Book Review: Voltron: From Days of Long Ago, A 30th Anniversary Celebration by Brian Smith

If you love Voltron, you'll love this book.
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I struggled for what felt like an eternity with the opening to this review.  It would've been easy to paraphrase the press release that accompanied this book and simply state that Viz Media, the largest distributor and licensor of anime and manga in North America, is marking the 30th anniversary of one of the most memorable animated series of all time with a fancy hardcover commemorative coffee table book.  But that just felt sort of flat and given the subject matter, I felt that I needed an opening that was majestic and legendary in its grandeur.  Something that would really wow you and do justice to the topic.  After all, I'm not just talking about any old cartoon here; I'm talking about Voltron: Defender of the Universe.

It occurred to me that I could imitate the manner in which Jeremy Corray, former Creative Director of World Events Productions (the company behind Voltron), begins his introduction to the book.  A superfan who eventually got to live his dream by producing the Voltron Force animated series in 2011, Corray wisely utilizes the same words which opened the very series this book pays homage to.

"From days of long ago... from uncharted regions of the universe... comes a legend..."

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Mr. Corray deserves the pat on the back I'm giving him by stealing his introduction.  Because it works, doesn't it?  If you're of a certain age (and you're reading a review of a book about Voltron), there's a pretty good chance you felt a familiar chill run down your spine when you read those words.  Because Voltron wasn't just any other cartoon, it was a grand and sweeping adventure.  A journey into another galaxy filled with futuristic technology and long lost magic, horrific monsters and adorable space mice.  It was the kind of show that illustrated (at least vaguely) the horrors of war and didn't relegate it's princess to a lofty throne but rather, put her in a pilot's seat and on the front lines of battle.  The type of show that inspired a generation despite its simplistic formula and much like the separate robotic lions (or the seemingly endless number of vehicles, depending on which version we're talking about) which combined to form a whole, made its viewers feel like they were part of a journey much, much larger than the confines of a 22-minute episode. 

It was also a show about a giant robot lion with lion heads for hands and feet.  And I don't care if you're seven or thirty seven, that's pretty damn awesome.  No two ways about it.

Voltron: From Days of Long Ago, A 30th Anniversary Celebration approaches the legend of Voltron from several different angles.  The inside cover is filled with testimonials from a variety of fans from around the world that feel like they could've been plucked from my own brain.  Stories of playing Voltron on the swing set during recess or birthday parties made perfect by the gift of five multi-colored lions that will no doubt be familiar to anyone who picks up this handsome, hardcover volume.

The first portion of the book is dedicated to the story of how the gift of Voltron was brought to American soil and the work that went into making it happen.  It touches on the cultural impact of the series and offers a look at many of the toy releases.  Next is "The Legend," which feels similar to the old Marvel Universe Handbooks or whatever the literary equivalent of a documentary is.  Would that be a textbook?  Maybe should've figured that term out before I started writing this review. At any rate, we have schematics of both Lion and Vehicle Voltron, as well as detailed descriptions of the weapons utilized by both the Galaxy Alliance and the Drule Empire and dossiers on the super force of space explorers specially trained and sent to bring back Voltron. 

There are chapters dedicated to the various planets explored in the series and the dreaded Robeats which Voltron met in combat as well as a history lesson on the mythology surrounding this legendary hero who was loved by good and feared by evil.  The book doesn't simply discuss the popular Lion Voltron, but also pays service to the Vehicle Voltron and even touches on that weird Voltron made out of three robots that you always saw in toy stores but who never actually had his own cartoon. 

Voltron: From Days of Long Ago, A 30th Anniversary Celebration is a love letter to a really kick ass cartoon, made by the fans for the fans.  It's sure to delight anyone who experienced the series as a kid and speaking as a parent who flipped through the book with his own children, will ignite a flame in the hearts of a new generation.  Simply put: if you love Voltron, you'll love this book.  I know I certainly did.

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