Voltron: Legendary Red Lion by Playmates

I had planned to look at both the Red and Green Lions last Thursday, but I was only able to get Green in time, so this week, I’m going to take a look at Red. It actually worked out fine, because I’m a little pressed for time today and needed to do a quickie… and after reviewing four of these kitties, this should indeed be quick!

We’ve seen this packaging three times so far, and Red’s isn’t any different. The card and bubble are not collector friendly, but it does offer a good look at what you’re getting. The inserts are personalized to fit the lion and the package shows you where Red goes when he combines with the others to form Voltron!

Of all the lions, Red and Green are the most similar to each other, both in size and overall aesthetic. The legs share the same molds and the differences in the bodies are very minor. I realize similarities are to be expected for the sake of Voltron’s symmetry, but I think the designs for Blue and Yellow (Voltron’s legs) were better distinguished. That’s not to say I’m disappointed. This sculpt is sleek and curvy and absolutely beautiful and the the heads are each unique.

Playmates picked a fantastic shade of red plastic, which looks great along with the black, gray, and silver paint. You also get a little bit of yellow at the base of the tail and some light blue paint apps on the hind legs. None of my lions have had poor paintwork, but I think Red here is probably the tightest. There aren’t any nicks in the white around the mouth and the slop is kept to a bare minimum. Given that these are most definitely toys and not collectibles, I’m quite happy with how they turned out.

And yes, the little pilot sled accessory is still included and can be stored in the hatch under the belly. I wish they were able to keep the paint apps on these that are shown on the package and promotional materials. Or that I had the skills to paint them up myself. As it stands, I don’t have a lot of use for these other than the way they really convey how enormous these lions are supposed to be.

The articulation is identical to the Green Lion, which means you get hinges in the hips, knees, and ankles of each leg, all of which contain ratchets. The head can rotate side to side but cannot look up or down. The jaws are spring loaded and the elbow joint for the arm mode gives him the ability to bend left or right in the middle, which is useful for posing.

As with the other lions, Red comes with a back-mounted weapon. In this case it’s called a Magma Beam Launcher. It’s fairly similar to Green’s weapon and as big and goofy as it is, I really don’t mind it too much. I do think it’s unfortunate that they couldn’t cast the missile in a red translucent plastic instead of the blue they used for Blue’s Ice Beam.

Red also includes the other half of the Blazing Sword. which features a translucent blue blase. Like Green, he can hold it in his jaws, but I don’t think it looks as good with him carrying it as the Green lion does wielding his half.

Playmates has produced yet another fun lion to add to the team. Right now, I’d say that Red is contending with Blue to be my favorite, but they’re all quite good. He even escapes the one minor gripe I have with these and that’s the paint on the others could have been a bit better. With that having been said, I’m happy to have most of this Pride of Lions assembled. Next up will be Keith’s Black Lion and after that I’ll be able to check out Voltron. And fear not, convertorobo fans, next week, I hope to be turning my attention back to Transformers proper at least for a week or two before coming back to Voltron!

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Voltron: Legendary Green Lion by Playmates

As I’ve been threatening for the past couple weeks, I’m switching gears back to Voltron on Transformers Thursday for a couple of weeks. I had actually planned on looking at both the Green and Red lions today, but when I stopped off at the store to finally buy them, Red was gone. I wound up ordering him online, but he won’t make it on time and the show must go on so Green is going solo today.

The packaging is essentially the same as we saw last time for Blue and Yellow. It takes a mighty big bubble and card to contain this kitty, but the packaging is colorful and looks great. The bubble insert has an ad for the Netflix series and also shows that the Green Lion can form Voltron’s left arm, once you collect all five of the Legendary Lions! Alas, this packaging is far from collector friendly, so give me a moment to tear it open and we’ll check out Pidge’s ride!

There are a couple of things that I dig straightaway. First off, despite being an arm, he isn’t much smaller than the two leg Lions. That’s a big step ahead from my Toynami Masterpiece Classic Voltron where Red and Green are considerably smaller. I’ll include a comparison shot of the three Legendary Lions at the end. Yes, I know the more uniform size is going to come back and bite me when I get them combined and deal with Voltron’s proportions, but right here and right now, I like the scaling. I also really love the individualized styling of each lion. Green is a little less boxy than Yellow and Blue, but they still fit in beautifully with one another. And despite Green having an elbow joint in the middle of his body, he still looks great, and it adds that little extra bit of articulation to what is already a very posable toy. All the joints in the legs are strong giving him the ability to hold almost any pose.

