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August 30, 2005

Extremes Measured: SoC GX-27 Gaiking and Euro-jumbo Goldorak

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 12:42 am

Every so often, you find a toy that reminds you of all that’s good about collecting. The Soul of Chogokin GX-27 Gaiking is such a toy. And, at times, a toy makes you feel like giving up collecting altogether. That would be the French jumbo machinder, Goldorak. I received both in August, so I’m a bit conflicted this month.

Lead with the positive: Gaiking is one of the classic 70s super robot designs. The GA-51 chogokin version is legendary, not just for its engineering, not only because it’s hard to find complete, but because it’s GAIKING!! Which is why the previous SoC Gaiking, the GX-05 Daikumaryu, was a disappointment. It was a technical triumph, the best modern execution of Gaiking’s signature docking sequence from the cartoon. Yet, in order to properly scale Gaiking’s chest to become the Great Space Dragon’s head, however, the robot ended up with some … shortcomings.

The Daikumaryu’s “Wee-king” did not resemble what Gaiking is supposed to be: a huge, angry bruiser. You’ve got to be a bad-ass to survive Mattel marketing you with the tag line “He’s a Samurai! He’s a robot skull!” The vintage GA-51 and jumbo versions of Gaiking had this mean streak, and the new SoC GX-27 Gaiking has the same attitude. This latest version is heavy like a gokin should be. The points of articulation are nicely detented, allowing Gaiking to hold postures that say “I’m gonna knock you out! Go Nagai said knock you out!”

I dig the absurdity of robots wearing armor. Heck, I even like the vaguely creepy, let’s-take-this-to-its-illogical-extreme Transformers that wear other robots as armor. Bandai designed Gaiking’s “power-up” parts from the cartoon along these lines. Rather than swapping out arms and legs (as did the prior SoC and Super Robot in Action), this Gaiking bulks up with gauntlets, combat boots and larger weapons that look right for a Samurai who doubles as a robot skull.

About that skull: It separates from the robot arms and legs and connects to a facsimile of the Daikumaryu’s neck on the display stand. This is pretty standard for Gaiking but, without a cat-sized Great Space Dragon to dock with, isn’t much fun. Still, the skull has a feature previously only found on the Japanese jumbo Gaiking – it can actually bite! Bandai can really engineer an action feature, and Gaiking is replete with similar touches. Like the three different heads, to match the various stages of power-up. The best-detailed one splits to reveal Gaiking’s “open mask” face. It’s beautifully detailed, but doesn’t hold together well during, er, dramatic posing. Stick to the solid big-horn version, and you’ll have no complaints.

On to Goldorak. I have no idea why the French called Grandizer that, any more than I understand why Mazinger Z had to take the stage name “Tranzor Z” in his cartoon appearance here. But he’s Grandizer to US Shogun Warriors fans. Far from his esteemed place in the Japanese super robot pantheon, the American Grandizer was a B-list Shogun Warrior who made cameo appearances in the small “Collectors” series and as a … missile included with the “Solar Saucer” Action Vehicle.

Or so I thought, as a child. It turns out that the French were crazy for Goldorak in the 70s, and Mattel’s European operations obliged. France received not only a larger UFO Spacer carrier-vehicle (GA-37) which we never saw in the Two-In-One Warrior line here, but even got a Goldorak jumbo machinder. To be sure, it was not the same jumbo as the Japanese market received. Like the later US jumbos, this Goldorak was substantially simplified. I’d always liked Grandizer, so when I discovered much later we’d been denied a jumbo version the French got, I thought, “No fair!” I knew I had to have one, to finally get what should’ve been ours, those many years ago.

I suggest you resist such urges to act on principle. The stripped-down US jumbos retained most of their functionality and visual impact. Take Mazinga. Mattel substituted a missile launcher for his left hand and changed his plastic breastplate to a sticker, but the essential visual impact of the character and features of the toy were maintained. By contrast, it’s fair to say Mattel gutted poor Goldorak. The Japanese version’s firing fist was removed, replaced by the same missile launcher Mazinga ended up with. (Why didst Mattel giveth Raydeen a rocket-punch and taketh one from Goldorak?) This had the unfortunate side-effect of robbing Goldorak of one of the Japanese character’s main visual cues, those colorful wrist-guards. Also like Mazinga, Goldorak’s plastic chest armor was replaced with stickers. But Grandizer has more intricate armor than Mazinga, so the stickers look far less impressive than Mazinga’s bold “V” shape. Toss in weak molding on Goldorak’s head, and the end result is a jumbo that’s much more generic than it needed to be.

Mattel did retain the Japanese jumbo’s sickles for the French version – perversely, as Goldorak now only had one hand to hold them with! The Goldorak I received had handmade reproduction sickles which look, well, handmade. That’s my fault, not Mattel’s, but it only increased my level of frustration with the piece. They’ll stay secured on Goldorak’s shoulders. “Displays great!”

Final analysis: I can unreservedly recommend the SoC GX-27 Gaiking. If you still find yourself thinking about buying the Euro-jumbo, I’ll caution you that Goldorak’s new role in my collection is a B-list Shogun Warrior appearing as an extra in crowd scenes.

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