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How a Japanese Mecha-Anime Became a Cultural Symbol for Filipino People

By Johnson Ge
May. 22, 2023 updated 04:05

On May 8th, the live-action television drama Voltes V: Legacy started itsthe broadcast by GMA Network. Voltes V: Legacy is a television adaption of the Japanese robot anime television series Voltes V, which was produced in 1977 and animated by Sunrise.

As a highly anticipated live-action mecha TV series, "Voltes V: Legacy" offers an unparalleled audio-visual experiencentertainment for fans of the genre. With top-notch production quality, the first episode expertly captures the essence of the target audience, reigniting their passion for mecha and transporting them back to the golden age of Japanese robot animemation. It's worth noting that "Voltes V: Legacy" is produced by a Filipino companythe Philippines, a rare departure from the usual Japanese production teams. And many mecha enthusiasts believe a FilipinoPhilippines company is the most suited one for such an adaption.

A comparison video made by @ sirwillll of the robot combine scene between the original Voltes V and the Voltes V:Legacy

Because Voltes V is way more than means way more than a mecha anime for Filipinosthe Philippines people.

In 1977, Tadao Nagahama's " Robot Romance Trilogy’s” second installment, "Voltes V," was broadcast on Japan's Toei TV station. During the golden age of the Japanese robot animeation, Voltes V did not cause much of a stir in Japan. But it is another story in the Philippines.

The following year, "Voltes V" was introduced as the first batch of overseas animation after the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Philippines. On the day of its premiere on May 5, 1978, "Voltes V" garnered an impressive 16% viewership rating. According to TV station management at the time, other new works would need at least six months to achieve such results.

It is difficult to say why there was such a significant difference in popularity between the two countries, but "Voltes V" was not the only Japanese animation to enter the Philippines. Other works that were introduced during the same period include "Getter Robo" and "Mazinger Z." Both of them, especially  "especially “Mazinger Z," had far greater influence and commercial success in Japan than "Voltes V." The unexpected success of "Voltes V" in the PhilippinessPhilippines was a pleasant surprise for the animation copyright holders.

A poster of Mazinger Z Infinity shows that Mazinger Z still hasve great influence in Japan after 45 years, while many other robot anime haves no sequels after the golden age.A poster of Mazinger Z Infinity shows that Mazinger Z still hasve great influence in Japan after 45 years, while many other robot anime haves no sequels after the golden age.

There are various reasons for reason of the success of “Voltes V” is various. For the sake of better understanding and dissemination, "Voltes V" adopted a considerable more extensive degree of localizationn content in the Philippines, with the most typical example being the translation of Japanese character names into Western-style names such as "Steve" and "Armstrong". Having a more Westernized localization helped it avoid much of It helped to reduce the Japanese feature in the anime due to the anti-Japanese sentiment at that time and made it more approachable to viewers. And also lowered the threshold for viewing.

In the 1960s, during the post-war revival period, the FilipinoPhilippine economy boomed and was considereds known as the second richest country in Asia. At this time, the Philippines experienced the impact of the baby boom (1946-1964) and Generation X (1965-1980). The people born during this period received high levels of education, were more easily integrated into mainstream society and were more welcoming to foreign cultures. Along with being young and receptive, this made them a natural target audience for the “Voltes V” anime.The group born during this period has characteristics such as "the highest level of education", "easily integrated into mainstream society", and "high cultural acceptance". Compared with the previous generations, they have a higher degree of tolerance for foreign cultures. At the same time, they are also the natural target audience for "animation" as a carrier, being young and receptive.

"Voltes V" was broadcasted on Friday evenings at 6 pm, prime time for people finishing work or school for the weekwhich was the end of the workday and the beginning of the weekend, the most carefree time of the week. The right audience saw the right animation at the right time, quickly makingand "Voltes V" was only a matter of time before it became a phenomenon.

