Only in the Philippines: a national love affair with a combining super robot

Old friend is OLD

Choudenji Machine Voltes V: The National Super Robot of the Philippines

I’m going to go out on a limb here. Voltes V is not known outside of Japan, Italy, Cuba, maybe Iran and here in the Philippines. But here is one really long post that I submit not because I want to popularize Voltes V, but to share the unique social phenomenon this silly super robot anime became. As a show it was serious, melodramatic, and violent. That said, it has really taken hold of the imagination of several generations of Filipinos.

The post is really long, and I don’t have the discipline nor the inclination to edit it. I just hope that some of you will take the time to go through the material here and immerse yourself to something that is quite beyond just anime. Like I’ve mentioned in the comments section of my previous post, there isn’t really a stigma to liking this show. It isn’t associated with otakudom at all. I think many otaku in the Philippines are not fans of the show – as they will have been 2nd or even 3rd generation fans if they were (unlikely due to the severely dated animation circa 1977).

The post is very loosely organized into 3 sections: The first talks about the show proper and some of my thoughts, the second shares the thoughts of other Filipinos who aren’t necessarily writers but whose words give an insight to the kind of relationship we as a generation have with this show, and lastly a selection of videos (some just have to be seen to be believed) related to the legend of the show.

Well, the only thing I want to share about the show proper is the finishing move Voltes V does, his coup-de-grace. I believe he is the first (or at least one of the first) super robots to use a sword as a finisher. His Tenku Ken (Laser Sword in the Philippines, but is definitely NOT a laser wtf) would be used to slash down from a high leap (maybe hundreds of meters up); the blade would penetrate the right shoulder area (assuming the opponent is a humanoid beast fighter) and would slash all the way to the abdomen (around the navel or lower). Then Voltes V would twist the sword in the enemy’s guts, then slash all the way up and out through the opposite shoulder. High up above he would hold his post-slash pose facing the camera, while the enemy now with a V-shaped slash (would glow bright from inside the body and through the wound) explodes in a giant mushroom cloud. A giant ultraelectromagnetic V sign glows in the aftermath, with Voltes V posing in the middle. This, my dear readers, is awesome.

Here’s a video of the battle in episode 4, where you get to see one of the most awesome swordsmanship in all super robot anime: The Butterfly Return.

The awesomeness is between 2:30 and 4:00 of the video. The technique has been referenced in other anime, but I’ve only seen it in The Animatrix: Program. The defending swordsman is unarmed, and receives his opponent’s sword between his palms, as if catching a butterfly. The defender has the sword between his palms as if in prayer, then thwarts the attack. As a kid, nothing, NOTHING was more awesome than this.


Voltes V brings a generation of Filipinos together

When Voltes V started airing in the late 90s, the first generation fans started talking to each other. People who would otherwise have nothing to talk about were suddenly bonding over Voltes V. The internet made these voices heard. I want to share about Terence P. N. Talorete, an editor of science literature for an undisclosed firm in Japan. He won the KICA Prize Essays in English in 2003 for his piece “A Journey into the Land of Voltes V“. Here is the excerpt:

Imagine a sweaty 8-year-old boy running home from school, wary that it is almost 6 p.m., dropping his books carelessly on the kitchen floor and flicking the switch of a rickety old black-and-white TV. That was 1978, the year when the Japanese anime Voltes V hit Philippine television and caught all Filipino children by surprise. For many, it was their first glimpse of Japanese culture, and for those with black-and-white TV sets, the colors were not so vivid then.

