Saturday, 2 January 2016

REVIEW: TakaraTomy Masterpiece Convoy v1

When the idea of doing retrospective reviews of the TakaraTomy Masterpiece line was first suggested to me, I honestly was'nt sure where and how to start. MP-10 seemed like a possibility, although I personally felt like this was skipping an important and not to mention extended period of the line's history. Not only am I a big fan of the figures that were released prior to Optimus Prime v2 and the apparent 'reboot' that came with him, but I think they're often sadly overlooked in the eyes of many collectors. Yet still, they have their place in the evolution of the line, and in my own personal opinion are by no means made obsolete by MP-10 and subsequent releases.

So, back to the line's beginnings we go. For the purposes of this review, we'll be looking at the figure that most will refer to as MP-1, debuting way back in 2003, although we'll also be talking about the significant (and some would say long overdue) upgrade that it had three years later with MP-4, and the addition of the trailer in the form of a so-called 'Perfect Edition'. There's even a little Hasbro 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime, their version of the original MP-1, thrown into the mix.

Nowadays, it's incredibly hard to try and imagine a time when the Masterpiece line did not yet exist. Consider that when MP-1 first came along, this was well before the 2007 movie and all the focus and popularity that it would bring to the line. Transformers in general was not the powerhouse that it is today, and the big thing at the time of MP-1's release was Universe, a line mostly consisting of repaints from elsewhere. Something like a high-end collectable version of the original G1 Optimus Prime from nearly twenty years prior was, at this stage, completely unheard of, as was the Binaltech / Alternators line that this release was originally seen as a sort of companion for. 

I think in order to fully appreciate what the reveal of this figure meant for the fandom as a whole, I will have to bow out and instead refer you to the excellent writing of my friend, Maz, who more than ably sums it up the huge impact here.

For my own part, I credit MP-1 with drawing me back into collecting. At this point I had all but given up on Transformers, and G1 was certainly a long distant memory. I still had a semblance of a physical collection, although this had now been put into storage and my remaining interest was purely in other media or via an on-line presence. Yet as soon as I saw MP-1 I knew I had to have it. There was simply no question - this was the figure I had waited since childhood for; a seemingly perfect representation of an iconic character. He may have been revised since and the line as a whole may have evolved, but it's fair to say that nothing will ever quite capture the feeling that this figure evoked upon first reveal, not to mention on first handling. It was... magic.

So, here we are over twelve years later, looking back on one of the most important and defining figures in the line's history. All I can say is that things may have evolved since, but this guy still holds a special place in my heart. Let's get to it.

For the purposes of this review, the figure that I actually have in hand is both TakaraTomy's MP-4 Perfect Convoy edition from 2006, and Hasbro's own 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime from back in 2003. I will cover off the differences between these throughout the rest of the review, but suffice it to say that MP-1 & MP-4 are virtually identical save for the inclusion of the trailer and a couple of small tweaks. Though he may be Convoy in name, there is no mistaking that for us Westerners this is Optimus Prime!

The first thing to comment on here is of course the box itself. I'm a huge fan of Masterpiece boxes myself, and I'm really pleased that they have maintained their style since the very first release and not changed (impressive when you consider the line's twelve year span thus far). There's something about not having a window that makes them seem like more of a premium product to me. It evokes a feeling of birthdays or Christmas, when one receives an unidentifiable square or rectangular package that contains a world of possibilities. The magic is only revealed once you open it, but the anticipation that the opaque box brings is priceless.

With a box like this you just know you're in for a good time!

The other thing to highlight here is the back of the box. Just look at all of those pictures, showcasing every element of the figure's interactivity and play value. Again, this is something that I'm very pleased has continued to this day. I distinctly remember being in absolute awe of the earlier figures when first receiving them, and would merrily spend a good bit of time just analysing the box before even opening it!

Look at all that neat stuff he can do!

