Updated, June 2006
It's been three years and the never-ending list has grown a tad out of date.
Chronicled below for your interest/amusement/pity/distain is as complete a list as
is ever likely to exist cataloging all known toys with a lion head for a chest. As
of this writing, the list comes in somewhere between 35 and 43 robots, depending on
how you count; for example are Exkaizer, King Exkaizer & Great Exkaizer really just
one lion chest, or two or three? I leave such deep and important philosphical questions up to the
reader (and there have been at least 7,000 of you according to the stats thus far).
And, yes, in case you are wondering, I am probably nuts.
It all started innocently enough, with a toy that many of the vintage
collectors among us have: Daltanias. I had always thought that this guy was
unique and a bit ridiculous...but he was one of the Godaikins that I had most
coveted when I was young, and so I was happy as heck when I finally laid my mitts on
him. Years later I picked up Kotobukiya's diecast GaoGaiGar figure, loving the
design and sorta getting a kick out of the lion-chested thing again. Later
still, I finally saw the DX Gaoking up close and snatched it up on a whim.
Standing the three of them together side-by-side, I wondered just how many
lion-chested robots were out there that I was ignorant of. Lots, it turned out.
So many in fact, that as I started hunting them down, I realized that I would
probably never manage to amass a complete collection.
Okay, okay, I can hear you already; "What; is this guy totally nuts?
Collecting just robots with lion-heads glued to their chests? That's like only
collecting puce dinky cars..." And in fact you're probably right. However...
This whole lion-chested thing has been a rather interesting ride; one which I
embarked on not because I'm totally in love with the design (although I
obviously do dig it more than is perhaps healthy), but because the quest to
complete "the set" was constantly taking me into uncharted territory. GaoGaiGar
aside, I'd never bothered much with the Brave line and really had no idea just
how large and cool it was. I mean, I know my Godaikins
well, but who the heck had ever heard of Eldoran
or Soul Lance Lazenca or even
recent stuff like Robotack
? Well, not me anyway.
If nothing else, this little adventure has made me become much more familiar
with toy lines that are generally unloved by gokin gaijin (much to the distress of my
wallet). So, in any event, if you think you've seen it all...if you think you knew
them all...hell, if you think you have them all...well, prepare to be surprised.
The Ground Rules
- Obviously, the toy in question must feature a feline head on its chest in
at least one of its modes.
- The feline head must be featured prominently. You should be
able to to look at the robot and say; "hey, that toy's got a big-ass lion head
for a chest!" This rules out stuff like Tobikage and Dancougar's feet
(Land Cougar & Land Liger) where the lion head technically ends up on the
chest, but you can't really see that without some serious squinting.
- The toy need not actually turn into a lion.
Appropriately enough, it turns out that Daltanias, while being my
toy, was also the
first lion-chested toy.
Daltanias is a three-way gattai, made up of Gunper, Autlas, and Berarios
, the lion
himself. Not a bad toy overall, with loads of gimmicks and lots of weight to it,
although it does have a few quirks common to old-school gokin – his proportions are a
bit out of whack, he looks like ass from the side, and you need to add and
remove bits to accomplish the gattai.
I wish I could say more about old Dalt', considering his importance in this
topos, but other than this truly unique sword, there's not a whole bunch more to
say about him.
I didn't really want to include Predaking on this list. Even though I do have
a few transformers, I don't really care much for the line in general,
particularly the combiners, or, as transfans affectionately refer to them,
I have a number of reasons for this prejudice, but they mostly boil down to
the fact that I've been spoiled by the superior gattai engineering of other
Japanese toys. My main problem with gestalts is that they need extra everything
in order to work. In Predaking's case that means you need to add fists, feet,
connecting plates and the head itself, which is pretty typical of TF gattai design. And
even after all of that patchwork, the resulting to still looks rather
Still, Predaking is historically important in the lion-chested chronology
because after Takara released him, Bandai followed up with a law suit that
claimed he was a copy of the Daltanias design. This was mentioned in passing by
Predaking's designer, Akitaka Mika, in an
and although he didn't mention the result of the trial, judging by the amount of
lion-chested stuff released later by Takara and Tomy I can only assume that the
case was dismissed. So even though Daltanias started the trend, it was actually
Predaking that paved the way for all the cool stuff that followed.
