It was a big surprise in 2019 when GMA Network first announced they would be producing a live-action adaptation of the classic Japanese anime Voltes V.
My first thought was “How?” Filipino networks, whether it’s GMA or ABS-CBN, have never really shown that they have the resources to be able to effectively bring a series like this to life. Let’s set aside GMA”s Metal Heroes sequel-turned-spin off Zaido and ABS-CBN’s haphazard Rounin for now.
Sure, there have been successful fantasy series on local television before. Many superhero shows, in fact, based on popular Filipino comic books. But there’s always been a sense of them being simply “good enough.” That is, good enough for a Filipino audience and for Filipino television. But maybe nothing beyond that.
The supposed drama behind the making of Zaido back in 2007 could probably be an intriguing television series on its own. At the time, I didn’t have a violent reaction to it. Granted, my only exposure to the Metal Heroes at that point was the American VR Troopers back in the 90s. So maybe I just didn’t have that connection with the source material enough to have a big reaction.
Considering the time, I can’t fault the quality of special effects because no Philippine network would’ve been able to do better. (Heck, even some current fantasy series look like they were produced in the late 2000s.) And they didn’t go wrong with casting Dennis Trillo, the late Marky Cielo and a fresh-faced Aljur Abrenica in the lead roles. In the end, I thought it probably would’ve worked better as a weekly series rather than in a typical teleserye format.
But with Voltes V, I also have a similar lack of nostalgia for the original series. My only experience with it is probably an episode or two back in the day. And it probably might’ve even been during one of my family’s trips back to the Philippines when I was a kid. But I can definitely understand how Filipino audiences might be able to have a grand sense of nostalgia for Voltes V. I know it and Kamen Rider Black were both hugely popular series that Filipino children grew up with in the 80s and 90s. (Makes me wonder if those Filipino kids-now-grown-ups have checked out Kamen Rider Black Sun.)
GMA producing a live action adaptation of the anime, which is something not even a Japanese company has attempted, is a big gamble. But judging from our first look with the trailer, GMA Network might have just met the moment.
Perhaps learning from the tumultuous production of Zaido, both GMA and Toei approached Voltes V differently. Aside from the obvious advancement in television production and technology, even in the Philippines alone, the two sides most likely understood the need for a more collaborative effort this time around. And it seems to show with this early look so far.
First impressions are always important. And the visuals alone help to deliver a very good one.
When Zaido first aired, my only tokusatsu experience had been Power Rangers. (And more on that later.) But since then, I’ve been sucked into the world of Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. Those Sunday morning series are probably what I draw most on to possibly compare Voltes V: Legacy to. And again, based on first impressions, GMA seems to have delivered. It certainly looks much more slick and polished than its Toei Sunday morning cousins.
EdiotTV on YouTube created this comparison video between the Voltes V: Legacy trailer and actual scenes from the anime:
And it suggests Voltes V: Legacy will be a faithful adaptation to the anime. The original series had 40 episodes and this Filipino adaptation is rumored to have 80. It’s not hard to see how they could easily and directly adapt each one of the anime’s episodes while expanding on them and then injecting Filipino touches as well.
What the trailer does the best, however, is be able to show that faithful treatment of the source material while also still setting itself apart. That is, in a way that is both contemporary and nostalgic. Being able to balance nostalgia with having to cater to today’s audience is something that is not easily achieved. (Again, more on Power Rangers in a bit.)
But the Voltes V: Legacy trailer definitely raises expectations and instills a lot of good will ahead of its premiere later this year. I certainly am looking forward to it a lot more now than I was at any time since the series was first announced.
From the action to the visuals to the sleek CGI; there is so much to appreciate so far. And it is really makes the whole experience that much more exciting.
What’s most interesting to me though is how every positive thing I could point out just from the trailer is what another adaptation of a Toei property sorely lacks.
That GMA Network of all places could potentially produce something of this caliber is already an impressive feat on its own. But that the series, of course adapted from the classic anime, looks to be something that can be easily enjoyed by kids of all ages (around the world even!) is astounding when thinking about how Power Rangers has failed to do the same.
Now granted, Power Rangers might be seen in a more campy and unflattering light compared to a classic anime like Voltes V. That alone can present a hurdle to a modern adaptation. But just judging from how Power Rangers producers have treated the post-Disney seasons and the failed (judging from how they want to distance itself from it now) 2017 reboot, they seem completely lost on how to offer the property to a 21st century audience, young and old.
One thing caught my eye in Director Mark Reyes’ interview with PEP about Voltes V: Legacy. He discusses how Toei had strict conditions GMA needed to adhere to with this adaptation.
“The biggest fear is… you know the story about the Power Rangers? The last alteration that didn’t work? Because they really changed the costume and all, and that didn’t really work out.
“So they’re afraid that we might do something [similar], so we stuck to the grassroots look of the Voltes team — the costume, the colors, the color designation, we have to stick to that.
After I watched the 2017 reboot, I didn’t really follow much of the discussion about its success or failure. Or of Toei’s reaction to the film. So this was definitely news to me, but also not surprising. It really speaks to what I have felt Power Rangers has failed to do over the years. (Which I articulated in more detail in this rambling essay. lol)
Power Rangers has tried so much to distance itself from the source material. And that is well within their literal right, of course. But Toei being unhappy with just the look of the film really exemplifies how Power Rangers seems to be doing too much while also doing too little at the same time.
They’re doing too little because they (and TPTB) believe that their target market is only two-year-olds and they refuse to produce a show that caters to a wide audience. And they’re doing too much by randomly sprinkling specific modern tidbits whether it be social issues or Easter eggs that they think will redeem the rest of the series’ shortcomings.
We’ll have to wait and see what the Netflix Era will bring for the Power Rangers franchise. And I acknowledge the United States possibly has a different audience than the Philippines might have and for two different properties. (Though again, I think there are more similarities than differences.)
But this five-minute sneak peek at Voltes V: Legacy really made me think about how Power Rangers could get things so wrong while GMA Network might actually get things so right. Again, being able to effectively mine for that lingering nostalgia while still making a contemporary show that is appealing to as wide an audience as possible; that’s already a huge success.
Is it the actual content that allows that? Is it Toei’s heavy involvement in the production? Is it the potentially different American and Filipino audience? (Though I’d argue they’re not too different.) Is it the sincere love and appreciation the Voltes V: Legacy production team has for the source material? Is it the Voltes V: Legacy team actually knowing how to appeal to wide audiences?
Who the heck knows.
What I do know is that I am very much looking forward to Voltes V: Legacy. For now, there’s a lot of positive things to take away from this trailer. I hope it does well. I hope it delivers. And I hope that if it is successful, perhaps others can be inspired to take a long, hard look at how they do things with their own adaptations in the future.