Lookit me, I got another Arcee. The one on the right is Japan's deco. She's the new one.
There are things I like about the plain ol' domestic version on the left. I like the use of black, for example. I think it adds a nice contrast color to her that gives her some visual interest beyond the kind of value-samey white, pink, and gray. I like that the larger rifle is painted, which if you think about it is a bizarre choice, since why would Hasbro waste paint applications on the rifle? 99% of the time they leave weapons unpainted, since using up your paint budget on the actual figure seems preferable, but both of Hasbro Arcee's weapons have paint. The smaller gun has just the sliver of gray, while everything that isn't a handle or a peg is painted on the larger gun. And it's both black and gray paint, too. (Okay, the larger rifle is pink if you don't paint it, and maybe Hasbro didn't want a pink gun, I dunno.) Also the Hasbro one's like $15 domestic instead of $30 imported, so, you know, half as expensive.
But those positives aside, and even though I thought that I'd always prefer the Hasbro deco, I changed my mind a bit once we got to see the TakaraTomy deco. Since Finally Arcee's First Toy The Way Most People Would Define As Such is kind of a big 30th Anniversary event, I thought it might be worth it to splurge for the "deco the way the designers intended," aka slavishly adherent to the original cartoon colors. And while import Arcee's larger rifle remains unpainted, there's a lot of stuff I like about the robot's deco that's a fair trade to me. For example, the paint wraps all the way around her torso instead of ending abruptly at the seams. And Hasbro's version looks like it was trying to avoid the whole "pink bikini" look by not painting the crotch of the pink bikini, but honestly it just looks like a crotchless pink bikini without that deco there, so, um, whoops. The gray lower midsection is more cartoon accurate AND its relative darkerness obscures the uncanny-valley organic round tummy-with-a-bellybutton the sculpt has. So that's nice.
Anyway, I felt okay splurging because this toy was surprisingly fun to own. When I preordered her and Chromia, I expected Arcee to be kinda whatevs and Chromia to be the fuckin' bomb, but in person Chromia's remolding makes her a chore to deal with and Arcee's fun. Shellformery fun, but fun nonetheless. And so I'm happy to get the more expensive version. Her toy's a milestone, after all.
Plus now I can steal the painted larger rifle from the Hasbro one to give to the other! Best of both worlds! (And eventually scrape out the support struts from inside the new one's palms so she can hold her weapons non-ridiculously, to match what I did with the Hasbro one.)
look i only said the comics were stopping
When this new Voyager Class Optimus Prime was first introduced to us, we didn't know he was going to be a super robot's torso in some new subline imprint called Combiner Wars. And so we were all sort of staring at him, scratching our heads, wondering what was up. New Optimus was lookin' kinda weird. Photography of him cleverly obscured the combined-robot crotch hanging off his back, and his limb connection points and super robot head were likewise obscured. Knowing that certain elements were being compromised to incorporate a torso mode, not to mention existing mostly to be the eingineering groundwork for another toy, made everything fall into place.
Combiner Wars Motormaster is a pretty damn extensive retool of Combiner Wars Optimus Prime. They look like they share a bunch of parts, but it's always fewer parts than you think. Yeah, from the thighs down, they're the same toy, but nearly everything from there up is new. I'm talking like nothing but the fists, the backs of the biceps, and some structural parts of the torso. The entire front of the cab on either is different, as are the arms and chest and heads. Functionally, they are the same toy, but their sculpt differs.
CW Prime is a beefy friggin' Optimus Prime. He's a little pinheaded, but that's partly due to his transformation -- his neck sits on a rotating panel that obscures his head in truck or torso mode, and there's not a lot of clearance for it otherwise. The super robot head hides inside his giant backpack. His chest windows are fake kibble, with the real truck windows placed on the backs of his arms. His legs transform like basically any Optimus Prime ever. Motormaster is the same except he gets different sculpted details other than fake chest windows.
Both these guys are meant to be the torso of a combined super robot, so some key joints ratchet very toughly. The hips in particular are very solid, and their ratcheting resting points are pretty far from each other, which makes the sculpted slant at the bottom of the toes feel silly. There's no ratcheting point that lines up with how his toes are sculpted against the ground.
Optimus gets two guns that combine into a larger gun and Motormaster gets a gun and a sword that combine into a larger sword. The combined weapons are intended for their combiner robot forms. In torso mode, you can keep their chest clamshell closed, or open it up to place Legends Class Blackjack (or his future retool, Rodimus) inside as armor.
