I know, it’s Transformers Thursday, but I’m waiting on some new figures to roll in. So, in the meantime, I feel as if today’s subject matter isn’t too far a field. It feels like a lot of my spare time has involved Voltron lately. I’ve been watching a lot of Legendary Defender on Netflix (started back at the beginning) and I’ve also been selling off my MattyCollector Voltron because the shitty gray plastic on one of the lions started yellowing horrifically and I don’t even want to look at it anymore. And surprisingly enough, even with one bum lion, those toys are proving to have been a damn good investment. Also, I truly believe in the ancient Zen teachings, which tell us when one Voltron Door closes, another one opens.
Behold, the Ultimate Voltron. I saw this thing in the stores many times and thought it looked neat, but it wasn’t something I wanted to blow a lot of money on, but when a deal came my way, I couldn’t resist. This is not the one that actually splits into the separate lions, it’s more of a big (about 14-inches tall) action figure, and as we’ll soon see that has its charms. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future, a number of Transformers Thursdays are taken up by reviewing some Voltron lions. Still, giving the moniker Ultimate Voltron to one that doesn’t separate seems a bit like empty boasting. Can this truly be an Ultimate Voltron… well perhaps the name Excellent Compromise Voltron would be more accurate, but probably would have gotten some of Playmates marketing people fired. But before pressing on, let me stress that this figure is a toy. Yes, a lot of what I review here are technically toys, but some of them really straddle that Toy/Collectible line. I’d argue that Marvel Legends and most of the DC figures I look at are aimed more at collectors than kids. This Voltron, on the other hand is 100% Toy and is most definitely aimed at kids. As a result, I’m happy to know there’s still enough joy in my middle aged, dark pit of an alcohol soaked heart that I can get this much enjoyment out of something targeted squarely at the kiddies.
The box is a dominated by a huge window that not only shows you exactly what you’re getting, but also lets you try it out by reaching into the glory hole and pressing your finger to Voltron’s… eh, let me end that metaphor before it goes any further. Suffice it to say, this is an attractive package that mostly lets the toy inside do the talking (literally!) and is still more or less collector friendly, once you snip a bunch of zip-ties and get the Legendary Defender free from his tray.
Once free from the box, all you have to do is plug in his wings and he’s all set to go. So the compromise I was talking about earlier should be very obvious. This Voltron does not separate into his lions, but he is perfectly proportioned after his animated Netflix counterpart. I’d be
lion lyin’ if I said that I didn’t prefer the old 80’s design over this one, but with that having been said, this new Voltron really has grown on me tremendously. I’ll even go so far as to say that I like the wings on this modern update better than the “V” back panels on the original. This design eschews the boxy goodness of old for a sleek, sexy, curvy, and ultimately more organic form and there’s certainly something to be said for it. I’m prepared to say it’s not better, not worse, just different, and that’s cool.
Perfect proportions aside, the other trade off here is that this Voltron is a flat out action figure with all the articulation to back it up, so let’s run down those all of those points. The shoulders feature ratcheting rotation as well as ratcheting lateral hinges, followed by ratcheting hinges in the elbows and swivels in the biceps. The hips feature ratcheting rotation as well as ratcheting lateral hinges. Voltron has a fair amount of heft to him, and those ratchet joints in the hips do a nice job of supporting him in wide stances. The knees feature ratchet hinges, and there are swivels in the thighs. The ankle articulation is especially cool. Not only are there strong ratchets up in the ankles and lateral rockers in the feet, but there are also hinges in the middle of the feet. There is no torso articulation, but the head can rotate as well as look up. The wings are attached with rotating hinges, giving them a great amount of posability.
With the selling points of proportions and articulation out of the way, let’s talk a little about sculpt and paint. The overall sculpt follows the animation model quite nicely. In an effort to follow the animation style, Voltron is not overburdened with sculpted detail, and I think that was a good choice. One thing that surprised me is that the sculpt actually portrays battle damage. The most obvious example of this are the scrapes across his abdomen, but the more I scrutinize the figure, the more little dings and scrapes I can make out. Some of them are rather subtle, and that’s because there’s no corresponding paint to make them stand out. I can see the damage being an issue of contention with some fans. It doesn’t really bother me, on the contrary, I think it gives him character.
The paint and coloring are both suitably bright and glossy. I love the vibrant shades of blue, yellow, green, and red that they used for the lions, and the silver paint looks fantastic. Some of the paint lines could have been sharper, especially the gold panels on his chest, but this is where I remind myself that this is a toy and not a collectors’ item. I do, however, wish they had chosen to use some of that lovely silver paint on the parts that they left bare gray plastic. The collar around the neck and Voltron’s face itself would have looked so much better if they were painted. I think it would have really elevated the look of the whole toy.
One of the big draws for the kids will no doubt be the electronic lights and SFX features on this figure. Collectors may find it a little less endearing, but there’s an On/Off switch on his back if you’d rather not accidentally fire them off whenever you’re handling him. The lights include the translucent blue wedge in his chest, as well as the panels on the sides of his face and his eyes. As for the sounds… I’ll let Mr. Voltron do the talking…
As far as electronics go, it’s pretty cool stuff and the dialogue seems to be all sampled directly from the show.
There’s another play gimmick, that I’m more or less ignoring and that’s the missile that fires out of the green lion arm’s mouth. There’s a button on the side of the arm. Press it once to spring the mouth open and press it again to fire the missile. It’s fairly harmless as far as play gimmicks go. You could, I suppose argue, that they curtailed some articulation in the wrist to make it work, but there isn’t wrist articulation in the red lion arm either.
Finally, Voltron comes with his sword. The new sword is probably my least favorite thing about the new Voltron design, but then the original Blazing Sword was a masterpiece. In any event, this one is cast in a relatively soft plastic and features the translucent blade. He can hold it quite firmly in his right hand. Yes, it’s also worth mentioning here that the shield on his left shoulder does not come off.
I seem to recall this Ultimate Voltron hitting the shelves at around forty or fifty bucks, which is probably why I didn’t consider picking him up. Lately he’s been reduced to $28 at most retailers around here, and thanks to a little bit of funds I had rattling around on a gift card, I was able to pick him up for twenty. While I would still argue whether or not this fellow should have been called Ultimate, I think he’s a fantastic toy. He’s fun to pose and he looks quite majestic on the shelf. He’s also sturdy as all hell and can probably take quite a beating, which makes him a terrific toy for the kids. And at the new price point, I think he’s definitely worth checking out. If they had a figure like this out of the original Voltron back in the 80’s I probably would have never put it down.