Transformers: Masterpiece Ratchet (MP-30) by Takara

Folks, I’ve been a bad MP Transformers collector. After a long run of scarfing up each of the releases, I hit a wall. My last MP purchase was Ironhide, and I reviewed him over two years ago! I love this line, so I could only attribute me falling off by the rising prices. I thought Ironhide was well worth the extra bucks, but $90 for a repaint? That’s considerably more than each of the three Datsuns set me back. And I didn’t want to skip Ratchet and go for Inferno, because that would be cheating. Ultimately, it was a renewed sense of urgency that got me back on track. Ratchet was selling out at a few places, and I worried that if I didn’t buy him now, I’d regret it later. Even better, I sold off a couple of Third-Party Go-Bots that I didn’t need in my collection and that more than paid for him. And so here we go!

It’s been a long time, but the packaging hasn’t changed. Ratchet comes the same kind of collector friendly enclosed box as Ironhide did, which is bigger than the previous MP Autobot cars. You get plenty of pictures of the toy in its various modes, but you don’t get a lot of English copy. All in all, I dig these boxes a lot. They aren’t flashy, but they are classy, and they’re made of heavy stock, so they store well. I actually keep my MP Collection boxed for the time being and they look great all lined up on the shelf.

Inside, the figure and goodies come on clear plastic trays, and it’s easy to see where the extra money went. Not only is Ratchet a big boy, but he comes with a whole bunch of accessories. You also get folded instructions, a character card and a set of stickers with two optional layouts. Yup, stickers! I went with the Autobot crosses because I just think it looked neat, but I’ll come back to the stickers in a bit. Ratchet comes packaged in his alt mode, so let’s start there!

It’s common knowledge that the early 80’s was the pinnacle of Japanese van design and nothing illustrates that better than the Nissan Cherry Vanette. And I’m not ashamed to say that after 35 years, it was only recently that the MP Collection taught me the make and model Ratchet and Ironhide’s alt modes. And yes, in van mode, Ratchet is just a straight recolor of Ironhide with a lightbar added to the top. He’s nearly entirely white, with a red stripe running along each side, blue windows, chromed out bumpers and matte silver wheels. All in all, it’s not a bad looking van, but there are a hell of a lot of seams breaking up the sides.

I’m not a huge fan of the exposed robot face behind the windshield. OK, it’s a cute nod back to the original toy, but probably not one that needed to be so in my face every time I look at it. Also, it serves no purpose at all, which makes me even more sorry that they added it. Does it ruin the van mode? Nah, not really, but it’s worth picking at all the same. You do get a nice Autobot emblem right on the front of the van, and while there are stickers for the auto mode, I’ve chosen to leave them off for now.

Initially, I thought the lightbar would prevent Ratchet from catching a ride in MP Optimus Prime’s trailer, but it’s spring-loaded and you can push it down to roll him inside. It does sometimes get caught when trying to get him out and a few times, I’ve had to pop open the trailer, rather than risk scratching it.

Finally, like Ironhide, there’s a flip up socket on the top of Ratchet’s van mode, which can be used to insert any of the weapons that are designed to be held in his hands. And who doesn’t love a weaponized ambulance, eh?

As expected, the transformation is identical to Ironhide and if you want to share my wonder at experiencing it for the first time then dip back into my Ironhide review. Sadly, the magic is old hat now, but I can still appreciate what Takara’s teams of convertorobot engineers have pulled off here. This shouldn’t work. You shouldn’t be able to get that much robot into that little van. Hell, they couldn’t even come close with the original toy. And yet here it is. Ratchet’s resulting robot mode is almost identical to Ironhide. Takara changed up their pelvic plates, but from the neck down the only other difference is the coloring. And that’s a good thing, because I absolutely loved this robot mode on Ironhide and it looks just as fabulous here on the Autobots’ Chief Medic. From the front, everything looks so impossibly clean and boxy and every other ideal that a G1-designed Transformer should strive to be. The legs are nearly devoid of any van evidence at all and I dig the little armor plates that land on his hips. The front windshield of the van is worn perfectly as the chest, and it impresses me to no end that there aren’t even any wheels visible from the front.

