Transformers: Masterpiece Grimlock (MP-03) TRU Exclusive (Reissue) by Hasbro, Part 1

Yeah, yeah… yesterday was Transformers Thursday, but since I had to skip last week, let’s keep the spotlight on the Transformers as we head into the weekend. Today I’m looking at a figure that needs no introduction. He’s Masterpiece Grimlock and he’s a figure that’s been around the block more times than I can keep track of. Suffice it to say, he’s had at least two Takara releases and this will be his second Hasbro release. I passed on him the first couple of times because I wasn’t collecting the MP stuff back then, but after acquiring a whole shelf full of the MP figures, I was recently poised to blow a lot of money on the Takara version. Something else came up that I wanted more and so I put it off only to have this second US release come out of nowhere. Now, normally the Hasbro MP releases don’t do me any good. They’re always Toys R Us Exclusives, there are no TRUs around here, and I could never get them online. Until now. The awesome guys over at The Allspark posted a heads up early one morning that Grimlock was up for order on TRU’s website, and I just happened to be online to get in on that hot robot dinosaur action. A few days later, MP Grimlock was finally mine. Today we’ll check out the packaging and the robot mode, and tomorrow we’ll look at the dino mode.

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Grimlock comes in a box that is branded in a fashion similar to the Age of Extinction packages, and that’s a shame because I don’t like these at all. The plain white and red boxes are dull, with “Transformers” running down the side in what looks like a placeholder font. In fact, the whole box design feels like a placeholder. It’s like something the art department whipped up overnight just to see what the configuration of the box would look like with the intent of adding the actual artwork later on. I know times are tough at Hasbro. Maybe they had to fire their art design department. This kind of minimalist stuff works OK for the 6-inch Star Wars Black line, but here it just looks like garbage. Hell, the Third-Party Transformers I buy come in way better looking packages than these, and those aren’t even designed to sit on a store shelf and attract buyers. Nothing about Grimlock’s package screams premium Masterpiece Transformer to me.

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Anyway, there’s a massive Autobot emblem on the front that wraps around to the side. There’s also an illustrated strip that wraps around the box with pictures of the toy. It still denotes Grimlock as MP-03, despite the fact that that numbering is getting more and more confusing. The box opens from the side and there’s a clear plastic tray, very similar to the Takara releases, holding the figure in robot mode and his accessories. So, I do really like the fact that this package is collector friendly. It’s also durable enough for storage and I prefer an actual box like this one to the window box used for the first Hasbro MP-03 release. It’s just the art design that puts me off. Let’s get the figure out and put the packaging behind us.

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Holy hell! Out of the box, Grimlock is one impressive and formidable robot. He stands right about in line with my MP Soundwave and while he should be taller, the height is fine with me. The Masterpiece line has evolved quite a bit since the early figures, but I think Grimlock’s aesthetics fit right in with the more recent releases on my shelf. He strikes me as more of an update to the original toy than any attempt at a comic or animated inspired homage, and that’s Ok because he looks so damn good. The design is slavishly faithful to the G1 toy and everything on this guy is right where it should be only outfitted with better proportions. Yes, the proportions are fantastic, from the large feet to the powerful raised shoulders. Grimlock is an absolute beast of a robot.

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Grimlock’s deco makes use of a lot of bare grey and black plastic. Of course, he wouldn’t be a true G1 Grimlock without the bling and MP-03 features plenty of that. The entire chest is metallic gold along with the claws on his wrists, and it contrasts beautifully with his dull utilitarian grey armor. But my favorite thing is the translucent plate on his chest that exposes all the intricate detailing behind it. Fantastic! The accents on the front of his legs are a mix of paint and tinted translucent plates and the glossy red paint on his pelvic area ties the whole figure together beautifully. Even on a shelf full of Masterpiece Transformers, Grimlock stands out from the crowd!

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The portrait is also a slam dunk. Grimlock’s expressionless slab of a face is beautifully recreated. It’s amazing how much personality you can pack into nothing but a mouth plate and a visor. Out of the box the visor is red, to pay homage to the G1 toy, but you can activate a lever on the back to make it Sunbow blue. I think the red visor is more striking, but I may wind up going with the blue. Isn’t it nice to have options!

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Besides looking amazing, Grimlock is lots of fun to play and features a wide range of articulation. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, they have swivels in the biceps, double-hinged elbows, and swivels and hinges in the wrists. The legs have universal movement at the hips, swivels at the top of the thighs, and powerful ratcheting hinges in the knees. There’s a little bit of rocker action in the ankles, but it seems to favor moving the foot outward rather than inward, so it doesn’t help a lot on those wide stances. Then again, my figure can’t do those without collapsing anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter. Lastly, Grimlock features a generous ball joint in his neck, giving his head a very pleasing wide range of motion.

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Alas, there are some blemishes on this beauty, so let’s talk about those. First off, the hip joints are all kinds of loosy goosy. Grimlock can stand just fine, but if I try to get him into a wide stance action pose, he’s going to wind up doing the splits. I understand there’s a fix for this that involves taking him apart and cleaning the joints. Maybe I’ll try that someday. In the meantime, an $80 collectible probably shouldn’t be having this kind of problem. I’ll also note that while playing around with him, Grimlock’s torso has come untabbed a few times. It isn’t a critical design flaw, but it can get irritating from time to time.

