Could this be a masterpiece, or a Masterpiece, even? It was meant to be. Once upon a time Takara Tomy considered releasing a Huffer (or “Drag”) to go with Masterpiece MP-10 Convoy but the idea never came to fruition. So, with their debut offering, have Cubex nailed Masterpiece levels of aesthetics, quality, design in their Not-Huffer “Huff”, allowing him to be seamlessly integrated into a Takara Tomy or Hasbro collection of Masterpiece Transformers? Is he even the best Not-Huffer on the market? Good luck finding a majority opinion, but if you’re interested in mine, read on!
2014 is off to a flying start as far as Transformers and 3rd Party products are concerned. We’ve already had another MMC Feral Rex limb “Fortis”, Masterpiece Wheeljack and FT Scoria images have gotten nearly everyone excited, MP Prowl has been announced by Hasbro as well as another Takara MP Fairlady exclusive, Perfect Effect’s Not-Maximus “Warden” is a superb new figure, Generations Whirl is a winner and now Cubex together with X-Transbots have released their interpretation of Autobot mini vehicle Huffer. This week we take a close look at the Cubex offering.
Officially called Cubex Robots Old Timer Series 01 Engineer Huff, there’s zero doubt as to who this is meant to be, even the name is dangerously close to the original inspiration. The presentation is very stylish, no expense really wasted on making the box front busy, in fact it could be mistaken for confectionery! The design is straightforward with no frills, the packaging is a suitable size, and it comes with paperwork of a decent enough quality to warrant a second look.
The instruction book explains that the initial design fists and robot face were included, but the upgraded face and hands – as requested by collectors – are present also. One of the collector’s cards is done almost entirely in the TT Masterpiece style, while the other follows Cubex’s own presentation more closely. “Firepower 1” is a giggle too, although you may argue when you see the relative size of Huff’s weapon.
Compared to the X-Transbots “Krank”, Cubex Huff’s truck mode is much closer to the original mini-vehicle G1 Huffer visually, the former going for a much more real-life truck aesthetic. I do prefer Huff’s vehicle mode, but opinion is pretty evenly split and you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone in the other camp that one is better than the other. I love the compactness of this mode on Huff, but there are some alignment issues with the smokestacks, the way the arms clip into the top of the stack means that often the whole assembly is not perfectly straight.
Huff definitely has the chunkiness you’d want in a truck, the swing-out mirrors are nice as are the headlights which can be rotated to give a more G1 appearance. You can see in the last picture above, the rear wheels on my specimen appear to have a little bit of negative camber; the top of the wheels are angled inwards. To keep the vehicle mode looking correctly aligned, it can mean a little outward rotation of the leg assemblies as the wheels just wouldn’t fold down all the way to sit perfectly perpendicular.
I think the detailing is great, they’ve tried to cover every inch with something realistic or interesting to look at, whether it’s exhaust pipes, headlights, rear lights, rivets, handles, but the paint application isn’t perfect throughout. It looks the part, but it needed another metaphorical lick of paint.
The X-Transbots version has chrome where Huff has silver paint, Krank also has a very lovely touch in the use of the Microman mini car logo that you find on TF and pre-TF Huffer in one corner of the cab (as does Stax). Another fine point about Krank, he doesn’t actually look like a Transformer in vehicle mode, it could easily pass for a truck toy. Huff cannot say the same. I am not, however, completely sold on the look of the X-Transbots trucks though, even with their more realistic features, so – as you will see throughout the two toys – you get something different with each release. Neither does everything perfectly. And that’s exactly how they wanted it, hedging bets.
Honestly, if that can’t be considered Huffer, then I don’t know what can. I held the Cubex and XTransbots Not-Huffers side by side in the flesh and made a subjective decision based on my own preferences and influences. There’s no right or wrong answer, this just looked more like animation Huffer and the Masterpiece Autobots I have than the other. While Krank’s leg-wheels are nowhere near as offensive in person, the tidyness of Huff’s lower robot half and his excellent head-sculpt swayed me.
Admittedly, Huff’s transformation is fiddly and you do get the impression that the slightest bit of excessive force will result in tears. Educate yourself and learn the transformation, as intuitive as it is, I’d hate to be responsible for telling folks they could do it without the instructions and be fine every time. You can, but you know, don’t. The panel behind his head is notorious for popping off, and separating the hands from inside the stack-tops can also be quite tricky. Some have even had to take a blade to excess glue there in order to release the hands. There are a couple of rotating panels which can pop off, but I can honestly say after a few transformations, I think there’s a method to it that will result in all pieces staying attached throughout. Don’t go messing with the legs though if the purple panel is still clipped in, I caught that blunder just in time!
Now, onto some positives, and there are plenty. Posability is off-the-scale impressive. The legs, ankles, arms, head and waist show excellent articulation. I feel I am lucky because some have complained about a loose waist, mine’s just fine. The issue in mine is that if I try to hard to pose the opening hands, one of the finger-halves pops off and needs re-attaching. No different to the finger issue on MP-10 or MP-13 though. Huff also shows excellent stability even on one leg. Running and kneeling poses are a joy to perform with this figure. He has good thigh-waist clearance too allowing for proper kneeling, something I couldn’t achieve with the XTransbots design.
