Voltron 1 / Dairugger XV
Review by JoshB
This is the one I've been waiting for since I started collecting the Soul of Chogokin line back in 1999. Twenty years later, my patience is rewarded. And with it comes the end of a certain kind of collecting.
It's hard for me to be impartial here, being such a fan of the character. But it's a really great toy, and probably the best modern expression of Dairugger. I won't bore you with the character history, but basically, this is the robot that became Voltron 1, or Vehicle Voltron.
The toy comes with an English-language slipcover that has all of the Japanese text translated to English. The Voltron logo is done in a nice silver foil, and it's labeled Voltron 1 for non-Japanese audiences. Note the choice of images used for the Japanese versus the rest of the world. As I understand it, Dairugger XV was not a popular cartoon, but the toy is fondly remembered by fans. As such, the toy on the Japanese box is depicted with the helicopter blades on the shoulder. This could be a nod to the old Popy DX toy that had non-removable blades on the shoulder. The English language cover has the blades removed, as US fans are probably more into Voltron the show than the old Matchbox toy.
My theory falls apart when we realize that the toy is distinctly favoring anime accuracy over toy aesthetics.
The toy consists of 15 vehicles, and it's a perfect transformation. This means that the toy can be combined with no parts swapping or extra parts. Please see the video for the full breakdown of components and transformation.
Command Jet Explorer / Rugger 1
This small ship forms the head of Voltron. It feels rather light, but the molding is very sharp. The doors that hide the face stay closed in vehicle mode. On the underside, wheels fold out, but they don't appear to actually roll. This whole section actually comes off rather easily, but it's meant to be removable for a feature in combined form.
Strato Weapons Module / Rugger 2
One of the features that is common throughout the toy is the blue cockpits. The box proudly claims that this is the first time all the cockpits are the correct colors. The previous toys used blue in some windows, orange in others.
The vehicle has some hefty diecast content. The treads are rubber and actually work, if not a little tight. After being so familiar with the old Matchbox and Popy, it is cool to see all the little details painted or molded in color.
Advanced Recon Helicopter / Rugger 3
The red helicopter has a lot going on, despite it's small size. Its got fold-out landing gear, but it does not seem to want to balance, and falls over easily. The silver propeller is removable and comes in three types: large three-blade (toy-accurate), large two-blade (anime accurate) and small, three blade (suitable for display in robot or air-team mode.)
This has a good amount of diecast in the cockpit area. The colored in windows and engine detail are something the older toys lacked.
Advanced Recon Helicopter / Rugger 4
The blue helicopter has the same features, but what is interesting to note here is its difference from the vintage toy. In the old Matchbox or Popy DX, the cockpit is red, with a blue body. Here it is the anime-accurate blue.
Falcon Jet Fighter / Rugger 5
This sleek fighter jet features fold-out landing gear and moveable wings. The wings move slightly at the body, and the fins in the wings also move.
Communications Module / Rugger 6
Again, I immediately draw comparisons the old toy. On the Popy version, the chrome antenna was removable. For the Matchbox version, it was replaced with a silver square. Here, Bandai has engineered a solution that allows the antenna to stay attached throughout the transformation. The bottom has molded in treads that do not move. If you are going to do molded in treads, at least provide small moving wheels to allow for the toy to roll. Cheap plastic tanks do this, why not do it here? I think again that this is evidence of the anime-accurate approach to this toy.
Space Prober / Rugger 7
The two space prober ships are identical in size and function, but are entirely different molds. Here again, we have molded treads (which would be impossible to do at this size) but in this case we have little bumps which appear to indicate wheels, but again, they are molded in and do not turn.
Space Prober / Rugger 8
Again, similar to the other Space Prober, but entirely different mold.
These large beastly vehicles have large amounts of die-cast metal content. The treads are rubber and do actually work, but again they are very tight. The two chrome towers are removable, and while the yellow pylons should be extended in this mode, it's tough to get them to stay up while simultaneously keeping the chrome antenna attached.
Similar to the other Explorer, the red tower needs to remain extended while inserting the chrome tower. Good luck.
Jet Radar Station / Rugger 11
In the old toy, this one was a knuckle buster. The door used to contain a small yellow latch that would release the legs in robot mode. This version adds a fold out radar array. This vehicle has molded-in, non moveable treads.
Rotating Personnel Carrier / Rugger 12
The hand vehicles are similar in construction, but entirely different modes. Since each act as a fist, the front section rotates. The backs have a large gaping hole where the arm inserts into. I'm not sure if this is anime-accurate, but it looks ugly. The tires are rubber, and roll freely.
Armored Equipment Carrier / Rugger 13
Same as above, but note the detail in the headlights, and the difference between the two vehicles. There is no metal in the construction of these two.
All Terrain Space Vehicle / Rugger 14
These massive vehicles feature diecast metal bodies with real rubber tires. There's a large, unsightly gap on the top and back of the vehicle, which serves as a channel for the foot connection. I'm really surprised that they did not come up with a method to hide this ugly gap, considering how close they are staying to the animation model in the other vehicles.
The wheels also act as a locking mechanism for the legs during transformation. With the wheels in the down position, slide the leg connector up the channel, then compress each wheel towards the body, and then snap the axle up. This locks the foot in place on the leg.
