Combiner Wars Liokaiser is now available exclusively at Entertainment Earth. There's a coupon code, SINGLES, which gets you $20 off, free shipping, plus a free diorama.
When your stomach is in knots and you find yourself just dreading the very act of passively existing, I find it beneficial to find small things to force myself to do, just to keep momentum going. Momentum is king. You might not do those small things well, 'cuz your brain isn't quite working at capacity, but you kinda just have to make yourself do things anyway, pushing up and through your emotional numbness. "Fake it until you make it?" maybe? Not quite, I dunno. Too platitude-sounding for what shitshow's going on in your mind. But it's close enough.
With that in mind, let me talk for a bit about Transformers Masterpiece Beast Wars Optimus Primal.
It's Beast Wars' 20th anniversary, and while Hasbro's been all "beast wars, what is that, optimus isn't no dumb monkey, have g1 recycled forever," TakaraTomy has stepped up and given us this amazing thing. (I've been singing TakaraTomy's praises in contrast to Hasbro a lot more these days, I feel. Am I weeabooing up or something?)
Let's consider the Generation 1 Masterpiece toys. Generally, they try to replicate a look from the cartoon, and the cartoon they're sourcing from was cell-animated. And so the toy, despite all its attempts to look like the cartoon as much as possible, must always fall short, because.... hey. Three-dee object existing in front of you. Flat cell-animated image. And you get into these debates like with the upcoming new Masterpiece Generation 1 Megatron: should he have a silver/chrome finish like a gun or his original toy, or should he have a flat matte light gray like the cell animation? There's always this dissonance between the source and the product, no matter how hard one tries. Masterpiece Shockwave might be the closest to achieving a seamless transition.
But Beast Wars' source material is a whole other animal. (so to speak) It was CGI, albeit mid-Nineties television CGI, and so the characters from the cartoon are "real." They don't look different when you look at them from the side versus the front or back, they have texture, they have alternating gloss and matte... and, frankly, they're more visually interesting. Ironhide and Ratchet are just cardboard box towers. A CGI model like Optimus Primal has curves and contours and nuance. Relatively speaking. This was 1996, again.
And that's where Masterpiece Optimus Primal really succeeds. He's glossy where he needs to be, he's matte where he needs to be, and, god of gods, his terrible texture-map-in-lieu-of-actual-modeled-fur-because-this-is-1996 is honest to god printed all over him. It doesn't come out well in my photography, but it looks like someone lightly hand-painted fur pattern everywhere on him that needs to be so. These interplays of various glossies and faux texture map honestly make the toy come alive. It's like the CGI model is standing on your shelf.
The painted-on-texture also has me a little on edge. Does this stuff scratch off easily? I dunno! I don't wanna test its endurance so much! And so I'm extremely careful with this guy. There is a small bit on his forearm, right over a seam between two adjacent plastic pieces, where you can see the texture painting wasn't successfully applied. And so I'm always eyeing that. During transformation, you have to rotate his robot head out at the same time as rotating in his gorilla head, and you have to get the rotation just right through this very tight space so there's no scraping the top of the gorilla head. I worry that I'll untransform him some day and find a scrape. And I have no idea how baseless this fear is, as this is a new painting technology to me.
The transformation is similar to the original, mostly because it kind of has to still be "arms become arms, legs become legs," but the differences are interesting to me. In the original toy, the ape head folded down and flipped over to become the robot chest; on this new toy, the robot chest is formed from the gorilla's stomach, while the gorilla head hides inside the torso. The gorilla back rotates upside-down for robot mode. The gorilla legs are a huge mess of parts on its way to becoming robot legs, rather than the original "just unfold them at the knees, switch the feet, the end" deal. Lots of flipping and turning there. I do recommend having fingernails. There's parts that require a very thin edge with leverage to unsecure them from their location. Usually on Transformer toys, there's little helpful edges or nobs that give you leverage, but that would mess with the contours and accuracy of each mode.
He's electronic. Push down his robot head, and his robot eyes glow. He comes with a number of alternate faces. Four for robot mode (neutral, screaming, Dreamwave smirk, and mouthplate deployed) and three for gorilla mode (neutral, growling, smiling).
