Netflix's Voltron: Legendary Defender was praised for its surprisingly rich characters and story, and here's why Lotor proved to be one of the great anime villains. The original series of Voltron was comprised of footage from cult anime Beast King GoLion, which featured a plot that was quite different from the one found in Voltron. The re-edited series followed five young pilots who pilot robotic lions to defend their home planet, and when they combine together they take the form of powerful mech Voltron.
The original Voltron soon became a hit series and led to subsequent spinoffs such as Voltron: The Third Dimension. There was also talk of a big-budget, live-action version of Voltron in the wake of Michael Bay's Transformers. Fans also speculated the J.J. Abrams-produced Cloverfield was a secret Voltron movie after the release of its mysterious, untitled teaser trailer, which turned out not to be the case. There's been little sign of the project in recent years, with the last update revealing David Hayter (Metal Gear Solid) was hired to pen a draft.
The franchise was rebooted once more with Netflix's series Voltron: Legendary Defender. While this new series featured some great action, it also received positive reviews for its characters and plot. It had a solid cast too, including The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun, Tyler Labine and Rhys Darby. The basic setup is similar to the original series but with a greater emphasis on characterization, including main villains Emperor Zarkon and Prince Lotor (A. J. Locascio).
Lotor is the son of Zarkon, ruler of the Galra Empire and former pilot of the Black Lion. Lotor takes control after Zarkon is defeated by the Paladins towards the end of Voltron: Legendary Defender season 2 and besides sporting a fantastic head of hair, Lotor would evolve into a complex, intriguing villain over the course of the series. Lotor is an Altean/Galra hybrid and his initial goal appears to be to travel to alternate realities and obtain quintessence - the substance that fuels Galra tech - to defeat his enemies.
In a surprise move, he forms a partnership with the Paladins after Zarkon awakens from his coma, and later slays his father in battle. While the gang was understandably slow to trust him, Lotor seems to earn his redemption - until it's revealed he's been draining quintessence from a colony of Alteans for his own evil ends. Lotor's ultimate goal was to establish an Altean Empire across different universes with himself as unquestioned ruler. He forms his own Voltron-style giant mech to face the Paladins but is finally defeated in the finale of Voltron season 6 when his mech is overloaded with raw quintessence, which eventually kills him.
While Lotor was a calculating and cunning bad guy, Voltron: Legendary Defender did a great job making him nuanced too. His worldview was shaped by a horrible upbringing and he can easily switch from honorable to evil. This is part of what makes him such an interesting villain in that his motives constantly shift. It's easy to imagine Lotor being a hero under different circumstances, but his God complex ultimately destroyed him - and almost the whole universe with him. While he may not be ranked as high as Vicious from Cowboy Bebop or Johan Liebert from Monster, Lotor is definitely one of the best anime villains of recent years.