As 2013 races towards its conclusion, collectors are taking stock of all the new Transformers figures they’ve added to their collection in 2013, a year that saw the Takara Tomy and Hasbro Masterpiece lines engage a higher gear and really start giving fans what they supposedly wanted. A year that saw 3rd Party companies present even greater competition for collectors’ spending and a number of new lines like Transformers GT and Transformers Go launch in Japan. A year that saw BotCon pump out more exclusives and the Generations line pay further homage to classic TF characters and IDW comic stars.
For the closing TFSource article of 2013, I will be reviewing my own 2013 toy purchases and listing, in reverse order, my top five acquisitions. These will not necessarily all be 2013 releases, just toys I bought in 2013 that have made the biggest positive impression on me. Considering my collecting history and specialisms, the results may be surprising to some – and yet entirely predictable for those that read this column weekly.
An odd and unexpected choice? Completely unjustified in a year that saw 5 Masterpiece Autobot cars, 2 Masterpiece Decepticon jets and tonnes of stunning 3rd Party products? Not for someone who had never owned a Transformers Alternity figure, adored Binaltech’s values and is a racing car freak. The Transformers GT line took the same re-tooled Alternity Nissan GT-R mould – upgraded to resemble the Japanese Super GT circuit racers – and produced four iconic and historic Transformers figures out of it; Optimus Prime, Star Saber, Megatron and Fortress Maximus.
Of the four toys released in this short-lived collaboration between Takara Tomy and Super GT, I believe Megatron to have been the greatest success. While GT Saber had the more striking and well-known Calsonic GT-R livery, Megatron’s silver, black and red motif as the #1 champion S-Road Reito Mola GT-R oozed class and beauty. The colour of the toy was 100% Megatron and the head-sculpt glorious.
For a toy so small in stature, it was a huge achievement. The die-cast innards, rubber tyres, posability, complexity, frankly unbelievable paint application and attention to sponsorship details are a shining example of how to nail a fully-licensed Transformer. The hand-weapon accessory’s dual function as legendary arm cannon and fire extinguisher smacks of genius. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best Megatron toy we’ve ever received this side of Generation 1. Transformers GT is a toy line that I have huge affection for; it’s rare that I should own something, then sell it, then move heaven and Earth to correct that mistake within the same year.
Preposterous! The only Autobot Masterpiece car released thus far to not have been featured in a Transformers cartoon or comic or have any sort of legendary status ends up placing highest of all his brethren? Damn straight. In researching and putting together the article series we did on Masterpiece Tigertrack, the unwritten significance and gravity of the yellow colour scheme on a Sideswipe-mould toy came together in a way that deepened my appreciation for ‘Yellow Sideswipe’ when I didn’t even believe that possible. For that reason, I choose Tigertrack over MP-12 Lambor and MP-14 Alert.
Considering that most of the fandom can’t even get his name right, what could justify Tigertrack’s billing as the best Autobot car? For a start, I picked him over the Datsun trio of Prowl, Streak and Smokescreen because regardless of paint application, obvious panel lines and hollow shins, the perfection that is the Lamborghini Countach alternate mode blew me away – first through Sideswipe and Red Alert, and finally in the colour all sports cars should come in – yellow.
With his exclusive box artwork, piledriver accessories, extra paint application and Diaclone display option, together with his amalgam Lambor/Alert head-sculpt, he rises above the cruel label of soulless repaint. For anyone who has taken the time to appreciate the reason why a yellow Sideswipe has historical significance as a Transformer or Diaclone, this Masterpiece – directly or indirectly – ticks every collector box there is. Above all though, MP-12 is a tremendous mould and as far as looks are concerned, Tigertrack is off the scale.
I’d heard all the hype about Hexatron, I’d been just as wowed as everyone else by the teaser pictures of MMC’s Not-Predaking, and thanks to #2 on my list I was well and truly open to the prospect of adding 3rd Party products to my collection, despite years of resistance and a lack of belief in their reason for being. Receiving Bovis on the same day as Masterpiece Prowl, despite opening him a few days later, made it abundantly clear to me that the 3rd Party route was a very real alternative to official products when it comes to certain characters.
