Review by NekroDave
I've been out of the new, modern gokin game for quite some time but when news broke that Bandai had finally secured the rights to release a Soul of Chogokin Golion/Voltron, my ears perked up. I never had a Matchbox or Godaikin version when I was a kid, although I dearly wanted one. For a long time, I didn't get one as an adult collector either and when the Toynami version came out, I wasn't impressed and passed on it. So it was time to finally fulfill my nearly life-long desire for a first rate combining, die-cast version of the character when someone with the long accomplished track record like Bandai was doing it
This toy, numbered GX-71 in the series, comes in two releases. In Asia, it is simply marketed with the characters original name, Golion, but here in North America, special packaging was created to use the name Voltron, which is more familiar to many of us who grew up in the '80s (or who may be watching the new Dreamworks show currently). If you ordered the US version, you got a cardboard outer covering that features a gorgeous image of the toy as it "FORMS BLAZING SWORD" on the front beneath the "Voltron: Defender Of The Universe" logo that we all know and love. In addition to a very impressive photograph, text and logo are printed in gold embossed lettering that really makes the box shine and results in a museum quality presentation. The box is also quite large, measuring approximately 16" x 12" x 5", making it a formidable display piece in it's own right.
When you remove this outer covering, the original design for the box is on the inner box. This is also a great image featuring all five lions as well as the combined form of the robot, standing majestically to the right.
The backs of both boxes are identical, save for the text being translated into English on the outer covering.
The sides of the inner box have the lions on one side and Voltron on the other.
Putting the box aside, the toy and it's accessories come packaged in a combination of styrofoam and plastic trays. If you are only interested in having a combined Voltron on your shelf, you need only concern yourself with the styrofoam tray. All five lions, their main weapons, the blazing sword and the spinning laser blade (what I, like many others I suspect, always thought of as a shield) are held in this tray.
Two plastic trays which hold the other accessories and the display base are also in the box, as well as an instruction manual and a sticker sheet with which you can add the numbers to each corresponding lion. I so far have chosen to leave them off.
The instruction manual also includes information about the original anime and even an image of an earlier design concept for the character, one that was fortunately not used!
When you start to remove the lions from the tray, you'll immediately be impressed by their individual heft. Obviously the heaviest is the black lion since it's also the largest. Bandai chose an interesting tactic of putting the majority of the die-cast metal in the legs of each lion. On the black lion, everything silver is die-cast, while the grey hips, black shoulders and part of the black upper front legs are also solid gokin. So it isn't entirely metal, but it is spaced out nicely and feels solid in your hand.
Articulation on the black lion is also nice. The waist doesn't swivel as much as you might like due to the nature of the design, but you can rotate the legs and bend them to get upright or crouching poses. Make sure you pull the lions hind quarters all the way out from the body to achieve this.
Make the lion spring into action!
Each lion has a weapon built in to the mouth. A purely decorative missile is stored in the lower jaw on the black lion. I understand trying to give each lion as much fire power as possible, but personally, I wish these were removable. I find them sort of distracting.
Fortunately, it's presence does nothing to hinder the lion's ability to grasp it's unique melee weapon, a mouth blade. There are very small notches in the handle of the blade that the upper teeth of the lion can slide into to hold it steady.
Matching rotary cannons can be inserted into holes on either shoulder of the lion. The black lion is the only one to have the same weapon on both shoulders.
The red lion and it's counterpart, the green lion, is significantly less weighty than the black lion and not only because it's smaller. There is also much less metal. Where the black lion's silver parts were entirely metal, the same cannot be said of the red lion. The upper legs and feet of the red lion are shiny chrome plastic, leaving only the middle of the legs to contain gokin. The waist joint and silver part of the tail are also metal but overall, prepare to be a little bit disappointed in the lack of heft on these two.
That said, I've always felt that these two lions were more geared towards quickness and agility than brute force anyway so it makes sense, to say nothing of the practical real world consequences of possibly having too much weight in the arms and causing the toy to be top heavy.
There is also greater articulation here, which a nicely ratcheting waist joint and 360 degree rotating ability. The head can be extended and it too has full rotational ability as well as the ability to look up and down.
The mouth opens to reveal dual cannons that also can be raised and lowered.