Bandai's Super Sentai show Liveman was the next series to give us a lion-chested
robot. In many ways, Liverobo is very similar to his predecessor. He's got a lot
of metal, and is another three-way gattai, made up of a lion, a machine dolphin, and some kid bird
. Liverobo is much better proportioned than Daltanias, doesn't
need extra parts, and looks quite good from all angles.
Okay, this is where things start to get a bit silly. Sarbeiger one of
Takara's early toy/kits. I don't know a whole heck of a lot about this
show, but the robot turns into a disembodied lion head. In fact, all the
characters from this series do. Maybe this makes sense in the context of
the show, but it certainly seems wacky to me. Points awarded for the
largest teeth in my collection.
After milking the Transformers line for the better part of the 80s, Takara
begins turning out the Brave series of robots
. The first of these is Exkaizer,
which, depending on how you count, gives us 2 or 3 different lion-chested
is the first among its lion-chested brethren to have a lion head for
a chest while having no alternate lion mode to go with it. Exkaizer himself is a futuristic
sports car that transforms into a robot. Flicking a switch on the robot causes
the lion head to pop out for extra power.
Exkaizer also has a trailer (a sports car with a trailer?), which he can
power-up with to become King Exkaizer
. Of course King Exkaizer has an even
bigger lion-chest (again, without a lion to go with it).
Joining them in their battle for justice is Dragonkaizer
, which is a huge
spaceship with a transformation
that makes even Iron Gear
Dragonkaizer redeems himself by spitting apart into power armor for King Exkaizer, thereby forming Great Exkaizer
. The lion head from King is recycled
while adding a red and gold mane for extra evil-crushing power.
This is a pretty neat toy. It's huge – the largest of all the lion-chested
robots out there. Like the rest of the Brave line, however, it's made completely
of plastic (and I was so looking forward to calling this piece "A Pride of Gokin".
Oh, well). It doesn't look too bad from the side, but it has even less
articulation than Daltanias, the only joints being at the elbows.
The lion chest skips a Brave generation and returns – this time with a lion
body – with Great Dagaarn GX. Dagaarn is lots of fun. He consists of a lion
that each transform into a robot. The gimmick here is that Ga-Oon,
(the lion) is motorized. Activating this feature causes Ga-Oon to walk across
floor while in lion mode. In robot mode the motor drives his gatlin gun and
bazooka. I'm not usually all that impressed by motorized toys (mainly because
most of them are dead in the water without their batteries), but I thought that
this was a neat idea, particularly the way that the motor is reused in the three
Dagaarn himself is formed by combining a police car with a space ship
. Although I generally dock points for including a train in the
transformation (bite me; I'm a locomotive bigot) it does result in a pretty
Of course Dagaarn and Ga-Oon combine to create Great Dagaarn GX who ends up
with the lion head in the "proper" place. Dagaarn suffers from a problem that
plagues most power-up toys; that is, an otherwise impressive robot is forced to
wear Super Booties of Justice, which sort of diminishes the toy's imposing
presence. Extra points for combining the gatlin gun and the bazooka while
managing to make use of the motorized action in a new way.
Bandai's turn again. Wontiger is a pretty straightforward lion-chested toy,
having the standard lion and robot modes. The only thing that makes him slightly
interesting is that he combines with Dairen-Oh
to form an even more powerful robot
, this time with a different hat.
Not content to let Bandai and Takara have all the fun, Tomy decides to get
into the act with its own set of lion chested robots created for the Eldoran series
. These are some of the most under-appreciated toys in our hobby. Made
mostly of plastic (yet of better quality than the stuff that Takara was using)
these things are large, tricked-out with gimmicks, and have some of the craziest
Ganbalger is formed from three lesser robots; Goutiger (tiger), Kingelephan
(elephant) and Mahaeagle
(eagle), each of which transforms into a robot in their
own right. The individual robots are rather amusing in that they all have their
heads attached to their backs
while in robot mode.
