On occasion, I like to entertain the notion that the Voltron from the Netflix Legendary Defender series could someday become a Soul of Chogokin figure.
I know the audience isn’t quite there. The kinds of fans who flocked to Legendary Defender in the 2010s are not like the fans who were drawn in the 1980s to Voltron: Defender of the Universe or the original Beast King GoLion in Japan. And from what I understand of the Legendary Defender fandom, the show left a really bad taste in the mouths of some of its most ardent supporters that might make any sort of subsequent merchandising futile. I can dream a little, though.
It wouldn’t be the first American work to have the privilege of being rendered into premium collectible format through the Soul of Chogokin line—that honor goes to Gipsy Danger from Pacific Rim. But when I look at the 2016 release of the SoC old-school Lion Voltron and marvel at its presence (as well as the almost-as-cool 2019 Dairugger/Vehicle Voltron release) I think about how great it would be for the new-school Voltron to be standing in display cases and on shelves in people’s homes. While I’m not as big a fan of the more recent design compared to the original, I’d be confident that the Soul of Chogokin line would make it look like a million bucks.
The main barrier, as already mentioned, is that the majority of the Legendary Defender fandom couldn’t care less about how cool the giant robots are. What fueled its popularity was the characters and their relationships (both real and imagined), and there isn’t a strong enough connection between those characters and their mecha for there to be a strong emotional bond between viewers and robots—like with many Gundam series, for example. A 2018 post on the Voltron subreddit meant to drum up votes for an SoC Legendary Defender barely garnered any support. Maybe if the Soul of Chogokin release came with plenty of material based on the characters (perhaps much more detailed human figures than what you’d typically get from SoC releases), it could bridge the gap to an extent.
There are also plenty of past series that garnered unexpected fanbases who cared far less about the giant robots. God Mars built up a significant female audience due to its handsome characters and drama, and it debuted the same year as GoLion in Japan. Granted, God Mars also had impressive toy sales that contributed to its success, and it came out in a different time, place, and culture, so the comparison between it and Legendary Defender is limited at best.
The audience for a Soul of Chogokin Legendary Defender Voltron needs to be there to be justified, and the best hope in that sense might be to play the long, long game. While the main fandom for Legendary Defender skews older, there are probably young kids who have watched it on Netflix and like the robot action. It would probably be decades before they reach adulthood and have the disposable income to afford figures costing hundreds of dollars, but perhaps their nostalgia (not unlike the nostalgia that fuels the SoC line in general) would still be running strong.
So, see you in 2035?