Having decided that I needed somewhere to live for four months slightly more than I needed the original DX Voltes V (I mean, he'd need a roof over his head), I decided to go for the Soul of Chogokin remake version.
Most of the basics of Voltes V's history are covered in the ST review, but the gist is the original DX was composed of five vehicles, which combined to form the large robot (or a large vehicle, named the Voltank).
The original figure fetches anything up to £1000 depending on condition, packaging and so on - its' only rival in terms of Popy holy grail being the Chokinzoku version of Tetsujin 28.
The Soul of Chogokin release is much more modestly priced, costing around £80 brand new. The figure mimics the original DX by splitting up into five modules, and comes with an absolute ton of accessories.
One thing it doesn't do is form the combined Voltank vehicle mode... The parts can all match up, but the caterpillar tracks on the Volt Panzer don't reach down enough. This really isn't a problem - the Voltank is basically Voltes V lying on his front anyway, and so is hardly an essential feature. This has been fixed with the GX-31V 'Respect For Volt-in-Box' release, which adds a spring-loaded wrist, has a toy-accurate colour scheme and can form the Voltank.
Voltes V stands 9.5" tall, and in a word looks stunning. The design of the robot is fantastic - slightly more athletic than the original, but not too slim and lithe. The colour scheme works fantastically well, with the deep blue and silver accentuated by the red and yellow details. The proportions are excellent as well, while the number of joints means Voltes V is near-impossible to stand without him just looking dangerous. See my attempt to do the usual 'default' picture to the right to illustrate this... He just can't look unnatural...
While Voltes V does come with a whole tray of additional weapons, one thing I do like is the facility for the toy to work to a large degree without them. It's possible to pack the basics onto the five vehicles. I'm more of a fiddler than a displayer, and even with something explicitly geared to collectors with glass cabinets as this figure, I like to have the thing on the desk and be able to switch it between modes while waiting for something to download, the neurones to fire or just because I haven't transformed or combined a robot for a little while... That I can do this with Voltes V without having to pull bits off and put them to one side is something of a plus.
A good example of this is the Lightning Sword. This is arguably Voltes V's most recognised weapon (apparently he was the first Super Robot to use a big sword to slice up the bastards, and the reason all his successors did so... cheers for that, mate...), and in the Anime is extracted from the red 'M' shape on his chest. The original figures had this as a removable part forming the cross-guard, with a long blade/hilt that couldn't be stored in vehicle mode that slid through the middle. The Soul of Chogokin version comes with two versions of the sword - an unfolding version that can be stored in the robot's chest, and a separate, complete chromed version. So you have the option of keeping a sword attached in vehicle mode for play, or having a more impressive looking version for display. Additionally, one of the accessories is a dummy 'M' piece for when the folding sword is removed - the gaping hole seems to have been a quirk of the 1970s toy; in the cartoon the red 'M' returned when the blade was in use.
Similarly, there are the hands. As well as the pair of fixed retractable fists, The figure comes with three pairs of detachable, PVC hands - two with holes to grip the chromed Lightning Sword and some of the other accessories, two balled into fists and two with the fingers spread. These all attach thanks to small panels that can be clipped over the ends of the arms if the fixed hands are left unretracted. Pleasingly, the fixed hands can grip the folding sword, meaning you have everything needed for a basic Voltes V posing session without hooking anything extra out of the box.
And posing is another thing Voltes V is incredibly good at. The figure has an astonishing amount of articulation. From the top, the head can move from side to side. Not a massive arc, little more than 15° in total, but combined with the magnetic ball-joint at the neck and a very neat little mechanism than allows the Volt Crewzer wings to stay parallel with the robot's back, it's enough to keep the head movement looking natural. There's nothing worse than a figure with a stack of limb articulation, and then a limited head that ruins the look. The shoulders rotate and hinge, as do the elbows. The wrists also rotate, though the Voltes Bazooka limits the degree this is possible for the right arm - at least, on the fixed hands. The PVC hands have full rotation. The fixed hands also have moveable fingers and thumbs.
The hips have what look like revolver joints, allowing for 360° rotation, as well as hinging to around 45° in any direction. There are conventional hinges at the knee (ratcheted for rigidity) and, crucially, ball joints at the ankle, meaning the complex leg articulation can be fully used without compromising the figure's balance.
All in all, it's a stunning robot mode, more than adequate compensation for a couple of the vehicle modes being a little flawed. Bandai have managed to cram the figure with articulation and features without compromising on the neat, classic design. The robot really is a thing of great beauty, looking good from all angles and well-built enough to hold just about any pose you can get out of the joints.
I have read in various places that the toy suffers from loose or weak joints - thus far this hasn't been the case with mine. The only flaw seems to be the right 'fixed' fist can flop down a little because of the Bazooka feature, but that's about it.