The resulting Ganbalger gattai is a very sleek (and booty-free!) robot. Of
course there is a price to pay for this engineering-wise, and that is that
Eldoran toys don't really transform
per-se. Generally the gattais and/or
transformation involves taking them apart and putting them together in different
ways. Brave toys are guilty of this to lesser-extent as pieces need to be
removed and attached in different ways in order to complete the gattais, but not
nearly to this degree. This either bothers you or it doesn't (when I was a kid I
always considered this to be cheating; I guess that I'm just a sucker for toy
engineering). In this case, the overall coolness wins me over.
From the same series as Ganbalger, Ribalger is probably the most
straightforward lion-chested robot on this list. He's a lion
into a robot with a lion head on his chest with no gattaing to confuse the
issue. Looks very cool in both modes; however, you need to add and remove pieces
to switch between the two, which, in my opinion, is worse than having to
disassemble the toy to transform it.
Back to the Brave series. Super Build Tiger is like a latter-day version of
the vintage Devastator with a couple key differences. First, you don't need a
dozen extra pieces in order for the gattai to work. Secondly, there are actually
two different gattais in here, both with lion chests; Build Tiger
Build Tiger. And again, the Brave designers must be as in love with the whole
lion-chested thing as me because they've managed to add lion heads to a robot
that doesn't have an actual lion in it anywhere.
Okay, this one is borderline. Ohranger's chest is actually some kind of
sphinx-like head. Well, at least there's an actual lion in there somewhere.
Ohranger represents the "dark times" in Bandai's sentai line when the designs
had lost any sense of originality, innovation or aesthetics. The lion aside, the
rest of the toy barely transforms at all
. I'm not really sure what the legs are
supposed to be. But it's got a lion chest, so hey, it can't be all bad...
The lion chest skips another Brave generation and re-emerges in Takara's
Brave of Gold series, giving us Great Goldran.
Great Goldran is a heck of a toy, made up of 5 different robots which again
transform in their own right. This time around we have Ougon Jyu Kaiser
lion), Ougon Ninja Sorakage
(a condor), Ougon Kenshi Dran (sports car), Ougon
Shogun Leon (fighter plane) and Ougon Ryu Gorgon
(a dinosaur). The first thing
that you may notice is that GG is, well, gold. Besides event-exclusive recolours,
I don't believe that I've ever seen so much vacuformed chrome in one place
before. I'm almost tempted to wear gloves whenever I handle this guy.
The next thing that you're likely to notice is the huge assortment of missile launchers
. Although I can't be totally sure, I'm fairly well convinced that at
29 firing missiles, GG has more firepower than any other toy you're likely to own. I
suppose whether or not you go for this kind of thing is a matter of personal
taste, however one thing's for sure – if you have Great Goldran on your shelf,
it's pretty darn difficult to ignore him.
is formed by combining Ougon Ryu Gorgon with Ougon Kenshi Dran.
Somehow Takara manages to pull this off without creating something that looks
like a dinobot reject. Goldran's sword and scabbard are particularly cool.
is a combination of Ougon Jyu Kaiser and Ougon Shogun Leon.
Ougon Ninja Sorakage
transforms quite nicely with no additional gattai
required and has a cool sword and scabbard of his own as well.
Of course all three robots combine to form Great Goldran himself. The lion is
basically sacrificed to the gattai gods or Eldoran Syndrome as he has to be
ripped to pieces in order to combine with Goldran. The result is a huge,
imposing piece of firepower. Thankfully all the missiles almost make one forget
about the Super Booties.
Yet another lion-chested Brave toy, but this time with a distinctive
difference; he transforms into a sword
. When I first saw this thing I
figured that it was an homage to Microchange; Takara was again producing weapons
that transformed into tiny robots. Once I actually received the toy,
however, I was surprised to see from the illustrations on the packaging that he
was actually in scale with the other Brave robots. I sure wouldn't want to
be hit with this sucker.
The transformation is pretty simple and the articulation virtually
non-existent. The battery-powered growl and light-up eyes are sorta neat,
The following was written when the only GGG toys were the Kotobukiya and the original
Takara DX. The pictures referenced are of CM's new diecast transforming Brave Gokin toy.