MP-4's box is a particular delight once opened, as it contains two large white cartons, one with the figure itself and the other with the trailer. A box within a box... this is indeed a special process. The only slight impediment to the joy of unboxing is the sheer number of twisty ties holding this guy in place - definitely something I do not miss in more modern releases!

Be still my beating heart...

It's funny that I always had in my head that the original Masterpiece Prime was simply loaded with accessories, and that we had somehow seen a tightening of the belt in this regards as the line had progressed over the years. In reality, there are just four main accessories with this release - not exactly the overload that my brain had recollected! Add to this that three of these accessories are also present for MP-10, which also includes Roller (curiously absent from the MP-4 edition here...), and I'm beginning to think it's perhaps a case of rose-tined glasses on my part.

More accessories than your modern Masterpiece?

However, that's not to say that there aren't some great accessories here. Every release of Masterpiece Optimus contains the same basics, those being a rifle heavily reminiscent of Prime's blaster from the G1 cartoon, an energon axe as a homage to a scene from the More Than Meets the Eye pilot, a mini-Megatron gun as a nod to the several times that Prime wielded his arch enemy in this form, and of course a Matrix of Leadership (or Creation Matrix, if your preferred canon is the G1 comic). Obviously the MP-4 release also comes with the trailer, which opens to reveal Prime's famous combat deck (though Roller is decidedly absent, as I say). What is interesting to note here is that Prime's blaster does vary a little between editions, as the TakaraTomy version is predominantly grey, whereas the Hasbro version is a more cartoon-accurate black. Also included is Optimus' character card and instructions.

Probably the most exciting instructions for anything, ever

Speaking of the instructions, I have to say that they're rather glorious. I remember thinking that the older sets of instructions were something truly special, and really helped to make each release feel like an event, in itself. Optimus' instructions are of course no exception, and make every effort to show off his various abilities, each with a suitable comparison photo from the cartoon. The level of care and detail on display here is unparalleled in the Transformers line as a whole, and is a true love letter to the original series.

A masterpiece all of their own

I am also a big fan of how the older instructions used to list pictures of each figure that had been released over the years to represent the individual character in question. Obviously in Optimus' case this is quite a few! Whilst the newer instructions continue some of these trends to some extent, they don't quite capture the full majesty of their original counterparts. This thing is a work of art in its own right.

Anyway, time to move onto the main event!

Regular readers will now that I'm usually a fan of Transformers being packaged in vehicle mode, but nothing about that takes away from the memory of unboxing this masterpiece (little 'm' intended) for the first time. The sheer size of him alone is impressive, not to mention the incredible heft that only comes from knowing a figure is loaded with diecast. You're also immediately struck by just how premium everything looks and feels - shiny & polished, this thing is a treat for the eyes and the hands. There's a quality feel here that is something of a rarity in today's world of Transformers, although in 2003 it was practically unheard of.

The big dog

A great profile

Clean & tidy, with stunning details

Most of this premium feel comes from the fit and finish employed here. There's a lot of diecast at play, most noticeably throughout the majority of the legs and also in the chest, including the chest window doors, which means that the figure is one of the heaviest Transformers I've ever come across. There's also a fair bit of shiny chrome going on, with the grill and smokestacks being the most obvious examples. Add to this rubber tyres, and you have a very special release indeed. Some of these details might seem lost on today's crowd, although again, they were very much appreciated at the time.

Seriously, in 2003 this was beyond belief!

Straight out of the box, one can only be struck by how much this figure evokes the intended character - this is Optimus Prime, fully realised. Whilst maybe not 100% spot on to his cartoon appearance (the visible wheels on his legs being the most obvious departure), it's certainly as close as any figure had dared to go at the time, and to this day debate still rages about which is a better representation between this and MP-10. However, regardless of any small details, this guy does a tremendous job of looking and feeling like the hero we all know and love from our favourite childhood fiction.

"Megatron must be stopped..."

" matter the cost."

