BaldiosI'm still a child at heart. Not a problem in itself, but when you combine that with having disposable income, it becomes a bit trickier.

See, back when I was a child (and life, to be fair, was generally less complicated), I'd be going around town with my parents, spot a toy and unreservedly want it. Usually just on sight, without really knowing why. Sometimes I'd get it, sometimes not. In the case of the latter, being a small child I'd usually forgot it by the car journey home, placated by either a Swizzels-Matlow Booty Bag or a much smaller toy which was a much fairer reward for simply behaving myself for a hour or so in Hereford town centre.

However, I'm largely left to my own devices now, and tend to end up with money. So now when I want a toy it gnaws away at me, and I trawl eBay looking at listings, Wikipedia reading articles and Google looking at pictures . I just get it into my head that I want something, and if I have the money for it, I tend to buy it.

Such was the case with Baldios, who I hadn't really heard of until a couple of months before buying the toy. Coming across comparisons between the cartoon series' bleak ending and that of my beloved Ideon (which, to be fair, ensnared me through the same mix of a child's curiosity and an adult's compulsion). So I checked a few YouTube clips, I looked at a few toy pictures. And the tractor beam locked on, and then there I am spending ~£125 on an action figure of the titular robot. (£100 for the figure, £25 for customs fees - after years dealing with Hong Kong sellers with dubious feedback and few morals, I forgot how a proper legal business like Hobbylink Japan work...). Worrying is an understatement.


Baldios in the anime series

So anyway, what was Space Warrior Baldios? Well, it was really just another Super Robot anime series, made by Ashi Productions in 1980-1981 (their debut series; they are now known as Reed Productions - the company would later make Machine Robo - Revenge of Cronos, amongst others, and made me take down a YouTube clip of Baldios in action, the bastards). The show was cancelled early due to low ratings (some sources state after 31 episodes, some after 32; the confusion seems to come from an episode being skipped), though 34 instalments were made. In December 1981, to satisfy fans, a film was made, compiling parts of some early episodes with new animation by Toei Productions and released, prosaically enough, as Baldios - The Movie, which was a minor hit.

DVD release of Baldios - The MovieThis was then dubbed into English and released to home video in America as Space Warriors: Battle for Earth Station S-1 . The anime was famous (well, sort of) for its' bleak and sudden ending; the film continued with the aftermath of the series, but merely added detail to the downbeat conclusion. The American dub, incidentally, makes some wonderfully bizarre changes - the old dubbed anime standby of any guns being stun guns is dragged out early on, and yet the apocalyptic conclusion isn't toned down at all...

A fan-group going by the name of Blue Fixer Subs (named after the Earth defence team that operates Baldios in the anime) began fan-subbing the show, and have recently resumed the project - check out their blog here for more information and the latest updates. The series was also dubbed and screened in its' entirety in Italy (which has a respectable track record for this sort of thing, notably being one of the few places where Mobile Suit Gundam was an immediate hit, and running dubs of many other shows years before anime really took off in the West). Italy has even received the complete series on DVD.

Box art for the Nomura DX BaldiosSpin-off action figures were made by Nomura. The company had been a big name in the tin toy market - their Tetsujin 28 figures are the holy grail to many - but were largely left behind by the likes of Popy, Takatoku and Clover in the diecast market. While they had the licence for Space Battleship Yamato, after that their portfolio was largely made up of unremarkable fair like Baldios. They produced both ST and DX versions of the robot - the latter has a cult following amongst collectors due to its' unusual, well-engineered combination sequence , while the former manages a Popy-esque level of show accuracy.

Box art for the Brave Gokin BaldiosHowever, even with the Italian release of the figures, these are rare and expensive on the secondary market. Enter toy manufacturer CMs, and their Brave Gokin range. The line is something of a counterpart to Bandai's Soul of Chogokin series - but just as Popy scooped up the bulk of the desirable licences in the 1970s and early 1980s, Bandai have most of them now. Thus Brave Gokin tends to trade in the obscure (though there are exceptions, such as Patlabor and Gardian ).

