This fascinating robot has the head and limbs of the King of the Beasts.

Released in the first batch of Godaikin figures, Golion (pronounced Go-Lion) was a couple of years old when the toy arrived in America, having been released by Popy in 1981 as the Chogokin DX Golion.

A year or so after the Godaikin release - which like most of the series failed to sell because of the high price among other factors - Golion was selected (accidentally, as it turned out - American company World Events Productions [WEP] had wanted Daltanias but were sent Golion by accident and liked what they saw) to become the first incarnation of Voltron, and went on to become a 1980s icon. Sadly for Golion, the Vehicle Voltron is better in every conceivable way and when I use the name 'Voltron' that's who I'm referring to. This chap is Golion. Curiously, the Matchbox toys - produced before WEP dropped the idea of three Voltrons and concentrated on just this one - were named Voltron III, despite being the spearhead of the franchise.

Like most Popy figures Golion was licensed from a popular TV show of the time, in this case the anime King of the Beasts Golion , made by Toei. Popy made three different versions of the figure in 1982 - a Standard/ST version of around 6" tall which didn't separate into the individual lions but could fire all four lion heads via spring-loaded missile launchers; the Deluxe/DX version we'll be going through in a minute (which wasn't released in Japan as individual lions, just as a giftset) and a two-foot polythene Jumbo Machinder version which appears to do very little beyond being massive and (now) very expensive. The Lion Voltron was popular enough in the West to merit a whole slew of extra merchandise - not least WEP investing in a season of brand new episodes after philistines refused to watch Vehicle Voltron. It would appear that Golion wasn't especially successful in Japan however, instead being rather lost among the large number of Super Robot shows at the time.

The ST & DX Popy versions were issued by Matchbox in 1984, and then WEP started looking for other manufacturers - since then numerous versions have been produced including those by Panosh Place (a massive plastic version which could also hold action figures of the crew), LJN, Trendmasters (who made figures to tie in with the 1998 CGI-animated Voltron: The Third Dimension revival) and Toynami (who made a Masterpiece version in 2005, a svelte thing that totally loses the blocky charm of the original).

Anyway, I picked up a slightly knackered version on the cheap on ebay, having never really been a big fan - more a quick robot fix, what with the likes of Voltes V and Daimos being miles out of my price range. My example is missing the wings from the Black Lion, a lower leg from the Yellow Lion and all the accessories bar the fists. A complete Golion includes myriad launchers and weapons for the individual Lions, plus a sword and a shield for the combined form.


GOLION

Golion's colours are very bright and primary, echoing Super Sentai (though the robots from that franchise wouldn't really adapt the five-colour scheme of the team members until a little later on). The ensemble is a little busy though to be fair the random detailing work on the individual lions pulls together nicely here, lending the thing a more coherent air - it's nice that the colours aren't confined to their respective limbs. There is a decent amount of detail on the 14.5" tall robot, with some nice visuals - the sticker on the torso, the moulded star 'belt' and so on.

I'm not keen on the head design, to be honest. While the face is sound enough, possessing a bit of character, the "lion head as a cowl" thing is a little tacky, not helped by the almost comical 'ears' Golion gets in combined mode. There are plus points, though. The whole boxy aesthetic has a certain charm to it - I'd certainly rather own this than the more recent slimmed down versions. The quality is still superb even if it feels like he's relatively light on the diecast. There is also very good articulation, at least by the range's standards - as well as some respectable movement at the shoulders, the elbows can rotate and hinge - the latter joints tend to work lose, but are easily tightened with a screwdriver. There's even a little movement at the hips though this is difficult to put to any practical use. The head can also tilt a bit, with the lion jaw functioning as a neck.

Golion's combination sequence is straightforward and intuitive, but not an astonishing amount of fun. Maybe the "torso and four limbs" thing has been devalued thanks to its' use on a string of ultimately mediocre Transformers Combiners in later years (seriously folks, the Combaticons are awful toys, but it's just really not spectacular here. Golion in general feels very Megazord-esque - nothing inherently bad about that, it's just rather dull compared to the more complicated combinations of other Godaikin figures such as God Marz and Dynaman, or even the figure's ersatz brother Dairugger XV. It's all very vanilla. The connections are even quite crude by Popy standards - there are no release buttons for the arms, you just pull them out, while the leg release mechanism is far from sound - the housings even chafe badly against the chrome thighs. Chrome wears badly enough as it is (as you can see from the pictures, this one's a prime example of that) without such slapdash design.