There's a level of detail and care taken here that is somewhat unprecedented when it comes to Transformers. You can almost feel that each and every angle of the figure has been analysed and debated to ensure that it looks its best. There are so many little touches and intricate details that mean he really does shine from every viewpoint.

Good from every angle

It helps that he's also super articulated - way more than any previous Optimus Prime figure. Some of this may seem almost par for the course these days, but it's hard to put into words how exciting it was to have a figure like this with poseable hands back in 2003 - mind blowing!

Possibly the first fully articulated Transformers hands I ever saw...

Working from the top down, he has an impressive range of motion at the head & neck, with a full range both sideways and up & down. His arms feature multiple points of articulation, with two points at each shoulder, a bicep swivel, 90 degree bend at the elbow and a wrist swivel. The hands themselves boast individual articulated fingers and thumb, although each only has one point at the knuckle and so cannot be straightened. Whilst this has been surpassed since, it was very impressive at the time! The figure also features a useful waist swivel, two points at each hip, a decent knee bend, and then ankle tilt both sideways and forwards & backwards. All of this combined means he's more than capable of carrying off most of the classic poses you'll be looking for!


"...roll out!"

I call this his Dark Awakening pose

There are some nitpicks, to be fair, and as impressive as it is overall, the articulation is where I will mention the first one. Specifically, the hips. The design of the hip flaps is such that they need to be moved up and out of the way in order to achieve a decent bend at the hip. Whilst not a bad design choice by itself, I have always felt that the flaps look rather cumbersome and unfortunately eye-catching when displayed in this manner, and I do find it detracts from the look of the figure overall.

Never been a fan of those hip flaps

The other major nitpick as far as articulation and posing goes is to do with the weight of this figure. Whilst in theory the plentiful use of diecast is great at making Optimus feel like premium quality, as well as being a suitable callback to Transformers days gone by, the reality is that he is also somewhat top heavy and has a habit of falling over if not balanced properly. Equally, pick the figure up and the legs will almost certainly flop down under their own weight, the hip and knee joints unsurprisingly incapable of supporting them. It's mostly to do with the placement of the diecast as well as how much of it there is - one can't help but feel that the later decision to reserve the diecast in MP-10 to just the feet was a lesson learned, and it seems odd that this is one of the most notable places that doesn't feature it here. If I'm honest, I probably thought so much metal was brilliant back in 2003, but now with the benefit of hindsight I would almost certainly say it could have been better applied, at least.

Standing stable?

Still, nitpicks aside there's a lot to like in this robot mode, and most of the smaller details especially shine here. There are some wonderful touches that really add a lot to the feeling of this being a 'masterpiece', including 'working' pistons on the front & back of his elbows and at the back of his feet, along with vents on his shins that can actually be folded up and down. Add to this some top notch paint applications and beautifully detailed moulding, and a closer inspection of Optimus is truly a voyage of delightful discovery. There's an attention to detail here that is nothing short of breathtaking.

Pistons in the front...

...and in the back

Back of the feet

Shiny smokestacks

Leg vents closed

Leg vents open

Rubber tyres (complete with "Formula Desert Dog" branding in homage to the G1 toy)

Beautiful diecast detail

Then there's the head. I'll admit that these days I'm arguably more of a fan of MP-10's noggin, but there's no doubting that this thing does a fantastic job of pulling off the Autobot leader in its own right. The details on the faceplate and vents are sculpted to perfection, and the eyes are a beautiful metallic blue. Then of course there's one of this figure's most infamous gimmicks, the ability to move the faceplate up and down by pressing a button on the back of his head. This does a wonderful job at recreating the iconic look and feel of Optimus speaking as he did in the G1 cartoon, and is a detail that I originally sorely missed on the MP-10 revision.