He comes with his swords, which he can hold or store on his back, and he has both his flip-out shoulder missile launchers, and his forearm-deployed cannons. You definitely need your fingernails for the latter. You can do some folding on his backside to reveal his flight jets.
Other than my apprehension regarding the texture painting, there's not a lot for me to complain about. It's about as perfect as a Season 1 Optimus Primal toy as can be possible. In robot mode, he might as well be a fancy maquette reproduction of the CGI model. In ape mode... there are seams, but they're all understandable. And the choice of different faces brings whatever character is otherwise missing.
I think I'll like him if my emotions come back.
I have a lot of Combiner Wars Ratchets! Three and a half, to be imprecise. I told you about my first BotCon Customization Class Ratchet way back in the summer, but there were five more potential decoes for that customization class toy. I made four of them total: Marvel Ratchet (already linked), G2 Ratchet, SG Ratchet, and... Medix. (Medix is the .5 of my 3.5 Ratchets, as he's not really a Ratchet but shares a body.)
So I had these three Ratchets. One more Ratchet and a torso, and I could have an entire Ratchet combiner! But that would never happen, ha ha ha ha ha!
Ha ha ha ha.
TakaraTomy revealed that they were getting their own Ratchet release, swapping him in for the Smokescreen we got over here, for their version of Sky Reign, the Sky Lynx combiner. Obviously they were gonna cartoon-colors him up, and they did. Cartoon Ratchet was the only customization class option I didn't make. But this Ratchet would make four Ratchets. I'd have enough limbs for a Ratchet combiner.
IF ONLY THERE WERE A VOYAGER RATCHET TORSO
hey guess what i sent Cheetimus a Pyra Magna and told him to paint her into a lady Ratchet
Here's the thing about Lady Ratchet: the original preproduction intent for G1 Ratchet was that the character be a she instead of a he. Bob Budiansky got saddled with this "write up 30 bios for these robots over Thanksgiving weekend" deal and came back to Marvel the next week with a character named Ratchet, named after Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, who was a party girl and a snarky-ass snarkster who maybe got a little drunk from time to time. She was pretty awesome. But Hasbro was all "um no, this is a boy's toyline and so they all have to be boys we mean genderless but really boys, okay??" and Budiansky was like "well okay whatever" and changed the gender and that was that.
And so my intent is that this Voyager Class-sized Ratchet custom represent Lady Ratchet, as originally intended. No, not "Ratchette" or anything like that. She's Ratchet. If anybody's gotta signify their gender through their name, it's the Dude Ratchets. Lady Ratchet came first, okay?
Anyway, Cheetimus painted this thing for me, expertly as he always does, and I got her in the mail just as my TakaraTomy Ratchet, the fourth limb, also arrived in the mail. I had some small influence in Lady Ratchet's deco, such as demanding she keep the Marvel Red Helmet and such, but mostly I was like, "hey, Cheetimus, make this thing into Ratchet colors" and he delivered. Yay!
I put a Reprolabels Autobot logo sticker on her chest (an unused one from the Thrilling 30 Jetfire set), gave her BotCon 2009 Leozack's sword weapon, and that was that. Ratchet and her four smaller Ratchets combine to form Physicion. Get it? It's "physician" but with an O, because robots, I guess. Look, I dunno.
I'm not sure exactly why five different Ratchets are co-existing and forming a giant robot, but whatever the reason, it makes me happy.
The year was 2001! Transformers Beast Machines, the toyline, was not doing so great! And so a bunch of tail-end product was shuffled into the next toyline as store exclusives. A toy of Beast Wars/Machines Megatron as a robot that transformed into his Giant Head Spaceship Thing, But With Legs was eventually released at KB Toys as Robots in Disguise Megatron Megabolt. The back-of-the-packaging bio recast the toy as not Beast Megs but as RID Megatron, the redubbed Gigatron from the Car Robots anime.
I bought it, because, like, it was a BW/M Megatron toy I was worried we wouldn't otherwise get, and tried to personally ignore who the toy was "officially."
I'm not good at this. It bothered me. I am anal retentive.