Godaikin Golion
Godaikin Golion
Godaikin Golion

BLACK LION

At 7" long, 4" wide and 3.5" tall Black Lion is by far the largest of the components - which makes sense seeing as he forms the chest. The thing is pretty bulky, but manages to vaguely resemble a big robotic cat. I'm not sure if the wings would fold away in this mode (I'm guessing from pictures they would) and in a way I don't really miss them - the large yellow plastic 'cross' running the length of Black Lion's back and across the waist is enough colourful clutter.

The head design is also a little too busy, with lots of colours just being thrown on. There's not really a lot to do with Black Lion by himself - there would be shoulder-mounted missiles, but again I don't feel like I'm missing much. There's a complicated bit of engineering on the head so the jaw can be moved without revealing Golion's face - this would be utter genius, if it only worked. Still, there's a decent degree of articulation present and Black Lion could be posed nicely if it wasn't for the fact he looks like a very fat cat indeed.

Godaikin Black Lion

RED LION

The Red Lion forms Golion's right arm, and at 4.5" long (not counting the tail) the arm units are the smallest components. Red Lion retains the boxy feel of Black Lion, but this time it jars a little with the narrow waist. The head actually fires off at the touch of a button (Popy's legendary 'rocket punch' feature) but this isn't the biggest problem - due to the need to double up as a fist, the head is the same size as the cat's body. It also means you lose the fist, you have a headless lion.

While the mouth moves slightly, it doesn't make much difference as there's a massive hole for Golion's accessories to be held, so Red Lion's mouth is always wide open. The legs are once again quite nicely articulated though the dynamic elbow joints are more of a hindrance - unless cats are capable of bending 90° in the middle and/or rotating their back end through a complete circle, and I've just never noticed mine doing so. Still, the colours are nice - especially the lack of random detail.

Godaikin Red Lion

GREEN LION

As is common and logical with these sort of things, Green Lion - the left arm of Golion - is similar to his red counterpart. However, Popy haven't been totally lazy and the two diecast body pieces before and after the elbow joint are totally different, almost cylindrical.

This is slightly more realistic, but then the thing's metallic green so this is wasted effort, especially as the head still looks enormous. Talking of which, there are even minor differences to that was well - though nothing that prevents the same pitfalls as present on Red Lion.

Godaikin Green Lion

BLUE LION

Blue Lion measures in at 6.5" long, and around half the width of Black Lion - the Blue and Yellow Lions forming the legs of the combined robot. This doesn't really cause much compromise to the lion design, and the leg units are the most impressive of the individual components. The proportions are rather good, a little boxy but basically sound - it's not like a metallic blue lion is ever going to be entirely realistic but at least with this one you can believe it to be capable of independent movement.

Blue Lion is rather heavily armed - or at least would be, if I had the missiles. There's a dorsal launcher that can be raised if required plus a second that can raise out of the lion's forehead. Some of the effort gone in here is nice - there's an impressive piece of engineering whereby the lion's shoulders move out when the head moves into place, which adds to the Lion's width. The flap to cover the lion's arse is a nice touch too. Rendered slightly silly by being yellow, but it's nice they bothered.

Godaikin Blue Lion

YELLOW LION

Once again the rough layout of Yellow Lion is similar to Blue Lion, but Popy haven't taken the easy route and just recoloured. The back of the lion is notably different, with a rather neat (if faintly useless) pair of red fins while there's also a more obvious dorsal launcher.

The head is also charged, with some neat-looking earmuff-type panels added - although these opening up to reveal what I assume are missile launchers is rather weird - he looks like Dumbo on a mission. The engineering is practically identical to Blue Lion although Yellow Lion does have a more coherent colour scheme.

Godaikin Yellow Lion

SUMMARY

While Golion isn't a bad figure, he certainly isn't a classic either. A certain amount of hype comes with the Voltron factor and while I guess quality-wise he shapes up nicely compared with many fellow Eighties Superstars, he's an unimpressive Godaikin. I still find it utterly unfathomable that the public in general can so overwhelmingly favour this thing to Dairugger XV, let alone that the Lion Force incarnation still reigns supreme nearly 25 years later. But then people voted for the Nazis and like Coldplay, you can't trust people. What can be said is that Golion is cheap as Godaikin go (thanks to the Matchbox Voltron release) and is a fine starting point before moving on to more refined figures.