Optimus Prime's a beefy Prime, very wide and boxy, which are traits we don't get in an Optimus Prime toy much anymore, so I like him for that. Most, if given a choice between the two, would choose Motormaster. Motormaster gets far, far fewer toys, and other than the obvious Optimus legs the base toy seems geared more towards Motormaster than Optimus.
This is Shouki! You probably don't know who he is. I'm a living Transformers encyclopedia and I barely know who he is. This is because he shows up in the Japanese-only series Headmasters, which is dull-as-rocks -- the Headmasters anime was that awkward growing pains period when Takara was seemingly trying to tell Transformers stories our way, but failing, before they say "screw it" and go full-on "this is stuff we know how to do well" the next year with Masterforce. Anyway, this is Shouki, the leader of theTrainbots. In the terrible English dub that aired in Southeast Asia at the time, his name was Grimlock. Yup.
This exclusive toy from Japan interested me because it's finally a toy of Classics Astrotrain as a new character. Everyone else except Classics Megatron got one of those, and for the past nine years I've been hankering for that Astrotrain toy to be shoehorned as some other character. I mean, I know why that hasn't happened -- he's a Triple Changing space shuttle/bullet train, and there aren't any other Triple Changing shuttle/trains in Transformers. But that's why I wanted to see it done. Like with the Cloud Rodimus I talked about a while back, I like seeing characters get new altmodes via redecoes of other half-appropriate toys. Shouki transformed into a bullet train, and he does so now. He now also transforms into a space shuttle.
Now here's where it gets wacky. It was decided that Shouki's shuttle mode is actually Shouki disguising himself as Micromaster Skystalker's shuttle base, the Thunder Arrow. To that end, he comes with a Mini-Con partner who transforms into a bow, recolored as Skystalker. Get it? Thunder Arrow? A bow? And this Skystalker decoy is actually Daniel Witwicky in an Exo-Suit. WHAT.
Daniel has a little trouble being Shouki's bow, though. Shouki has some forearm kibble that doesn't really want any wide weapons with 5mm pegs to attach there. You can force it to make it work, but it's not fun or intuitive. The whole convoluted idea was that close to being perfect, if not for that detail. But don't worry, it makes up for itself in other areas. While Shouki is in bullet train mode, Daniel can be contorted into a new configuration and attach to the top of the train to complete a "Pantograph Mode." In other words, he becomes the TV-antenna-like contraption you see on top of electric trains that connect them to the power lines above. This is both ingenius and hilarious to me. I really like this.
Shouki himself is very well painted. The stripe that runs down the side of his vehicle modes even has a gradient. He's a pretty toy. However, his colors are pretty close to the colors Astrotrain got over here in the United States back in 2006. Our Astrotrain was white, like Shouki. Japan's was dark gray and purple, and so there's no conflict over there. I lucked out, though, since I'd replaced my Hasbro Astrotrain with a Takara one a few months ago because my white one had yellowed due to age. And so I have no color scheme overlap. If you still have an original Astrotrain, though, owning this guy might be harder to justify.
NOTE!!!!: People keep asking me where I'm going to put my reviews after the Shortpacked! comic ends. The answer is here, still. This website ain't goin' no where! And when I get new toys I wanna talk about, I'll still talk about them here, same as I always have been.
The Masterpiece line to me was pretty blah back a few years ago when all the toys were mostly the same height in robot mode. Optimus, Grimlock, Megatron, Rodimus, Optimus a few more dozen times... But these days, they're doing more than just Big Guys and they're trying to scale them according to how they appeared in the cartoon, which means you've got tall guys like Optimus, slightly less tall guys like Soundwave and the jets, medium-sized guys like Prowl and Wheeljack, and tiny guys like Bumblebee. Stretching out in the other direction is Ultra Magnus.
Ultra Magnus might be the first guy in this new paradigm that isn't scaled perfectly to how tall he is in the cartoon -- he's just a head or so taller than Optimus Prime, but this toy he's a few heads taller. This is because they seem to have wanted MP Magnus and MP Prime's truck cabs to be the same size. And when your entire body is the trailer of a car carrier, you're probably going to be way taller than the guy who's just a truck cab.
Speaking of which, unlike the original Ultra Magnus toy, which was really just a redecoed super robot trailer combiney thing for the original Optimus Prime, this new Ultra Magnus doesn't have an Optimus Prime robot inside him anywhere. The truck cab splits up completely differently to help complete the torso. It can remain attached during transformation or detach from the trailer hitch as needed. There being no white Optimus Prime involved makes me a little sad, but I guess engineering challenges may have gotten in the way of that. It probably would have involved taking the trailer apart, at any rate, if there was to be any leg articulation, while this toy manages to not need anything to separate during transformation. Even the missile launchers are on little arms so you don't have to unplug and plug them where they need to go in either mode.
