Transformers GT – Part 2

Masterpieces in their own right

Amongst the avalanche of exciting Transformers Masterpiece revelations, the imminent arrival of the biggest Transformers toy ever and Takara Tomy’s Transformers Go! series, news of the Transformers GT official release got a little buried. While completely understandable due to the brand new nature of the aforementioned releases, the fandom’s insatiable appetite for Masterpiece and the hulking mass that is Generations Metroplex, it’s a shame that Transformers GT Prime and Saber have been relegated to the status of expensive Alternity repaints when there’s just so much more going on here.

Last week we took an in-depth look at the packaging, presentation and peripheral contents of Transformers GT-01 Prime and GT-02 Saber. This week we continue the review and put the toys and accessories under the spotlight. I’ll say it now, as if it wasn’t already obvious from last week, I am biased. I love motor sport as much – if not more – than Transformers, and the Binaltech/Alternity conceptual era is my favourite outside of G1. So for a scale model race car collector, accurate Super GT liveries on beautifully engineered premium Transformers meant love at first sight. That said, the toys are not 100% perfect and the price has all but put most collectors off considering what else is around and due, so let’s see if any of what follows will change your mind.

Time to buy some circuit backgrounds

Imagine this with GT03 and 04

No more teaser photographs of packaging and paperwork this time, let’s get straight to the point. An enormous part of the Transformers GT appeal and its primary selling point is the tie-in with Japan’s premier touring car race series, Super GT – a series whose top tier consists of supremely powerful, sleek and purpose-built racing versions of real life (mostly) Japanese sports cars. The Transformers GT toys feature totally accurate Nissan GT-R team liveries with authentic sponsor logos. These re-tooled Alternity GT-Rs boast full racing modifications and transform into well known and popular Transformers leaders. Either all of that grabs you immediately as it did me – a lifelong robot and race fan – or it doesn’t.

See the rear wing misalignment?

Mostly excellent panel fitting

So what’s left for those who weren’t immediately under the Transformers GT spell? Well there’s the small matter of a 1:32 scale Alternity base mould GT-R with additional parts and sections moulded especially to resemble the GT500 race car used by Nissan in Super GT. The Motul Autech livery used by the Nismo team has been faithfully recreated, sponsor logos and all, and supremely well applied onto the chassis.

It may not be 100% aerodynamically accurate since it’s just a re-tooled road car mould from Transformers Alternity as opposed to a scratch-built GT500 race car, but there are enough details painted and moulded onto the vehicle to do the original Nismo Motul Autech GT-R justice. The vents, exhausts, wings, wheel-arches, window openings, mirrors, rims, front splitter, rear wing and diffuser see to that nicely.

Nismo Motul Autech GT-R GT500

Opening doors and hood

The overall red and black colour scheme lends itself nicely to an Optimus Prime incarnation, although I’m not sure if the Motul Autech GT-R was chosen as Prime because it’s red, or because it’s the flagship Nissan factory works entry as opposed to the 3 customer teams running Nissan cars which have been used for the other 3 Transformers GT releases announced thus far. Probably both!

The Transformers GT Prime GT-R has opening doors and hood, rubber tyres and contains die-cast metal, adding weight and heft to the figure. Under the hood there is an engine block, but this time it’s a Nismo badged block instead of the road car engine used on the Alternity GT-Rs. Credit must be given where it’s due though, yes it’s the umpteenth use of the base mould, but as far as re-tools and repaints go, Takara Tomy have done as much as they could with the original toy to set it apart and give it a new scheme and purpose. Collectors understandably are reluctant to meet the 10,500 Yen retail price for yet another red version of the Alternity GT-R, but you don’t have to get it in red…

Tell me that's not beautiful

Details everywhere

Co-released with GT-01 Prime was GT-02 Saber, a Calsonic Impul GT-R GT500 imbued with the essence of the 5th Cybertron commander Star Saber, originally from the Japanese Transformers Victory series. Team Impul’s iconic blue livery and Calsonic sponsorship has been a staple of the Super GT, and previously JGTC, Japanese touring car scene. In my opinion, the inclusion of this vehicle in the Transformers universe represents something seismic for any robot and racing enthusiast (or just me), and it’s further evidence of Takara Tomy’s drive to secure accurate and official licensing rights to vehicles and sponsors. Any Transformers Masterpiece collector would know the significance of that development.

