Saturday, 7 January 2017

Robots in Japan


For most fans of Transformers, Japan is the spiritual home of the toy line. Before the robots in disguise came to the west via Hasbro they existed in the east under various different toy lines and in some cases companies.

I visit friends and family in Japan every other year and usually try to at least see, if not buy, some figures whilst out there. This time I decided to document some of my exploits for posterity.

So here are a few shots from outside the Nakano Broadway Mandarake shop. 

Look at that lovely Diaclone

I think I see Reflector

Look at all that lovely old stuff

Bad guys... Lots of them

Nearly bought both those clear Hot Rods

And a short video of the inside of the shop.


I also popped into a Toys R Us store to see what the regular shops were selling.








Thanks for reading, see you next time.


Friday, 30 December 2016

The Best of 2016

2016 has been one hell of a year for many reasons. For most it has been probably the most depressing and scary year ever with us Brits deciding to leave Europe, the Americans voting to make Trump their next president and the passing of many celebrities and influential people the world over. 

For fans of Transformers however, 2016 may be one of the best years yet for our hobby. The main lines go from strength to strength, the Masterpiece line gave some of its best work, third parties are making much more interesting figures and the fiction keeps on getting better.

In this article I want to look briefly at my top ten figure of 2016.


10 - Legends Blurr



I am being very specific here because I dislike the Hasbro release of Titans Return Blurr but I really like the TakaraTomy version. The difference is the paint job which makes the Hasbro release look plain and bland.




The mold however is pure genius with its wizards sleeves, its flared trousers and 80s power dressing shoulders... Full of fun and well articulated to boot. Success.


9 - Masterpiece Alert anime version



This Masterpiece release divided opinion amongst fans due to it being the old Alert mold in anime colours. I personally like it as I find the grey colour to be far nicer than the original stark white as you can see from the shot below.



But I do understand the reasons why people dislike the release... It did feel like a cash in so that Masterpiece Inferno had a cartoon coloured Alert to hold.


8 - Masterpiece Optimus Primal



I have little connection with Beast Wars as I was well past my Transformers phase when the show was released but I was intrigued by the figure when it was announced and decided it was worth a punt. Not only is it an excellent figure with tons of great engineering but it also looks to be faithful to the show in both modes.


7 - Robots in Disguise Fracture



The RiD line has given us some excellent figures during its lifetime but several in particular stand out as being especially awesome. This year my favourite was Fracture which manages to pull off the tricky feat of being both a great robot and a decent motorcycle.



Many figures have tried this in the past but only a few have been successful. Fracture is probably my favourite motorcycle transformer ever. The Japanese Legends version is my preference as the colour scheme works better than the Hasbro version but either of them are great.


6 - Titans Return Brainstorm



The first figure from the Titans Return line on my list is a fine example of great engineering at an affordable price point. Brainstorm is an excellent representation of the G1 character which manages to improve upon the original use of the mold, Blurr, and still remain faithful to the original.



The colour scheme feels bang on, the Headmaster looks great in both modes and the vehicle mode is not a bad stab at the original given the limitations of mold reuse.


5 - Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime



This character means a lot to me as it was my favourite Optimus Prime when I was young and still one of my favourite G1 figures to this day. The Japanese legends version is an improvement over the Hasbro version but either one is excellent.



The only way it could be better is if the Headmaster was still a Powermaster and could act as the engine again but that's a small niggle with an otherwise great update to a memorable G1 figure.


4 - Masterpiece Ratchet and Ironhide



As a young child with G1 Ratchet and Ironhide in hand and the cartoon in the VHS player I always wondered why the toy and the animation were so different. Back then I would have given anything for cartoon style versions of these characters and this year saw that wish come true.

Sadly people found fault with the mold for various reasons but look again at what they achieved and you realise how close they came to making the perfect representation of the characters. Van and robot both look as close to the cartoon version as we could hope for.



They truly are masterpieces.


3 - Masterpiece Shockwave



After wanting a modern interpretation of Shockwave for so long we finally get one and nearly everyone complains. No surprises there, but for me Masterpiece Shockwave is a thing of beauty. Yes it would have looked nicer with a darker shade of purple and perhaps it could done with slightly beefier legs but other than that it's a frikkin official Masterpiece Shockwave and it's awesome.



That being said I could do without the electronics which I generally do not like in Transformers, but other than that it's a great figure.


2 - Masterpiece Rodimus



It's not often that you get a new Masterpiece figure that feels like a one off, a mold that wasn't designed to be repainted into a dozen different characters and instead we made for one purpose only. When it happens it feels special and for those reasons Rodimus is on my list.



It's near the top because it's also a fine figure in its own right. Although perhaps not quite as amazing as MP-9 to begin with, this figure slowly grows on you until you reach a point where you can't live without it.


