Friday, 22 January 2016

REVIEW: Maketoys MTRM-04 Iron Will

I'll state one thing right off the bat: I'm a massive Headmasters fan. So, there you go. I think it's probably because I was the exact perfect age when the Generation 1 toys were first released and the characters introduced into the supporting fiction, although I'd add that there's just something so incredibly engaging about the Headmaster concept itself. Much of my childhood was spent wishing I myself had a suit that enabled me to transform into a giant robot's head, especially as it would come with the added bonus of a rather spiffy attack vehicle to call my own. Alas, this never happened, but at least now almost three decades later Maketoys have seen fit to bring us the next best thing with their RE:Master line, in the form of Masterpiece-styled renditions of the original Headmaster characters.

Their first effort, Cupola, enjoyed tremendous applause from most of the fans who picked him up, and is regularly viewed as one of the standout third party releases of last year. Indeed, if you've read my review of 2015, you'll know that this rendition of the Headmaster Chromedome was in fact my favourite 3P figure of the year, and for good reason. He was excellently designed, brilliantly realised, and a fun and inventive figure to boot, all with the quality from a Maketoys release that their fans have now come to expect.

So, it's fair to say that their second not-Headmaster release has some big shoes to fill. Iron Will is of course a rendition of Hardhead, but how does he compare to his predecessor, and can he meet the expectations of fans who enjoyed that release so much?

Thanks to the folks at Kapow Toys, I'm lucky enough to have a test shot of this figure in hand, and so will attempt to answer these very questions. It's been quite the week, with Maketoys' other big release, Hellfire, also in for the review treatment (check that one out here!), but I'm excited to get cracking with Iron Will.

One week, two awesome figures

As the figure in hand is a test shot, I received it without the final packaging. He actually came packaged in a plastic blister inside Cupola's box, so I imagine it will be the same size and of course a similar design.

In terms of accessories, he comes with two large green guns, highly reminiscent of the equivalent weaponry on the G1 toy. Of course he also comes with his Headmaster companion, if you consider this to be an accessory, and a spare face for those who prefer a more cartoon-accurate representation of the character (though which cartoon portrayal it represents, we will discuss later).

It's worth mentioning again before we begin that this being a test shot, some of the tolerances and other parts may vary between now and final production. Indeed the two guns have very loose handles on the version I am reviewing here, meaning that they can flop forward slightly, especially in vehicle mode, though I have been assured this will be fixed for the final version.

Though the production figure will come packaged in robot mode, I've chosen to start with the rather monstrous looking tank mode, purely because that's my general preference. And what a mode it is! 'Tankformers' are usually pretty popular with fans for obvious reasons, and this guy is sure not to disappoint. He's big, chunky and certainly very imposing - exactly what you want!

It's also fair to say that Iron Will looks pretty great from every angle. Something about the blocky colours, rectangular shapes and good proportions really work well here, and I found myself regularly admiring him in this form during my time with him.

Straight away, the first thing to notice with this figure is the weight. He's very heavy, with a notable use of diecast in what will become the robot mode legs and also some of the joints. He's significantly heavier than Cupola in this regard, and it does set them apart somewhat.

The second thing to notice is the finish. I know that many fans will be delighted by the inclusion of rubber treads for the tank mode, and I have to agree that it's a lovely touch, and truly adds something special here. I don't think he would have been quite the same without them, as they do create a premium feel. It also helps that they roll very well along a flat surface (or carpet!). You'll no doubt also notice some of the lovely finer details. Aside from the obvious green plastic, itself a pleasing shade, there's some stunning orange clear plastic highlights that really pop, along with plenty of other little treats for the eyes. It's a very attractive vehicle mode, no doubt.

Yes, the rubber treads are just about the coolest thing EVER

There's also some great play value here, with the previously mentioned treads but also other features such as the guns and cockpit. Firstly the main gun is on a double swivel joint and so has a good range of motion. I will comment though that I might have preferred it to have a slightly more fixed main position at the joint, as there's no obvious resting place for the cannon, though it's perhaps the very definition of a nitpick. Additionally, the cannon being on a double joint does give it a great range of motion that allows for some terrific action set-ups in tank mode.