Calsonic Impul GT-R GT500

GT-02 Saber has all the trimmings in vehicle mode, as Prime does, including the visible brake pad detailing behind the racing rims and sponsors badges squeezed in wherever Team Impul’s marketing team could fit them. The panel alignment and general fit of the figure in vehicle mode is excellent, and totally achievable upon every transformation. The only fitting issue I’ve noticed on these two specimens is the rear wing halves which can be difficult to line up perfectly, if at all. That can sometimes mean the large lettering (“Nissan” for Prime, “Calsonic” for Saber) can appear misaligned. Despite that, I was very impressed with the high quality feel of these two figures having never owned an Alternity mould before. They certainly felt of higher build quality and fit in vehicle mode than the recent Masterpiece Lambor and Alert.

Speaking of which…

I may love Super GT cars, but a Countach will outshine anything

The Transformers GT cars are pretty much perfectly in scale with the new Masterpiece cars, which explains why GT Prime’s box advertises his compatibility with a MP-10 Convoy trailer. It’s important to stress this point of scale because the perception that these GT cars are small adds to collectors’ reluctance in meeting the retail price. “I won’t spend that much on a small Transformer when I have the mould already” is a common complaint.

Compared to Masterpiece cars which are, from the above picture, clearly comparable in size, Transformers GT has die cast, rubber wheels, better paint application, the super-poseable GT Sister figures and fully licensed liveries to partially justify the disparity in price. What they don’t have is a history, a cartoon and a legion of collectors who have wanted show-accurate G1 toys for decades, and it’s why collectors readily and understandably opt to spend their budgets on Masterpiece.

For that especially tricky overtake

Prime and Saber, like the Masterpiece cars, can have their hand-weapons attached to the vehicles. Saber’s “Gas Fill Blade” clips on much better to his rear wing than Prime’s weapon does, the latter’s peg simply sliding between the wing halves. As far back as G1, I’ve never been hugely enthusiastic about the armoured car look; I never attached the G1 Fairlady Z launchers to the rear windows or displayed G1 Tracks with his backpack and launchers in vehicle mode. These may be Transformers and warring robots, but the vehicle mode is purely about real-world accuracy to me and so I’ll always leave those weapons in the hands of the GT Sisters.

A team truck with a missile launcher

As advertised on GT-01 Prime’s packaging, the cars fit perfectly inside Masterpiece Convoy’s trailer to create a team truck diorama. Something about this reminds me a lot of Ridge Racer! Cross-toyline compatibility is never a bad thing and scaling these - or rather highlighting the fact that they are of a similar size – to the new Masterpiece can only be of promotional benefit to Transformers GT and Takara Tomy. Continuity and story-wise, obviously it makes little to no sense. G1 Optimus Prime and GT-R Prime do not share the same universe, technically speaking.

Grid girls

Tank girls

The play factor for these Transformers GT figures is increased through the inclusion of the Microman-style GT Sisters. They have many points of articulation and can hold the weapons from Prime and Saber, but they are probably a bit too big to be considered perfectly in scale with the vehicles. Each Sister contains multiple points of articulation, although Misaki’s head movement is limited by her hair and both have obstructed leg articulation thanks to their skirts. Each Sister comes with three additional pairs of hands for varied posing, but I won’t lie to you, getting them to pose and stand for photography was not a walk in the park! That said, they are light years better than the static figures included with Kiss Players and Binaltech Asterisk toys a few years ago. Misaki’s (GT Prime) and Anna’s (GT Saber) moulding is not precisely the same, so not all limbs are interchangeable.

But yes, you can swap their heads.

