Masterpiece is winning. Nothing creates quite as much furore as the possibility of a new announcement regarding the next Transformers Masterpiece release, be it Takara Tomy or Hasbro. At BotCon last weekend, many attendees at the TFSource stand were saying “I only collect Masterpiece and 3rd Party Transformers now”. The frequency of new Masterpiece threads on forums, the widely ignored release of Transformers GT, the sheer range of opinion on the subject together with the palpable rabid anticipation of collectors at possible Tokyo Toy Show unveilings are all proof of this victory by the most popular Transformers series currently being manufactured.
The Tokyo Toy Show, BotCon, Takara Tomy announcements and surprise online pre-orders have all helped fuel the inferno that is the Transformers Masterpiece movement. As MP-12T Tigertrack starts arriving on collectors’ doorsteps, new product reveals and speculation have been adding to the growing excitement around this line. Hasbro have revealed some of their own Masterpiece product as well, with it being available sooner than most had anticipated. Alongside all of that, news of extra production runs also broke. Let’s try to catch up with everything!
There was welcomed news for all of those who missed out on semi-reasonable prices for MP-13 Soundwave as a second production run of Takara Tomy’s MP-13 was announced finally. So what was the delay? Well it is widely believed that production of the Hasbro Masterpiece Soundwave + cassettes (labelled “MP-02”) was holding up another run from Takara Tomy, but now that both have been announced, I wouldn’t be surprised to see most opting for the quite nicely-packaged Hasbro release with its yellow toy-accurate eyes and full set of five cassette companions.
Also due out is Hasbro’s second stab at the MP-11 mould, the “MP-01 Acid Storm”. While many would have loved an opportunity to grab a Starscream seeing as how the Takara Tomy version is becoming virtually impossible to find at a respectable price, this eye-catching repaint follows Thundercracker, Hasbro’s first use of the MP-11 template. Opinion is pretty split on this one, many believing it will warm Toys ‘R’ Us shelves everywhere, while some welcome the fact that Hasbro isn’t just copying Takara’s releases and is offering fans and consumers something a little different.
Let us also not forget that MP-17 Prowl and MP-18 Streak (Bluestreak) are just a little way down the road, still. The community as a whole seems to have cottoned on to the fact that you either pre-order the figures well in advance of release, or risk paying astronomical prices for them later when everyone has seemingly sold out. As a result, we’re buying and paying for things now that we won’t see for half a year at least. For me this is a new way to go about my collecting. Since Takara Tomy are making great strides in licensing accurate original vehicles for G1 characters, the possibility of a full ‘Ark Crew’ display continues to attract more and more people to the Masterpiece banner.
Pre-orders for Prowl, Bluestreak and MP-19 Smokescreen were placed online near-enough simultaneously, but we had to wait a good long while until official pictures of the highly-anticipated Masterpiece Smokescreen appeared. And boy were they worth the wait…or were they? Depends on your perspective. Some were expecting a completely sponsor-laden accurate Electramotive Engineering Datsun 280ZX Turbo, and I guess with the manufacturer licensing and accuracy of the recent releases, it wasn’t a completely unfounded expectation. As you can see, much like the Alternators Decepticharge, instead of official automotive (or other) sponsors, we have Transformers-themed sponsors like “Devcon Oil” – a nice homage to Smokescreen’s spotlight episode “The Gambler” – and “Smoke Tactics” instead of “Electramotive” etc. I am surprised they didn’t go for the “SUN” “MOON” on the front bumper, but I’m keeping the motor sport geekery in check this week.
Causing more controversy and creating more discussion than the sponsorship logos on the vehicle was Smokescreen’s robot mode, specifically the head and missile launchers. First let’s be grateful that Takara Tomy went to the trouble of remoulding him at all, putting the front wheels on the top of his shoulders, giving us show accurate launchers and a new head sculpt, setting him clearly apart from Prowl and Streak.
If collectors are going to prioritise buying Masterpiece Transformers ahead of gems like Transformers GT-02 Saber (despite my best efforts), and cite reasons like show accuracy, they shouldn’t complain that the over-simplified animation model of Smokescreen from the G1 cartoon has been too closely reproduced for the Masterpiece release. Yes it’s a high-end product that could be refined in a way the animation model wasn’t, but the line has its flavour, its purpose and its ethos. The consistency and continuity of that philosophy is why people are so excited about it in the first place, why make an exception now? For the record, I think he looks utterly magnificent. Bring it on, Smokey.
The above pictures show that Takara Tomy are bringing us closer to the dream of a fully-articulated, show and vehicle-accurate cast of Autobots, and where possible the 1985 remoulds like Red Alert and Smokescreen are thrown in for good measure. They are not letting the petty matter of vehicle manufacturer licensing stand in their way either, with rumoured releases of MP-20 and MP-21 belonging to fan favourites Wheeljack (Lancia Stratos Turbo) and Bumblebee (Volkswagen Beetle). If that does indeed come to pass, it opens the door for Jazz, Mirage, Sunstreaker, Cliffjumper etc. Exciting isn’t it? A re-run of Starscream and a re-scaled Megatron would be popular choices too.
Just as Hasbro experiment with Acid Storm, Takara Tomy have also expanded the Masterpiece horizons beyond the G1 cartoon cast. We’ve had MP-11S Sunstorm and now the Diaclone and reissue mailaway exclusive inspired MP-12T Tigertrack (above) has been released too. We’ll discuss the significance and origin of Tigertrack more in a future article, but needless to say Takara Tomy are giving this mould the full service, as the Tokyo Toy Show also saw a Masterpiece G2 Sideswipe announced! That could bode well for possible Diaclone-themed Bluestreak and Wheeljack Masterpiece repaints in the future.
As if all of that wasn’t enough to account for your collecting purchases for the next 12 months – and believe me it is – Takara Tomy also announced a 30th Anniversary Transformers “Masterpiece Fan’s Choice” where collectors could vote through various methods (such as submitting Robot Points off new releases) for one of the above pictured Cybertron leaders to receive the Masterpiece treatment. Those interested can submit their vote for either Powermaster Prime (or is it Super Ginrai), Star Saber, Dai Atlas, Fortress Maximus, Super Fire Convoy, Cybertron Prime, Armada Prime, Optimus Primal, Big Convoy, Lio Convoy or Energon Prime.
So as far as the Transformers Masterpiece line is concerned, as the title says, it’s full steam ahead.
Many kind thanks to Stevil33 fromn the TFW forum for Tigertrack pictures.
All the best