Yeah, you wouldn't mess with him

You can of course also mount both of the robot's hand guns on top of the tank in exactly the same way as on the original G1 toy, a neat if anticipated touch. As I mentioned above, the handles are quite loose on my test shot copy and therefore slouch forward a touch. Still, this doesn't stop the combination of the three guns looking nothing short of awesome together, and again, it's something that should be fixed for the production release.


The combination of the three guns really makes this mode look amazing

Finally of course there's the cockpit, with has a decent enough range of swivel even if some of the clearances are slightly restricted. It takes a bit of wrangling to achieve a 90 degree angle, but it's a lovely touch that most certainly puts this one up on the original toy.

Swivel on it!

Maximum 90 degree turn (with a little fiddling)

The inside of the cockpit is also nicely detailed and even includes a storage spot for the alternate face! Nice. It doesn't peg in from what I can tell, but seems to stay in place well enough unless you shake Iron Will about a bit. This was definitely not expected but certainly appreciated.

Clever storage for the alternate face

Of course it's what goes in the cockpit that's more worth talking about, and I'm pleased to say that the mini-Headmaster figure representing Hardhead's original partner Duros is excellent.

I wish this was me!

Whilst I loved Cupola overall, I have mentioned before that his Headmaster companion was one of few areas that I thought could have been slightly better, and I'm really pleased to see that Maketoys have seemingly made a couple of small improvements here that really elevate this little chap. He looks great, has some lovely little details like surprisingly effective light-piped eyes, fits together better than his comrade and is nicely articulated. Super.

Light piping!

He also looks brilliant when interacting with other figures and has a great deal of play value!

With Cupola's Headmaster

With KFC Toys' cassettes

With the original G1 Headmasters

So, there's a lot to like about Iron Will in tank mode. In terms of comparisons with other figures, of course the obvious one is with his teammate, Cupola, the sight of which makes me incredibly excited for the presumably inevitable future releases of Maketoys' Brainstorm and Highbrow homages. There guys go so well together, and with Cupola also sporting his dual cannons, they really look armed to the teeth!

Like a dream come true...

OK, now imagine this shot with Brainstorm and Highbrow...

However, Iron Will also looks surprisingly great alongside some other releases. I actually think he fits nicely alongside of a smattering of TakaraTomy Masterpiece Autobot cars, for example. Something about his size versus a carbot seems to work well.

I don't generally mind about vehicle mode scale, but this works for me!

Tank vs car!

Of course, there could be no better comparison than with the original G1 toy, being such a beloved specimen from my own collection. Seeing them side-by-side is a sight to behold and no mistake, and if anything makes me appreciate even more just what a cracking tank mode Iron Will possesses.

With G1 Hardhead

1987 - 2016

Cupola was a bit of a surprise in that his transformation was unexpectedly complex. Where a lot of people assumed he was a rather typical example of a car doubling over in half, he turned out to have a rather inventive and quite original transformation scheme. Iron Will somewhat bucks that trend to have a relatively simple conversion, though one that's at least quite faithful to the original toy. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you!

Perhaps the biggest surprise here is how the cockpit twists and unfolds to become the backpack, in particular the clever way in which the main gun rotates around. The sliding mechanism to extend the legs is also a bit of a twist too.

Mostly though there's really nothing that complicated here and once you know what you're doing this transformation should only take mere minutes, leaving you with a very imposing figure indeed.

Of course, there's also the fun of transforming 'Duros', leaving you with the complete robot form in all its glory.

With the alternate face

Hardhead was always a classic no-nonsense tough guy character, and everything about Iron Will's robot mode speaks towards that in spades. In keeping with his tank mode, he's beefy, chunky, blocky and looks the absolute business.

Yep, he looks the business!

