Sunday, 28 January 2018

MONTH IN REVIEW: January 2018



I've been steadily pumping out reviews of new figures that come my way for several years now, and whilst I do try to put down my thoughts on most stuff in my collection, I don't always find it achievable to write about absolutely everything! It's not even just that hobby time needs to fit into a busy schedule along with family and work and lots of other stuff; it's also that some of the figures I choose to pick up don't really demand a full review to be written about them. However, that doesn't mean that I don't want to take pictures and even share a few thoughts, so I thought I'd try my hand at a quick monthly rundown of stuff outside of the regular reviews, both old and new, whilst chucking in a few other bits for good measure. Hopefully it proves to be an interesting read too, not least because I think it's a good opportunity to showcase some of the more unusual figures that come my way!

So, what has January brought?


NEW REVEALS THIS MONTH
Before we get into the stuff that I actually collected in January, let's take a moment to look at some exciting new reveals that have happened this month!

TakaraTomy Masterpiece MPM-6 Ironhide


TakaraTomy definitely seem to be ramping up their MPM Movie Masterpiece line at quite a pace! After the reveal of MPM-5 Barricade only recently, we already have confirmation and the stock images of Ironhide, who's looking very impressive in my opinion. Say what you want about the Bay designs, but I think they've translated these guys pretty well to toy form thus far. I only hope that the quality is there on this guy, having suffered a little with some loose joints on MPM-3 Bumblebee and MPM-4 Optimus Prime. Fingers crossed!


TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-34S Shadow Panther (Beast Wars)


Well, this one came out of nowhere, eh? I guess it should have been expected that TakaraTomy would look to make further use of their Cheetor mould at some point, although I didn't think it would happen so soon. Still, that's not to say it isn't an exciting development, especially as Shadow Panther is looking mighty fine! This is of course based on the original Shadow Panther toy from 1997, itself a repaint of the original Beast Wars Cheetor mould. I have to say I am loving the silver on show here, and I'm thrilled to see that they're continuing to include those mutant mask homages, as also seen on MP-38 Convoy Legendary Leader Ver.


ADDED TO THE COLLECTION THIS MONTH
OK, so now let's have a look at the stuff I have collected this month! It's actually turned out to be a really busy time. There were a couple of figures that I had on order from before Christmas but that took their sweet time to arrive, and at least one or two that I finally managed to track down during the holiday time when I had chance to do a bit of digging. I think what's been interesting is what a mix of different stuff I have picked up as well! So, in no particular order...

Hasbro Robots in Disguise (RID) Build Team

(L-R) Heavy Load, Wedge, Grimlock, Hightower

(L-R) Grimlock, Hightower, Heavy Load, Wedge

In the theme of stuff outside the box of what I usually collect, I picked up these colourful chaps second hand from a friend this month. I've long admired the RID line, having owned a couple of the figures since they were first released some eighteen or so years ago, and picked up a few more along the way over the years. Even as I am typing this I am struggling to comprehend that the line is so old now - insane! Anyway, having also recently picked up a JRX gift set, I was keen to take the opportunity to finally own the Build Team, who certainly haven't disappointed!



Wedge is quite possibly my favourite of this group overall. He's a neat little guy with a simple transformation that leads to a surprisingly articulated robot mode. Whilst the placement of the shovel parts on his arms takes a moment to get used to, I actually think it works really well and that he looks great overall. He's also sporting a cracking headsculpt, awesomely-prominent Autobot logo and a lush orange finish. Top stuff.



Heavy Load is kind of great too, despite a few quirks along the way! I love the chunky vehicle mode and the vibrant yellow colour, not to mention his rather goofy grin. I was a bit surprised by some of the partsforming required for transformation though, and the robot mode feet are a bit odd to say the least. Still, he's a fun 'bot.



Hightower is in many ways a similar mould to Heavy Load, or at least they share some of the same mechanics, particularly bits like the shoulders and the legs. That said, there's enough new here to make him feel distinct, and vehicle modes with cranes are always a bit of fun anyway. Ultimately he has the same wrong feet as Heavy Load, but I absolutely adore his grumpy "not here for it" facial expression.



Grimlock is the really weird entry in this list. He almost feels like he doesn't fit the rest of the group at all in some ways, which is accentuated by how tall he is. The vehicle mode might be my favourite overall, with a lovely rich green colour and a striking Autobot logo all making him a bit of a treat. The transformation's a bit weird though, and it's a bit difficult to know what to do with the arms when you do get to robot mode. I like him overall though, and he's definitely a unique 'bot!


