Friday, 13 November 2015

REVIEW: Maketoys MTRM-02Y Gundog

NOTE: This review was originally published on 13th November 2015 on my Facebook page.


INTRODUCTION
Maketoys have a long-standing reputation for quality releases and a highly loyal fanbase. However, being a Masterpiece collector myself, I had long admired their work only from afar, merely hearing great tales of their top-notch quality without ever experiencing it with my own hands. That all changed when they unveiled their new RE:Master Series - their own take on supposedly Masterpiece-style figures intended to scale and blend with the TakaraTomy official line. I eagerly ordered Cupola, their take on the Headmaster, Chromedome, and was not disappointed; everything I had heard from Maketoys fans was true! This was confirmed with Visualizers, their next release, and it's only made me more excited for the future of this line.

However, when it comes to Hound, there's some stiff competition. FansToys have also thrown their hat in the ring with a seemingly cartoon-accurate rendition of the character, and TFC Toys have also unveiled their own somewhat-more-stylised version.

Maketoys themselves have seen fit to release Gundog in two different versions - 2N which is intended as a representation of Hound's appearance in the G1 cartoon, and this one, 2Y, which is a homage to the darker colours and styling of the original G1 Hound toy.

So, how does this chap measure up? Thanks to the rather amazing Home page, let's have a look.

PACKAGING
Gundog comes packaged in robot mode, which means that his box is quite different in shape and size to that of a TakaraTomy Masterpiece carbot. Still, it's quite small and compact compared to a lot of 3P boxes, and not much bigger than the likes of FansToys Grenadier. Gundog himself is packaged inside a very sturdy blister pack, with a bag of accessories and his instructions all inside the box.



In terms of accessories, he has a spare tyre and gas canister, both of which can be mounted on his robot and vehicle modes, as well as three separate weapons, including his rifle, a shoulder-mounted missile launcher, and the gun that mounts onto the back of the jeep. I can see now why they chose to call him Gundog!


The accessories themselves look lovely! The guns are all shiny chrome and very detailed, and the spare tyre is bouncy rubber, along with the rest of his wheels. Add to this that Gundog himself has a weighty heft that can only mean there's some diecast at play, and this whole package starts to feel like a very premium offering straight out of the box.

ROBOT MODE (part 1)
I'll admit that I much prefer it when Transformers come packaged in their alt' mode. Call it nostalgia, but to me it always feels more special to start with the disguised form and then slowly reveal the hidden robot through the transformation process. That said, from the moment this guy pops out of the box he's pretty striking in this mode, and straight away I was taken with the shiny dark green finish.




So much of our enjoyment of these figures comes from memories of the characters that they represent, and there I must confess that Hound is at a disadvantage where I am concerned. Not that I don't like the character, and far from it! It's just that growing up in the UK I was much less familiar with the very early episodes of the G1 cartoon where he featured more prominently, as most of my exposure to the original canon came through VHS tapes predominantly from the second season. That said, I did own the G1 toy and still do, and enjoyed his appearances whenever he popped up in the UK comic.



However, none of that takes away from the feeling that one gets when they hold Gundog in hand for the first time. This is very much a great representation of the character, and does a lot to tug at the feelings of nostalgia that make this hobby so much fun. With his striking dark green deco', Gundog cuts quite a formidable figure indeed.


There's an absolutely beautiful finish to this guy. Despite the predominance of green, the dark colour does not look overbearing, and the plastic used is sparkly and eye-catching in hand, and really shines against the light. Paint apps are not overdone but used well over the whole figure, most notably in places like the headlights, tail lights, knees, hips and other small touches that really make him pop. Add to that the use of chrome on parts such as the engine on his chest and the shoulder-mounted wing mirrors, not to mention those aforementioned weapons, and he really starts to look very special indeed. I was only admiring MP-25 Tracks for his polished finish just last week, but I have no hesitation in saying that Gundog is right up there with him.







Everything is nicely neat and in place, with no immediately-obvious kibble or extraneous detailing. I have a slight nitpick with the jeep steering wheel, which ends up on his back in robot mode, as it sadly doesn't click into place at all and easily gets in the way. It's not a major problem though, and can actually be popped off it's ball joint if found particularly cumbersome. Otherwise, he's very 'clean' and overall nicely proportioned. Much has been made on the forums about the large thighs on Gundog, and it is true that they're quite prominent, even in hand. I'd be lying if I said I didn't notice it, although how much of a problem it causes is up to you, in the end.


I have to make special mention of Gundog's face sculpt. So much of what makes these figures work as the characters intended is down to the face, and in this regard Gundog shines. Whilst perhaps a little more sullen and stoic than I might normally associate with the character, it's a fantastic rendition of Hound and instantly evokes memories of him in action. What's also interesting is how it seems to change from different angles, as when viewed from above he almost looks more angry and ready for action. I even had one poster ask me if he came with two faces based on separate pictures, but it is just the one.



