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ReideenReideen (often spelt 'Raideen', and probably will be for much of this article due to habit despite the spelling used on the Soul of Chogokin box) is the reason this site's here.

It's not to much that the anime itself was important - it was, probably. Appearing in 1975, Brave Reideen was among the first wave of 1970s Super Robot shows. The first half was directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, who would go on to helm Invincible Super Man Zambot 3, Space Runaway Ideon and Mobile Suit Gundam, among many others. The second half was handled by Tadao Nagahama, who would go on to make the 'Robot Romance' trilogy (Combattler V, Voltes V and Daimos). But as far as I'm concerned, it was the merchandise which was more important.

Reideen wasn't the first show ever to feature transforming robots (that award might well go to Fleischer Studios' 1941 Superman cartoon "The Mechanical Monsters", which features a robot that seems to have a primitive flight mode). But it was the first to have a transforming toy, produced by Popy for their Chogokin range. The toy was a smash hit, and Popy began devising more complex transformations for some of their Super Robot toys, coming up with the likes of Daitetsujin 17 and Gold Lightan (and later Machine Robo). The idea was copied by Popy's competitors, including Takatoku who refined the process into 'Kanzen Henkei' ('Perfectly Transforming') for their Macross Valkyrie figure. The idea of robots that transformed into recognisable vehicles was then copied by Takara and grafted onto their Diaclone super robot range as the 'Real and Robo' series, not to mention inspiring Popy's DX Scalerobo Machine Robo figures. The figures from the 'Real and Robo 'series would then be exported to America, where Hasbro would make them the core of Transformers. No Reideen, no Transformers.

I actually bought a slightly banged up version of the original largely for this reason - it feels like something I should own for historical value, if nothing else. I've never watched the series, mainly knowing Reideen as Raydeen from Marvel's tacky but cheerful Shogun Warriors comic book. However, a chance came up to get the Soul of Chogokin version came up in a trade, and I bit. This GX-41 version has since been superseded by the GX-41S DX Fade-In set, which includes the splitting mountain seen in the cartoon, a gold statuette of Reideen and a reworked weapons set.


Soul of Chogokin ReideenReideen is a 'midsize' Soul of Chogokin - height-wise he's just below Daimos. The sculpt is in line with Reideen's anime appearance, being a lot more stylised and contoured than the original toy. The overall impression is that the robot tapers up from the large cylindrical legs to the small helmet-clad head. It's not really my sort of thing, to be honest - I prefer my robots blocky most of the time, and was of the opinion that the original wasn't quite chunky enough. However, I suspect this will be good news for fans of the anime, and Reideen really looks like he's stepped out of a cel, albeit with the added bonus of deeper, shinier colours.

Soul of Chogokin ReideenThe figure has a metal skeleton and torso, with bare diecast for the thighs, upper arms and neck. Reideen has numerous points of articulation, but the result is he's actually quite a pain to get into many poses. The shoulder pads especially don't seem to want to stay up (I'm not sure if this is just a fault on mine, but the left one wouldn't co-operate when taking pictures and I went with what I had). Despite swivelling boosters on the ankles, the big, heavy legs can only support a few poses as there aren't really any toes on the figure, while the neck joint is hindered by the helmet halves. These also have a habit of popping off if you move the head too far, and can be a pain to get back on.

Soul of Chogokin ReideenSo while Reideen seems to be dynamic on paper, there's not actually a huge amount of variation in poses that can be pulled off due to the hindered legs, and those that he can manage tend to be frustrating due to parts falling off or refusing to remain in place. Reideen doesn't even have particularly good hands - either balled fists, fists with pointing index fingers or a single fist slightly more open than the balled examples. The backpack for the God Bird mode can be removed entirely and replaced by a flush part, though this doesn't make much change to the movement, mainly serving to make the robot look a little neater. The backpack can fold more than the arrangement on the original, and doesn't actually look too bad (if obviously spoiling the anime accuracy of the robot). In short, the robot mode is very good for standing there and looking like Reideen, but lacks the poise and panache of other Soul of Chogokin offerings.

