That’s right, I didn’t pre-order Masterpiece MP-22 Ultra Magnus. Thankfully, Masterforce.co.uk and Orbital Comics came to my rescue in the UK and I was able to get my hands on one, which is just as well because he sold out sharpish and is only going to go up in price as all Masterpiece seem to do when they’ve been spoken for. Like a number of collectors I spoke to, I was put off by the pre-release imagery of Ultra Magnus, that red bumper, the buttflap and general bulky silhouette which looked most inelegant. The whole point of this article series starting with last week’s Part 1, though, is to show how Takara Tomy have been hitting form with Masterpiece and how each release seems to top the previous one. I should have known Magnus would be superb, and I see a repeat situation with the upcoming MP-24 Star Saber.
Masterpiece Ultra Magnus, the grower. I missed the boat, then I started hearing the reviews. Genius transformation, the most enjoyable of the line so far. Die cast metal, incredible size, the buttflap and red bumper not being issues in-hand. So he doesn’t have anywhere near the freedom of motion or posability that KFC’s 3rd party Citizen Stack has, but what he lacks in articulation he makes up for in presence and sheer wow factor. That’s not enough though, that stuff doesn’t last, the figure has to be…well…a masterpiece.
It’s fair to say that every single day Ultra Magnus has been in my possession, I have loved him more than the previous day. There was a period of time when I first got the figure that an evening was incomplete lest I found time at the end of proceedings to sit down at the dining table and transform Magnus between modes. When I say it’s an engaging transformation, I do not mean difficult. When I say it’s intuitive, I don’t mean it’s easy. It’s simple where it needs to be, and clever where it can get away with it, leaving a collector with a sense of satisfying closure on every conversion. The Masterpiece Moment (TM) definitely belongs to the arms and shoulders, they’re such a treat to change. The way the cab unfolds and basically explodes really impressed me as well. Alternate face storage is just Takara Tomy showing off. Even the way in which the cab separates from the trailer is so simple that you have to smile. Inelegant very rapidly became elegant.
The buttflap I’ll never fully come to terms with because as little as I know about toy design I can’t help but feel some solution to minimise its visual effect could have been reached, but the red cartoon-accurate bumper stopped being an issue after about 5 seconds. Magnus is glorious in truck mode, good heavens. The robot mode, however limited those shoulders, knees and complete lack of waist articulation are, commands attention and stands regally, absolutely nailing the Ultra Magnus vibe. The matrix chamber is fully compatible with MP-10’s bauble and the hands open just enough to pull off ‘the point’ from the 1986 Movie scene where he is introduced delegating tasks to the series 3 cast. Reports have come in of collectors stressing and snapping the plastic where the chest piece folds over to become the rear of the cab, so care should be employed even with a hulk like MP-22. The choice of display option for the robot mode wheels on the feet are appreciated, as is the option of having the rocket launchers in cartoon configuration or toy configuration when in truck mode. Apparently he comes with some humans, but wow do I not care about that, the show was stolen when I laid my eyes on Magnus. Roll on Powered Convoy / Movie Trailer Magnus.
Amazing how the brain works. Masterpiece MP-11 Skywarp was something many of us were screaming out for, then Hasbro Asia announced it was a reality, due for release in January 2015 and hearts raced. Then came the price. I’m sorry how much? Cue screeching noises and complaints, that’s to say nothing of the bellyaching of a vocal minority about the orientation of the Decepticon logo on the wings and the silver striping on the forearms and shoulders. For me, this purchase was a no brainer, something I willingly threw money at in place of a brand new Masterpiece mould like Ultra Magnus or Star Saber. No, me being me, I needed a fourth version of this mould after Starscream, Thundercracker and Sunstorm.
Skywarp arrived, all £150 GBP of him, and if I am completely honest there was a little case of the meh monster in the house. Another MP-11, fresh after my Christmas gift of Hasbro Masterpiece Sunstorm. The trio of original Decepticon strike planes was complete, and photo opportunities would be many, but nothing different to what many had posted on forums already. This seemed to be the epitome of an obligation purchase. To be fair to Takara and Hasbro Asia, there was nothing inherently wrong with Skywarp, as we say in the UK, it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s MP-11, it’s black, silver and purple.
Then you put him in that pose from MTMTE/Arrival From Cybertron. You know the one, or the other one. Or you use all three seekers to re-create the scene where they fire on Wheeljack and Bumblebee, and it all starts to make sense. Is that you, Skywarp? The one I’ve been waiting for all this time? It really is, and he begins to shine as he steps out from behind Starscream’s bombastic cape and Thundercracker’s equally loud tampos. Even the silver stripes on his arms are perfect, totally necessary to break up the mass of dull purple on the shoulders and forearms. I have absolutely no regrets spending what I did on Skywarp, just like I have no regrets spending £130 on MP-11 Starscream when the first batch of reissues came around. Will I buy Hasbro Asia’s inevitable Thundercracker? Too right I will. I am very much enjoying this feeling of spending three figures on new product but getting absolutely every penny’s worth in quality, satisfaction and “wow”.
It wasn’t just Takara Tomy scoring points. Controversially, I found their take on Sunstorm to be magnificent. I’ve never owned the MP-11S Takara Tomy Sunstorm, and along with many I laughed at the proposed colour detail on the Hasbro release of Sunstorm, happy in the knowledge that I could ignore that and Acid Storm for the foreseeable future. As with so many of these toys, at some point they will have sat on a table at headquarters being evaluated, and someone will have seen something in them that warranted a release. Something you cannot see or feel online, but an appreciation that can only manifest itself when in close proximity, or when being held. Sunstorm, is lovely.
Over Christmas, Hasbro MP Sunstorm was reduced to £34.99 delivered in the UK from TRU with a promotional code employed, and that made it completely irresistible. I may be going mad, but the transformation on Hasbro’s Sunstorm seemed just that little bit more easy than the Japanese MP-11 offerings of Starscream and Skywarp. I don’t know if it was certain joints being looser, or particular connections offering less/more resistance in just the right amount, but it was nowhere near the mission that MP-11/SW can occasionally be. Coming with a stand and the old MP-3 style missiles doesn’t hurt his value one bit either.
So that brings me up to date with Masterpiece purchases released in 2014 and up to this point in 2015. I don’t want to come across as a fanboy, especially as I seem to spend a great deal of time resisting Masterpiece toys and exploring other less obvious sources of Transformer satisfaction and wonder, but these buggers have consistently been doing the job and hitting the mark, especially throughout 2014 and 2015 thus far. With MP-23 Exhaust, MP-24 Star Saber and MP Tracks on the horizon, it’s set to continue. It doesn’t matter what 3rd party seekers, Bumblebees, Ultra Magnus toys or cars we’ve had, the official releases have stayed enormously relevant, popular and have not failed to impress, surprise, wow and generally be the definition of a Masterpiece. Nailing just the right degree of difficulty and enjoyment in a transformation, getting the vehicle mode absolutely right and adhering to the popular and in-demand aesthetic in robot mode, they’ve all been successes to me. I’ll whisper it because talk like this can get you into trouble in certain parts of town, but could it be possible that Takara Tomy just have better toy designers than everyone else?
All the best