Misc Review: Voltron Vehicle Force (Miracle Productions)

Intro:
            Now, I have to admit, this was one review that I never thought I would ever do.
            I’m sure that most of us who grew up in the 80’s is quite familiar with the Voltron franchise. Forget about Megazords (sorry Power Rangers fans), the craze of 5 combining robots outside of Japan began with Voltron – although I have to admit, Super Sentai predates everything else.
            Anyways, going back to the matters at hand, most fans would generally associate the name Voltron with the 5 lions – be it older fans, or even the younger generations who were exposed to the animated series Voltron: The Third Dimension, as well as the 2011 Voltron Force animated series. However, fans of the 1980s would still be able to recall another version of Voltron – the Vehicle Voltron.
            The original idea of the entire franchise was supposed to go like this: there were supposed to be 3 versions of Voltron – the Voltron III a.k.a. Voltron of the Far Universe, the Lion Voltron; Voltron II a.k.a. Voltron of the Mid-Universe, the Gladiator Voltron; and finally, Voltron I a.k.a. Voltron of the Near-Universe, the Vehicle Voltron. Unfortunately though, only 2 of these series materialized, i.e. the Lion and Vehicle Voltrons.
            Vehicle Voltron was based on the Japanese animated series called Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. The name Dairugger, or specifically the term Rugger is based on the word rugby, hence the concept of 15 pilot of the super robot.
            Back when I was a kid, I have to admit, I was fonder of the Lion Voltron, and I reckoned that I wasn’t the only one. When Vehicle Voltron was first shown on TV, I was kind of confused. I mean, who wouldn’t? There were 15 pilots, and I could only remember two of them, i.e. Jeff and Cliff. There were just too many of them, and there weren’t enough character development for every character. They still remain unknown to me, at this time of writing – I am definitely going to re-watch all episodes of Vehicle Voltron after this.
            Anyways, probably due to the immense popularity of the Lion Voltron, and the unfortunate lack-luster reception of the Vehicle Voltron, I have never seen a real-life Vehicle Voltron action figure on the shelf during its heydays. Maybe it was just me, but I have had better luck at finding the Lion Voltron than the Vehicles – not that I ever had a Lion Voltron as a kid anyway.
            As time goes by, and especially after I managed to get hold of the Lion Voltron, I was starting to hope that somebody would actually work on a definitive Vehicle Voltron figure.
            Then in 2013, Miracle Productions finally announced the release of the coveted Vehicle Voltron, to rival Toynami’s previously-release Lion Voltron. Oh boy, was I ecstatic, but there was just 1 huge hiccup – the darn thing would cost at a whopping 1000-bucks!
            So, I had to wait… and it was a long wait indeed, until one fateful March weekend in 2014, I finally yielded to a bargain deal at ToyWiz, Amcorp Mall, with a friend of mine, Big Dingo V (oh sorry, it’s Big Daddy V – a self-proclaimed “Intermediate” collector) bearing witness to the whole ordeal.
            Miracle Productions intended this set to be an official/ sanctioned Voltron figure, and judging from the number MA-01 on the box, they also intended this to be the first of a few lineups of Voltron, which might have included the Lions and the Gladiator Voltron as well. Unfortunately, from the info that I have gathered, Miracle Productions have actually lost the rights to produce any Voltron related action figures, and because of that, they were barred from being sold in the US. How that is going to affect the rest of us outside the states remain to be seen.
            Also, the Vehicle Voltron that I have is actually the Version 2.0, which is a slight retooling of Version 1.0, and since I do not have that figure, unfortunately I couldn’t do a proper comparisons between the two.
            Anyways, I guess it’s enough with the lengthy intro and let’s get on with the meats and potatoes…

Box & Packaging:
            Unlike the previous Toynami-release die-cast Lion Voltron and the Collector Set Lion Voltron (pardon me for the comparison, but it’s only logical that comparisons was done between the two), whose boxes seemed quite exquisite – particularly the die-cast version where the box is shaped like a book, Miracle Production Vehicle Voltron’s box is kind of normal. It is far from being the worst, but it certainly not the best.
            Inside, each figure is individually packed in plastic bags and kept in designated slots within the polystyrene case. Maybe they shouldn’t have gone to such an extent in packing the figures, just like how they normally do with Super Sentai zords, but I do appreciate the effort.
There is also a plastic case/container that houses all the accessories, i.e. extra hands, swords, spears etc. However, one of the 3 swords provided, i.e. the Blue Blazing Sword is packed in separately – more about these accessories later on.
All in all, it’s nicely presented, thought not excellent.