I was one of those 8-year-old kids, the so-called Martial Law babies, who got caught in the web of Voltes V mania. Our family TV was then already decrepit and the outdoor antenna had just been swept by a recent storm. But despite peeking through the grainy monochrome, my tiny heart still skipped a beat each time Voltes V got hit by one of those sinister Boazanian robots whose leader wanted to rule planet Earth. To my young, impressionable mind, Japan’s Voltes V made everything perfect. (…)

(…) Somehow, in that brief glimpse of time 25 years ago, Japan had caught the imagination of Filipino children, and their lives would never be the same. I said “brief” because just when my family could finally afford those very expensive colored TVs then, former President Marcos banned the showing of all Japanese anime. If it was just possible to join the rebel groups during those dark, gloomy days, I would have planted a long, hard kiss on my mom’s cheek and headed off to the hinterlands with my toy M16 submachine gun.

Imagine the day after Marcos pulled the plug. An eerie silence soon replaced the animated chatter in the school cafeteria. It was as if someone in the family had died. Voltes V and the rest of the Japanese heroes are gone. But life continues, so they speak, but not without the episodes playing and replaying subliminally in our young minds.

It’s important to note that during its first run (or first few runs), the final five episodes were not shown. I assume that the dubbing and production work was never completed because President Ferdinand Marcos (President Dictator from 1965-1986) banned Voltes V and all Japanese animated shows. This was the time when Voltes V started to figure in our imagination as a symbol of rebellion. I remember my grandfather explaining to me what Marcos did to “put away” Voltes V and all the super robots. I had  thought then that the Malacanang Palace had a gigantic prison where Voltes, Daimos, Mazinger and the rest were incarcerated! I would always strain my neck whenever we’d pass the Presidential Palace of Malacanang. I was 4 years old, so sue me.

When Marcos was ousted in the peaceful “People Power” revolution in 1986, one of the first things that the new president Corazon Aquino did was put Voltes V back in the air. AND BOY DID I FEEL AWESOME (I was all of 9 years old)! Before we proceed, a note of explanation: Voltes V was shown in the Philippines as a local dub. Historically we were a Spanish Colony for 300 years or so before the Americans took over around the turn of the century (1900) – but this colonization was marked by the occupation by the Japanese in WW2. Modern Philippine culture is very Americanized, and it’s not difficult for me to imagine a negative sentiment towards the Japanese was held during the time Voltes V was aired. I suppose that even though the characters clearly looked like Japanese, their names were replaced with Anglo-Saxon ones:

  • Gou Kenichi, Daijurou and Hiyoshi became Steve, Big Bert, and Little John Armstrong respectively.
  • Oka Megumi became Jamie Robinson.
  • Ippei Mine became Mark Gordon.

Most of the characters’ names were changed, but I won’t go into why here. I’m just pointing this out so as to minimize any confusion when these names are referred to below.

To share with you how Filipinos felt and still feel about this show, here’s an awesome collection of essays, care of Ivan Chen’s Voltes V Shrine. All save one of these people were born between 1972 and 1981, the period of Philippine history when Martial Law was put into effect by Marcos, where rights such as habeas corpus were suspended and the government became Big Brother. We are called the “Martial Law Babies,” and are the first generation, and deepest fans of the show.  Some samples:

Nonad I. Coralde “A Cure that Medicine Could Not Offer” 1998

(…) Now I’m sick again, I don’t have the toy anymore but what I have is the same spirit everybody is sharing all over the world. I still have that same feeling 15 years ago, not the sickness, but the accomplishment of seeing Voltes V. I now know the entire story, I have seen my idol after a long time, and have a glimpse of my crush again. I always had that funny feeling that I am Mark Gordon and Jaime is in love with me. I never knew that, but deep inside me it lives. And just when Voltes V made me well 15 years ago, I think it’s making me feel well again while I’m typing this message. I don’t know if you have messages as long as this, but please bear with me, I was greatly moved by your home page. I wanted to share this little story of mine. In my dreams, I’m still longing for my Jaime Robinson, how I wish I can see her on TV again. I wouldn’t mind if I will line up with the rest of the kids just to see it on TV. I think Voltes V is not just an Animation Series for me, it’s one hell of a cure Medicine could not offer!