Overall, the coloring is pretty good. The green plastic is bright and both the green and the black plastic are shiny. They both really pop next to the flatter gray. I do wish the paint was a little tighter on these lions. It’s not terrible, but the white paint on the face could have used another coat. It’s got a few chips in it and you can see some unevenness in the brush strokes. Yeah, this is a fairly inexpensive toy, not a collectors’ item, so I’m willing to be a little more forgiving than usual.

And yes, the Green Lion also includes a tiny pilot sled, which can be loaded into the opening door in his belly. The package shows the pilot fully painted, but in reality it’s just a black molded blob sitting in the sled. The only thing that I find cool about these is that they give you an idea of the enormous scale of the Lions.

As we saw with the Yellow and Blue Lions, each one of these comes with a special weapon that attaches. Green Lion has a giant missile launcher, which pegs into his back. Pidge’s Lion is supposed to harness the power of nature, and this thing is referred to on the package as a “Vine Launcher,” but it shoots a blue missile like the Blue Lion’s ice beam. The least they could have done is cast this missile in translucent green plastic. I wasn’t a fan of Hunk’s big disk launcher, but I liked Lance’s weapon, Pidge’s here falls somewhere in between. It’s not as stylish as Lance’s, but at least it can pivot and fire in different directions. I don’t hate it.

The Green Lion also comes with Voltron’s Shield and the back half of The Blazing Sword. The shield pegs into the back of the lion and the sword can be held in the Lion’s mouth, thanks to the spring-loaded jaws. Pretty rad!

With the two previous lions already on my shelf, The Green Lion fell right in line with my expectations. He looks good and he’s a fun toy. He’s also a damn fine value for the money. Green ran me exactly fifteen bucks at the local Big Box and I’m impressed that Playmates can put out a toy this cool for so little money. Hell, that’s less than a 6-inch Hasbro figure and about the same price as a Deluxe Class Transformer. He’s a good sized kitty with lots of articulation and he includes a bunch of extra stuff. Next week I’ll check out Red Lion and then get back to a few Transformers before moving on to the Black Lion!

Voltron: Legendary Blue and Yellow Lions by Playmates

I warned you all it was coming! Voltron has invaded Transformers Thursday and he ain’t gonna leave quietly. Well, truth be told, I have some new Transformers figures on their way to me, but they haven’t arrived yet so I needed filler! Still, after how much fun I had with the Ultimate Voltron, I thought I might as well check out Playmates’ Legendary, combining lions. Today I’m checking out Lance’s Blue Lion and Hunk’s Yellow Lion!

The lions come carded, which is pretty surprising as these are fairly good sized toys and larger than you’re average Voyager Class Transformers figure. The packaging lets you see lions very well and while the card look generic on the front, the backs are actually personalized for each lion. They also advertise the Netflix series, which, if you haven’t seen it, you should check out, because it’s surprisingly great. As attractive as the packages are, the downside is that they’re not collector friendly. Inside, you get the lion, a rather large weapon with projectiles, and a very tiny pilot with sled. Let’s open them up and let them loose!

I really love the look of these guys and I think they match the animated models quite well. They’ve got just the right mix of organic curves and squared off edges, making this an aesthetic that I can really get behind. They also compromise very little in favor of their ability to transform. The coloring is also very flashy, with base colors achieved through colored plastic and both the yellow and blue looking suitably bright and glossy. They also each have some red, white, and silver paint apps in all the necessary places. In a lot of ways, I’d say these cats can stand up to Matty Collector’s more expensive classic lions.

Another thing I really dig is that this pair are slightly different in size. Hunk’s lion is slightly larger and bulkier than Lance’s and each of the lion’s head sculpts are unique. I’m interested to see how the scaling difference effects Voltron, since they both form his legs, but I’m sure it’ll work out fine.

The articulation on these cats also stacks up quite nicely. The front legs feature ratcheting joints at the “shoulders,” “elbows” and “ankles.” The back legs have the same with an extra added ratchet between the “knee” and “ankle.” The tails are made of a bendy material and the jaws are springloaded and can open and close. That last bit, is a little disappointing, as it means you can’t display them with the mouths open. Also, there’s no articulation in the middles and the only articulation in the necks allow for the heads to move up and down.

Each lion comes with a teeny tiny pilot in sled. These go a long way to demonstrate the enormous scale of the lions and they can fit into opening compartments in their bellies. Honestly, I could have done without these. The shots of these on the package show them having paint apps on the little pilots, but that didn’t carry over to the actual toys. Once they’re in the lions, I doubt I’ll ever take them out again.

And speaking of features I could have done without, each lion also comes with a ridiculously oversized weapon that can mount on their backs. Hunk’s is an “armored disk launcher” and boy does this thing look stupid. It also doesn’t really match the cannon that Hunk could summon in the cartoon. It clips onto the lion’s back and it comes with four translucent blue disks. I’ll grant it this, it does shoot quite well! Obviously, I don’t need to use if I don’t want to, it just clips on and off, but it’s a whole lot of plastic invested in something I don’t plan on using a lot.

