Tomy DX IdeonIdeon (like Mobile Suit Gundam before it) was set up rather differently than most anime series of its' era. Something like Tetsujin 28 or Dairugger XV would involve a toy company working in unison with an animation studio to produce a toy that would sell well because of its' TV exposure, and a TV series that would attract viewers because it contained a character based on their favourite toy. The genesis of the show would thus be guided by both the design team at the toy company, and the staff at the animation studio. Tomino's shows differed, however (not from everything ever, it should be stated, but just from the most famous names of the same time) - the main drive was to get his anime series made, and toys were just a way of funding them.

Rights to toys and other merchandise were sold to various companies to raise sponsorship to fund the production of the series (networks and studios would also provide some funding, from what I understand). For example, with Tomino's directorial debut, the aforementioned Gundam, the toy rights were sold to Clover, and the model kit rights to Bandai. Clover's figures (which looked nothing like their onscreen counterparts, but are now getting deserved recognition from Super Robot toy aficionados for their clunky, retro design ethic) sold badly, and Clover pulled the plug on the series. Due to this failure, and possibly his reluctance to compromise the series in order to promote toys (this did happen to a small extent with Gundam, where many of the onscreen upgrades of the Gundam tied in with similarly revamped Clover toys), Tomino was unable to attract a big name to produce figures for Ideon. Popy, for example, were doing well enough (for now, anyway) with their robots developed in conjunction with Toei's staff. So instead the toy licence for Ideon was sold to Tomy.

Tomy DX IdeonTomy had little (indeed, quite possibly 'no') pedigree with Super Robot toys, but I suspect the combination of Tomino's desire for minimal interference and the mess the Gundam figures had made of Clover (fans who liked the anime's aesthetics were instead driven towards Bandai, who bought the licence for plastic model kits) made Ideon an unattractive proposition to most manufacturers. Tomy were mainly known for pre-school and electronic toys at the time, and in the years after Ideon rarely dabbled in action figures at all (at least, until they merged with Takara and thus took in their brands, such as the Japanese section of the Transformers line).

Tomy restricted their action figures to the Ideon itself - quite normal for the time, as toys of villains rarely sold well in Japan. They made several different versions, few of which are particularly well-known or highly-rated. The best known was the 12" Miracle Combination version, made up of the three transforming mecha vehicles. There was also a DX version (which we'll get onto in a minute, I promise), a standard 4" version, a Scramble Combination version (which had combining features) and a version with, fittingly considering the manufacturer, electronic features. These do command high prices (a boxed Miracle Combination set can fetch £500) due to their rarity, but don't have anywhere near the following of their Popy contemporaries. Much like Popy had Victoria and Takatoku had Mark, Tomy also issued smaller, cheaper Ideon figures via subsidiary BEAT, including a bizarre model that fired spinning discs.

Tomy DX IdeonWhether due to some bizarre desire to follow them into oblivion, some sort of curse on Tomino or just plain ineptitude, Tomy's Ideon toys hit a lot of the same spots as Clover's Gundam line. For a start, that this model, standing at just over 6" and boasting minimal features, can be marketed as a DX is likely to get nothing but scorn from Popy enthusiasts. Whereas with Gundam Clover had the excuse that the Gundam really didn't have a lot of built-in features in the series (well, it did, but they were rather awful - being able to split in half at the waist is hardly an exciting action move), the Ideon was (in terms of design) a fairly normal Super Robot. This one can't combine and separate at all.

Tomy DX IdeonUnlike Clover, it doesn't look like Tomy were working from early concept drawings, either. There's nothing that really points at Tomy not having access to the final character model, more just general poor design. The proportions of the thing are miles off, with the massive arms reaching down below the knees - they actually look like they've been fitted an inch or so too far down, as the shoulders aren't as pronounced as the cartoon incarnation. To be fair, the Ideon did have big arms - the problem here is the legs are just too thin by comparison. The top half of the figure isn't actually proportioned too badly, despite the awkwardly mounted arms - an extra inch of thigh and a bit more space between the legs would probably have salvaged the basic design.

Tomy DX IdeonDetailing is a mixed bag... There is a surprisingly amount moulded into the figure right down to the Ideo-Nova's folded wheel housings on the back. The domes and chest paraphernalia makes the cut too, while there are a fair stab at the missile ports along the legs and arms. But then on the other hand the yellow 'collar' is rendered in tacky plastic and adorned with vaguely rectangular spots of paint. The chrome (largely replacing the show's white) actually looks rather snazzy, but I'm not so sure on the palette swap of blue for black. It just looks a bit odd. The head sculpt is simplified but still recognisable and sharp, and the cuffs on the wrist are smart.

For something of the size and age of this, the articulation is actually not bad. The head turns, the arms move at the shoulder and elbow, the firsts can rotate and the hips and knees bend. The latter is of limited use - even a lunge is tricky to get up due to the size of the feet. The elbow joints at least mean the length of the arms can be hidden on display. It's hardly dynamic, but it's not quite the brick it looks.

The figure has some passable built-in weaponry - in true 1980s Super Robot style, the fists can be fired via triggers on the outside of the wrists. These are very powerful, but pale in comparison to the shoulder launchers. These are loosely modelled on the launchers from the series, though rather than firing a bevy of missiles, they each hold a single small one. They're actually very destructive, able to fire directly up in the air to a height of around ten foot... You could probably easily fire one up your nose and through your brain if so inclined. Nice.

The Ideon's two best-known weapons do get some sort of representation, too. The most notable is the Ideon Gun, which was omitted from most other figures in the Tomy range (I believe it's included in the Scramble set). It doesn't look much like the device featured in the anime itself, but it's actually not miles from the smaller, more conical Ideon Gun seen in the title sequence, which is maybe understandable (the Ideon Gun didn't turn up in the actual narrative until episode 28).

The two-part device has a recognisable, if simplified, layout, with a fork to connect it to the Ideon's waist, and handles to nestle between the fists. The fork can also be removed so the robot can brandish the weapon a little more. The Gun can also fire the same missiles used in the shoulders, though it's nowhere near as powerful.

The other is the Ideon Sword - now, this weapon wasn't used in the anime until episode 29, so the advance information means the massive pair of light beams are represented by... a chrome sword. It's nice, but hardly accurate. The Ideon just looks weird with a conventional sword...

Weirdest of all (yes, weirder than that lot) are the rather arbitrary pair of chrome blasters that clip to the shoulders of the robot... No idea what these were based on - they could be from an early concept, or they could be the result of Tomy making it up as they go along, your guess is as good as mine. Well, unless you have facts, in which case please share them with me =) They do actually look alright in themselves, but again the Ideon just looks even more bizarre with these weapons, it's like seeing Voltes V holding a revolver or something. Actually, that'd work.

[Click here to see the instruction leaflet]

Written down in black and white, this toy is incredibly flawed. However, there's something charmingly inept about Ideon that's difficult to dislike. The robot's just such a misfit... The design screams 1980s, while the thing has a satisfying heft and is rather nicely made on the whole. It's not a masterpiece, but now we have the ultimate Ideon figure this one perhaps deserves to be re-evaluated as a rather unique chunk of vintage toy design. If you're buying something to re-enact scenes from the anime, this one will be a vast disappointment, but as a fun diecast robot it's rather fun - even the faults are amusing. That said, the price these things fetch seems to be around £60, which is a bit much for a curiosity.