Accessories:
            The Vehicle Voltron set comes with loads of accessories – the most well known of these are the Blazing Swords. The odd thing about this is that there are 3 different versions of the Blazing Swords provided.
            The chrome and yellow Blazing Swords are both stored inside the plastic container, while the blue one is packed separately.
Assorted Fists and Hands
            The set also comes with a couple of Spinning Laser Blades, a couple of small Solar Combat Spears, a longer Solar Combat Spear and a single-point longer Solar Combat Spear, all of which are coated in chrome.
Comparison between both versions of Blazing Swords
            Then there is also a yellow-color Ray Beam Whip.
            Last, but not least are the extra pairs of hands that consists of the sword-holding hands, the Spinning Laser Blade/Spears-wielding hands and also the open hands – giving you the extra options of displaying your Vehicle Voltron.
            Of course, there is also the instruction manual, which at some point of the transformation, it doesn’t help much.

Vehicle Modes:
            I have another confession to make, back when I was a kid, I couldn’t make out the types of vehicle most of the members of the Voltron Force was. As far as I was concerned back then, they all seemed to look like some body parts flying all over the place.
            In fact, I still feel the same way now, especially with some of the individual figures, which I will be reviewing one by one below.
            Just in case that you haven’t known this by now, the Vehicle Voltron Force is divided into 3 sub-teams of 5, i.e. the Air Team, Sea Team and Land Teams, which are piloted by pilots from different planetary origins.
            Unlike the Lion Voltron Team that consists of only 5 members, the 15-members Vehicle Voltron Team does make a more intimidating squadron – they are virtually a fleet of their own!
            The vehicle reviews hence shall be divided into aforesaid teams. For each vehicles, each individual vehicles will be named as the part of Voltron that it transforms into, as well as the official vehicle names in brackets, as it was named on the classic Matchbox Vehicle Voltron set.

The Air Team:

Head Jet (Command Jet Explorer):
            To me at least, this is probably one of the few most recognizable vehicles apart from the Chest Jet and the two Foot 4WDs.        
            Physically, it’s the smallest amongst the vehicles.
            The jet seems to be the lightest of all, and seems to contain the least die-cast materials.
            The paint works look okay and it’s a very nice little figure.
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Chest Jet (Fighter Plane):
            This is actually my favorite vehicle of all the fifteen. It looks the most realistic vehicle by far.
            It looks fast and slick and I could imagine this jet being able to outmaneuver almost anything!
            The jet is made from almost entirely die-cast, which makes it feels quite solid. The red color on it is very vibrant.

Chest Cargo (Strato Weapons Module):
            This is one of the several vehicles that actually baffles me, as I am not really sure what it is. Being a part of the Air Team, I would assume that whatever this contraption was, it can and should actually fly.
            To me, the module looks like an armored van of sorts.

Arms Copters (Advanced Recon Helicopters):
            The helicopters, both the red and blue helicopters are almost identical to one another.
            The rotors are made from plastic coated in chrome. Both are surprisingly quite hefty, due to their die-cast content. I do wish that the helicopters would have come with landing gears, but they don’t – not a big issue.
            At the back, there is a small plastic piece where you can lift out and stand it, mimicking a tailfin. Unfortunately though, the tailfin doesn’t stay in place and they keep on falling back into their respective slots. If only there was some sort of a locking mechanism… hmm…
            Anyways, they are very nice and convincing modes nonetheless.

Strato Fighter:
            To be honest, the Strato Fighter doesn’t look convincing, and it isn’t exactly the best-looking combination among the three, but at least it looks plausible.
            The Strato Fighter basically becomes the upper one-third of Voltron himself.
            Being a mere explorer team, the Strato Fighter isn’t exactly armed with any sort of weapon. It’s basically a sitting duck if it were ever attacked.
            While the helicopters are attached to the main torso piece via locking mechanism, the Head and Chest Ships are attached to the main torso piece via magnetic points, which is kind of unique, in a good way.

The Sea Team:

Torso Sub (Communication Module):
            This is another one of those vehicle modes that do require some form of imagination.
I guess, with a little bit of imagination, the little guy does resemble a submarine.
            The submarine doesn’t do much – it’s just one solid die cast piece with a couple of turbines sticking out on the sides.

