Hey, did you know the original Voltron was obsessed with death? No, no. Not that original Voltron. I’m talking about the OG of OG Voltron, Beast King GoLion. The original anime that was adapted to become Voltron in America. It had violence. Like, a lot of violence. Voltron of course removed most of it to make the series more appropriate for its intended kid audience.
(I wonder if the Voltron series that exists in universe of Voltron: Legendary Defender was similarly edited. By all accounts it looks like the American version though.)
Now if I were a snobby anime purist, this article would take the position that cutting out all this death and destruction neutered the show. That it should have kept it in because kids needs to learn about death and blood, man.
Well that’s not this article because I find the ways Voltron censored death to be the greatest and funniest thing known to mankind. Look, this was long before the days of Adult Swim where anime regularly airs mostly intact. Long before the days you could stream all the newest shows hours after they debut. You had to make compromises.
The edits seen in Voltron are the most transparent and desperate ways to get the show on air with zero controversy. Those deserve to be spotlighted. The following list is by no means complete; these are just the biggest “are you serious?!?” moments in the show’s history.
Episode 6: The Right Arm of Voltron
“There’s a doctor on planet Ebb.”“Get me there fast.”
So this is easily the most famous Voltron edit ever. Yeah, in the original GoLion series Sven (named Shirogane there) died. Here? Whoa now, we can’t kill anybody.
So instead, Sven suddenly gains the power to talk without moving his lips. Seriously, watch the shot where Keith and Lance are crying.
Okay, here’s the thing. If Sven is actually dying (when really, come on, he’s just bleeding from the face a little) shouldn’t they try and treat the guy before sending him off planet? Why does he need to go to another planet? What the hell is on Ebb that’s so great? (Shut up, Voltron Force fans I know they showed the planet there.) I always just imagined it was a medical planet. That or some dude chilling in a cave with some roots and a box of band aids.
Wouldn’t it have been easier to say he slipped into a coma and they shipped him off planet? Nah.
Episode 9: The Pretty Spy
“Well we’re rid of Zarkon and Twyla has gone back to her planet.”
Well, that’s a cozy way to get around that Twyla committed suicide in the original. Yeah, as you can see in the screencap above, her GoLion counterpart leapt off a mountain. They had a funeral for her and everything.
This is one of the tamer ways Voltron dealt with death, but it’s also the perfect example of how they would sweep it under the rug. Characters that were integral to a plot would just be casually tossed out of the story with an off-handed remark. It’s so beautifully lazy that it’s almost genius.
Episode 12: Bad Birthday Party
“What have we here?”“Oh, nothing sire, just lazy slaves. They claim they are sick and injured.”
It delights me to no end that instead of cutting around these shots, the American writers instead just came up with lines like this. Although when you think about it, it does make Zarkon look way more evil! I mean come on, the dude doesn’t just kill people. He walks all over the “sick and injured.”
He’s a sadist! He’s crazy! I love it!
Episode 20: Pidge’s Home Planet
“My world.”“At least we’re sure everybody safely got off the planet before Lotor started his dirty work.”
What makes this exchange, especially with the tears streaming down Pidge’s face, is that five seconds later he’s cracking jokes with the Space Mice. Eh, it’s all good. The death of my whole planet never bothered me anyway.
You can tell by this point the writers realized just how full of death GoLion was and that they couldn’t cut around it. So they just leaned into it and the explanations got more and more ridiculous. I wonder how VLD’s Pidge reacted to this episode. Can you imagine??
Episode 22: Phantom Flowers
“These are very special flowers, father.”“Very evil flowers, your majesty.”
“What happened to all those people?”“Every person who smelled those strange new flowers has suddenly become very ill.”
Man, Arus has a lot of dead people on it. Where do they put all those bodies? Who would want to live there? I mean seriously, once we hit the fourth “fall ill” epidemic in a month I’d consider moving to planet Ebb.
Episode 42: The Sand People
“It’s a deep sleep, he’ll awaken soon.”“Eventually Sandy did recover and peace was restored to the planet of the little Sand People thanks to Voltron: Defender of the Universe!”
Yes, a “deep sleep.” Just like when your parents took Rusty to the vet when you were eight. Rusty never came back that day. They said he had to go to sleep for a long time. You wonder why Rusty never woke up. You keep asking at family get togethers if he’s even going to wake up. Your parents just look away and change the conversation; afraid of the years of therapy you’ll need if you find out the truth.
Episode 47: Summit Meeting
“Haggar created a mock ship, with robot look alikes of the ambassador and his crew. At this very moment my robot agents are preparing to disintegrate what the people of Arus believe to be an ambassador and his ship.”
That plan is… really elaborate. I think this is peak “the writers have no idea what to do so they’re just making stuff up as they go.” Plus this is about the time Voltron really cemented on “everyone is a robot” as a way of getting out of death.
Episode 49: Coran’s Son Runs Amuck
“We built it to fool Zarkon. We told him they were buried here. He’s never been back.”“Thank goodness. Coran’s wife and son are safely in another dimension.”
Wow. Just. Wow.
This is one of those unintentional world-building moments that come with anime dubs in the ’80s. There are other dimensions in the Voltron universe? Oh man, what if that dimension is the continuity? What if the big twist is that Zarkon in that dimension is actually Coran’s son from the original timeline?! OMG, I CRACKED THE VOLTRON CODE GUYZ.
Episode 52: Final Victory
-crashing water sounds-
“Sven!”“They fell into the water.”“When they did find Sven they found his fall had been broken by the water. He was safe.”
Here they just loop the footage of Sven falling and hastily add in the sound of something hitting the water to explain away Sven’s death once more. Yeah yeah, in the original GoLion it was Shirogane’s brother but whatever. Here the choices are a bit more understandable, as this was originally the final episode of GoLion but Voltron would be paying for additional episodes to be animated. Everyone had to stay alive.
Still though, those guys fell from pretty damn high. Water doesn’t just work as a soft cushion. I’m pretty sure every bone in his body would be broken if he wasn’t killed on impact. Where’s your doctor on planet Ebb now, Sven? WHERE ARE THEY?!
Vehicle Voltron Episode 28: Planet of the Amazons
“We can give you skilled medical help on our command ship.”“There’s no need. We Elderans are not hurt so easily. My women will care for me. We’ll be taken to the healing chamber inside the royal pyramid. Within two months its energy will restore us. Now I will sleep. Thank you.”
Screw you, planet Ebb! I’m going to the healing pyramid! I hear they’ve got some dope healing crystals!
This one just sums up nearly every hilarious way Voltron got around death. A needlessly long explanation. “Sleep”. Oh they weren’t really that badly hurt. All she needed was to be a robot and this would have been perfect! Thankfully the rest of Vehicle Voltron would give you plenty of that. Seriously, so many “robots” killed.
The 80’s Voltron is a relic of time gone by. They just don’t make anime dubs like this anymore. Back then they weren’t just straight up translations, they were adaptations. Most of the changes made to make them suitable for American audiences were pretty bad. Sometimes they were downright hilarious, as you see here.
Other times the changes made the show its own unique beast; a weird hybrid of Japanese and American storytelling. It was never seamless, but it makes for oddly compelling viewing if you’re watching it from that viewpoint.
Or you know, you could watch it and laugh. As long as you’re enjoying it, that’s what matters.
Big thanks to this GoLion fansite which helped me figure out what some of the changes were.
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