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The other issues are more minor. First, Grimlock has a gimmick that makes an Autobot symbol appear in the window in his chest when he transforms. It sort of works, but the insignia always looks like it’s not quite all the way in place. It’s very close, but not quite. Second, the dino head is supposed to tab into his back but when you look at how shallow the slot is, it’s easy to see that it was never going to hold. As a result, the dino head has a habit of flopping around when I’m posing him. Again, all of these things are a little bothersome, but even when taken together they don’t add up to enough to really spoil my enjoyment of the figure.

Ok, I’ve gone long enough. Tomorrow I’ll take a look at his accessories and then we’ll get him transformed into his dino mode!

Transformers: 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime by Hasbro

These days the most intrepid and deep-pocketed Transformers collectors no doubt have a couple of shelves devoted to the Masterpiece figures. Of course, this now prolific line got its start a full decade ago with the release of one huge stand-alone figure. In Japan he was MP-01 “Masterpiece” Optimus Prime, but when I found him on the shelf of my local Target he was “20th Anniversary” Optimus Prime. The day I spotted this guy at the store, I had already been back into collecting Transformers for a solid four years, and my nostalgia for all things G1 was back in full force. I knew straight away he was coming home with me, and didn’t think twice about whipping out my credit card and dropping $80 on this guy. Only $80!!! This toy is a behemoth of plastic, rubber, and diecast metal! Nowadays I’m happily forking over that kind of money for an all-plastic Masterpiece figure half this size. Oh, how times do change!     

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The packaging for this figure is long gone, but if memory serves, Prime came in his robot mode in three-quarter window box with a heavy G1 inspired theme. He was later released repainted and with a talking base, but today I’m looking at the original Hasbro release from 2004. I’ve been meaning to feature this figure for a long time, but to be honest, every time I thought about doing it, I couldn’t get the nerve up to transform him. I probably haven’t done it in almost 10 years and I can remember it was a huge pain in the ass back then. Like the package, the instructions are long gone, but today I had a few Jamesons in me and for whatever reason I felt up to the challenge. I half expected to either break him or give up half way through in disgust, but I was pretty surprised at how smoothly it went once I had sussed him out. As usual, I’m going to start with his vehicle mode.

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In his semi cab mode, Prime is a big and heavy toy. The diecast is mostly located in the blue back and parts of the cab itself with a lot of plastic bits serving as the connective tissue. Unlike a lot of toy collectors in general, and Transformers collectors in particular, I do not have any nostalgic love for diecast metal. It tends to be harder and more expensive to sculpt detail in it, the paint on it chips fairly easily, and it often adds balance issues when used in action figures. As far as Prime is concerned, the sculpt looks pretty good and mine has picked up only a few very minor paint chips over the last ten years. As for balance, well, it doesn’t affect Prime in his truck mode; on the contrary, I think the toy benefits from the nice, satisfying heft it provides. So, fair is fair, diecast, you win this round!

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As for the rest of the toy, there’s a lot to love here and a lot to gripe about. As a “Masterpiece” toy, Prime has some aesthetic issues. The side windows don’t look right at all and that’s because they’re just his exposed shoulder joints. The front panels on the cab don’t really match up, but unless I’m looking at it from underneath it’s not a big issue for me. What is a big issue is how obviously his robot hips are exposed behind the cab. There’s no attempt to hide them at all. The huge sculpted Autobot symbol on the side of the cab also looks somewhat out of place to me. Here’s an example where I think it should have been tampo’ed on instead. Also worth mentioning is the blue button on the top of the cab that sticks out like a sore thumb. And lastly, the Hasbro version was notorious for having the smokestacks cut for safety issues. 

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I know I’m being mercilessly tough on a 10 year old toy that also happens to be Has-Tak’s first attempt at anything like this. It’s easy to look back on this Prime and scoff, but even after nitpicking all of those points, I don’t think the cab mode is necessarily bad. As we’ll soon see he’s a mighty ambitiously engineered toy and I’m ok with some sacrifices having been made. Hey, it’s got real rubber tires and the wheels have a working suspension… that’s pretty damn cool! Plus, I’m happy to say that the chrome pieces have held up beautifully over the years. Besides, it’s clear that the designers erred in favor of Prime’s robot mode and that’s exactly what I would have wanted them to do. In 10 years this figure has only been in his truck mode three or four times, so the fact that that aspect of the toy isn’t perfect doesn’t faze me at all.

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As already mentioned, transforming this guy can be a real pill, although going from robot to cab is definitely the more frustrating of the two starting points. It’s tough to find that one starting point where you “break open” the figure and can start moving panels around. Also, purists may take issue with the use of the faked out grill, as the one he displays in truck mode is not the same as the one he wears in robot mode. Honestly, in hindsight I thought I remembered this toy using a lot more fakery than that, but as it turns out that’s really the only cheat.