If you're like me, prior to getting into this whole lion-chested thing you
probably hadn't really heard of any of these toys other than Daltanias,
Predaking and GaoGaiGar. With a very popular anime series behind him and being
only nine years old, GGG is probably the most recognizable toy on this list to newer
collectors. A well-loved design, GGG has appeared in a number of different
materials from a number of different companies. Although the diecast version is nice, it's not really a toy (and doesn't even transform), so I thought it best to cover the original Takara DX version (don't even get me started on the PVC variants).
GGG is a 4-way gattai (Five, if you count the Goldymarg
and the Goldion
Hammer), formed by Drill Gao
(drill/tank thingy), Stealth Gao
(bullet train – ugh) and Mechalion Gyaleon
(the lion). Gyaleon is the
only one to actually feature a transformation
and the only one that has a robot
form. Mechalion Gyaleon also features a lion chest in regular mode.
One of the neatest things about the Takara DX GGG is the gattai. I have never
seen the anime, but I get the feeling from assembling the toy that it went
together exactly the same way that it would have in the show. The train slides
into position and locks to forms the shoulders in a satisfying way. The legs
split and join onto Mechalion Gyaleon in a way that makes sense. The
coup-de-grace is when Stealth Gao docks with the rest: the biceps rachet down,
the forearms slide up, the fists pop out by themselves, the helmet locks down
over Mechalion Gyaleon's head and the landing gear powers-up the mane. No
removable parts, and no leftover bits.
Sadly, GGG was to be the last of the Brave series...
A Transfomer. A domestically-designed transformer. From Beastwars.
Oh, how far I have fallen...
Once again I descend into madness. Torabolt is from the Robotack line
by Bandai. From the scant few pictures that I'd seen, I wasn't all that
hot on tracking this guy down. Goofy robots just really aren't my thing.
Oh, how wrong I was. Diecast. Magnemo joints.
Interchangeability with the rest of the line (which I picked up in its entirety
after getting this little guy)... What's not to love? I wince every
time I store his sword in lion mode, though.
Special bonus points for actually being manufactured in Japan.
Soul Lance Lazenca's Ruta came out of nowhere. This is probably the most
obscure toy on this list, being produced only in Korea by Sonokong, a company known
more for its lower-quality Brave series toys than original or even legitimate
Ruta is a pretty standard lion-chested bot, although it does have some
features that make it stand out. The odd dog-like muzzle is certainly unique.
Ruta is also quite large for a stand-alone toy, standing at around 15 inches
tall. The plastic feels a bit brittle and creaks ominously when I transform him,
though; which I suppose is to be expected giving its lineage.
I'm not really sure what to think of Ruta, but he's certainly an interesting
toy. Of all the lions in my collection, he seems to generate the most
interest from others perusing my shelves.
I suppose I should have known that the Japanese would have an entire line of
Lego devoted to building giant robots. And of course what robot line would
be complete without a lion-chested robot? Well, not Diablocks
, let me tell
This was my first experience with Diablocks and it was a hoot. I was
never much of a lego kid, but as I put this guy together, the possibilities
seemed endless. You can build four different robots, three of which each
transform quite nicely. The final mode is the big lion-chested gattai
which requires completely rebuilding the thing. Normally I'd bitch about
something like that, but this is Lego we're talking about here.
The final mode is huge, heavy and surprisingly poseable. If you ever
enjoyed making your own robots out of domestic Lego as a kid, you should
definitely try to hunt down at least one of the kits from this line.
*Added in 2006
After being lost in the PVC and resin wilderness for years, the Genesic Gaogaigar design
was finally fully realized as a diecast transforming toy as God intended thanks to
CM's new Brave Gokin line
. Although not a perfect transformation like their previous plastic
exclusive, it has the distinct advantage of being one third the price and boasting
diecast to boot. Though it is rather ironic talking about derivative designs
in an article dedicated soley to a single type of robot, GGGG is one of the least
imaginative designs on this list. From a distance it's pretty difficult to tell him apart
from GGG, at least in full gattai form...
Bandai's Super Sentai
line has aged fairly well over the years, managing to
maintain some level of diecast with fairly innovative transformations. GaoKing
doesn't suffer from many of the Brave series' shortcomings – the plastic is
better; there's metal; you don't have to disassemble the thing to combine it;
way less stickers, etc.