Combining Voltes V is generally a neat, satisfying process - the only slightly tricky part is lining up the connection between Volt Frigate and Volt Panzer, which needs to be just right. One thing to be aware is that the figure is difficult to combine from the top down (as per the Anime), but then I've always formed the robot modes on these things from the bottom up, and it's really not a problem.
One of the big advantages of the Soul of Chogokin version is it was designed from the outset to be sold only as a boxed set. The original had to function both as a set (the famous Volt-in-Box) and five individual Popinika vehicles. Because of the latter, the five units had to be somewhere approaching the same size, which messed with the scaling a little.
The remade Volt Crewzer is just 2.5" long, more in scale with the other vehicles as per the cartoon. It's beautifully made. First up, there's a wonderful joint in the middle that allows Voltes V's head to be completely covered in this form. It's about 50% diecast, and 50% high-quality plastic. The red and white looks great, as does the detail work such as the silver around the tiny (opening!) cockpit. It even has working undercarriage...
The Volt Crewzer also has small, silver plastic blades that fix on the tips of the wings... I'm waiting to find my art knife before I cut these from the plastic tree.
The Volt Bomber is another fairly small unit - the sidepods are 3" long, but there's very little in-between them. The vehicle very obviously forms Voltes V's arms, though Bandai have done a good job at hiding this as much as possible.
The fingers just peeping out the front of the sidepods isn't fantastic, but it is favourable compared with the gaping holes on the original (which had the Rocket Punch feature). The blue 'sleeves' covering the elbow joints adds some rigidity as well. The four main sets of undercarriage are detachable parts, little diecast trolleys that connect to small holes on the underside. These can be left on for robot mode, if so desired.
It is obviously a pair of arms, but it's nice they've put some effort into the doomed enterprise of hiding this.
The Volt Panzer is the second-largest of the vehicle units - only 2.75" long, but 2" tall and rather bulky. It's a lovely little bit of design, too, and does a good job of hiding its' second job of forming Voltes V's upper torso.
Once again the detail is impressive. The arms are nice and sturdy, even if they don't have much range, while the cockpit is nicely done - I can't quite decide whether the little red hatch is intended as an entrance for the pilot, or just to aid in pulling the cockpit out from the body of the vehicle, but it works nicely for both purposes, so fair play there.
Another nice touch is the panel that folds over to cover the hollow centre of the Panzer. Also, the caterpillar tracks not only move, but are made of rubber - lovely stuff. The shorter legs on the new version also give the vehicle a much more sensible profile - a fair trade-off for the Voltank.
Volt Frigate is by far the largest of the vehicles, at nearly 6" long. It is one vehicle that is possibly shaded by the original - the flexible hip joints here rob the Frigate of some rigidity, while a lot of the superstructure has been omitted or simplified.
There are some nice touches, such as the little metal landing gear and the pop-up funnel-type modules on the silver midsection, but overall it fails to convince as a vehicle in its' own right.
I love the design, it's a wonderfully weird little thing. Its' alternate status as Voltes V's feet is well hidden, and there are some really nice details. The chromed drills are great, and the colours just come together nicely. I even like the rubber aerials - a nice, sensible alternative to super-fragile chrome.
On the downside, the join line in the centre is quite obvious, while the ankle ball joints mean the silver platform can wobble slightly (though this does actually pass nicely as suspension).
As mentioned, Voltes V comes with a whole tray of additional accessories (as well as a plastic stand for storing them).
The Voltes Bazooka is a simple little built-in weapon - the right fist flips down to reveal the gun barrel. Straightforward but neat, though the looseness in the hinging fist is a bit of a regrettable side effect.
The Chain Knuckles is a large, grappling-hook style accessory that can clip over the forearm when either fist is retracted. It's lovingly made, but suffers from the same problem most genuine chain weapons do - the metal chain just hangs there limply, with the grapple resting on the flaw unless you loop it over something.
The Choudenji Goma are spiked domes that attach to plastic threads - the latter represent Voltes V's belt, which would come off, split and expand in the cartoon. The inert belt piece can be removed for when these are featured. These are a bit weird in all, but he does carry them off nicely. He can use just the threaded belt pieces as a whip-like weapon, but there's not much point to those.
The Mechanical Eagle is a little red stylised bird-cum-spaceship - apparently this thing turned up in the cartoon a couple of times, and only with this attached to his back can Voltes V perform the Choudenji Goma attack (at least, in the Anime - it doesn't need to be attached for the toy). The Eagle's well made, if a little superfluous, and it can attach to Voltes V's back thanks to an opening panel. The Volt Panzer tracks also fold outwards to give it space.
| The Soul
of Chogokin version certainly gives you a lot for your money - good
looks, top quality materials, excellent articulation and a wide array
of features. How does it stack up to the original? Well, I can't tell
you (though if anyone wants to send me one, or trade one for some Zybots,
I'd like to find out...), really. The new version probably comes out on
top in most measurable terms, but the old one probably has a lot of charm
to it in the metal. However, until something somehow happens to make it
a little more affordable, the remake is a superb alternative.