Soul of Chogokin ReideenReideen can transform into an eagle-like mode called the God Bird. On paper, it's a very simple sequence (the original is basically Reideen on his back with the helmet fully closed, the arms hidden and the legs raised), but here it's been refined slightly. The legs move into position much more securely (a frequent problem with vintage examples is that loose hips mean the legs can't stay in place for the God Bird mode; here they properly lock in place, while the lower legs move up to put less weight on the hips), while the backpack unfolds in a more complex fashion. It also provides a more pointed nose section.

Soul of Chogokin ReideenAgain it's quite fiddly in places - getting the helmet closed and covered neatly is quite annoying, as is getting the shoulder pads and others components in line. On the other hand, there's some very nice work done with the claws. Not only do they have individual talons, but also - thanks to some astonishing engineering - the God Bird balances perfectly on them. It's only a little thing, but the precision is breathtaking. Overall the God Bird doesn't look bad at all, managing to hit the key features of Reideen without exposing its' simple configuration.


WEAPONS

Raideen is boosted by the usual exhaustive array of weaponry.

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The right arm (well, either arm, but it goes on the right in the cartoon, and there's no real advantage to switching it) can mount a series of weapons based on a round shield. Various 'bracelets' can be slotted on to the arm (after removing the fist each time, something of an irritating procedure) to hold these. There's the Godblock, a shield with a short chromed blade; the God Breaker (the same shield with a longer blade) and the God Boomerang (a different moulding of the same basic shield, which can be attached to the wrist via a magnet, then unfolded and placed in the slightly open fist ready to throw at an enemy.

Soul of Chogokin Reideen

The left arm mounts a bow named the God Gogun, again by the same sort of bracelets. There's an inert version for general display, or a larger version with limbs that fold into position and slide over the fist of the robot. Reideen comes with a pair of arrows, with the flights designed to nestle in the open fist with the head resting just in front of the bow. Sadly, the articulation (especially in the head) simply isn't up to mounting a half-decent archery position without extreme frustration, the results being more in line with the picture to the right and giving the impression Reideen's just been caught by surprise.

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Reideen can also mount weaponry in his chest - a small wedge of the torso pops out when a switch on the hip is pressed, allowing a couple of different weapons to be mounted. The first is the God Voice, a sonic weapon represented by a triple speaker that mounts on the chest, and a new face with an opening mouth (switching the faces is, again, fiddly and irritating). The other is the God Missile, a projectile shaped like a bird.

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This can all be mounted on a stand, including Reideen in either robot or God Bird modes. It holds all of the accessories on the usual array of posts, indents and notches. However, a lot of them don't fit on with the usual security, and it only takes a slight nudge to send all the little bits flying all over the place. Still, it presents either mode well enough, and in the case of the robot mode doesn't really impede the figure's ability to strike poses...


VEHICLES

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Reideen also comes with a little model of the Brooger ship used by protagonist Akira Hibiki for travelling to and from Reideen. This has wings which can fold underneath, and the cockpit can also be removed to form a smaller ship, around half an inch long. Needless to say it's a pain getting this in and out of its' housing.


Reideen isn't up to the usual high standards of the line. Admittedly I'm not as in love with the basic design as I am with other Soul of Chogokin figures (they're too expensive, by and large, to pick up on a whim, meaning I usually go for something I'm fairly sure I'll like), but it's just not that much fun anyway. Switching any of the accessories around is a lot more frustrating than the norm, and the figure has a relatively limited range in terms of display and features. It's just not a huge amount of fun, through the transformation is well-realised. Fans of Reideen might find some value in the figure's accuracy to its' cartoon counterpart, but it's got only a moderate appeal for more general robot fans. This is all, however, relative to Soul of Chogokin's incredibly high standards.

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