Has there ever been a greater case of pre-release doubts being so comprehensively crushed by in-hand production toy as with TakaraTomy’s MP-27 Masterpiece Ironhide? Actually yes, look at Ultra Magnus, Bumblebee etc, so it’s not uncommon for us to get the wrong impression from TakaraTomy’s stock Masterpiece photography. Ironhide’s a very interesting case. As a character he’s huge and unforgettable, voiced originally by the revered Peter Cullen, but it’s almost as if his original Generation 1 Transformers toy being such a disappointment to many cast a shadow decades wide over his associated toys. MP-27 puts those disappointments to bed in comprehensive fashion and takes an impressive shot at becoming the definitive G1 Ironhide toy of our lifetimes.
Now, MP Ironhide has had some pre-release competition from the likes of 3rd party manufacturers iGear (Weapons Specialist), Voodoo Robots (Animus) and TFC (Ironwill) which started to look like genuine options thanks to the fandom not really taking to prototype imagery and promotional pictures of MP-27 Ironhide. I personally reviewed the Voodoo Robots Salus not so long ago and while at the time I believed it to have a more accurate robot mode proportionally than the then-upcoming Masterpiece, I now believe that TakaraTomy will be nigh-on impossible to beat for this figure. Straight out of the box one is left utterly gobsmacked at the plethora of accessories he comes packaged with. Everything from an alternate shouty face to rocket pack and flames, handguns, toy-accurate chrome gun and red peg, cartoon-accurate missile launcher, liquid shooter fingers, liquid shooter nozzles (concrete dispensers) and barrels (aforementioned red pegs), a utility sensor, dinosaur bone readout for his chest and a whole platform to attach them to.
In vehicle mode, I suppose you could pick on the lack of rubber tyres and Nissan logo, but that is all I’m gonna give you. The paint finish is a delightful and glossy cherry red, the look is bang on to the original Ironhide cartoon model and toy which itself was based on the Takara Diaclone Car Robot No.2 Nissan Onebox Cherry Vanette from 1982. TakaraTomy have acquired the manufacturer licence for Ironhide too, so he’s Nissan badged on the package. The handguns store away in vehicle mode as shown below with a gorgeously satisfying click, and the handguns or long Static Laser Gun can attach to the roof. My Static Laser Gun doesn’t attach that well, the connection seems loose.
I also managed to attach the Anti-Flier missile and launcher to the back of the van mode with a very precarious connection in order to emulate that iconic scene from the 3-part Transformers pilot where Ironhide and Bumblebee “make a new river” and save the locals from the tidal wave. The panel alignment, fit and finish of the vehicle mode are top notch, and he rolls so freely on a multitude of surfaces.
I’m loving the return to chrome bumpers for Ironhide and Red Bumble, and while I have scuffs and damage on front and rear bumpers, I appreciate the effort. Door handles, windscreen wipers, and even a moulded tribute to the smiling G1 sticker meant to represent Ironhide’s lack of a face elevate Ironhide’s vehicle mode above that of a humble red van.
Before we look at the robot mode of MP Ironhide, we need to talk about its origins. The Generation 1 Ironhide toy is one of the most disliked of all, but I’ve never bought into that hatred. The first release of this mould back in 1982 was a black Diaclone Cherry Vanette designed specifically to be a road-going everyday vehicle that transformed into a mechanical robot for control by a Diaclone driver against the evil invading Waruder army from outer space! The robot mode was like a powered suit of sorts with a seat behind a protective screen for our tiny pilot. The version above is the Finnish Diaclone release in Transformers-esque red from 1984. That is the origin of this figure, so Hasbro and The Transformers made the best of it and the cartoon animators really took liberties with that design to make Ironhide more humanoid. Ironhide toys throughout the years have moved more towards that humanoid design, with the Animated Ironhide being my favourite thus far, but now TakaraTomy have allied history to animation to functionality and given us this:
Finally. Ironhide. Kobayashi-designed Masterpiece figures have been receiving unkind criticism compared to the work of Shogo Hasui, but one is quick to remind the naysayers of the qualities of MP-11 Starscream and especially MP-22 Ultra Magnus. Those toys had drawbacks as does Ironhide, but what Kobayashi and TakaraTomy have done with Ironhide is wonderful. First of all, the robot mode is heroic, imposing in its size compared to the regular Car Robot Masterpiece toys, and in hand he shines brightly. The quality of the joints and materials employed as well as the siren’s call of the figure that never allows you to actually put it down or stop looking at it make this a landmark release. He does have those unsightly hips which scream of a design that could not work out what to do with them or where to hide them. They can also get in the way of sideways leg motion, to the point where you actually have to unclip them and rotate upwards to allow really wide stances. The ‘diaper’ waist that some have criticised is pretty show accurate and actually contains two waist flaps that lift when posing the leg. Compare the quality and feel of those thin flaps on Ironhide with that of virtually any 3rd Party MP-style figure and you’ll see a marked difference.
The transformation of MP-27 Ironhide from vehicle to robot will be talked about for years. Or at least I hope it will, because it ranks up there with MP-21 Bumble and MP-22 Ultra Magnus. This is a conversion that I went back and forth through something like 10 to 15 times on the first night of ownership. Not a day goes by that I do not reach for Ironhide to transform him, such is the simple genius of the solutions employed and the satisfaction of completing various sections across the figure. I have been made aware of the fact the that the coined phrase ‘Masterpiece Moment’, referring to a moment of magic worked into a Masterpiece TF’s transformation, has been used to cast negativity on some figures that don’t have a crystallised second in their conversion that stands above the rest as particularly pleasurable or memorable. That is a shame, so it needs reclaiming. I want to use it as positive acknowledgement of quality and pleasure at handling these kinds of figures where certain sequences can make you smile and appreciate the engineering that has gone into not just making them functional and clever, but also fun.
