I didn’t know I needed a Masterpiece-scale Astrotrain. Most of us probably didn’t really, and were happy to wait for Takara Tomy to sort us out somewhere in the next 5 years. With the choice of DX-9’s ”Chigurh” seen here or ToyWorld’s ”Evila Star”, I suspect a third choice of ”neither” to be just as prevalent. That is no slight on the quality or brilliance of the two Not-Astrotrains currently offered, just that if one doesn’t fit you or your collection well seeing as how both companies have gone in very different directions, there’s no obligation to pick one or the other. Interesting, then, that as someone who was not fussed about either Astrotrain before, I ended up very fond of Chigurh and very interested in Evila Star too. For now, here’s DX-9’s divisive effort.
Astrotrain himself has always been funny. Mass shifting theory exists to explain Transformers like Astrotrain. A steam locomotive that fits comfortably on Earth rails, changing to a robot of similar height to a majority of Decepticons and finally a space shuttle that comfortably houses nearly all the Decepticons, including the six-strong combiner Devastator, with room for a punch-up. What chance did Astrotrain toys ever have?
Despite having to deal with the impossible scale issue, Astrotrain toys by and large have been popular affairs, especially since Takara adopted the cartoon-accurate dark grey and purple for various releases in contrast to the vintage black and white Takara Astrotrain or the white and purple G1 Hasbro Astrotrain. Up to a point, the magic grey and purple was reserved for the prototype hardcopies seen in G1 catalogues. Then we had the reissue exclusive ‘Anime Astrotrain’, Henkei Astrotrain, TFCC Astrotrain as a remould of Armada Jetfire, so suddenly screen accurate Astrotrain was everywhere. No surprises then that DX-9 have chosen to go for a screen-accurate dark grey and purple scheme on their Masterpiece-styled “Chigurh”.
Before we go any further, what the heck is with the name “Chigurh”? Well, my theory is that as Unique Toys’ alter-ego, DX-9 like to throw in the odd movie reference, evidenced by the quote from movie “V For Vendetta” seen on Invisible’s packaging. So “Chigurh” references the cold and brutal villain “Anton Chigurh”, played by Javier Bardem in 2007’s multiple Oscar winning movie “No Country For Old Men”. Chigurh also sounds a bit like “chug”, which is what choo-choos do, so all round, excellent name! I still maintain “Lo-Cosmo-Tive” would have been equally good. Maybe not.
When I received the Chigurh production sample you see here, like most I had not been so fussed about the release and had labelled it an easy pass. Upon removing the figure from the shipping box and unwrapping it to find Chigurh (aka Cheggers) in train mode…well that fierce hunk of train with its die-cast metal wheels and generous (hand-applied) paint stunned me. It was a proper case of “Surprise! You like me!”. Being a test shot and with issues to be ironed out for official release, I wasn’t getting too hung up on the fact that viewed side on, not every wheel touched the ground perfectly but on some transformation attempts they did. While the large die cast wheels are delicious, the rods, bars, cranks and links that connect them do not move and we have G1-style Astrotrain piddly plastic toy wheels at the very front and rear of the locomotive.
As you would expect just by looking at the train mode, it is a seriously panel-driven affair. Getting them lined up, clipped in and rotated correctly can be time-consuming but when you are familiar with the orientation and the tricks, going between modes – and I timed this – won’t be longer than 8 to 10 minutes. Do I get any credit for managing all this pre-video reviews and having not been sent any instructions? Anyway, on the rear of the train is a panel that was not originally present in Chigurh’s design, and this panel comes off entirely during transformation. It is the solitary piece of partsforming involved in converting Chigurh between modes and is frankly the biggest non-event of an issue since the Millenium Bug, and harks back to the G1 Astrotrain’s rear end. Obviously I love this toy, you can tell, but this removable panel is not this figure’s biggest issue.
So the train mode, as far as I am concerned, was a great success. It made me want to roll it about and make steam locomotive noises and was visually appealing. In person, other collectors had to admit they were impressed as well with that mode. So far, from the above pictures, shuttle mode is equally spot on. Colours are great, it’s imposing, it’s Astrotrain. But from other angles…
You can see why when I posted these clear images on the boards, reaction was not always positive. With a triplechanger of any complexity (except maybe the Generations Springer dynasty), one mode is always going to suffer, and this is it. It’s very squat, compact and it’s very hard to accept those proportions as either realistic or even Astrotrain. It appears there’s a whole segment missing, about another 30% required. All that said, and it is a big deal to a lot of collectors who value the shuttle mode above train mode, the way all the panels line up and suddenly emit grey colour as the primary, and how the boosters are hidden away in other modes, there’s still something to be said for the ingenuity there.
I won’t lie, getting everything to clip in and hold for this mode – on this production sample at least – was difficult. There are a lot of small rotations and tuck-aways that must be performed in order to allow the top halves to connect, and then those connected top halves to securely hold the bottom half of the shuttle. The landing gear/hand gun does help keep the halves together from underneath to some degree, though. Get it wrong, and shaking the figure will make it look like Chigurh is a talking shuttle. Another thing that may irk some, the partsforming panel has no use in shuttle mode. Moving on, the main event…
Astrotrain. The robot mode of Chigurh is where everything makes more sense. I didn’t look this figure up extensively before receipt and so my first impressions were formed entirely from having the product in-hand, and I was sincerely impressed. Chigurh has incredible presence and height, standing a full head and more above Masterpiece MP-11 Starscream. Again, on posting images online and expecting a similarly positive reaction to my own with plenty of “wow” and “awesome” remarks, the slew of negative comments about various sections really threw me. Why couldn’t folks see what I was seeing? Chigurh is wonderful in robot mode, and tremendously stable and secure.
