G O L D _ L I G H T A N

Chogokin Gold LightanLeader of the Lightan robots, star of the anime series and by far the most famous figure from the line, Gold Lightan is the 'default' Lightan figure. Being the first, it's enough for him to simply transform into a cigarette lighter without any need for a secondary function (although he does possess Popy's trademark 'rocket punch' feature - the spring-loaded fists, while a staple of the Chogokin range, were unique to him within Lightan).

The character has been immortalised in more action figures than I can count, ranging from an 11.5" tall version produced by Hong Kong company Hung Hing (licensed from Bandai in 2005), to Bandai's own 2006 Soul of Chogokin version that featured genuine 18k gold plating (reviewed at Collection DX ), to a 1.5" tall Gashapon figurine. This review covers the straight-up reissue of the original from Bandai Hong Kong. The Soul of Chogokin version is on my hit-list, though, and when I win the lottery I'm planning on tracking down some of the weirder versions.

Chogokin Gold LightanGold Lightan's lighter mode is nice, as these things go. It's a solid block of gold-coloured diecast metal, around 2.5" x 1.5" x 1.0". The surface is covered by a raised pyramid-esque pattern. The thing weighs about 175g - for a bit of perspective, the Transformers Real Gear Spy Shot I have lying around weighs about 50g. It's a good, satisfying weight to have in the palm of your hand. There are visible join lines on the lighter, but the overall effect is rather impressive, and has fooled at least one unsuspecting Dad . Chogokin Gold LightanSadly, there's nothing that really moves on this mode without giving the game away, as flipping open the top just reveals robot parts. Nevertheless, it's a very solid, compact disguise.

The main attraction, of course, is the robot. The lighter mode isn't really a mode in the same way, say, a car is one of two modes for a Transformers figure. These are puzzle toys, and most of the attraction is getting a decent robot out of a compact little lighter shape.

Chogokin Gold LightanGold Lightan does this nicely. First of all, the top front segment of the lighter hinges down to sit 90° from the body, revealing the aforementioned robot parts. The head flips up, and the arms unfold. First time around (and for a little while afterwards, as I'm stubborn and don't do instructions) this is a little underwhelming, as the figure is packaged without hands. I've got nice and used to Bandai's all-in-one figures from Machine Robo, and never really liked figures with removable body parts in the first place anyway (probably from a childhood of incomplete, second-hand car boot sales toys, and then an adulthood of incomplete, second-hand ebay toys), so this sat pretty badly (even if two pairs of hands were in the box). However, the toy actually transforms back into lighter mode without these being removed. With the arms and the head in place, close the chest back up again - this should cause the lower panel to come up with it, revealing a pair of missile launchers (like the hands, these are packed empty, but can hold the missiles when disguised as a lighter too) and the legs. Simply pull the feet forward, and the legs hinge out in a rather satisfying motion. Then fold the lower chest back - or leave it where it is if you want the missiles deployed.

Chogokin Gold LightanGold Lightan really is very imposing in robot mode, despite only being 4.5" tall. The look is a little like a lighter on legs, I'll admit, but the figure still carries it off. The overwhelming quality helps - only the arms, the head and the launcher rig are plastic, and in the case of the head and upper arms, the colour matching is perfect - the only reason you can tell they're plastic is by letting the figure get cold.

The overall look is impressive - if I was a massive wanker I'd probably claim he's bling or something. The head cast is great, nice and stoic leader material, and I just love the legs. Articulation is middling - the arms move at the shoulder, elbow and wrist, while the legs move at the hip and knee, but the heavy meal chest means actual posing is limited a little. Still, there's some good fun to be had with the spring-loaded features - careful with the fist launchers, though, they're pretty easy to set off. Shame the hands are permanently palm down, however - making the second set so they fitted at a different angle would have been a nice touch.

While IC Lightan and Denji Lightan both do 'cute' better than Gold Lightan, this figure really does mean better. His whole body just indicates tough guy leader, and the astonishing quality (in 1981, this was designed as a kids' toy...) literally shines through. A sharp piece of design work, with the extra effort giving him some sort of defence against the other special-feature laden figures in the range. A very good place to start, and a very nice display piece.