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Bandai Japan: Super-Mini-Pla Voltron

If anyone has ever wondered how rigorous the decision-making that goes into my purchasing habits can be, this figure is the poster child for how lackadaisical I am when I see something shiny and hit the preorder button.

I was supposed to do the review for this figure last week. So there I was, sitting myself down on a Sunday, ready to open up the five packages, pull out the five lions, and start the picture taking process. I opened up the box for Lion #1, the Black Lion, the main kahuna of the entire thing, expecting a plastic tray with a lion in it, just like any other toy…and out spills a bunch of multicolored sprues.

Friends and neighbors, I had gone and bought a model kit.

Now, I’m sure If I had read a little more carefully, I would have known this. But I knew nothing about this so-called “Super-mini-pla” thing. This is the reason why, when I applied for MENSA, they referred me next door to DENSA.

Oddlystrangelypeculiarly enough, this did not kill my enthusiasm. It murdered my momentum, but I was even happier with my purchase. With the Star Wars model kits, I have discovered a huge thrill in building an action figure from the ground up with a clipper and some spare time, so the idea of tossing together five lion kits wasn’t a deterrent at all. But that review was not going to be happening for the next day.

So over the course of the past week I’ve put together a lion a night, and have ended up on the other end with five lions that can come together to form the single, unified form of Beast King GoLion. Or, as he’s more commonly known, Voltron.

I’m always impressed with the engineering that goes into a model kit. The skill it takes to break something down into component parts that can easily be assembled with a bit of instructions and have it actually be a thing is something I would never have the patience to do. These have to pull a double duty of sorts. Saying that, there are a handful of built in cheats to manage the illusion that these five kitties can form one big robot, but they are logical cheats that sell the illusion.

First, let’s take a look at the lions. They all come together cleanly, and when you’re through with the model (it took me about a half hour per lion) you are rewarded with five excellently articulated Lions that, thankfully, are each satisfying action figures all on their own. With ball jointed legs, single jointed knees and ankles, the lions can get into a multitude of poses. The heads are each articulated in different ways, but as they form the ankles and wrists of Voltron, they feature a wide variety of articulation as well.

The lions each require stickers to complete the overall look. There were a couple of stickers that I wasn’t too happy with the results of once applied, so I opted to remove those stickers and paint those sections. Mainly it’s the white areas on the faces. White is a bitch to paint, so it’s possible I may need to put a few more coats on, so if you notice something looking odd, that’s it.

The ball joints allow the lions to be extremely limber. They can even sit. They can balance fairly well due to their overall light weight. Each lion is accurate to their intended size.

All five lions come with a variety of shoulder mounted weapons, and they also feature a “mouth weapon”, a bladed weapon that each lion can wield. All of these parts have a use later on when the lions are in Voltron form, so we’ll get back to that.

As I said before, there is a bit of a cheat when it comes time to combine them. First, all the legs pop off, to be replaced by silvery caps. Finally, the heads on the leg lions have to be swapped out with larger versions.

Once that’s done, everything easily snaps together and stays put (I was worried about fiddliness, but that’s practically a non-issue), and you have an extremely well-articulated Beast King GoLion/Voltron. I knew from looking at pictures that he was going to be nicely articulated—it’s what drew me to the preorder button—but being able to move him in person was a completely different matter. He was actually more articulated than I was expecting. I tried to capture everything he can do in the pictures, but basically he has most of the articulation points you’ve come to expect from modern super-articulated toys. He can even dual-hand his sword. He gets deep bends out of his knees, and while he can’t do the splits, he can get a nice wide leg-spread for those cool hero poses.

It had been a while since I had looked at Mattel’s smaller-scale Voltron that was released several years ago in conjunction with their much much larger Voltron. In my mind, that was the smaller-scale Voltron to beat, but getting it out of storage and looking at it again, this one easily surpasses it in almost every way just on the Voltron level alone, not to mention the fact that he can split up into five articulated lions, something the Mattel figure can only dream about doing.

For accessories, he comes with his most well-known weapon, the Blazing sword. He also comes with a spinning laser blade that looks like the angriest frisbee ever.

Finally, all of those extra mouth blades and shoulder weapons all snap together to form the monstrous Mega Blaster, a huge gun the size of Voltron’s arm.

For an impulse purchase that ended up being a model kit instead of a standard action figure, this ended up being a heck of a lot more fun than I was expecting. It does the lion thing well, it does the Voltron thing well, and it’s just a fun figure all on its own. If you’re in the market to do a little work before getting a nicely articulated Voltron that won’t take up major shelf-space, you could do worse than this one.

Plus, you get a piece of gum with each lion. Because Japan.

It’s available at BBTS and Amiami

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