Voltes V forever,

Ivan Chen “Voltes V Makes Me Dream” 1998

In the Phillipines, Voltes V series was banned on TV by President Ferdinand Marcos because he believed that the movie teached the children to do violence. But many people believe that the real reason is that he feared that the movie will influence people to do a revolution against his dictatorship. As you might know, the main theme of Voltes V series is the discrimination between the horned and the unhorned (may be taken in reality as the rich and the poor or the strong and the weak, where the strong pushed the weak and made them slaves). And the movie plot leads to the rebellion of the slaves which at the end, defeated the unjust horned people.

Is Voltes V movie that powerful? Could be! Voltes V is the anime that has the MOST serious, MOST complicated plot, but doesn’t lose its focus. Voltes V is the story of friendship, of team work, of brotherhood, of justice. For me, Voltes V made me dream …

Voltes V told about the unfair world, a world that we feel everyday. Love that is not answered, people cause us pain although we do nothing wrong, and so on. At the end, the good wins but the loss is still lost.

Apple Acebes-Dunaway “Voltes V – An Epitome of Childhood” 1999

When I was in 4th grade in an exclusive Catholic girls’ school, we are expected to be into dolls and boys into matchbox cars. But it was the late 70s. The Barbie doll is in but then there’s Voltes V. I got hooked on the latter.

My younger brother influenced me and my younger sister into Voltes V. He’s got a talent in drawing cartoons so it was really cool that my classmates even asked me to have my brother draw Voltes V images in cardboard cutouts. During our class christmas party of ’79, I brought my 45 rpm of the Voltes V Japanese version and choreographed a dance number out of it with my four other crazy classmates. When I came home, I found out the record was ruined by varnish leaking from my art kit. And I thought that was real tragedy even if I bought the English version later. (…)

(…) Now i’m 30 something and married (his name is Marcus Steven) with kids, living in the US and currently piloting a minivan. During my recent vacation in the Phil., I found out V5 has been resurrected on t.v. My good ol’ brother (a family man himself), showed me his v5 episodes (at least the first 15 episodes (in original Japanese). I still cried in the memorable episode and always misty-eyed at the closing credits. When I saw my cousins during a reunion, each of us try to recall the very last episode we saw before FM pulled the plug.

Rina D. Hall “A Lesson from a Robot” 2003

Voltes V was a big part of our lives. A robot that has taught us the value of defending freedom, equality and that fighting for what is right entails a lot of sacrifices. Yes, the theme of Voltes V is somewhat mature and a tad bit tragic, but it has successfully transcended that delicate balance between reaching out to the level of children and at the same time, imparting important lessons for people of all ages(…)

(…)Voltes V is laden with drama, emphasizing on the sacrifices that people have done to help in the struggle for freedom against oppressors, that is probably the reason why I have to wait for twenty years to learn what happened to the Voltes V saga, like I said, Voltes V was shown in the Philippines in the late ‘70’s but due to a certain dictator named Marcos, the Martial Law babies never got to see the conclusion of Voltes V until 1999. As for me, I have finally learned the mystery of Dr. Armstrong and was a little emotional at the end of Voltes V when Steve and his brothers learned about their connection to Prince Zardoz. Voltes V might have been a childhood favorite but when I watched it again and this time watch it in its fullest, I realized that it might have been a childhood memory, but I know that Voltes V will always be a part of my life and the lesson it imparts will always be remembered!

Heinell no Miko (probably a handle) “Thoughts of a Second Generation Voltes V Fan” 2004

The next conversation over dinner would be the parallelism of “Voltes V”‘s story of warring races and tyranny to Philippine history. Who wouldn’t see the connection? In fact, it was the same history (the Marcos dictatorship) that gave rise to the show’s popularity in the first place. This, amid the snickers elicited by one of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s columns of that day, titled “Young Solons Back Voltes V Against House Boazanians”.

