Voltron and Avatar

Fans of Avatar and The Legend of Korra may notice Netflix’s animated sci-fi Voltron: Legendary Defender has a lot in common with it. The animation, humour and even characters ring very familiar.

Much of the production team who worked on Korra also work on Voltron, so this should really come as no surprise. Writers, artists, and animators stepped effortlessly from the fantasy world of Avatar and Korra into a space faring robot adventure.

The similarities are in more than just the production staff, and as the fifth season premiers on Netflix this month, it’s worth diving into it.

Beginnings

Voltron has something of a rapid opening. The plot kicks into gear almost immediately and we are introduced to the main cast, and the main objectives within a relatively short space of time. The protagonists discover they are to be the pilots of giant, robotic lions that all make up one even bigger robot called ‘Voltron’. And also, that Voltron is probably the only thing that can stop the evil space Fire Lord. I mean, Zarkon.

I had anticipated that we would get several episodes – if not seasons – of the protagonists discovering their lions. But, instead, this is all dealt with relatively quickly and we are plunged straight into galactic conflict. The team visits new planets, discovers new civilisations and cultures, and we delve ever deeper into the origins of the war.

The first series is very action centric. The character development is slow, done with broad strokes and leaves only a few sprinkles of intrigue. If you cast your minds back to the first season of Avatar, it’s actually quite similar in that regard.

Characters

Many were quick to point out similarities between the character Lance in Voltron and Sokka from Avatar. They are both goofballs with slightly over inflated egos (at least to begin with). There’s Hunk who seems from a similar vein as Bolin. Other characters like Pidge, Keith, and Shiro take elements of Zuko, Asami, Mako and more.

Perhaps the most interesting parallels can be found between Princess Allura and Aang. Both are (more or less) the last of their people, and both carry the hope of their culture. They lost a father figure to the enemy, and they both bring the teams together to help in the fight.

Allura begins the series as quite a serious figure, but as she grows as a character, her fun-loving side comes out. Along with Coran, her royal advisor, the pair do make up some of the essential parts of Aang. Coran embodies a lot of the playful silliness, while Allura houses a lot of the existential weight and wisdom that Aang developed.

Arcs

The series is built on its arcs. From Pidge’s search for her family, to Shiro’s struggles with leadership. We see Keith discover his lineage and Lance work to find his place. Allura’s battle to defeat the man who wiped out her culture, and Hunk learning his strengths.

Beyond that, there is the general arc of the war. Much like the Hundred Year War in Avatar, it is more of a framing device. We learn that not all of the ‘enemy’ are blindly following this new dark lord figure. There are those who rebel within the ranks. Power struggles bubble up, and this seemingly ordered empire has its entire structure questioned.

The most striking arc recently has been around Prince Lotor. The son of Zarkon and Honerva (Witch Haggar) and heir to the Galra Empire, he strives to make the empire different. He insists that strength comes from working with the worlds they conquer, rather than simply subjugating them.

Lotor’s beliefs bring him into conflict with his father. He is banished and strives to restore his honour, bringing his proud nation into a new era. This may sound familiar.

He is not exactly Zuko. Though he shares much with the Fire Prince, Lotor is much more sure of himself. Despite his appearance (marking him out as a half breed), which sometimes acts like Zuko’s scar narratively speaking, he does not dwell on it. He exudes confidence and charm. Which often makes him much more open to suspicion.

Bring Balance to the Galaxy

Voltron is a show that offers an insight into some of the creative minds behind Avatar and Korra. If it sounds like your kind of thing, I recommend hopping on Netflix and giving it a whirl. You can usually marathon your way through a series in an evening and not realise how much time has flown by.