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.
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?