Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3Before revolutionising anime with Mobile Suit Gundam and then going on to create the outstanding Space Runaway Ideon, Yoshiyuki Tomino largely worked within the established Super Robot genre of bright, colourful, powerful robots.

Zambot 3, probably about to spank either a Mecha Boost or a nearby civilian settlementAfter working as a director on highly successful animes like Brave Raideen and Choudenji Machine Voltes V, Tomino created his first series with Invincible Superman Zambot 3 (sometimes called Zanbot 3, but Zambot seems to be the more commonly used, and is featured on the Soul of Chogokin box) in 1977. This told of an alien family hiding among humans, forced to use the titular robot to defend themselves when their old enemies track them down. The anime only lasted 23 episodes, but Tomino was able to bring it to a reportedly violent conclusion within this time... I've only watched the first few episodes to date, and it's a weird beast - blending primitive, bright animation with some surprising undertones. Series lead Kappei is something of an arse, regularly causing the good guys problems with his immature behaviour, while the general public despise the protagonists for bringing the war to their lives.

The original Zambot 3 figures were manufactured by Clover, and were popular enough to turn the company into a major player (albeit only briefly; after some success with other Super Robot shows including Tomino's follow-up Daitarn 3, the company sponsored Gundam and basically misjudged the show's audience on a massive scale, the first of several commercial failures). The show was a great success in Italy (predictably... short-lived Japanese animes seemed to do really well there, cf. Space Warrior Baldios... Italy was one of the few markets to go for Gundam straight off the bat too...), and has since made appearances in Banpresto's Super Robot Wars video game series. The robot was chosen for the Soul of Chogokin series in 2004, one of the largest figures in the range up to that point.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3Zambot 3 is, as mentioned, quite a large figure, standing at 10" tall. Granted, this isn't much taller than Combattler V or Voltes V, but Zambot is a lot bulkier - the limbs are chunkier, the chest is boxier, and so on. This gives the robot an impressive set of proportions, and a real presence on the shelf.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3The figure has a great design aesthetic as well - proving nothing wrong with bright primary colours providing they're used nicely, and Zambot 3 is adorned with a plethora of spikes and wings. Plus he has a big crescent stuck on his forehead, which looks great. The robot looks a little like Combattler V given an armour upgrade (and made three-dimensional...), together with a head sculpt that prefigures Gundam (certainly the Clover toy designs, at least). It even looks great from behind, with the robot's distinctive backpack faithfully recreated.

Unlike Combattler V, Zambot 3 is very solid for the most part, all the units locking together nicely. The robot passes the 'lift the thing up by the shoulders and see if the legs fall off when you shake it' test, which is obviously the most objective test possible. However, some of the smaller parts aren't as good. The two blue flaps that cover the cockpit of the Zambase (located roughly in the middle of the figure's torso) don't clip to anything, and thus tend to, er, flap around a fair bit. The wings and over bits are surprisingly secure, though.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3The downside is that Zambot 3 is very solid. As in there's very little articulation in the figure. The arms have the usual quality articulation in the wrists and elbows, and the head turns, but after that it's a more mixed story. The shoulders rotate, but this breaks up the look a little. And the legs only move very slightly at the hip. The knees hinge, but this is of limited use - the ankles can bend accordingly, but the joints are a little too loose for the figure to hold many poses.

There are some nice touches, though - there are the usual multiple hands. Three in this case - a pair of fists, a pair with moveable fingers for grasping weapons, and a pair of flat palms. All of these have a nice joint on the back of the wrist that allows simulation of the Zambot Moon Attack seen in the cartoon - though sadly he doesn't fire crescent-shaped lasers out of his forehead at the same time.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3The combined robot's primary weapons are a pair of swords named the Zambot Grapple. These are lovely chromed things that fit surprisingly well in the 'moveable' set of hands, and the robot's arm dexterity is enough to give it a range of cool poses.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3The Zambot Cutter is the next step up - a whacking great big chromed blade that slots into the hilt of either Zambot Grapple. It looks cool, but the figure can't quite pull off that many poses that look good with a single blade.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3Next stage of big stabby things is the Zambot Blow - a long metal bar that can mount both Zambot Grapple, one on each end. One again, the robot's range negates the number of possibilities for waving the thing around.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3Moving away from blades, there are the Zambot Buster - a pair of throwing star-type things that spend most of their time affixed to the robot's hips. He can cradle them well enough, but like most weapons of this ilk (Combattler V's Super Electromagnetic Yo Yo, Voltes V's Choudenji Gouma and Daimos' Snake Lock) there's not much more he can do than strike a pose with the things - and once again the minimal leg articulation shackles this to a certain degree.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3Zambot 3, being the lead robot from a Tomino series, has some serious artillery as well. The Ion Cannon isn't quite on Ideon Gun levels in terms of look or power, but it's still an impressive piece of weaponry. In the anime, the thing just attaches to the robot's chest, held by the arms. The figure can't grip it, so a black plastic stand is included to hold it level. This is quite well done for this sort of thing - I'll take secure but obvious over the insecure but not quite as obvious option chosen for the otherwise faultless Soul of Chogokin Ideon figure. However, the weakness here comes with the connection to the chest - a replacement yellow wing part with some exposed circuitry is provided to mount the Ion Cannon, but its' connection to the robot's torso is nowhere near as secure as its' connection to the back of the cannon, so it tends to rest in place (thanks to the stand) rather than actually clip on.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3While Zambot is too large for a stand himself, there's actually some innovation shown in storing all the accessories when they're not in use - the extra tracks for the Zambull configuration are designed to mount all the odd weaponry on. It's actually a neat solution, even if it does just look like a pile of parts, and Bandai deserve huge respect for the way all the parts slot on without compromising any of the other modes in any significant fashion.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3 Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3