Shiny eyes

Thoughtful pose

This is to say nothing of what is potentially this figure's greatest hidden feature - it's mouth. Yes, if you've never seen it, there is indeed a mouth beneath the faceplate. I will admit that I was unwilling to remove the faceplate on mine for the purposes of taking a picture myself, but have included an example below. It's really quite... eerie. Perhaps not what one would've have expected of Optimus' default expression. Many fans have speculated that this in itself is a homage to Optimus' near death appearance in the G1 comic adventure Still Life!, which can also be seen below. Regardless, it's a fun inclusion, and one that serves as a worthy ancestor to MP-20 Wheeljack's own hidden face. Unless you didn't know about that one, either, but that's a story for another day!


Weapons-wise, the most obvious accessory here is Prime's rather iconic ion blaster, as seen in just about every fictional representation of the character. In fact, this was one of the very first figures to actually refer to the gun by its canonically-established name! It's an impressive piece, and certainly more appropriately scaled than MP-10's effort, which always feels rather undersized. The major problem here is that Prime truly struggles to hold his blaster, which is never a good look. Modern Masterpiece fans will no doubt expect a small peg on the blaster's handle that fits into a corresponding slot on the inner palm of the hand, but there is none of that here. Instead, one has to attempt to position the individually moving fingers and thumb in such a manner as to grip the handle tight enough for it not to fall out, which can be somewhat tricky. Still, once done, Prime can certainly pull off some impressive stances holding his signature weapon.

This is Optimus Prime, no question


I can actually hear the noise this gun makes in my head right now

If the ion blaster doesn't tickle your fancy, there's always the option of the mini-Megatron gun. Perhaps we've been slightly spoiled by the inclusion of this particular piece with so many later Masterpiece releases (including MP-3, MP-6, MP-7, MP-11SW and a re-tooled version with MP-13, not to mention variants of each), but I think it's important to acknowledge what an incredible accessory it is. This is a great representation of Megatron in his gun form, looking spot on to how one images it should. It's so detailed that even the stock, silencer and scope can all be removed to just leave the pistol itself. Although quite small, the handle can be extended so that Prime is able to easily hold it, and the results are predictably awesome.

A mini-masterpiece in itself

It didn't even need to do this!

Exponential generator not included

The next accessory is the energon axe from an iconic scene in the G1 cartoon pilot where Optimus faces off Megatron, himself wielding a purple energy mace! After simply folding in Prime's hand, the axe can be clipped on easily, and is capable of rotating at the hilt. It's made of a soft, pliable translucent plastic, and looks great, especially in the light. Although this was one weapon that was never seen again as far as the original G1 fiction goes, you can recreate the scene to your heart's content here.

"You destroy everything you touch, Megatron!"

Rather beautiful when catching the light

An axe to grind?

"No! I'm going to end your hunger once and for all..."

And of course, there's what is no doubt my favourite accessory here - the Matrix of Leadership. Whilst not quite the Matrix's first rendition with a G1 Optimus Prime figure (that honour falling to a reissue of the original toy a year prior to this release), this was still the first that most of us will have seen at the time, and holds a special place in my heart for recreating something that I consider a truly iconic part of my favourite childhood series. The Matrix was such a mysterious and seemingly all-powerful object in the Transformers '86 movie, and so seeing it finally realised here was truly a special experience first time around. Even now, having been recreated with other figures since, I still think it's fantastic. The Matrix itself is a beautiful accessory, with shiny gold and silver chrome and a translucent blue centre. Whilst I do perhaps prefer the look of the MP-10 version in truth, this one also has the accolade of being able to open slightly to reveal the blue orb inside. Very cool.

MP-1's Matrix on the left, MP-10's on the right

"Until that day..."

"...till all are one!"

