Transformers are popular, minibots are popular, Masterpiece is popular. Takara Tomy have just put the elements of that formula together and created Masterpiece Bumblebee, but not before a bunch of 3rd party companies had a stab at it first. One of those companies was Cubex, their interpretation of Masterpiece Huffer, called “Old Timer Series 01 Huff”. I felt Huff was Masterpiece worthy in design but not execution, and honestly had it not flaked I would still have it because it hit all the right aesthetic notes. Cubex have re-branded themselves as BadCube and continued the Old Timer Series of MP-style minibots, starting with OTS-02 Brawny and OTS-03 Backland, Not-Brawn and Not-Outback respectively.
One of the criticisms that was levelled at Cubex and Huff was that the finish of the product needed more quality, both the paint and the construction, as there were issues with flaking and ill-fitting tabs. Thin plastic was also cited as an issue. I would say though that I never damaged my Huff and it was solid out of the box and well after use. It was just the paint flaking that got me, but it showed such genuine promise. That promise, we all hope, will be translated into great figures now that Cubex are back as BadCube.
I know some are annoyed that they appear to be distancing themselves from Huff and the Cubex brand, but the paperwork for Brawny and Backland seen above happily shows off Huff as their first product. The tube between the classy and refreshingly understated packaging for Brawny and Backland is the Quintesson Journal-styled accessory pack. More on that later. Both figures also come with two collectors cards, one side featuring the BadCube style artwork and the other side being a Takara Tomy Masterpiece Transformers style layout. The booklets contain quite a bit of concept art for the characters, and are nice to leaf through. A lot of us appreciate having something else to appreciate beyond just the toys.
Looking purely at Brawny this week, representing the original G1 Brawn’s boxy vehicle mode is a Land Rover-a-like from yesteryear. Straight out of the package you can see that Brawny tabs and holds together with no gaps much better than Huff ever did. The accessory pack available to customers who ordered the OTS-02 and 03 toys as a set contains a roof rack for Brawny that attaches to the spare tyre on the roof. The drill seen in the G1 episode “War Of The Dinobots” attaches via a tab at the bottom of the grille and comes as standard with Brawny. The gas can on the rear detaches, splits in half and reveals his handgun, and the two halves of the can slot in to Brawny’s legs to become his calves and gap-fillers. You’ll see that later as well.
The vehicle mode is so clean and tidy with no looseness, and if you can get over the hugely retro and almost wimpy look of what was a beefy off-road vehicle back in the day – especially the tyres- it’s a stylish thing and quite unlike many of today’s Transformers. What the vehicle mode doesn’t have is a lot of functionality, there are no opening doors, turning wheels or vehicle interior. But that’s just us being spoiled by Binaltech, these omissions are nothing new to the Masterpiece line, and so in general collectors won’t mind.
The paint application is good, I haven’t noticed any offending spots of overspray or missing paint, overall the finish is impressive and holding the figure I can tell that the production standard is higher than Huff. I even find myself not at all bothered by the cuboid tab that sticks out just after the back seat windows or the hole that they tab into past the rear wheels. If I can handle MP Sideswipe’s shins sticking out the back of the vehicle mode I can handle this.
The transformation process confirms how far BadCube have come since Huff. Vehicle to robot is an absolute pleasure, a real can’t-put-it-down style transformation in the most classic Transformers style. Intuitive tabbing, rotating, flipping and unfolding all make for a memorable experience. There are no genius steps that make you go “whoa”, but it is highly repeatable and there are no floppy interfering kibbly bits that disturb the flow of the procedure. In fact, the only step that interrupts the manipulation of panels and surfaces is the attachment of the gas tank halves inside the rear of the lower robot legs to create calves. They tab in quite securely. I can’t stress this enough, the vehicle to robot transformation on Brawny is an absolute shining highlight of this release in its simplicity and engagement. I genuinely enjoy it more than any of the Masterpiece Autobot car transformations.
There’s no getting around it, Brawny is a stumpy little fellow with odd proportions below the waist. We all know G1 Brawn was short, stocky and a brawler, so it’s not like he could have been modeled with lithe limbs and curved lines. The look is divisive and from inception to release there have been significant numbers on either side of the fence. Where I come down on it is that I totally see Generation 1 Brawn in this figure, but the proportions being a little strange I cannot deny. My eyes can’t always adjust to it, and they stand out in photography alongside official Masterpiece product. When you consider that this is what BadCube aimed Brawny towards, it is perfectly justified to compare it against that aesthetic…even if said aesthetic is arguably a moving target with each MP release.
Stability and posability are pretty good here, he’s definitely a plonk-it-down type of figure. His idle stances are convincing and the only bugbear I have with his articulation is that the ankles don’t tilt outwards much, making a believable high speed running pose very difficult to achieve. Brawny can kneel, kick, twist at the waist, look up and around and slightly down. There are rotating wrists, elbows and shoulders. The degree of articulation in the arms is impressive and everything is pretty damn tight. Occasionally one hand would pop off but it’s easy to put back on again and it’s far from a perennial issue.