Calf Tanks (Multi-Wheeled Explorer):
            These two are probably my favorite modes in the Sea Team, despite the fact that they are also somewhat out of place.
            They are out of place, in the sense that they are not really sea vehicles. They are tanks, for crying out loud. Why are they classified as part of the Sea Team? Beats me…
            However, the best part about these two is that their rubber threads actually works! They really do roll!
            The two tanks are quite solid figures and feels really good in your hands.

Thigh Subs (Space Probes):
            Although I’d like to call them submarines, officially, they are identified as space probes. I would actually think that they look more like submarines than probes.
            I guess the non-workable tank threads underneath justifies their claims to be space probes.
            The two pieces are mostly made of plastic and they are very, very light.

Aqua Fighter:
            The Aqua Fighter is probably the most convincing-looking modes among the three, or at least in my case, it does.
            With a little bit of imagination, you’d probably see him as a plausibly realistic submarine. Or if you like, it may even make a plausible space ship.
            Anyway, it’s kind of neat that the rubber threads underneath the Calf Tanks still work in this mode, and it definitely adds extra dimensions into this configuration.
            One thing that they could’ve improved on is how the Thigh Submarines are attached to the Calf Tanks. When combined, the Thigh Subs seems to be hanging without their threads ever touching the ground. Besides looking ridiculously awkward, the subs seem to droop, due to their own weight.
            Among the three configurations, this is probably the only configuration that possibly carries some sort of a weapon, although some may argue that it’s some sort of propulsion turbines. I am of course talking about the two white protrusions beside the Aqua fighter. Based on how I look at it, it might even be torpedo launchers!
            Well, whatever floats your boat -- pun not intended.

The Land Team:

Hip Tank (Armored Equipment Carrier):
            This is yet another one of those unconventional vehicle modes. Officially, it’s known as an Armored Equipment Carrier, but in all honesty, I have absolutely no idea what it is supposed to be.
            There are non-working tank threads underneath with four plastic lumps that supposed to be wheels. It’s ashamed that the wheels do not really work. They should have really incorporated those wheels into the designs.

Fist Car (Rotating Personal Carrier/ Jet Radar Station):
            I don’t know about you fellas, or maybe it’s just me, but these two Fists Cars do remind me of the Red Fury Turbo (of Saber Rider’s fame), but in different paint jobs.
            For me at least, they look fast, slick and tough.
            Now, since these guys are the hands and fists of Voltron, and the fact that there are several extra fists available, you can actually swap the original fists with the sword holding fists – they would look just fine nonetheless.
            I really appreciate the fact that they incorporated the headlight decals on the fists.

Foot 4WDs (All Terrain Space Vehicles):
            Despite that these two are the only normal-looking vehicles in the set. However, they are officially known as space vehicles – it doesn’t make sense to me though.
            The yellow color car looks more aerodynamic and slick compared to the blockier black car.
            The yellow one would make a nice SUV, while the black one looks more like a 4WD.
            The best part about these cars is that both of them have hard rubber wheels, which is quite nice.

Turbo Terrain Fighter:
            This configuration is definitely the most ridiculous and weakest of all three modes. It’s basically the Hip Tank mounted on two cars, with Voltron’s fists attached.
Among the three configurations, the transformation procedure for this mode is probably the most complex, no thanks to the Hip Tank, as you need to convert him into Hip mode before attached the two Foot 4WDs and the two Fists Cars.
            Due to the two 4WDs rubber wheels, this mode too rolls without much hindrance.

From Left: The Aqua Figher, the Strato Fighter and the Turbo Terrain Fighter
Voltron Mode:
            Well, this is why we, or should I say, I bought this set in the first place and I have to say, I am liking what I am seeing.