1 - Masterpiece Inferno



I never had the G1 figure and have little attachment to the character but the Masterpiece figure is very special indeed. Light in hand but solid and chunky with ratchets in all the right places and several masterpiece moments which highlight why TakaraTomy are the best at what they do.

Inferno is a damn fine figure which looks as good behind my lens as it does in hand. It's so bloody heroic without even trying.



The inclusion of multiple faces and helmets, a couple of cab fronts and other accessories make this a joy to play with. The range of movement also makes Inferno a pleasure to pose. Some figures just want to be photographed and Inferno is one of them.



While I can understand the disappointment some people have with the more anime style of the figure, I don't find it offensive at all and am looking forward to getting more Masterpieces in this style.



2017 has a lot to live up to after 2016s bumper crop of Transformers. So many figures had to be left out of this list which deserved to be on it such as Loud Pedal, Delta Magnus, Despotron and others. It's a testament to how good this year has been that so many got left behind but that's the way top tens go.


Thanks for reading and see you all next year.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Stunt Doubles - Part One


For a while now Transformers fans have been treated to modern interpretations of classics characters from the 80s and 90s in the form of Masterpiece figures from TakaraTomy in Japan. The only problem being that some figures take longer to be announced and released than others or in some cases have yet to be announced let alone released.

This means that fans who would like a modern display of generation one characters are faced with a dilemma - wait for the missing figures to be announced or find another source of updated figures. This is where the now ever present third parties step up to the plate.

For me, the figures that are produced by third parties have always been considered stand ins for the real thing, stop gaps until the official figure is released. Until very recently I was in the habit of selling on these figures when I eventually picked up the official version but I think I have had a change of heart and have started to appreciate these unofficial figures as great toys in their own right.

It started with Wrestle from MakeToys which is a fine rendition of the Grapple character. Initially only available through the MakeToys online shop and then later through other online retailers, Wrestle was a fine attempt at updating the original Grapple figure.


It is a lovely figure which takes the bulky crane toy from the 80s and drags it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.


Due to the reuse of the mold, the MakeToys version of Inferno, Hellfire is similarly good and updates the original generation one figure in much the same way.


Although quite bulky and chunky these figures could achieve a remarkable number of interesting poses due to their modern engineering.


They were not without their issues, for example the waist skirts that are connected and do not move independently so therefore are prone to breakage or Hellfires 'ears' popping off due to lack of articulation, but these seemed like a small price to pay to have an MP style figure for the collection.

The next third party figure to make me reconsider my stance of treating them as stop gaps was Despotron from Maketoys.


This figure is awesome dispite a couple of small problems, mainly knee related or floppy barrels. Released at a time just prior to the announcement of an actual Masterpiece Megatron, Despotron is different enough from the aesthetic that TakaraTomy are working to now to be a keeper.

The transformation is really quite interesting and satisfying. It even looks good with actual Masterpieces.


More recently I picked up Mastermind Creations version of Inferno, Backdraft. I decided that having just Hellfire meant I wasn't giving Backdraft a chance. Turns out they are both rather nice interpretations of the Inferno character.


This version of Inferno is much less chubby than the Maketoys version making for a more athletic and lean bot mode. The cab sits much less proud making more dynamic poses really quite easy. The ears are better design than the Maketoys version which means you won't be popping them off during transformation. It also looks really good with official Masterpieces.


Given how good these third party interpretations of original G1 characters are getting, it seems almost a crime to sell them on once the official version is released.

But...


Everything comes to he who waits and Masterpiece Inferno did eventually arrive from Japan. It nails the character in a way that Hellfire and Backdraft don't. It's engineering is superior, it poses much better than the third party efforts, it doesn't try to be accurate to real life and instead embraces its anime heritage and most important of all, it feels good in the hand.

With Masterpiece Backdraft in hand have my feelings for these third party figures changed?

No.

Will I be selling them on?

Yes.

I thought I could continue to appreciate them both and could find a place for them in my collection but sadly they are doomed to the same fate as every other Masterpiece stunt double I have ever had... Resale.

That's not too say they are bad figures, Backdraft is especially close to bring a legitimate alternative to a Masterpiece Inferno, but for me they have no place in my collection.

The fate of MakeToys Despotron, on the other hand, will no be so clean cut when the time comes. Our maybe it will, who knows ;)

If you want to read my thoughts on Masterpiece Inferno then head over to my review.

RobotoChan reviews MP-33 Inferno

Thanks for reading and see you next time.


Saturday, 10 December 2016

MP-33 Masterpiece Inferno



Are we really at number 33 already?

It seems like the line only begun a few years ago.

Anyway...

TakaraTomy have been risking the ire of the fan base for a while now. The release of MP-27, Masterpiece Ironhide, was a little glimpse into the future, a future where Masterpiece Transformers were more slavishly similar to their cartoon counterparts than the original G1 toy.

