Transformers: Masterpiece Bumble (MP-21) by Takara

It’s Transformers Thursday again, and I’m happy to say I have a new entry in Takara’s Masterpiece Series to look at. This time around it’s none other than Bumblebee! I’ve been pretty apprehensive about getting this figure in hand. The Internets have been packed with pictures of the figure leading up to its final release and there are several things about this figure that made me uneasy. Was I going to be OK with the small size? Was it still going to feel like an MP figure or just an expensive Deluxe? And was I going to feel right about having to pay for an Exosuit Spike figure that I didn’t want at all? Well, now that this set is in hand, I can put most of those concerns to rest because Bumblebee is indeed an excellent figure on a number of levels. Let’s check him out!

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The box should be readily familiar to anyone who has been collecting the line. It’s entirely enclosed and totally collector friendly. You get pictures of Bumblebee on the front in both robot and vehicle modes with his buddy Spike beside him. The box proudly displays the Volkswagen emblem on the front and includes a hologram sticker on the bottom panel proclaiming that it is indeed a fully licensed product. If you’ve followed the tug-of-war between Takara and Volkswagen over use of the license, then you know what a huge victory this is! The back of the box shows some additional photos of the toy along with it interacting with MP-10 Optimus Prime. You’ll also note that the box bears his Takara name, Bumble, but we’ll be calling him Bumblebee for the purpose of this review. As usual, we’ll start off with Bumblebee’s vehicle mode.

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I never thought I’d see this day! It’s Bumblebee as a VW Beetle and it feels so good to see him like this again! The little guy has been everything from a generic compact sports car to a Chevy Camero, and none of that ever seemed quite right. The car mode is indeed tiny, about on par with a modern Deluxe Class figure, but as far as licensed alt modes go, I’m extremely happy with the way he came out. Before he’s ready to roll, you do have to remove one of his side view mirrors from a sprue and peg it into the driver side. You also get a choice as to whether you want to display him with or without the spare tire on the back. I like the spare tire, so that’s the way I’m going! Oh yeah, Bumblebee’s pistol also stores neatly under his car mode.

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Bumblebee’s Beetle mode does feature some seaming as a result of the transformation, but nothing too bad. The car stays together quite well and as long as you have him transformed correctly, there aren’t any big gaps or plates that are difficult to align. I’m also very pleased with the paint job. I’ve seen chips and dings on a lot of the pictures of this guy online, but I was happy to see that the paint on mine is pretty much flawless. There are some minor shade variations between the paint on some of the plates, but it’s nothing that’s bad enough to upset me. The windows are tinted just enough so that it isn’t too obvious that there are robot shenanigans going on in there, although you can make out some robot kibble peeking out behind the rear wheels. Otherwise, the detail is so good here that this little guy reminds me of a Corgi VW Beetle I had as a kid, minus the diecast of course!

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Also, despite his small size, Bumblebee’s car mode feels right at home with the other Masterpiece cars. I snapped some pictures of him with Smokescreen for comparison. They look just fine together. So how’s that robot mode?

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Not too shabby at all! Of all the Masterpiece figures we’ve had so far, Bumblebee certainly had the most room for improvement over the original toy, so it was hard to imagine what to expect here. Transforming the figure is quite easy and I find him to be far less fiddly than some of the other MP cars. It does sort of feel like a complex Deluxe toy, although the engineering and clearances on him feels better than what I’m used to getting off the pegs. The way the wheels are all concealed in robot mode is quite inspired as is the way everything packs away so neatly on his back. A couple of minor complaints may be worth mentioning, but I’ll confess they are rather nitpicky. I do wish there was a way they could have avoided the hollow forearms. Also, some yellow paint on the black areas on the inside of his feet wouldn’t have gone amiss. But yeah, I’m really reaching.

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The portrait is classic Bumblebee through and through. He does come with two swappable face plates, but the differences are so minor to me that I doubt I will ever go through the effort of changing them. I understand that there is also an exclusive addition out there with a battle mask reproducing the look of the G1 toy’s face. That’s neat, but again not something I would ever bother to use.

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Besides looking great, Bumblebee is an amazingly fun little figure to play with thanks to some excellent articulation and some very solid and tight jointing. The arms feature ball joints in the shoulders, swivels in the biceps and hinges in the elbows. The legs have rotating hinges at the hips with swivels, hinges in the knees, and hinges and lateral rockers in the ankles. The waist has a swivel and the neck is ball jointed. Toss his little blaster pistol in his hand and this little guy is all ready for action!

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And that brings us to Spike in his Exosuit. I’ll go on record now by saying I really had no interest in this figure. I was never a fan of this Exosuit design and I wasn’t happy with Takara tossing it in to increase the value of this set. That having been said, I’m stuck with it, so we may as well check it out. Unlike Bumblebee, Spike comes packaged in his non-transformed mode, so let’s start there. The figure is a pretty good approximation of the design seen in the cartoon and since it’s designed more like a mech suit, it makes him a lot bigger and better scaled to interact with his Autobot chums. I tend to associate this suit more with Daniel than I do Spike, but whatever.

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The suit is articulated enough to consider it an actual action figure. You get hinges in the shoulders and ball joints in the elbows. The legs have ball joints in the hips and hinges in the knees. The ball joints on the elbows tend to pop out pretty easily on mine, but they go right back in. The only real disappointing thing here is the lack of paint apps on Spike’s face.

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As in the cartoon, this suit transforms into a weird one-person car thing. It looks like it would be really uncomfortable and awkward to pilot this thing. I’ll concede, however, being impressed that the engineering works. I doubt the cartoon design was ever meant to produce a real, working toy so the fact that Takara was able to make this is kind of neat. On the other hand, it still kind of looks like something a fan cobbled together with a 3D printer. I highly doubt this figure will make it to my display shelf. He’ll likely spend his time hanging out in the box. In terms of mandatory extras, this could have been worse, but I still would have preferred it had been left out and Bumblbee sold at a reduced price.

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All in all, I think this turned out to be a really solid package. Yes, I have a few minor quibbles with Bumblebee, but I’m still left more impressed than not. In fact, I’m happy enough with the figure that even at the $70 price point, I don’t mind paying the extra for a Spike figure that will likely almost never see the light of day outside of the box. It’s hard to imagine another G1 Transformer that will be as difficult to bring into the MP world as Bumblee, but now that Takara has done it, I’m anxious to see some more of the Mini-bots get an upgrade like this. And yeah, I’ll be all over the inevitable Cliffjumper repaint-slash-remold as soon as it comes our way. Well done, Takara! Now bring on Ultra Magnus!

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