This figure is a very big deal. Bovis completely redefined what collectors could expect from a ‘combiner limb’, so much so that it seems a complete disservice to even describe this toy as a Masterpiece Tantrum. So impressive is this figure that he seems to be completely separate from any entity known as “Tantrum”, in fact “Bovis” could be the actual proper birth of Predaking’s left foot, such is the personality and quality of its design and execution. Which other toy could ever be legitimately displayed in leg mode!?
There was an issue with the elbow joint on my specimen, sorted quickly and efficiently by MMC, ensuring maximum enjoyment and appreciation of this achievement. The toy is hugely posable, packed to the teeth with brutal-looking accessories, but I think its greatest qualities are that it can inspire dreams of how incredible the full MMC Predaking will be, while at the same time being so good a figure that one could remain happy with it forever even if we never got the other 4 team members. Full nine yards here, bravo MMC.
As remarkably good as Bovis is, the toy that opened my eyes to 3rd Party collecting is Fans Toys’ FT-03 Not-Shockwave, “Quakewave”. The floodgate-opener, the gateway drug, call it whatever you want, but until the very end of the year this stood as the finest toy purchase I had made all year, possibly even in the last 2 years…and I didn’t even buy it myself, it was gifted to me. A gesture of kindness and exasperation too, no doubt, a last gasp attempt by friends to not allow me to miss out on the greatest thing to never come out of Takara or Hasbro’s factories.
One of the greatest things about Quakewave is just how much it does not try to be more than what it needs to be, and through subtle brilliance achieves almost everything you want it to. It’s a Masterpiece Shockwave that doesn’t just fill the gap left by Takara Tomy, but comfortably negates the need for them to spend their time trying to better this design for anyone but the most finicky or stringent official collector – in other words, me, before I got one myself.
Now, it can’t stand unaided in space gun mode, and once you fit the under-slung hose which wasn’t originally included then the electronics in the gun-arm no longer work. Also, the legs are inconceivably tight. Despite all of that, and the lack of frilly bits or needless artistic abandon and re-interpretation, he is sublime, divine, and all of those other words that mean great. He has articulated fingers, gorgeous proportions, a fun transformation and a really smart solution to not needing a separate barrel, hefty die-cast metal sections and killer posability. Widely thought of as the best 3rd Party Transformers item to be released yet, Quakewave is solely responsible for the fandom’s intense excitement over FT’s upcoming Skyfire and Dinobots.
Received in the final month of 2013 having been missed out on originally, Masterpiece MP-11 Starscream tops my list of best purchases for the year. I was tempted to put him at #2 because I’m sure after a few months I’ll be better able to judge my long term feelings on this figure, but my choice is based solely on the awe and emotion felt upon opening the figure. While I was immensely surprised and marvelled at every detail of Quakewave upon releasing him from his packaging, MP-11 actually necessitated a sit down and a sharp intake of breath.
Are MP-10 Masterpiece Convoy, MP-18 Streak and MP-13 Soundwave better toys than MP-11 Starscream, with fewer flaws? Probably. But did any of them evoke the same reaction upon opening, handling and displaying? Certainly not to this extent, and that’s the crux of the thing. If every single Transformers toy purchase made me feel this way, I think this hobby would be immeasurably more enjoyable and wondrous for me, and probably more expensive. As it is though, Starscream tops my list of best purchases for all the reasons I highlighted in last week’s article.
The omission of those three aforementioned toys and MP-17 Prowl is no reflection on their brilliance, each could have comfortably made the top 5 but I’ve not judged this purely on a toy’s merits, more on how they made me feel and just how hard I’d hang on to them at a time of selling. Of great interest to me, and the cause of a little sadness, is the complete lack of vintage purchases in the top 5 or even 10 for my own collection. I’ve bought original Diaclones, Joustra Diaclones and variant Transformers in 2013, but not one was without some kind of issue that soured the experience, a reflection of how I feel about current pre-TF collecting generally. I hope the vintage side of things picks up in 2014, but if I only buy new products of the quality of Quakewave and Starscream, I hardly think that’s worthy of complaint, more something to rejoice. And speaking of rejoicing, happy new year, everyone!
All the best