Wednesday, 27 December 2017

REVIEW: Fans Hobby Master Builder MB-06 Power Baser



INTRODUCTION
Whilst still a relative newcomer to the third party transforming robot arena, Fans Hobby have already built up a pretty impressive track record. I've reviewed five of their figures so far in 2017, and have yet to see them make a misstep. So it feels rather appropriate to round off the year with the final review covering what is no doubt their most ambitious project to date in Power Baser. Many collectors, myself included, have been excited at the prospect of this particular character design being realised in "Masterpiece" style at some point, and so it's also an exciting release to close of what has been an incredible twelve months of releases.

But before we begin, perhaps it's worth covering off which character design this is meant to be, anyway. I'm sure a lot of Western collectors will instantly think of Power Baser as a representation of Powermaster Optimus Prime, the original version of which was released in 1988 as one of the first newly-designed moulds for a previously-released character in Transformers history (which arguably started with Goldbug the previous year). For many Transfans who grew up in the 1980s, "PMOP" was our childhood Optimus Prime, having initially missed out on the 1984 original, and so it remains as one of the more endearing or iconic designs from that era.

However in Japan things took a slightly different turn, with Takara's release of the same figure being intended to represent an entirely new character, named Ginrai. Ginrai himself was actually human (serving in the place of Hasbro's Hi-Q), and he operated a "transtector" (a lifeless Transformer body) in the shape of the original Optimus Prime. Quite a different spin on things, certainly! The original toy also featured several notable differences to the Western release, and the character was also prominently featured in the Japanese animation Super-God Masterforce.

"Super Ginrai" as represented in the Super-God Masterforce DVD artwork by Guido Guidi

The eagle-eyed of you will no doubt notice that it is this animation appearance from which Power Baser takes its cues. There are several notable tells in this regard, most notably the way the smaller robot's feet are stored behind the head of the combined robot mode, and the mixture of blue and red found on the hands, although the similarities do not end there. Of course, many Western collectors will be more familiar with the character's appearance either from the original toy, or from his appearance in the G1 Marvel comic, where he featured prominently; it's this last interpretation that is perhaps most dominant in my own mind. In that regard, Power Baser does of course bear at least a passing resemblance, though it's not an exact representation and nowhere near as close to how he appeared in Masterforce.

Powermaster Optimus Prime 1988 box art on the left, and his appearance in the Marvel comic on the right

Of course, the other exciting prospect of this release is that Fans Hobby have also teased their own version of Godbomber, a separate robot who, on the Japanese version of the G1 toy and in the Masterforce cartoon could combine with Ginrai to form God Ginrai, an even larger robot. You'll surely notice throughout this review that Power Baser's combined robot form is a rather large robot unto itself, so the prospect of it combining with another sizeable figure to form a significantly larger super mode is something to be very excited about... but I guess that's for another day!

Fans Hobby tease of their version of Godbomber, with the combined "God Ginrai" mode to the right

So, all of that out of the way, is the figure itself actually any good? Let's get on with it and find out!

ACCESSORIES
Power Baser doesn't feature that many accessories, but what he does have is rather neat. In fact, all of them are upgraded version of the same accessories that can be found with the original G1 toy. First up, you have his two rather formidable-looking black hand cannons. They're really rather nicely done, with lovely red detailing running along the barrel. They can be fit snugly into either the combined robot mode's or the smaller robot mode's hands, or can be stored on the back of the truck mode, or indeed utilised as part of base mode should you wish.



The cannons can also split apart, with the main section becoming a smaller gun for the cab robot to hold. There's a neat little transformation feature involved, and the end result looks pretty good I think. The barrel sections can then be stored on the front of the base mode for additional weaponry, and if you really want then the smaller guns can also be mounted on top of the turrets. I will add that they don't slot in particularly well to the base mode however, and I found that they never quite felt as secure as I might have wanted, although perhaps I have missed something. Additionally, Power Baser replicates a bit of a flaw I've noted on previous Fans Hobby figures, in that you cannot sufficiently close the robot hands around the gun handles, leaving the fingers slightly open and looking a little odd. I actually was surprised to see this happen on this figure, as it seemed to be something that they'd overcome on more recent releases. Still, they look really good nonetheless.




