This post can also be seen over at my LUG’s page
Before everything, I’d just like to say that doing this review is definitely on my list of BEST THINGS LEGO RELATED EVER. Being able to build an official LEGO set of a Japanese Super Robot that I actually watched and grew up with, is a fantastic and overwhelming opportunity and I’m sure many people feel the same way.
LEGO IDEAS #22 Voltron Defender of the Universe is, as of writing, the biggest LEGO IDEAS set produced. Originally, the robot is called Beast King GoLion in Japan, but the rest of the world knows it simply as Voltron. I’m both a huge fan of the niche Mecha genre and an AFOL builder of my own original mecha designs using LEGO, so being able to build this beast -king- of a set really makes the inner child in me squeal in excitement.
The massive box alone already gives the impression that this is not your ordinary LEGO set. The box design team really did a great job of giving this a retro toy vibe that really fits the original cartoon. Inside, there are 16 numbered bags and a bag for all the instructions.
Every lion has a few bags with specific build order that personally makes a lot of sense if you badly want to have it stand up as a robot right away.
- 3 bags each per legs (Yellow and Blue Lion) images: 03 04
- 5 bags for the body (Black Lion) image: 05
- 2 bags for per arm (Red and Green Lion) images: 06 07
- 1 final bag and instruction booklet for forming Voltron with all its accessories. Image: 08
One thing I’d like to point out is how LEGO emphasized each lion individually through the cover of their corresponding booklets. This allows a group of people to build one lion at a time then combine all 5 finished lions into the awesome huge robot.
Included in the whole set is a sticker sheet numbering 1-5 with one number per lion. I read up that the design team wanted to include this option for the more hardcore fans as the original toys had the numbers on them. I honestly think that that level of consideration shows how much the set design team put a lot of work and effort into making this set.
II. BUILDING THE LIONS
Opening the booklets per lion shows that you’ll first build the core structure, then the head (forms the feet and hands of Voltron), then the limbs of the lion. The Black Lion has some differences as it forms the core structure and needs a different build sequence.
I was actually surprised with how big each of the Lions were as they were almost as big as my original mech designs. After I built the Yellow Lion, I got a very good idea of the size of the finished model and got excited even more to be building such a huge LEGO mecha 😀
The finished lions each have a very distinct look and color scheme to them that is really close to the original cartoon design. I particularly like how each Lion head and face is built, having consistency throughout all the lions but also retaining their own little bits of individuality.
The Yellow and Blue leg Lions have less play features as they needed to be more rigid in assembly so when they form Voltron, these two could hold the weight of the entire robot.
The Green and Red arm Lions have limited abdomen and head articulation. They become the arms of the robot form and have bendable elbows and wrists.
The core Black Lion has very limited movement with just its legs being able to move. The body assembly is solid in the inside making it really sturdy and adding any sort of abdomen joint would greatly reduce the stability of the robot form.
Even with the limitations in their poseability, I think each and every Lion looks fantastic especially in terms of the color selection and striping. Looking at the whole lion team reminds me so much of the Voltron cartoon and toys I remember seeing and watching as a kid, and it’s a really fun throwback to my childhood.
III. BUILD TECHNIQUES
Being a mech builder myself, I was looking out for interesting build techniques and assemblies that were used per lion. For the Yellow and Blue leg lions, the locking mechanism for the feet of the robot form was well done. It used an axle to swivel the bulk of the middle section where the lion head, which would become the foot, was connected almost 90 degrees. It locks back in the horizontal lion form via a clip and bar locking mechanism. I was also surprised at the usage of the 2×2 inverted tile with open studs with the 1×1 brick with vertical bar to create the lock as it was both compact and offered an unusual, but creative way of using both pieces.
The front leg assembly of the lions also caught my attention as they used a 2×2 brick ball and socket joint assembly, but completely concealed within the 2 4×4 round plates with hole in the middle. This particular assembly just had the holes align so nicely and you rarely see a ball joint assembly like that hidden from plain sight.
The Black Lion has a few more interesting techniques in it, being the biggest of all 5 and is also the body of the robot form.
There’s this neat technique that they used using headlight bricks (in yellow) and the new 2×2 plate with just 2 studs. The way it was done was so clean and provided an area where studs could attach from the chest to the abdomen assembly.
The way the “crown” on the chest was oriented and built using a 1×2 “grill” tile piece was also interesting. I believe this was something found in the Voltron version of Lendy Tayag, the LEGO Fan designer who submitted the project, and it was nice seeing it retained in the final LEGO version.