The most famous of Zambot 3's components is the transforming Zamboace. Standing at 5" tall, this robot tended to do the fighting for the first half of any given episode until the inevitable combination into Zambot 3 to finish the bad guys off (to be fair, the cartoon does come up with a better explanation for this cliché than most - Kappei, pilot of the Zamboace, is a stubborn idiot). The look isn't quite as unique as Zambot 3, cutting down the boxiness and some of the more striking visual flourishes, though some of the design continuity is great - notably the wing motif and the colour scheme.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3 Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3

Zamboace has much, much better articulation that his parent robot. Aside from the solid waist, there are very few practical poses that the robot can't pull off, and it's really nicely balanced too. Offhand I can't think of many other transforming figures in this size bracket that are more dynamic. Best of all, though, is the weaponry - Zamboace is equipped with a laser rifle than can be assembled in two different combinations. The second is incredibly complex, but it's so much fun snapping all those little barrels, sights and magazines on... There's even an anime-accurate belt that holds all the little parts. This doesn't work too well, being a little too bulky and inflexible to really work. But it'd be impossible to pull off properly with that many parts to hold, and it's great that Bandai have had a decent crack at it.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3
Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3

The Zamboace transforms into the Zambird, a fairly straightforward jet-type thing. The transformation is, as you can probably tell from the pictures, quite simple, though it's perhaps a shame that the arms don't tuck in a bit more.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3The annoying bit is that the wing on the top is a different part to the robot's chest adornment - an extending example would surely have been feasible (the biggest drawback to Zambot 3 is that unlike most of the other combining Soul of Chogokin, much parts-swapping is needed to make the thing look good, whereas with others it tends to just be more minor cosmetics). There are additional parts that are more optional, like a radar dish and a pair of laser cannons. Plus, in a nice piece of detail, the cockpits hinge open to reveal tiny little representations of Kappei and his robot dog co-pilot (no, seriously) Chonishiki. Okay, so they're tiny stubs of plastic dabbed with paint, but they're about an eighth of an inch high, so it's great work.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3The Zambull is formed from the chest of Zambot 3. It's your standard 'yeh, futuristic tank' thing, largely giving the impression of being a mobile pair of shoulders (though, to be fair, it looks like this in the anime - the arms can even launch the fists as weaponry in this mode).

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3More than any of the other modules, the Zambull is dependant on additional parts to look even halfway decent - there's a whole base segment that brings the underside and the tracks into better proportion with the upper half of the vehicle, also locking the shoulders in position and providing a slot for mounting the silver cannon, while the drills slot in to cover the gaping hole above the cockpit. It's not one of the finer pieces of work in the line, I'll admit, but I'd rather the ungainly tank was sacrificed to some degree as opposed to the robot.

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3The final module is the Zambase, which is formed from Zambot 3's legs. Once again, it's fairly typical for this sort of thing (see also Combattler and Voltes, not for the first time), though there are some attempts to hide the nature of the thing, such as the plastic superstructure that clips on (this also forms the combined robot's backpack).

Soul of Chogokin Zambot 3Less impressive is the barely disguised clip under the cockpit. The yellow plastic used for the wings and fins is quite thin too. There's not really a lot to do with the Zambase - the red winglets detach as some sort of missile, but it'll hardly keep you entertained. That said, the folding feet section are a neat piece of work that contribute to the excellent combination sequence.

Zambot 3 looks great, has an excellent combination sequence, is highly accurate to the robot's anime appearance and has a plethora of accessories. However, there are sure signs that Bandai were still learning their art at this stage - as noted, the articulation is slightly underwhelming, while to have any fun with the thing you need to keep all the accessories to hand. It's also hamstrung a little by being faithful to the original designs, and thus neither Zambull or Zambase are particularly impressive. Zamboace, on the other hand, is good enough to be a figure in its' own right. Overall, this is one for Zambot 3 converts rather than general toy fans - both Voltes V and Ideon are Soul of Chogokin combiners for those after design excellence. By the line's incredibly lofty standards, it's a slight letdown - which still puts it some distance ahead of most series' finest efforts.