That's not all of Power Baser's arsenal though, as he also features two grey dual-barrel cannons that most recognisably live on the shoulders of the combined robot mode. Again, they can be utilised in vehicle mode also, and can be stored either side of the base mode just like on the G1 toy. They look absolutely ace.



I guess it's debatable if the final accessory is indeed an accessory or not at all, given that, in the Japanese canon at least, he's actually the main character! Yes, it's the mini-figure who also transforms into the engine for the vehicle & robot modes. Depending on your preferences this is either Ginrai himself or Hi-Q, Optimus Prime's binary-bonded Powermaster-partner in the Western version of events. Either way, he looks really rather great! He's surprisingly detailed and lovingly finished for such a little dude, and carries over quite a bit of personality too. The face is especially great, and very intricate considering how tiny it is! He also features some welcome articulation points, with moveable hips, knees, shoulders and elbows all present. That said, I do think that a bicep swivel would add that little bit extra in terms of play value and poseability, but you certainly can't complain with what's on offer here considering the size of him! He's fantastic.



The transformation between modes is basically as simple as on the G1 toy - just fold down the legs from the sides of the engine. The engine mode itself is lovingly chromed and looks really good in its rightful place on the front of the cab (or indeed on the chest of the combined robot mode). Unlike the G1 toy, the engine isn't required to be in place in order to unlock parts of the transformation; instead it's merely decorative on this figure, but it looks superb all the same.



VEHICLE MODE
Power Baser comes packaged in his vehicle mode, and so this will likely be your first in-hand impression of this figure. Now, there's something about classic Optimus Prime vehicle modes that tend to be rather awe-inspiring anyway, but it's fair to say that this guy makes quite the mark as soon as you take him out of the box! Wow!



Seriously, this thing feels immediately impressive, and looks absolutely gorgeous from top to bottom. There's some lovingly-detailed moulding going on all over the cab and trailer, and it's highlighted nicely by a stunning use of colours and other details. Overall it's a strong look, and one that no doubt rings true to the character (whether that's Ginrai or Optimus for you). The size of it also feels noteworthy, even if it's actually no bigger than Masterpiece MP-10 in the same mode. In fact the trailer itself is noticeably smaller in terms of height (though about the same in length), which really surprised me when I came to do a side-by-side comparison. Still, I think they look good alongside one another, even if they're very different stylistically.

With Masterpiece MP-10 Convoy

The other way in which they differ is that Power Baser is clearly loaded for bear. All of those cannons make him seem extremely intimidating and certainly visually striking. The whole look immediately calls to mind the original toy, though clearly with a bit of an update. He feels somewhat more stylised than your traditional interpretation of G1, but that's by no means a bad thing. It certainly looks nice and tidy from just about every angle, even the rear. It's perhaps a small shame that there's no opening doors hiding a rear compartment in the back of the trailer (as there is on the original toy, even if it's just a token), but really, it wasn't expected.



Perhaps one of the most gorgeous parts of this mode is the cab section, and rightly so. A lot of that is no doubt down to the striking windows, featuring a beautiful translucent blue colour over a quirky bit of robotic detailing. It looks the absolute nuts, and is definitely one of my favourite things about this figure, even if it doesn't conform to any stylistic reference from the original toy or animation. There's other nice detailing to be found here too, including plenty of chrome on areas such as the smokestacks and the engine once you remove the mini-figure, although I have to say I prefer the look with it in place, personally.



Where the cab does fall down a little is in the proportions. The side view reveals how much the robot mode arms stick out a bit at the back, somewhat compromising the overall look a bit. It works, but perhaps the fact that this mode is somewhat hyper-stylised helps to make things like this blend in a bit more where they wouldn't on a more realistic equivalent. Besides, it's by no means bad, and on the whole I think this mode looks really very nice indeed. I'd even go so far as to say that I'd be happy with just the cab mode by itself as a smaller overall toy, it's so nicely done. It's a shame that the trailer cannot stand on its own without the cab attached though - there's no mechanism to support it, which would have been cool.



