Voltron: Legendary Defender, Rebooted and Rewarding

voltronNetflix’s new animated series, Voltron: Legendary Defender, takes the much-beloved 80’s cartoon Voltron: Defender of the Universe and rebuilds the world of space battles, robotic lions, and strong friendships in a new take on the classic sci-fi adventure. With its second season having been recently released on Jan. 20th, fans have jumped at the chance to devour the new set of 13 episodes and now eagerly await more.

Our story centers around five humans from Earth – Shiro, Lance, Hunk, Pidge, and Keith – that discover a giant blue robotic lion that’s been sitting dormant in the desert. Once they’re inside, the lion activates and flies the five heroes into space – yes, a flying lion spaceship – where they meet two aliens named Coran and Allura. They are from the planet Altea, which was destroyed by the Galra Empire thousands of years ago. The Galra Empire has been continuing its tyrannical takeover ever since, and the universe needs Voltron to save it. What is Voltron, you ask? Coran and Allura explain to the five heroes that the blue lion they uncovered is one of five robotic lions that, when piloted, can combine into a massive, human-shaped robot of great power named Voltron. Sounds ridiculous, right?

Despite the absurdity of the idea, this show executes it so well. The action is intense, the alien civilizations wildly creative, and the animation a far leap ahead of its 80’s counterpart. The characters are developed and getting deeper as the show goes on, and the plot is fast-paced and entertaining. I saw the first season when it first released early in 2016, and the year long wait for Season 2 was worth it. The creators of the show, Joaquin Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, stay true enough to the original but have updated it in many, much-needed ways. They pay attention to their ever-growing fanbase and deliver quality episodes that continue to appease and surprise.

The characters are all individually enjoyable and have great dynamics together. Shiro leads the group as the paladin, or pilot, of the Black Lion and acts as the head of the group, as opposed to Keith doing so in the original series. Keith now pilots the Red Lion as its impulsive, ready-to-fight paladin. Lance is the flirtatious jokester and sharpshooter paladin of the Blue Lion. Hunk is the food-loving engineer and pilot of the Yellow Lion. Pidge, who is now a girl as opposed to her male 80’s counterpart, is a tech genius and the youngest of the group, piloting the Green Lion. Allura is the princess of Altea, and Coran is her advisor.

Not only have these characters been fully-fleshed out with backstories (although we’re still waiting on Lance’s and Hunk’s backstories) and motivations, but the new Voltron has made an effort to diversify its cast. Allura, Hunk, Shiro, and Lance are all people of color now, and Pidge’s gender change has brought a second female into the limelight. I for one am incredibly happy to see this push for diversity. The dialogue is conversational and natural, and the tone switches appropriately from light-hearted and goofy to serious and heartfelt when called for. In the newest season, the concept of prejudice is brought up and addressed exceptionally well. It’s progressive, and I love it.

Of course, the past 30 years have led to much better quality animation, leaving Netflix’s version with a style reminiscent of the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender. Voltron mixes CGI into the mainly 2D show in order to make the lions, Voltron, and fight scenes stand out. The character animation is exaggerated for comedy and detailed for intensity, switching it up depending on what the story calls for.

Voltron: Legendary Defender deserves a watch; go and see Season 1’s first episode, which is pretty plot-heavy, and you’ll have a good sense of the show’s dynamic. I applaud Netflix’s approach to this classic and anticipate next year’s season!

-Abby F., 12th grade

 

Stranger Things: A New Netflix Phenomenon

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Once a new TV show permeates every form of social media, I take it as a sign I should get around to watching it – both to join the chaotic mess of fans and to avoid the ever-growing list of spoilers. Stranger Things, Netflix’s new original TV series, has taken the world by storm, and after watching the entire first season in two nights, I have been fully swept away in its winds of success.

Stranger Things is an eight chapter story about young boy, Will Byers, who goes mysteriously missing after a game of D&D with his quirky gang of friends. The town goes on high alert trying to find the boy, while a strange and, quite frankly, disgusting monster lurks in the shadows and awaits its next victim. The only one who has any semblance of understanding as to why the monster is stalking the small town is Eleven, a girl of few words and many powers. As Sheriff Hopper traces what he believes to be Will’s tracks to the suspicious government organization in town, Eleven teams up with Mike, Dustin, and Lucas to search for Will on their own.

The show walks the line between horror and sci-fi, using the rural town of Hawkins, Indiana as a setting for a supernatural hotspot, including an alternate dimension, telekinetic powers, and the monster that’s been nicknamed “The Demagorgon.” The pacing can feel slow at times, but it gives the show lots of room for character development and raw emotion.

The actors give stunning performances that truly convey their characters’ internal struggles, whether it be a desperate mother grasping at supernatural straws to find her son or a lab experiment runaway hiding from her manipulative “Papa.” The show’s comedic relief, which is mainly circumstantial and dialogue-related, is found mostly among the group of middle schoolers Mike, Dustin, and Lucas as they search for Will and coax Eleven into helping. They’re nerds, scientists, and adventurers-in-the-making, and I fell in love with them immediately. Eleven’s reactions to everyday phenomena always got me to crack a smile, too.

However, the show’s comedic moments are few and far between. A large portion of the show is suspenseful and emotional. Stranger Things‘ main theme would have to be trust and faith. The boys must earn Eleven’s trust in order to gain her help, and Eleven must earn their trust so that they won’t suspect her of being the “Lando” in their story, as Dustin would say. Joyce Byers, Will’s mother, needs someone to trust her as she tries not to lose faith in the supernatural signs her son sends her. The show relies heavily on its characters and their relationships with one another, whether it be family, friends, or even lovers. Fear and desperation can bring together the unlikeliest of people, and Stranger Things has more than enough fear and desperation to provide these opportunities.

The directors, the Duffer Brothers, have brought about a new pop culture sensation that is steadily increasing in popularity. If horror, sci-fi, and supernatural are your buzz words for a good show, Stranger Things is right up your alley. I enjoyed every minute of this series, and I eagerly anticipate Season 2 (coming next year).

-Abby F.

Pokemon VS Digimon

Many people can argue that Pokemon or Digimon is better. In reality, Pokemon had better ratings and Digimon ceased to exist. I love them both, and wish that Digimon could be back. Both of these games/tv shows had a similar idea about raising these animals into strong ones, and fight with them. They are both really fun to play/watch. Now I will compare these two.

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Pokemon has had may movies and its own series. It started out in 1995 and is still active. The animated series came out in 1997 and is still currently running. It has over 900 episodes! The video games all start out as a new trainer who becomes a trainer, and has to become the best in order to will all his/her badges and beat the elite four. The game itself can now be on the 3 DS, and has been for Game Boy Advanced and the DS. Pokemon is such a fun game that my generation grew up watching and playing. After a while it can be addicting, but it’s extremely fun!

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It’s a shame that Digimon didn’t last long. The series was from 1999- 2003. Sadly I wasn’t old enough to watch Cartoon Network at the time. Once I grew a little older, I watched the old episodes on YouTube, and it was amazing! I was sad to find out that Digimon couldn’t keep up with Pokemon, so the gave in. I honestly prefer Digimon, not because of its plot, but because that it’s a harder and more challenging game than Pokemon. I recommend everyone to play Digimon

Which game do you prefer?

-Kayla H.