Defection

For once, the inclusion of these types of human figures with a Transformers release has some meaningful value to me, unlike the aforementioned examples from the BT era where I couldn’t care less for their existence. I do very much wish they were just slightly easier to pose and stand.

A hand for every occasion

Here we can see the different hands that are included with Misaki/GT Prime. As I have said above, these are not precisely the same as Anna’s hands due to Misaki having a sleeveless team outfit on and Anna having a long-sleeve variety. It’s a nice touch that the figures – while not 100% interchangeable – are somewhat unique. These extra hands come in a sealed baggy and will be necessary if the GT Sisters are to be posed with the weapons as their default hands in the packaging are open-palm.

You can get in, but it'll cost you those legs...

While they may not be in such perfectly accurate scale with the cars so as to be placed inside with all limbs still attached, the GT Sisters have been designed to interact with the Transformers. You can see Misaki posing with Prime above, and it is not a forced combination or display, plus she is able to hold the air gun weapon with ease as long as the closed fist is attached.

So what of the “Dream pit stop scene” advertised on Saber’s packaging?

Nails broken, drama everywhere

"I love it when females work on my vehicle"

It ain’t no 2-second Formula 1 pit-stop, but it’s definitely possible to set up some kind of diorama with the girls and the cars. I’m quite looking forward to having GT-04 Maximus’s “Master Jack Sword” incorporated into the pit-stop scene, along with the Sisters from Maximus and GT-03 Megatron and the MP-10 trailer. Maybe then one will not have to use a Masterpiece Frenzy cassette case to elevate the cars!

Race car exterior, road car interior

One thing the Transformers GT cars cannot claim is a race-accurate interior, as the moulding there is still the same as it was on the Alternity GT-Rs, and therefore resembles the road car not the Super GT prototype vehicle. Undoubtedly the cost of licensing hyper-accurate race cars with a myriad of sponsors’ logos has worked its way into the retail price, and while on the surface these Transformers GT figures faithfully reproduce the look of the race cars, they’re still a little shy of the kind of exact reproduction that would warrant 10500 Yen a piece in the eyes of most. A real GT500 Nissan would have a minimalistic interior, one seat, roll-cage and the like.

However, the vehicle mode – and it is a successful vehicle mode – is just part of the package. Let’s break out the bots.

He may be short, but you wouldn't mess

I dare you to fault this

Stunning, that was my first reaction on transforming these two GT-Rs into their robot modes. I expected something extremely fiddly and small. That word again, small, but I was so pleasantly surprised. A sturdy feel, once I figured out the correct transformation steps it wasn’t even that complicated, certainly not on the level of a difficult Binaltech and just slightly more complex and involved than a modern Masterpiece Autobot car. The process was not completely free of issue, though, Saber’s chest halves snapped forward very nicely and the head flipped up, but with Convoy I had to force it and manually bring up the robot head before the chest halves would converge. You may also notice that Prime has two left hands.

Not quite the Prime gun of old

Star Saber or Smokescreen?

Compared to the Alternity GT-Rs, the extra mass of parts around the feet and ankle is immediately noticeable. This is due to the wider rear end on the Super GT-style vehicles, not to mention the wheel-arches and rear wing all having to find a way to be stored in robot mode while still offering freedom of movement and poseability. I never owned any Alternity GT-Rs for comparison, so as far as I am concerned, I am impressed with how those huge rear ends tidy up so nicely in robot mode and give the impression of weight towards the bottom end of the robot modes.

Easy to believe as Prime IMO

Seats on arms are the only letdown

I like the robot modes on these two enormously, I find GT-01 completely believable as Optimus Prime thanks to the excellent head sculpt, and simple addition of dark blue knees, silver thighs and blue hands. Saber is even more attractive, blending the beautiful Impul Calsonic blue with an even better head sculpt than Prime, red highlights and a gorgeous vein of white running through the robot mode. The shoulders were hard to get used to but once you get the hang of how to position and manoeuvre them, the chest half won’t slip out of place so often. I still find it hard to accept how small the hands and arms are in general though. With the seats/guns on Saber’s arms being such a brilliant white, from a distance his arms can actually get lost in the blur of colour.