Overall, this is a really great vehicle mode, and certainly looks the absolute business! But of course, there's plenty more to be seen on this figure...


TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT & BASE MODE
Fans Hobby have shown that they're able to create simple and fun transformations thus far. If you look through their current back catalogue, there isn't a single release that one could call "taxing" when it comes to the conversion between modes, and this first step of Power Baser's certainly follows suit. Of course, you really have two elements going on here - first is the cab conversion to robot mode, and second is the trailer conversion to base mode. However, they're both pretty straightforward and contain some clever elements. On the cab, I particularly like simple touches like the feet transformation and the way in which the chest unfolds to reveal the head, though I do wish that the whole abdomen section tabbed into place a little better as it just kind of ends up feeling like it sits there, without having a defined place. The base mode transformation is equally nothing too taxing, though is perhaps much less rewarding overall, as I have to admit to a certain degree of frustration with how little everything tabs into place for the end result. The larger robot mode legs just kind of sit in an undefined position, and some of the various panels more rest in place than connect somewhere purposefully. Equally, I'm not a big fan of how the combined mode's robot head just kind of sits hidden out of view... it all ends up feeling a tad undercooked, if I'm honest. Still overall there's nothing that should concern anyone worried about a difficult transformation here, and you're left with a rather handsome 'bot mode indeed!

ROBOT & BASE MODE
Classic Optimus Prime robot modes are often pretty recognisable, though far too often modern updates take cues from the G1 original; in that regard, this guy hits like a breath of fresh air with a welcome update to Prime's smaller Powermaster robot mode, and the results look fabulous! Even if your preference is to call this guy Ginrai, it's still a wonderful thing to see the character given new life in such a dramatic way. I mentioned before that I would have almost been happy with the cab section as a figure by itself, and a large part of that is this robot mode - check it out!


Beautiful! Not only is he nicely proportioned, but he looks very dynamic and visually striking. He's also cut like a real bruiser, with chunky arms and legs that make him feel very powerful. It's a good look and a really superb reimagining of the original. Again, it's a somewhat hyper-stylised interpretation, as with all of Fans Hobby's designs, but it works really well.


Did I mention he's also really nicely articulated too? I found the smaller robot mode to be an absolute dream to pose, and very stable thanks to a welcome pair of fold-out heel spurs. He's got enough joints going on and plenty of freedom of motion to allow him to be contorted into any number of dynamic poses, and he looks pretty great from most angles to boot.


Again, if I had one complaint on this mode, it would be the abdomen section, which does feel a little awkward, sadly. As I mentioned, that's all down to how it fits together, never quite feeling secured or "finished". Everything just kind of sits in place, and it can feel a little underdone from certain angles, especially as it has a habit of looking rather hollow if you're not careful. It's not bad by any means, but maybe it could have been a bit more polished. Still, he looks the absolute nuts overall. As before I love those blue chest windows!



Power Baser looks armed to the teeth once you add his dual guns into his hands, and of course this adds a lot of play value too. Again, it's a shame the hands don't close properly around the handles (it's worse in this mode), but a bit of proper posing will help to cover it some. He looks incredibly mean and intimidating, no doubt helped by the somewhat angry look on his face (as much as can be conveyed with the mouthplate). A lot of that is down to the expressive eyes, which are lovingly finished in a light blue chrome. They catch the light well, though I have to say I prefer flat-coloured eyes myself, if only because chrome makes photography so much harder at times! They do look good in hand though!

With Hasbro Masterpiece Optimus Prime

So, Power Baser's smaller robot is looking pretty neat, but what might surprise you even more is how big he actually is. A quick comparison with Masterpiece Optimus Prime will show you that they actually work out to be the same height, so that should tell you how big the combined mode is going to be roughly! I also think they look pretty good together here, despite being very different interpretations of similar looking robots.