Their prices are also much higher - though Baldios costs around the same as, say, Soul of Chogokin Ideon, he's about half the size. CMs actually produced two versions of the toy - one in chromed 'toy' colours' (which I bought), and one with flatter colours reflecting the cel animation of the series - this was limited to 500 pieces, and a review of it can be read here .

Brave Gokin BaldiosOkay, let's move onto the actual toy that I'm reviewing. As mentioned, Baldios is rather small as these things go - around 7.5" (although he can't actually stand up straight - more on this in a minute) tall in robot mode. The design is very nice, especially the head sculpt, raised chest and upswept wings on the shins. The colour scheme is an odd choice - the animation model and the original toys both featured yellow, but this figure goes with gold chrome, which looks marvellous, blending nicely with the dark blue and red. Baldios is well proportioned, too - athletic without losing the box limbs and slightly bulky torso of the basic design.

Brave Gokin BaldiosThe figure mixes diecast with plastic and a little PVC-type soft plastic. The torso is metal, as are the thighs, the upper arms, the groin and the (hollow) feet; PVC is used for the grey antennae, and the rest is plastic of varying thickness. Durability is something of a worry for this toy - some of the plastic parts, such as the 'covers' for the hips, are made of every thin plastic, while the chromed gold crest on the head would also snap off easily if the figure fell the wrong way.

Indeed, the whole chest/head mechanism doesn't inspire a huge amount of faith, something exacerbated by the figure's movement. Baldios doesn't actually have spectacular articulation - for sure it's superior to anything made more than about ten years ago, but compared to a lot of other modern figures, especially those aimed at the premium collectors' market, it's a weak point. The arms have very good range, with dynamic elbows, rotating wrists and decent shoulders - though the latter's usefulness will be defined by how happy you are moving the shoulder pads (which are attached to the back) out of kilter. No, the legs are the real problem.

Brave Gokin BaldiosTheoretically, the hips, knees and ankles can all move, but most of these are compromised. The proper hip joints at the top of the legs do their job well enough, even if range is a little limited. However, the hips can also move out to the side thanks to the connection housings - more a side-effect of the transformation sequence, and one that can lead to the whole leg just folding out away from the body, sometimes if the figure is left in a standing pose.Brave Gokin BaldiosThe knee joints are also largely caused by the combination sequence - they will just bend back on themselves if they go too far, or the legs will just extend as they do for the start of the transformation sequence. The ankles have very limited movement too - and can't even be moves to be flat, Baldios has to have his legs slightly apart at all times.

The upshot is that about all you can really do for a display pose with the legs is a slight squat, which obviously negates the use of the upper body's articulation as well - he looks a bit weird if the top half is waving swords around like a big metal nutter and the bottom half is just standing there. The other big problem with posing Baldios is the fragility of the figure, and the basic lack of rigidity. Due to things like the hip housings, I'm hesitant to experiment much with the figure's range as there's always a chance he'll just keel over. The lack of rigidity is caused by the way a few parts don't really lock away - the red wings from the Pulsarburn jet have a habit of just sliding out the sides of the torso if the robot leans too far to one side; the head flops back on its' hinged platform if the figure leans too far backwards; the two halves of the chest plate slip open if the figure leans too far forward. It's a good thing that Baldios looks so sharp just standing there, really.

Brave Gokin Baldios Brave Gokin Baldios

A decent range of accessories go some way towards making up for the limited articulation in terms of display, however. First of all there are the Pulsabers - a pair of gold/silver chromed plastic swords that can be clasped in Baldios' fists, and waved about with some dexterity, The design itself is nice and quite a bit different thanks to the prominent use of gold chrome, going nicely with the figure.

Brave Gokin BaldiosAdding a silver chromed section to these creates an extended version of the Pulsaber (I'm unsure as to whether this has a different name). These are a bit too long for the figure to wield effectively, sadly, and the little chrome posts and slots used really do not feel like they're going to last all that well.

