Masterpiece MP-28 Hot Rodimus is almost upon us. A new Masterpiece Hot Rod. The build up to this figure’s release has been a mix of anticipation and divided opinion. As with most new Masterpiece moulds, as a fandom we have pored over the prototype and promotional images from every angle, analysed every possible flaw and probably already decided which side of the fence we stand on. The previous TakaraTomy attempt at the definitive Hot Rodimus/Rodimus Convoy was MP-9, a figure riddled with issues – issues unique to every version and release of the mould. This MP-28, therefore, has a great deal of hope and pressure riding on its shoulders as a majority of the fandom still crave that perfect Masterpiece Hot Rod, a character whose place in Transformers lore is up there with the likes of Optimus Prime, Megatron and Starscream thanks to Transformers: The Movie from 1986. Having never owned MP-9 Rodimus Convoy, in a way I needed this MP-28 to be definitive even more, as an MP-9 is out of my range these days.
Not only has Hot Rod/Rodimus earned fame/infamy through his portrayal as the hero of Transformers: The Movie, but the Rodimus character in IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye comic is hugely popular. It’s nothing new for toys carrying the Hot Rod/Rodimus name to come under increased scrutiny, he matters to a lot of collectors, myself included. I consider the Generation 1 Hot Rod toy to be one of the finest of the era, with the best transformation of any toy ever (proof). He gets a lot of good toys, as well as bad, but Animated Rodimus, TF Cloud Rodimus and Kiss Players Rodimus stand out as particularly brilliant representations. I suppose never having experienced MP-9, I have an opportunity to provide an unbiased view of this MP-28 release, a view not influenced by a previous Masterpiece effort. However, after MP-27 Ironhide and MP-25 Tracks, my expectations are sky high.
Along with the instructions, fishing rod, 2x photon rifles and saw blade, this pre-release production sample of MP-28 Masterpiece Hot Rodimus came to me in vehicle mode – much as I expect the final version to come packaged – so first impressions were…wait, before I go there, you need some context.
For decades now my only toy representation of G1 Hot Rod has been G1 Hot Rod, or the Crystal Hot Rodimus reissue exclusive, so as marvellous as that figure has always been, it was not the most accurate in terms of aerodynamics, proportions or sleekness compared to the liquid silk animation model for Hot Rod in the 1986 movie. As I’ve mentioned above, I have also never handled Masterpiece MP-9 Rodimus Convoy (neither Hasbro nor TakaraTomy), so when I held MP-28 Hot Rodimus in my hands in vehicle mode for the first time, with those lines, those curves, that insanely flat and wedge-shaped chassis, I properly lost my mind.
It may not be the pink of the G1 test shots and prototypes (see pic below), or the particular pinkish colour of the movie animation mode in certain scenes, but by Judd Nelson’s fingerless gloves this thing is utterly gorgeous in vehicle mode. It’s not entirely maroon like the G1 toy, though, if you place them next to each other you will see the pinkish tint of MP-28’s plastic.
With all the different influences going into a definitive Hot Rod (toy, cartoon, movie etc) and with the inconsistency of the animation colours just throughout Hot Rod’s first sequence in that movie, I think TakaraTomy have chosen well. Personally I would have loved it to be pink, but that’s hardly a complaint. You can see further above how the two photon rifles can attach to his roof in a similar depressed cavity/swinging tab interface to the MP Datsun guns and roof, but also how his engine block can fold up and back, allowing the rifles to be mounted in the more traditional Hot Rod toy location.
With regards to size in vehicle mode, very much unlike MP-9, MP-28 Hot Rodimus scales with the other Masterpiece cars but his increased width at the rear means that he cannot roll onto Magnus via the ramps, although promotional TakaraTomy imagery showed him sitting in the middle of the trailer. Cheats. The vehicle does roll on surfaces with all 4 wheels touching the ground and rotating, but you can get rubbing on the orange collar piece that sits under the hood, and the legs don’t always clip in perfectly under the rear of the car so they can hang down until you deal with them. The robot head can also rub against the surface if you are not careful so make sure that’s correctly stowed away before any rolling.
It seems all the pre-release samples reviewed by those across the community have some kind of cosmetic issue. This specimen had chrome wear, which can sometimes appear to be a reflection of the surrounding orange on the engine block, but sadly the first image confirms it is chrome loss. That, I believe, has occurred from the pressing up of the engine block against the inner chest when one is trying to clip the backpack onto the chest for robot mode. You can see a paint blemish where the roof meets the rear of the vehicle in the second picture. Interesting that TakaraTomy chose to put very obviously visible peg holes in the clear canopy, somewhat interrupting the flow of the aesthetics. With regards to the wear, my hope is that all of these pre-release samples are factory rejects or just unfinished articles. One prays that the final production releases are less prone to cosmetic wear.