Of course, the Matrix's typical resting place is inside Prime's chest compartment. I'm sure many fans who grew up with Transformers in the '80s will vividly recall the manner in which Prime's chest opens to reveal the Matrix during his deathbed scene, and this is perfectly recreated here, including the way the doors open and the inner panel flips up. What's even better is that MP-1 has a light-up feature activated by a small button on his shoulder, beautifully illuminating the Matrix inside the chest compartment in a manner that can't help but light even your darkest hour. Whilst light-up gimmicks are perhaps not always everyone's favourite thing, this is an absolutely sublime execution that will no doubt push all the right nostalgia buttons for the diehard G1 fan. Perhaps my only wish here is that the light could be turned and left on without the need to keep your finger pressed on the switch for activation, although that really is the very definition of nitpicks. I don't think I can adequately put across how much 2003 me enjoyed this feature.

Chest doors open

Interior panel flipped up

Confession time: the light is artificially added here!

"It is to you, old friend, that I shall pass the Matrix of Leadership, as it was passed to me..."

So, that's it with the accessories, but not the hidden gimmicks. Prime also boasts a pair of pop-up wrist communicators in another cartoon homage. Just open a small flap on either forearm and you're greeted with an animation-esque portrayal of some of G1's most iconic characters. Interestingly, the characters themselves vary between editions of this figures. Whilst MP-1 features Bumblebee on the left arm and Starscream on the right, MP-4 switches this for Megatron and Grimlock respectively. It's a fun if relatively forgettable little feature, although I have to also comment on the rather lovely keypad detail underneath the flaps themselves.

MP-1 communicator #1: Bumblebee

MP-1 communicator #2: Starscream?!

MP-4 communicator #1: Grimlock

MP-4 communicator #2: Megatron!

Before we move on, it's time for a few comparisons. First up, MP-1 vs MP-4. The differences between the two TakaraTomy figures are incredibly slight, with only the aforementioned wrist communicators being the only notable change outside of an ever-so-slightly bluer tint to the chest windows and Matrix. But what of the TakaraTomy figure vs Hasbro's 20th Anniversary edition? Well, there are more obvious changes afoot, and worth knowing for anyone eyeing up this figure.

A Prime problem? (TakaraTomy on the left, Hasbro on the right)

There's already the different colours guns, as I've mentioned, and I have to say that I much prefer 20th Anniversary Op's cartoon-accurate black blaster. Point Hasbro, so far.

Hasbro (on the right) has the more cartoon-accurate gun at least!

Perhaps most glaring in terms of differences is that Hasbro's version features a worn or battle-damaged deco' on several parts of its body. This can be seen particularly on his wrists, shoulders, knees, and most evidently on his midriff in an apparent homage to the '86 movie and the wounds that Optimus suffered in battle.

Hasbro version (on the right) has been in the wars

I swear he's not just dirty!

Quite how one feels about this battle-damaged theme is a matter of personal preference, although for what it's worth, I know that it's unpopular with a lot of fans, who commonly cite this as one of the main ways in which the TakaraTomy version reigns supreme. For my money, I don't mind it, personally, although I probably do prefer its absence in truth.

TakaraTomy's clean & shiny grill

Hasbro's battle-damaged grill, complete with TF:TM-style wounds

The other obvious difference between the two is also something in TakaraTomy's favour; the Hasbro Prime has significantly shorter smokestacks on each arm. Apparently neutered in the interests of safety, one cannot help but wonder why this was required on what is clearly a premium collectable intended for adults, and there's no denying that it does detract from the figure as a whole. It used to be possible to buy third party replacement options for these, although I wonder if that's still the case these days. For me, this is the one single detail that puts the TakaraTomy version definitively as the one to buy.

Coming up a little short? Hasbro's smokestacks are on the right

My Hasbro version has some serious smokestack envy

Hasbro Prime does still have some benefits though. The chest doors on the TakaraTomy version have a hard time staying together (the left one on mine particularly does not want to stay clipped in place) whereas Hasbro appear to have fixed this for their attempt. Ultimately, they're both great figures, although one advantage to owning both has to be the sheer fun that can come from doubling up the weapons on one version!

Who wants some?