Let me just remind you that those feelings in those essays, while valid, do not represent facts. Marcos did not necessarily single out the show for fear of rebellion. Those theories are easy to believe for us who missed out on the finale. For us, Voltes V was the “longest story ever told,” given that it took 20 years for us to see the ending. (My waifu cheated! As part of her Japanese language class in college they were shown the last 5 episodes). Here’s a post in one of our news forums that gives a more balanced view on the Voltes V phenomenon.

One of the first harsh lessons I had in life was related to my Voltes V experience. After it was re-aired in 1986, a bubble-gum company issued trading cards that were really just screencaps of the first episode. It would come in packs of 3 with a few lousy pieces of gum. I would spend my allowance every day trying to complete the set, not only because I was such a fan – but because they said that if I complete it I could redeem a Voltes V toy robot, which was an absolute dream toy for me.

The first dream shattered, betrayed by adults for the first time

The first dream shattered, betrayed by adults for the first time

So I completed the cards, sent them by mail (my first correspondence) to the business address in Valenzuela (a municipality north of Manila) and waited. After weeks and weeks I realized that it wasn’t going to come. Not only did I not have the toy, I lost my trading card collection as well. They didn’t even have a phone number listed. I didn’t cry or anything, but something inside me definitely died.

When I was responding to the comments in the previous post, something in me came alive again. When the ending was finally released (around 1998) I didn’t see it immediately. I was so busy with work I didn’t get to watch TV as much as I’d like. It was in 2005 I think, when I saw it on a bus on my way to my then girlfriend’s (now waifu’s) house. The tv’s reception was pretty horrible, but there it was – after more than 20 years of waiting (maybe 24) I finally saw it: the ending to longest story I’ve known in my life. I felt strange, like it wasn’t supposed to end that way (for me, not the show).

This post is my ending, my closure. For many years people would relate to me as ‘that dude who’s into Voltes V’, and yet I never really did much except talk about it with a few like-minded people, collect silly merchandise and what not.

I believe with this, I’m good with my old friends, the Armstrongs with Mark and Jamie talking about a wedding. Earth and Boazania are at peace. Families are together. And the grown-up kids of my generation, still fond of that silly super ultra electro magnetic combining robot to this day, will still smile whenever they hear the military polka of the Voltes V OP.

Here’s a collection of YouTube goodies. Some just have to be seen to be believed.

Voltes V OP, Philippine rape dub (they totally changed the lyrics, no attempt at translation at all. It’s still awesome though!

Here’s the original OP:

Horie Mistuko LIVE!

Here’s some dude who arranged it for the guitar (check out the ED theme at the coda):

Some dude arranged it for the piano:

Someone even arranged it for a Chorale performance!

For Filipinos only (the song is a gag in Tagalog): (Former Senator) Tito, Vic & Joey

This woman, Jhonalene Sison at her Philippine Idol audition (I ain’t shitting you):

For the otakus:

c/o Arvinangeles2000: A Stop Motion Volt-In Sequence of plastic-molded Voltes V Model.

The Model Unit is originally handcrafted by myself this model stands 16inches in height. This model was made before the BANDAI GX-31 was made.

For nostalgia’s sake, here’s some amateur band playing the ED theme at the 2006 Philippine National Cosplay Competion:

Some fan sings the OP as Izumi Konata from Lucky Star: (this is WIN)

Some production trivia: Chodenji Machine Voltes V is the second installment (of unrelated shows) of what’s referred to as “The Romantic Trilogy”, with the first being Combattler V and the last being Tosho Daimos. All three were created by the staff at Toei under the singular name Hatte Saburo, and was broadcast by Sunrise. Interestingly, these were all directed by Nagahama Tadao who was the director of the second half of Reideen the Brave series – the first half of which happened to be the first anime directed by Tomino Yoshiyuki.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading – from the bottom of my heart. Maybe you’ve gotten an insight on how this robot show captured the imagination of our nation, if only at least my generation. Tell me, has there been a phenomenon like this anywhere else?

