Warning! Minor SPOILERS for Voltron: Legendary Defender season 7 ahead!
Voltron: Legendary Defender showrunners knew Takashi "Shiro" Shirogane was gay for a long time. The first episode of the show's seventh season screened during its panel at San Diego Comic-Con, and in it, fans learn that prior to leaving for the mission that kicks off the series, Shiro was in a romantic relationship with a man. The news was met with cheers and applause at the convention, and already the revelation that Shiro is gay has swept through the Voltron fandom.
During that panel, it was also revealed that Voltron: Legendary Defender season 7 will premiere August 10th on Netflix. Unlike more recent seasons, season 7 will have 13 episodes as opposed to only six. Later this year, an additional 13 episodes will drop that will serve as the final season for the show, bringing Voltron: Legendary Defender to a total of 78 episodes across eight seasons (or six if you prefer to combine the shorter releases).
Related: Voltron Season 7 Trailer Released
Voltron's season 7 premiere deals primarily with the aftermath of Allura removing Shiro's consciousness from the Black Lion and placing it within the body of Shiro's clone. It's an especially emotional moment which enables Shiro - the real Shiro - to return from the dead, but as we see in the season 7 premiere, there's no guarantee of success. Since having transplanted his consciousness, Shiro has remained in a coma and it's unclear if he'll ever wake up. Both Keith and Allura remain at Shiro's side, and through flashbacks we learn how Shiro came to mentor Keith, that Shiro suffers from a serious though undisclosed illness, and are introduced to Shiro's partner, Adam.
While at San Deigo Comic-Con, Screen Rant had to opportunity to discuss the news of Shiro being a gay character with Voltron: Legendary Defender's executive producers, Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery. You can read the full exchange, below:
How long did you both know that Shiro was gay?
Joaquim Dos Santos: A very long time.
Lauren Montgomery: It was something that came up right from the get-go, but as you know, from the beginning we kind of thought we were going to kill Shiro at one point. And so we’re like, ‘Y’know what? We don’t really want to kill off our gay representation. Maybe we’ll find it somewhere else.’ But then we found out pretty soon after that, Shiro wasn’t allowed to die. Well, all right, we go back to plan one and yeah, it just took us a little while to get to the point in the story where we were able to reveal it. But he was kind of always in the works to be our [gay] representation.
JDS: Stories just get shuffled all the time in the series, so it’s like, that backstory we wanted to tell a story of it earlier, but it just made more sense now.
Was it important for the reveal to be so matter of fact?
JDS: He’s in a relationship, that’s it. I think that’s the most important thing to take away from it.
LM: It’s a very normal part of his life and it’s just a very normal part of our story. It wasn’t supposed to be, like, scandalous or surprising or--
JDS: A big moment.
LM: It’s just daily life. And I think we kind of try to envision a world where all of those things are just normal and accepted and people don’t freak out about them.
JDS: We’re happy that it resonates and lands and is important for animation that plays to such a wide audience. But from a story perspective, it’s not like a big ‘Ooh! Ahh!’
LM: It doesn’t change who he is at all.
The news that Shiro is gay and was previously in a relationship with a man is already being responded to by the Voltron fandom at large, with an overwhelming number of fans reacting positively. This clearly speaks to a strong desire for greater representation of characters from all walks of life. And recent years have seen a notable uptick in the number of queer characters in media, but as Dos Santos points out, animation reaches a very wide audience, making it even more important for there to be as diverse a representation as possible.
Along those lines, working the reveal of Shiro's sexual orientation into the narrative as seamlessly as they did is equally as important. As Montgomery mentions, learning this new information about Shiro in no way changes the character he already was. It was the same when it was revealed that Pidge was actually a girl - nothing about her character changed, but in being a girl who acted and dressed in ways that weren't strictly feminine, she broadened the show's scope of what a girl could be. The same can now be said of Shiro, and in revealing him as gay, Voltron: Legendary Defender has broadened the scope of who a brave leader and Paladin of Voltron can be.
Voltron: Legendary Defender season 7 premieres August 10th on Netflix.