Merging these chaps into the combined Landfill mode is by no means a tricky process, but it is interesting. The three-way connection that attaches Heavy Load, Hightower & Grimlock together is certainly unique, and also allows for multiple configurations which is something! I love how colourful the final result is, not to mention how freaky - all protruding construction bits and mishmashed parts. It shouldn't work but it kinda does, and it's topped off with a truly outstanding headsculpt. Props to this guy for also not needing any additional parts for the combined form.


I'm sure the Build Team (or JRX for that matter) won't be for everyone, but I'm thrilled to finally have them in my collection!

With Car Robots JRX


TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-9 Rodimus Prime (V2)


Wait, what? A second MP-9? When I posted on social media that I had picked this guy up, it certainly created a few questions! So, what's the deal? Well, firstly, I have owned my "V1" copy of MP-9 since just after he came out in January 2011, and it's fair to say that I have loved him dearly in that time. He's been played with a lot over the years, transformed repeatedly, and has featured in many of the photographs that I have published in recent times. But, as many people know, that figure has several well-documented flaws that, whilst they haven't dampened my overall enjoyment, are a little disappointing all the same. I remember finding it especially worrisome having to perform a couple of modifications when I first owned him, such as sanding parts of the backpack in order for everything to clip together properly. Don't get me wrong, my copy has otherwise held up very well over the years, but there's always been an element of wishing he was more perfect than he is. Step forth V2.


As many might know, the "V2" refers to the second run of the original figure that was released after the initial run was concluded, in August of the same year. The second run featured notable improvements which I was keen to experience for myself, including a backpack that clips together without issue, stronger joints, panels on the legs that don't pop off, and ankles that are easier to pose due to better placement of the springs. True, this second version is meant to bring its own set of complications, although thus far I haven't seen much evidence of that - perhaps time will tell? The only way to identify the difference between the two is a tiny stamp on the bottom of the box to indicate the date of release. I've been after a V2 at a decent price for some time, and finally over Christmas that time came. Since his arrival I've been thoroughly enjoying putting one of my favourite Masterpiece figures through its paces all over again! Now, if I could just find a copy of the bloody sound stage accessory, I'd be a happy bunny.



TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-3 USA edition


Another version of a Masterpiece figure than I already own, but it's a curiosity satisfied if nothing else! In fact, not only do I have the original TakaraTomy MP-3 (often known as "Greenscream"!), but I do also have the Hasbro version of this figure, originally a Walmart exclusive release of the mould in more traditional cartoon colours.


However, I was recently reminded that the Japanese release (still in the Hasbro packaging but with a sizeable TakaraTomy sticker on the front) actually features a slightly varied paint scheme, with different, more subtle weathering on the back of the jet, a Decepticon emblem proudly adorned on the nosecone, and sharper points on the rear fins.


It might not add up to much for most collectors, so I have no doubt that owning both versions is far, far from essential, but I'm really happy for it. Besides, it's another step closer to full completion of the TakaraTomy part of the Masterpiece line!



Ju Jiang Jet Commander

With Masterpiece Bumblebee

Holy moly. This thing took me completely by surprise when I first saw it in person at TF Nation 2017 - the sheer size of it alone is impressive, but something about the style and aesthetic connected with me too. It's by no means a dead ringer for classic cartoon Superion, but it's not all that far off either, or at least not enough to be totally discounted for collection consideration.

(L-R) Jet Harrier, Jet Falcon, Jet Concorde, Jet Eagle, Jet Phantom

Anyway, I'll admit that Jet Commander promptly slipped off my radar again until Toybox Soapbox started posting pictures of him on Twitter, at which point I became really intrigued. Cue a bit of research, a tiny bit of weighing up, and then one cheeky order led to him arriving but a day later. And you know what? I couldn't be happier with him overall.


Anyway, what is this thing exactly? As most people may have noticed, it's a quasi-oversized-KO of the Combiner Wars Aerialbots, although to be fair I'd hesitate to say that this is simply a straightforward KO. It's true that it takes the basic premise of design and transformation from those figures, but the oversizing process also fleshes them out wholeheartedly, bringing all new moulded parts, additional elements of transformation and ultimately an entirely different experience overall. It's like they started with the CW figures and thought, "How could we do this better if we started again?".