In the anniversary game "Super Robot Wars 30", released two years ago,  "ago, “Voltes V" did not appear in the initial lineup, which was a disappointmentregret for many FilipinoPhilippines players. However, iIt was added as DLC later on, and FilipinoPhilippines players were pleasantly surprised to find that the level where Voltes V makes its first appearance was "coincidentally" set in the Philippines’ capital city of Manila, Philippines.

A screenshot of Super Robot Wars 30A screenshot of Super Robot Wars 30

However, Voltes V’s commercial success in the Philippines is the less dramatic part of the story. The relationship between Voltes V and the 1983 People Power Revolution of 1986 was always mentioned in the following years.

Like many Robots anime fromimation i n the golden age, Voltes V’s story is easy to understand: Earth is invaded by the imperial planet Boazan, Boazanian Star Empire, anan alien empire far, far away. And the Voltes team will fight the enemies backfights back with the Super-Electromagnetic Robot, Voltes V.

What makes Voltes V shines is how it does not treat the imperial planet Boazan as common Boazanians as evil villiansvillains who only seek for destruction and bloodshed. In the story, the planet of Boazan has a racial system where the horned people are nobles, and those without horns are  considered lower-class slaves for life. We can see the righteous cause ousness of national liberation and athe strong family bond in the animation. As the main story unfolds, the theme of "resistance againstto tyranny and yearning for freedom" runs through the whole series, which coincides with the trauma and shadow that the FilipinoPhilippines people had experienced at that time.

The story of Voltes V was inspired by the French RevolutionThe story of Voltes V was inspired by the French Revolution

In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos was elected as the President of the Philippines. Although he implemented some economic reforms and infrastructure development in the early stages of his presidency, he also used his power to suppress opposition and dissent. In 1972, he declared martial law, dissolved the Congress and the courts, took control ofcontrolled the media and education, banned gatherings and strikes, and established a political system centered around his family and cronies.

It is not difficult to understand why the anime "Voltes V" is often associated with the revolution that later erupted in the Philippines. As a journalist who was imprisoned by the Marcos government said, the sense of powerlessness brought about by the oppressors of that era made this anime more meaningful, especially for the ordinary citizens who lived in constant fear. "Voltes V" was indeed of great significance to them.

A photo from Martial Law MuseumA photo from Martial Law Museum

On August 27, 1979, President Ferdinand Marcos banned the series along with other "violent" Japanese animated series for their "harmful effects on children". In recent days, popular speculation was that the series was banned because of the anime's underlying themes of rebellion and revolution.

In 1986, the Philippines experienced a peaceful uprising called the "People Power Revolution". Marcos was forced to step down and went into exile in Hawaii, and. Corazon Aquino, the widow of Benigno Aquino, who was assassinated during the political struggle, became the new president and restored democracy.

Some historical docs listed the impact of Marcos regime.Some historical docs listed the impact of Marcos regime.

When people talk about this great event of the people's uprising, they often emphasize the influence of "Voltes V" on the revolution. Although it is difficult to verify whether this anime directly participated in the revolution,  due to the long history, it is certain that many people grew up watching "Voltes V", and many witnesses of the revolution mentioned its impact on them in subsequent research interviews.

In 2015, FilipinoPhilippines artist Toym Imao created a unique sculpture called "Last, Lost, Lust for Four Forgotten Episodes", which depictedturned depicting Marcos as one of thethe Boazanians and—following the Voltes V story line—that the fight against the dictatorship was about good versus evil. Even today, Voltes V remains a cultural symbol that embodies the fighting spirit of the FilipinoPhilippines people.

A photo of the sculptureA photo of the sculpture

On May 9, 2022, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the former president Marcos, won the presidential election. FilipinoPhilippines scholars and media are concerned about the possibility of the Marcos family or the Marcos era returning to power. But with the airing of "Voltes V: Legacy", more Philippines are joking about the necessity of starting another glorious people revolution.