Welcome again to Plastic Love! Over here it’s toy season, and I thought I would get myself something nice—like, you know, a robot. As far as figures go, Japanese robot toys are my one true love. They’re probably the reason I’m in this hobby at all, and thus the reason you’re reading this. I’m a child of the first Voltron generation. The bright primary colors, ritualized combining sequences, crazy weapons and friendly faces of vintage Japanese super robots— basically everything you’d write off as childish or goofy— resonate really deeply with me.
I’ll skip the history lesson, but anime and Japanese toys are deeply intertwined. Robot anime directly paved the way for the modern “media mix”, where anime sells the viewer on a world that they try to get closer to by buying more stuff.
The high-end line we’re going to be looking at today is probably my favorite: Soul of Chogokin, or “super alloy”. This line is all about lovingly accurate portrayals of old anime robots in heavy diecast metal and plastic, with no expense spared in their production. At $150, this piece is practically entry level for Chogokin. More extravagant pieces run around $300. Extremely popular and scarce pieces like Voltron command over a thousand on the aftermarket these days. You can’t have mine.
This dashing fellow is Daitarn 3, the title robot of a endearingly bonkers 70s series by Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino. “Daitarn” is a made-up word coming from the Japanese “daitan”, or bold. If the bright colors and the huge crest of his samurai helmet don’t say “bold”, maybe the bladed feet do. Gaudy toy commercial designs like this, courtesy of master Kunio Ohkawara, were the standard for 70s robots, and Daitarn 3 is one of the biggest and loudest. Funnily enough, the next hero robot Ohkawara would design would be the original Gundam, which would of course change everything.
There is a certain quality of production you get from the Chogokin line that you simply don’t get from other robot figures. The paint job is on another level, with sparkling, metallic tones on much of the body and glossy red and yellow accents. With metal parts distributed evenly throughout the body, the figure has a satisfying weight and heft that makes it feel completely different to handle than the standard action figure.
Though it can stand on its own, a deluxe figure like this comes with a big, fancy stand bearing its own name. The size has a purpose: it actually has room to store away all of Daitarn’s extra hands and a few of the weapons as well. To really secure the figure you can attach a heavy-duty posing arm under the body. To carry a figure this heavy the posing arm has to be especially strong, and this one locks into place at every joint in order to pick Daitarn up. The lock mechanism is extremely difficult to manage, and more than once it made me feel like I was about to break something.
Contrary to the usual Soul of Chogokin, which pursues obsessive accuracy to the original animation and mechanical designs, this “Full Action” figure has a completely redesigned body based on an illustration by renowned animator and robot-lover Masami Obari. Obari is extremely influential for his dynamic movement, impossible poses and camera angles that make robots as cool-looking as humanly possible. If you watch a lot of anime you’ve probably seen the endlessly homaged “Obari sword pose” at minimum, and there was recently a minor controversy when SSSS.Gridman either homaged or plagiarized an entire sequence of his.
With the goal of the figure specifically being anime-style poses, the movement is above and beyond. I adore the big, blocky style of Chogokin that combines and transforms, but by ditching Daitarn’s three transformations, the creators were able to come up with a figure that moves in ways that a transformer never could.
The armor flaps out of the way at every point around the shoulders and hips in order to give them the widest possible range of motion for any pose you can think of. The figure practically comes apart at the chest for upper body movement, the arms can swing all the way around the body, and the legs kick real high. Just be careful that you don’t pop off the waist armor while you’re moving them.
The metal joints throughout the body are shockingly strong and sturdy: this guy will probably hold his pose for years. I got this figure scratching its back, that’s how good the posability is. Obari ought to be proud.
Daitarn’s whole bit was being extra, so the figure comes with the three core weapons it used the most—and whose names our hero Banjou yelled the loudest—in the show. The Daitarn Fans come in four pieces, two folded and the others open.
The Daitarn Javelin and Daitarn Zanber double blades also come packed. This is also a 70s-style toy in that there are sharp edges all over the place: the manual helpfully points out every spot on the body where you could stab yourself if you’re not careful. Toys like this are generally marked “ages 15 and up” because to hell with child safety, this is art.
Like any good super robot or pro wrestler, Daitarn 3 has a good catchphrase and a strong finisher. “If you’re not afraid of the light of the sun, then come at me!” When you put together these poses, which have the arms reaching far across the chest, you’ll realize they probably made the toy specifically to do these two poses from the show.
SUN ATTACK!! Even though Daitarn is a piloted robot, during battle scenes it’s frequently shown with a shouting “open” mouth, and so naturally that face has been supplied as well. As for why Daitarn 3 can make faces at all, that is a great mystery of the super robots. After neutralizing his opponents with the light of the sun, Daitarn finishes them off by just kind of falling feet-first through them, sometimes also through a mountain.
There’s a reason that these $150 and $300 robots sell out—they’re consistently excellent. Soul of Chogokin figures rarely disappoint, and they’re usually the absolute best figure of that character—especially for some of the more obscure guys like Daitarn here—that will ever be made. Even an “experimental” SOC such as this one holds to such a high degree of quality. If you ever want to be utterly spoiled for toy robots for the rest of your life, I emphatically recommend the Chogokin line.
I paid $150 shipped from Hobby Link Japan, who were good enough to also include some Japanese-exclusive Kit Kats. Now that’s service!