He'll take you all on

And so to the question that I know a lot of people will always ask - how does this older version of Prime stack up against the more modern offering of MP-10? I think what strikes me most when analysing these two against each other is how similar they are in many respects, with MP-1 clearly having been a sort of jumping off point for MP-10 design-wise at least, but also how many differences they have when you look at the smaller details.

MP-4 on the left, MP-10 (Hasbro version) on the right

The most glaring difference is of course the size. MP-10 was designed to size appropriately with MP-9 Rodimus in robot mode, and has famously launched a (much needed) sense of scale throughout the rest of the line since. MP-1 is significantly larger, and only scales with one other figure (that being MP-5 Megatron), although this in itself helps to elevate him as a sort of one-off collectable, in my mind.

Can I keep them both?

Both fantastic figures!

In terms of design, MP-10 clearly follows the same basic template and even much of the transformation and details such as the Matrix compartment are the same, although everything is perhaps a little more refined; the benefit of some eight year's experience between designs and the learnings from the first attempt, perhaps. Whilst I do think that MP-1 probably has the better proportions overall (with slightly less exaggerated arms, for example), I really like the way that MP-10 fits together into a more streamlined shape, particularly in the chest area.

Seriously, if they keep remaking this guy every 8 years, imagine what we'll see in 2019!

From other angles, I think it's fair to say that MP-10 has also learnt some lessons from MP-1, with the back view especially being something of an improvement, and arguably being the more cartoon-accurate. I also give props to MP-10 for at least attempting to hide the wheels on his legs, even if the section as a whole does still stick out a little.

MP-10 maybe a little cleaner?

In terms of the smaller details, there's no denying that MP-1's high level of intricacy is lacking in his successor, with all of the various pistons and springs removed. There's also a lot less diecast, as already mentioned, although the chrome and rubber remain. One area I do definitely prefer MP-10 for though is the head.

Quite different headsculpts

At the end of the day, which you like best is up to you. I know that most will prefer MP-10 for their scaled Masterpiece 2.0 collection, although for me the original Masterpiece Prime will always have a place in my house. He now holds as much nostalgia factor as perhaps my original G1 Prime does (and that's saying something!), and there's no doubt that this robot mode is one of the very great renditions of any character from our favourite fiction. Ultimately, there's room for both, I think.

Eight years of Masterpieces and counting

Perhaps the final comparison that needs to be made is to other figures. But which figures, I hear you ask? Well, it's true that technically Optimus himself only truly scales with MP-5 Megatron (a comparison which we will reserve for another day and another review!), he does fit rather well alongside a Binaltech collection. Indeed, he was revealed & released around the same time as BT-01 Smokescreen, and you can clearly see how the two lines were intended as companions to each other. It's worth also pointing out that before the big Masterpiece reboot of 2011, this was exactly how many of us hoped to build the original Autobot Ark crew - at the time it was the most exciting thing imaginable.

Ten years ago this was the business

So, that's it for Optimus' rather splendid robot mode. Let's move on and see if this figure truly has more to it than meets the eye.

Collectors who own MP-10 will probably not be surprised by much of what the original Masterpiece Prime's transformation has to offer - they follow the same basic template, after all. However, I will say that when I first transformed this figures years ago, I was quite simply amazed. Try to imagine tackling this guy when your previous experience is the G1 figure - it was mind blowing.

1980s pose!

The hand transformation is particularly satisfying

Whilst not particularly complicated, and despite transforming essentially how you would expect Optimus Prime might, there are still some twists and turns along the way. A little fakery is almost par for the course in modern Masterpiece releases, but I remember being shocked at the time by the fact that MP-1 possesses two grills in order to achieve better cartoon accuracy - was this ingenious design or absolute heresy? Hindsight definitely tells me it's the former.

Sort of transforms how you'd expect, really

Gerwalk mode is disappointing

I'm also a big fan of the way in which the wheels rotate out of sight in robot mode, the mechanism used to slide the hands out of place, and how the Matrix compartment stores in vehicle mode. All very clever. Ultimately, every ends up sort of where you expected, and the results are quite satisfying. Most panels tab together relatively well, and everything looks as it should, leaving with you a rather unmistakable truck form.