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In robot mode, I think Prime still looks pretty impressive, albeit quite primitive compared to Takara’s recent efforts. There’s a little Sunbow animated style in him, particularly in the portrait, and yet the diecast manages to invoke the original G1 toy as well. From the waist down I think he’s fantastic. The rubber and chrome wheels still look great, and the chrome and grey mix well with the high gloss diecast in the legs. One interesting design choice here are the working pistons in the backs of his arms and legs. They sure look cool and they add an element of realism to the design, but they doen’t really jibe with any animated or comic version of Prime that I recall seeing. In many ways, the styling of figure feels like the designers weren’t sure which direction to take it.

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Prime sports a really broad chest, which I think suits the figure. It can open and reveal a removable Matrix of Leadership. That was pretty big doings back when this figure was released, but nowadays it feels like it’s been done to death. The arms are squared off and favor the vintage toy aspect over the animated one. I’m still not sure about that embossed Autobot emblem on his left shoulder. I think it would have been better as a tampo.  And damn those sawed off smokestacks! They’re as much of a drag in robot mode as they are in his alt mode. I still find it ridiculous that an $80 diecast collectible like this had to conform to toy safety guidelines, but whatever. On the plus side, Prime has a cool little pop up comm screen in his left arm, complete with an image of animated Bumblebee on it.

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Besides the short stacks, this Prime’s robot mode also features some “battle damage” which was pretty controversial at the time. The damage consists of some scorch marks, most of which are not visible in his truck mode. There’s some on his shoulders and forearms, and a splotch of it on his grill. This aspect of the deco never really bothered me all that much, but the re-release was repainted and clean, without the distress marks.

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Prime features decent articulation on paper, but in practice it doesn’t fare quite so well. Part of the problem is that the figure is so poorly balanced. Despite his heavy diecast legs, the massive diecast chest still makes him top heavy and the joints in his hips and his ankles aren’t up to the task. Just trying to stand Prime at attention often results in him leaning to the front or back and threatening to topple. I have been able to get him in a number of decent action poses, but leaving him displayed on a shelf always feels like a risk. In almost 10 years I’ve managed to avoid him taking a shelf dive and I wouldn’t want to see the result of the crash. I keep meaning to pick up a generic Sixth-Scale figure stand for him to see if that will help him out.

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This figure came with a number of accessories, and despite my best efforts all I could locate was his rifle. The gun is patterned closely after his trusty G1 weapon and cast in grey and silver. He can hold it fairly well in his hinged fingers, although sadly there’s no post or anything to really lock it in place. The missing accessories included an Energon Axe that could fit onto his wrist and a version of Megatron in his gun form very similar to the one included with MP-13 Soundwave. I recall the stock on my Megatron gun broke almost immediately, but I’m sure the axe is still floating around in a tote somewhere.

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As a stand-alone figure, 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime is still a valued piece in my collection. He often finds himself on display on a shelf in my Den far away from my other Transformers. I still love to admire him on the shelf from time to time, but he is not a fun figure to play around with, he’s not very fun to transform, and yet I still think he has a unique charm all his own. Curiously, he’s also one of the pieces that I display, which garners the most attention from my non-toy savvy guests. They often flock to him like crazy, gaze at him in wonderment and are suitably impressed when they are allowed to pick him up and feel how friggin heavy he is. Still, with all that having been said, the years have not been kind to this figure as a collectible. He’s easy to find languishing on Ebay for about the same price he sold for originally, while collectors fall over each other to buy MP-10 at three times the price. He’s far from a true “masterpiece” but he was still impressive for his day and while many collectors scoff at him now, I’m still happy to give him a home on my shelf.

Transformers: Masterpiece Smokescreen (MP-19) by Takara

After languishing in my Pile of Loot over at BBTS for a while, Smokescreen has finally come home! Yes, the last of the Holy Datsun Trinity joins his brothers, Prowl and Streak. While Streak relied on a new paint job and a few slight tweaks to the mold to set him apart from Prowl, Smokescreen is rocking the most distinctive overhaul of the three Datsun Brothers. As a character, Prowl remains my favorite of the Datsuns, but Smokescreen easily ranks second. He definitely had the most personality and I recall his smokescreen got the Autobots out of a jam on at least a few occasions. I’m rather excited to get this guy opened up, so let’s get this party started…

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Smokescreen comes in a compact little box that is identical in deco to the previous Datsun releases. There’s really nothing new to say here, except the box is totally collector friendly and I love it despite the fact that I can’t read any of it. Inside the box, Smokescreen rests in a clear plastic tray in his vehicle mode, with his rifle and shoulder cannons positioned below him.

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I don’t mind telling you that I was pretty nervous about getting Smokescreen out of the package. He has the most dynamic deco of the three Datsuns with a lot of paint lines and graphics, all of which provided opportunities for Takara’s spotty QC to take their toll. I’m happy to say, however, that after close scrutiny I found mine to be absolutely perfect. The lines are sharp, the lettering and graphics are crisp, and the red, white and blue paint is clean and absolutely stunning. In fact, the progression from the minor paint flubs on my Prowl to the perfection that is Streak and Smokescreen has given me a renewed faith in the QC of the Masterpiece line. The passenger side rear view mirror panel was misaligned in the box, but it was just a glitch in the transformation that needed to be adjusted.

