So this is it. After waiting nine months since the first Lion/Pilot set was released by Mattel in February, we’ve come to the end of the road for Voltron. We now have the final piece of the puzzle, the Black Lion with pilot Keith. Mattel no doubt waited to release the Black Lion last so fans wouldn’t be able to connect any of the lions together until the very end. Well played Mattel. Well played.
Just so you know, I’ll be reviewing the Black Lion as its own figure. I will not be reviewing the completed Voltron here. That will be its own separate review. For now, I’m just taking a look at the Black Lion and the Keith figure. So without further ado, let’s take a look at Mattel’s Voltron Black Lion with pilot Keith set.
|PACKAGING– The packaging for both the Black Lion and Keith are in the same style as all the previously released sets. Keith comes in a box style packaging, colored in black to match the lion he pilots. He sits in a small window in the box with artwork from the cartoon on the left, with the Voltron logo and his name at the bottom. You can also see the key in the window as well. The back shows off the figure, the key, how he interacts with the black lion, and the Blazing Sword collect and connect piece Keith comes with.
The Black Lion comes in a gigantic window box, showing off the figure from nearly every angle. This is perfect for MOC collectors. The back has some photos of the Black Lion, and shows off his transformation, his interactions with the Keith figure, and where he sits to form the completed Voltron. The packaging for both figures is informative, has the retro feel to it, and is very attractive.
SCULPT – Keith seems to share the same body with Lance, and likewise Sven before. It makes sense, considering they’re all of a similar build. The body sculpt is good, and accurate to the show’s aesthetics. The head sculpt very much has the anime feel to it, and resembles Keith a lot. I especially dig the 80’s mullet he sports, which is also accurate to the character.
The Black Lion is huge, and rightfully so. He makes up Voltron’s head and torso, so he needs to be big. His shape is very box-like, which is accurate to the cartoon’s appearance. Mattel found a way to stay accurate to the original design of the cartoon, but still make sure the Black Lion transformed right and looked good as Voltron’s head and torso as well.
Considering almost every other toy incarnation of Voltron has features lions, specifically the Black Lion, looking very off in its lion form, it’s nice to see that Mattel found that balance. He looks very awesome in his lion mode. The head particularly looks fantastic, making it feel like it jumped right off the screen.
PAINT – Keith’s paint job is has his body cast in white plastic with red accents. The white of the figure looks clean, and there doesn’t seem to be any over spray of the red accents onto the white surface. His belt buckle is painted a tad sloppily, but everything else looks good. The tampo for the Voltron insignia on his chest looks great too. The head is painted cleanly as well, and the eyes seem to be tampoed on correctly, which is always a plus.
The paint job is otherwise devoid of any shading or great detail, which can be a downside of the figure, though it is pretty accurate to the aesthetics of the original cartoon.
The Black Lion is obviously largely cast in black plastic, so a large portion of him isn’t actually painted. The legs are also cast in their own color of plastic, which is gray. There is some red accenting on the head and shoulders, and the wings folded in the back are cast in red with white accents. The eyes of the Black Lion are painted in correctly without any sloppy edges.
Just like Keith, he’s otherwise devoid of detail, such as some kind of dark wash on the legs to bring out the robotic sculpt, but again if their goal was to match the cartoon, they did a good job. Fans have been critical of the lack of vac chrome legs, but the cartoon did always portray their legs as being white or gray, so it does make some sense.
ARTICULATION – Keith has a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, swivel-hinged elbows, waist swivel, t-hinge hips, and swivel-hinged knees. Every joint works fine, though they could all use a little more range. He could really benefit from some bicep swivels and thigh swivels too, but it’s not a big concern for me. He’ll always either be standing beside his lion, or sitting down in the cockpit, and he does both of those perfectly, so it really doesn’t bother me, but I could understand how it could bother some.
The Black Lion has a neck swivel, hinged jaw, cut shoulders and hips, hinged knees, hinged ankles, a waist swivel, and a multi-hinged tail. Now while the jaw is hinged, it can’t be posed open. It’s spring loaded, so after opening it, it will snap back shut. This is due to his transformation feature, which I’ll get to in just a bit. His legs are able to hold him up just fine, though you may find certain poses might cause his shoulders to buckle under the weight of the figure, but for the most part everything works great. Due to the springs in the legs, that might hinder articulation a bit too, but you can still find some dynamic poses for him.
ACCESSORIES – Keith comes with an alternate helmeted head, a key base, the tip of the Blazing Sword collect and connect, and the base and clip for the other half of the stand to display the sword. Keith also has a molded gun in its holster on his side. It looks cool, but it’s not removable, which is unfortunate considering his right hand is molded to hold a gun. I’ve said the same thing on every other pilot review, but it bears repeating.
The heads are easy to switch between, and the helmeted head looks great, though I have always wondered just how Keith hides his mullet up there. His feet plug in firmly to the key base, so that’s nice. The blade tip to the Blazing Sword looks fantastic, with clear yellow energy flowing around it, and airbrushed energy patterns on the blade itself to make it look like the energy is flowing through it.
