The Sparagen Collection
by Marc Sparagen
When I was collecting Shogun Warriors as a kid, none of the DX Chogokins ever made it to my area of upstate NY. I only ever heard the word 'Godaikin' once back then, and had no idea that these were uber-Shoguns until I got back into the hobby last year. Combatra was the only DX I ever saw. But it was far too expensive at $50.
I never saw the Combatra Shogun set again. And over the next 20 years I managed to lose or destroy 99% of my collection. Last year I finally thought to look on the web for Combatra. Of course, I was spelling it wrong for the purpose of most search engines.
Finally, I found a ‘Combattra for a ‘reasonable price. By that time, I had already heard rumors that Voltes V was a better piece, but in my ignorance I was put off by memories of the crap Voltes V Shogun 2-in-1. When Combattra arrived at my house, I started feeling the letdown even before I opened the box. Inside was a big, heavy, and colorful figure, naturally much less sophisticated than my fantasy. Two broken pieces aside, Combattra was burdened with clunky, primitive mechanisms and lots of add-on pieces for the vehicles. And suspenders. As my brother put it, "Here's your masterpiece toy!! And here's the duct tape to hold it together!!"
I swallowed my pride and checked out Voltes V. It lived up to expectations for the most part. It could stand without orthopedic devices. It was down from 5-6 vehicle add-on pieces to 1 (not including the hated 'connector chip' for the feet). Improvements in design made the vehicles much more slick and impressive and the combining / transforming was a complete pleasure.
UPDATE 7/3/99 Combattra SOC is the Honda Accord. It has some slick transforming features, and the smoothness of the 1990s die-cast process is evident. However, it cannot compare to Voltes impressive complexity.
Daltanias IS the King of the Lions. Daltanias is also an incongruous combination of pieces. A man on top of a lion on top of some yellow moon boots. A rooster on its head would not be out of place. There isn't much of an attempt to make the pieces meld with each other aesthetically, as contrasted with Voltes V for instance.
Even so, Daltanias cuts an impressive figure, with its flame sword, crossbow, roaring lion chest, and the 'Lord of the Hunt' antlered helmet (the antlers are actually a separate figure-- the 'Dell Fighter'...). But Daltanias's main appeal is in the detail put into its components: Atlaus, Velarios, and Gunper.
Atlaus has a bunch of its own accessories to round it out as a mini-Chogokin diecast figure, even down to its slightly less ornate helmet. Atlaus's shoulders 'broaden', the body, legs, and feet fold up to fill out Daltanias's upper torso, and Daltanias's bigger fists are worn as gloves over Atlaus's fists.
Velarios is not the most amazingly engineered figure (its gun can fit under its head, and the mouth can move a little and fire a missile), but it it does have a beautiful lion head molding and paint job.
The Gunper ship contains a lot of creative engineering. The popout wings, rotating feet, missile launchers, foldout antennae, and robot arms are cool enough, but the gratuitous spring-loaded toe cockpits are a great touch! The only real weakness is the extraneous pieces: plastic extensions for the robot arms, and especially the dreaded 'connector widget' that holds the two halves of the ship together. I appeased my inclusiveness impulse by having Daltanias carry the connector around in the little space where the back of the foot connects to the leg.
Gardian is unique among Chogokins for its 'Russian Doll' effect. Additionally, Gardian's surface smoothness gives little clue to all of the internal pieces , inevitably causing surprise when demonstrated to someone for the first time.
My favorite nuance of Gardian is the cutaway look of the upper arms; if you're looking for it, this is a hint of the inner structure. It evokes the idea of a monstrous mechanical suit, with the movements of the pilot radiating outwards through the three mechanical layers in perfect proportion.
Sun Vulcan DX and Big Scale Jaguar Vulcan
You really can't have one without the other. Sun Vulcan is a very well-designed figure, not to mention inexpensive, but its big shark-kitty minivan makes it a terrific carrier vehicle combo.
Sun Vulcan's torso is like a cabinet; pieces fold out (via button-catches) from both front and back to create the Cosmo Vulcan ship.
One cool feature of Sun Vulcan's arms is that they launch fists from one end and missiles from the other. SV's legs are even more intricate than the torso.
Side-slide calves... pop-down spring-loaded treads... fold-out cranes... fold-out buckets (to bulldoze all the evil)... rotating claw missile launchers... this is a complex piece! Also, the legs have fold-out connector clips (SV got this right, where Daltanias and Voltes didn't!). I recently noted that the feet are hollow for a reason-- they handily store SV's fists when it is in vehicle mode. There are even little fist inscriptions on the plastic inside the feet. I also store the Bul Vulcan chains on SV's back when it's in robot form, but that's not a real design feature.
I also like SV's 'hangman chain' accessory. It seems much more distinctive than a sword, shield, or 'buster gun.' I personally hate SV's shield that looks like it came from Trivial Pursuit.
<jaguar1.jpg> The Jaguar Vulcan is big and dramatic. The eyes flip 'on' and 'off ' . The treads and teeth are made of rubber. The red bird-missiles fire. But the carrier mechanisms of the ship are its real draw. A catch under the chin releases the lower jaw, and the upper jaw can open up 90 degrees. Buttons on the arms let the flanks spring out to the sides. One switch in the back releases a tongue-ramp, and another launches the Cosmo Vulcan down the ramp.
In this mode, I store the BV chains on top of their respective cranes.
To do: one oversight in the design of this ship (a similar issue occurs in several other toys) is that the Cosmo Vulcan shoulder missiles cannot be loaded if the Cosmo Vulcan is to fit inside the Jaguar's mouth. Some minor dental work will be needed.
