Hell, yes! It’s time for more Third-Party Transformers goodness! Folks, I’ve got to say that of all the things I’m collecting now, I don’t think anything gets me more excited than getting a new Not-Transformer from Fansproject , MMC, TFC, or any of the other heavy hitters turning these things out. Smart Robin is the third release (if you don’t count the Code repaint) in Fansproject’s Function line of what are basically their own take on the old G1 Headmasters. And some might say that Smart Robin bears a resemblance to a certain G1 figure called Brainstorm. I’m sure it was totally unintentional as is the fact that if you scramble the letters in his name you can spell out “brainstorm.” As a character, Brainstorm has gotten some love lately in IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye comic, and as we’ll soon see that works for and against this figure. I’m going to buck tradition and just start with Smart Robin’s robot mode… but first, the packaging!
While most third-party companies are content with window boxes, FP is releasing their Function figures in these rather cool shoebox-style packages with an illustrated clear plastic sleeve. We’ve seen this before with Code and Quadruple-U so I won’t dwell on it too much here. Smart Robin’s box is grey and looks great with the illustrated sleeve in place. I like it, as it feels a little more special than something you would find on the shelf at Walmart or Target. It’s also pretty durable and totally collector friendly and the packages for all three Function figures look great lined up on a bookshelf. The figure comes packaged in robot form between two clear trays. Behind the trays there’s a baggie with his wing-weapons and another baggie with the folded instruction sheet and profile card.
The moment I got Smart Robin out of the box I was impressed. Two of the things I’ve come to expect from FP’s Function series are clean and beautiful robot modes and Smart Robin certainly delivers on these points yet again. To put it plainly, he’s gorgeous! The only jet kibble on display is there because it looks stylish, not necessarily because engineering required it. Fansproject really understands the ideal G1 aesthetic and how to make it work with a functional transforming figure. What we get, is just a very streamlined, beautifully proportioned, humanoid robot. The coloring has also been a strong point with the FP figures and that’s still the case here. Brainstorm’s coloring consists of mostly grey, dark grey and teal plastic with some scattered red, white, and orange paint apps. I still think Q-U has the more striking color scheme, it’s hard to beat that yellow and blue, but Smart Robin is still beautifully colored.
The wings on Smart Robin’s back are really the only overt clue that he turns into some kind of jet. Even the cockpit on his chest isn’t terribly obvious. Of course, the wings on his back can be unpegged and be wielded as guns. Any time a figure like this can store his weapons I think it’s a major asset, but when it’s folded this well into the design it’s just amazingly cool.
Now, let’s deal with what will be obvious to some. Smart Robin does not have the face plate that readers of the MTMTE comic would expect on an homage to Brainstorm. It’s going to be a sticking point for a lot of collectors. I’ll be honest, if I had my druthers, I would have wanted the faceplate, but the fact that it’s missing doesn’t diminish this figure for me at all. Indeed, the head sculpt is awesome and beautifully painted. Naturally, the head pops off and transforms into his little buddy, oh let’s call him Not-Arcana just to pick a random name out of the air. The transformation is basically the same as we saw with Q-U and he is a pretty impressive figure for such a tiny robot.
We’ve seen some pretty impressive transformation engineering from the Function line and Smart Robin does nothing to buck that trend. The quality of plastic here is superb and nothing about the transformation feels fragile or dubious. In a feat similar to the mind-bending change of Quadruple-U’s hind quarters, Smart Robin’s jet mode unfolds from his collapsed torso and forms the compartment for the cockpit. It’s very, very cool and creates a jet body that seems far too thin and sleek to have come from this robot. The other thing that I really enjoy is the way everything pegs together so securely. The way the wings fold out from inside the legs and the feet become the wing guns is amazing. The legs and arms, which form the back of the jet, all peg together snugly in about three different places. Everything about this guy is so wonderfully thought out and delivers a really great looking Cybertronian jet that doesn’t seem like it should be possible from the robot.
Brainstorm’s cockpit opens up and, as is the case with Code and Quadruple-U, Not-Arcana can sit inside the cockpit. This has always been one of my favorite things about the Headmaster gimmick and it’s nice to see that Fransproject has translated it so well for their versions. You also get three sets of folding landing gear.
Smart Robin is priced at around $60-70 at most e-tailers, which is right in line with FP’s past Function figures. If you aren’t already on board with third-party Transformers, spending that kind of money on what is basically a Deluxe Class figure is likely to produce sticker shock. All I can say is FP’s design and craftsmanship make it worth my money. This figure is a Masterpiece grade Brainstorm in everything but name only. It’s also worth pointing out that Fansproject isn’t the only one with a Not-Brainstorm figure on the market right now. Toyworld has also been dipping their toes in the Not-Headmaster pool and turned out their own version. I went with FP’s because Smart Robin is better scaled to their excellent versions of Chromedome and Weirdwolf. Toyworld’s figures are considerably larger, which doesn’t work for Brainstorm. Although, as we’ll see next week, it’s perfectly acceptable to me for a character like Hardhead. Anyway, this one has been another homerun for Fansproject’s Function series and I’ll be eagerly awaiting their next figure, which coincidently looks a lot like Mindwipe!