Lance’s lion features an ice beam, which translates into shooting a translucent blue missile. I actually don’t mind this thing as much as Hunk’s. The twin blades that reach out over the lion’s head looks kind of cool and once again, it shoots really well. Hey, I know these are toys, and I’m sure kids will have endless fun shooting these things off.

I’m not sure what the original MSRP on these lions are, but I picked mine up off of Amazon for about fifteen bucks a piece and it’s hard to argue with that. These figures are made really well and look great. Overall, the quality is loads better than what I was expecting. It goes without saying that I’ll be picking up the rest of the Legendary Lions, but next Thursday, I hope to be back to looking at an actual Transformer and then I’ll just alternate for the rest of the month.

Robot Vinyl Collection: Vehicle Voltron by Toynami

I almost wasn’t going to do an update today. This week has been craaaaazy and time has been so short. Also, I am still without any new Transformers to look at on this increasingly inaccurately named Transformers Thursday. I will, however, promise here that I’ll have a new Transformer for next week. Cross my heart and swear to Primus! Anyway, at the last minute, I looked at my pile of shit unwanted treasures, that I’m slowly getting around to listing on Ebay, and realized there was something in there I hadn’t reviewed here… and it’s a combiner robot, so it sort of fits the Transformers Thursday theme! So, let’s take a look at Toynami’s Vinyl Vehicle Voltron! Holy cats, say that five times fast!

Voltron comes in a clear plastic box, on a clear plastic tray, and this presentation works very well for display purposes if you don’t want to take him out. In fact, as we’ll soon see, he’s probably better off left in there. I think I’ve only had this guy out of the package twice and one of those times is right now. Anyway, the packaging is very nice, albeit very fragile. You may note that the bottom of the box proclaims this release as Volume 3 in the Vinyl Robot Collection. I know that they did a Lion Force Voltron before this one, but I had no idea that there were other releases, including a Zentraedi Heavy Artillery Battlepod, which I kind of wish I knew existed before it hit an approximate value of all-the-damn-monies on the secondary market.

The back of the package features a nice write-up about the series and has a picture of the toy inside. Other than my forever undying love for Vehicle Voltron and the lack of associated merch, I can’t for the life of me remember why I bought this. I’m not a huge fan of vinyl toys to begin with and while this figure is not without its merits, it really never had any place in my collection. I do remember it was on clearance, so I’m sure that had a lot to do with it. And with that resounding vote of confidence, let’s open him up and check him out!

Standing about seven inches tall, this figure is every bit a vinyl toy. The sculpt is soft, but honestly I think it works well with the animated design. And make no mistake, this sculpt is a very animated look. The details are simple, and you’ll note he’s missing some pretty obvious features, like the propeller blades on his shoulders. The simplification of detail is particularly apparent on the back, although they did keep the tank treads for some of the vehicles. Keep in mind, none of this really bothers me, as its a stylistic choice, and one that certainly sets him apart from the other Vehicle Voltron figures that have been on the market. What does bother me is that for a figure that doesn’t do much of anything, he really can’t even stand straight. I want to say it’s from the legs warping in the package, but as I take a good look at the legs, it seems like they aren’t even and that causes the figure to lean a bit to one side.

The coloring on this figure is absolutely fantastic. Yes, if you get in close enough you can see some less than crisp paint lines, but just viewing the figure in hand with the naked eye it looks really good. The blue and red paint are both vibrant and when coupled with the immaculate white, and the silver and yellow, you get a figure that really pops on the shelf. Voltron has always been about bright and attractive coloring and this figure conveys that very nicely.

As a vinyl toy, one shouldn’t expect much in the way of articulation, and that is certainly the case here. The shoulders will rotate, the head will turn, but the rest of the articulation consists of various swivel cuts, which are probably more a byproduct of the figure’s assembly than actual intended points of articulation.

And that, my friends, is all there is to say about Vinyl Vehicle Voltron. If you’re a fan of vinyl toys, this may be a nice piece to have in your collection. I’m not, and to me this figure really misses on all points. Voltron toys are fun because you can either combine and separate them, or because they can be posed and played with, and this one does neither. I understand that isn’t the point of this release. But, if you’re going to make a figure that’s designed to just stand there and look pretty, well I think you should at least make sure it’s capable of standing straight. Since it’s release many years ago, these figures seem to be fairly collectible, so I’m hoping I can get back what I paid for him on Ebay and that’s where he’s going!