Brave Gokin BaldiosThe figure also has a shield, named the Baldiguard. This is a pretty standard piece of kit, but carries over the colour scheme from the robot nicely (Super Robots seem to put a lot of time into accessorising). The only quibble would be that it's quite fiddly to actually close the robot's fists around the inverted L-shaped handle on the back of the shield.

Brave Gokin BaldiosThe final handheld accessory is the Laser Bowgun - this apparently didn't feature in the anime, so I'm not sure if it was a feature of the Nomura figures or something planned for episodes that were cancelled or CMs have made it up or what. Brave Gokin BaldiosIt's actually a nice little accessory, and the idea of a Super Robot just having what is basically a fancy pistol is quite novel.

Finally there are a pair of shoulder cannons - the gold chromed parts of the shoulder pads pop out, and two little platforms pop in with guns on them. They move a little bit, but don't look hugely impressive. I guess this is another area that Soul of Chogokin has spoiled me in, but it would be so much nicer if they rotated in and out. As it is, it's just hassle (those gold chromed plastic tabs locking them into the shoulder don't look particularly durable) for rather unimpressive weaponry.

Brave Gokin BaldiosBaldios is given a combination sequence that's as close to the anime as realistically possible , which is something I personally find slightly baffling. I mean, it's basically impossible to replicate the swift combination unless you have about nine hands, and it's the adherence to the precise transformations that causes the robot mode's few weaknesses. It's also not much fun for one simple reason - pushing the legs into the hip slots is a terrifying experience, as the clips are much sturdier than the thin slats you have to force them into.

Brave Gokin BaldiosThe entire upper body transforms into the Pulsarburn, flown by central hero Marin. It's basically a rather blocky space fighter - not the most original or striking part, but it's very well done in terms of how everything from the robot mode is pretty well hidden.

Brave Gokin BaldiosOnce again, though, there's a certain floppiness to the design - the hip parts that form the intakes on the side don't really clip in place, and both they and the (once again, very thin) red wings tend to flop around a bit. Lining up the rear end, on the other hand, is surprisingly efficient once you've got the hang of it, however. And I do like the little landing sled that pops down underneath - even if it doesn't touch the ground on a flat surface...

Brave Gokin BaldiosBaldios' right leg transforms into the Baldiprize. It's rather interesting, with a long section extending out of the shin, then unfolding and tucking underneath. Very neat stuff. Brave Gokin BaldiosThe downside is the asymmetrical toy doesn't really look all that good... The complicated underside seems like a needlessly slavish recreation of the anime transformation, and the toy lacks coherence as a result. An extra feature is that the pod on the right of the Baldiprize can hinge out to form a weapon - sometimes even when you don't want it to...

Brave Gokin BaldiosThe left leg transforms into the Cutteranger, again in a cartoon-accurate fashion. The Cutteranger is a tank-like vehicle, with the main body identical to that of the Baldiprize. However, the actual transformation is quite different, and results in a vehicle that has its' own identity.

Brave Gokin BaldiosThe look fits a tank better than it fits a spaceship, and the Cutteranger has a couple of nice little features. There's the same pod-mounted weapon as on the Baldiprize, but also a small black cannon that can rotate. There's also a trolley-like set of turning rubber caterpillar tracks that the thing can be mounted on to increase anime accuracy, though obviously these have to be removed again for the transformation, and can't be stored on Baldios.

While a lot of this sounds negative, Baldios really isn't a bad figure - the design is very good, and it looks marvellous. Fragile is relative in this field - this thing wouldn't last five minutes in the hands of a child, but then it's not meant to, and careful handling means some of the weaknesses won't be a problem. However, it should be stressed that Baldios isn't on Soul of Chogokin's level. The price is high for a figure that has these sorts of problems, however understandable this might be for the output of a small company with small production runs. However, it's a shame the thing is so hamstrung by CMs' resources - at 150% the size it is, more comparable to the combining SoCs, many of the figure's problems would disappear entirely. Overall I like the guy, but then I have no concept of value for money.