Monday, August 13, 2012

Settle the Debate: The Chicken or the Egg? Voltron or Power Rangers?

This has been an ongoing debate between non-Power Ranger fans and Power Ranger fans. Even with PR fans themselves! For those who did not grew up in the 1980's, Voltron was a show that aired in the United States and some other countries from 1984-1985 on syndication and then on cable in the 1990's. It even spun off spin-offs but I will discuss those later. Since Americans knew of Voltron in the 1980's and then saw Power Rangers in 1993, they went through the natural conclusion that they were similar and hence the creators of Power Rangers were inspired by Voltron and hence 'rip-off.'

 (Fan drawing above by Andrew Leta)
Big Robos
The original Voltron robo (known as GoLion in Japan) was made of five different colored lion-like robots (Red, Black, Green, Blue and Yellow) to form one big robot. The original Megazord (Daizyujin in Japan) was made of five robots modeled after pre-historic beasts. Both big robos wielded swords. So it can be seen why they are similar.

 Color Uniforms
The original pilots of 'Voltron' wore the colors (or similar) to their lions. Keith wore red and piloted the Black Lion, Lance wore blue and piloted the Red Lion, small Pidge piloted Green Lion in his green uniform, Sven wore black and piloted Blue Lion, Hunk wore orange and piloted the Yellow Lion. Princess Alura later takes over for Sven and piloted the Blue Lion in a pink uniform. The Power Rangers always have colored uniforms and always piloted zords of their same color (while most Pink Rangers had white zords with some sort of pink trim). 

Beast King GoLion
The original Voltron series was created by Peter Keefe in 1984 using material he had licensed from the Japanese cartoons Beast King GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. The producers had no means of translating the Japanese series into English, so they surmised the plots and created all-new dialogue, editing out the more violent scenes, and remixing the audio into a stereo format. Beast King GoLion was made by Toei Animation from 1981-1982. 

Goranger and Super Sentai
Super Sentai as we PR fans know started in 1975 with Himitsu Sentai Goranger. For those who do not know, 'Sentai' is Japanese for Team. The creator of Power Rangers, Haim Saban, much like Peter Keefe wanted to use the Japanese series and adapt it for US audiences. Unlike animation, that can be re-dubbed in English and excused as American, live-action had to be done in the fashion we now know as Power Rangers. Filming American actors and using some of the fighting footage, 'localizing' the series. Saban had been trying to adapt Super Sentai for years. For one, Bioman (1984) -- which never got developed and Jetman (1991) but ultimately settled with Zyuranger (1992). With a pilot to Fox Kids, they were finally able to launch the franchise.

Since I have your attention, I'll go through the different incarnations of Voltrons because they are just a few:
Armored Fleet Dairugger XV 
Armored Fleet Dairugger XV aired from 1982-1983 and was chosen to be the second season of Voltron. with the storyline considerably changed. In this iteration of Voltron, the Galaxy Alliance's home planets have become overcrowded, and a fleet of explorers has been sent to search for new planets to colonize. My best friend Cyn doesn't consider this as Voltron, she says the lion one is the only Voltron. Understandably the Go-Lion part was more popular. Lightspeed Electroid Albegas was planned for the third season but because the lion was more popular, they aborted the idea even though toys were still released under the name Voltron.

Voltron: The Fleet of Doom
Voltron: The Fleet of Doom was a television special involving both Vehicle Force Voltron and Lion Force working together to defeat King Zarkon, who aligns with Viceroy Throk of the Drule High Command to create a new army the Fleet of Doom.  This movie was released later on DVD by the company originally responsible for taking the Japanese source material and bringing it to American audiences, World Events Productions (WEP).

Voltron: The Third Dimension
Voltron: The Third Dimension is an American computer-animated television series. It departed from the original Lion Voltron's animated look, as well as some character changes, such as the physical appearance of Prince Lotor. It served as a sequel to the Lion Voltron series, set three years after the end of that program. It aired from 1998-2000. Lance wore red in this series, Allura wears blue and Hunk wears yellow. 

Voltron Force
Voltron Force is a new version of the 1980s animated series, Voltron, that was originally scheduled for a release in autumn of 2010. Eventually, the show premiered on June 16, 2011 on Nicktoons. On April 4, 2010, it was announced that the show's title had been changed from "Voltron Panthera Force" to "Voltron Force."the characters are five to seven years older than those in the original series, and the general concept of the original series is mostly accepted as backstory. A live-action movie is still in the works.

A 2009 web parody called 'Megabot' had concepts of both Voltron and Power Rangers. In it they have five pilots of five robots that become one robot. In parody of the first season of MMPR, Yellow is asian and Black is an African-American. Also Red is a Jock and Blue is a nerd. But the suits are clearly parodying Voltron.

 So if GoLion was made in 1981 and Super Sentai concept in 1975, then Super Sentai came first. Now you can say that Power Rangers DID come after Voltron. But both GoLion and Voltron came after Super Sentai, if anyone want to talk about 'Rip-offs,' then Voltron can be taken as a rip-off of Sentai. Also, my pal Joe Rovang says if it is from the same company (Toei) then he doesn't consider it a 'rip-off.' Like how VR Troopers, Beetleborgs, Masked Rider and Mystic Knights shouldn't be considered rip-offs from Power Rangers.

