Friday 12 January 2018

REVIEW: Maketoys MTRM-09SP Bounceback

If I hadn’t already gushed enough about how generally wonderful and dreamy I find Maketoys Downbeat to be in my original review of that figure, then I’ve certainly cemented the case by sticking him in a fairly prominent position on my list of best figures from 2017. And why not? He’s positively delightful; an absolutely terrific representation of an iconic character that, thus far, we’ve seen no sign of in the Masterpiece line, presuming we ever will. In fact, as I’ve mentioned before, I think Downbeat is one of only a few third party toys that pretty much seamlessly blends with official figures in a way that some can only aspire to. If we never see a TakaraTomy Jazz, I know I’ll remain happy with Downbeat as a representation of that character.

So I was at least a little hopeful that Maketoys might see fit to bring us repainted version to represent Stepper (or Ricochet, depending on your preference), even if they tend to be awkward buggers about such things so it was never an absolute guarantee. But lo, here he is, and looking rather lovely, if I may say!

But who is Stepper anyway? Well, believe it or not, he was first released as a repaint of G1 Jazz way back in 1987 with his Targetmaster partner, Nebulon. It’s the same deal as Artfire, where the character was only known in Japan for many years before eventually being released by Hasbro in 2004, though renamed as Ricochet. So this actually isn’t just some random repaint with a new deco’ that Maketoys have dreamt up - he’s an established G1 character that is only now being realised in updated “Masterpiece” form. How funny that we’re about to see a second version also released by competing outfit Zeta Toys.

So look, if you’ve already given my Downbeat review a thorough read then you’ll at least know the basics here. After all, the physical design of the figure itself is the same. Of course anyone who appreciates a good repaint (or seven) as much as I do will tell you that any such figure inevitably brings its own quirks - things like different tolerances, parts that feel somehow unique in the way they move despite being in the same configuration, and even variances in how stuff pegs together: it’s all part of the repaint joy. So what does Bounceback give us in this case? On the face of it, there’s some good news. The joints are noticeably tighter (though they were fine to begin with on Downbeat), the panels on the back of the robot mode legs seem somewhat less likely to pop off if you’re not careful, and even the slightly offending flap underneath the chest section stays in place noticeably better than on his mould-mate. Fab.

Then there’s the stuff that’s actually new, which in this case means a new paint job! Yes, Bounceback is looking absolutely splendid in his almost-too-bizarre-but-somehow-it-works colour scheme. It’s a pretty fabulous rendition of his G1 look, and certainly makes for an eye-catching figure. I particularly like how the colours make him feel significantly different to Downbeat, and I’m a big fan of little touches like the green highlights, that superb orange visor and the rather moustache-like flames on the bonnet and doors. It all looks ace. He does of course also come with two alternate faces (the same as Downbeat), but honestly I haven't even bothered with them - his regular face is just spot on.

Just lining him up with Downbeat will show you what I mean. For me a great part of collecting repaints is the different “vibe” a new colour scheme can give you, and I think Bounceback shows this off ably. Just don’t mention to anyone that he has blue headlights and Downbeat doesn’t, as evidently that’s a bone of contention in some quarters. Either way I think that they look good together.

With Maketoys Downbeat

The changes between the two are more than just skin deep though, as Bounceback also features some different accessories. As well as repainted versions of Downbeat’s shoulder launcher and hand gun, the new boy is sporting his signature Targetmaster weapon, which transforms into a mini-friend for him to hang out with. The Targetmaster is very cool, and is a repaint of the one that came with Maketoys Contact Shot, albeit with a modified handle. He looks pretty neat in robot mode and is surprisingly articulated. Let’s maybe just not mention how much smaller he is than Masterpiece Artfire’s own Targetmaster companion, Nightstick?

With Maketoys Contact Shot Targetmaster and Masterpiece Nightstick

Even forgiving that minor nitpick, it’s not all good news elsewhere sadly. For whatever reason the car mode doesn’t seem to tab together quite as well as before, with particular frustration being caused by a back end that seemingly will not stay in one piece. Additionally, I had a spot of almost immediate breakage on the rear spoiler, with one of the tiny pieces of black plastic underneath coming off rather too easily. It’s not the biggest problem in the world, although I have read other people reporting the same issue which isn’t a great sign.

But probably my biggest complaint with this version is with the other new elements that it brings with it. Bounceback features two small adapters that are designed to hold the gun-mode Targetmaster in different places: one for his right shoulder, and one on the rear spoiler of the car mode. They recreate similar gimmicks on the G1 toy, and so in theory that’s a good thing, but in practice neither of them works particularly well. The shoulder part is a right royal pain in the unmentionables to attach solidly, with either the adapter falling off the shoulder or the gun falling out of the adapter with so much as a stern look in the wrong direction. Even worse, one attempt managed to pop the entire chest panel out and I don’t feel like it’s ever been quite as solid since clipping it back in, which is a bit annoying.

As for the car mode adapter, this works better but is still not ideal due to the aforementioned breakage of the little piece under the rear spoiler, which is where the adapter is supposed to clip on. I’ve also read reports from other collectors of the adapter being responsible for this breakage in the first place, so it’s a bit concerning and not quite up to the usual Maketoys standard, perhaps. At least once you have this piece in place it does look really nice!

So, a few niggles here and there, and whilst they don’t kill the enjoyment of this guy overall, they do take the shine off a bit. Still, he really does look and feel fabulous otherwise, and it’s very hard to deny that he lines up really well next to his comrade in arms, Artfire! Given that there’s still some doubt of us ever seeing an official Masterpiece Jazz, let alone a Stepper, it’s a particular delight to have such a faithful representation of him to pair with the rather gorgeous MP-37.

With Masterpiece Artfire

Overall then, I’m pleased with Bounceback. It’s a shame that he’s not quite the absolute knockout that I found Downbeat to be, and I have to say that I've almost surprised myself by giving him such a different rating to that figure considering how similar they are in principle. However, he is still really lovely in his own right and it’s also encouraging to see Maketoys putting out a repaint of this nature, so there’s no doubt plenty to be celebrated here.

What's HOT?
It's a fab mould already, and the new colours really look fantastic on it. The addition of the Targetmaster is of course terrific.

What's NOT?
As great as it is overall, there are a couple of niggling issues that take the sheen off a bit. The car mode doesn't tab very well at the rear,
one of the chest panel pops off a lot on my copy, there's a small breakage on the rear spoiler, and both new adapters for the Targetmaster are frankly quite pants.

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  1. That's a beautiful repaint. I'm not getting this, though I did reconsider on mp artfire after rereading your review and getting. him on sale, and he's stunning.

    1. Ah, glad to hear you're enjoying Artfire - he is something pretty special!

  2. Another outstanding review Sixo. This is a TF I have no attachment to, yet your photography and writing style compel me to read the entire review. Thank you for what you do for the TF Community.

    1. Gosh, thanks for the lovely comment! :) Really appreciate that.

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