            The figure is massive and very heavy – and I do mean heavy. The die-cast content is delicious and you can really feel it. Personally, I am not much of a fan of die-cast in any of my transforming robots, due to them being prone to peeling and paint chips. However, since I have no other PVC options (that’s why I bought the plastic version of Lion Voltron, folks, so now you know), I had to settle with this guy, and I am willing to make that an exception.
            While the robot may look unmistakably Vehicle Voltron, if you really look closely, it’s not very animation-accurate, namely with some minor difference in paintjobs. Well, here are the photos and you do the judging.
            Anyways, the differences are minimal, and you can almost ignore them.
            Vehicle Voltron is very proportionate, and I would say, it’s just as good proportionately as Toynami’s Vehicle Voltron. However, that being said, I was quite surprised that the Lions are actually almost a head shorter that his Vehicle counterpart. Then again, who am I to complain since they are from two different companies, and were never intended to be compared to one another.
            Still, I wish they would’ve been the same size though, because I’ve always thought that both Voltrons were on equal footing with one another, if not the Lions being the slightly superior one, because in the Voltron-verse itself, the Lions were the original, while the Vehicles were mere duplicates of the Planet Arus’s technology.
Wielding the Yellow and Blue Blazing Swords
            Anyway, Miracle Productions Vehicle Voltron has one of the most amazing articulations that I’ve known, especially for a figure his size.
The head looking forward...
... and the head looking up.
            The head is attached to the body via magnets, while the head itself is attached to the magnets via a ball joint. While that provides an all range of motions to the head, if you ever need to tilt the head upward, all you need to do is take the head out, reposition the head and magnets, and you’re done. Yes, it’s a bit unconventional, I’ll admit, but I’m actually okay with that.
Form Blazing Swords!!!
            The shoulders are just awesome. The inner shoulders, which are actually part of the chest piece, can actually move inwards, which explains why the wings on the red jet is collapsible. That particular movement itself allows Voltron to “FORM BLAZING SWORD” and wields it with both hands. Both shoulder joints are on ratcheting joints. The outer shoulders move outward and all range of motions.
Wielding the Ray Beam Whip
Wielding the single-point Solar Combat Spear
            The arms rotate slightly below the shoulders, as well as the elbows. The elbows themselves bend 90°. The hands are connected via ball joints.
Again, wielding the single-point Solar Combat Spear
Wielding the Double-pointed Solar Combat Spear
            One thing that I really like about this figure is the ab-crunch. It actually has a ratcheting AB-CRUNCH!!! How cool is that?! The hips have all range of motions, with the panels on the hips moving in tandem to make way for any poses. That kind of reminds me of MP-01 Optimus Prime hips, which uses the same concept, to achieve the same results.
Ab-Crunch, baby!!!
            The legs rotate and the knees bend, both of which are also on ratcheting joints; and finally, the feet are on ball joints as well, and as such, they can move in all directions, albeit limited.
Wielding the Spinning Laser Blades
            Now having set all that, this figure is not perfect. For one, maybe this was an isolated QC issue with mine, because I haven’t heard any problems from anyone else. The connection point for the right feet to the right calf was actually wrongly installed on mine. It means that the connectors for both legs were the identical, when they were supposed to be on opposite sides, which means, I couldn’t connect the Yellow 4WD onto its slot. I had to do some “dissections” of my own to get it all fixed. Unfortunately, that has caused me some unnecessary paint chips on my figure, particularly to the right legs, around the feet connectors.
Solar Combat Spears
            Another problem is the feet themselves. From what I’ve gathered, the feet on Version 1.0 actually have a panel where you can pull out that make Voltron stand on it instead on the wheels. It actually prevents Voltron from roller-skating all over the place, and as such, providing a more stabilized base.
            For whatever reasons, those panels were removed from this version – bad idea. You have no idea how many “heart attacks” have I had while I was fiddling with the figure.  
            Again, having the two Voltrons standing side-by-side is wonderful. You can actually have both of them facing off against one another, or even have them face a common enemy!
            Plus, with the wide range of accessories that you get from this set, it’s really fun to pose and fiddle with him.

Summary:
            This figure does not come cheap, and I was kinda lucky to get him on a bargained price.
            Chogokin fans are probably going to love this guy, due to his die-cast content. It’s hefty and wonderful.
            Yes, this is not a perfect figure. Maybe somewhere down the line, someone would actually produce a better Vehicle Voltron figure. However, until that day comes, this would be the best Vehicle Voltron that we’re going to get – period, and I have to say, this has been a long time coming.
            This is definitely a must for any Voltron fans. Some fans may prefer the Lion Voltron over the Vehicle Voltron, but to me, I like them both – both action figure-wise and animated cartoon.
            Now that I have finally managed to nail down both Voltrons, I just need 2 more – the Gladiator Voltron a.k.a Albregas a.k.a. Voltron II a.k.a. Voltron of the Middle-Universe; and Voltron: The Third Dimension.
            Until then…
GO, VOLTRON FORCE!!!  

            Highly recommended.


Rating – 9.0/10

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