Complaints included, but were not limited to, very thin thighs, weird orientation of lower legs with curvature on the inside, massive barrel forearms, odd hanging crotchplate, unacceptable heel kibble, complicated transformation and that old chestnut, not-Masterpiece aesthetic. These criticisms are not without basis though, those upper thighs are tiny in comparison to the gigantic lower legs, and when the thighs are that much shorter than the lower legs, a figure cannot kneel.
Those forearms are huge, but rotated appropriately and when holding that handgun, I never found them that cumbersome on display in hand. What made them very tricky was the absolutely precise orientation one had to have the shoulder, double-jointed elbow and forearm to be able to fold over one half and connect to the other without obstruction. An obstruction that will eventually lead to the main pins coming out of the pivot should you press the issue having not found the premium orientation. Just to help, here are 3 angles of the premium orientation you want to aim for before folding over the arm halves.
That aside, transforming Cheggers from either mode to robot is a real pleasure. The clunk-clunk of that ratcheting waist joint is divine. Yeah there are panels to fold and rotate but it’s a puzzle! It’s extremely satisfying to solve and it does get more intuitive and easier with repeat transformations. It’s more user-friendly than Azalea and things like FP Diesel, no question, but 8 to 10 minutes between modes is no G1 Transformer or Hasbro deluxe, I’ll concede. There are some great sections like separating-extending-rotating-connecting the train wheels to become the robot legs, or the folding of panels required to make the large breastplates that also act as clips to hold the upper body sections and shoulders together.
The image above is a potential stress point, so I felt the need to point it out. The hands are connected to a rotating panel which also slides in and out. Should you rotate that panel to hide the hands and find there is a lack of clearance, either push the panel directly inwards or pull it outwards to create the necessary clearance. Simply forcing it to rotate when seemingly stuck can create stress marks. All panels, especially around the pins/rods that hold them in place, should be treated with care and never forced. If it isn’t moving or clearing a space, there’s a reason, and brute force isn’t the answer on Chigurh.
The lower legs can be rotated so that the curvature is on the outside, and the exposed train wheels at the back, a fan mode to reduce the visual jarring some have suffered. The result is a little bit less stability and posability in the feet and ankles, but it’s totally manageable and a genuinely alternative display configuration. That hanging crotchplate can also be folded up if you don’t like it, but the result is that his red paint apps on the belly – very G1 Astrotrain – will be covered up. Personally I don’t mind the flap, it only becomes an issue when I rotate the waist for posing. The robot head also really only has side to side articulation, in order to actually get him to look up or down in any meaningful way, you have to slightly lift and angle the panel the head sits on, then the head immediately has a wider range of up and down motion. I’ve done that for a number of the pictures you see in this article.
So why would Chigurh not be considered a Masterpiece? I think that criticism stems from a lack of pinpoint cartoon accuracy in all modes, especially shuttle mode. It has also been said that there is too much detailing in the panels and surfaces that cover Chigurh, somewhat removing him from the more smooth Masterpiece look. In hand, again, I think that panel detail is lovely and helps elevate this figure beyond just a cartoon-restrained model to a tremendous standalone Masterpiece-scaled Astrotrain figure that I have enjoyed reviewing enormously. The headsculpt is not a cartoon mirror-image, but has personality and a little bit of MTMTE Brainstorm/Generation 2 Jhiaxus going on there. You cannot knock the colours, they are nailed on in my opinion.
I understand why some have chosen Evila Star from ToyWorld over Chigurh, especially if they prefer the Japanese white/black colour scheme and the superior shuttle mode and general toy accuracy that ToyWorld’s effort exudes in every mode. Things I dislike about Evila Star are that not all the train wheels are intended to touch the ground and are therefore redundant, and toy accuracy isn’t something I look for in my collecting. The scale of that figure also doesn’t make sense in terms of where my Masterpiece and 3rd Party large figure collection is heading, but I could appreciate it as an excellent standalone and thus would investigate buying it. Also, the colours are not what I have always pictured Astrotrain as wearing. I don’t need the wing on the chest, my Astrotrain was the animated movie Astrotrain, the one from God Gambit and Triple Takeover. The fact that Chigurh doesn’t reflect the following image perfectly (even if it was as inconsistent as any other character in G1) doesn’t bother me.
Having experienced this figure in hand now, had I not received a review sample, Chigurh would 100% be a purchase I would make. I think he’s beautiful, despite my lack of enthusiasm for shuttle mode. Parting advice if you are convinced, read the instructions and do things right and with patience the first time through – that should lead to a long and healthy life for your Anton SpaceChooChoo.
You can begin your life together with Chigurh here at TFSource.
Thanks to Ras for proto G1 Astrotrain image.
All the best