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I’ve already gushed on about this mold when featuring Prowl and Streak, so I’ll limit myself here to the new stuff. The remolded areas include the extended apron on the front bumper and the spoiler on the back. They aren’t extensive changes to the mold, but they do go a long way to make Smokescreen look distinctive. Indeed, even after lining up all three of the Datsuns, I still think they are nicely varied and unique for what are basically repaints with some minor retooling. Smokescreen continues the trend of each release striking me as more beautiful than the last. The lush shades of red and blue complement each other perfectly.

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By now I’m an old hand at transforming this mold and Smokescreen only holds a couple of surprises. First off, the shoulders are redesigned so that the wheels sit on top. It doesn’t really change the way you transform him much, but it’s a nice little touch to set him apart from the rest. The other difference is his set of shoulder cannons. He still has pieces that fold up from his back like Prowl and Streak, but instead of full on guns, they’re just little brackets to hold the separate guns in place. I’m sure some critics will cry foul over these being separate add-on pieces and how a Masterpiece toy should have them inclusive in the transformation, but I’m not going to jump on the wagon. I’d much rather Takara have them be separate pieces and get them looking right and in this case they surely did.

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In conjunction with the new shoulder guns, we get a brand new head sculpt and it is fantastic. MP-19’s noggin is the spitting image of his Sunbow portrait and certainly the most distinctive of all three Datsuns. The paintwork is spotless and the silver, blue and yellow really make his portrait pop beautifully. The rest of Smokescreen’s deco in robot mode is quite similar to the gob-smacking paint job of his auto mode. The only thing new is the silver paint on his thighs. The coloring is every bit as gorgeous and since I didn’t bring up the paintjob earlier, you can surmise that there were no QC surprises in the paint waiting for me when I transformed him.

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Original pictures of Smokescreen had me worried about the new bumper making him look too barrel-chested, but I think that effect was mostly from the perspective of the shots. In hand, the figure looks quite well proportioned, even when standing beside his comrades. As with the other Datsuns, Smokescreen’s door wings can be left straight back to mimic the G1 figure or swept upward to give him a more animated look.

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In addition to his shoulder guns, Smokescreen comes with a rifle and it is an entirely new piece from what we got with Prowl and Streak. The brand new gun was a really nice surprise as I was assuming that we’d just get the same one packing in once again.

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And thus endeth the Chronicle of the Datsun Trinity. I’m so very pleased to finally have these three guys standing on my shelf posed like Charlie’s Angels and ready for action. Prowl and Streak were both superb releases, so it’s no small compliment to say that Smokescreen is by far the prettiest of them all. The dynamic color scheme pushes him over the edge and the fact that it’s applied with such precision was a very welcome treat. It’s probably fitting that the same week I finish off this trio the first pictures of Masterpiece Wheeljack are starting to surface. He looks amazing, but before I move ahead, I need to move backward. I’ve already pre-ordered one of the second run of Lambors, and I hope this time the paint job will warrant me keeping the figure because this set of Datsuns makes me want more MP Autobots for my shelf.

Transformers: Masterpiece Soundwave (MP-13) by Takara, Part 2

As promised, I’m back today to wrap up my look at Masterpiece Soundwave. Yesterday we checked out the packaging as well as Soundwave’s tape deck mode and his cassette minion Laserbeak. Today we’re going to check out Soundwave’s robot mode and all the goodies he comes with! You want to hear something funny? I really had my doubts over just how much an upgrade this figure was going to be. I mean, the original G1 Soundwave was one of the better Transformers figures of his time. He was fairly close to the Sunbow design, at least a lot more so than Megatron or Ironhide. Sure he was boxy and stiff, but he had a pretty clean humanoid appearance without a lot of crap hanging off of him. Plus at a time when most action figures had 5-points of articulation (unless you were a G.I. Joe), Soundwave was practically super-articulated. So was Takara really going to be able to improve on him all that much?

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Ah, yep. Apparently so! Now, granted, a lot of the feelings outlined above were colored by nostalgia, but once I had this figure in hand I was able to appreciate what a colossal facelift Soundwave got. And even then, it wasn’t until I actually stood him next to the G1 toy that I saw how ridiculous my original premise was. Sure, maybe Prowl and Bluestreak represent a bigger upgrade because their original toys were so small and their legs were fused together, but that doesn’t make Soundwave here any less of a grand achievement. Quite the contrary, this figure is drop-dead gorgeous!

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Besides being perfectly proportioned, Takara made a lot of little tweaks to better match MP Soundwave with his animated counterpart. His tape door and chest are now more rounded and softer. It’s a stark comparison to the harsh, boxy angles of the original toy. What I really like, however, is the clever way the panel with his tape player buttons actually shifts down to form a proper pelvis and waist, as well as adding that much appreciated waist swivel. The shoulders replace the old printed sticker sheets with sculpting and paintwork and the forearms feature that ever so slight bulge that characterized so much of Sunbow’s G1 art design. Ah, but one of my favorite things here is the way Takara handled the tape deck kibble on the legs. These hinged plates that lay flush with the outside of his lower legs actually mimic the way the original toy’s legs were sculpted. It’s a wonderful little touch that shows how much thought and love went into this guy. It’s also worth noting that all the detail from front sticker sheets on the original toy have also been reproduced here as part of the sculpt. Lastly, Soundwave features a nice big set of feet, complete with lateral rockers so he can be flat footed even in wide stances.