First there is the beautiful forming of Ironhide’s chest that does with panels and origami what other companies have not yet been able to. The way the back and sides of the van disappear into that chest is witchcraft. Then my favourite section, the lower legs. The snapping and flipping of panels to hide the rear wheels and form the bulk of the lower legs was instantaneous love. The strength of the panel that flips up and snaps into place again reminds you of official quality versus the efforts of Voodoo Salus and its scary panels. One thing Ironhide does share with the Voodoo design is how the rear wheels fold back upon themselves, although with Voodoo it’s the front wheels. I liked that on Voodoo and I like it on Ironhide. You may notice that with Ironhide I have not always flipped down the silver section beneath his front bumper. I don’t know why that doesn’t work for me, maybe it’s because it seems to simulate the licence plate and yet in vehicle mode he doesn’t even have that licence plate showing, so even though it is cartoon accurate, its presence did not work for me and so I left it flipped up behind the front of the van for most of the photography.
Ironhide, on top of the lovely individual modes and the pleasure of going between them, has quality posability that’s among the best of the line despite those side flaps hindering some movement, and neither his knees nor his elbows bending more than 90 degrees. The kneel, The Run, The Movie Magnus, all totally possible and convincing. Even though the knees and elbows are infuriatingly limited, the head has great articulation and even the panel it sits on lifts up to allow further downward glances. The waist articulation is good but it does not rotate all the way, what you see above in the middle picture is the waist rotation at its limit. All of the add ons are tremendous fun, the hand attachments requiring you to fold the normal hands back in and attach the laser-firing fingers, or red pegs or liquid firing nozzles to the exposed peg. The various holes all over Ironhide’s arms and back allow you to attach the other various bits and pieces that really add to the play pattern, appeal and durability of this figure’s allure.
There is also a hole on the back of Ironhide’s waist that perfectly fits the new TakaraTomy Masterpiece figure display stands or MP-25 Tracks display stand, allowing for more display options and even further playability for Ironhide. The missile launcher on his back is of course in tribute to his attempts at shooting down the Decepticons mid-flight in Arrival From Cybertron/MTMTE before Skywarp teleported and caused him to crash into a ditch. The liquid nozzles are from Desertion of the Dinobots where he, Powerglide and Grapple attempt to erect a building before a lack of Cybertonium puts paid to their efforts. There are further episode homages like the detection of dinosaur bones in the rocks, the rocket pack with flame effects and toy tributes like the Static Laser gun and the cylindrical red pegs that were used in G1 to connect that same laser to his platform section. There’s a removable face option too which is very simple to operate, just push the back of his quiff forward to release the face and attach the new one. I do find this falls off pretty easily though.
And what a lovely recognisable face sculpt he has too. Again, this did not look like being the case from pre-release imagery, but in hand he evokes memories of the cartoon immediately and it does begin with that unmistakable head and face sculpt. You can also see in the above shot how he uses clips to hold the shoulders up against the chest and they do work extremely well.
So what is it that makes Ironhide possibly the best Masterpiece Transformers figure so far? He’s not the first to have an excellent and mercilessly addictive transformation, Magnus, Bumblebee, Laserbeak, Soundwave and Sideswipe can all claim that to varying degrees. Is it accuracy? Well we have other figures who are equally accurate to the source material and have even sexier alternate modes without the glaring side flaps, although interestingly my other favourite MP – Magnus – has a well known flap issue too. Is it quality of finish? Ironhide’s not the only one who’s glossed up to a tee, in fact there are little pockets of red paint splotches on the silver paint of his legs on my specimen that do not spell perfection, but the painted surfaces are really pretty in hand nonetheless. Is it accessories? Ironhide is packed to the rafters with bits to entertain you and keep you trying out new display options, but again we’ve had MP-1 and MP-5 who came with a stack of add-ons and extras. What Ironhide does is ally all of those qualities together into one release, and then adds something essential on top, which is fun. Big fun. Look at the two shots above and try to imagine my enjoyment at setting up those images and then seeing how good he looked in them, and how naturally he rocked those sketches. I’ve owned this figure a week and still do not feel as though I have explored all of his possibilities play-wise.
As the Masterpiece (and 3rd Party – if you swing that way) picture continues to fill out, and a complete cast of Autobot car toys from the cartoon series approaches completion, it is important to remain focused on the quality of individual Masterpiece/3P figures instead of losing oneself to the call of the group shot and the completed collection. I feel as though the reception given Ironhide’s release is more universally positive than that afforded MP-25 Tracks. It’s made me care about the Ironhide character more, because for years he had one of the worst G1 interpretations, and now he can almost claim the best. He’s not a sports car or a racing car, and as good as toys like Animated Ironhide have been down the years, that version of him barely featured in the associated fiction. G1 cartoon Ironhide was a very big deal and his passing was a traumatic event in all our childhoods. He has now been paid the ultimate tribute, the definitive love letter to his legacy, the toy that a character of his gravity deserved. Ultra Magnus still edges it for me but that may change over time. MP-27 has also struck the perfect balance between the new Masterpiece aesthetic and philosophy and the older style of MP release. If this is the future of the Masterpiece line, then surely we can let our doubts and concerns dissolve into a red haze of muscle, bravado and charisma. Now, how excited are you for Ratchet?
Masterpiece MP-27 Ironhide, front & centre. Available now at TFSource.
All the best