Turn him around and things aren’t quite as polished. There are a lot of exposed screw holes and for the money involved, it would have been cool if Takara had plugged these, or at least offered plugs for us to do it ourselves, like TFC did with their set of Not-Aerialbot figures. You do get a smidgen of van kibble from the back, notably the chrome bumpers on his heels, the windows on the backs of his forearms and his wheel butt… WHEEL BUTT!!! I’ve been in forums where fans complained about this stuff and I was amazed. Hey, complain about whatever you like, that’s your right, but I think this figure is a great achievement of design. He’s also a hefty, solid bot and so much fun to play with!

Obviously we got a brand new head sculpt, and it captures all the character of Ratchet from the Sunbow cartoon. I love the rounded “helmet” and the giant wings over his eyes. The eyes themselves are a bright and beautiful shade of blue, and the rest of the face is finished off in a pleasing matte gray. And if you want to add a little variety to your display options…

He also comes with a second face plate, this time offering a delightful smile. And as long as we’re focusing in on the head and shoulders, I’ll toss out there now that I’m not a big fan of the stickers for the shoulders. To be fair, they look pretty good, and I understand why Takara had to do it. Apparently there were trademark issues concerning the use of the Red Cross. Personally, I would have been fine if they just printed the ones I used on there and been done with it, but I guess some collectors were looking for something more traditional. I just hope they stay on well and don’t yellow over time. But, enough about that… let’s look at some accessories!

Ratchet comes with a boat load of accessories. Or in this case, a sled load. Like Ironhide, Rachet includes a plastic base, which is an homage to the sled that was made up of the bottom part of the original toy’s van mode. This isn’t a direct copy, there’s no treads on the bottom and it isn’t involved at all in the transformation. It is, however, a place to store all those accessories in a way that nods back to the original. For a medic, Ratchet comes with a lot of guns, so let’s start with those first!

A number of the accessories are recycled from Ironhide, the first of which are the twin laser guns. I love these things! They have a nice satin gray finish and fit perfectly into Ratchet’s hands with a tab to secure them into the palms. Getting them out can be a little tricky, but he looks great wielding them.

Next up is what I think is called a Static Laser. It’s instantly recognizable as the gun that was positioned on the front of the original toy’s sled, and I used it to demonstrate the way Ratchet’s mode can be weaponized. It’s got a chrome finish and a white handle. It’s a very distinctive design, but probably not one that I’m going to display him with a whole lot.

Next up is the last recycled accessory from Ironhide ant that’s the missile launcher that plugs into his back. I can remember Ironhide shooting this thing off while flying in the Sunbow cartoon, but I don’t recall Ratchet ever using it. Still, it’s a logical accessory to recycle seeing as a similar piece was included with the G1 vans and I dig it quite a bit. The launcher has a satin gray finish and the missile is chromed out. It can come out of the launcher, but it doesn’t actually fire. Moving on to the new stuff…

Ratchet has one new gun and it’s this little pistol. It’s a cool design, but I really don’t have much else to say about it.

Like Ironhide, Ratchet could retract his hand and deploy various tools. In this case he comes with what is either an arc welder or a cutting torch… or why not both? To attach it you just flip his hand back into his arm and tab it into the spot where the hand used to be. It’s a useful tool for when he needs to do a weld on one of his wounded cameras or cut human survivors out of fallen debris. I don’t know why, but I always loved when the Transformers made use of these types of gizmos.

Ratchet can also produce a repair beam from his forearm. This just plugs right into the peg hole on either of his arms. There’s also an effect part that pegs into the end of the emitter and you get an illustrated cardboard insert that can be slipped in behind the windshield on his chest to produce vital signs. I’ll likely be displaying him with this all the time!

And finally, Ratchet comes with some wrenches, two regular and one magna-wrench.

I collect a lot of toys and other shit, so naturally my budget has its limitations. So throwing $90 at what is mostly a repaint of Ironhide certainly gave me pause. It was my love of Ratchet that finally got me to knuckle down and take the plunge, and I think the fact that it took so long for me to do it worked to my advantage. Two years after getting Ironhide made picking up Ratchet a lot more of a fresh experience and it made me fall in love with this mold all over again. I’m still in awe of how they made this toy work, and it’s a tribute to its intuitive engineering that even after a long while away from this mold, I was able to transform Ratchet without using the instructions. And it makes me happy to finally have the two Autobot vans together at last. If anything, I came away from this review with a renewed passion for the MP line.

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