It doesn’t seem to matter what character FansToys announce, because of their incredible start to life as a 3rd Party company putting out TF-a-likes with Quakewave and the Iron Dibots, even a character so woefully under-appreciated as Perceptor garnered some solid attention. FT-09 Tesla is their Masterpiece-scaled representation of the Autobot Scientist, and the one I bought from TFSource has arrived. I was not obligated to review this one, it was a purchase purely for my own collection, but I can’t keep my feelings about him to myself.
Straight away – intended or not – I noticed how Tesla’s box dimensions were so reminiscent of the Takara Micro Change Series MC 20 Micro Scope – the toy that would eventually become G1 Perceptor. You get the standard FT style collector’s card (I say FT, but we know it’s mimicking Masterpiece), instruction booklet and Tesla himself encased in styrofoam. Pinch yourself, it’s not the 1980s. Tesla has been named not after the electric sports car company (whose official Twitter favourited one of my tweets about “blowing my July budget on a Tesla”!) but the scientist Nikola Tesla whose name forever lives on in units of magnetic flux density. Perceptor was of course the Autobot’s equivalent genius scientist, and frankly I love the name more than any of the others FT have given their toys.
I’ve tried extremely hard to portray every nuance of the effect you get in person with Tesla using my photography and editing in this article, because as soon as you have this guy in hand you’ll know beyond any reasonable doubt that this is Perceptor, no question. There’s a nice dense heft to the figure, a creation with lovely proportions and lack of kibble that begs to be posed and played with literally out the box. From the superbly-crafted robot helmet, scope and chest down to the chunky and weighty die cast feet, Tesla is hugely attractive. I do very much love the Perceptor character and had no issue committing to this purchase when I was informed that FansToys would not be sending any review samples out (transformation too simple, apparently). Just remind yourself of how many good and memorable lines or scenes Perceptor had in the movie, what a distinctive character he is and how he’s been important to most of the Transformers media he’s appeared in (G1 and Movie, Animated, IDW comics).
As you might have guessed, posability is superb, with the hands being ever so slightly less articulated than Quakewave and the Dibots, but it simply does not restrict the expressiveness of this figure. There is waist articulation, elbow, bicep, shoulder, neck, knee, ankle and wrist articulation too. Not to mention the scope that can be displayed on the right or left side of the head. Weight distribution is good enough to hold ‘the run’ even without the now-standard lack of FansToys outward ankle tilt.
As with the G1 toy, this Not-Perceptor comes with a very faithfully reproduced hand rifle as well as a missile launcher and missile. Of course, this doesn’t fire at all, it’s for show, because you’re not supposed to have fun with toys of this price. As a Micro Change Series figure, the MC 20 was never a good guy Scientist, he just happened to be a 1:1 scaled microscope that turned into a gun-toting mecha, interacting with Microman pilots. His weapons, however, passed down to G1 Perceptor and now to Tesla. Despite IDW’s interpretation of Perceptor as a sniper-riflin’, eye-scope wearin’, self-protectin’ semi-badass (which I happen to really like, AHM #15 and his MTMTE persona are brilliant), I will always know Perceptor as a cursory evaluatin’, receptor coverin’, marginal navigation probability solvin’ nerdy scientist, and Tesla without his weapons captures that perfectly. I almost feel the boxart would have been better served not portraying him as a weapon wielding fighter, but precisely that deep-thinking awkward scientist with the gymnastic vocabulary.
I know I will be posing my Tesla looking confused, pensive, trying to explain something highly technical or examining items under the scope. Thankfully, thanks to the range of motion and quite simply one of the best facial sculpts I’ve ever seen on a figure, Tesla is hugely expressive and can easily pull off the tortured scientist pose. Another great feature is that his knees allow him to do the traditional anime-style idle stance, a friend described it well when he said it’s as if he has one click of the knee ratchet in the opposite direction to accomplish this.
One thing that FansToys have done with Tesla is supply a set of extra forearms and thighs to more correctly match the colour of the G1 cartoon Perceptor. They are more grey in colour and looking at the TFTM screen caps above I can kinda see what they’re going for, but I much prefer the subtly sparkly light blue of the stock parts attached with the production figure. I replaced half of the blue parts with the grey and frankly do not wish to repeat the procedure. For some reason the screws really didn’t fit well into the replacement limb parts.
These half-half images above should convey the difference between the two sets of limbs well enough, I just didn’t feel like going the whole way with them. My brain and eyes are telling me that it is closer to the cartoon look, and that is usually what drives my aesthetic tastes with Masterpiece-style toys, but I honestly prefer the stock blue so much that I don’t think I’ll ever take the replacement bits out again. The above picture also demonstrates the hefty heel spur that Tesla has, very reminiscent of the way Quakewave’s feet work.