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The head sculpt is pure animated perfection. One look and I can practically hear his electronically harmonized voice. The Takara version features the red eyes, as opposed to the yellow ones in the Hasbro version. Either way wouldn’t have been a deal breaker for me, but I am certainly digging on the red eyes right now. Just beside Soundwave’s beautiful noggin is his iconic shoulder cannon. The cannon is actually permanently affixed, but as part of the transformation it can be folded back and stowed away if you prefer your Soundwave displayed without it. Personally, I think that’s blasphemy, but to each their own.

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It’s probably a given that Soundwave’s articulation is superb. His head rests on a generously ball jointed neck that provides a really nice range of motion. His arms have full rotational and lateral movement at the shoulders, double hinges in the elbows, and swivels in his biceps. His wrists have swivels and hinges, his knuckles are hinged and he even has double hinged index fingers. He has ball and pin joints in his hips, swivels in his thighs, and hinged knees. Yes, Soundwave can finally push his own Eject button and it is glorious!

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And then there are all the goodies that come with him. For starters you get his “battery” gun. In this case, it’s all contained in one piece, so you just fold down the handle grip, pull the battery apart and then pull out the silver “missile” and you’re good to go. It’s a great update to the original weapon and he can hold it comfortably in either hand. When you’re not using it you can collapse it back into a battery and store it behind his back.

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You also get this arm attachment and I have no idea what it is. It probably tells you in the instruction booklet, but my Japanese in a little rusty in that I can’t read a blessed word of it. I seem to recall him using something like this in the cartoon, but I can’t remember when or for what. Perhaps some intrepid fan can clue me in. Either way, to use it you simply collapse Soundwave’s hand into his arm and clip this onto the stump. You can also store this by pegging it into Soundwave’s butt like it’s a tailbone.

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And then there’s Megatron himself. This looks a lot like the one I got with my old 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime, but I’m not complaining because it is a great looking piece. It scales wonderfully with the figure and Soundwave looks totally bad ass when wielding it. I’m really going to be torn on whether to display Soundwave firing Megatron or holding Laserbeak.

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Speaking of which, did I mention there are little clear rails in Soundwave’s arms so you can attach Laserbeak and have him resting on his big daddy without falling off? Well, yes there are.

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Next up, you get the Energon Cube. Sure, it’s just a clear plastic cube, but if you take off one side you can attach it to Soundwave’s chest so it looks like he’s manufacturing it. Folks, I have wanted a Soundwave figure that could do this since I first saw him do it on the cartoon. It’s a simple effect, but it looks great. Hmm…. Maybe that’s how I should keep him displayed.

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Last up, you get a grid plate that attaches onto his tape door. You use this in conjunction with the two graphics that you can clip out of the back of the instruction sheet so it looks like Soundwave is using his tape door as a data monitor display. It’s another beautiful touch and if you’re handy with photoshop and a color printer, I gather you can make all kinds of extra things to have him display on there.

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I’ll confess to having a lot of hesitation over buying this guy. Was he going to be that big of an improvement? Was he going to be worth the money? I’ll answer both of those questions with a big, “hell, YES!” Not only is he beautifully designed and executed, but there’s also not a single QC issue with mine, and with Takara lately, that’s a reason to celebrate. If you were going to hold my feet to the fire and have me come up with one negative about this guy, I would cite Takara’s overall scale (or lack thereof) for their Masterpiece line. Much like MP-10, Soundwave is just too big to comfortably fit in with the Autobots like Lambor or Prowl. That having been said, I still think the Autobots are perfectly sized for what they are and I’ll say the same for Soundwave here. They’re perfect on their own, but not really great for interacting with each other. I’m just not destined to have Prowl wrestling Soundwave any time soon, and I guess I’m OK with the decisions Takara made here. After all, relatively speaking these guys are scaled with each other about the same as the original toys were and when has scale ever been an acceptable constant in the Transformers Toy Universe anyway? But I refuse to end this feature on a gripe, no matter how petty. So I’ll leave it with this, My list of Ten Favorites for 2013 is right around the corner and, at the risk of spoiling anything, I’m pretty sure that Soundwave here has his place on that list locked down.

Transformers: Masterpiece Streak (MP-18) by Takara

Speeding along, hot on the trail of his Autobot brother Prowl, comes the second in Takara’s line of Masterpiece Datsuns: Bluestreak… or just Streak if you prefer. It took me a lot of hemming and hawing before deciding to buy Prowl, mainly because of Takara’s less than stellar Quality Control on these toys, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t also the case with Bluestreak here. Nonetheless, I rolled the dice, hoping that since my Prowl had some issues, maybe it was my chance to get lucky here and the gamble paid off! Normally, I do special releases like this in two parts, but since Bluestreak is a straight repaint of Prowl with a new head, I think we can do him justice in one day, particularly if I can just assume that you’ve come equipped and have already read the feature on Prowl.