Another interesting technique was how the rear legs of the Black Lion were built. These would later become the pelvis assembly of the robot form so it had to be reinforced. An interesting thing about the rear legs is that there’s a slight outward angle bend incorporated in them that would be more visible in the robot form, giving Voltron the signature A stance seen with big Japanese mecha. This outward bend was formed with locking 1×5 Technic plates on studs while two different sections were connected via a brick hinge assembly resulting in that small but significant bend. This is sandwiched with plates then repeated in another layer and sandwiched again to create that super reinforced assembly and locked in to place with side brackets that are also locked in together with plates and curved slopes. It’s a wonderful combination of both form and function, giving the right rounded shaping to the hips while also giving that outward bend for the robot form.
And lastly for techniques, I must talk about how the shoulder joint for the robot form on the Black Lion was beautifully executed. Personally, I believe this assembly is just genius! It’s both compact and very strong for holding the weight of the arms with both weapons and the way the small rotating Technic gear interacts with the smaller gear is just wonderful. I think I’ll be seeing more mech fan builders incorporating this technique to their own builds and can particularly see it being used not only for shoulders, but also hips and abdomen rotations.
IV. FORMING VOLTRON
I have to admit that this part was the most I was excited about with the whole review and actually had the Voltron theme song playing on my computer! There’s nothing more exciting for these Super Robot shows than the combination sequence as it usually signals the end for the villain with the heroes combining into their super form and unleashing a devastating ultimate attack to vanquish their foe!
The Voltron transformation process is all detailed inside the biggest instruction booklet #6 and is where you also build the Blazing Sword and the shield.
The first step is fix the leg lions by moving their tails above their back then by tucking their legs in. Then the head and middle area is swiveled and locked into place to form the feet.
The Black Lion actually needs the most work to set it up for combining starting with the tail and back wings placed into position. The rear legs are then removed and reconnected into the mech form orientation then its feet are tucked in. The shoulder assembly is removed and reconnected into the right orientation. Lastly, the thighs are slotted into the leg Lions and locked in. Oddly enough, the head isn’t touched here yet based on the instructions and this follows the cartoon’s transformation sequence with all 5 lions connecting first then Keith the leader says “and I’ll form the head” and that’s when Voltron’s face and mech head form is revealed.
The arm Lions are next with the same procedure of having their legs tucked in then the lions are connected to the Black Lion’s shoulder assembly.
Lastly the head is formed and the weapons are attached to the Technic holes on the Red and Green Lion’s heads.
V. FINAL THOUGHTS
Honestly this is an amazing model to have and really looks like the classic Voltron most people grew up with and loved. The color selection really pops out a lot and I liked how they favored using the newer orange-yellow over the classic LEGO yellow for all the visible yellow parts.
The scale of this model is also soooo good! The Lions themselves are big enough models that it feels like you could purchase them separately. The final robot form is also so huge and has a good amount of detail to it that it looks like an actual die-cast toy model.
Part selection wise, this is actually a great model for a lot of small parts in a good range of colors. I’d actually recommend this as a good set to get simply for parts for making custom LEGO mech models and we also have some new pieces in here, both in new molds and in new color palettes. I particularly like the pearl gold pieces and the metallic silver ones.
While I do think highly of this, there’s still some things that I wish this model had straight from the box. Personally, I thought the legs of each lion felt lacking and could have been with more articulation, but I understand the designer’s choices, favoring stability and consistency in the movement angles of the limbs. This issue could be easily solved anyway by simple replacement of the joints with more articulated versions, but would definitely impact stability especially for the heaviest Black Lion. There’s also the issue of lacking poseability with the final Voltron form as you can only rotate the head, move the arms forward and back, and bend the elbows and wrists. Again, this is definitely due to the design team opting for more stability over articulation and I’ve actually seen a few people already modify the set to address these issues. Lastly, the back view of the model doesn’t look as polished as the front but that’s a very small compromise given all the built-in play features this huge set already has.
All these issues I have with it can easily be solved by fan builders and a bit of modification so it’s not as big of a deal breaker as it sounds.
All-in-all, I’d highly recommend this Voltron set for most LEGO collectors and especially the Japanese Mecha lovers out there. LEGO did an amazing job with designing and engineering this model and I just love looking at it. I might even have to get a second set just to have both the Lion forms and the Robot form displayed together as that would just make it so much cooler in my display area haha! Hope you enjoy this review as much as I did writing it and I highly encourage going for this set if you can.
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For those interested in LEGO mech building, I also have an eBook from 2015 called Mech Wars 2015 Instructional Primer. It contains some things I wrote about basic mech building, a bit about my Mech Warsuniverse, and all my early models from 2014-2015. If you’re looking for a resource that could help you start or even improve your mech building skills, you might find this eBook useful. 😀
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