Mirage and controversy are never far apart. Whether it was sneaking off during battle to board the Decepticon ship while invisible, or pretending to be a Decepticon spy stealing energon cubes, he’s made people question his nature. DX9 – formerly/currently Unique Toys – have delivered us a Masterpiece-scaled figure that is heavily influenced by G1 Mirage called “Invisible”, and whether or not this thing can be considered a Masterpiece or not has been the subject of a great deal of discussion and disagreement, nothing new for Mirage.
Let’s kill that line of discussion right here as the litany of online posts about the topic have no doubt exhausted you all, so let’s touch on it and leave it at the door. I cannot say to you that this is a Masterpiece Mirage or not, because my definition of Masterpiece undoubtedly differs from yours. Mine is straightforward, at the heart of what a modern Masterpiece is to me is if the figure has an accurate real-life (or equivalent depending on original basis) alternate mode as envisaged by Generation 1, has strong G1 cartoon accuracy in robot mode and scales appropriately with the post MP-10 era as a robot. Where engineering becomes involved, the waters become muddier and those goalposts will of course move depending on what Takara Tomy give us, because ultimately my definition of Masterpiece is dictated by those official releases. So, as per my parameters, Invisible is not quite Masterpiece Mirage. And for that I’m grateful.
Why am I happy about that? Because if Invisible was trying incredibly hard to fill the Masterpiece requirements, it wouldn’t be the standalone beauty and success that it is, for its own merits. For a start, Masterpiece line fillers have tended to mimic the Takara Tomy Masterpiece packaging, but just as BadCube/Cubex went their own way with packaging, DX9 have also created a delightful package for “03 Invisible”. The number of influences and nods on that box is off the scale, and almost all of them strike a huge chord with me. First off, the gigantic “INVISIBLE” text at the top is clearly an homage to the Ceji Joustra “DIACLONE” logo seen on those famous mainland European pre-Transformers that happen to be my first love in collecting, as designed by artist twins Paul and Gaetan Brizzi.
On top of that, the sides of the box make reference to Generation 1 with Energon cubes shown alongside Mirage’s signature handgun and missile launcher combo, the cubes making reference to those he supposedly stole in the G1 episode “The Traitor” in which Mirage’s allegiance was called into doubt by Cliffjumper. On the opposite box side we have a tribute to the history of the Ligier JS11 F1 upon which Mirage’s Diaclone ancestor, and therefore he, was based. “1979” shows the year the JS11 raced, the second picture is of the French F1 driver Jacques Laffite who drove the JS11 F1 in 1979 alongside Patrick Depailler. There is also the gypsy woman logo used by French cigarette company “Gitanes”, the company that provided title sponsorship for the Ligier F1 team. A quote from “V For Vendetta” also adorns the back of the box. Inner Dream Eternal Hobby indeed.
The toy is packaged in robot mode in a black plastic clam-shell insert, but I want to get straight to the vehicle mode. At this point you cannot help but believe that DX9 were aiming for the Masterpiece crowd, so faithful is Invisible to the original Ligier JS11 Cosworth Formula 1 car from 1979. The dark blue colour of the toy is not accurate to the G1 Mirage/Diaclone toy, nor is it accurate to the real Ligier F1 car of the time. However, it is more accurate to the cartoon Mirage, again signalling intent. The use of chrome is lush and it covers a fair amount of surface area on Invisible in the same places you’d find it on the G1 toy. Mixed influence is common across Invisible, another reason why its true nature is so hard to pin down.
Of great joy to me was the inclusion of rubber tyres, lovely giant slick 70’s F1 tyres. While the wheel hubs are all wrong and inaccurate to both the F1 car and the G1 toy, only the covered rear wheel causes any sort of visual discomfort – but it serves a purpose. Make no mistake, Invisible is stunning in vehicle mode, completely level on a surface and rolling perfectly. You may have noticed the gaping rectangular holes on the sidepods where the primary sponsor “Gitanes” is painted. My first reaction was that DX9 had included a deliberately invasive hole there to break up the “Gitanes” text, as that’s a brand whose name they had no right to use on the figure. Unlike the upcoming Mastermind Creations “Sphinx” or the vintage versions of the figure, the cigarette brand has not been deliberately mis-spellt as “Citanes” to avoid litigious action.
What I saw as evidence to support this theory was the complete lack of other sponsors like Elf and Goodyear. On the other hand, I was recently educated about the use of such cut-away sections to allow joints to breathe, or flex even though the opposite side of the sidepod is completely open. However, if you look at a Masterpiece Bumblebee’s shoulder, it too has an open side but a similar cut-out rectangular hole on the outer shoulder. I decided to contact DX9 about the nature of the hole that was spoiling the look of that section. Their response was “we are worried about copyright issues, so we will leave a hole in there“. Dual purpose, then, is quite likely. If the hole was always going to be there, maybe they figured it wasn’t worth using a mis-spelling of Gitanes and instead tried to inject as much accuracy as possible. Either way, it’s there to stay.
