Thursday, 22 June 2017

REVIEW: TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-11ND Dirge

It was only in my last review that I stated the case for the defence of repaints, and attempted to show that they're more than mere cynical cash-grabs, attempting to somehow take advantage of unwitting collectors. Of course, it would only be fair to consider all sides of this argument, and it would be difficult not to at least ponder the last few releases of the Masterpiece Coneheads as supporting any potential case for the prosecution. That's not to completely write them off, of course, but it's fair to say that Ramjet and Thrust have not exactly been universally acclaimed.

I've reviewed both of these figures (here and here!), and though I've enjoyed Ramjet more, it's easy to see in both cases why some fans may fear that these guys have proven to be a case of diminishing returns. They really needed to be something special to tempt people back to a base mould that is already well-worn (with 5 versions in the official TakaraTomy line already, and that's if you don't also count the MP-3 version!), and whilst the retooling and new parts have been a great touch, in some ways it feels like a case of so close yet so far. Inherent problems with the original design remain untouched, and new ones are created because of the revisions, such as the way the nosecone doesn't lock into the back section at all.

Then there's the cost. A Hasbro Asia exclusive is something many collectors are beginning to dread, as it typically seems to mean exclusively more money. And when you're paying more for a mould you already own but with less accessories, you can appreciate the sense of disappointment when it doesn't quite deliver in hand. Such is the mood that the final release, Dirge, steps forth into.

But there's still some excitement there. For one thing, this could very well be the final ever use of the MP-11 mould (at least in an official capacity). Short of TakaraTomy pulling some major surprises out of the bag we may be at the end of the journey, which is surely something to mention, no? Besides that, I was quite excited about the prospect of Dirge being realised in Masterpiece form anyway. For whatever reason I would probably identify him as my favourite of the Coneheads, if you asked me. I distinctly recall owning the G1 toy as a lad (my sole Seeker until finding a car boot sale copy of Starscream at a later date) and the character featured relatively prominently in the episodes of the cartoon that I had on VHS tape. Thrust is arguably the more interesting design with his VTOL wings, but there was also something about the vibrant blue with brown wings that I always liked on Dirge too. So for me, despite a level of apprehension built up over the previous two releases, I have to admit to still feeling some excitement about this guy's arrival, and maybe even a sense of hope that he could be the one of the three that fully delivers on that.

So, enough waffle - does that prove to be true or not? Well, in many ways, yes! Let me caveat that and say that Dirge still features most of the inherent flaws of this retooled mould: the nosecone still doesn't tab into the back section and so flops around; the end of the nosecone still sticks out between his legs, not only giving him an overly well-endowed appearance but making a visual mockery of this Conehead's faux-cone-head; the head still cannot turn properly due to the presence of cockpit kibble on its rear side; the black bits on the shins still don't lock stably into place and so will errantly move out of place from time-to-time (though they are a lot stiffer on this version); and the back sections that flip up during transformation still have a habit of becoming unpegged and falling off through the process. And that's to say nothing of the flaws that have existed with this base mould since the pre-Conehead says, all of which have been well-documented.

But (and it's an important but) there's still quite a bit to celebrate here. I appreciate that the tone of this review so far has been rather gloomy, but actually I find quite a lot to be pleasantly surprised about with Dirge! For one thing, he looks flippin' gorgeous, and immediately takes the top spot of the trio to my eye. That blue is just lovely, and like Grapple's orange I think needs to be seen to be believed. It also mixes superbly well with the rich brown wings and the smooth and sexy grey sections on the rest of the body. This time there are no paint chips or smears; everything looks superbly finished. Even his robot mode face continues the trend of each one being an improvement on the last. He's a visual treat.

With Masterpiece Ramjet & Thrust

Secondly, he feels considerably better in hand that his mould-mates, and especially so with Thrust. Where his predecessor was loose and floppy, Dirge is pleasingly solid and sturdy, with tight joints all over. He feels like he locks together the best in robot mode out of all three Coneheads. I'm also thrilled to see a return to proper null rays! In fact he's most similar to Ramjet in that and other ways (except better overall), including the use of separating "canisters" that contain the null rays in vehicle mode but can also be mounted on his back in robot mode, should you so desire.

All in all, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that this guy is the best of the trio. If you were hoping (as I was) that TakaraTomy were going to claw it back a bit with the final release for this team, then you'll at least be partially pleased with what's on offer here.

All that said, this guy does bring his own set of complications. As much as I like the new wings, the tip of them can be a little bit irritating in robot mode as they don't really lock into place as such, and these whole sections proved to be a bit of a faff to transform and tab in correctly. Still, these are minor nitpicks really. What has perhaps caused a bit more controversy with this particular release is the apparent variations in colour scheme when lining him up next to Ramjet or Thrust. Yes, just as the TakaraTomy versions of the original Seeker trio were rampantly inconsistent with each other, so too does Dirge vary quite a bit from his Conehead comrades.

It's nothing too shocking, but many people have been quick to point out the use of grey plastic on the body sections is a definite departure from the black used on the equivalent parts of the other two. And you know what, it didn't bother me one bit until I finally transformed them all, stood them next to one another, sat back and thought "yep, that looks pretty different!" It's not shocking, but it does set Dirge apart a little. The irony is that the grey actually looks way better, in my opinion! I'd no doubt have preferred both Ramjet and Thrust to be decked out with this colour too, given the choice...

Also with Masterpiece Megatron

Overall though, I have to confess I'm quite taken with Dirge. As I say, I've definitely enjoyed him the most of the trio, and even found him to be a bit of a joy to pose and take pictures of. Maybe the general mood of this review hasn't reflected it, but I am actually pretty positive about this release, and I think if the previous two had come out as good as this from the beginning then the overall reaction to them would have been a very different thing. As it is, I'm just pleased that the final figure in the trio turned out better, and, dare I say, is even a worthy upgrade of my G1 original.

So that's it. Seekers: DONE. Well, until the next one.

What's HOT?
The best of the MP Coneheads. He's more stable & sturdy than either of the previous releases, and looks great to boot. The colours are great (the blue needs to be seen to be believed), and the face sculpt finally comes into its own here.

What's NOT?
It still has many of the flaws of the retooled MP-11 mould all present and not correct, and the new wings bring a touch of complication to the transformation process. Oh, and the grey sections on the body don't match the other two in the trio.

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  1. Aaaaaaaaand we're finally done. I have to admit its more of a relief than a moment of joy, but this is a section of my collection i think can be put to bed now. I'm trying to ignore MT's current wips...........
    Beautiful work as normal Sixo.

    1. Thanks, dude! Yeah, I'm trying to ignore MT's too... it's just good to be done! Fortunately it ended on a high. :)

  2. To disappoint it with dirge
    Bad cutting on plastic and so har to stand up yn robot mode xd

    1. Sorry to hear! That's disappointing. :(

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