Ultimate Voltron EX Stealth
Review by Optimal III
I've never been impressed by Toynami's MP Voltron. And for various reasons, including the fact they basically released the same toy three times in a decade, I had no hope they'd give us anything better. So, surprised was I in 2015 when they announced an all-new 18-inch super-poseable Voltron. Maybe they didn't have a choice, but I give them credit for coming through despite the impending SOC version releasing around the same time. And right before SDCC 2016, they announced a stealth version limited to 500. I've recently taken to diversifying my collection where possible, so the Stealth version is what I've got. I have no regrets, but the devil's in the details.
The box is another huge carrying case. It may be similar width & length to the 30th anniversary set, but it's got more depth. They didn't skimp on cardboard, so every surface is smooth, firm. It looks and feels like you're in the presence of something special.
I didn't think to take a picture of the mailer but it clearly indicates the contents as the Stealth version. Without it, the only way to tell without opening the box is if one these stickers is present. These were made-to-order with a cap of 500, and every sticker says "1 of 300", so between San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic-Con, & the Voltron store, only 300 of the Stealth version were made.
Five of the six sides present a shaded photo of one of the lions in their natural environment.
The back gives some more looks at Voltron, the lions grouped, and a description of the set.
Raising the flap reveals the lions mostly arranged & ready to form Voltron.
Additional content consists of the comic book-sized manual, which has an in-depth walkthrough of Toynami's history with the Voltron license, and an explanation on why it was so important for them to make this set and how they approached the process, all from company founder & president George Sohn.
Let's start with the black lion. This thing is huge and a solid, heaping hunk of plastic. I didn't measure, so the best way to describe its size is that it sits halfway between Toynami MP/SOC/KoB/original & the Mattel Classic (same goes for the other lions). Exclusive deco aside, Toynami decided to zazz things up, so the overall design is a bit different too. This includes some sculpting on the sides of the head, making sort of a thin mane, and large hind legs from the knees up.
The stealth deco is more shades of grey & silver than anything else, so the black lion looks as different as the other lions from what we're used to.
Toynami set out to create super-poseable lions, which in turn would create a super-poseable Voltron. And they approached this task by emulating the anatomy of actual lions. The logic is sound, and the results were effective with the lions. Each lion has a hinged jaw, two hinges in each front leg, three hinges in each back leg, and a hinged tail. None of that is new, and neither is the use of interior joints at the junctures between hips/shoulders and the body.
What Toynami finally improved is the extent to which those interiors move, and how deep the bends are at each hinge. The black lion has a good ab crunch too, so once you've worked through how stiff the joints are, you've got some significant articulation going on, even at the neck.
The red & green lions as usual are the smallest. Being arms makes their design the most streamlined, but their articulation is just as expressive as black. Besides having giant elbow joints for versatile waists, the front half of their bodies can extend away from their backs. In lion mode, it's like they're stretching their shoulders. As arms, it's akin to how even when your arm is straight, you can still slightly bend your forearm to the inside or outside.
One thing I find weird is that the red lion can rotate at the neck 360-degrees, but the green lion can't at all.
It doesn't stand out so much with any one lion, but looking at them in a group or one by one, I really started to notice all the painted lines. It evokes sort of a tribal/African vibe, which is cool.
Blue lion & yellow lion have a certain majestic quality to them, but being legs means they don't have fully functional waists. They do have a vertical bend though, which works in similar fashion to the ones in red & green. Blue & yellow's heads also sit on balls.
Considering how much paint is in play, I'm pleased yellow lion is the first one to show any errors, and I only noticed in this picture.
So overall these new lions are aces, and I can't cite any real flaws. The stealth deco is well executed and they look good solo or as a team. Weapons would be appreciated, but they are very poseable. Not quite as good as the SOC set, but close (they can all sit). Their larger size is nice too.
Of course, that's only half the battle, and probably not the half everyone really cares about. So now, it's time to form Voltron.
If you've ever assembled the lions or watched the animation, you already know what you're doing. It's pretty much the same as always, but Toynami did a couple of things a little diffrently. The back panel on the blue lion folds out to tuck the tail in; the yellow lion's cannon tilts up to do the same.
They're not as neat as KoB, but the paws neatly tuck in. For the arm connector, the peg is hidden inside another piece that pulls out, so you can rotate the peg into position, and then goes back into place. Both pieces, especially the peg, are stiff, so you don't have to worry about the arms falling out or drooping just because.
Black lion's legs become Voltron's legs by sliding the thighs down from the hips. What's neat here is that them sliding in tandem with the hip covers being untabbed or tabbed in aids articulation. Also, the wings are inverted when stored, so you have rotate them into position before folding them out. Normally it's one and the same.
That's a huge robot! Now I know I'll need my wide lense for anything more than 12-inches. He's also heavy & stable with his legs under him. From any angle, this Voltron is impressive to look at. It's more the deco that makes him seem different, but there's some sculpting doing that too. Toynami didn't go off the deep end, but he's unique among the various iterations of the lion force we've gotten since 1981.
Visually, every detail pulls me in, but what I really enjoy is the small splashes of non-black/grey colors. The wings especially look cooler to me than they ever have. I also dig the uniformity of this design, especially from behind. This Voltron looks like it's loaded with thrusters and power.
For comparisons, here's Voltron towering over the Legacy Ninja Falcon Megazord.
Compared to UW Devastator, he's more even keel. Bulkier, but just as tall.
