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REVIEW: 'Voltes V: Legacy' trailer promises a faithful adaptation

By CHUCK SMITH Published Jan 04, 2023 6:19 pm

After years of waiting, we finally get a lengthy glimpse of GMA-7’s upcoming show Voltes V: Legacy, a live-action adaptation of the Japanese anime series Chodenji Machine Voltes V

A day before we welcomed 2023, the network released a five-minute-long trailer to the upcoming show. Voltes V: Legacy, which was announced in 2020, will be part of the network's daily primetime block, GMA Telebabad.

Based on the reaction online, viewers—both long-time fans of the show and eager spectators—are mostly satisfied with what they saw. Everyone is waiting to see if the Kapuso network can pull off such an ambitious project.

A legacy

To recall: Voltes V is a mecha anime—basically, an animated show featuring robots—that follows a group of five people who operate the eponymous giant robot to defend Earth against invaders from the planet Bozania. The show aired in Japan from 1977 to 1978, and made its debut in the Philippines in late 1978.

Expectations for the show are high, for many reasons. The show’s title, Voltes V: Legacy, is quite apt; the original Voltes V series has an outsized legacy in the Philippines. It is one of the many Super Robot anime shows that aired in the country during the 70s.

But four episodes before its local run ended, the late President Ferdinand Marcos banned Voltes V from television for its supposed “harmful effects.” Many believed Marcos took the show off the air due to its anti-feudal, anti-oligarchy themes, although recent reports suggest other reasons for the ban.

Still, this, and the fact that it took fans of Voltes V years to see the show’s finale, only contributed to its legacy.

The Philippines was early in embracing anime—titles such as Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Yu Yu Hakusho (Ghost Fighter), among others, exploded in popularity here years before they aired in the United States—but Voltes V remains a major figure in local pop culture. GMA-7 continued airing reruns of the beloved anime until the late 2000s alongside newer titles.

Fans are also waiting if GMA-7 can pull off a series that is heavy on special effects. The Kapuso network is known for making fantasy shows—their 2000s shows Mulawin and Encantadia are highly regarded for being ahead of their time. Despite this, naysayers aren’t confident: just see the fan reaction to GMA-7’s 2018 action fantasy show Victor Magtanggol or ABS-CBN’s ongoing superhero drama Darna. And given the source material, Voltes V: Legacy will need to have several minutes of fight scenes featuring not just a completely CGI Voltes V, but also CGI alien robots and environments. 

This isn’t to mention that local TV does not get many opportunities in adapting animated source materials to live-action properties. How will GMA-7 translate Voltes V, an action-heavy series with a monster-of-the-week format, into the local soap opera template? Will it remain faithful to the beloved anime? Will it keep the show’s 70s cartoon aesthetics or will it go for a more modern and realistic look?

A faithful teaser

Of course, it’s a lot to expect those answers from a five-minute trailer. But if we’re using the trailer as the gauge, it seems Voltes V: Legacy will be both a faithful adaptation—keeping many key and iconic scenes and iconography from the original show—with most (necessary?) tweaks.

The trailer begins, much like the original series, by introducing the show’s villains—led by Prince Zardos (Martin Del Rosario) with allies Zandra (Liesel Lopez), Zuhl (Epi Quizon), and Draco (Carlo Gonzales)—inside their skull-shaped airship base. “Gusto kong magdusa ang lahat ng nasa planetang 'yan,” Prince Zardos says as a horde of alien spaceships attack what seems to be various major cities on Earth. 

Here, we see that the show will not shy away from the colorful, slightly theatrical visuals of cartoons in the 70s. Martin’s Prince Zardos, much like his animated cartoon counterpart, dons his iconic spiky-collared blue overcoat over a red baroque military uniform with gold button-chains.

