A mighty robot and flying fortress all in one!

DaidenjinOne of the 6" Standard Godaikin figures released in 1984, the transforming Daitetsujin 17 (pronounced "One-Seven") was actually seven years old when it finally got a Western release.

The original was taken from the Toei tokusatsu show Daitetsujin 17 (and that translates into either Giant Iron Man 17 if you're going for drama or Big Metal Person 17 if you're going for funny), wherein the titular robot was controlled by a kid and used to defend the world from evil scientists, robots and super-computers. The usual, basically. Popy produced a transforming version of the robot for their Chogokin series (coded GA-81), as well as a two-foot polythene Jumbo Machinder version (which also transformed). Popy's vehicle range, Popinika, also saw the release of the three vehicles launched from Daitetsujin 17 in the show - the Shigcon Tank (PB-10), Sub Machine (PB-11) and Shigcon Jet (PB-13), as well as a non-transforming version of Daitetsujin 17's base mode, Flying Fortress 17 (PB-12). The Chogokin robot was hugely popular, shifting around 1.5 million units (and that's for just the Asian release). The robot's Western bow was a little unusual. A company named Home Entertainment purchased the rights to the TV series in 1982, stitched a few episodes together, dubbed the result and released it as Brain 17, a cash-in aimed at the booming home VHS market. It was later sold as a TV movie under the name The Defenders and the Great Brain. The dub became a very minor cult favourite, managing to hit America when giant robots were still something of a novelty.

The toy wouldn't actually reach America until early 1984, when the figure was released in the second series of Godaikin. The first series of Godaikin hadn't sold particularly well, partly due to the very high price of the figures. One possible solution was to release smaller figures which cost less to ship over from Japan, and so five Standard Godaikin were added to the range, one of these being Daitetsujin 17 (segue - the Chogokin release was promoted as a DX, or Deluxe, figure despite only being 6" tall - at the time, the transformation sequence was considered enough to make the toy a Deluxe - thus the toy was designated a Deluxe in Japan, but a Standard figure in America, where the toys were grouped by size rather than features). However, the Godaikin figures were still expensive compared to lines like Transformers, and the figure still carrying the Japanese name (either for copyright reasons, pride on Bandai's part or even ignorance of Toei's deal with Home Entertainment) didn't help it stand out.

Since then, Daitetsujin 17 has retained a cult following, though nothing on the sort of scale of many of its' contemporaries. Bandai did revisit the figure in 1999, producing a battery-powered self-transforming version still in the occasionally-used Chogokin series and coded GD-17. There have also been gashapon PVC takes on the robot. Not quite sure why I've latched onto him. It might be a growing love of cheesy, comic-book tokusatsu, or the look of the robot, but I went for him recently (briefly considering the self-transforming version, which I dismissed on the grounds those gimmicks usually get boring fast; it's also reportedly very very fragile). My version's a bit knocked around, with a couple of small parts broken off and some wear, and missing all the accessories bar the fists, but I was pretty happy with this latest addition to my collection - we don't all have three-figure sums to throw at robots, after all. A fully complete one would include a Grabidon Missile Launcher (which clips on to the base mode) and tiny plastic versions of the three vehicles from the series - in a rare concession to the fact the range was aimed at children, Popy actually included two of each. Not that many still have any of them, thirty years on. I'm vaguely hopeful of finding something like Micro Machines (maybe a slightly smaller cheapo version) that can be painted and modified to serve as substitutes (the originals seem to be moulded pieces of red plastic, and to be honest don't look fantastic).


DAITETSUJIN 17

The actual design of the robot is gorgeous, managing to hit the right mix of boxy and sleek. The big, clumping feet are nice, and somehow don't clash with the cylindrical arms, while the head cast is rather good - very stoic and noble. The colours work beautifully too, with the primary deep blue accented nicely by the red and silver/grey. The hollow torso is the only real problem, and even that is only particularly noticeable from some angles. The Grabidon launcher would slot in here if present, but I don't think he loses much without it.

Best of all is the articulation. Most of it is a side-effect of the transformation sure, but it's there - the arms hinge and rotate at the shoulders and hinge at the elbows, while the knee, hip and ankle joints can all be used to some degree thanks to the big solid feet. It's pretty impressive for something thirty years old, despite the simple joints used. Another astonishing thing about the toy is the weight - it tips the scales at a remarkable 450g. For context the Transformers figure Point Blank, who's about the same height (read: is the closest thing to the same height I can get without having to stand up) weights 100g. There's a lot of diecast on this, and quality runs though just about every aspect of the toy. The closest thing to a fault is the lack of weapons for the robot mode - the only weaponry being the rocket punches (incidentally, this whole feature is really growing on me - it might be a little silly, but it is fun - providing, of course, you manage to not lose the fists). I think the Grabidon launcher can be used by flipping up the chest plate, but that's a little naff. But then in the show Daitetsujin 17 largely relies on fisticuffs, and seeing as the toy can actually pull off a couple of jabs, this is sufficient. Also, the wings tilt to an inverted 'V' position for Daitetsujin 17's robot flight mode as seen in the show.

Godaikin Daitetsujin 17
Godaikin Daitetsujin 17
Godaikin Daitetsujin 17

FLYING FORTRESS 17

The figure's transformation is simple, but tremendous fun. The toy is basically a scaled-down version of the model used for the transforming scenes in the series (for action sequences, Daitetsujin 17 was played by a lunatic in a suit thumping another lunatic in a suit around a model town, naturally), so the accuracy can't be faulted. Once you've watched the show's title sequence to memorise the transformation it can be reproduced faithfully, and has a wonderful fluency to it. Daitetsujin 17's alternate configuration looks, well, like a folded robot. However, it's fair to say it's meant to. Before Takatoku brought in Kanzen Henkei ('Perfectly Transforming') and Diaclone bought in the idea of alternate modes as disguises, alternate modes often did. While the still-developing engineering technology was no doubt a factor, the layout actually fits with the character nicely. Flying Fortress 17 isn't meant to be a disguise, it's simply a practical alternative, giving a solid base of operations to the kid controlling the robot and a launch-pad for the small vehicles.

All that said, the Flying Fortress actually looks a lot better than it photographs. While it's far from sleek, it's not ludicrously bulky. It is a little difficult to imagine it doing much flying, but it's believable enough that it's a fortress. There are hangars for the vehicles at ground level, and a pair of (very powerful) catapults for the jet. These are rotated to the parallel position for launch, unless you're after a cheap laugh. There are some lovely flashes of detail such as the chromed control tower, and it basically looks better than it has any right to. The Grabidon Missile Launcher would clip on above the hangars, but I've got to say I don't particularly miss it - partly because it seems a half-arsed attempt at disguise when many other robot elements are visible and partly because I think it'd just irritate me having to take the thing off all the time.

Godaikin Flying Fortress 17
Godaikin Flying Fortress 17

SUMMARY

For his age, Daitetsujin 17 holds up incredibly well. Even without that qualifier, there's a massive amount to recommend, as quality, design and the simple fun factor all dovetail into an absolute jewel of a toy. I really can't recommend this charming and impressive piece enough, but beware - he can be pricey.