There he is!

If Optimus Prime's robot mode is iconic, then his vehicle mode is no less so. The image of a bright red and blue tractor trailer is one that will forever bring joy to the hearts of many of us who grew up in the 1980s, and this Masterpiece rendition does a mostly cracking job to recreate that.

Stunningly shiny

That's Optimus Prime, alright

Everything looks almost exactly as it should, and despite his quite boxy appearance there's really no doubt that this is basically how Optimus' vehicle mode is supposed to look. I will say that at the time of release, I thought that this was perhaps the most resplendent thing I had ever laid eyes on. Looking back now, and especially with experience of MP-10 under my belt, I can honestly say that it's perhaps not as stunning as nostalgia alone might recall, although it's still pretty handsome.

Still makes me happy

The little details so welcome in the robot mode carry over nicely here, with the shiny chrome elements bringing a much-needed touch of bling to the proceedings, and the rubber tyres doing their very best to pull the heartstrings of even the most stoic adult collector. There's even neat touches such as working suspension - push down on top of Prime's vehicle mode and feel the way the wheels bounce on satisfying springs. Lovely stuff.

The 'working' suspension is a lovely touch

What's less good is certain elements of how the cab and the truck mode as a whole fit together. There's some rather obvious robot mode kibble going on, with the hips especially being all too prominent, but where it really suffers is in profile. The chest windows from the robot mode stick out just enough to give the cab a rather odd silhouette, and the way the arms fold away is not as discreet as perhaps one wishes it was. This is to say nothing of the slightly dubious way in which the shoulder joints become 'windows'. I'll be honest, I don't think I even realised this was the intention when I first owned this guy.

Side profile is a little iffy

Still, it remains a great representation of an iconic vehicle mode nonetheless, and is unmistakably Optimus Prime in every sense, although the original release has perhaps one glaring omission. When I first picked this guy up, I obviously noted the absence of the trailer, but nothing could ever quite prepare me for finally owning the MP-4 version and realising just what an omission this was!

The missing element...

It's fair to say that the MP-4 release of Optimus Prime is the definitive version, if only for the inclusion of the trailer. Far from being a simple cherry of top, one quickly realises that the trailer is in fact an essential component for this release, even managing to soften some of the flaws of the cab section. With the trailer added, the presence of the vehicle mode is something else - incredible stuff!

OK, now that's Optimus Prime!


The trailer is an essential addition here

So much win!

The trailer is beautifully rendered, with all of the right details in place to work the nostalgia element. The rubber tyres and chrome elements all carry over nicely from the cab itself, as does the rather wonderful level of detailing that makes this feel like a premium release. It really is rather stunning in hand.

Beautiful just by itself

Moulded detail is stunning

Rubber tyres and chrome make it feel consistent

And so we return to the obvious comparison with MP-10, this time in vehicle mode. If the latter-day release of Optimus Prime saw some improved elements in his sleek robot form, then it's certainly true that this is also the case in vehicle mode, with the more recent version clearly benefitting from better proportions for the cab. It's also fair to say that everything tabs together somewhat better on MP-10, leaving the original Optimus looking impressive but a little worse for wear by comparison.

MP-10 on the left, MP-4 on the right

MP-10 is a bit tidier... and has wing mirrors!

Still, though not as neat as his newer namesake, it's undeniable that there's a lot to love in the original Masterpiece Prime's vehicle form, and if anything seeing the two of them lined up next to one another brings a tremendous amount of excitement. Ultimately, what could be better than one Masterpiece Prime if not two?

Both masterpieces, in my book!

