This is Nightracer! Way back in 1995, while BotCon spent a few years rotating through different showrunners, we got our first real-ish Transformers convention exclusive. At the first BotCon in 1994, the exclusive was just an unreleased figure provided by Hasbro, Generation 2 Breakdown, but in the following year, we got a new toy sort-of designed by the convention itself. I say sort-of, because Raksha, 1995's person-in-charge, wanted a G2 Go-Bot Bumblebee in black and blue, but Hasbro gave her a G2 Go-BotBumblebee in black and neon yellow/green. (...which, I recall, is just what you get when you don't give G2 Go-Bot Bumblebee his gold paintjob -- he's just black under there)
Anyway, I didn't go to that BotCon. I was still a teenager and I don't think my parents were letting me out of the subdivision on my bike yet, much less Dayton, Ohio. And so I don't have original Nightracer.
I do have this one, though, now! She was the secret final figure of this year's Transformers Figure Subscription Service, and she's a redeco of Tailgate, finally in the intended black-and-blue instead of the black-and-neon. She comes with Shakar, a little Micromaster person of undetermined gender (though since the name is an anagram of "Raksha" who is female I like to imagine the little 'Con is also). Raksha also wrote the filecard bio, which is a nice touch (but didn't name Shakar).
I am pleased! Nightracer is one of those super-expensive early BotCon toys I don't have, due to her limited numbers, and now I have a toy of the character, plus a little friend. And more Decepticon women are always welcome. There's a shortage!
Big Bad Toy Store got in the Combaticon wave of Combiner Wars Deluxes, so let's talk about one of them, why not. I'm glad the Combaticons are in the second half of the line, because we just kind of got them a few years ago, combining and all, in the Fall of Cybertron toyline. There's a little deja vu involved. When Hasbro dips into the Combiners well, the Combaticons tend to be what gets pulled up first, because they're one of those rare early teams that were an interesting variety of vehicles, rather than "all jets" or "all sportscars," and so it's kind of nice that they got to sit out the first few rounds this time.
This is Swindle! I like him. He's a drastic retool of the Protectobot Rook. Like, super drastic, to the point that he's really just a guy who transforms in the same pattern but becomes a differently-sculpted robot and vehicle. He shares, like, a crotch and thighs probably and maybe some other structural stuff, but the rest is all new. But, as mentioned, he transforms the same. "Roof" of the car goes on his back, legs form the lower half of the front, the arms fold up into the back. Rook was a good toy, and so is he.
And it's just nice that Swindle gets his own danged head, you know? Of all the "guys who transform into limbs for larger guys" from the original Transformers, he's arguably the one dude who stood on his own, character wise. And so he's important in a way a lot of the other Combiner Wars dudes are not. And yet Hasbro, half the time, tends to get his head wrong. Swindle has these adorably large eyes, right? He's a con man who's adorable. That's kind of his thing. But the Alternators toy was really just Trailbreaker in tan, and then his Fall of Cybertron toy... I guess copied that head instead? It didn't really look like Swindle at all. But here's the wide-eyed combining Swindle toy you wanted. Finally.
You can plug his cannon into his arm like he had it in the original cartoon, if you want. That's also cool.
Last year, we got three female Autobot toys in rapid succession: Windblade, Arcee, and Chromia. And it was great! But it'd be even cooler if we got female Decepticons, too. As short supply as female Autobots are, female Decepticons are in even more dire straits!
And suddenly, TakaraTomy over in Japan, they saw this deficit, did some retooling, and BAM, gauntlet cast. And one of these three new bad guy ladies is Blackarachnia. She's technically a Predacon, not a Decepticon, but she was a Decepticon once, and she's often a bad guy, and so I'm fine including her in that group. She's also different in that she wasn't retooled from Arcee or Windblade or any other recent mold, naw, Takara went back and grabbed Animated Blackarachnia from 2007 and used her as a retooling base. I mean, Blackarachnia's a spider, and there aren't really a lot of spider toys to make stuff outta, so.
Animated Blackarachnia is a pretty great toy to start off from! It's actually a fairly inventive transformation, especially with how the arms and legs from from the spider limbs and how the torso is created. The spider head folds down to form the chest and the pedipalps (which are balljointed) rotate and form the contours of the waist. Seriously, it's pretty great.
so what takara did was remove the pedipalps and replace them with new pedipalps that instead fold up and become boobs
I mean, I sort of get it. If you're going to make a Beast Wars style Blackarachnia, her, um, chesty parts are an important part of the visual package. Kind of, you know, in the same way you'd want your Jazz toy to have a chest made out of a car hood. That's just what Jazz looks like! And Beast Wars Blackarachnia puts the "rack" in "arachnid." And, so, yeah, on that level, I understand.
But, damn, this does not leave her with much of a torso. In fact, it merely leaves her with the original toy's spine. She's got these two globes, a skinny stick to connect those to... well, the middle part of her pelvis that wasn't previously created out of pedipalps, and then legs. She looks like something from the cover of Youngblood.
That aside, she does make a pretty good Beast Wars Blackarachnia. The new headsculpt is absolutely perfect, if set a little high on the neck, the paintjob is a good attempt at hiding the fact that she has hands and not claws (and you're supposed to leave her forearms half-transformed to achieve the look), and she's just generally painted meticulously all over. You don't notice she no longer has a torso if your room's lighting ain't so great.
But it's just, like, what.
Before my Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus shipped, we got word that TakaraTomy over in Japan was doing their own Magnus, and it was going to have a bunch of additional paint applications I probably would have done myself (but badly). In fact, it basically looked perfect. It had the red legs I prefer my Ultra Magnuses have (a detail from the original toy and the first "season" of More Than Meets The Eye), it painted blue across the pelvis and parts of the shins instead of leaving them bare... there was not a lot to argue with. It would have to be mine, saving me a lot of time painting my own toy.
But there was one snag.
It didn't come with Minimus Ambus! Japan doesn't *really* get IDW comics over there, even though they're still very popular amongst Japanese fans, and so Minimus Ambus is not really a thing for them. Instead, TakaraTomy decided to deco up Minimus Ambus as... Alpha Trion, the other bearded Autobot guy in the mythos. And I guess he pilots Ultra Magnus now for some reason! Who knows! There's a two-page comic included, but I am monolingual.
This is a fun contradiction, in that while Japan's Ultra Magnus is specifically detailed like his MTMTE "season one" IDW comic appearances, he does not come with Minimus Ambus, which is definitely a dealbreaker for me.
Do I get the perfect Magnus or do I get the pretty-good Magnus who comes with Minimus Ambus?
I decided to mix and match and get the best of both worlds! My second Magnus is now here, and I've gifted him the first Magnus's Minimus Ambus, plus all the first Magnus's accessories, so that he gets to have his assembled hammer weapon at the same time as his shoulder missiles and rifles. (one becomes the other, otherwise) I have my cake, I'm eating it, I'm living the motherfuckin' Magnus dream.
While American Magnus is in the 1986 Ultra Magnus colors (minus the important-to-me red thighs), with a tealer blue and a milkier white, Japanese Magnus is a darker blue and bleachier white that looks more like the colors from the original cartoon. His rifles are now white instead of black. In car carrier mode, his trailer is almost entirely blue, which is truer to the original cartoon's model, rather than the patchwork red and blue of the original toy's. That I'm sort of lukewarm on, but it's a very weak personal preference as to be negligible.
And now I have this spare tiny Alpha Trion to hang out with my other tiny toys! Maybe he can say hello to The Fallen. "Hey, in some continuities, we're brothers!" he'll say. And The Fallen will be like "I wish I were on fire, why aren't I on fire anymore."
But I ramble.