One thing that stood out to me was the way his backpack just hangs, held down by joint friction. There’s no clipping or tabbing and initially that sat oddly with me, but when you look at the G1 animation model for Brawn, sure enough there’s a jeep on his back. He’s really very accurate when you study individual details like the painted belly detailing that used to be a sticker on the original toy, or the dark sections on the crotch piece. Depending on what episode you watch, and what sequence, you could say Brawny’s tubby torso is spot on or way overdone. Whatever compromise BadCube have had to make to this robot mode in order to accommodate that vehicle mode and transformation is completely worth it. I particularly love how the sides of the vehicle hood rotate and then slide in to make the robot torso, followed by the satisfying clipping of the undercarriage to close the chest.
In the above pictures you can see the welding torch Brawn used to free Huffer in MTMTE/Arrival From Cybertron, as well as Megatron’s fusion cannon that he picked up during Fire On The Mountain. These parts all come in the extra accessory bundle, something that may annoy collectors only interested in Brawny and not Backland.
You may also have noticed a grimacing growly face on Brawny when I posed him with the fusion cannon, that comes in the accessory pack and is quite easily interchangeable with the standard pack-in face. Just pull one off directly outwards and attach the replacement. The face sort of pegs onto the eyes. The actual robot head has come in for some criticism too but I think it’s great, more G1 than something like MP Smokescreen in my opinion. However, the helmet colour of dark grey (even appears green in some lighting) does not quite match the animation model’s light grey or the original toy’s silver. You can also see from the above screen caps that Brawn’s head shape varies from quite regular proportions to a more X-Men Juggernaut type bowl, and that latter look is evident on BadCube’s Brawny.
I like the head, I realise it’s a completely personal thing and my opinion won’t change yours, but I like it. Some have looked at it and said it’s not Brawn, but it is to me. I honestly believe Takara Tomy may come up with a more widely accepted overall physique for an MP Brawn which is less stumpy, but I don’t see them improving on the face. I thought Huff’s features were nailed and I feel the same about Brawn. Who wouldn’t have loved a toy face, though?
I’m usually very fortunate with QC issues on toys if I tally up all the problems I’ve had versus what I actually bought. If you study the robot mode pictures above you can see that sometimes the die cast central crotch piece where the ball joints for the upper legs attach is folding down. It should stay firmly up pressed against the underside of the torso. That helps keep the above folded metal strip that acts as the ratcheting mechanism flat against surfaces. On first transformation back to vehicle mode I snapped one of the forked strips and as a result one leg is quite loose at the hip now. That happened before any of the photographs were taken though, so you can see it didn’t affect posability or stability.
When compacting the legs to form the rear of the vehicle, I mistook this for a Binaltech Smokescreen or Human Alliance Skids and I think by pushing the rear in, instead of aligning it as I should have, it put pressure on the metal strip and snapped it. However, I have spoken to BadCube about this and they immediately tested over 50+ samples of Brawny and Backland each – violently – and have not seen a repeat of this issue. They also contacted suppliers and requested the same test to be carried out, again not seeing the same result. Their conclusion was that the part was either damaged before it got to me or I was quite unlucky with a defective part. They are of course going to replace any defective parts for customers, and I found their attitude so refreshing. My communication with them has been open, very much one of respect and open-mindedness. They were quite happy for me to highlight this issue in the review and I think that’s to be applauded. Throughout my correspondence with BadCube I felt they had a great deal of pride in their product and genuine enthusiasm for its appeal, quality and reception.
Next to official Masterpiece Autobots he looks the right size and certainly contains the level of detailing and engineering to compare favourably. In this company his short and stumpy appearance is highlighted even further, and while Brawn(y) was meant to be a barrel-chested fighter, his silhouette does appear to set him apart considerably from the Autobot cars. Maybe it’s just because they have such visible automotive parts in figure mode whereas Brawny doesn’t. On that note, I think the folded down rear sides of the vehicle that sit on his outer legs could use a little tidying up in order to give him a slightly cleaner look overall.
For the price you will pay for Brawny, or the set if you want the accessories (sore point in itself for some) you need to get a lot for a figure this size. So what do you get? You will get a good quality figure with plastic that does not feel like it’s going to shatter or snap, you get a very refreshing (used that word a lot in this article) transformation that doesn’t induce sweat or require excessive instruction use – one that becomes second nature very quickly. And memorable. You get a posable and detailed figure with good finishing, mostly accurate to the appropriate (intended) source material but an aesthetic that may turn a significant number away. At least you will know that before you purchase, though. The figure also has very good weapon grip, not always guaranteed even on official Transformers.
OTS-02 Brawny is a clear step up in quality from Cubex Huff, and if BadCube continue in this direction, improving as they go along, then there could be some very exciting figures in the company’s future. It’s quite a restrictive mandate to try and shoehorn all of your products into the current direction of Takara Tomy’s Masterpiece line and rely upon the collector’s need to fill holes, but it’s understandable right now because it’s hot. The least a company can do is get it right and at the same time provide a toy that has standalone lasting appeal. BadCube have ensured that Brawny has that thanks to his unique stature and enjoyable nature as a transforming figure. What they don’t have is the immediate acceptance of a figure being the ultimate representation because by definition they are a 3rd party and therefore unofficial. Even when, in my opinion, Takara Tomy dropped the ball with Smokescreen, he was widely accepted as the definitive Smokescreen for the definitive Masterpiece/G1 toon collection. What BadCube have succeeded in doing is leaving the decision of buying this toy or not completely down to a customer’s aesthetic preferences, because everything else is spot on.
Many thanks to TFWiki for the screen capture resources.
All the best