Return of the King, the return of Starscream, the return of MP-11. For everyone who originally missed out on Takara Tomy’s Transformers Masterpiece Starscream when it was re-tooled as MP-11 (“What do I need with another MP Starscream?”) and realised in time what a sore omission it turned out to be in their Masterpiece collecting, Hasbro Asia have recently reissued MP-11 with another run due early in 2014. Online images rarely do this magnificent creation justice, so having finally added him to the MP shelf, I can comfortably say what others have said for months – I will never need another G1 Starscream.
There were a number of reasons why I missed out on the original release of MP-11, for a start I was more than happy with my MP-3 which at a glance seemed to have a number of advantages over the new figure. The lack of ankle articulation on MP-11 was a turn off, an apparent step backwards. It seemed awkward and too blocky, despite having the lovely addition of the 1986 Movie’s coronation gear as accessories. Plenty of collectors seemed satisfied with their Walmart exclusive MP-3 Starscreams too featuring more animation-accurate colours than the original MP-3. These things aren’t cheap either, and I had long since abandoned picking up new Masterpiece figures (this was pre-Lambor of course) so it was an easy pass. And it remained an easy pass – something to laugh at other collectors for spending increasing hundreds on – until I finally saw one in the flesh in mid-to-late 2013.
By the time I’d started collecting Masterpiece again, having fully bought into the new scale and future vision of where the line was headed, MP-11 was scarce and commanding multiple hundreds on auction and on the second-hand market. It was effectively out of reach, and I comforted myself with being a Masterpiece Autobot collector. Then I snagged a well-priced MP-13 Soundwave with cassettes, was gifted a stunning FansToys Quakewave and finally held MP-11 in hand when a friend brought it out with him to a meet-up. Suitably spellbound and deeply impressed, it very much became an object of my desire, not to mention much more relevant to the direction my collecting was taking.
Another gift, Hasbro Masterpiece Thundercracker – also using the updated MP-11 mould – further highlighted the Starscream-shaped gap in my Masterpiece collection. I had since gotten rid of MP-3, and Thundercracker showed me once and for all what a genuine update the MP-11 re-tool was. Credit to Heroic Decepticon, he’d been telling me for months how MP-11 rendered MP-3 obsolete, but as a staunch supporter and lover of MP-3, I put it down to differing tastes. I should not have underestimated the effect of cartoon accuracy – or at least significant steps towards it based on what Hasbro did to Thundercracker. In person, the limited ankle movement of Thundercracker didn’t affect my enjoyment anywhere near as much as I’d feared.
While occasionally Thundercracker’s looks gave me the sense of handling an oversized Classics Seeker, on the whole it was a remarkable figure with a shade of blue that has to be seen in person to be appreciated fully, not to mention a startlingly good head-sculpt that suddenly made MP-3’s head seem inadequate. The Reflector and Soundwave tampographs on the figure are distasteful to some, as is the red paint on his shoulders…and also the grey sections at the top of his thighs…but I figured if those things together with the feet weren’t bothering me, MP-11 Starscream with all his trimmings and considered Takara Tomy presentation could be the second coming, in more ways than one.
As if by fate, Hasbro Asia stepped in and announced a November 2013 reissue of Masterpiece Starscream “Destron New Commander”, Coronation Starscream, the Prince of Darkness, the self-styled messiah and Primus’s gift to Transformers. And to me. Instabought. MP-11 has been, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best Transformers toy purchases I have ever made. The feelings of awe, enlightenment and deep satisfaction of G1-meets-modern-toy-technology-in-perfect-synergy that the figure evoked on first opening and combining will never be forgotten. Starscream was my first G1 Transformer but I’ve rarely labelled him my favourite toy or character since childhood, yet MP-11 awakened a long-buried feeling. This was the Starscream I had always wanted and deserved.
I’m led to believe that the Hasbro Asia reissue of MP-11 has an even better head-sculpt moulded in the right colours instead of being purely painted, and also featuring a slightly lighter faceplate making him even truer to the animation model. As a standalone jet and robot he’s breathtaking and so very complete, but add the coronation gear to him and the figure is elevated to a totally different level of magnificence. Words like regal, majestic, definitive and perfect come to mind. The weight and presence of this Starscream fully kitted out just makes me want to sit opposite the thing and admire it forever.
The colours are divine, from the “Holy crap they nailed it” grey to the mystical sparklies used in the blue plastic. The head is just so utterly right and the management of kibble worthy of nodding appreciation. MP-11 is an exercise in how to achieve the cartoon accuracy of those simplified animation models while giving the feel of expensive high-end design and presentation. The quality of Starscream is above that of Thundercracker, joints are tighter, tolerances better and the admittedly annoying torse-slide reduced. You must, however, take care when standing him up when his coronation gear is attached. A backwards topple is a real possibility.