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As expected, we get the same style of enclosed box as Prowl. The layout and deco are all identical. Streak comes packaged in his auto mode with his gun beside him. The package isn’t flashy, but I do enjoy the collector friendly simplicity of it. It’s durable and should serve collectors well for storage. Inside you also get a pouch with a folded instruction sheet and a profile card. If you opted to pay a little extra, you might even have a collector coin!

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So, first thing’s first. My Streak arrived without any of the QC issues that I feared. In fact, I’d dare say that the paint on this guy is just about perfect. This is the kind of quality that I like to see on a Masterpiece figure. Well done, Takara. Next up, the deco is just dead sexy. The combination of metallic silver and high gloss black really does it for me in spades. Just calling it metallic silver doesn’t do it justice. It’s some kind of grey-silver mix that looks just outstanding in person. As for the rest of the paint, well the lines are crisp and clean, right down to the Autobot emblem stamped on the hood and, speaking of the hood, I do love that tiny little Nissan emblem on the front of the bonnet. Gone is the police light bar on the roof and in its place we get the stylish T-Roof with some nice silver striping. Other than that, the sculpt here is identical to Prowl right down to the side view mirrors on the front fenders. Marvelous!

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As gorgeous as Streak’s auto mode is, I still think it’s in robot mode that this guy really shines. You still get all that great silver and glossy black paint with some red plastic thrown in to make the figure pop. I really dig the way the bright red shows through his chest, particularly at the shoulders and around the neck. It’s somehow both a dark and vibrant mix that would probably be more suited for a Decepticon, but here it just makes Streak look like a bit of a badass. Of course, the sculpt is just as breathtaking here as it is on Prowl. The proportions on the figure are wonderful and the way the door wings can be positioned straight out to mimic the original toy or angled up for that little bit of animated/comic style, well that’s just a lovely touch. Yup, the legs are still hollow from the back, but if you can look at this figure and still nitpick something like that, then I feel sorry for you, because you obviously have no joy in your black little heart.

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The new head sculpt gives Streak plenty of personality and serves to set him a little apart from Prowl. He has a wider crest on the top of his head and a chin plate. I’d say it’s a slightly more youthful or playful looking visage. I also think Streak’s shoulder cannons look a lot better than Prowl’s. Sure they’re the same sculpt, but the grey plastic makes all the difference over the white. It’s a good thing too, because displaying Prowl without his cannons and Streak with his deployed makes for that nice extra touch of variety when they’re standing together on the shelf.

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Of course Streak comes ready for action with his rifle, the same rifle that came with Prowl, and with weapon in hand he is loads of fun to play with and pose. The joints on my Streak are nice and tight, even more so than on Prowl and the articulation is just as excellent. I particularly dig the rockers in the feet, which allow Streak to hold a wide stance and still keep his feet flat on the floor. It still amazes me that Takara’s engineers were able to get a design that looks this good and is still so delightfuly articulated.

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My inner dialogue argued with me over whether I was really going to spend $80 on a straight repaint of Prowl. I’ll concede that for a while I was considering skipping Streak until Smokescreen came along. Bluestreak was always the odd bot out of this trio and I never really had any love for the character, at least not like I do for Prowl and Smokescreen. Then the OCD part of my brain barged in on the conversation and pointed out that we have no choice. We simply cannot just have two of the three on the shelf. That would be clearly unacceptable. In the end, Mr. OCD was right. These guys look spectacular together, and with a deco so drastically different, I didn’t get a single ounce of repaint fatigue when opening up Streak and checking him out. What’s more, with the beautiful paintwork on Streak, I’ll be going into the Smokescreen release with a lot more confidence than I had going into the purchase of Prowl. Bring him on, Takara!

Transformers: Masterpiece Prowl (MP-17) by Takara, Part 2

I’m back today to wrap up my look at Takara’s Masterpiece Prowl. His vehicle mode is quite nice, but how about his robot mode? Well, transforming him is fairly simple (at least for a Masterpiece toy) and remarkably similar to the basic transformation of the original G1 toy. There’s just a little more engineering added to help out his proportions and his added articulation. The new steps that are the most conspicuous involve folding in the panels with the rearview mirror stalks, unfolding the legs from the back of the car, and shifting some more pieces to become the feet. The shoulder cannons store on his back inside the car roof, very similar to the ones on Universe 2.0 Prowl. Like I said, it’s the same basic transformation from the G1 era with just a few added enhancements. I found it wasn’t uncommon for the arms to pop out of the shoulder ball joints during the change, but when you’re done everything locks together quite well and you have a solid action figure that looks like this…

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Yes, Prowl’s robot mode is drop dead gorgeous! I’ve always considered this design to be my favorite of all the Autobot forms and MP-17 pulls it off with great aplomb. I’m particularly happy with the way the torso locks up front and back. You also have a choice as to whether you want to have his doors go straight out for a G1 toy accurate look, or angle upward for a more cartoon or comic accurate look. Brilliant! The proportions are beautiful and ever since I’ve placed him on the shelf across from my desk, I can’t help but stop and admire his beauty from time to time.