But then again, the Super Sentai line isn't quite the same um, animal, as
other lines. For one thing, the individual components don't usually transform by
themselves. It saves a whole lot of engineering effort if a tiger has to only
worry about transforming into a right arm. Secondly, although their
interchangeable design allows one to create your own mech, the GaoRangers don't
really power-up, which means less funky connection points and/or reassembly is
That being said, the transformation GaoBison is certainly very well designed.
GaoLion and GaoEagle also integrate quite well.
All in all, a nice toy and a decent surprise from Bandai after several years
of so-so sentai design.
*Added in 2006
The Gao God Chogokin DX All Beast Combination is essentially just a recolor of Gaoking,
although Bandai did at least go the extra mile and add new details to each of five animals
as well as a new crossbow gimmick.
*Added in 2006
Part of Bandai's short-lived Battlex line, Leon Caizer is an odd mix of fighting
machine and traditional robot toy. The thing is a battery-powered assemble-yourself
kit. And assemble-yourself don't just mean snapping a few sprues together; with
Battlex you have to put together the entire walking/fighting mechanisms. But the
real kicker is that you get to decide which gears to use where. Will you go for
a quick running mech, or perhaps slow and steady but with extra weapon power?
Leon Caizer doesn't march across the floor in a zombie-like gait as most walker-type
toys do. Heck, once you turn the ignition key you've got a serious coffee table
clearing action going on...
Unless you're really into the motorized gimmick it's pretty hard to recommend Leon Caizer
on his other merits. The stickers are just awful and I had to re-glue every single damn
on of them. And if you're into articulation, you'd best head for the hills now as his bad
boy takes crown for Worst Articulation In a Lion Chest Ever. Ie; none.
Takara's Daigunder line
gives us Rogamaru
; two virtually
identical cats that can combine in two different ways to form two lion chests.
Since they're basically recolours of each other, the transformations and gattais
really aren't all that different.
The toy itself is a mess. The transformations are uninspired and they
look rather awful in just about any mode that you put them in. Perhaps
their videogame gimmick would make them a bit more fun, but since I don't really
play video games, I can't say.
Another lion chest from Daigunder. This one is a lot nicer than Double
Fang, having both convincing lion
and robot modes. Bulion can also be
combined with Daigunder himself to make yet another lion-chested robot.
It took me a while to get into this guy. Initially I had only seen pictures
and the whole lion's-head-on-the-shoulder thing, coupled with the
Ferris wheel look to the mane kinda turned me off.
Of course it turned out that Bandai had more in store for us. Enter Gouraijin,
which took two combining beetles, added lots of metal, rubber treads and wheels
(with working suspension system!) and a cool-looking gattai. I was sold. And
then Bandai released Fuuraimaru, which would allow Sempuujin and Gouraijin to
combine to form Gouraisempuujin, which of course had the lion's head in the
place, and gives it its place on this list.
Gouraisempuujin is huge. Almost as large Great Exkaizer and much heavier
thanks to all that diecast, big G is certainly an impressive robot.
Yikes! Where the heck did this thing come from? Gattai-oh is an
interesting and new concept (well, new to me at least); a motorized,
automatically transforming and automatically combining
course the transformation and gattai are very simple, but then you have to
expect that given what it needs to do.
Even though this set is aimed at young children, I had a bit trouble getting
it to work correctly myself. Thankfully, Takara includes a VHS tape with
an episode of the show and a video on how to put together and run the set.
Once you figure out where to put things and in what order, the resulting show is
quite spectacular. The three vehicles
each start out on their own
platform, turn around, zip along on their own track, transform into the
necessary components and combine in the middle at an elaborate junction.
From there, depending on how you have configured the track, Gattai-oh will
either continue on him merry way and destroy whatever obstacles he encounters,
or turn around, separate and transform and then start the process again in an
endless Moebius gattai loop. Heck, with a few beers, Gattai-oh could make
for an evening's entertainment.
The only real problem with Gattai-oh is that he's a one-trick pony. He
can't transform without working batteries and he doesn't really stay together if
you pick him up. I'd be surprised if he could hold a kid's attention for
very long. Still, I got him cheap and don't regret the purchase one bit.