Understandably, at such high cost, we will demand more from our Transformers than just killer looks and stare-ability, they have to be posable, fun and interesting to transform. The MP-11 mould is tricky and often frustrating to transform as there are a lot of little bits that need to be done just right with the occasional step backwards necessary to get it all to fit perfectly. Despite that, I am a great fan of all the updates and improvements over MP-3.
I miss the rockets that Thundercracker still comes with, but the weaponry of MP-11 being a ball-jointed attachment which never needs removing, well that was smart. I should also point out that I find it a little difficult to give Starscream dynamic poses that reflect what I had pictured in my mind. It takes a bit of time to prep him for each photo, ensuring the full effect from every angle that I am going for, moreso than with MP-3, MP Soundwave or other newer Masterpiece toys. As it’s a mould update more than a re-imagining, he harks back more to the earlier moulds than any of the other recent MPs. The lack of waist articulation is probably the greatest limiting feature after the ankles.
Jet mode. Wow. Look it’s Starscream! What else needs to be said apart from that? I am thrilled that the nosecone isn’t blue like the toy, and yet I’m tickled that Takara Tomy have included black paint where the G1 toy’s wings would have connected to the main body. Us collectors are unpredictable, full of contradictions and completely impossible to satisfy this way, so credit to the designers for achieving that in my case! It may lack some of MP-3’s real world jet aesthetic, but the sheer size and visual effect MP-11’s jet mode has – despite Hasbro’s Thundercracker preparing me – stuns. Again, it was a royal pain to get him into jet mode and I suspect I won’t be doing it very often, but it was well worth the effort. For now.
Many of the interesting jet mode features of MP-3 have been carried over to MP-11 such as the air brakes, null ray and opening cockpit. Instead of Dr Arkeville, MP-11 comes with a translucent blue holographic pilot. I’m guessing most would have preferred Arkeville to remain. Thundercracker comes with a silver pilot. All the opening flaps and brakes are looser on Thundercracker than on Starscream, a general theme throughout the figures where moving Thundercracker’s arms can cause his whole torso to slide up, this is much less evident on MP-11 Starscream.
As you’d expect, Starscream’s coronation gear is completely interchangeable with Thundercracker, Acid Storm and MP-11S Sunstorm comes with his own fancy regalia. Unlike many collectors, I never found my decision to avoid MP-11 or even Hasbro MP Thundercracker remotely related to the lack of an MP-11 Skywarp official release, however with the above two looking as superb as they do in photography and in-hand together, I understand the vociferous demands of the fandom regarding the missing Seeker. This is especially significant when you consider that one of the Masterpiece Transformers’ greatest features is how good they look together, and in the ability of collectors to recreate memorable scenes from the cartoon using that feature:
This memorable scene from the season 1 episode “Roll For It” sees Starscream, Thundercracker, Soundwave and Ravage facing off against Prowl and Bluestreak who are trying to stop them stealing and using parts to repair themselves. The scene is completely re-creatable using the current MP releases, and you can see that Masterpiece Thundercracker’s blue is nowhere near as offensive to the original ‘toon as some claim, although other sections of him are clearly not accurate (feet especially). Starscream and Soundwave stand out as beautifully faithful renditions. And that really is what this is all about, cartoon accurate, faithful productions of beloved timeless characters married to jaw-dropping toy design and details done right. The big picture is coming together very nicely…
However many Decepticon Masterpieces you put together, even with the utterly fabulous FansToys Quakewave, MP-11 Starscream comes to the fore. At a time where the quality and cost of new Takara Tomy figures and 3rd Party products are causing a glacial convergence of many people’s collections, and forcing the OCD completists among us to actually have to pick and choose what we commit to on a figure-by-figure basis as opposed to whole toy-lines, I have never felt so satisfied with my buying. I wish all my collection decisions made me feel this way, that’s really something to chase.
Beneath the collecting of variants, multiple versions of the same toys and long-lost historic rarities and remote foreign relics, is a deep love of Transformers. The characters, the story, these intrinsically brilliant toys – and it is with little to no regret that other facets of my collecting have been mostly abandoned in the pursuit of the best fiction we’ve ever had (IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye) and these Masterpiece figures. I was wrong to believe MP-11 was not an improvement, I was wrong to think that this mould suffered from limitations that couldn’t be ignored, I was wrong to think pictures online were the be-all-and-end-all, and I was wrong to miss out on the first release. All of those wrongs have been made right with a single purchase. I said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’ll never need another Starscream.
All the best