Of course, the other thing that Power Baser has to talk about is the base mode made out of the trailer section. It's a decent approximation of the same mode from the original toy, with most of the right pieces in place and the general look down. I will say though that I find it a little bit lacklustre overall, to be completely honest. Don't get me wrong, it is fun and a worthwhile inclusion to the overall package, but as I hinted before it just feels somewhat undercooked. Again, nothing tabs in particularly well, and it ends up feeling more like a contorted robot mode than anything else. I mean, granted, this is what the original toy was too, but it felt a little more purposeful than this somehow.


Don't get me wrong, there are some strong elements to it, like I love the way that the dual-barrel guns can swivel up and down on this version. However, the absence of ramps is rather notable, the fact that the smaller robot cannot stand inside the back section (as on the G1 toy) because the larger robot's head is obviously hanging in place, and the rather obvious way in which the larger robot arms just kind of hang there without any clever way to try and disguise them even a little... it all just feels a bit underwhelming.


Still, there's no doubt that it adds a little something in terms of play value overall, and of course this release would be rather incomplete without it. And besides, the smaller robot and mini-figure are really so good overall that they more than make up for it.


TRANSFORMATION TO COMBINED MODE
So, transformation round two, and this time it's getting ready for the rather massive combined mode! Things start out as expected if you've already done the base transformation, with everything pretty much ending up where you might expect. There are no doubt a few quirks and clever tricks along the way, such as the wheel arches that flip over and several little panels that fold or tuck away to make things neater. I did find the configuration of the feet a little odd, and it took me a couple of attempts to find a positioning that felt "right" and that also didn't cause clearance issues with parts of the shins or ankles. For the most part though, this is all relatively simple until you come to actually combine the cab section with the larger robot body, and there things hit a bit of an impasse. Now, Fans Hobby have since released a further note showing in greater detail how the cab section is supposed to be aligned and slotted in, but frankly I still find it a bit of a pain to get everything to connect properly without at least a bit of fiddling. It's not an easy or intuitive process, as several parts of the combined mode have to fold over parts of the cab section, and the long strut that folds over with the larger robot head on feels a bit spindly in the whole process. Perhaps my biggest bugbear though is getting the two flaps on top of the shoulder to stay tabbed in, along with the robot head. Even when you think you've achieved it and been pretty patient, something pops out again which can be pretty frustrating. There is definitely an element of practice makes perfect with this method, but it's not a process I particularly look forward to either. Still, it doesn't take too long to do, and the results are certainly worth it...

COMBINED MODE
Phew. This guy is BIG. I mean, I know I alluded to that earlier, but sheesh. Just wait until you see him in person and then you'll immediately understand what I mean. He's an absolute hunk of robot, and at this stage it absolutely boggles my mind to think that we're going to see a Godbomber at some point who can combine with this guy to make an even bigger robot... until then though, Power Baser stands mighty impressive all on his own!




Handsome beast! I have to say that the overall look of Power Baser is even nicer in hand than I expected, thanks in part to the rather lovely finish that's applied throughout. All of the little details such as the translucent blue windows, chrome, detailing and paint apps combine to make him extremely eye-catching. I genuinely find that I cannot stop looking at him from across a room even when trying to focus elsewhere! I do think a large part of that is his size also, it has to be said. He certainly captures your attention, let's put it that way!




I think he's also pretty well-proportioned for the most part, and looks tidy from just about every angle. I'll be frank and say I had some concerns about how well the backpack would work on this combined mode, and specifically how I would feel about the rather large smaller-robot-mode feet tucked up behind the head. Actually, it works much better than I had anticipated, and whilst I do think that they could perhaps be a little less obvious than they are, it works just fine. I have also read quite a few comments from people suggesting that this mode has a "pot belly" or "beer gut", and whilst I concede that it's perfectly possible to pose and photograph him from unflattering angles, I really don't perceive it to be a problem overall. He certainly doesn't look or feel "fat" in any way - I actually think he looks ace!




