last one left off, with the Paladins scattered. As they regroup, they are faced with two new problems: A group of potential allies within the Galra, known as the Blade of Marmora, who Allura is reluctant to trust; and Zarkon's newfound ability to track them anywhere they go. The group sets out to gather allies and resources with which to take the fight to Zarkon, hatching a daring plan to defeat him with the Blade of Marmora's help.

Pidge, in a space junkyard.

I mentioned in my last review for Voltron that the first series felt very incomplete, like it was only the first half of a full series -- well, series two feels like the second half of that series, setting up a structure that is more akin to a two-cour anime than anything else. As such, the pacing is quicker than the first series, and the story is considerably more focused.

The story benefits greatly from Zarkon and Haggar taking an active role, as Zarkon pursues the Paladins across the universe, and makes clear his obsession with the Black Lion and, by extension, Shiro. We even get to see cracks form between them, as Zarkon is preoccupied with reclaiming his Lion, while Haggar is more interested in just killing the Paladins.

A few storylines do get left oddly in the dust, though. Keith's Galra heritage is introduced part way through the series, but we don't really get to see how everyone reacts to it -- we see that Allura is bothered by it, and we get to see how Hunk reacts, but Lance, Pidge, and Coran don't have their reactions to it or their thoughts on it touched on at all. An entire episode could have been spun out of that, and it probably would've been one of the most interesting episodes in the show so far if they had. As it is, with limited time the focus is squarely on the 'defeat Zarkon' plot at all times -- the closest thing we have to a break from it is one funny but ultimately lackluster breather episode involving a space mall.

Keith gets a cool new sword.

Similarly, we get introduced to the idea that Lance is insecure about his role in the team, only for that plotline to get rather unceremoniously resolved about six minutes later. In fact, just in general, Lance is not much in evidence this series: I know there was a push to put him in fewer scenes with Keith on account of the whole 'confirmed paedophiles' fiasco, but this seems to have translated to putting him in fewer scenes period. He gets the least focus of any of the Paladins, followed by Hunk, with Shiro, Keith, and Pidge all getting roughly equal(-ish, Pidge probably gets slightly less) screen time. This is an incredibly odd criticism for me to have to level at the series, since Lance is a fan favourite and the showrunners are well aware of that.

The final battle is so intense that everyone momentarily becomes Gurren Lagann

The animation is slightly better than last series, and once again, it truly shines in Voltron vs Robeast scenes, of which there aren't many. There's two, in fact, and then one versus a pseudo-Robeast in the form of an evil cube, and one kind of amazing fight scene against a giant Zarkon mech, which serves as the jewel in the crown of a truly astounding two-part series finale.

So all in all, I can't really see what it was that people disliked about this series. Perhaps there's something I'm missing, but while it's not a perfect creation, it's definitely a marked improvement over the first series, which was also pretty good. Either way, series three will probably be airing around this time next year, and will apparently be seeing the arrival of franchise standby Prince Lotor, who we may have already seen, albeit while masked and silent.

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