The girth of his arms and legs makes him really stand out and look very strong, though it's accentuated by what is mostly a very clean robot form with surprisingly little extraneous kibble. I was asked about how much his backpack sticks out by a couple of people online but I don't really think you can even call it a backpack, to be honest, and certainly not kibble! It sits tidily enough to not be an interference with his robot form, and perhaps the only slightly extraneous part is the two black panels on his back that come from the sides of his front wheel arches. Even then, they look fine.

The lovely little touches from the tank mode are carried over nicely here, with even more of that translucent orange plastic to be found that really catches the light in a rather fetching way. It's quite mesmerising. Otherwise the sculpt is chock full of pleasing details.

Flat feet and appropriately distributed diecast mean that he is nicely sturdy and balances incredibly well. Add to that some good articulation and he's generally very poseable. The head is on exactly the same mechanism as Cupola, meaning that it has a full side-to-side swivel as well as some articulation either up or down, depending on how you position the head in the rotating socket. He has two points of articulation at the shoulders allowing for a good range of motion, double-jointed elbows (more on that in a minute), and wrist swivel. His hands feature a single piece for the moulded fingers on one joint, with a similar tabbing method to Cupola to hold his guns. Beyond a waist swivel, he has some ball-jointed hips which are slightly limited in their forward movement by the crotch area, a good bend at the knee (again, more on that in a minute) and ball-jointed ankles. As with the tank mode, the shoulder cannon also has a great range of movement and can seemingly be placed in any position you care for. More than enough articulation overall to pull off some dynamic poses.

Come get some

Sadly though, this is where the figure's biggest downfall also comes. Much has been made of the elbow and knee joints from photos, as many fans were worried that they seemed to feature huge gaps when bent. Unfortunately, I can only confirm that this is quite noticeable in hand too, and can detract from the overall look of the figure if you're not careful. It is possible to pose and position the arms and legs well to try and avoid this as much as possible, but it can certainly look awkward if you're not careful.

Yep, there are gaps in the knees alright...

The elbows do actually feature a grey joint that slides down from the shoulder piece and covers some of the gap, though it does require you to bend the elbows without much force to allow this piece to stay connected, and will still only work up to just over a 45 degree bend. Anything over that, you'll have a gap.

This is the most bend you'll get without a gap

Awkward at certain angles

The knees to me actually look worse in photos, in all fairness, and this just reminds me that so many flaws are often magnified when focused on in this way. Still though, there's no denying there's a gap, and anyone put off by it will be unlikely to be won over in hand, I suspect.

Looks worse in photos

It's a shame that there isn't a solution for these joints in the design, as almost everything else works brilliantly. I think I really only have two other notable downsides of this mode to mention, the first being that on my copy the chest piece doesn't seem to lock in at all, and has a tendency to pop up, though again this is something I have been told should be fixed on the production copy. The second point is really personal preference, in that I would have preferred his shoulder cannon to be able to telescopically collapse down slightly, as it is very long and sticks out a little for my liking. Still though, this is quite animation accurate, so is likely what many will expect.

My, what a large cannon you have!

So, yes, the knees & elbows are 'a thing'. Still, the pluses definitely outweigh the minuses overall, and there is definitely a lot to like here, including some neat little touches such as the ability to swap faces. You have two options - the default which is essentially a G1 toy face or a homage to the G1 animation. The question, of course, is which animation?

Alternate face!

Many Western fans will no doubt be familiar with Hardhead's appearance in the three part season 4 swansong episode The Rebirth, where he sported a mouth instead of a faceplate like the toy he represented. Of course, Maketoys being an Asian company, they have based their figure on the characters appearance in a different canon, that being the Japanese cartoon series Headmasters.

Hardhead in The Rebirth, Headmasters, and his G1 toy appearance (courtesy of TF Wiki)

I guess how you feel about this depends on which series you prefer and if indeed you're familiar with the Japanese animation at all. There's no denying that Iron Will looks very accurate to this appearance, and I guess for some Western fans the mere fact that this figure can sport a mouth instead of a faceplate might be enough to get them over the line, although I'm sure some will still be hoping for another company (a fourth party?!) to supply a Rebirth-accurate head.