Speaking of missile launchers, Masterpiece Ultra Magnus is also unique in Masterpiece in that his vehicle mode, at least from the back of the truck cab, is really obviously a bunch of Ultra Magnus robot parts rather than being based on any real-life car carrier trailer. It's accurate to the original toy and the cartoon, but it's still conspicious next to the Real Life Licensed Cars that have been the staple of the line for a while.
That said, it's a fun and hefty toy. It's not annoying to transform, and it's a fun process throughout. When I see him, I actively want to transform him -- even the part where you replace the real rubber tires in his feet with smaller fake plastic molded tires that match the animation model better. It's ridiculous and you don't really need to do it except for aesthetic reasons, but the change itself is fun to operate.
He comes with two faces which are interchangeable. One's a stoic face and one's a shouting face that's supposed to accompany use of his extra pair of Matrix-holding hands. (Matrix not included.) I love the shouting face, and interpret him as being angry at people for flouting technicalities of law. If you leave both faces off, there's a white Optimus Prime head sculpted underneath which harkens back to the original toy.
Magnus also comes with little figurines of Spike and Daniel Witwicky. They can ride inside his cab mode, if you want. More likely, you will lose them.
Masterpiece Ultra Magnus is a good purchase if you want a giant, hefty Magnus. He's really good at that. It may be the thing he's best at. It's not that he's bad at other things, it's just that he's... a really huge Magnus. It is a quality that overwhelms all the others.
The Transformers action figure toyline theme this coming year is Combiner Wars, which means most everything combines with other things. Everything in the Deluxe and Voyager size classes become limbs and torsos, respectively, and a few things in the Legends size class become weapons or armor for the combined robot.
Which is super great if you have more than just four Deluxes! I got too clever for myself this past week or so. Amazon.com got in the Combiner Wars Voyagers, and so I ordered them and got them shipped to myself... in California. It's Christmas, y'see, and so we visit the in-laws down in San Diego most every year. Maggie goes out there earlier, while I stay behind a few extra days to finish up work. And so I thought I was being super crafty, getting those toys to myself on the other side of the continent. Until I got super sick and couldn't fly out to California. It was just me and the cat this year. Well, me, the cat, a turkey, and the Combiner Wars Deluxes I had preordered from Big Bad Toy Store, which arrived here while I was stuck in Ohio as the torsos arrived in California.
No torsos. But some limbs.
There's three aircraft (which belong to Superion) and one car (which belongs to Menasor), and they all transform basically the same. You fold the arms up alongside the vehicle, collapse the shins around the thighs, and cover the head with the front of the vehicle. The legs of the aircraft sort of accordion into themselves after opening up the shins, rather than the literal collapsing of the car's legs, but it's all the same formula. No actual shared pieces, but very similar engineering. And it sort of makes sense -- these are all based on guys from 1986, who all transformed fairly similarly then for the same reason they do now: they all have to become limbs that are exactly the same size and proportion. You can't have a combiner robot guy with one leg longer than the other. And each guy can become any of the four limbs, so there has to be a common pattern between them at some denominator.
Each guy also comes with a rifle and a second much bulkier double-barreled weapon that also transforms into either a foot or a fist. It's a step up over the original versions of these guys, who came with extra foot or fist pieces you just sort of set aside when not in use. Here at least the feet/fists have something they can do when they're not being feet or fists.
My favorite of the four is Alpha Bravo. He's a replacement for Slingshot (who was the only Aerialbot I owned as a child), partly because "Slingshot" isn't a trademark Hasbro owns anymore and partly because four Deluxe-sized jets who all transform nigh-identically is kind of overkill. Three (Air Raid is in wave 2) is kind of pushing it already. Alpha Bravo's a helicopter and so he's also super obviously just the Combaticon Vortex in Slingshot's colors. I like Alpha Bravo best because he's a new character who's a little orange and also because he makes a better helicopter than the two other aircraft are jets. Jets are flat things and don't lend themselves well to robots (unless you open up like a cootie catcher akin to live-action Starscream) or combiner robot limbs. Helicopters are taller and rounder and can contain robot parts better. ...even if Alpha Bravo's arms just peg onto the sides and hope they hide themselves behind those missiles sculpted on his arms.
Drag Strip's a pretty good car, sure, but Alpha Bravo's weapons integrate better into his vehicle mode than Drag Strip's. And maybe Drag Strip also needs to get drawn by Sarah Stone before I pay attention to him.