So it’s fair to call the vehicle mode on Invisible a success with definite effort made to ensure the figure exudes a degree of quality and pedigree, wheels and sponsor-wrecking hole aside. I stopped noticing or caring about that hole some time ago, and so will the owners of Invisible.
Before Invisible is further tarnished with the “Classics” brush – less a derogatory term than blatant over-simplification – let me assure you that there’s more to him than being an upscaled Classics Mirage. Yes, there are similarities in the highly intuitive and repeatable transformation. The legs fold over and compact in the same fashion, and the folding of the arms under the car ring a bell. There’s no parts-forming here, the front wing elements fold down and thread through a hole in the cockpit left by folding up the driver’s seat. The front wheels position themselves behind the shoulders in a very G1-esque fashion. The waist and shoulders get rotated.
The tricky bits are finding the right angle to clear the forearms from the upper arms, and remembering to rotate the rear wheels at their axle as they become makeshift heel spurs for Invisible. The only sweat-inducing step is the extension of the rear wheels until they click, allowing the rubber tyres to clear the bodywork when going from robot to car, possibly the reason for the wheel cover instead of the accurate hollow JS11 rear wheels. A really nice and clean transformation all round, no frustration at all.
Posability is great, and there’s no lack of possible poses should your imagination feel like taking control. The issue here is that with effectively wheels as heels, Invisible can topple backwards if the weight distribution is a little less than optimal. He can’t hold too many dynamic poses if the centre of gravity shifts away from the middle and he has to rely on the solidity of those feet and heels. The feet themselves are articulated at the ankle, but not outwards so he can’t do my favourite running pose. The hood in robot mode is of course the cockpit which does not move or collapse at all. It limits access to the robot head, the articulation of which is not completely indicative of a ball joint.
The most talked about section that could do with upgrading has been Invisible’s head. Either it’s been called too small, Not G1 enough, not screen accurate enough or just generally not Mirage enough. I’ll admit, I want a different head sculpt too, one that evokes more of the cartoon appearance – or not, as we’ll discuss later. His mouth seems permanently open and the nose is flat and wide like a bruiser’s. It’s not my favourite part, and I think it looks better on his packaging art. I also wish 3rd Party manufacturers would accept that some of us old school types wouldn’t mind a removable/firing missile or two! The launcher does add favourably to the whole robot, though.
Don’t get me wrong, please, on all of the above criticism, Invisible can strike an absolutely killer pose when you balance and position everything correctly, and it can be hard to see him as anything but Mirage on those occasions…
It should be noted that overall Invisible has a very quality feel to it, not exactly high end, but above most of the 3rd Party stuff I have handled outside of FT and MMC. He never fails to bring a smile and a look of appreciation from anyone who handles him, completely separate from any sort of qualification into a perceived Masterpiece club. As a standalone interpretation of Mirage with influences ranging from Diaclone to F1 to G1 to Classics, he’s a lovely figure and one that’s tremendously enjoyable to mess with.
Yes, Takara Tomy can improve on Invisible in terms of how he stands, how he is articulated in certain spots and in terms of being more… substantial, if that is not an unfair term to use. They could make him more faithful to the cartoon as that’s their remit for Masterpiece and add bells and whistles like wrist flaps to cover gaps, sliding lower legs to create more visually appealing and neater sections around the knees, calves and waist.
To try and shoehorn Invisible completely into either Generation 1, the Sunbow Transformers cartoon or Masterpiece is to first of all fail, and it is also a massive injustice to what is a glorious figure in its own right, and Mirage has never quite been a perfect fit, has he? Given my personal entry into the hobby and my first love of Ceji Joustra Diaclone, my lifetime adoration of Formula 1, some of what DX9 have used to sell this figure – the “Invisible” lettering and various historic influences – are holy. Untouchable. Historic. To infringe on those would be sacrilege, or so the limited version of myself thought.
The same side of me that dismissed this as not quite 100% a Masterpiece and therefore without long term purpose or appeal. I like Invisible so much as a standalone gem that I think I agree with a friend who suggested a G1 toy accurate head would complete him better than a cartoon accurate head, because it would just set him apart that much further and allow him to shine continuously and with trademark Mirage virtuosity. I do, however, completely understand the interest in placing him with Masterpiece toys and why it can appeal to many a collector. In fact, I have found my picture galleries of Invisible have helped people cement their opinion and decision either way. For those who can’t resist placing this figure with their Masterpiece collection, well, he’s anything but invisible…
All the best