As if a Calsonic Skyline could be cooler

Compare this to how a BT Asterisk towers over its partner

While Prime’s gun is pretty short and basically an air gun for removing wheel nuts, Saber’s weapon is beautiful. The translucent blue blade and the red hilt stand out and do not clash with his overall scheme. When I first posed these figures in robot mode, I wasn’t clipping the feet into the rest of the ankle/foot assembly so they stood easily but there was less of a tidy look about the lower section. It was also possible to pose their legs and feet more dynamically. Once the feet are clipped in, the lower section looks even more tightly wrapped up and neat, but the bots stand slightly less solidly and can be knocked over without much provocation.

That’s not to say they are not poseable, not at all. The above pose seen on Saber is very stable, but the feet aren’t flush against the ground the way I would like. You can also see how the GT Sister compares in height to the fully formed robot. If you’re going to be pedantic about accuracy, the Super GT cars don’t have rear seats, so those robot feet are a bit of an eye-sore, and not because they’re bright red!

Nice touch #1 - Clear visor

I have heard people say “That’s just not Prime/Star Saber to me”, and it’s true that just lumping an homage-laden head sculpt on any random body does not a character make, but a statement like that sells these figures terribly short. At the end of the day, once Takara Tomy had made the decision to go “Mission GT-R” on this line, the robot mode beneath the faithful and Super GT-supervised livery was going to have to do all the work to make you believe you were looking at Prime, Saber, Megatron or Maximus. In the case of Prime and Megatron, the red and silver cars were a blessing. For Saber and Maximus, there was work to be done.

Nice touch #2 - Radio mouthpiece

Whatever your feelings about how well the robot and vehicle modes represent these important characters in Transformers history, there can be no doubt about the head sculpts which are, frankly, tremendous. When you look carefully at these figures, you see the effort and thought that has gone into their presentation and conception, and you realise they are not just soulless Alternity repaints. The heads have a clear visor clearly making reference to a racing driver’s helmet, and the inclusion of a mouthpiece indicates constant car-to-pit communication. That fits in beautifully with the motor sport theme and the GT Sister companions being a part of the racing team. Clearly it would have been fantastic if the visor was adjustable, but alas it is not. My main issue with the heads is the lack of neck articulation on a vertical axis.

See how 'unclipped' Saber stands better

Prime changes tyres, Saber refuels. Lethal combo.

The figures look awesome together and the prospect of posing them with the yet-to-be-released GT03 Megatron and GT04 Maximus creates more excitement for me than displaying the three Masterpiece Datsun brothers together when they finally come out. I know I’m in the minority, and just as I said repeatedly with my Binaltech articles, there is no reason why these Transformers GT figures cannot be enjoyed as a wonderfully executed aside to the fulfilling of every collector’s childhood dream of a perfect G1 cast. No reason apart from cost, and it’s not the elephant in the room because nobody’s ignoring it.

A very different aesthetic

It’s just a fact that these Transformers GT figures have been released at a time when many collectors’ dreams are being realised through the exceptional Masterpiece line, my own included. The possibility of a show accurate Masterpiece Mirage or Jazz is not to be scoffed at, and I will order them on sight, but I feel for the lack of attention and enthusiasm directed towards Transformers GT. It’s a standalone mini-series, it’s high quality, it isn’t pointless but people are having to justify diverting budgets at a time like this when the Takara Tomy and Hasbro releases are seemingly relentless.

I personally cannot conceive of a better combination of factors that could come together to make a perfect Transformer; accurate race car and manufacturer licensing, die cast parts and rubber tyres, strong and evocative head sculpts and excellent robot proportions, together with functional poseability and involved transformations. But like I said, I may be biased…

Tribute to Japanese race car Transformers

All the best
Maz

About Maz

Diaclone and G1 TF collector & writer from the UK. Also write for & own TF-1.com.
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