For my own money, I will admit that I came into reviewing this guy fully expecting to prefer the default faceplate option, despite my normal preference for animation accuracy. I love the look of the G1 toy and fully expected to like this face more if only from an aesthetic perspective. For whatever reason, I've ended up enjoying both faces, and I think I will actually use the animation face more than I'd thought. It does have a nice character to it, after all.

There's also definitely something to be said for seeing Hardhead in his Japanese Headmasters guise lined up next to the usual on-screen comrades. Something about the combination of bright colours and smooth, blocky robot designs really makes this growing set of figures work exceptionally well together, and I had a particular thrill from seeing a number of the cast from various Japanese Transformers series together for a group shot. However unlikely it is that I become bored with Optimus and the carbots, it's still good to know that there's more than one Autobot collection forming in my house.

With MP-9 Rodimus & Cupola

With KFC Doubledeck, cassettes and X-Transbots Ollie

Also including MP-24 Star Saber and MP-22 Ultra Magnus

I will add that the alternate face does actually do quite a convincing job for a Rebirth-style display, if that's your thing. To my eye, it works well enough, and Iron Will looks similarly at home next to the traditional range of TakaraTomy Masterpiece figures.

With Hasbro Masterpiece Optimus Prime

Looks like they just touched down on Nebulos...

With Mp-21 Bumblebee and MP-12 Sideswipe

There's also nifty little features such as the painted section on his chest, a clear homage to the tech specs feature form the G1 toy that activated when you inserted the Headmaster figure into the main robot. I know some fans were disappointed that this working feature wasn't fully recreated on Cupola, though I can't say it's something I truly expected, or missed. I'm not looking for this figure to replace my beloved G1 original after all, and I like that they at least included this neat little touch.

I LOVE this.

Of course where this figure really shines is with his comrade in arms, Cupola. I know I said this with the vehicle modes, but I cannot tell you how excited seeing these two together makes me for the hopefully soon-to-come Brainstorm and Highbrow reveals, not to mention the Targetmasters and Powermasters that Maketoys have already begun unveiling.

So, not a perfect robot mode, by any means, but still one that's lot of fun, and a great complement to the ongoing line, no doubt.

I was thinking about the best way to try and sum up this figure, and it's a tough one. I suppose for fans who have decided to not pick up Cupola or the rest of the Maketoys Headmaster homages for whatever reason, it would be hard to say that this is a necessary purchase to add to your collection. It's great overall, but there are some legitimate flaws in areas such as the elbows that I know many will simply not like. Despite this, I would suggest that for those of you who already own and enjoyed Cupola, this guy is not only a fantastic complement but actually the sight of the two of them together, not to mention the prospect of seeing all four (five? Surely not...) Autobot Headmasters lined up, more than edges Iron Will into the absolutely essential camp.

If you can look past those knees & elbows, there really is a lot to like here, and I can confidently say that he's one figure I won't be passing up. I still may not have the ability to binary bond with a giant alien robot, but I do have the reality of a Masterpiece-styled Autobot Headmaster, after all, and that's really not too bad at all.

What's HOT?
Awesome in both modes, with an impressive heft and a real quality feel, there's a lot right with this figure. I also love the multiple face options.

What's NOT?
The knees and elbows are a bit shonky, with noticeable gaps that can look a bit unsightly from certain angles. I also know some fans with want a Rebirth-accurate face.


  1. Great review and pics Sixo! I was worried about the elbows and knees but you showcase just how awesome the figure is, decided he was well worth preordering!

    1. Thanks a lot, and glad you enjoyed it. I'd definitely say he's worth purchasing, in spite of the knees & elbows. It's one downside on an otherwise awesome figure. I sent the test shot back today and was really quite sad to see it go!

  2. Dude! Great piece! I might have to step up to the Maketoys Ironwill from my TW Hardbone, just because of your review and pics. Great work again!

    1. Thanks so much! Really pleased to hear that it was useful. :)

    2. Really was. He's already been ordered and will be in transit sin enough. Thanks again!

    3. Nice! Hope you enjoy him when he arrives.