A compartment on the back lifts up to reveal more weaponry.
The upper part of the mouth has an indentation where you can place a matching peg on the lion's mouth blade to hold it in place.
The plasma flash cannon and lava cannon can be inserted into the holes in the shoulders.
Fully armed, the red lion can also achieve a kneeling pose.
The green lion, while being a different shape and color, is essentially the same as the red lion. It has die-cast metal in all the same places as well as matching articulation.
It even borrows the same mouth cannon.
A similar gimmick is used on the back here too, though I found this one to be harder to extract.
The green lions mouth blade attaches the same way, too.
Strangely, for some reason a different connection method was used for the laser cannon and shooting star weapons. These still attach to the shoulders but now they connect via a short rectangular peg much like the ones in the mouth. I'm not sure exactly why this change was made on this particular lion.
The new standing cat champion!
Here is the green lion sitting, ready to launch into battle!
With the blue lion, we are back to having a nice hefty toy, partly because of the increased size of the lion and corresponding increase in die-cast metal. Again, die-cast is restricted to the legs, both the upper and lower. However, the feet are still plastic.
All the lions (except the black) have legs that can be pulled and spread out from the body. The head can be raise and lowered and also turned side to side.
The blue lion has a large missile in it's mouth, similar to the black lion.
Again, there's a weapon in the back.
The mouth blade attaches to the upper mouth the same as the red and green lion.
There is a triple barrel mortar cannon and shoulder cannon that can be inserted in to the shoulders. The connection mechanism is like the red lion, a round hole in the shoulder and a round peg on the weapons.
The larger blue lion still retains the crouching ability of the other lions.
The yellow lion has similar overall construction to the blue lion, though the design does differ. It simply has die-cast content and articulation in the same places.
It, too, has the missile in it's mouth. The sides of the head do not swing open like on the old version, though..
This is the only lion whose back weapon does not get hidden inside the torso. It simply rests on the back and can be rotated upwards. There is a hole in the back to allow it to swing back far enough to point directly up. The red harness holding it is fixed in place.
The mouth blade attaches to the upper mouth like the other lions.
The dual shoulder blockbuster turrets and radial shotgun shoulder blaster can be attached to the shoulders by the same short, rectangular system as the green lion. Notice that for some reason it's only the two lions the form the left limbs of Voltron that have this connection style. I don't know why that is.
The yellow lion also crouches.
Although of course I'll be displaying the combined Voltron on my shelf, the lions are beautiful toys in their own right and if money were no object, I would happily buy an extra GX-71 just to be able to display the lions.
Like most SOCs, Voltron comes with a display stand that is specially designed to hold all of the accessories for the toy.
Two logo plates are included that let you decide to display it with the name Voltron or Golion, depending on your preference. I grew up with Voltron, so that's what I use.
While the melee weapons are stored on the steps of the stand, the various cannons are pegged into the sides and also inside. The middle layer can be slid in and out for easy access.
This layer can also be turned upside down and has pegs that you can use to attach separately sold stands to, so that you can display just the heads of the lions, which can be easily pulled off of their bodies.. Some fans seemed happy about this, but I have no idea why. Personally, it makes me think of them as hunters trophies. Furthermore, one my red lion I found it a difficult to simply extend the head without accidentally pulling it right off. But you're mileage may vary.
I find this to be the coolest accessory display stand I've seen because it is colored and designed to recall the Castle of Lions! Notice the door, windows and bricks that are molded into the side of the stand. I didn't notice this until I was putting the stand together for this review and that alone almost made me want to find room to display it. Previously, I had never even taken it out of the box.
READY TO FORM VOLTRON!!
Combing the five lions into Voltron is a pretty simple and intuitive process. First, start with the black lion and open the black panels on the shoulders. These can be a little tricky to open if you have large fingers and/or short fingernails. I found that turning the shoulder slightly provided a little more room to work with.
Next fold the legs into the openings and close the lids again.
Then you rotate the shoulders so that the red lines up on the chest, straighten out the back legs and extend the wings.
Now fold in the legs and tails of the blue and yellow lions and turn the heads to a 90 degree angle.
There is a plastic piece that you can pull out of the heel to help provide stability.