The articulation in the shoulders and elbows is a massive plus with Huff and adds to just how emotive his poses can be. I know the arms aren’t as gloriously chromed as they are on Krank, but then which Masterpiece Autobot has oodles of chrome besides Prime? Neither the Lambos nor the Datsuns have chrome, they too sport silver paint, so Huff fits right in with those toys. It seems a cheap shot now that I have seen Krank’s quality execution in the flesh, but I do think the lack of wheels on the outside of his legs counts in Huff’s favour, it’s a cleaner model even though it doesn’t match the drawings seen of the TT MP Huffer.
Now for robot mode issues. This is an issue I’ve seen on more than one Huff, the leg panels that cover the wheels in robot mode on the legs do not stay tabbed, they have a tendency to pop out and it takes a couple of tries to keep them secure, but it’s never completely permanent. This is probably my biggest grumble on the whole piece.
Another foible is the tabbing on the chest piece. The hollow cavity inside is where Huff’s head is stored in vehicle mode, and closing it can sometimes be difficult. You almost have to clip one side in and then press it down, moving it laterally to get the second tab to click. Occasionally, the chest section can droop in vehicle mode too. The tabs just aren’t as secure as they should be.
In this day and age of ingenious design solutions and breathtaking transformations on some new products, I feel it is almost naive to be impressed by something as seemingly simple as Cubex Huff’s gun. It’s not so much the storage that is impressive, but the way the lynch-pin connector becomes the central part of the hollow casing for his weapon, allowing it to be held so securely. You can also see the set of hands he comes packaged with allows for some articulation, but the other set does not, being just fists with holes for the gun peg.
Now, it’s time to address the main question; is this worthy of being displayed alongside your official Masterpiece Transformers? Does it do what any release of this nature sets out to achieve, fill the gap that Takara Tomy and Hasbro have yet to fill, forcing some of us down the 3rd Party route as Quakewave did?
The head sculpt is always a good place to start, and Huff pretty much nails it from the diamond eyes to the shape of his head. The truck cab probably sits higher up his back than the animation model portrays it, but it has a nice element of G1 toy accuracy there. Funny how that can be used as a positive or a negative depending on the reviewer’s preferred side of the fence, eh?
Surely we can agree that Cubex Huff has done a sterling job of recreating Huffer’s animation head sculpt? The colours seem spot on as well. Now while the XTransbots Krank has the excellent G1 toy-accurate mouth-plate, the animation-style humanoid face has too much of a jutting chin for my tastes.
However, Krank nails the shoulders with the little cone on top better than Huff does. I feel the shades of blue used across Krank are further from the animation model of Huffer than Cubex Huff’s, the thighs are a very dark grey where they should be light grey and the hands are black instead of G1 Huffer’s silver. More reasons for me to choose Huff over Krank.
One should be careful when referencing animation model colours though, as this screen-cap shows Huffer’s shades were not always consistent. What it does show, though, is that Cubex Huff has faithfully recreated the feel and overall proportions, lines, and build of the G1 Huffer from the show. That’s the aim of the new Masterpiece toys, so in theory he’ll fit in snugly with the established official releases. Shall we test it out?
This I feel is where the biggest split will occur. Some view these images and immediately reach for their wallet, convinced that Takara Tomy could not do a better job of giving us a fully articulated, updated, show and toy-respecting G1 Huffer Masterpiece that scales perfectly with the available MPs.
Others will cast their eyes on the same pictures and immediately decide that the product seems a different, lower quality and devoid of the classy finish many of the Masterpiece toys have, and maybe doesn’t represent the same aesthetic (I’ve used this word a lot haven’t I?), it’s another Smokescreen’s face episode. This time, it clicked for me and I have happily adopted him into my Masterpiece ranks.
Looking at the drawings and concepts for the actual Masterpiece Huffer from TT that was supposedly going to be included with MP-10 Convoy, we can see that Cubex and X-Transbots seem to have adopted a number of the suggested ideas here. On comparison, there’s really not a lot wrong with what we got is there? I think if Cubex Huff had been a free giveaway with MP-10, the fandom’s ecstasy would have been palpable. As it turns out, one becomes a far harsher critic at an order price of $70.
So why on Earth would Prime come packaged with a Huffer anyway? Well it’s all based on that occasion in the series 1 G1 episode “Heavy Metal War” where Huffer toes Prime’s trailer home after his leader took a beating. Both 3rd Party Not-Huffers have built-in compatibility with MP-10’s trailer as a result.
Cubex Huff’s lynch-pin connector and rear-section adapt to Takara Tomy’s Prime trailer. The connection is solid enough and it displays in a way that is best described as satisfactory. My personal preference as stated before is Cubex, but the trailer connection looks a bit more natural with Krank, although the two halves seem to clash more.
Again, I felt forced to ask, what more would one have expected from a Masterpiece Huffer?
Not an extra face, that’s for sure. Considering the price point that Takara Tomy would have to aim for when you take into account Huffer’s relative size compared to the cars, you do wonder if there’s any way Takara Tomy could beat Cubex Huff. The success of Huff will prove that collectors are willing to pay more for what they see as meeting Masterpiece levels of design and execution even for minibots. Were Huff just that little bit more polished, with better paint application and more sturdiness and quality in the tabbing parts and moving pieces, I reckon Takara could put any potential MP Huffer project to bed.
Oh, the answer is “yes”, by the way.
Thanks to OptimushedPrune for the Krank photo and MP Huffer concept image used courtesy of TFWiki.
All the best