Matty Collector: Club Lion Force Voltron by Mattel

Mega thrusters are go, Bitches!

It was a long wait, folks, and a unique and epic experience: A subscription that sends you a series of stand-alone toys, which in the end will piece together to form one ginormous robot. Throughout the course of my 30-some odd years of toy collecting, there hasn’t been anything quite like Matty Collector’s Club Lion Force: A year long journey, in which every couple of months brought me one step closer to something really damn cool. It was an idea that took the Collect & Connect concept to the extreme, and one that was perfectly suited to the Voltron property. When I came home to find my Black Lion sitting on my stoop, I was so relieved excited to know that the journey was finally complete.

Before moving on, let me throw out a little disclaimer. I realize for some people this ride was not a smooth one.  If you’re a toy company doing something like this, you really need to be able to get your shit together, and that’s something that Matty can’t always claim to be good at. I realize that some people had QC issues with individual lions, others had typical Digital River snafus, and when you’re dealing with parts of a whole, any one of these issues could be enough to ruin the entire experience. I’ve seen the horror stories from the people for whom one problem along the way stopped them from completing their Voltron. If you’re one of those people, I really feel for you. It’s not like you can take these back to the store for an exchange, and the prices of these damn things on Ebay are getting outrageous.

No doubt, I was really lucky. I haven’t had a single QC issue with any of my Lions. Nonetheless, my heart was in my throat as I opened Black Lion in fear that something would be wrong with it, and my journey to form Voltron would crash and burn just inches from the finish line. In the end, he turned out fine. And now with Voltron standing in front of me, comes the inevitable question: Was he worth it? Was he worth the stress and the money? The answer in a word? Yes. The answer in a few more words? Hell fucking yeah, he was worth it! So let’s form Voltron!

Plugging the limbs into the Black Lion goes very smoothly and the connections hold very well. I was a little afraid of how difficult it would be to disconnect the limbs without forcing them, but they all separate again just fine. The arms pull out without any undue pressure and the legs eject just by pressing the buttons on the backs, very similar to the Toynami Voltron.  I’ll confess to not being a big fan of the spring-loaded transformation gimmicks, but I sure do love the way you press in the chest crest to make Voltron’s head snap open and into position. It’s awesome! Once assembled, Voltron’s proportions are excellent and he looks mighty goddamn majestic. I stood him on a table and went to get some work done on the computer, and I just found myself admiring him every couple of minutes. He’s certainly an attention getter.

I try to keep the majority of my toys in my display areas, so they don’t take over the whole house, but dammit if I don’t want to just stand him on an end table in my living room like a vase or something so that guests would say, “Hey FigureFan (because that’s what everyone always calls me), what’s that on your end table?” And I would just say, “That’s my goddamn huge Voltron, son.” And with that we would go back to sipping cognac and playing Scrabble. Let’s just drop in a shot of him standing behind my Toynami Voltron for the proper size perspective.

Obviously we’ve already seen a lot of Voltron’s sculpt when we looked at the individual lions, so I won’t go into a lot of detail there. I will say how much I adore the face. It’s beautifully sculpted and perfectly captures Voltron’s stoic portrait and the paintwork is excellent. The chest crest is really great looking too. I was a little worried about how it would come out since the individual lions were missing some of their finer details, but it has a nice, chunky animated look that makes me smile.

Easily the biggest complaint I’ve seen about Voltron is his inability to stand in action poses or with his weapons in hand. It’s not so much an inability as it is people deciding to come out of the gate bitching, rather than take the time to play around with him to see what he’s truly capable of. He is definitely top heavy, there’s no doubt about that, but in a way very similar to Toynami’s Masterpiece Voltron. Still, his ratcheting joints are strong and effective, and he balances perfectly fine when placed in a typical standing pose. When you put his sword and shield in his hands, you do need to work at it to get him to stand, but I’ve had tons of success posing him while brandishing his weapons. There’s plenty to tweak to get him to stand. Besides the fold down heel struts, you can also make some little adjustments to the Yellow and Blue Lions’ paws for a little added assistance. I generally find that he will stand in all sorts of great action poses on carpet, but he tends to slide real easy on tables or smooth surfaces.

Naturally, Voltron comes with his weapons. We’ve already looked at the Collect & Connect Blazing Sword, but I’ll admit I was surprised to see the extra Sword in with the Black Lion. I’m sure it was revealed during the course of the year, but I must have missed it because I genuinely thought the Collect & Connect sword that came with the figures was all we were getting. Both the sword and shield have huge pegs that go into the recessed sockets inside the Red and Green Lions’ mouths, holding them in place very well.

