Saturday 28 October 2017

REVIEW: TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-12 TF Expo Lambor

I'm sure most readers of this blog will be familiar with MP-12 Lambor, at least by reputation if nothing else. The Masterpiece line's rendition of Sideswipe, as Westerners will more commonly know him, was of course the first carbot to be released as part of the "reboot" that started after MP-9 was released, and immediately caught the attention of collectors. The reasons for this are perhaps rather obvious. Firstly, a modern Transformers rendition of a car like the classic 1980s' Lamborghini Countach was unheard of at the time, and so signalled something that fans who grew up with G1 as the backdrop of their childhood would be instantly excited about. Secondly, it transformed into a accurate rendition of the character as he was represented in fiction. Like MP-10 before him, this figure gave collectors the sense that the animation had come to life and Sideswipe had stepped off the screen in a way that many thought we would never see. And of course, MP-12 gave the promise of further carbot releases to come... oh how very tantalising it all was.

In many ways, I think we've already forgotten what the reveal of MP-12 meant at the time, even though it was only a few years back. Now we're so close to having the entire cartoon cast realised in one form or another (once you throw in third party figures, of course), that it's almost hard to imagine the importance and impact that a figure like this had when it was first released. Now there's another version on the way very soon, with MP-12+ being released just next month with an apparently more animation-accurate paint scheme. Still, whilst I am looking forward to another opportunity to appreciate this mould from fresh, I was perhaps even more pleased to recently tick off a glaring omission in my collection from a few years gone by and finally hunt down a copy of the TF Expo variant of the original figure.

So what's the deal with this variant anyway? Well, after the original Masterpiece Lambor was released in 2012, it was actually reissued as a convention exclusive for Transformers Expo, which took place in Yokohama, Japan in August of 2014. Lambor wasn't the only convention exclusive, but for my money at least he was the most interesting, and has since become quite difficult to acquire. Why is that? Well, I've had a few issues with sellers purporting to stock the TF Expo variant when really they're selling a regular MP-12, which is rather irritating. Equally, there were some non-packaged copies doing the rounds on eBay a few years back, which may or may not be legit... so if you're looking for the real deal complete with the original box, it's not as easy as you might think. Still, having finally tracked one down I was excited to take some pictures and thought it would be worth a look back at what makes this variant so special. And yes, of course we'll cover just what exactly is different to the regular MP-12, although in reality it's not actually that much!

Despite coming in the regular MP-12 packaging, there's a rather obvious addition that tells you this is most definitely the TF Expo variant. Spotted it yet? Yes, that shiny silver sticker in the bottom right-hand corner is hard to miss, and definitively proves that this is a legit version. If you're looking for this variant, be sure to make sure the box has this sticker, otherwise it's just a regular MP-12 inside. The sticker itself clearly says "Transformers Expo", and also features a couple of Autobot logos which gives a clue as to the other main variation with this release.

The rest of the packaging is entirely identical to the regular release, even down to the figure as it's depicted on the box. Of course it still features all of the regular elements that make the Masterpiece packaging so attractive, including the official Lamborghini logo to let you that this is an endorsed product.

The TF Expo variant on the left, with regular MP-12 on the right

Like the regular release, this version comes packaged in vehicle mode, although as soon as you crack open the box you will no doubt notice the major difference between the two!

The TF Expo variant on the left, with regular MP-12 on the right

Yes, that's right - the TF Expo variant doesn't have the Autobot symbol on its bonnet in the same way that the regular release does. Weird right? Well, actually the release does come with a small sticker sheet featuring two different sizes of Autobot logos that can be applied if you so wish. It's very reminiscent of the similar sticker sheet that comes packaged with Masterpiece MP-12T Tigertrack, although this version has Lambor's name written on it quite clearly (as a side note, the apparently fake copies that were flooding eBay a while back came with the Tigertrack version, without Lambor's name printed). So you can apply an Autobot logo should you wish, but really, why would you want to? If you fancy your Sideswipe all factioned up, the regular MP-12 release does that for you already!

So, let's be clear - the missing logo is really the main draw with this variant for those of us who're interested in such a thing. I've absolutely no doubt that probably seems bonkers to many collectors who're more than happy with the original release, but there are of course some of us who just cannot resist such an oddity. Besides, as much as I do enjoy the animation accuracy of the regular version's faction symbol, there's something sublime about an unadulterated red Lamborghini Countach alt' mode, isn't there? I swear I often say that I will never tire of this mould, but it's just so true when it looks as good as this.

Beauty! It's also a delight to finally have this one ticked off in my collection, as well as having the opportunity to appreciate this figure all over again. I have to say that I still find MP-12 to be one of the tirelessly enjoyable Masterpiece figures of recent times. I know a lot of people still lament the fact that the original release did away with the likes of diecast and rubber tyres, but in all honesty I don't miss such things. I also really like the scale of the Masterpiece carbots. Whilst I know some fellow collectors would have preferred them to be much larger, I think they're pretty much spot on as they are, and allow for other significantly larger characters to be produced in scale with them, as we've seen in more recent years. In any case, this is most definitely a mould that I would suggest everyone should own at least one version of, if you can.