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But before we start looking at some particulars, it’s worth noting that upon first transforming him, I found that Takara’s shitty QC struck my figure in a most cruel way. He had a huge black scar on his chin from where silver paint had been scratched away. It was an odd defacement (Har! Har!) because there’s really nowhere that the face rubs against anything else in the transformation. But our friends at the Chinese factory thought nothing of it and packed him away to ship to poor, disappointed FigureFan. They might as well have just taken a shit in the box as well. Fortunately, this was a pretty easy fix, even for someone like me with no customizing skills at all. The repair is still visible on a close-up picture, but without zooming in with a camera, you have to look really, really close to see that there was ever a problem. That’s good enough for me!

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Yes, it is inherently wrong to have to do touch up work on my $80 figure, especially when none of my third-party transforming robots have had any similar problems, but with Takara’s spotty QC on these figures, I’m just happy that it’s all it needed. I’d like to say it’s going to give me pause about buying the other Datsuns, but truth be told, once they turn up In Stock at the retailers, I will likely throw the dice again.

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I think most would agree that Prowl is just about perfect from the waist up, with only the exposed screw in the back of his head being an annoyance. If there are any real gripes to be had, it’ll likely be with the feet. Yes, they are hollow, but thanks to some clever plate placement, they don’t really look it from the front or the sides. The fact you can see open compartments in the back of the feet and the lower legs may be a legitimate complaint for a Masterpiece figure, but it’s not one that I’m going to have, not when everything else on this figure works so well.

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One of my favorite things about Prowl is the ability to stow the shoulder cannons inside his back, just like the Universe 2.0 figure. Keep in mind that this is a little bit of a back-handed compliment, because I don’t think the cannons look that great. They feel kind of cheap and they’re just bare white plastic. They’re also showing some mold flashing. I won’t deny that it’s nice to have an option to display them, but my Prowl will be going sans-cannon most of the time. I do think they will look much better on the other figures where they will be painted, or at least molded in colored plastic.

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Articulation! Prowl sports plenty of great articulation. The neck is ball jointed and offers a great range of motion. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, swivel at the biceps, and have double hinged elbows. The hands swivel at the wrist and the knuckle is hinged so that all the fingers move as one. His legs have universal movement at the hips, including swivels, his knees are double hinged, and his ankles are hinged and have rockers to help with those wide stances. Last up, Prowl can pivot at the wrist. The joints are all tight and since the Prowl’s robot mode locks together so well, he feels more like an action figure than your typical Transformer. Very nice! He’s tons of fun to play with and a very hard figure to put down.

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As mentioned last time, Prowl comes with his trusty gun. It has a peg that secures it to his hand, so that once you have it pegged in and the fingers closed around it, he can hold it with a firm grasp. He can also comfortably hold it in both hands, which is likely the pose he will have on my shelf most of the time.

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If the goal of the Masterpiece line is to produce a figure that portrays the essence of the character both in its classic animated and toy forms, then MP-17 is an absolute and unbridled success. The transformation represents some nearly flawless engineering and both the auto and robot modes are things of beauty. From a design standpoint, I can find no fault with this figure at all. It’s only in the quality control and the fact that he feels a bit more like a $30 Alternator than he does an $80 Masterpiece figure. If you demand diecast, rubber tires, and perfect paint, then you may find Prowl lacking. Me? I’m not going to quibble, and if you’re luckier than me and you get one with no QC issues, than all should be well. It’s just a shame to me that when Takara reaches this level of perfection in design and engineering that they let the line continue to be marred by poor paint quality issues. I’m at the point now that I will happily purchase figures from companies like Fansproject, TFC and MMC without a thought of worry about QC problems, but a new official Masterpiece figure from Takara? I’m still afraid to open the box.

Transformers: Masterpiece Prowl (MP-17) by Takara, Part 1

I’m prefacing today’s little ditty with story time, so get your milky babas and blankys, kids. Once upon a time, yours truly pre-ordered Masterpiece Lambor. It arrived; I opened it, and was confronted with a paint job so bad that even if it were a $15 Hasbro Deluxe, I probably would have taken it back to the store. Lambor didn’t even make it to the review table on FFZ, because I just wanted to wash my hands of him. I was pissed that I spent so much money on him and I wanted him out of my life. So I sold him and had him shipped out the very next day. When the Masterpiece Datsuns went up, I pre-ordered them, hoping that Takara would have gotten their shit together with the QC. Then in-hand photos of Prowl turned up with melted glue all over the front bumper, and horrible paint on the roof. I cancelled the pre-order. But those pictures kept tempting me. The design of the figure still looked all but perfect. And when he finally showed up In Stock at the retailers, I lost all my resolve, rolled the dice, and bought him anyway. Was it a worthy gamble? Let’s find out…

There can be no doubt, Prowl has always been my favorite Autobot toy, most likely because he was also my first. I got him for what was probably my 12th birthday along with Optimus Prime and Thundercracker. While Prowl wasn’t exactly the most developed character in the Sunbow cartoon, when I played with my Transformers, I always used him as Prime’s Executive Officer. He was Prime’s go-to robot. If you needed to talk to Prime, you better damn well have cleared it with Prowl first. And he was always the first to throw himself in front of a fusion blast meant for the big guy. What I’m telling you, folks, is that Prowl was legit and when he wasn’t safeguarding Autobot security, he was off having a foursome with Elita-1, Chromia, and Arcee. He was just that cool. Since this is the first time I’m checking out Takara’s MP line on FFZ, I’m going to start today with the packaging and the alt mode, and tomorrow we’ll check out the transformation and the robot mode.