What started with Ironhide continued with MP-29, Masterpiece Shockwave, followed by MP-30, Masterpiece Ratchet, then MP-14+ Masterpiece Alert and now MP-33, Masterpiece Inferno. We already know about repaints of Inferno into Artfire and Grapple as well as an upcoming Megatron which will cement this trend of anime style figures for good but it does make you wonder how far this trend will continue.

For me however, it's fine. In fact I don't mind this move to cartoon accuracy at all. If I wanted realistic vehicle modes then I would buy scale replicas. That being said, let's take a look at Masterpiece Inferno.


The box is of a size similar to that of the recently released Masterpiece Optimus Primal and is necessary due to the size of Inferno in vehicle mode. The front of the box feels a little cramped with Inferno in vehicle and robot mode. For me they could have scaled both images down a little before compositing them together but that doesn't distract too much from this being yet another great Masterpiece box.

As I just mentioned, Inferno comes packaged in vehicle mode so let's take a look at it.


From the front Inferno looks awesome and perfectly updates the original G1 figure for me. I never had G1 Inferno but I have seen plenty of pictures of it and can appreciate how similar this Masterpiece is to it.

From the rear you can see how the focus on making the figures look like their cartoon counterparts had resulted in a more simplified look to the figure.


Sure, the back of the fire truck could be more detailed but I am not offended by the way it looks at all. In fact this modern look to the Masterpiece figures is really quite nice - it means they don't have to strive for complete vehicle accuracy giving them more flexibility to make the robot more cartoon like.

Speaking of the robot mode, it is solid and sturdy. Inferno looks chunky and bulky but in hand feels quite lightweight. As you can see from the image below, Inferno comes with more than just one bonnet. In the box you get the more realistic version of the bonnet as well as a cartoon version. The realistic version suits the vehicle mode quite well and offers a chromed grill and bumper whilst the cartoon version looks more simple and doesn't have chrome. There is also another bonnet with clear plastic supports that allows Inferno to support carrying Alert.


From the front you can appreciate the clean lines of Inferno. There is very little in detail on the figure which for some people may be a problem but for me is rather nice. An overly busy robot with lots of detail is not something that I go for.


But don't despair, there is plenty of detail on the back of the robot mode. Look at all that detail on the butt flaps and upper back area. Which brings me to another neat thing about Inferno - the mystery of the disappearing ladder. It's an absolute work of genius that TakaraTomy managed to hide the ladder by collapsing it into the chest. Sure, it means the ladder in vehicle mode isn't absolutely correct when compared to the actual vehicle, but it is good enough and the fact that it doesn't hang down the back of the robot mode more than makes up for it.

This years Masterpiece Transformers all seem to come with a crazy amount of accessories and Inferno is no different. Included with the figure are three different faces and one different helmet. Let's have a look at the faces with the toy accurate helmet.










They offer a nice range of emotions and look pretty good in general. I find myself liking TakaraTomys faces more and more these days. They seem to be putting a lot of effort into getting them right.

The spare cartoon accurate helmet looks really good with the more cartoon-like style of the robot mode. Though both helmets suffer from the usual problem of yellow paint on black plastic - the yellow ends up looking unfinished and thinly applied.


In robot mode Inferno does so much right. The head is on a ball joint and can be moved independently of the surrounding section, which is not fixed to the roof of the cab and can be moved to give you lots of options for great dynamic head shots.

The right arm can be either a hand or can be converted to the more usual hose attachment. Once again this gives more posing options than just a hand or hose alone would give. The attached hose is chromed to match the chromed bumper and grill but can be changed to a cartoon style hose to match the cartoon style bumper and grill.

Maybe I am weird but I prefer the cartoon style bumper and grill with the chromed hose. Putting aside the debate about whether I am actually weird, the fact of the matter is that you get choice which is always good.


You get a good range of motion from most joints in this figure. The only slight problem I have found is the waist swivel kinda gets in the way of the legs rotating about the hips but that is minor and can be worked around.



When put alongside some of the other Masterpiece releases of 2016 you start to appreciate the standardisation of the style of the figures. Certainly when displayed alongside Ratchet and Ironhide you can see where they are going with this anime style look.


I don't think them all looking this good together is an accident.


They are all able to achieve a decent walking pose and when doing so together they look bad-ass.


In vehicle mode together they scale quite well and look really good. I can't wait to pop a Masterpiece Grapple in there in the near future.


The recent switch to a more cartoon style of figure for the Masterpiece line has certainly not been without it's problems. Some fans are not going to be happy with this change of direction but I think we have to get used to these small reboots as the line grows. It would have been nice to get a Masterpiece version of the G1 season one cast all done in the same style but my feeling is that right now, that isn't going to happen.

Masterpiece Inferno is quite likely to be my figure of 2016 for many reasons but the most important is for it's fun factor. It looks great in both modes and the transformation is fun rather than annoying but the fact that the figure is so chunky and invites you to play with it makes it a clear winner for me.


Thanks for reading and see you next time.