The process for the red and green lions is similar but a little more involved. First, fold in the legs and turn the tail to a 90 degree angle. At this point, you can remove the plastic piece that forms the majority of the tail if you want to. It will fit inside the body of Voltron so you don't have to, but I preferred to just take it off. At this point, you can push the head of the lions back into the body and extend the waist to allow for more articulation when the arms are in place.
Now you have all the lions ready to be combined.
FORM FEET AND LEGS!
Both the blue and yellow lions have openings to allow the legs of the black lion to be inserted. There are two hinged pieces of plastic. The one on the back can be turn out away from the leg but the other one actually goes down inside the leg. Insert the legs of the black lion and push them in until it clicks. You'll feel it when it's been secured.
Now close the hatch to cover the opening.
FORM ARMS AND BODY!
The red and green lions are just pushed into the holes on the black lions shoulders and snap in place.
The next part is probably the most difficult aspect of the entire process. Once the arms are in place, they will hold steady but if you try to turn them, you are very likely to actually turn the entire shoulder of the black lion. To account for this, there are tabs on either side the can be pushed in to secure the shoulder, allowing you to move just the arms. However, these tabs are very small and REALLY tight making them very, very difficult to get to snap into place. I've done it two time so far and each time I had to use a prop, such as a folded up paper clip. Just something strong to withstand the pressure that needs to be applied. It looks like doing this may be slightly impacting the plastic so once I have it back together, I don't plan to do it anymore for fear of causing any damage. Perhaps it would get easier over time, but I don't want to risk it.
AND I'LL FORM THE HEAD!
Lower the head of the lion to face forward.
Open the lion's mouth and pull down the top to reveal the face of Voltron.
Pull the horns out.
The combined Voltron at last! In their design for this toy, Bandai elected to copy the aesthetic of the original toy by Popy, with exposed lion legs on the final toy, rather than go for a more anime accurate look, with the legs hidden. If you were hoping to get the first ever truly anime accurate die-cast version of the character, you were probably disappointed and passed on it. But if you don't mind this choice, you'll likely be delighted with the final outcome.
For my money, this is the best looking Voltron I've ever seen. It's thick and solid with a strong presence on the shelf, without being overly bulked up. One thing that I often perceive as a problem with Soul Of Chogokin toys is that, in my opinion, the heads are often too small but that's not the case here. Everything looks nicely proportioned to my eyes.
There are a great many points and types of articulation but for the most part I don't feel like it's an overly poseable toy. The head can turn and even tilt side to side a little bit, which can add a touch of personality. The design prevents any real kind of waist joint and I'm OK with that, but I wish there was a double joint in the elbows because as it is, the arms cannot bend very much. Between the shoulder joint and the elbow joint, you can at least get the hands together to hold the javelin mode of the solar combat spears, a dual blade that can be combined into one.
Personally, I don't even remember that weapon from the show. I suspect that the only weapon that anyone will really care about is the blazing sword. That weapon has a rectangular peg like the mouth blades of the red and green lions and can be held in either hand using the same connection point.
The spinning laser blade/shield is a two part accessory with the handle of the blade needing to be inserted into the back side. The handle has the same connection method and will fit in either hand.
One of the biggest complaints I heard about this toy even before I pre-ordered it was that there are gaps on the back of the legs, which were necessary to allow for the black lion to achieve it's sitting pose. It doesn't personally bother me very much because it is on the back where it will not be seen on the shelf but I also totally understand the frustration some people might feel over it. It would have been nice if it was addressed some way.
Another downside for some is that unlike in the anime, the protruding limbs of the black lion on the back do not just disappear and the wings needed to have a gap to account for this. Again, it doesn't bother me too much and I actually sort of like that it gives the wings something solid to rest on.
A second face with a more animated open mouthed expression is also included. Frankly, I think it looks worse than the standard face and is a pain to swap out due to the limited space you have to work with inside the black lions mouth.
Many people looked to Bandai to create the ultimate Voltron and for my money, they delivered. No toy is perfect or will please everybody but in terms of shelf presence, hand feel, play value, appearance and presentation, the GX-71 Voltron/Golion really feels like a love letter to the fans.
|Posted 19 March, 2017 - 13:42 by NekroDave|