OK, so look - if you're anticipating Masterpiece levels of quality and engineering, then you'll definitely be disappointed. They're very simplistic 'bots, despite still being an upgrade on the original figures on which they're based. Equally, the aesthetic is close to the Aerialbot's G1 animation models but by no means exact. There are plenty of ways that they deviate if you scrutinise. That said, there's something about these guys that captures at least the feeling of those characters, if nothing else, and I would say that they at least fit the bill size-wise, give or take.


And whilst they're not boasting as remarkable a quality finish as most figures that would try to register on the Masterpiece radar, they are pretty sturdy and chunky, and don't feel like they're about to break on you at all. For the price of the whole set, they feel very much like value for money, and besides, there's something to be said for fun, simple combiners limbs that can be moved between modes easily.


It's worth me mentioning that I think the limbs themselves are much more successful than not-Silverbolt in this set. Whilst he's fine, there are definitely elements of his design that feel a little cumbersome and stand out more on a larger 'bot. By comparison, the other four may be simple, but they feel somehow more impressive in both modes and are generally more fun to boot.


Really though, it's all about that combined mode for me. Seeing a Superion at this scale alongside some Masterpiece-styled figures is really very exciting indeed, and makes me eager to see more combiner teams realised in this sort of fashion. In many ways, these guys kind of remind me of Unite Warriors Devastator, in that they're simpler, chunky and above all fun 'bots that make for a cracking combined mode. It's not a bad approach. I may yet still be tempted to do a full review of these guys, but for now I wanted to throw up a few initial thoughts on them here.

Also with Unite Warriors Devastator


Encore 20A Devastator (anime version)


This month was a good one for construction-themed combiners, it seems! The original Devastator toy is no doubt an absolute classic, though I'm struggling to recall if I have ever actually owned the complete set of Contructicons outside of the yellow European release from the early 1990s. In any case, I have rectified that now by picking up a cheap listing of the Encore release, though opted for the anime edition for that extra burst of cartoon-accuracy.


It features a brand new colour scheme for all six members, who're now more of a lime green as opposed to the darker shade of the original toys. Each individual 'bot also now has silver faces with red eyes, whilst Devastator himself even sports a remoulded head designed to closer resemble his animation model.

Scrapper

Long Haul

Bonecrusher

Mixmaster

Scavenger

Hook

All-in-all it's a great set, and beautifully presented in Encore packaging. I do have a couple of small niggles, such as Hook's left arm being a bit loose on the joint and the combined mode being a bit fiddly to assemble, but overall it's a joy to add these guys to the collection finally. There's also no denying how amazing these figures look with their more animation-accurate colour schemes - the newly-painted faces alone makes such a difference to the feeling of character.

Scrapper

Long Haul

Bonecrusher

Mixmaster

Scavenger

Hook

For a real treat, pair the combined mode with a set of World's Smallest Transformers (WST) Dinobots for an extreme G1 vibe... Heavy Metal War!

With the WST Dinobots


The Last Knight Cybertron


I told you it's been a weird month, didn't I? This guy was certainly not on my radar, but there's kinda of a story behind him. I had long kept my eye on the TakaraTomy 2010 version of this mould (released to coincide with the Dominator Unicron release that I mentioned in my review of last year), but was curious when it popped up repainted in weird quasi-G2 colours as part of the latest movie toyline. I mean... how utterly random, right?


Anyway, I completely wrote it off when the toy was originally retailing at absolutely eye-watering prices, but when he was later knocked down to a significantly more reasonable listing at UK Toys R Us stores and then placed on a BOGOHP promotion he became distinctly more tempting... when a friend's birthday came up and a bunch of us decided to go in on getting him this figure, the half price offering was too good to pass on, although I hasten to add that I shared that benefit with the rest of the group!


As it stands, I don't know if he will stay with me forever, but he's at least made me realise that I don't need the 2010 version after all; he may be a lot of fun and I'm happy with the price I finally paid, but not enough for any further editions in my collection.



Encore 22 Twincast


Arriving very late into this month was this rather magnificent package! I'm not going to do any kind of extensive overview here and now, as I plan on sharing a few more words and some photos in a separate article very soon, but that's something to look forward to for next month. Suffice it to say, he's rather glorious, and just check out that amazing packaging, eh? I never thought I would be one of those people that took pleasure in photographing boxes, but I think I get it now. Lush.