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Prowl comes in a fully enclosed box, which is something I appreciate in my higher end collectibles. Window boxes are fine for something I’m going to buy for $20 and toss the packaging, but Prowl’s box is a nice quality and I’ll definitely be hanging onto it should I ever need it for storage. The front has a great photo of Prowl in both modes and points out that he has been designated MP-17 and that he is the Autobots’ Military Strategist. It also points out that he transforms into a Nissan Fairlady 280Z-T. It is an officially licensed Nissan product and you get a little G1 style Transformers logo. The deco here walks a fine line between being serviceable and attractive. I would have preferred something more like the G1 packages with the red grid pattern and all that, but there’s nothing wrong with the presentation here either.

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The back of the package features a whole lot of text that I can’t read. It also shows more pictures of Prowl in his modes, a shot of everything you get inside the box, and some pictures of Prowl alongside MP Prime and driving out of MP Prime’s trailer. I’m still not happy with the scaling between Prowl and Prime. I think Prowl should be closer to Prime’s shoulders, but considering that I don’t own MP-10, that’s not a big deal for me. And as we’ll see in a few moments, I’m actually very pleased with Prowl’s size as a stand-alone piece.

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Open iup the box and you pull out a clear plastic tray with Prowl in his police car mode nestled in the middle of the trays. He is placed beside his weapon and you also get a baggie with a folded instruction sheet and a color profile card. No, there’s not a lot of extras or fanfare here, and that may disappoint some. Me? I’m cool with the presentation letting the toy speak for itself.

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And this toy does a great job of that!  Sure, a lot of people have been upset with the new Masterpiece scale, but I have to say that I think Prowl’s alt mode is the perfect size. The car holds together in a very solid fashion, with everything pegging in securely, and rolls along on its wheels quite nicely. It certainly feels closer to a Voyager than a Deluxe to me, and I’m happy to see that it scales very nicely with the recent Generations Triple Changers and even my Fansproject Function figures. Anything bigger than this and I think the toy would have become cumbersome and not nearly as solid.

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However, like the practical packaging, some collectors may take issue with other perceived cuts in the toy. The tires, for example aren’t rubber, they are plastic. In fact, everything on Prowl is plastic. No diecast. Frankly, I’m ok with that. I’m not of the belief that gratuitous use of diecast improves a toy. You only need look at the original top-heavy Masterpiece Prime to realize that’s not always the case. Yes, rubber would have been cool, but the plastic wheels look fine and I don’t have to worry about the rubber rotting away like it did with many of my original G1 toys. I will concede that I would have liked the plastic to feel a little heavier. The toy doesn’t feel delicate, but it doesn’t have a lot of heft to it for its size, making it feel closer to a model than an actual Transformers toy.  Nonetheless, it is a beautiful update to the original vehicle. I’m probably not alone when I say how much I appreciate the addition of the side view mirror stalks. They’re soft, bendy plastic so as not to snap off, and they really add to the improved credibility of the vehicle mode.

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I started off this feature talking about the horrible paint on my Lambor. Naturally, I was really nervous when I first sized up the Prowl’s paintwork, and I’m happy to say it’s infinitely improved over Lambor. The white is bright and crisp and the black has a rich and glossy finish to it. The lettering is sharp and there are no embarrassing spelling mistakes that appeared on early shots of the toy. Even the Autobot insignia on the hood is crisp and straight. That’s not to say, however, the paint is perfect or even as good as it should be. The passenger side panel near the rear window has some excess paint swirl and there’s some slight bleeding between the white and black. There’s also a small chip to the white on the upper driver side windshield. This last bit worries me, as the roof of the car is clear plastic painted white and will likely be very prone to chipping if not handled carefully. None of these points are enough to ruin the car as badly as my Lambor’s horrific paint, but it is still certainly disappointing to see on a collectible toy this expensive. Had this been the first MP release I’d seen I would probably be more outraged, but I guess the terrible paint on Lambor really tempered my expectations.

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Prowl’s gun can clip into a slot in the back of the lightbar to give him some firepower while in his alt mode. It’s pretty goofy looking and I can’t see myself ever utilizing the feature, but it doesn’t detract from the toy and some collectors may dig having the option to display it this way. While attached, the gun can even pivot up and down a bit.

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Paint flubs aside, I’m very happy with Prowl’s vehicle mode. I think it’s perfectly sized, it holds together beautifully, and it looks great in all the most important places. I’m going to break here, but I’ll be back tomorrow to get my new buddy Prowl all transformed so we can check out his alt mode.