Joints are all nice and tight, with no concerns of looseness here; Maketoys reputation is safe! He's also remarkably poseable. Starting with the arms: the shoulders are on both a ball joint and a swivel joint, making them super articulated; the elbows bend to 90 degrees; the hands can swivel and the fingers open & close as one piece, in keeping with Masterpiece carbots. Moving to the legs: his hips are on impressive joints that allow for a wide range of motion, although the thighs are slightly hindered by the crotch and so won't quite come up to 90 degrees; the knees are on nice tight joints although again stop just short of the 90 degree-mark due to the presence of the car seats on the back of the legs; the feet can move back and forth a touch, and he has an impressive ankle tilt which is sure to keep most people happy. Elsewhere he has a waist swivel which comes in handy during posing, and has a sort of unofficial ab crunch; it's clearly not intended, but can be done due to transformation. His head is a little disappointing when it comes to articulation, as although it can do the full 360 degree rotation, it only has the slightest amount of up & down motion. Whilst he would only really be staring at his chest if he were to look down, I would have loved him to be able to look up at least, as I personally find it adds a lot to various poses on other figures, and it's a shame it's missed here.


I will also say that it's annoying that the main body is not tabbed in at the back where the wheels are stored, as it means that the whole chest often moves forward as you're fiddling with him. It's not a massive problem by any means, and as I say the 'unofficial ab crunch' does allow for some more poses, but there are definitely times when it becomes a little frustrating putting this back into place, and it's surprising given how well this figure tabs together in vehicle mode (more on that later). Similarly, the jeep window on his back also has a habit of moving out of place by folding backwards, and could do with a way of being secured. Add to this to previously highlighted steering wheel, and there's a little readjustment that's required from time to time, which can be irritating.


Accessories-wise, this guy has plenty of options. The missile launcher mounts securely-enough on his right shoulder only (unless I've missed it, there seems to be no way for him to hang to the left). A nice touch here is that the gun that typically mounts on the back of the jeep mode has a tab on the side that allows it to fasten to the rocket launcher, meaning that Gundog can sport a dual arsenal on this shoulder. He holds his hand gun very securely, as it has a familiarly-styled tab that fits inside his palm. The spare tyre can be mounted on his back, or used as a sort of Captain America-style shield on his right arm, which is another nice touch. Similarly, the gas canister can be stored on a protruding tab on the front of his foot (which is in itself surprisingly G1 toy-accurate!) or can be affixed to the side of his hand gun for alternative storage. All great accessories, and all great options for how they’re used.


Of course, if you prefer a cleaner and more streamlined look, the more typical hand gun and shoulder launcher look is also very cool.


Now, the big question with a release like this will always be how well does it fit in with the TakaraTomy Masterpiece line, and specifically the carbots. Well, this being the toy-themed deco', of course it's not as strikingly cartoon-esque as chaps like Tracks, although I was surprised by how well it actually fits in with the official guys overall. Despite the darker green, current lack of Autobot decals and general toy-styling, he doesn't feel out of place in this regard, in my opinion. What perhaps sets him apart more is the obvious difference in finish, whether it's the chrome bling or noticeable rubber tyres; there's an argument here that his finish is more premium that a typical TakaraTomy Masterpiece, or at least since the likes of MP-1. However, as more and more 3P companies opt to produce Masterpiece-styled figures, this is no doubt the kind of 'first world problem' that we will see a lot more of. I did note that his bling sat quite nicely alongside some other 3P efforts.





As for the Masterpiece aesthetic as a whole, does he have that indistinguishable factor that makes him 'fit' with the main line? Well, to be honest that's up to you. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder, and I think it's up to every fan individually to decide if a particular figure 'fits' in their collection or not. I will say that, for my money, he doesn't stand out as noticeably different as much as I thought he might, and I can imagine that many folks will adopt Gundog as their Masterpiece Hound.



ROBOT MODE (part 2)
One rather unique feature of this figure that Maketoys have been keen to highlight is the ability to lower the shoulders to a configuration intended to further homage the G1 Hound toy. It's a simple enough process although does involve popping up the bonnet as you would for usual transformation, and ends up with a slightly different silhouette.




Personally speaking, I prefer the regular configuration with the higher shoulders, although I do think that this is a really neat touch that adds something to the release as a whole. I can imagine that collectors who like their Masterpiece-style releases to have a distinctly toy aesthetic will jump on this, particularly as it does resemble the original figure a lot more.


Pleasingly, he doesn't lose any articulation in this format, and can still pull off all of the same dynamic poses with the lower shoulders.


TRANSFORMATION
Transformation is simple enough in concept; essentially Gundog folds in half in a very similar fashion to the original G1 toy. There's not much that's surprising here outside of perhaps the way the forearms unfold, but then, there doesn't need to be. One thing I will say for Maketoys releases is how satisfyingly they tab together during transformation, and Gundog is no exception. Everything here is relatively intuitive and has a nice tight fit, although I will confess to missing the step of folding down the panels on the sides of the hips on first try, leading to a rather confused few moments later on!