As an offset to Daltanias, I was going to get the fabled 'Black Daltanias.' This did not happen, because of prohibitive price and rarity. If I ever truly feel the need, I'll get another regular Daltanias and a can of spray paint. So, I settled on a less rare, but more distinctive companion piece-- the 'Daltanias bust' Dell Fighter.
The Dell Fighter ship detaches from the back of Daltanias' head, exactly like its smaller replica from the DX Chogokin. The Dell Fighter has several wing settings (I suspect the correct one for flight is the 'Stealth fighter' configuration). The wheels unfold, and the missiles fire as does the cockpit.
The main unexpected feature of this piece is that the head lights up when a switch is flipped on the bust AND when the Dell Fighter is docked (completing the circuit). Also, the light starts blinking if left on long enough.
8Chan gets a lot of flak for being a derivative of Robocon, but I see it this way: 8Chan is to Robocon as Voltes V is to Combattra. 8Chan is smoother and more comically cute than Robocon, but most importantly its 'transformation' is all-inclusive (splitting shins!), and it even has little details like 'headlights' and 'taillights' and a license plate. 8Chan reminds me of Shenseis 'Brain 3' robot that I owned as a kid: its head popped up and its eyes spun around for a 'mood change' effect.
At the other end of the mascot spectrum from 8Chan is the Lightan set of figures: robot hero lighters, egg timers, and opera glasses, which in turn pointed the way to other household object / robot buddies:
Mechanic Lightan is the most intricate of the Lightan series, if not the most elegant (Gold Lightan Hero gets that prize). Mechanic has: spring-loaded arm/chest release, missile launchers that can also hold the tools from the 'Tool Chest,' swivel-jointed arms and chest front, fold-out wheels, a robot head and domed lid (with hydraulic-looking support column), and painstakingly designed tools-- all contained in a 1x2x3" gold box.
Though a beautiful and well-designed figure, Bullmark's diecast Ghidorah was a concession for me, as I had not started out to collect monster figures. At least he isn't vinyl.
The design of Ghidorah's heads is very fine. The wings are pretty but very delicate; they appear to be made of the old style ice cream cone material. Ghidorah also has this great effect, really true to the movie monster character: side-mounted missile launchers slide out in tandem... when you pull his chest away from his back... and missiles that are stored in... um, hideaway leg spurs can be fired.
And yet, this is less ridiculous than what Bullmark did to the Godzilla diecast. Or what Ark did to King Kong, for that matter.
I also picked Ghidorah because he featured in a 'Super 8' movie from my childhood—a shortened, B&W version of Toho's 'Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster.' This movie is best watched in reverse: A webbed-up, half-dead Ghidorah is revived by Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra. He then flies backwards through Tokyo, fixing ruined buildings with his miracle lightning breath. He then ascends to the heavens in a ball of fire.
It only took me 22 years to figure out why Ghidorah has no arms: the poor Toho employee in the suit had to work all three heads at once...
To do: I may paint the sides of those missile launchers so that they blend better into the body.
Battle Combination 2 (Battle Fever J and Big Scale Battle Shark) <bfshark.jpg>
The Big Scale Battle Shark is something else. It combines carrier qualities with the most features I have ever seen on a single toy. One estimate was "50 different things." Here is the actual count (including features of Battle Fever J).
1) Anchors raise and lower
6) Side cannons spring open
12) Bridge unit springs backwards
Battle Fever J:
17) Helmet launches
This does not include doubled count for features that are similar and symmetrically placed (missile launchers, mainly).
There are two instances of these features getting in each others way.
1) The depth charge / toxic waste barrels are not well secured in their launch bays. Often when one of the ship's larger features is triggered or reset (and invariably when the bridge springs backwards), one or more of the barrels will fall overboard.
2) The robot-launching tray launches beautifully when empty. BFJ weights it down to the point where it catches on the lip of the launch pad. I blame the yellow roller placed there; it has a tendency to stick.
I might try to whittle it into better rolling shape. NOTE: BFJ's chains could also have been a major hamper to launching. The hack solution was to hook the enlarged loops at the end of the chains onto a tab on the tray.
BFJ is not the most amazing chogokin out there, but it is right up there with Daimos ST and Gaiking as the most complex and aesthetically designed ST-size figure. The accessories I keep in the Battle Shark are the pitchfork and the 'chogokin knuckles', in keeping with its black ‘n chains look.
The 'Battle Combination 2' set also came with a rubber 'Monster Maker' womb machine thing. I could not bring myself to keep this on display. The inmates of the womb are:
I would love to know the names of these guys. BFJ also seems to have made some enemies of the cardboard persuasion.
Shogun Warriors Mazinga Head Ship
The only (partial) piece remaining from my once-vast childhood collection. I had almost all of the Shogun series that appeared in my home town (some of the 'action vehicles' like the Kargosaur never made it to upstate NY). And all the comic books. By the time I was 13 or so, however, all I had was my Mazinga 'JM' (with an armless Solar Saucer mini-Grandizer floating around inside its body somewhere) and a big box full of dismembered Micronauts mixed in with legos. I kept the Brain Condor because 1) it was from the first Shogun I ever had and 2) it wasn't broken.
Now it sits proudly front and center in my case, as if to say "NOW do you see? These really ARE the best toys ever!"
Red Riding Hood DX
This was actually my mother's toy... runs in the family I guess. As far as I know, it's the only cloth transformer in the universe, except maybe for the 'Pikachu ball' thing.
The Freudian implications of Red Riding Hood DX boggle the mind. The less said, the better.
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