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in fanboy, meta, only in the Philippines and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Only in the Philippines: a national love affair with a combining super robot

  1. picchar says:

    Haha, I kinda miss Tagalog/Filipino dub XD
    I like it better than English dubbing :p
    Jap + subs is best ^_^v

    I watched it as a kid, but I can hardly remember now since it was so long ago XD I liked Daimos better though. Maybe because it was lovey-dovey and I was into that in elementary. Haha!

    I’d probably get frustrated with Erika if I watched it now XD

    ps. Please credit/link back drawing :3

  2. Ernie728 says:

    wow cuz nice site dedicated to anime well keep it up
    must be a labor of love lol hahahahahaha voltes v yes an old friend so is dymos and mazinger Z lol very old school

  3. THANK YOU.

    Very good write up on the crossover descriptions of the Japanese and Filipino versions. So…what’s the Nihonggo version of “Let’s Volt In”? LOL!

    In a way, I also think VV is phenomenal such that there’s this connection among those who know it. And you’re right about the ringtone–some of my colleagues recently experimented blasting this via karaoke microphone on a field trip to see the reaction of the kids of today. The kids didn’t know what it was while the rest of the bigger kids (i.e., us) were all lulz.

  4. mechafetish says:

    @ asher_langley

    Hahahaha! You want to know? Its “LETS VEE TOGETHER!”

  5. “LETS VEE TOGETHER!” – I can’t help but laugh at this. Dub made more sense but it’s still engrish all the way : )

  6. otou-san says:

    I have to say, this brought a damn tear to my eye! Regardless of the reason for Marcos’s removal of V5 and other super robots (the image of you as a kid trying to find the prison where Mazinger was held is great), it seems to have created a shared experience in your country that really brought people together.

    Do you think it was a drop in the bucket as far as contributing to the attitudes that overthrew him, or was cultural repression like the banning of anime a significant factor?

  7. ghostlightning says:

    @ otou-san

    While our generation wants to believe that Voltes V was a factor in his being overthrown, we are too few and at the time quite powerless (counting only those born during Martial Law ’71-’81, the oldest of us would be 15 by the time Marcos was ousted in ’86). More importantly, the Marcos administration had the whole country plunge into poverty and regression, whereas at the beginning of his term we were ahead of Japan technologically and economically.

    Human rights were violated all the time, and sympathy for communism was at an all-time high. Legend has it that the New People’s Army who recruited heavily amongst the youth appropriated Voltes V as an icon of their cause.

    I’ve had mentors back at uni who were incarcerated by the Marcos dictatorship for subversiveness. Too bad I wasn’t into anime enough for me to have taken this phenomenon seriously as a subject of cultural study.

    What I’ll do is challenge those still in college to consider taking on this question: How symbolic appropriation in fantasy contributed to history.

  8. otou-san says:

    Compared to taking political prisoners and wrecking the prosperity of an entire country, cultural repression (especially TV repression) starts to look pretty unimportant. Nonetheless, great story, and a great read.

  9. Roland says:

    yeah, right. After Marcos, countless bandits in government have took over…

    our country is like inside a toilet bowl being flushed after. I’m not saying I’m PRO Marcos, its just that, they only have one common thing: CORRUPT.

    but I guess, Imelda was the one to blame for Marcos’ political dictatorship. oh yeah, don’t forget his cronies at that time…

    overall, I still love my country, Filipinas. :)

  10. biankita says:

    my first anime ever. ^^ and it wasn’t even a shoujo…

    i never really did know how this ended until the filipino dub was released because it was pulled out by marcos. at least daimos, i got to watch when i was in hgh school but my completion of this show didn’t come until i was in my 20s ^^

  11. gloval says:

    lolz voltes V love :) heard about it from my brother when i was in elementary, but never got to watch it until i was in high school in 1998 when GMA7 aired it. (there were hints, remember ang dating daan in bubble gang? the voltes V OP was their main song.) never got to finish it though.