The only bit of the transformation that really caused me any grief was my first attempt at snapping the jeep bonnet into place. Comparatively the thinnest piece of plastic on the entire figure, I will admit to being somewhat nervous having to use a small amount of force to get this part to slot onto the required tabs and complete the main bulk of the transformation, although subsequent attempts have been much more forgiving.



I've repeated the transformation several times over by now, and it's nicely satisfying enough to want to re-do again and again, yet quick enough to allow for this.


VEHICLE MODE
Coming to the vehicle mode as the final part of the review still feels rather odd, although to be fair this is where this figures truly shines, in my opinion, so perhaps it's a case of the best being saved till last.


Gundog's jeep mode is nothing short of sublime. It's superbly detailed, with beautiful touches such as the chrome engine and wing mirrors really setting off the striking shiny dark green deco'. Many have bemoaned the absence of things like rubber tyres from the official Masterpiece line, and looking at this release it's not hard to see why. The feeling of quality in this mode is readily apparent, and so much so that I think you could legitimately convince someone that this is simply a premium collectable car, and not a robot in disguise. The fact that there's no obvious signs of kibble here really help with that; Gundog looks stunning from every angle.




The jeep mode is nicely compact and well-held together. Nothing here is in danger of falling apart or flopping, with the possible exception of the windshield. Similar to the robot mode, it doesn't tab into anything, and so has no defined angle. It's not a real problem of any kind, but if you're a little anal like me, then you prefer everything to have a defined positioning.


One thing to mention is how well all of the wheels touch the ground in this mode. After several transformations, I haven't yet had an instance of Gundog being slightly misaligned and causing him not being able to roll. The rubber tyres also have a pleasingly soft 'bump' to them as he motions along a hard surface.


The accessories all feature well in this mode. Whilst you can opt for the default back-mounted cannon reminiscent of both the original toy & 'toon, it's also possible to add the other two guns and make sure that he's fully equipped for battle. I'm someone who occasionally feels that the weapons being stored atop the Masterpiece cars can look a little odd at times, although here it works supremely well. His three guns lined up in tandem and all blinging with chrome is truly a sight to behold, and really makes the jeep mode shine.


It's also possible to store the spare tyre and gas canister on the back of the jeep, using the same fold-out tabs that are present on the front of his robot mode feet. Simple, but elegant.


I was keen to inspect how much play value there is in including some of the smaller human figures with this mode, an open-top jeep being the prime candidate for it after all. MP-10's Spike figure is more than capable of sitting inside the driver's seat, although he is a little undersized and struggles to reach the steering wheel in the absence of a booster seat! I did also try Dr Wu's Partners, although this ended badly; they're slightly too large and my attempt to fit their legs underneath the steering wheel ended up with faux-Spike suffering an amputation at the knee. Ouch. Can't blame Gundog for that, but please don't attempt it yourself!





So, a stunning vehicle mode for certain, but let's turn back to the big question of how well does he fit with the Masterpiece cars. Well, once again his clearly premium finish does make him stand out slightly, if only in a positive light. However, there's perhaps something more obvious here - his size. He's noticeably larger than your average carbot in this mode, and in particular makes cars like Tracks look quite tiny by comparison.







Now, personally it doesn't bother me. I'm someone who keenly accepts the edict that the Masterpiece line itself is all about robot mode scale, with the size of the vehicles falling where they may. I don't mind that the Datsuns & Lambos do not scale with MP-10, and I definitely do not mind an undersized Bumblebee. Therefore, I can make similar allowances for a large jeep, I'm sure! Oh, and just in case anyone was particularly worried, he does indeed fit inside Prime's trailer, so if this was a deal breaker for you in the way that it often seems that TakaraTomy think it might be, then fret not.





So, as to how well he fits, well, that's up to you, as I say. For my money, he's a stunning jeep and definitely one of the nicest-looking vehicle modes in my collection, official or not. I also think he might end up with a home amongst my Masterpiece Diaclone repaints, but time will tell.



CONCLUSION
So, there we are with Gundog. I have to say that I enjoyed this figure a lot more than I thought I might. That's not to say that I expected bad things, and far from it, but many of the small nitpicks I wasn't sure about from photos melted away in hand, and this guy has left me feeling suitably impressed. I suppose how good he is to you really depends on what you're looking for in a 'Masterpiece' Hound, and whether or not this particular release fits the bill. Certainly Maketoys have done their best to cover most of the bases, particularly with releasing him in two varying deco's, and there's no doubting their top quality and premium choice of finish.

Ultimately though, when it comes to deciding which way to go in the 'Hound wars', that's really something that only you can answer for yourself. One thing's for sure though, if your first choice is Gundog, then you're unlikely to be disappointed.



2 comments:

  1. You have the same effect on me as Maz. Now I'm looking for the best price for Gundog!

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    Replies
    1. Sorry! :) Perhaps it's because I've been enabled myself by enough of Maz's reviews over the years. Can't go wrong with Gundog though.

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