The canopy on early promotional photography of Hot Rodimus was a deeper blue, reminiscent of when Daniel is peering out of Hot Rod’s windscreen in the movie on their way to Lookout Mountain and reminiscent of the blue canopy on the G1 toy. If you look at that unforgettable and iconic Hot Rod transformation screen capture from lookout Mountain above (and the cheekily included original storyboard), then examine MP-28 and the way it bends and comes apart (not to mention the clear ever-so-slightly blue tinted canopy), you would be forgiven for thinking the designer used that particular scene and sequence as a major inspiration for MP-28’s layout and moving parts. It really feels as though he was designed to do that exact scene! And since that’s a scene that I always found stirring, one that has stayed with me for most of my life, I appreciate it enormously.
And so to the transformation! From what I have heard, changing MP-9 between modes is a well-documented nightmare and something that can result in damage at any stage, so MP-28 will come as a relative breath of fresh air to MP Hot Rod lovers. It’s a tremendously intuitive, straightforward, repeatable and easy-to-learn transformation, but not necessarily one of the best in the line. While I don’t feel Hot Rodimus compares to MP Ironhide in terms of the transformation or overall as a Masterpiece, it is more accessible and quick to transform than say a MP Wheeljack, Datsun, Magnus or Optimus. The legs are super simple, just open the calf flap and pull them down, clip them into place. The canopy and backpack fold up on each other and the rear sides of the car/exhausts just fold into the backpack. There are pegs to keep both backpack halves together and a peg to connect the backpack as a whole to the chest.
Unclipping the arms and shoulder flaps in car mode, threading the head and collar through the chest etc can be a little tricky, and there’s the possibility of paint wear to the head crest (you can see that above) and face if you are not careful (I now have a big paint chip on his nose). The instructions show a nice and safe way of carrying it out, but as mentioned previously, the whole clipping of the backpack to the chest may put undue pressure on the engine block when folded inside the chest, causing it to rub against the integrated matrix chamber. I’ve heard a number of people complain that Hot Rodimus did not need that matrix chamber and all it has done is affect the aesthetics and mechanics of that section of the toy. I’m inclined to agree up to a point, I could happily have lived without it if the lack of plastic inside the chest for housing the matrix (from MP-10) meant that area could be less flat and boxy in robot mode.
You’ve been patient, and your reward is a Masterpiece Moment courtesy of MP-28. Now it may not be as spectacular as Ironhide’s or Magnus’s, or even Bumblebee’s belly, but it’s the step I look forward to the most and brings a satisfying feeling every time. The shoulder rotation about the front wheels is, in my opinion, the magical moment of MP-28’s transformation. This allows the wheels to stay in the same place relative to the vehicle and shoulders in both modes, but the shoulders and upper arms rotate around them on a vertical axis allowing the wheel to remain visible on the outside in both modes. Rotatinng the forearms is extremely reminiscent of that lovely G1 Hot Rod toy step too, which is a very nice touch. Transformation steps that I don’t like include the folding out of the hands which seem a little too big for the cavity they live in inside the wrists. Extracting them has been a struggle every time. I do love how Hot Rodimus has more sculpted, accurate hands than all the other Autobot MP cars, though. One must also be careful to fold out/fold in the shoulders on their double-hinge at the right time so that the sides of the chest and the head assembly don’t obstruct the whole sequence.
We must now address the most controversial and divisive aspect of MP-28 Hot Rodimus, the robot mode proportions. Vehicle mode was superb, transformation is fun but requires a little care. If the robot mode had been bang on the animation model and closer to the proportions of that model or even MP-9, I think this would be even more exciting to a wider section of the collecting community than it currently is. The first images of the grey prototype revealed what appeared to be very skinny legs, hugely wide shoulders, a flat boxy chest, significant backpack and comparably small robot head. While all of those things are true on this production-ready specimen, of course I must say they are less of an immediate issue in hand. You start to adjust to it and eventually the true flashes of cartoon Hot Rod begin to emerge before your eyes and in your hands. I won’t lie, though, you will never unsee those things, they are facts of this toy’s design and silhouette. I have tried folding out the sides of the hood to see if those added curves rescue the section, they do not, they make it even wider and more jarring. From certain angles, the backpack is enormous and the signature yellow wing can appear too far away from the front of the figure. But hey, as big as it is, compared to the animation model it’s not half accurate, even the jet-pack style vents that rise up on compression of the backpack are there, a lovely addition.
