A robot that's half leopard and a space age tank, too!
Of all the figures utilised for Godaikin, Leopardon has possibly the most bizarre story attached. The toy dated from 1978, when Toei Studios reached a deal with Marvel Comics to use some of their characters for their tokusatsu shows. The first of these was Spider-Man and starred the eponymous superhero in a much altered form - aside from the iconic costume and powers, this version shared little with its' Western namesake. It detailed the adventures of Takuya Yamashiro, who is granted the Spider-Man powers after finding a crashed alien spaceship, the Marveller. This could transform into the giant robot Leopaldon and helped him battle the bizarre minions of the wonderfully named Professor Monster. The villains were all Toei originals and could expand their size - allowing them to fight both Spider-Man and Leopaldon in the same episode. Despite some production difficulties (apparently Toei blew the budget for model work early on and then someone swiped the Leopaldon suit anyway, limiting the robot to stock footage), the show was a huge success. Little else would come of Toei's liaison with Marvel, though Battle Fever J is apparently Captain America-influenced.
Along with the series came the toys. Leopaldon was released in ST and DX forms as part of the Chogokin series, while a 24" Jumbo Machinder was also made. The DX version transformed into the Marveller. I'm not entirely sure what the ST version does - looking at the ToyboxDX entry though I'm prepared to hazard 'not a lot'. Also made was a 3" figurine in blue, gold and black - this was actually released in America in 1979 by Mattel as one of the Shogun Warriors 3" Collectors figures . The name was modified to Leopardon for the West and while the web pattern remained on the chest, no reference to the Spider-Man connection was made.
As with Daimos, the 8" DX was something of an unusual size - being larger than many of the previous DX figures (which often hovered around the 6" size but justified their DX tag with features) but shorter than the early-1980s pomp when most DX figures pushed at 10-12" tall in robot mode. This made it ideal for Bandai America's attempt to revamp Godaikin in 1984 as the figure could be marketed as a Deluxe Godaikin without incurring the massive price tag of the ill-fated first series. The Shogun Warriors spelling of Leopardon was kept (despite the Japanese text being left unaltered on the toy itself). The 3" version was also reissued as one of the pocket-money Mini Godaikin figures.
It would seem this wasn't a massive success - even with adding smaller, more affordable figures Godaikin's fortunes continued to slump. Indeed, from what I've seen Leopardon is one of the rarer figures from the line (though the Japanese release is relatively easy to find). More recently, the toy was reimagined for the Soul of Chogokin line in August 2006. This even included a Spider-Man figure, and the hero's car from the TV show. My version of the original wasn't super-cheap, at around £40 for a decent condition example with both fists and both the yellow shields on the legs. A 100% complete version also includes missiles for the four launchers, a large sword and two short swords.
Despite only being 8" tall Leopardon is still impressive to look at. The black/silver/yellow colour scheme is beautiful and Popy have gone to town on the detailing. I especially like the repeated web patterns - the one on the face as a jagged mouth gives him a really unique look. There are a fair few paint applications (black patterns on the shin parts would have been nice but hugely difficult, so I'll let them off). The engraving is just right - there are all sorts of lines and other details on the limbs to break up the single-colour areas but they've got the sense to make the paint apps and decals do the work on the torso, thus preventing the figure from looking too busy.
The robot is sleek and dangerous, totally justifying the concentration on this mode over the Marveller form. Everything is very well proportioned, suggesting power without descending into pointless bulk. Articulation is limited to shoulders and elbows only (and the latter can't be put through more than about 40° due to the covering panels from the Marveller) though the fists have square pegs and can be placed in at 90° angles. Features-wise, there are four missile launchers - two in Leopardon's chest, and two mounted in swivelling launchers on the outside of the legs. There's also the rocket punch feature, as usual - mine seems very sensitive, and it's tricky not to catch them when transforming him (as usual, the figure is designed so the fists can be stored in the alternate mode), but the former could just be my example. It's not an exhaustive range but at least Popy haven't overreached themselves.
Transforming the Marveller to Leopardon is a rather neat process - I especially like the runner mechanism that pulls the stubby wings in to form the leg parts, the way the leopard head splits to reveal the robot head and the arms being almost completely hidden in the front nose pods. Like most of Popy's tokusatsu designs, Leopardon can be transformed in the same sequence - and at the same speed - as the TV model, which adds to the fun. My only quibble is the yellow shield-like parts on the shins - these have to be removed or they jam the legs. I'm not sure what they're even for - I'm guessing it's some sort of weapon or attack from the show (the Godaikin box calls them 'Spider Protectors', but then they always had mad names for stuff).
The Marveller is really more of a flight mode for Leopardon as opposed to an actual vehicular alternate mode - much like the Denjin Spaceport configuration of Daidenjin or the Flying Fortress 17 mode of Daitetsujin 17, it's a device to transport the hero and his robot to the battle scene. Thus in places it looks like a robot lying down. To be fair to Popy there are some great touches. The front half, with the triple bow hiding the robot parts, is effective and striking and the moulded leopard head makes it stand out (shame there are no details on this, as on the show - I'd add them myself, but kitbashing a Godaikin just seems wrong). Further back it all goes a bit frilly. There's a stab at giving the Marveller some wings that's semi-successful and the tail fins break up the look a bit. It's just inescapable that the rest of the fuselage is basically a pair of legs.
is an excellent figure - I wasn't expecting a huge amount but I'm very
impressed by him. The Marveller might be a bit weak and he might not
have as many features as some of the other DX figures, but the no-holds-barred
robot mode is designed to the hilt and one of the most striking from
the Chogokin line with no compromises made. Leopardon isn't especially
cheap, but if you're a Super Robot fan he should be near the top of
your hit list.