Soul of Chogokin Gold LightanIf there's one 1980s cartoon that you can guarantee to avoid a 21st century revival, it's surely Tatsunoko's cigarette lighter-driven Golden Warrior Gold Lightan.

The titular sentient robot alien does indeed take the alternate form of a cigarette lighter (albeit a broken one), found and aided by a young boy named Hiro. Gold Lightan had five team-mates - Denji Lightan, Time Lightan, Mechanic Lightan, Scope Lightan and IC Lightan - who were distributed amongst his friends, the One Pack Rangers, and aided the fight against the invading alien forces of King Ibalda. The series ran for 52 episodes, and was exported to Hong Kong (where it was a big success) and Bulgaria.

Gold Lightan greets HiroIn 1981, Popy made transforming figures of each Lightan, most being around 90% diecast metal. After the show had finished, Bandai (who had reabsorbed Popy and taken over the Chogokin series) took the highly unusual step of making a further five figures for the range, even though they never featured in the anime. Prototypes were even made for another three, but dwindling Super Robot sales seem to have put an end to that. Maybe there just wasn't enough room in the market for 14 different transforming cigarette lighters...

The series' success in Hong Kong was such that the figures were licensed by local manufacturer Hung Hing, who reissued various modified versions, ranging from an oversized 10" Gold Lightan to versions of the smaller figures with all sorts of tweaks to the designs. Gold Lightan himself was then made over by Bandai for the Soul of Chogokin line, closely followed by a reissue programme of the original figures with only minor changes (these really didn't sell well, though, and can be found cheap in large numbers from online retailers). In 2008, Gold Lightan was included as a playable character on the video game Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars , leading to a brief bout of internet fame as clips of the thirty metre robot mercilessly beating Street Fighter characters into the ground circulated (consensus is the belly-flop is the best bit).

I collected most of the reissues a year or so ago - they were among the first Chogokin and first Super Robot toys I got, and it took me a while to get around to getting the Soul of Chogokin figure largely because I had a decent Gold Lightan. Big thanks to Lolligagger for hooking me up with one at a decent price, though - the original gold version seems to be fetching a lot now, though the utterly pointless GX-32S set containing black and silver versions (he's called Gold Lightan, for Christ's sake) can be found at relatively cheap prices.

One of the most notable things about the figure is that Gold Lightan is small - at 5.5" tall, he's by far the smallest Soul of Chogokin I own, and probably the smallest in the range (obviously excluding things like the limited standalone release of Zamboace from Zambot 3). This makes sense as he has to transform into something approximating a lighter, really - I never saw the point of the huge Hung Hing one that must turn into a large metal box the size of a videocassette.

Gold Lightan looks superb, however. He's almost entirely plated with 18-carat gold, and the effect is stunning - albeit beyond my ability to photograph with any semblance of style. The other problem with the look is that touching any of the flat areas tends to leave fingerprints, so buffing is a must. The design ignores the smooth finish of the animation model (it's gold rather than dark yellow as well), instead using the same raised pyramid pattern seen on the original toy for most of the body - the parts of the robot that can't be seen in lighter mode are smooth, though, which makes for a bit of variety.

The rendering is near perfect, however - the transformation scheme and some careful engineering means much of the upper body is near-seamless (I especially like the little folding panel that hides the neck hole - the original had to settle for an unmoving head to achieve this). Lower down is slightly less impressive - the legs are still attached to the back of the body rather than the waist itself. Remarkably this is hidden from most angles, and the joints do set it off to a certain angle.

Where Gold Lightan really scores is the articulation - the head can turn, the arms can basically do anything the robot in the anime can, while the legs aren't bad either. Even the ankles extend on ball-jointed rods so the figure can actually keep its' balance, especially helped by the thick metal legs giving Gold Lightan a low centre of gravity. There are some cheat parts, though. The first are pretty much optional, a pair of panels that clip into the back of the legs to give them backs (also serving to help the legs stay in place). The other are a little more important - a pair of clips that hold the wrists in place, without which it's basically impossible to attach or remove the fists.

And God knows you'll need all the help you can with that. Gold Lightan comes with three sets of hands - one set in fists, one with the palms open, and one with them flat palms for karate chops. The problem is they're gold plated hard plastic, and the ball joints they clip onto are also gold plated, so popping them on is tricky due to the slippery surfaces.

At least, however, the posts and fists are fairly sturdy so you won't break them, but it's still frustrating - it's a shame the posts couldn't have been made as separate little part out of black plastic or something, seeing as they'd be invisible. Even putting the balls on the back of the fists and having the holes in the wrists probably would have made it easier. The only other accessory Gold Lightan has an evil robot's heart. No, seriously - in the anime the Lightan robots would use a complex finishing move that would climax with Gold Lightan ripping the robot of the week's metal heart from its' body. So the figure comes with a little mechanical heart it can cradle in the open palms. Neat.

Soul of Chogokin Gold Lightan
Soul of Chogokin Gold Lightan
Soul of Chogokin Gold Lightan
Soul of Chogokin Gold Lightan
Soul of Chogokin Gold Lightan
Soul of Chogokin Gold Lightan

Soul of Chogokin Gold LightanThe figure's transformation is fairly close to that of the original - the only real changes are around the bottom, with a small panel that covers the torso's hollow chest from low angles folds away, while the backs of the feet have to fold down and then back up to hold in place. Soul of Chogokin Gold LightanWell, there is one other change - the fists can't be stored in this mode anymore (let alone the wrist pieces or the leg panels), which is annoying as you have to keep a pair loose on, a-hah, hand.

The lighter itself is just a block - all of the Lightan figures sacrifice making the charade more than surface-deep, but Gold Lightan's construction means he doesn't even have an opening lid. I don't think anyone except dandies and royalty still owns a lighter like this, though. Compared to the original figure, this one's a little less convincing, being a bit squarer than the original (moving it slightly closer to Denji Lightan, strangely enough).

Soul of Chogokin Gold LightanGold Lightan does have a neat little stand, though topped with a velvet-effect sticker, the small plinth lifts up to reveal a tray that holds all of the figure's parts, and is so small and inoffensive that it goes a little way towards making up for the problems the figure has with needing its' accessories.

Soul of Chogokin Gold LightanThe other thing he comes with for display is a rather natty hard cardboard case, styled like a jewellery box with gold embossing on the top. The inside has a plush, silk finish that holds the figure in lighter mode. It's... a bit weird, really.

I'm all for stands to make my toys look a little bit more like highbrow adult collectibles, but this thing looks like I should be proposing to someone with it...

Despite some gripes, Gold Lightan is a good figure. He works especially well if you have the other Lightan figures - the original was a bit bland compared to some of his bizarre team-mates (a robot that turns into a lighter that's also a pencil sharpener so trumps a robot that just turns into a lighter); however, by making him that bit larger and much more dynamic, he really stands out as a star amongst his cohorts. However, the price counts against him - current going rate for the gold version (I reiterate that I can's see the point in the black/silver versions...) is around £70, which is a lot for such a small figure, especially when reissues of the original can be found for £10. It's not like there are any big problems, just niggles, but we are talking expensive stuff.