Saturday 10 March 2018

REVIEW: TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-40 Targetmaster Hot Rodimus

One day someone will put together a list of "rather underwhelming new Transformers toy reveals", and I have no doubt that MP-40 deserves a spot somewhere on that list. Seriously now, would anyone have pegged Targetmaster Hot Rod, a seemingly-close repaint of a figure we received almost exactly two years prior as a desirable choice for the next mainline Masterpiece figure? The problem is of course compounded by the lack of other reveals happening at the moment; as it stands this chap is actually the last G1 standard release character on the roster, with only Beast Wars Dinobot and the special edition MP-17+ Prowl left to go before we're potentially in limbo. Whilst that doesn't concern me too much (I have no doubt Takara are cooking up something), I can understand why MP-40 was met with a collective sense of "huh?" when he was announced. After a fantastic last year run with the likes of Grapple, Artfire, Sunstreaker, Megatron... I don't think anyone thought that this is how they'd kick off 2018. But hey, here we are.

For my own part, I won't lie and say that my feelings were any different on first reveal, but, as the time drew closer to release, I did at least find myself looking forward to revisiting this awesome mould again. After all, I put the original release right at the top of my list of best figures from 2016, so I'm definitely a fan! That may not be everyone's opinion of that figure, but for my money it's an excellent mould and a great representation of the character, so why not at least try to find some excitement about a re-do, eh? Especially when it looks as sexy as this!

Say what you will about this repaint, but there's no denying the appeal of that alt' mode in my opinion. The new colour scheme is really rather striking in hand too, and I think actually needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. The new plum colour of the body is absolutely lush, and looks very bold next to the vibrant yellow of the spoiler and the painted flames on the bonnet. In fact, closer inspection reveals lots of lovely details such as the gorgeous orange headlights, soft grey-blue windshield and some blinging chrome. It's worth mentioning that I haven't noticed a spot of chrome wear thus far, something that presented a challenge for a lot of collectors with MP-28, but of course time will tell if it holds up.

A side view confirms just how sleek and stunning this alt' mode really is, all smooth lines and nicely-proportioned details that make Hot Rod feel very aerodynamic indeed. It's ever-so-slightly betrayed by a whiff of robot mode kibble on the belly of the car, which as anyone who owns MP-28 will tell you can make it a challenge to have all four wheels touching the floor and the car mode rolling well. In fact, MP-40 was packaged in a way that meant he couldn't roll straight out of the box, and I had to transform him back & forth once to correct the error! Still, when you get it right, this mode is an absolute sight to behold, and even looks ace with the gun pegged into the engine part as shown. Lovely stuff.

Of course, the really whizzy new inclusion with this release is Hot Rod's Targetmaster companion, Firebolt, which can also be pegged into the engine in gun mode. I always loved how that looked on the G1 toy, even if it is a bit silly! Firebolt himself is a very welcome inclusion, and is a repainted version of Offshoot, a differently-named version of the same character that was came packaged with the Hasbro release of the first Masterpiece Hot Rod, MP-9. This is actually the first time the mould has been released in the Japanese line, however, and he's looking very suave decked out in cool grey and black.

Transforming Firebolt to robot mode is a simple but fun affair, and reveals several key moulding changes to the original. The most obvious example is the gun handle and the peg for the engine section, both of which have been retooled to fit the smaller MP-40 as opposed to his original companion. However, the eagle-eyed amongst you will also notice that the shoulder pieces have been swapped around for this release, leaving a small moulded part around the shoulder pin sticking out at the front instead of at the back, as on Offshoot. This is presumably done by accident, as it has the adverse affect of meaning that Firebolt's arms don't fold out and collapse as neatly for gun mode, but in reality it's not a massive problem by any means. Of course you'll no doubt notice the rather obvious colour scheme differences, and whilst Firebolt is decidedly less colourful I did find him to be very nicely finished in hand. The colour changes also make him more in-keeping with MP-37's Targetmaster, Nightstick. Overall, he's ace.