Digimon. Ye gods, I must be pretty far gone. Apparently Loweemon
was originally planned to be a Japanese toy and was canned at the last minute.
He was eventually released in very limited numbers in the North American market
and disappeared rather quickly. Digimon market speculators take note.
I don't know enough about Loweemon to be overly-articulate. He's
basically an action figure with removable armor that you can attach to different
endoskeletons in order to form either a lion or, um...a robot? A warrior?
I would have guessed robot, except that his helmet looks like a mask and he's
got eyes. Whatever the hell he is, he sucks. He doesn't like to
stand up and he's always shedding pieces.
Twenty years into the line, Machine Robo joins the dark side and add as lion-chested
robot to the pantheon. Mugen General 3 is a combination of Carry Eagle
and Air Leon
. While being the first "official" gattai from
the Machine Robo Rescue Mugenbine line, the result is some that would make
Victor Von Frankenstein proud.
*Added in 2006
Didn't I just review this toy a second ago? Another entry in the seemingly endless Mugenbine line,
Victory Leon Mugen Combination DX shares an awful lot of similarities with Air Leon and his
derived gattais. Still, he generally looks a lot nicer than most of the Frankensteinish
combinations in this line, official or otherwise.
*Added in 2006
Some days you have to wonder if PLEX is even trying. I picture some saki-laced conversation
in a smoke filled bar somewhere where the boss's son declares that simplifying Wontiger,
removing all articulation and adding a terrifyingly complex auto-gattai/transformation is
the one true path to kid's hearts. So we got MagiLegend DX Legendary Joined Gods. Maybe next
time they'll just get a tattoo like the rest of us.
*Added in 2006
Ah, yes; more uncharted robo territory, this time Key Bots
. A combination of the Heat Wolban
and Baning Burn
core monsters gives us "Neo Breast Baning", one of the countless possible
Key Bot permutations. For those previously unfamiliar with Key Bots, the gimmick here is
that each robot/animal/monster is held together by a central "core" piece. You can attach
the various interchangeable pieces to these cores simply by snapping them on; however, the only
way to disassemble any given gattai is to use the special core key. In this case the key is a nice
hunk of diecast designed to double as a sword. Turning the key does indeed produce the desired
result, however, there's also some spring-loaded action here; Key Bots don't so much disassemble
as explode, which on reflection is probably one of the things that the kids seem to love about 'em.
*Added in 2006
Continuing their dubious tradition of making the most boring sentai toys on earth, Konami
gives us the first lion chested robot in their ongoin Sazer property. It's a robot
and a 'vehicle
that combines to give you a new, bigger robot. I never thought that that could be executed in
boring fashion, but someone Konami manages it. I can't even work up the energy to dislike it.
*Added in 2006
Part of the Transformers Galaxy Force line, Ligerjack seems incongruous amongst his vehicle-centric
fellows. The perfunctory transformation is, well, perfunctory; not particularly well executed
or interesting, but I suppose is preserves articulation which will keep certain people happy. Something
just feels like its missing here...
*Added in 2006
Candy toys have sure come a long way since the days of Cracker Jack. Now we get candy toys that
have virtually all the same gimmicks as the high-end DX's. And sometimes you get special
candy-exclusives such as the "Four Holy Beast Box Mugen Combination". In order to assemble
Mugen Emporer you need to track down at least four different toys; Mugen Suzaku, Mugen Seiryu,
Mugen Genbu & Mugen Byakko. The set is compatible with any of the Mugenbine line's Mugenroids, although
it does have its very own exclusive candy version, however, it isn't quite up the same quality level
as the others.
Perhaps due to the fact that it wasn't over-engineered like most other MRM's, the final gattai
doesn't look nearly as strange as the other entries in this line. Recommended, if you can still
*Added in 2006
One of the very first Mugen Engine toys, Arc Tiger adds a new twist to the lion-chest thing --
literally. The gimmick here is the Mugen Engine itself, which "powers" various gimmicks in
the toy's three modes. In robot mode this give it the dubious capability of being able to
spin both the robot's head and the lion chest while in robot mode. Perhaps if he gets
dizzy enough he can toss his robo cookies on the advancing enemy. Or whatever.