I was really dismayed by how much negativity there was on the Matty forums about the finished Voltron. Surprised? No. Only dismayed. I’m not talking about the people with QC issues, I’ve already empathized with them, and they have every right in the world to be royally pissed. No, I’m talking about the bunch of whiny fuckers who are bitching just to bitch. Ever since getting my hands on the Red Lion, I had a pretty good idea what the finished product was going to be like, and everything fell right into line just as I imagined it. I wasn’t expecting a super-articulated ninja robot, and there was no reason for anyone to expect that. What I was counting on was a big, heavy beast of a toy that would have been perfectly at home in the 80s. I wanted a showpiece reminiscent of a time when toy companies weren’t shackled by safety regulations and they could produce a giant robot that would crush a kid to death if it fell on them.  No, if the final Voltron held any surprise for me, it was just how majestic he looks fully assembled and standing there on display. I know, I’ve probably thrown the word majestic around a few times in this feature, but it’s honestly the word that best describes him. I adore this thing, and might I remind you all that I’m the guy that cannot stand the Voltron cartoon.

Oh yeah, and while I know it would never happen, Matty if you ever do decide to do a second sub with a similar scaled vehicle Voltron, I’ll be there on day one with my money to suffer through it all again.

Voltron: Black Lion by Mattel

Yes, it was the final month for Matty’s Club Lion Force, and that meant that not only did we subbers get Keith, but we got the last and biggest Lion of the pack: Black Lion. Ever since the beginning of the month, I’ve been on pins and needles, worried about getting this thing safely into my collection. Was Digital River going to screw up? Would Black Lion be stricken with some horrible QC issues, like having four back legs and missing a head? Or would Matty just send me one of the Avatar beasts in a Voltron package. I was seriously stressing out. But it was all for naught in the end. Blackie arrived on my stoop with the rest of my October haul and now he’s safely in my clutches.

Once upon a time, I marveled at the size of the Yellow and Blue Lions. But damn, this guy is really big. He comes in the same style box, which has a cardboard base and back, and four clear plastic walls. The animated backdrop shows the Castle and all in all, this thing looks mighty impressive in the package. Matty probably should have mentioned somewhere on there that the Sword and Shield are concealed under the cardboard base, since none of the other lions have had any accessories packaged down there. I have to imagine someone, somewhere is going to pitch the packaging before realizing their horrible mistake.

As soon as I got Black Lion out of the box I gave him a good once over. It was like pulling someone out of combat and searching them for bullet wounds. There was a minor paint smudge on one of his red wings, but it came off with a little magic eraser treatment, and a tiny bit of black rubbing on one of his yellow shoulders. Other than that, this guy is fine.

 

As expected, Black Lion is the boxiest of the lions, but that goes with the territory of being the torso. On the other hand, he’s also the most complex looking of the bunch. The wings on his back stay folded up quite well, and you only need to lift them up to reveal the key slot for Black Lion’s cockpit. Push in the key, or any pointy object, and the hatch will release to reveal the cockpit compartment for your Keith figure. If you were wondering whether Black Lion’s huge size would give it a more roomy or complex cockpit, well, that isn’t the case. The inside of the cockpit is similar to the other lion interiors. There are some well-placed stickers to make up the instruments, and it’s just big enough to comfortably fit the figure.

In theory, Black Lion has about the same articulation as the others, but the fact that his shoulders form Voltron’s hips and shoulders actually give him a little more range of motion. I also really dig his tail a lot more than the other lions’ tails. He’s got three hinges in it, and it looks wavier, fluid and tail like, while the other lions’ tails look more like antenna.

In addition to the ubiquitous mouth blade weapon, Black Lion comes with the aforementioned Star Shield and Blazing Sword, but I’m actually going to cover those pieces when I look at Voltron on Friday.

I feel kind of bad for Black Lion. He’s easily the most impressive lion of the pack and yet he’s probably going to get overlooked by a lot of collectors who will be using him to form Voltron the moment he arrives and so he won’t spend nearly as much time in his Lion mode as the others. Still, he’s a great looking piece and makes for an awesome display when perched at the head of the group. In the end, I’m just so happy he arrived and in good condition so I can put an end to the rather trying, yet ultimately satisfying, ordeal of Club Lion Force .

Voltron: Keith (Black Lion Pilot) by Mattel

It’s the final month for Club Lion Force and thank Christ for that! While I have been lucky enough to have a pretty good experience with Matty on this subscription, my stress over each release has been mounting, until finally reaching a fevered pitch with this final month. But we’ll get to that tomorrow when we discuss Black Lion. Today, we’re going to check out the final pilot figure, Keith, and I’ve looked at enough of these that I’m going to try to go through this one pretty quickly.