Then, we hear Commander Robinson (Gabby Eigenmann), commander of the Earth International Defense Force saying that the “Voltes team (is) the last line of defense” against the alien invaders from Boazanians. We see the main protagonists—siblings, Steve Armstrong, Robert “Big Bert” Armstrong, and “Little Jon” Armstrong (Miguel Tanfelix, Matt Lozano, and Raphael Landicho), Mark Gordon (Radson Flores), and Jamie Robinson (Ysabel Ortega) wearing their iconic multicolored uniform.

The live-action version, though, adds padding to the uniform instead of employing the plain spandex-like uniform of the original. Many fans reacted negatively to this change, but it’s an indication that the show knows what to change from the source material—plain multicolored spandex uniforms will look a bit out of place in the show’s serious, mostly industrial visuals. 

We see the CGI take on Voltes V machinery such as the Camp Big Falcon and five giant vehicles that combine to form the titular giant robot. 

GMA-7’s 2019 teaser of the show already revealed what their GGI Voltes V would look like. Not much has changed in the most recent trailer: our live-action robot looks bulkier, muscular even, compared to the clean and sleek cartoon Voltes V. But now, we see Voltes V in action against some memorable Bozanian beast fighters. The CGI scenes here look impressive, the fight choreography (the little we see of it anyway) is fast. If the show could keep up this quality, then Voltes V: Legacy can be at par with Japan’s recent tokusatsu/Super Sentai shows such as Avataro Sentai Donbrothers (which, like Voltes V: Legacy, uses CGI for their mecha battles).  

An indication that Voltes V: Legacy is essentially a Pinoy soap opera is its inclusion of Boazan and Boazanian Hrothgar’s (Dennis Trillo) backstory in the trailer. At this point, everyone who's familiar with anime pretty much knows Voltes V’s twist. We won’t spoil it here, but the trailer somehow reveals the original show’s dramatic pivot. Perhaps the show is aware that a lot of those watching Voltes V: Legacy will know its basic plot beats anyway. What’s the point of pretending we don’t know where this story goes, right?

Much of the trailer is dedicated to featuring many iconic details of the show. We see Mark riding a horse and using his whip on Steve (he is a rodeo champion in the original), Big Bert sparring with several opponents using his staff (a scene almost lifted from the cartoon’s first episode), Little Jon with his robot creation Octo-1 on his shoulder, Big Bert teaching Steven the “butterfly return” technique (again, another specific, iconic storyline in the show). These scenes make us ask if Voltes V: Legacy will faithfully adapt some of the cartoon’s more memorable episodes.

A love triangle?

Of course, no Voltes V: Legacy trailer can exist without fans complaining. Many reacted to the trailer’s inclusion of a scene between Steve, Jamie, and another female character, suggesting that the show will have, like many local soap operas, a love story element.

The scene shows a character played by Elie Villanueva telling Jamie to stay away from Steve. Show producer Suzette Doctolero said in a social media post that Voltes V: Legacy will indeed feature romance, although it won’t be a big part of the show.

“Wala talagang love story sa cartoons na ang target ay kids. Sinong lokong ‘cartoons’ maker ang gagawa nun?” she said.

Doctolero added: “Bilang ang REYALIDAD ay mga kabataang guwapo at magaganda sina Steve, Big Bert, Mark at Jamee kaya yes, may love story. Na hindi malaking part sa kuwento pero mayroon. Imposibleng wala!”

Voltes V: Legacy is an adaptation, so they’re free to make changes that can make the show work for a local and contemporary audience. But the assertion that Voltes V is just for children because it is a cartoon is misinformed; the show is essentially about worlds at war, with teenagers leading the charge to defend humanity. In short: Voltes V has adult themes in a medium that’s generally considered to be meant for kids. Besides, Voltes V successors such as Daimos and even Super Sentai shows (which are meant for kids) such as Maskman and Jetman (both of which aired locally in the 90s) are basically love stories. 

In any case, there is a lot to like in the Voltes V: Legacy trailer. It is one that makes us want to volt in and watch it on television once it finally airs (hopefully soon).

Watch the trailer below.