REVIEW ROUND-UP
Of course, I have also done a number of full reviews in the last month, including:














TOY OF THE MONTH
I figured it would be fun to highlight the figure that I personally have been enjoying most each month! It's based on nothing more than my own personal satisfaction, but I will attempt to justify it in each case...

TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-39 Sunstreaker


So look, anyone who's read my recent review of this guy will not be surprised by this choice for January! I'm sure I have already gushed quite enough about what a marvel Sunstreaker is in that write-up, but suffice it to say that he's an absolute delight. Absolutely killer vehicle mode (also featuring a genius bonus element in the rear engine flip), a challenging transformation that's also fun and repeatable, and an incredibly interactive robot mode that honestly feels more like a full-blown action figure, as opposed to a Transformer. If this guy isn't on my top ten come year end then I will be very surprised, or 2018 will have been a year of absolutely unprecedented quality. Cannot recommend enough.



STUFF FOR NEXT MONTH
And finally, what can we look forward to next month? Here're a couple of the upcoming figures that I am personally most excited about.

TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-40 Targetmaster Hot Rodimus


The original version of this mould was my favourite figure of 2016, so it's no surprise that this repaint has at least caught my attention. I have to admit though that my initial reaction was a bit... "huh?". After all, it's a bit of an oddity, isn't it? Fortunately, as time moves closer I find myself more and more excited about the opportunity to appreciate this mould all over again. Still feeling a bit unsure what the deal is here? Well, it's basically Hot Rod decked out in a slightly different colour scheme (darker red, tinted legs, clear windshield, white crotch plate) meant to resemble his appearance in the G1 cartoon season 3 episodes that were animated by AKOM (notorious for their animation errors, especially in comparison to the more regular Toei-animated episodes). That list includes the three-part series conclusion The Rebirth, which of course features the debut of Hot Rod's Targetmaster companion Firebolt, represented here by a repaint of the same figure that was originally included with the Hasbro version of the MP-9 mould. This is actually the first time TakaraTomy have included the little guy with one of their releases though, so that's something.


TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-711 Convoy (7-Eleven ver.)


If you thought the Hot Rod repaint was weird, then this one surely falls under the heading of completely bizarre, no? Collectors have long clamoured for a white repaint of MP-10 to be released officially (with many having sought out the infamous MP-10U KO, having believed it would never happen), but I don't think we ever expected it to come in the form of a 7-Eleven tie-in! The Japanese's retailer's branding at least has some precedent - it's hardly the first such branded version of Optimus we've seen, with both BAPE and Pepsi springing immediately to mind! - and besides, the logos seen on the robot mode are apparently stickers anyway, so it shouldn't be a major worry for people who just want a more G1-accurate look. Having disposed of my own copy of MP-10U as soon as this was announced, I'm very much looking forward to adding the official figure to my collection soon!

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And that's it! As I say, a really busy month, but a fun one. I have some more exciting stuff on the way in February, so looking forward to plenty more to talk about then. Thanks for reading!


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8 comments:

  1. Ultra Magnus Fan28 January 2018 at 18:22

    Great round up Sixo! I always enjoy reading your reviews and such, and this certainly spiced things up a bit. Here's to an equally good or even better February!

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    1. Thanks so much! Really appreciate that. And yes, can't wait to see what February brings!

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  2. Excellent as always sixo. I love reading your reviews and now that you've got a monthly round up I can't wait! I've always wanted some kind of monthly round up from reviewers.

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    1. Thanks, mate, that's great to hear! Already working on next month's!

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  3. Always a blast to read, my friend! Did u get MPM Barricade? I'm very happy with him!

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    1. Thanks, dude! And yes, I did - he's in my February line-up: http://sixotransformers.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/month-in-review-february-2018.html

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  4. Oh, wow. Love that encore Devy. Really bring back memories and your lovely pictures just go to show just how much toy design has progressed in form and articulation. I honestly envy kids these days for the toy they'll be able to play with. Heh, I used to make fun of the other girls who were stuck with ponies: for all the blocky bots Transformers used to be, at least there was much more fun to be had with them than with those horrible lumps of inarticulate pink plastic with itchy hair sticking out of it.

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    1. Well, I certainly agree with your assessment of Transformers versus other toys, haha! And thanks for the kind note. :)

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