With Hasbro Masterpiece Offshoot

With Masterpiece MP-37 Nightstick

Of course, the other main comparison to make here is with the original version of this Hot Rod mould, MP-28. Whilst there are no moulding changes to speak of, lining them up side-by-side will instantly show you the variances in their paint jobs. Now look, they're not exactly polar opposites, are they? In fact, I'm kind of reminded by a quote by Monica from Friends when she says, "They're as different as night and... later that night"! But there are subtle differences aplenty, even down to things like the larger Autobot logo, and again it really requires close inspection in hand to fully appreciate. Whilst I love the original deco', I definitely think the new version is looking pretty sharp in vehicle mode too!

With Masterpiece MP-28 Hot Rodimus

But look, why the new paint job anyway? Is this just some sort of soulless cash-grab attempt to slightly tweak the original just for the sake of including the Targetmaster? Whilst it's true that they likely could have just included the little guy with the original MP-28 release, there is some precedent for the new colour scheme at least, although it's a bit of an odd tale! You see, Hot Rod's look here is specifically designed to mimic his appearance in the notorious three-part cartoon adventure, The Rebirth, where he looked slightly altered on account of these episodes being animated by AKOM, a different studio to the normal Toei. These aren't the only examples of AKOM-produced episodes in the series, all of which are notorious for not only using outdated animation models but also how they translate them to the screen, specifically using shadows as the characters' actual colours and the like. In this case, the story is even weirder, as TakaraTomy have based MP-40's colour scheme on the slightly degraded version of the episodes as seen on later DVD releases, as opposed to the original production colours. So, at least there's some sort of an argument to say that this guy is just as cartoon-accurate as MP-28... either way, it's a weird one!

Transformation to robot mode reveals further evidence of the new paint job, as Hot Rod is revealed in all his glorious detail. Despite being very familiar with this transformation scheme from MP-28, I still find it to be a smooth and enjoyable affair, with some really marvellous touches. It's also notable how much stiffer and solid MP-40 feels by comparison now, but I am wondering if that's simply because the former figure is two year's old of course.

I have to say there's actually a lot to like about the new paint job here, in my opinion. As with the car mode, the colours are very striking, and I particularly like the two-tone accented crest on the head. In keeping with some of the recent "+" releases, I also find the face to be slightly better-defined and the eyes a bit sharper here too, which really helps with bringing out a sense of character. I will add though that I'm less of a fan of those white sections on his hip skirt though, especially as they're a little jarring to the eye and can't help but look like underpants from certain angles. Equally, I'm still getting used to the quirky painted sections on his shins and feet. I actually like this more than I thought I might but it's still a little odd, especially when you consider it's as a result of AKOM misrepresenting shadows in the animation!

Accessories-wise, you can of course arm Hot Rod with his signature blaster, now cast in the same red as most of his body instead of the previous version's grey, although he only features the one gun this time instead of two. Also absent are the handsaw and fishing rod from the previous release, but he still features gimmicks such as the opening Matrix cavity in his chest or the flip-down visor for his eyes. Still neat stuff.

Again though, it's all about Firebolt here really, isn't it? Fortunately, he looks great by Hot Rod's side or transformed to fit in hand as a gun. I did find that whilst the new peg fits very smoothly into his palm to begin with, it has a habit of not quite staying in place unless you close the hand firmly. Still, once in place it's all a lot of fun and ably recalls a sense of the animation.

So look, whilst even I might have been a little cynical about this release on first reveal, I have to admit to being somewhat won over by the fun of it all in hand. Seeing Hot Rod posing away with his new sexy dark-plum paint job and luscious grey Targetmaster companion in hand is a worthwhile endeavour in my book, though I have no doubt that there will still be many folks who'll happily give this one a pass. For my part though, I love this mould too much to sniff at a second version for too long, especially when it looks as good as this!