All Terrain Space Vehicle / Rugger 15
Check out the size of the bumpers on these guys. Again I was unaccustomed to them due to my familiarity to the toy and not the show, but you get used to them.
Each team can combine into one vehicle.
The chrome propellers need to be swapped out with the smallest ones to form this mode. It's pretty solid and goes together well. There are fold out clips under the red jet to attach to the chest.
My favorite mode, this goes together solidly and stays put. Older versions could suffer from droopy front ships, but this stays together nice and tight.
Turbo Terrain Fighter
Traditionally this mode has been the most difficult to pull off, but here it goes together with ease. The large foot vehicles attach via fold-out clips, and the hands attach via a peg at the bottom of each vehicle.
Lets form Voltron
You should have watched part 1 of the video above to see the combination into robot form. It is similar to the vintage version in some ways, but not others.
The below video goes over the combined form, weapons and accessories.
The toy stands about 11 inches (28 cm) tall, and it stands securely. Some people have complained about loose limbs, but I attribute that to not knowing how to properly secure them to the body. Some joints, like the hips, need an extra bit of force to lock into place.
I love that this toy can do a neutral pose.
Articulation is good, but not great. It would have been difficult to get super flexible poses out of this, considering the combination. However one joint they could have greatly improved is the ab crunch. The joint is SO TIGHT that you are more likely to separate the sections than you are to fully use this joint. You are better off separating the toy at the joint, moving the joint manually, and then re-attaching it.
There is a neck joint, but it is small, and difficult to get right. The head needs to be inserted and then just pulled up a notch, but what usually happens is that you just pull the head out of its socket. It's trial and error, and you may or may not get the feel for it.
While there is technically a double joint in the elbows, that's about all the range of movement you are going to get. Note that the fins on the shoulder helicopters move when you move the hand vehicle.
Also worth noting here is another difference from the old toy. In this transformation, the hand cars can only attach one way. Any hand motion is achieved by moving the fist at the wrist joint. However, in the old toy, the cars that make the hand had to be removed and turned 90 degrees to hold a sword. I was just so used to having the cars on wrong like the old toy, that this just seemed odd to me.
The knees can do about 90 degree bends, but not much more. Pushing them farther just makes the joint disengage.
The feet have sturdy extending ankles, that both rock side to side and back and forth. The rubber tires make for secure, stable posing.
Until the Miracle Metal Works version, the only weapon we ever had was the sword. Even then, the Matchbox versions did not come with them. So to have such a plethora of weaponry seems weird, but welcome.
Spinning Laser Blades
From what I remember, any weapons came from the propeller blades. So if you have a weapon out, you should have the blades removed. But what is left are these bare plastic pegs. Again, suRprised that Bandai didn't make a hatch or something to make them look better.
There are a total of eight different blades that can be fit into the hand. 2 Clear blue with 3 blades, 2 clear blue with 2 blades and jagged edges, 2 silver 3-bladed propellErs, and 2 silver 2-bladed propellErs. You can technically use any of the blades, but the translucent ones are meant to reflect the energized weapon. Two special hands are included that have splayed fingers and a peg in the palm to secure them. The wrists also have an extra joint that allows the hand to move out a bit more to the side to accomodate this pose.
The blazing sword is glorious. It measures 11.5" (30 cm) long and is nice and pointy. The gold crest on the hilt is a separate molded piece. There are special sword-holding hands, but the sword can also be held in the default, hard plastic hands.
Solar Combat Spears
Both long and short form spears are included. The short spear separates into three sections for easy insertion into fists. The long spear is also about 11.5" long. The shaft is plastic.
This is a cool weapon. The hilt of the whip is formed by the section on the back of the Command Jet Explorer. The default piece is not used, instead it is removed and replaced with a small panel. An additional hilt is used to hold the energy beam. It has a small tab that slides into the whip-holding hand to hold it securely.
Ray Bean Whip
I would have thought the other one would have been called the ray beam whip, but what do I know? This whip features a bendable wire with a cloth covering that allows you to pose it to achieve the desired effect. It's rigid enough to hold any pose.
Like most Soul of Chogokin, a stand is included. I miss the days when the figures stood ON the stands, but lately it seems like the stands just hold the accessories. The underside stores all the extra fists neatly.
The stand holds all the weaponry, and even the small towers from the Multi-Wheeled Explorers. I would have appreciated some kind of clips for the long weapons, because if you bump them they go flying off the stand.
Because this is a dual-market release, we have nameplates for both Dairugger XV and Voltron. Good luck prying the nameplate off to swap it.
I won't go into much detail here, so please watch the video below. In comparison to the Miracle Metal Works Voltron, the Soul of Chogokin wins with no question. But the MMW is a worthy contender, featuring more nods to the original toy, and some different accessories.
It has been a long journey leading up to this. I started CollectionDX about 20 years ago, and I have been waiting for this toy about that long. I think this is a great toy to mark the end of this stage in my collecting. This is the end of collecting mostly new high-end pieces, and now taking a step back to enjoy what I already have, and enjoy a lot of the great toys coming out at US retail, like Hasbro's Transformers Siege line and Star Wars Black Series. Sure, there will still be cool Japanese stuff, but maybe not as much. I hope you stick around for the ride.
|Posted 27 December, 2019 - 11:42 by JoshB|