It’s marvellous how much of the criticism that has been levelled at a Transformers toy pre-release can dissolve in hand based on a few key positives, and MP-28’s posability is one of those positives. I planned to only do 20 photos for this review, but I’m beyond 40 now, and it’s because every time I put Hot Rodimus in robot mode for photography, one pose leads to another and I can’t stop. Excellent articulation in the arms (although the shoulder clips can pop out of the canopy/backpack on vigorous movement) and legs including lovely double elbow and knee joints, waist as well as the neck mean playability is high on the agenda. Scene recreation is also going to be a popular pastime for MP-28 owners. The fun factor is very much there as it was with MP Ironhide. Check out that kneel, Movie Magnus Poster pose, and a slightly assisted Run. He does a much better running pose when attached to the MP-25 Tracks figure stand with which he is compatible.
Lots to say here. The lightweight MP-28 works superbly well with TakaraTomy’s new figure stand design. We can also see another of his positives, the visor from Lookout Mountain in the movie. The helmet opens up and folds back, allowing one to deploy the visor on its hinge. It is clear plastic on this specimen, I don’t know if we will get a lightly blue tinted one for full production, I certainly hope so. It’s not all rosy once you get past the robot mode shape, though, the ankles don’t have as much tilt in them as I would like as they are hindered by the surrounding flared lower legs. I am also not a fan of the slightly cheap looking collarbone flaps that fold down from his hood/chest. The paint wear on the head crest is there for you to see too, the paint chip on the nose he has now (not pictured) is particularly unsightly. My advice is that during transformation always keep the head facing forwards like this, don’t turn it around to hide it from contact from the ground when rolling in vehicle mode. I suspect the robot nose rubbed against the bottom of the engine block resulting in the paint chip.
Hot Rodimus might be a shade too short next to MP-22 Ultra Magnus in robot mode, but then a lot of MP figures are. There’s nothing wrong with the way they look together as part of the movie cast beyond that. MP-28 also looks very good next to MP-10 Convoy, although there is an obvious difference in…what…philosophy? Expense? Designer? All of the above? There’s something, for sure. They were originally toys from different aesthetics, even their cartoon forms were from different intra-series eras, maybe they should be noticeably different even as fellow Masterpiece figures.
MP-28 Hot Rodimus has some very immediately noticeable flaws. I would point to the very square chest, relative proportions of the arms, shoulders and legs, lack of more ankle articulation, huge backpack and potential for damaged paint and chrome on my review sample as primary concerns. On the plus side, the vehicle mode is close to perfection for me, the transformation is enjoyable, one that I’ve cycled through numerous times already and look forward to, with a tiny flash of magic in the shoulders. Robot mode is hugely posable and fun, and you can see above that your imagination is all that will limit your possibilities. The accessories while not as wide-ranging as Ironhide’s, are still appreciated. TakaraTomy may believe that their slightly odd-looking MP-28 knees and fishing rod will inspire me to recreate the fishing scene over and over, but no, I’m over that. The saw blade is sweet and free-spinning but to my eye it’s over-sized. I really like the photon rifles and the gun grip is superb, but I do wish the handles were not white and obviously so. The head, while possibly a bit small, is very nice looking and extremely Hot Rod. Some angles give me chills as he looks just perfect, but sometimes maybe the shape of the head from the side being not quite large enough skews it for me.
There’s just too much that Hot Rodimus does right for me to write it off, though, and I am absolutely of the opinion that he deserves the Masterpiece moniker. For a while there I saw him as a slightly different concept of Masterpiece Hot Rod, not quite in the same vein as the slavishly cartoon accurate MP-10 tribe, but just a highly articulated, multi-source inspired Hot Rod toy for the modern scale and reboot, compromised appropriately and acceptably for the price point. I don’t believe he is my utterly definitive animation model Hot Rod, MP-9 still calls to me aesthetically and the flawed giant will be mine one day to settle that score for good. I can say, though, that if I never get MP-9 and we never get another stab at a Masterpiece Hot Rod, MP-28 will do and it will do just bloody fine. That vehicle mode, that posability and the fun factor – as well as the multitude of accurate spots across the figure (if not completely and overall in robot mode)- and the ability to recreate some of the most stirring moments from my childhood experience of Transformers: The Movie mean that I’m firmly on MP-28’s side of the fence. The cavalier is here.
Many kind thanks to TFSource for access to this pre-release MP-28 Hot Rodimus sample (available here), Paul Hitchens for the image of prototype G1 Hot Rod as well as the original TF:TM storyboard image, and to Jon Strong for the TF:TM screen cap.
All the best