With FansToys Koot

Standing him side-by-side with MP-28 for the full comparison should reveal the depth of the changes made to this mode, which really does change the character of the figure somewhat. For my money, if I was to only choose one colour scheme then there's little doubt that the former version is perhaps the nicest overall, especially without that white hip skirt, but there's still something to be said for the re-do, and I'd actually argue that MP-40 has the nicer finish too! Ultimately though, they're different enough in hand to make me a lot less cynical about the Targetmaster version being a separate release, especially as you can see the attention to detail that was taken when creating a differing look for the AKOM-inspired deco'.

With Masterpiece MP-28 Hot Rodimus

And if you're still feeling somewhat cynical? Well, just know that it's hardly the first time we've seen a separate release for the Targetmaster version of the character, is it? After all, it's even how things were done in G1 all those years ago. Besides, I have enough Hot Rods now that one more is unlikely to upset the apple cart too much! Ultimately then, this is a fun and rather quirky new version of an already-beloved mould, although perhaps far from essential if you're happy enough with MP-28. If you like what you see though, you're unlikely to be disappointed and may even find that he wins you over as much as he has me.

What's HOT?
Look, it's a great mould, and the new deco' is pretty sleek for the most part so if you like the look of it then it's worth considering even if it's definitely a non-essential upgrade. Firebolt is also a very welcome inclusion.

What's NOT?
The white pants are a bit odd, and I'm still getting used to those oddly-coloured 'boots'. Also, some might be turned off at the price being the same as the original MP-28 if they already own that figure, I guess.

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  1. Great photos, look good enough to almost get me to double dip on this guy.
    In the last picture, is that a Takara and a Hasbro Rodimus Prime, or the two Takara variants?

    1. Thank you! It's the Hasbro one on the left, and Takara (1st run) on the right.

  2. I look at this figure the same way I look at all the recent '+' MP releases: nice if you didn't already have it, a bit on the superfluous side if you already do. MP-40 has a nicer paint job, an extra accessory... one can argue that this is how the original should have been released in the first place.

    What strikes me as a bit naff is that this particular version was given its own version number, rather than calling it MP-28+ like all the other repaints.

    Hm, your great photographs do accentuate the biggest flaw of this figure - the entirely flat chest. That's the sole reason why I put him a bit to the back of my collection: I just can't get over it! :) Makes me wonder when (or if) FT's Hoodlum sees the light of day, I might actually consider replacing him.

    1. There is definitely something rather akin to the + releases about this guy, for sure. I have to say though that the flat chest has never really bothered me about this mould, though I can understand that it doesn't sit well with a lot of people!

  3. Great photos as always! I never picked up MP-28, and have been considering purchasing MP-40 in spite of the few things that bother me. Looking at your pictures makes me wonder if some of the Toyhax stickers could help certain areas (I'm looking at you, hip skirt). Oddly enough, the purple does not bother me at all.

    1. Thank you! I haven't checked out those stickers, but yes I suppose it might be possible. He does look really nice in hand, in spite of the hip skirt...

  4. Beautiful work as always Sixo. However,I'm really gonna have to come down hard on the cynical cash grab side of the fence. I find it insulting having purchased the original and also hate that this is not moving the line forward.

    1. Thanks very much! And fair enough, to be honest - I can understand why people are thinking that way!

  5. Gorgeous shots! You certainly have a knack of catching the 'life' in action figurines! On a separate note, there's scarcely any visible/concrete knowledge on the level of retooling the original Offshoot has undergone in order to interact with Targetmaster Hot Rod (as Firebolt) to be found anywhere online (it seems like an enigma, even on Wiki, which sort of suggests that the changes are in fact on the reissue's engine block connector as opposed to the Targetmaster itself); aside from the accidental shoulder-swapping you aptly pointed out). Any chance of including photos of the changes on the one/both (primary & secondary) handle-grips for the Vehicle & Bot modes, respectively? Much obliged and do keep up your most excellent passion!!! :-)

  6. I just recently bought this figure. Kinda in part due to this great review. I wanna ask how do u get all 4 wheels on the ground? From what I see the orange chest piece that connects to the head and his white pants are the ones that can't clear the ground.