Voltes V Left A Gigantic, Unparalleled Mark On Cinema In Cuba

Written By Adrián Velázquez Pupo

Voltes V, the Japanese animated TV series, became a theatrical sensation in Cuba. On June 4, 1977, the Voltes V, a Giant Robot anime consisting of 40 episodes produced by Toei Animation, was aired on TV Asahi in Japan, every Saturday until March 25, 1978.

However, in several countries, a compilation of selected episodes from 1 to 18 was shown in movie theaters (specifically, episodes 1, 2; a fragment of 3, 9, and 18). This film version of Voltes V, titled Voltus 5, had an English-dubbed script and direction by William Ross. It was produced in Tokyo, Japan by Frontier Enterprises and released in North America in 1980 by 3B Productions. This version was also shown on the Christian Broadcasting Network and released on VHS by Hi-Top Video.

In Cuban theaters, La película de Voltus 5 (Voltes V The Movie) was released on August 26, 1982, as part of the agreement established between Cuba and Japan that year, which involved the Spanish dubbing of several anime series from that era.

When that giant robot appeared on our screens, it was as if an unexpected Big Bang exploded around us. Many of us opened our eyes in astonishment, and it left an indelible mark on the retina of several generations.

Voltes V Left A Gigantic, Unparalleled Mark On Cinema In Cuba

Voltes V Left A Gigantic, Unparalleled Mark On Cinema In Cuba

Image: The GMA Network

Back then, we couldn’t imagine that the movie was made from snippets of a television series, and even though the movie ended on a cliffhanger, that robot became a sacred totem that mesmerized us.

Years go by, and while the echoes of its battles resonate in nostalgia, I still wonder what chord that story struck to embed itself so deeply in our collective unconscious. In Japan, it was just one among many mecha anime series, but in Cuba, it left its mark on an era.

Perhaps the answer lies in the Spanish dubbing, undoubtedly given life by the Cuban voices of Frank González, Sarita Malberti, Magaly Alou, Julio Alberto Casanova, Eddy Vidal, Eslinda Núñez, Gerardo Riverón, Pedrito Silva, and many other actors—some of whom have already passed away—under the direction of Manuel Herrera.

As a general rule, I assume that the quality of an audiovisual product tends to suffer when its content is altered because any imposture, such as dubbing, ends up being just that: an unattractive fake.

However, if it weren’t for the efforts of those professionals from ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry), perhaps this work wouldn’t have resonated so much among us. After all, auditory memory doesn’t accept bribes.

In such a way that even today, we remember how at the sound of “Vamos a… ¡unirnos!” (“Let’s… Volt..In!”), the five ships integrated in an unforgettable sequence, enveloped by that hyper-kinetic and widely famous musical curtain that still gives us goosebumps.

I don’t recall any Walt Disney film having the box office explosion that this Japanese film had in Cuba, with long and repetitive queues, and whose song and drawings of the righteous robot we reproduced at school.

Voltes V marked an era in Cuba and was one of the first popular introductions to anime in this Caribbean archipelago. It wasn’t just robot animation: it encompassed themes as diverse as the value of family, the importance of teamwork, and the fight for just causes.

The story of the super robot with a laser sword, defending Earth against the threat of the Boazanian Empire, ignited the imaginations of children, teenagers, and young people, to the point of becoming an object of worship.

Fans of Voltes V at the time sought, treasured, and even negotiated and exchanged discarded frames of the film with images of the robot. Many watched it dozens of times in all the theaters across the country.

Voltes V Left A Gigantic, Unparalleled Mark On Cinema In Cuba

Voltes V Left A Gigantic, Unparalleled Mark On Cinema In Cuba

Image: The GMA Network/Toei Animation

It has been one of the most remembered films for several generations, and the passion was such that people drew, traced, and improved its weapons. They created small comic strips about the animation. They discussed alternative versions of the robot’s story.

Several generations that enjoyed the movie of Voltes V never knew the outcome of the story. Until the advent of the internet, years later, fans got to enjoy the 40-episode series.

Although 46 years have passed since its release, that character continues to fascinate many fans around the world.

Currently, the Philippines’ GMA Network is airing a live-action adaptation titled Voltes V: Legacy. Directed by Mark A. Reyes V, it which is the best-adapted anime version to date. The CGI from the Philippines’ own Riot Inc. Post Production is spectacular, making those childhood dreams come true.

(Geekosity owner Mikey Sutton contributed to this story.)