Looking at TF Expo Lambor a bit closer, you'll see all of the familiar but lovely details from the original release, such as the Lamborghini crest on the bonnet, the "Countach" writing on the rear, and a host of other painted detail. Whilst the finish is good overall, it's unfortunate that it carries over the original's somewhat mismatched painted panels, particularly on the sides of the car. It's not atrocious by any means, but there's no doubt that the paint jobs of more recent MP carbots have become significantly better by comparison. I was also trying to decide if there's a slight colour difference between this variant and the regular MP-12, but I've come to the conclusion that there probably isn't. In certain lights I could almost swear that it's maybe a slight touch more vibrant, but if that's true then it's certainly difficult to discern and therefore not really worth highlighting at all.

With MP-12T Tigertrack

One comparison that most definitely is worth making is with MP-12T Tigertrack. Tigertrack is of course a homage to the original pre-Transformers version of the G1 Sideswipe mould, which was released as part of the Diaclone line in both red and yellow. So, in many ways having them both feels somehow historically fulfilling. There's also something very complimentary about seeing these two together, as arguably the TF Expo Lambor matches better with Tigertrack than the regular version. That's mainly because of the missing Autobot symbol on both of them, which if nothing else really makes me wish that TakaraTomy had seen fit to carry forward with the optional stickers for the faction logos on subsequent Diaclone homage repaints. I also have zero intent of applying the stickers on Tigertrack, and would have liked the same for the releases that followed.

So, there you go - a pretty stunning vehicle mode, all things considered. Again, whilst I'm sure that there isn't suddenly going to be a long line of collectors queuing up to own this variant, I for one couldn't be happier to finally add this stunning Lambo to my collection.

After a fun, fluid and above all infinitely repeatable transformation, you are left with Lambor in his rather lovely robot mode. Between all the different versions of this mould that I own, I have completely lost count of how many times I've done this conversion, but I honestly never get bored of it, and there's certainly no denying the results. If you're already familiar with MP-12 then you will of course know what to expect here, and if you're not then I can't recommend this guy enough.

Stunning stuff. I still find this guy to be one of the most fun MP carbots to pose and photograph, and that's mostly down to how difficult it honestly is to make him look bad! He's just a naturally fun & dynamic robot.

Like the regular MP-12, the variant again comes with the grey rifle, white shoulder cannon and a pair of piledrivers that can be attached in place of Lambor's hands. It's all good stuff.

Of course, the real difference here is still the missing Autobot logo, now leaving Lambor with a very clean chest when compared to the regular MP-12. As I said before, I've no doubt that this one variation isn't enough for many collectors to see the benefit in owning a second version of the original MP-12, but for me it makes such a difference. Whilst I'm no doubt more interested in the vehicle mode on this one myself, there's no denying that seeing them both together in robot mode is an interesting sight. It also took me more than one close investigation to confirm that their faces are indeed the same, despite looking a little different at first glance. Put that down to the way the eyes are painted, more than anything.

The TF Expo variant on the right, with regular MP-12 on the left

As before though, it's with a comparison to Tigertrack that this variant release really shines. Seeing the two of them lined up together without any hint of faction symbols is really something, and certainly helps to sell not just Tigertrack, but also this variant of Lambor as a kind-of Diaclone homage. There's something very yin & yang about having the two together that makes me very happy.

With MP-12T Tigertrack

So look, this is my seventh version of this mould, and I'm far from bored of it yet. I realise that's not how everyone collects, but it brings me a lot of joy, so even this small variation on the original is a definite welcome addition to my collection. If anything, seeing all of the different versions lined up only makes me anticipate the upcoming MP-12+ that much more, as well as hope that TakaraTomy eventually sees right to bring us a version of the Diaclone homage, Deep Cover. Maybe one day.

(L-R) MP-12, MP-12G G2 Sideswipe, MP-12T, TF Expo Lambor, MP-14 Red Alert, MP-14C Clampdown, MP-14+ Red Alert

The MP-12 mould is an absolutely essential addition to any collection in one form or another. Sublime in both modes with a transformation like butter, there's not much bad that I have to say about this design. Ultimately, this TF Expo variant is hardly going to be for everyone, and unless you're particularly besotted with it then I would find it difficult to recommend it above the regular MP-12, or indeed the upcoming MP-12+. However, for me, it's a definite box ticked and takes a very welcome place amongst the rest of my collection. Complimenting it alongside MP-12T Tigertrack is just the icing on the cake.

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  1. Great review. Hoping that you'll do Gcreation Fuuma

    1. Hi Ryan - forgive the slow reply! And thanks! Sadly I have no plans to pick up that figure, but no doubt plenty of other reviews on the way.

  2. I agree, you're totally bonkers Sixo! But the line between madness and genius is often blurred so I think it's an acceptable counterpoint to your photography!

    1. Haha, thanks so much! And sorry for the slow reply...

  3. Very enjoyable review. What a quirky collectible! Thanks Sixo!

    1. Apologies for the slow reply, but thanks so much for the lovely comment. :)

  4. Thank you for your photos and review. You did a great job. But I definerely doubt having this MP12 + version.

    1. Thanks so much, José! Appreciate that, and sorry for the slow response.

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