Related: | Voltron and Power Rangers Spoofs


Russ Shackleford said...

If anything, I'd say Voltron, and by nature of being the source, Golion was simply inspired by sentai (and as you said, Toei was behind both.) The fact that the leader wore red despite piloting a differently colored lion was a nod to sentai. When you look at Dairugger, it doesn't really carry the same base-line sentai nods other than a combining robot (unless you want to get super specific and go with the fact that there are 3 teams of 5 each, but thats getting pedantic IMO).

One thing that DOES have a similarity between Voltron and Power Rangers though is that in both cases, the show was a huge success, so the creators of the adaptation contracted Toei to make new footage for an additional season. Voltron only got something like 13 additional episodes while Power Rangers got a lot of extra footage as we know, but it's still another interesting parallel.

Excellent article all around.

Dessa said...

I'll agree on the "Voltron/Go-Lion's team inspired by Sentai" part, but I think where most people are going to connect them is the mecha, and Zyuranger's combining mecha (which I believe was the first?) came second, so I'd say THAT is probably inspired by Go-Lion.

It's mutual inspirations.

Matt S. said...

Go Lion was an animated Sentai. Zyuranger was part of the live action Super Sentai franchise. Voltron and Power Rangers are Americanized versions of this. It's not a case of one "ripping off" another, they are based on the same genre...

Pika said...

By this logic Dairugger XV then would have been "inspired" by Go Lion, since it had the same animation team! The American versions drastically changed plots, and made both Japanese franchises more popular (outside Japan), however until WEP proved it could happen did Power Rangers exist.

Princess Malyssa said...

This article is misleading and you're being intellectually dishonest. All you've done here is logged on to wikipedia and collected the dates for the first episodes of Golion and Goranger. Please, then, explain to me the connection between Goranger and Golion. Goranger has five differently colored heroes, but the colors are different, right? That's the only thing? So... you honestly believe that Goranger invented that, or... ? So Goranger had the first five-part combining mecha, too? Or... ? What?

Here's the actual facts: Golion single-handedly invented the notion of "zords" that Power Rangers from Zyuranger onwards take for granted. Most of its elements are recycled from earlier shows, but Golion was the one who invented "living" mecha, piloted "robots" that seem to be alive despite this. Self-thinking or remotely operated robots are nothing new, but a machine fashioned into the shape of an animal that then ACTS like that animal is a totally new concept in 1981. Transformers came up with the dinobots in 1984 but even they weren't living dinosaur machines, but rather robots that happened to be able to appear as dinosaurs (and one pterosaur).

Spiderman brought giant robots into Toei's live-action "henshin" genre in 1978. These remained one-piece single machines until Sun Vulcan in 1981. That means that Golion was 11 years ahead of Power Rangers who, at that time, only had a two piece megazord. The number oscillated between 2 and 3 during the 1980's, only becoming five-piece with Maskman in 1987. For those playing along at home, that's a whopping THREE YEARS after Golion's five-piece debuted as Voltron III which, again, isn't even the first five-piece combiner in the first place. In case you're wondering, the first was Voltes V from 1977, part of the "Romance Trilogy" that was an inspiration for Liveman in the same way that Gatchaman inspired both Goranger and Jetman, and, of course, how Golion informed Zyuranger.

I get that the western release being delayed makes things a little more confusing for people who can't recite chapter and verse and can lead to confusion, and that for simple people just reciting the release dates is good enough, but you have a blog called "Henshin Grid" and I've SEEN your posts, I KNOW you know better. How can you with a straight face dare to compare Goranger with, of all things, Golion when it didn't even HAVE a giant robot? At all?

I think the really sad thing, though, is the obnoxious western pre-occupation for being "first." It has never mattered. Power Rangers, as we know it, has always been a combination of the Ishinomori henshin legacy and the vast pantheon of super robots combined, and it's not a secret. It isn't trying to be a secret. I lived through the pokemon-digimon war which is a pretty dismal low point for mankind, I think, especially since the answer of who came first was different in the different markets, and made worse by how the two of them are nothing alike at all. It's not just with Japanese stuff either, remember when every FPS game was called a "DOOM Clone?" Smash Bros.-type games are still in that phase with every similar title being outright dismissed because it's taking inspiration, and ignoring the fact that the reason they're taking said inspiration is because it's a GOOD game.

I'm sure the western "rip-off" phenomenon is worthy of further study, but from my perspective it's just annoying. Especially when the people debating the topic keep getting things wrong. x.x

hog said...

according to this list:

it was Combattler V - 1976 first to have a five piece combining robot.

Unknown said...

Hey, awesome article. You wrecked my whole preconception that Power Rangers is a VOltron Knockoff. Also I never knew the other version came before the lion versions.

Unknown said...

I grew up watching Voltron and I really didn't have that much interest in The Power Rangers, maybe because I was a teen at the time and more interested in sports and other things. Power Rangers fans can't seem to believe that it came from the idea of Voltron and that's just dumb. Nevermind​the story lines I know what we saw on television first.

Rubs said...

obviously the guy who made the comment in 2017 is wrong. Super Sentai were the first ones who made the zords. 1975.

Unknown said...

I know this is an old blog post, but the lead mecha designer of Zyuranger, Tsuyoshi Nonaka, pretty much admitted that Golion was an influence on Daizyujin's design (alongside Gundam and Daitetsujin 17).