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.
So Hasbro's all "FINE, here's your goddamned cartoon-style Arcee toy who transforms into a futuristic sportscar convertible, GAWD." Twenty-eight years later and probably just as many offbrand third-party Arcee toys later, here she is. The one you wanted in the way you wanted her. Probably.
She even shares a case assortment with Chromia, another lady Transformer (who herself is a retool of a previous Arcee toy). It's a case assortment that can potentially pass the Bechdel test! And importantly, Arcee is gloriously pink. They said it couldn't be done in the dude aisle, but here she is. She's not a rosey red or rusty brown, she's legimately hot pink and white. Hasbro's all "fuck y'all, we're doin' it."
The design of this toy was spearheaded by a guy over in Japan who fandom-famously homebuilt an Arcee back in 1998. Additional design work was contributed from another guy who draws Arcee like this, with a broken Escher Girl spine and cheated-in cleavage. There were some design drawings for this toy printed in a magazine that echo these choices, and, uh, I am kind of amazingly thankful that not much of it got into the final toy. There's no sculpted cleavage and the spine isn't as broken. That weirdly organic-looking tummy's still there, though, and if you look at Arcee's toy from the side, you can still see some of those vague shapes, particularly in the boobal area. They, like, point up. Look, for some people Arcee was their sexual awakening, okay??? And now those people make Transformers.
Because of the adherance to the original Arcee robot and car designs, she's kinda backpacky. 90% of the car mode folds up on her back, leaving only the very tip of the hood and some of the rear wheel hubs to serve as the chest and thighs, respectively. The car parts fold up reasonably well, though since the back bumper kind of juts into the small of her arched back at an angle, she can't really keep her arms straight down at her sides. It's arms akimbo or action for Arcee! Other than that, she's a pretty good robot mode. She'd have to be, considering she's just a humanoid robot person with a car on her back. Good robot mode, good car mode, not so great Transformer.
My Arcee is a version of the toy before a running change. Later versions of Arcee have remolded fists that better hold her weapons. In my earlier version, there's a small ledge of plastic that prevents the weapon tabs from sliding all the way through, presumably for structural purposes. The later version removes this ledge but accommodates for structural integrity by closing her fist sculpt. (The fingers and thumb touch each other now, is what I mean.) The open palms look better, but they look terrible holding stuff. And lord does she come with stuff! It's like Hasbro was crossing their fingers that little boys love weapons more than they hate pink girls, or at least pink-girl-hating parents of less culturally-contaminated little boys.
There's two guns and two swords, all sculpted to work with Arcee and only Arcee through a tab system rather than the usual 5mm pegs.... probably because Arcee's arms are so damn thin that a 5mm pegholed fist would look conspicuous. There's slots for these tabs everywhere on her, so there's lots of placement choices. There's even some tabs on the underside of her front bumper (or the top of her robot shoulder kibble) that I'm not really sure are useful in either mode for space reasons. In vehicle mode you can tab her guns in any of the many slots, or store them underneath. The swords hafta remain plugged in visibly, though. They're too big to hide underneath somewhere. (the smaller gun plugs in between her arms, and her fists plug into either side of it)
At the end of the day, it's probably the best toy of the original Arcee design that you could get for $15. There have been some better Arcee toys and there will be better Arcee toys, but if you want one of this particular design, it's actually pretty good for that.
Good luck waiting for a Headmaster version.
Me, I just want one in the preproduction colors.
Behold, it's hyperposeable Mr. Freeze! ...which seems kind of oxymoronic. Of all the folks who need the possibility of dynamic poseability, he's kind of low on the list, if not off it completely. The old Mission Masters Mr. Freeze based on the same design seemed sufficient enough with shoulders, neck, and hips. I mean, dude is dead to emotion. He doesn't move much.
But hey, good news, sort of! Mr. Freeze does have a lot of articulation, but some of it's pretty shallow. We're talking, like, his elbows move maybe 20 degrees. So you can get a little bit of subtle movement to him, but he's never going to be dynamic. His legs are way too long for him to look anything but doofy anyway. I do appreciate his universal shoulders and his articulated ankles, though. You wouldn't think thick boots like his could integrate ankle articulation, yet they do.
Like the other toys in the line, Mr. Freeze comes with an assortmant of alternate hands. Be careful yanking them out and pushing new ones in. I broke my Batman that way, and I ain't gonna let it happen to one of these toys again. He also comes with his freeze gun, and there's a hand that's sculpted to hold it, so I'd recommend getting that hand gripped around the gun while the hand isn't attached to the wrist. It's gonna take some shoving, and you don't wanna accidentally shove something wrong and break the peg.
Mr. Freeze also comes with those sweet-ass insect legs that he had in "Cold Comfort" because his body disintegrated and he was just a head on a robot body. They are tall and sleek and they attach via balljoints to the bottom of his collar. This will also require excessive force. Those balljoint sockets are friggin' tight. Be careful to only push on the balljoint itself, because those legs may show plastic stress at other areas.
And, of course, he comes with a stand. Mr. Freeze has the largest feet of any of these guys so far, but he's so tall and lean that he needs the stand anyway. As with the others, his character model turnarounds are printed on the surface of it.
Mr. Freeze is friggin' beautiful, but fragile. The former wins out with me, and so I adore him, but you still wanna keep your mind on the latter.