But what about articulation & poseability? Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that all the joints of the lions are Voltron's joints, so articulation is no problem. But the bad news is that he's so heavy from head-to-toe, even with strong joints, he can't hit every pose you can imagine without some careful work. I'm probably making it sound worse than it is, so I'll qualify it like this: Soul of Chogokin > King of Beasts > EX (this guy) > Mattel/Playmates > Toynami MP > original. Good, but not perfect (SOC) or very close (KoB).
So, he's got no problem hunching over like he's about to puke after running a marathon.
But he can also hit some of the classic poses.
He's adept at wielding his massive weapons, but it really helps to have a solid base. His legs are dynamic, so you won't feel confined to the simple stuff if you're not in a rush.
Same goes for the torso and arms. He'd be killing it if had a bow.
Fantastic as the included weapons are (spinning laser blade is ginormous, blazing sword is sweet), one thing I really don't like (and the SOC is guilty of this too) is the decision to dedicate each arm to a specific weapon. So only the red lion can effectively hold the sword, and only the green lion can effectively hold the shield.
Either arm can hold the sword if you want, but to do it securely, a piece on the grip needs to be removed that exposes two pegs which fit in red lion's mouth. To aid the process, the lower jaw can open extra wide. What may not be intentional but also sort of helps is that the upper jaw can be caved in downward. It's an extra wrist tilt, but it makes the red lion look like a stroke victim (green lion can do it too). Even without, the sword can be gripped by both at the same time.
As for the shield, it's just one larger peg that fits into green lion's mouth. Since its neck doesn't rotate at all, you have to rotate the arm below or above the elbow to change it up. The shield swings at the top of the grip, so that's another aspect to play with.
One last thing to be mindful of is how you position the arms if you're doing anything above the shoulder. The arms are so big that at certain angles, they'll push up against them and start to push out of the socket. You'll see it coming, but it's worth noting.
I don't feel sorry for Toynami, but timing can be a cruel thing. This "ultimate" Voltron has some issues, but it's overall a nice piece and by far their best take on the fan-favorite super robot yet. If they had released him in 2014, he'd have gotten a much hotter reception and a lot more praise and $$ all around. But instead, they went with a third release of the "Masterpiece" and then announced this. And lo & behold, maybe four months before release, what happened? Bandai announced the SOC version. It didn't help either that Bandai was offering established quality for $300 (full of metal) versus Toynami's $400 (all plastic) asking price. But I digress.
Again, this is a nice set, and if you need/want a larger combining Voltron, this is your best bet. But I'm saying that about the standard version. If you want this Stealth version, I'm saying "No Way Jose" unless you've got a time machine or money to burn. This set retailed for $500 and was advertised as only being available for SDCC. I actually asked Toynami on Facebook if there would any other way to get it, and they stated NYCC would be the last shot. I got a one-day pass but crunched the numbers and determined I'd spend around $1,000 to make the trip/purchase, never mind the missed hours of work. So, I scored one on EBay for $1,100. I'd be fine with that, but I guess these weren't selling at the cons, so out of nowhere, they became available at the Voltron store for two weeks. For $500. I'm still steamed about that, but more to the point, they're now going for $1,600+. That's enough to buy one or more of every modern lion Voltron that's not made by Toynami.
Basically, this is cool, but if you don't already have it, go for the standard version or the SOC. Your wallet will love you more.
|Posted 15 March, 2017 - 09:10 by Optimal III|
Comments7 comments posted
$1100??? I don't think I could spend that on ANY toy. You have my respect. I still kind of regret passing up that all plastic Voltron set Toynami released a few years ago when it was on sale for 50 bucsk.
It's a wallet buster for sure. Almost my most expensive piece too.
At best, the all-plastic one you reference though is meh, so don't feel bad about missing it. It was cool at first, but the thrill quickly wore off for me.
Give Toynami credit. They did amuch better job in designing the "Stealth" paint scheme than the KOB folks. I love how they nicely used the Lions primary colors as the trim colors. Sadly the Ex is too big for my display space and way too big for my wallet. Especially for apure plastic toy. And $1100? Gah! At that point I might as well just hand it to a divorce lawyer. ( ah who am I kidding. My wife would never divorce me. She'd simply kill me and hire a few rednecks to dispose of the body. Should I be worried that she knows rednecks willing to dispose of a body in exchange for first dibs on the robot collection?)
Yeah, the black KoB is too devoid of color. Toynami got it just right. (and you're probably in the clear, unless she starts dropping phrases like "no dental, no prints, no problem"; if that happens, she might be planning).
I could only think of 3 design flaws in the EX:
1. The somewhat hindered neck rotation (the head would have to be oriented slightly upwards for side movements)
2. The hindered waist swivel (due to the waist 'collar')
3. The ball-jointed hip joints
other than that, Toynami did great with this iteration of Voltron... i personally feel that the KoB looks a bit uninspired, especially with the SoC out and available now. Somehow i get the feeling the KoB will lose out more than the EX because of how closely the SoC and KoB molds are in term of scale and looks (the KoB is not exactly a radical design departure from the SoC/Classic look, not as different as the EX in my opinion)
Sadly the ball jointed hips are what I categorize as a critical flaw at the MSRP price point. No way an 18" plastic robot will last the years with 5" plastic action figure type hips.
Yeah, I forgot to mention that. The waist isn't terrible, but the ridge in conjunction with black lion's tail is a significant hindrance. KoB & SOC did it best, and in different ways to boot.