As expected, Keith comes in the exact same style window box that we’ve seen with all the figures, except Sven. The box is black to match his lion and features some decent character art on the front along with a little window that displays the figure, the alternate head, and the key stand. The back panel has a little blurb about Keith and his lion, photos of the completed Blazing Sword and a shot of the figure fitting into the Black Lion’s cockpit. As always, the box is totally collector friendly, which is awesome. On the downside, the Blazing Sword is designed to lock together, so once it’s assembled, it won’t be going back into the boxes.

Keith holds no surprises. He has a solid head sculpt, and appears to be built off of the same body as Lance and Sven. The paint on the figure is great, with no smudging or dirt on the white, and no bleeding around the red. The alternate helmeted head is overall pretty good, but there’s an annoying black spot of paint on his visor. This black spot is the first true defect I’ve had in any of my Club Lion Force toys, so in the Voltron Quality Control Lottery… A winner is me!

Articulation includes a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders and elbows, universal movement in the hips, and ball joints in the knees. Once again, the fact that the pistol is sculpted into his holster and cannot be removed is a constant sticking point with me and these figures, but I take a small bit of solace in the fact that this is the last time I have to mention it. Speaking of repetitive criticisms, I still really wish the key stand had a sticker on each side.

In addition to the key stand, Keith comes with the tip of the Collect & Connect Blazing Sword and the last two pieces of the stand, so we can finally put this thing together. The sword consists of snapping together the hilt, guard, and three pieces of blade. The blade is painted with a faint swirly energy pattern and the edges are sculpted with translucent yellow plastic flames to make it appear to be pulsating with Ro-Beast killing power. In reality, it looks ok, but I tend to prefer the regular Blazing Sword that comes with the Black Lion. But more on that tomorrow!

So, let’s take a moment to ruminate on the pilot figures. Remember when the first Lion Force sub details came out and Matty was going to sell the pilots and lions separately? Well, I think grouping them together was one of the better decisions. Sure, it meant that collectors couldn’t order extras, but I would have been plenty peeved paying $15 plus shipping for these things had Mattel shipped them separately on non-Lion months. A few of my friends maintain that I’m discounting the cost of the Blazing Sword pieces, and yeah it was a nice bonus, but I would have been fine without it. I still like the pilot figures, Keith and his teammates are plenty cool, but there’s no doubt Mattel took shortcuts with them, making them in no way worth the price.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the grand daddy of all the Lions!

Voltron: Blue Lion by Mattel

Today we’re checking out the latest release from Matty’s Club Lion Force and it’s the Blue Lion, number four. Blue is the second of the robo-cats that make up Voltron’s legs and that makes him the same size as Yellow, in other words, he’s one of the big ones. He arrives in a white mailer with the Allura figure bundled inside. At this point, there aren’t a lot of surprises, so let’s dig right in…

Ah, the packaging. It looks so good when it first arrives. As with the other lions the package consists of a cardboard base and backer and the rest is clear plastic. The box is color coded to coordinate with the Blue Lion theme and the back of the box shows off some pictures of the toy’s features as well as a little blurb about Princess Allura. You also get a tantalizing shot of Voltron showing where the Blue Lion fits in. The lion is posed inside with the help of a tray and heavy duty clear plastic straps and his weapon is rubber banded to the back. It takes some deft scissor work to get him out without tearing the hell out of the package. This whole ensemble is just collector friendly enough so that you can get the lion back inside, but it’s not very durable and once unstrapped, the lion just rattles around inside the package. I really would have preferred a straight up box with some artwork to store the lions in. I’ve saved all the packages so far, but chances are once I can build Voltron, I’ll be pitching these to reclaim some space in one of my toy closets.

When Yellow Lion arrived, I was blown away by his size and the same was true when I got Blue in hand. As expected, Yellow and Blue are both built on the same basic body, but there are plenty of resculpted parts to make Blue distinctive. He has a flat back, minus the grey half cylinder on Yellow. His head is also more squared off and less organic looking than Yellow’s. The legs are identical to Yellow’s, giving the toy the same nagging articulation limits. As with all the lions, I really wanted mid joints in the legs that could move both ways. Sure, there are still some good poses available here, but not as good as it could have been.

There have been a number of reported QC issues with the coloring on the lions. I know more than a few people have received lions composed of two shades of plastic. I’ve been really nervous since then about having a similar issue, but so far I’ve had no problems and I’m happy to say that the coloring on my Blue is spot on. In fact, the color here is pretty spectacular. I love the shade of blue used for the body and it contrasts beautifully with the white and yellow. All the paintwork on the head is bright and sharp. About the only flaw I can find is a little uneven application around the edges of the cockpit, but that’s only visible with the cockpit open and even still, I have to get pretty nitpicky to find anything to complain about.