It looks fantastic connected with the rest of the Blazing Sword (except for the obvious cut lines showing the separations in the blade) and with the other half of the sword display, you can prominently have it displayed on your shelf in front of Voltron, just as you would any other ceremonial sword.
The Black Lion definitely comes with the mother lode of accessories in this line. He comes with his own bladed weapon that fits nicely in the mouth of the lion, the standard version of the Blazing Sword, the star burst shield, and a set of another sword stand. The standard Blazing Sword is the exact size as the energized version, though the grip seems to be thinner for some reason, and the hand guard is looser than on the C&C Blazing Sword.
The addition of another sword stand is great too, if you want to display your lions separately, you can have both swords prominently displayed, as opposed to having to just lie them there on the shelf, or shove them in storage. The star burst shield looks fantastic, and is made from a very pliable soft resin. I’m guessing this was done to prevent breaking, or perhaps it was a safety compliance. Either way, it still looks really good.
Now a couple of things about these accessories. One, the sword, shield, and sword stand are not easy to find in the package. They are not on display inside the window. They are in the bottom of the package, under the Black Lion’s feet. You have to tear it open to find them, do NOT forget to find them before throwing the package away. If you do, you’ll be very disappointed when you realize the error.
Secondly, be careful when putting the accessories together. The sword requires you to snap the grip onto the blade, and the shield requires you to snap the handle onto the back. I had no problems with the sword, but when I tried to snap the handle of the shield onto its back, one of the tabs broke right off. This is definitely something to watch out for. I’ve since super glued it permanently in place and it’s given me no problems, but I just wanted to warn everybody about this, considering how difficult it is to get a replacement from Matty.
TRANSFORMATION / ACTION FEATURE – As we all know, the Black Lion transforms into the head and torso of Voltron, and because of that, his transformation is a bit more involved than the others. I admittedly had some trouble with it at first and actually had to resort to looking at the instructions. You have to rotate his shoulders backwards until they lock in, then fold up his legs.
Then straighten out his back legs, and flip the feet around, and flip down the two big tabs until they point downward. This is what will lock into the blue and yellow lions to help form the legs. Then, fold out the wings and position them into the thin slots on the back of the Black Lion’s folded up legs, fold up his tail against his back, and press the giant crest on his chest to have his head auto formed by the spring loaded transformation feature.
It’s funny, because this is the only instance of these auto transformation features actually being used to form Voltron. On every single other lion, the spring loaded features are only good for when you’re putting the lions back into standard lion mode, even though you never saw them transform back in the cartoon. You only ever saw them transforming into Voltron. And with forming Voltron’s head, this is the first and only time we get the spring loaded feature helping us form Voltron.
You can also place Keith inside the cockpit of the lion. All you have to do is fold his wings up out of the way, insert the key into his back, and lift up the cockpit. Inside you have a seat for Keith, and all sorts of stickers and decals for the panels and displays that you might actually see inside the cockpit of a giant robot lion. Keith fits perfectly inside and looks great, and the cockpit can easily be closed with him still inside.
FUN – As a figure, Keith is actually pretty fun. Mattel could have easily made him even less posable, and still gotten away with it, but they didn’t. Because of that, it is fun to handle and pose him, and to pose him with the other pilots as well. The Black Lion is a ton of fun, even by itself. He’s huge, like a small human baby or something, so that definitely adds to it. He feels great to pose and mess with, and he looks fantastic with all the other lions as well.
Of course I’ll admit that with all the other various Voltron incarnations, I never really did care too much about the lions individually, even when they were given great articulation. The real fun was always with forming Voltron, so if the Black Lion is the only one you own, you probably aren’t going to get too much fun out of it.
QUALITY CONTROL – No real QC issues with Keith or the Black Lion. The tab on the back of the shield doesn’t count, since it was fine until I broke it.
OVERALL – This is definitely a very solid set. The Black Lion is not without its frustrations, with the spring loaded legs and whatnot, but on the whole it turned out really well. The sculpt on the Black Lion and on Keith are both great, and reminiscent of the cartoon, as are the paint jobs.
Some might not be able to get over the lack of vac chrome, but I’m used to it and with all the lions next to each other it looks very cool. Articulation hounds might be annoyed at Keith’s poseability, and even though I consider myself an articulation hound, it doesn’t bother me on Keith. Most importantly though, as is with any toy, is that this set is fun.
The Black Lion is huge, and makes you feel like a kid, back when every toy felt gigantic in your hands. It’s iconic, due to it being the Black Lion of Voltron, makes a great end to the journey of collecting the line. Of course the real draw to any Voltron set is the fully formed Voltron himself, and I will get to that very soon. Trust me.
FINAL SCORE: 3.5 / 5
If you’d like to read my other Mattel Voltron Classics reviews, just click on the following links:
Where to buy:
Amazon, as of this writing, has 5 left in stock
Be sure to check out the rest of the photos below that couldn’t fit in the actual review. Just click on each thumbnail to enlarge.