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  16. gcpbagayas says:

    I love this movie, I used to sing and dance on the royalty background of this movie!

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  22. d1968leon says:

    I am 41 years old now but honestly, it’s only now I am searching for the whole episodes of Voltes V and I found it at “kumby.com”, I wasn’t able to watched the ending of this series until now, since President Marcos halted the entire anime shows.(back in the late 70′s? because I thought it was 1980 when Voltes V aired in the Philippines, not sure). My friend posted on FB the live version sung by Horie Mitsuko which you also posted here (first time I saw the original singer) then that’s the time I search again all things related to Voltes V, and the first one I found out was the ending song, most of the comments posted on that video on Youtube, were mostly on our generations, (the ones who able to watched Voltes V on it’s debut on Phippine TV) most of the guys commenting are reminiscing way back more than 30 years ago, it’s really funny, but but somehow it gave me not only goosebumps but also teary eyes, especially when I started to listen to the song, my heart is pounding with joy and sadness, reminiscing my childhood memories. No one can forget Voltes V, he is already in the heart of every kids way back late 1970′s, who were able to watched, on it’s first appearance, on Philippine TV, so what else can I say but, “Voltes V is the greatest anime hero of all time, and no one can replace him specially in the heart of “Martial Law babies” ^_^

    • Thanks for dropping by. I felt the same way when I wrote this post nearly 3 years ago. If you use bit torrent you can find both the latter Filipino (English) dubs, as well as the original Japanese with English subtitles.

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  24. Charles Burns says:

    I know it’s many years since you first wrote and published this essay so I don’t know if you’re still reading these comments or not — but I figured I’d reply since this is the first time I’ve come across your page. You mention the generation of Filipino “marital law babies” whose animated heroes were taken away by Marcos. Another group of kids were also robbed — the “Navy brat” kids from the US who grew up between 1978 and 1985 on US bases throughout the PI. I was one of those kids, living in the PI from 1979-1982 and I remember the day when Marcos banned anime and how it broke my 9-year-old heart. Thanks for your essay, and for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I am not Filipino, but that era was formative in my life and I lived through it and shared a very similar reaction and sense of sadness and alienation when my favorite shows like Voltes V, Grendizer, Daimos and Great Mazinga were all suddenly banned.

    • Thanks for sharing this and it’s very cool indeed to meet someone who experienced the same thing or at least gets the context. We just “celebrated” or the declaration of Martial Law from back in the 70′s a few days ago and this meant Voltes V was in our minds.

  25. chi says:

    I can’t help but shed a tear while reading your post. Voltes V has indeed been a part of my childhood. And my late mom said ” Hanggang ngayon hindi pa nagkikita ang mag-aamang yan? Tapos malalaman mo, kapatid pala nila ung prinsipe dyan?” Those were the good times talaga.

  26. HI Ghostlightning. Thanks for featuring my Voltes V video, unfortunately YouTube closed my account but my video is still existing on my new channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYFwdCQZk6s enjoy it! long live to us, Voltes V fans! :)

  27. gani says:

    very nice and insightful post here. i’m currently researching thoroughly who owns the rights to voltes v here in the philippines, do you know any information who? it would be very helpful, i want to make a sequel after the voltes v series and thinking of making it a comic book. and it’ll be in the vein of science fiction and space opera drama from the experience of the voltes v phenomena here in the philippines.

  28. Reggie says:

    This series will always remain at the top of my list. Growing up in PI from birth to early teens, I would do my best to finish my homework and watch Voltes V every Friday night. I’ll never forget this series for as long as I live. Now, that I’m in America, I’m more crazy about Tom Cruise’s fighter pilot movie “Top Gun,” which has the camaraderie feel to it as V. Come to think of it, before “Top Gun,” came along, it was actually “Voltes V” that inspired me to become a pilot and fly jets for either the Navy or Air Force. :P
    - Reggie

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