As with Yellow Lion, Blue’s cockpit is hinged at the back and is opened by pressing the key (or key or any pointed object) into the button to release the catch. Once open you get a simple sculpted seat and stickers to add the details of the controls. It’s a roomy cockpit and little Allura has no trouble fitting inside.

Blue comes with a spikey dagger that he can hold in his teeth. There aren’t any little dimples in this one to match up with the teeth, but Blue’s jaws close up pretty tight so he can hold it very securely. I’m not a big fan of these weapons, but I suppose it’s nice to have them.

As it stands, I think Blue here is my favorite of all the lions. He’s beautifully colored and I love the sculpt. There are certainly some things that could have used more attention, particularly the featureless black plate on the top of his head. Either way, I really like this guy and I’m still digging the 80’s retro vibe I get from these toys. I’m also officially starting to get really excited about finishing off my BFV* and quite frankly having all the limbs and no Black Lion is driving me crazy. I’m still having trouble fathoming just how huge Black Lion is going to be, not to mention the Voltron figure itself. What I do know is that I’ll be lining all the lions up at least a week before Black Lion is shipping, just so I’m all ready to go when he gets here.

 *Big Fucking Voltron

Voltron: Princess Allura (Blue Lion Pilot) by Mattel

Yep, it’s Voltron time again… if you’re keeping score, we’re up Lion and Pilot #4 (ok, Pilot #5 if you count Sven) this month. Today we’re going to check out the Blue Lion pilot and sole girly-girl of Team Lion Force: It’s Princess Allura. As usual, she comes in a white mailer box tucked away in the larger white mailer that contains her Lion. We’ll be checking out Blue Lion tomorrow and throwing all our attention behind the pilot figure today. The pilot figures have been pretty formulaic, so if you’ve been with me from my first look at Lance back at the beginning of the year, a lot of this will seem awfully familiar…

…like the packaging! Allura comes in the same collector friendly box as all of the other pilots (minus Sven, of course!).  And like the others, Allura’s box is color coded to match her lion, so in this case it’s blue. The front of the box has a decent piece of artwork showing off the figure’s animated counterpart. There’s also a window to show the figure itself. The back of the box has a blurb about Allura and Blue Lion and some shots of the figure and her accessories. Take note, the photo on the back erroneously shows the key-stand being pink, while the one you actually get is appropriately blue.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it one more time in a few months, this package design is nearly perfect. The only thing I would have preferred is having the figure’s name printed on the side for when I store them on the shelves lined up like books. Oh well, at least they’re color coded.

Open up the box and slide out the tray, we get a great look at everything that comes inside. You get the figure with the swappable head, the key style figure stand, the piece of the Blazing Sword, in this case it’s the top of the hilt and the base of the blade, and you also get one of the two clear stands for the Blazing Sword. I’m still resisting the temptation to start assembling the sword until I get everything.

Some early pictures had me a little worried about Allura’s body sculpt. She looked a little too chunky, but with the figure in hand it looks like those were probably just from unflattering angles. The proportions and build of the final figure look really good. Once again, Mattel has done a decent job of using different builds for each of the figures making them look as diverse in size and shape as the characters were in the cartoon. I am, however, a little iffy on Allura’s heads. The sculpts seems ok, I like the shape of the face and the sculpting on the hair, the helmeted head looks great, but I think it’s the eyes that just seem a little weird or creepy to me. It may just be conveying the animation style, but there’s just something about those eyes that doesn’t gel right with me. Once again, the figure’s gun is sculpted into the holster and once again, I’ll point out that at $15 each, these figures should have had removable guns.

The paintwork on this figure is excellent. The aforementioned eyes are a style choice, and not caused by sloppy paint. I’m particularly impressed by the paint on her thin, silver tiara. The pink on her uniform is great, and while some of these figures have been prone to some smudging on the white uniform, Allura has none of that.

Articulation here is exactly what we got with all the other figures. In this case, that’s a bit of a relief because sometimes female figures get a few points of articulation cut out. That’s not the case here. Allura has ball joints in her neck, shoulders, elbows and knees, and universal movement at the hips.

As usual, the figure comes with the key that can be used to open the accompanying Lion’s cockpit and it doubles as a stand. It’s a good thing, too, because Allura’s tiny feet make it difficult for her to stand on her own. One of my running gripe’s with this line is that Matty couldn’t pony up for an extra sticker on both sides of the key and yes, that still irks me a bit.