He's also quite pleasingly poseable, and is capable of pulling off some pretty dynamic moves for such a large 'bot. He has a rather wicked knee bend and an impressive amount of ankle tilt, which gives the legs a lot more range than you might first think. I did struggle a little bit with stability in some poses, but I found that fiddling with the heels a bit helped with this somewhat. The bit that is rather awkward is the waist swivel, mainly because of the hip skirts either side of the crotch section which are attached to the upper part of the hip. It means that they need to be moved up and out of the way in order for the waist to be rotated at all, but they tend to be a bit of a hindrance even then. It's a weird design, and looks especially odd as it means that they remain in place with the upper body instead of the crotch when the waist is rotated.




Aside from that, anything else I mention likely falls into the category of nitpicking to be honest. I guess my only other slight bugbear is the relatively "gappy" abdomen section underneath the front of the cab section on the chest. It doesn't look bad by any means, but it perhaps could be tidier and feel a little more solid. Overall though, there's enough nice stuff going on that things like that become a bit of a non-issue in hand. I mean really, there's not a whole lot to complain about here, and he's definitely lots of fun in hand!




Comparison-wise, there's perhaps few figures that really match the stature of Power Baser in his combined form, but you might be pleased to know that he looks suitably awesome next to Masterpiece-styled representations of other characters from the Japanese cartoon series. Again, he is noticeably more stylised that the character's traditional animation appearance, so it's really up to you if that works for you or not, but he doesn't look bad by any means.

With Masterpiece Star Saber


With KFC Simba



With Fans Hobby's own Gunfighter II

So overall, I have to say that I think this combined mode is something of a success. If you're not a fan of the Japanese series, and you're looking for a closer representation of Powermaster Optimus Prime as you remember him from either the G1 toy or his fictional portrayal, then I guess you may not find Power Baser to be quite what you're looking for, but really only you can decide if that's true or not. If you are a fan of the Masterforce series then there's no doubt that this is a bold and dynamic take on the Ginrai character. Either way though, it's an awesome towering robot than is as much fun to handle as it is awesome to look at. Now just imagine this guy when he's combined with Fans Hobby's Godbomber... sheesh.

With TakaraTomy G1 Super Ginrai

CONCLUSION
So that's six Fans Hobby figures that I have reviewed in under twelve months, and what have I discovered? Well, they haven't put a foot wrong yet, that's for certain, and long may it continue. With interpretations of Godbomber, Overlord and more on the way, there's plenty of reason to be excited.

As for Power Baser, he's really pretty great overall, and feels suitably like an "event" release to round out a year of reviews on some top-quality figures. He's not perfect by any means, and I do think there's some notable flaws with him, including a very lacklustre base mode. However, there's so much going on here that there's more than enough to cover those points and leave you feeling impressed overall.

What's HOT?
Striking vehicle mode, pretty lovely smaller robot mode and impressive larger robot mode. Everything feels nicely finished and quality, and the whole thing is so pretty that you'll find yourself staring at it.

What's NOT?
The base mode is a bit poor, and there are elements of the transformation to combined mode that can feel a little frustrating. Both the smaller robot and combined form have some quirks, and both suffer from weird sections around the abdomen. Oh, and the combined form has strange hip panels that get in the way.


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7 comments:

  1. Cool review! I didnt know Godbomber is in their pipeline too. Wow! But mb11, that's a long way to go.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yeah, it might be a little way off, but I still can't wait! :D

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  2. He's certainly striking, but I feel the plastic here is a bit subpar. Both of the rear wheel guards have cracked on my copy and I'm by no means heavy handed.

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    Replies
    1. Ah no, that sucks! Really sorry to hear. I must admit I've not had similar problems myself, but that's really not good.

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    2. Happy ending, FH are sending me replacement pieces free of charge, that counts for a lot with me, very impressed.

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    3. Oh, that's good news! Have to say I have found them a really easy company to deal with, so not surprised they've sorted it out.

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    ReplyDelete