The scope mode is very much like the G1 toy, not quite so boxy and low on detail as the animation model. Again I am very happy they went with this aesthetic as I think it’s visually more interesting. The scope lens is of course extendable, you just twist the dial on the top. There is a small fold-out wheel on his back although he does have a tendency to slip off it, if you can imagine how G1 Jetfire’s front landing gear collapses under any forward movement. The wheels under his feet do not extend all the way out like the G1 toy, but they looked quite silly back then so this is a slightly more elegant solution. The two chromed trays fold out from his chest with no difficulty and there are no hair-raising bending plastic moments during their opening. There is a raised surface on the red chest underneath the clear panels/trays for the Autobot symbol stickers we are all going to apply. Look at the screen cap from the movie when Perceptor is in scope mode, the Autobot logo is on his chest not the tray, don’t apply your Reprolabel to the clear section!
The transformation is very simple, with only the movement of thin panels on hinges that frightened me. I found it tricky to position the fists just right to fold into the forearms and the tabbing in of the arms/panels/back in scope mode require a little bit of fiddling. Time will tell if this will lead to stressed parts or worse, but for now I can transform him with ease. The other bit that encouraged caution was the folding of the thin leg panels hiding the tank treads and wheels. The scope has a black plastic connecting arm that has to tab into the blue robot forearms in scope mode, but that can limit movement. In the above pictures you can see it untabbed and the forearms folded back for more freedom of scope movement. You also don’t have to fold out those front wheels, he’s perfectly good looking enough as a static scope with the wheels stowed. See first picture in the above set for reference.
It’s not advertised in the instructions nor on the packaging, but there’s enough evidence there (like tab-holes on the other side of the thighs) that FansToys have purposefully incorporated Perceptor’s 3rd mode, the tank. If you look back at the character’s toy history, the Micro Change Series MC 20 Micro Scope had this as an advertised mode that could accommodate a Microman pilot, much like pre-G1 Megatron’s stock arrangement was intended for. It’s no coincidence that E-Hobby G1 Magnificus was released with Ga’Mede, a Microman style pilot. In the above image you can see a vintage Microman pilot “M011 Saram” sitting comfortably on Tesla in tank mode. OK, the treads don’t move or touch the ground, but as far as I’m concerned that’s about the only thing wrong with it. Tesla is a triplechanger. It’s things like this that really cement my affection for a figure. I am sure it is a matter of time before FansToys reveal a black recolour of Tesla homaging the original MC figure and of course the Transformers Magnificus successor to that. Will they do a masked toy face though? What about a G1 Prototype version with a red head and masked face?
So you have a blindingly good robot mode, a great scope mode (without lens magnification), a legitimate third mode, and what I am actually going to label a unique fourth mode or state for him, the pose-with-other-toys mode. Social mode. I can’t remember the last time I got a figure that so perfectly blends in with other toys of varying aesthetic (within the MP scale), to the point where it’s almost like a party trick for Tesla, such is the value this toy brings to group displays or shots. He can hang with MP Magnus in a season 3 or Movie display, he can accompany DX9 Carry in another type of 3rd season/Movie diorama, he can stand with the season 1 and 2 Masterpiece Autobot figures and although I am slightly bothered by his towering over the cars, next to MP-10 Prime he looks amazing. He can be used to recreate that wonderful TFTM scene with Blaster and the Decepticon cassettes if you own Transistor, he can stand with G1 MP versions of MTMTE characters or even Generations Brainstorm, maybe even MakeToys Cupola…
Tesla is one of those toys, like BadCube Wardog, that help me realise I have always wanted all the Transformers in my collection. As a child and even in my early adult collecting days I never had any intention of having all the G1 toys or even cartoon characters. I think I can see now it was the G1 (or subsequent) toy versions of particular characters that put me off. I never disliked my G1 Perceptor toy but I barely noticed it and sold it early on. Tesla has forced me to realise how much I actually value this character, and having a damn near perfect rendition of it in toy form seals the deal. Boring? I don’t think so, he has one of the most memorable TF voices and personalities, a quite unique alternate mode, and have you ever noticed who was at the heart of the party?
So to summarise, I am completely thrilled with this figure. I can’t put it down, I love transforming it because it is straightforward and intuitive, although there are some panels and tabs that I feel concerned about in terms of continued use and manipulation. Posability allows for a lot of imaginative posing and dynamism, but like MP Magnus and MP Star Saber, his leg proportions don’t allow him to pull off a convincing or stable kneel which I really like, but it stops neither of those aforementioned figures from being stellar. It’s nice that the option for a weaponised, cartoon colour accurate Perceptor is there, but I’ll be going for the scientist-examining-Mountain-Dew-bottle look with stock parts, because the parts swap was not something I enjoyed. I still also think FansToys need to work on their toys’ gun grips. I want the gun to tab into the hand and stay in position even before I wrap the fingers around the weapon, much like the more recent Masterpiece Autobot cars.
All of that aside, surely only Takara Tomy could give us a better version of this character at MP scale, and I would be more than happy if nobody ever touches this character again because I have my Perceptor. I feel much the same about Quakewave. FT have rediscovered their highest high in my opinion, and they’ve finally nailed a perfect non-masked head sculpt in Tesla. Add an Autobot symbol, pose him as follows and I ask you, what could possibly be more Perceptor than this?
All the best