Yet again, perhaps the other obvious comparison is with Binaltech figures, especially as the MP-4 trailer was actually designed to be the correct size to store one of the car modes inside. If you thought this play feature was something TakaraTomy first cooked up for MP-10, you'd be wrong. There's no doubt that the original Masterpiece Prime scales well with the Binaltech range, and I can still distinctly remember the thrill that came from seeing Optimus' huge vehicle form lined up next to a fleet of Autobot cars back in the day. We might have the modern Masterpiece line to satisfy this appetite nowadays, but back in 2003 I genuinely thought this was as close as we'd ever come, and I was very happy for it!

Binaltech figures fit inside the trailer

Roll out!

As with Optimus himself, the trailer feature much more than meets the eye, which in this case of course means the Autobot leader's famous combat deck! The transformation to this mode is very simple - to begin with, two supporting legs pop out from either side of the trailer, and then the rear doors open, a ramp folds down, and one is already gifted with a hint of what lies inside...

Doors open

Ramp down

A hidden surprise

...then just pop open the two halves of the main body of the trailer, and there you have it - a fully-fledged combat deck! Though only making sporadic appearances in both G1 cartoon and comic fiction, the combat deck remains a much-loved and well-remembered part of Optimus' character, and this version does an excellent job at recreating it faithfully.

Ready for combat!

It's really quite beautifully detailed, with plenty of elaborate sculpting built right into the interior, making it appear highly robotic and very alien-esque. Along with the ability to store both the ion blaster and mini-Megatron gun inside the trailer, there's still a lot to admire here, and it was certainly a real thrill to see this part of Optimus' form recreated so well for the first time.

Lovely robotic detail

The main cockpit of the combat deck is nicely poseable, with three joints on the spine holding it up, and then a moving radar dish and articulated arm all adding to the play value. The left hand laser can also move up and down, and the cockpit itself can be opened (which is where the driver would've sat on the original Diaclone version of the G1 toy).

The translucent red is very nice!

Surprisingly menacing

Diaclone driver not included

It's an attractive piece, all things considered, and compares well next to the MP-10 version of Optimus Prime. I'd argue that the red-tinted lasers and windshield really add something to this version, almost making its newer counterpart look quite dull by comparison. Of course the updated version does include a rendition of Roller, sadly absent from the MP-4 release.

Quite similar actually

Of course, where the combat deck really comes into its own is as a repair bay for Optimus himself. With its impressive size and beautiful detail, I think this is probably the ultimate display option for MP-4 overall - it looks absolutely incredible on any shelf, and really catches the eye. I also think the bright reds & blues or Optimus' robot mode contrast well to the muted greys of the trailer. Just beautiful, and certainly something that should stir the emotions of even the hardiest G1 fan.


About as exciting as it gets!

So, what else is there to say that hasn't been already? In terms of ultimate representations of our beloved G1 characters, things don't get much better than the original Masterpiece Prime. This figure is such an incredible realisation of Optimus, and also a beautiful and inventive figure in its own right.

The fact that the character has since been revised and updated for MP-10 is a wonderful thing, although it's clear to see how that figure may not have even happened without the inspiration of this original version. I'd also argue that the later version in no way makes this figure feel at all obsolete - the original is different enough and certainly special enough to warrant both renditions.

Optimus Prime, the icon

This figure being in something of a unique scale class in the Masterpiece line makes it even more special, in my opinion. Whereas most other figures apart from MP-5 Megatron arguably scale with each other to at least a certain degree, Optimus stands out as a true collectable - something that can take pride of place on any shelf even next door to the more modern iterations in the Masterpiece line.

It's safe to say that the original Masterpiece Optimus Prime will always have a special place in my collection. Whenever I look at him, I distinctly remember the shock and awe that I experienced the first time I saw a photo of him. This was the figure that brought me back from the brink and is solely responsible for hooking me into full-time collecting. It's a wonder to behold, a beautiful thing... a true masterpiece, in every sense.

(L-R) Hasbro 20th Anniversary Optimus, MP-2 Ultra Magnus, MP-1B Black Convoy, MP-4s Sleep Mode Convoy, MP-4 Convoy

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