So, there are no big surprises here. Overall, Allura is a solid figure. We deserved better at this price point, but by now we all know what to expect and we’re either comfortable with that or we’re not. I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to be displaying these figures in front of my completed Voltron, leaving them in the cockpits, or just keeping them in the boxes. I suppose that’ll be determined by how much space I have. Tomorrow, I’ll be back to check out Allura’s lion.

Voltron: Club Lion Force Exclusive Sven by Mattel

As promised, I’m back with some content, and just to minimize the shock of there being no Vintage Vault today, I’m at least looking at something that is rather retro. Yes, those of us who subscribed to Matty’s Club Lion Force not only can sleep at night knowing that our Voltrons won’t be missing a limb for having missed a lion on a Sale Day, but we also got to add the exclusive Sven figure to our collections. I’ve gone on record many times here saying that I’m strictly a fan of Voltron based on concept and the fact that he’s a pop 80’s icon, so I’m not exactly the kind of collector this figure was aimed at. I can, however, still appreciate it and be happy for the fans that have been waiting to get this figure for 30 some years.

Of course, Matty can rarely do anything without eliciting buckets of controversy, and so they decided to package Sven on a retro-style card, rather than in the collector friendly boxes that the rest of the pilots came in. This act of treachery has pissed off many fans who will have to tear open the figure in order to display it with the rest of the pilots. And, of course since this figure is only available as an exclusive with the subscription, you can’t exactly buy an extra for openers. Not unless you were one of the ones that laid out $80 for him at Big Bad Toy Store before they sold out. Crazy! As a result of this madness, I’m only going to be looking at the packaged figure. Nope, I’m not opening mine. I have no desire to display Sven loose with the rest of my pilots, and I really dig this packaging, so mine will remain tucked away in the white mailer until I can find a Zolo-style clamshell to fit it and hang it on my wall.

And there’s that beautiful packaging. The design is obviously a delightful nod back to the cardbacks used for the vintage Panosh Place figures. It’s not a direct facsimile, but there are a lot of similarities, right down to the angled corners of the card, the animated character art and backdrop design. The key stand and helmet are positioned differently inside the bubble and Sven’s modern card has a snazzy reflective ink used for the Voltron logo. I even like the little “First Ever Sven Figure” medallion up in the left corner. The presentation here is first rate and the figure is displayed very nicely, with the helmetless head attached to the figure and the helmeted head beside it, just like the other pilots came in their boxes.

The back of the card is similar to the back of the other pilot’s boxes. It has a little blurb about Sven and it shows how he fits into the Blue Lion’s cockpit. There are also some nice shots of animation from the original cartoon.

Also included in the white mailer is a little double-sided mini-poster. One side has a great shot of Voltron wielding the Blazing Sword. The other side reads, “Let’s Go Voltron Force” and has a shot of each of the pilots, with Sven in place of Princess Allura. I have no clue what I’m going to do with it, but it was a cool little bonus nonetheless.

As for the figure itself, Sven shouldn’t present any surprises to anyone who has been getting these figures since the beginning. In fact, Sven appears to use the exact same body as Lance. If there are any differences in the sculpt, I can’t see them. Both of Sven’s head sculpts are quite good, and I still really like the use of the clear eye shield on the helmeted heads. Once again, I’ll take the opportunity to point out that the gun is sculpted into the holster, and that we should have gotten better on what is essentially billed as a $15 figure. The paintwork on my Sven looks excellent, although it’s hard to tell if there’s any major flubs on the back.

The articulation has been consistent throughout all the pilots and Sven is no different. You get ball joints in the neck, shoulders, elbows and knees, and universal movement in the hips. The figure has solid poseability, but once again, should have been better considering the cost.

If you’re really pissed off about Matty’s choice of packaging here, you might consider that they could have really been dicks and put a piece of the Blazing Sword in with Sven so you had no choice but rip it open. As it is, Sven just comes with the extra head and an extra Blue Lion stand/key.

I’m very pleased with Sven, and I think most collectors will be happy with the figure. It’s the packaging that will fuel the drama over this release, but it is what it is. I’ll admit it would have made infinitely more sense to keep a uniform package style for all the pilots and most everyone would have been happy. I appreciate Matty trying to do something special for this sub exclusive figure, but if they were going to go this route they should have ponied up for a re-sealable clamshell package or something, especially since it’s just not feasible or affordable for most collectors to buy a second Sven for opening. Me? I’m happy to hang mine on the wall right behind wherever my Voltron is going to stand. And chances are the rest of the pilots will be in their packages too.

[And that’s it for me this week, folks, I will be back on Monday to start covering the rest of my Matty Collector stuff, including Voltron’s Princess Allura and the Blue Lion and my much anticipated Mirror Master figure from Club Infinite Earths. There will likely be some more bonus updates next week too as I continue to try to get all caught up. –FF]