Yeeaars later, Japan finally imported the series, sort of, but, like, on some weird nobody television station and released a bunch of Beast Machines toys in extremely limited numbers. And so the toy that would have been Beast Megs was finally released as himself. But he was, again, extremely limited, which made him both hard to find and expensive, and I was much poorer then. I sucked it up and shrugged. My Megatron Megabolt was close enough.
BUT I WAS STILL SECRETLY REALLY BOTHERED, YO.
Anyway. I decided recently that this hole in my otherwise pretty comprehensive Beast Megatron collection was something I now needed to plug. Easier said than done. Once again, extremely limited production run. Even if you have the money, you can't buy what isn't available to buy. My pal Robowang grabbed one off eBay earlier this year while I was lax in searching there, and for a pretty good price, if I recall. Like, it was listed under a typo or something. Anyway, he got one. He keeps it in his bathroom. I think he does this to taunt me.
Finally, after checking eBay for "Beast Wars Returns Megatron" every other day for several months, another one popped up, and I grabbed it. It's mine!
Megahead Megatron is a robot that transforms into a head with spider-legs -- y'know, like Mr. Freeze in New Batman Adventures. If you roll the spider-legs-head thing along the ground, the wheel-gears on the underside open and close the mouth (and launch the missile out of the mouth) while the spider legs articulate up and down. It's pretty awesome. It's hard to not like a head with spider legs.
In robot mode, Megahead Megatron is.... very back heavy. The whole spider-leg-geared contraption is an indivisible unit unto itself, and it's gotta go somewhere. It goes on the back. The robot mode's legs are a series of multiple ball joints, and you can imagine how well that goes. If the ball joints aren't tight, he's gonna collapse like a marionette. The balljoints on mine are thankfully stiff, but he's still a balancing act.
The head mode's missile launcher is springloaded to flip over the shoulders of the robot and land on the robot's head, giving Beast Wars Megatron's head a Beast Machines Megatron helmet and facemask. This is also pretty neat. There's magnets involved. I don't think toys can afford magnets anymore these days. Or springloaded missile launchers. And certainly not both at the same time as the geared spider leg contraption, anyway.
The huge difference between this Megahead Megatron and the US release Megatron Megabolt is the red was swapped out for purple. The silver plastic is also a little more purple. And although the Japanese-release Beast Machines product mostly didn't alter the American paint operations at all, this guy has a new set of paint operations -- the teeth on the giant spiderleg head are now painted white. It's a good addition.
Undocumented feature: Head mode fits on top of Fortress Maximus really nicely. Fits even better if you pull the balljointed spiderlegs out.
Yay, 3D printing! It's getting to be not-crappy! Now that Shapeways (the online 3D printing folks) has introduced a new material, black high-def acrylate, and my pal Trent Troop had a Dinobot head to purchase, I was like, yes, I will try this thing.
Shapeways' high-def acrylate, which currently only comes in black, is pretty close to looking like normal-ass molded plastic. You don't see any layers in the plastic, like you're looking at a toy made out of lasagna, and the sculpted detail is very fine. The only downside, at least for this project, was the piece comes in black, and I needed to make it gold and blue. This meant.... base coat layer! I was painting like some kind of adult, with preparedness and forethought and everything. Whaaaaaat. Luckily I had some medium gray acrylic paint sitting around from when I was painting up my BotCon Ratchets.
After that, it was only a matter of getting the gold and metallic blue paint on there. After using plain-ol' Gold Leaf, I decided the gold needed to be a little more orangey-er, and so I mixed some orange into my gold and painted it again. At this point, I think I've started to lose a little of the sculpted detail, but, eh, I don't feel like scraping it all off and starting over. It looks nice, though! I like it.
Trent/TheRobotMonster's got over 100 heads to choose from in his Shapeways store. There's some Optimuses, some Pretender Monsters, Skeletor, the goddang Sogmaster, Krang, Rung and Tarn... there's a bunch there. And all you gotta do is screwdriver away the head on the Titan Master toy itself, replace the head with the new one, and screwdriver the screw back in. Easy cheezy. You can make any Titans Return headmaster guy into Dinobot. Or the Sogmaster.