Everything about MakeToys MCB-03 Pandinus from their Citybot line is huge. The 6 kg shipping box is huge, the price tag is huge, the figure itself splayed out and requiring some assembly in the plastic tray is huge, and the ambition behind it is huge. Now consider the current near-saturation of product in the 3rd party marketplace, the volume of official product coming our way which is collector-aimed, the imminent Titans Return, and the shift towards Masterpiece-style toys from all angles. One could even argue that MakeToys releasing such a big and expensive figure quite removed from Generation 1 aesthetic contains risk that is huge. None of that, however, stops Pandinus, the MakeToys interpretation of the original evil transforming Headmaster scorpion/robot/base from being phenomenal. The word I would use to describe Pandinus, and every single one of my interactions with him, is ‘event’. It is an event to be around this figure.
There is no glossy product packaging with MCB-03 Pandinus, he is slotted directly into the brown shipping box using the clear plastic tray. One needs to attach the tail section first by way of a screw (included). Six kilograms of box and figure, but there’s still no room to attach the tail in transit! That ought to give you your first clue about the scale of this behemoth. As you can see, the tail is so large I can wield it as a sword! He also comes with two sets of instructions, one that takes you from unboxing to temple mode, then scorpion mode, and the second one deals with transformation from scorpion to robot mode. You get the Headmaster, signature shield and gun, but the smaller toy/character that came with the vintage figure is not present.
As the instructions demonstrate conversion to temple mode first, that’s what we will start by looking at. Just handling Pandinus is an exercise in strength and dexterity. The weight and size of the figure, along with the many protrusions, mean that undertaking even the simplest manipulation of a limb or section requires some thought and effort. An event. None of the transformations are complex or frustrating, just made tricky by the considerable mass of the figure. The ratchets are deafening and send shockwaves up your arms, but goodness me they are satisfying. Pandinus is heavy, no question, picking him up one-handed is something you’ll remember but despite that there are a few hollow sections here and there. This is of course necessary in some areas and just the way of things in others. Not once did I ever experience what I would call cheapness or sub-standard build quality on him.
There is not an awful lot of tabbing involved at all and things generally go exactly where they should, instructions are sufficient to get you where you are going, down to the number of clicks one should expect from the main ratchet joints. The scorpion leg section can get a bit floppy when detached, and you may end up with the odd UPI (Unidentified Pandinus Injury) on your fingers. When the whole thing is folded out flat with everything extended, ready for transformation to temple mode, you will find the sheer spread of Pandinus staggering. It rivals G1 Fort Max in size when in that state.
Temple mode is gorgeous, I love it. The scorpion legs coming together to form the archway entrance to the ‘cave’ is a beautiful touch. It lends the whole thing just the right level of eeriness and mystique when you think of it as a ruined temple filled with concealed horrors. The tail section sticking straight up is another positive artistic interpretation that marks Pandinus out as a unique and fresh take on the character. Of course, the ancient vibe is offset by the gigantic pistons, rocket bays, missile pods and sizeable orange cannon, but it succeeds tremendously well at being a spooky, massive, shrine to mechanical evil. The extending stairs at the front of the entrance, and the similarly extending path into the mouth of the temple allow for cool display options, and I have wasted absolutely no time getting MakeToys Ironwill and Cupola (specifically their Headmasters) out for dioramic shenanigans. A truly imposing mode, and once more, quite the event.
Transforming the mighty Pandinus to scorpion mode presents different challenges. There’s a great deal of twisting forearms, claws, ratcheting out hidden shoulder extensions and being careful with the moving flap on his shoulder. The tail must also be straightened out at the base and tabbed into the robot legs. I admit to staring at the instructions, checking the orientation and position of every single moving part during this process. Tabbing what will become the big robot feet onto the scorpion’s back requires one to ignore the tabbing location in the instructions, and pay attention to MakeToys’ online correction. One thing that concerns me is that if the work is being carried out on a hard surface, the pointy bits on Pandinus will inevitably scratch the surface, and certain small tabs and things that jut out can become scuffed, such is the weight of it. The weight of the robot legs descending on the scorpion’s back, ready for tabbing, gave me cause to worry as I did not want to inadvertently crush or disfigure a tab or peg or raised surface. This was a concern for me because the monstrous ratchets ensure every movement of a limb is sudden and vigorous.
When in scorpion mode, the giant shield halves stay connected and peg in underneath, which allows those big plastic wheels to facilitate rolling. Sadly, each scorpion leg is moulded as one piece that is connected to the torso with a ball joint. So they are very posable in that respect, but the main joint halfway along each scorpion leg is not a point of articulation. This may sound disappointing on a figure of this size and expense, but it really would not serve a purpose beyond some novelty. The legs are not activated by rolling Pandinus as they are on the vintage figure. The sheer size and weight of the thing means those legs would never be able to support Pandinus’s weight. Also, there is so much going on visually, that I wonder if they draw as much attention on Pandinus as they do on the G1 figure. Furthermore, I find it hard enough to line up the legs uniformly and symmetrically when trying to store them in other modes due to the ball joint, so I dread to think what it would be like with further joints to align. I must admit though, it’s a problem I would have come to terms with, as I would have liked to see those scorpion legs articulated further.
The scorpion claws are articulated, and although the two larger sections of each claw are on a ball joint, their movement on that ball is somewhat limited. The claw tips are also articulated so there’s a good range of movement. It was at this point I realised that Pandinus (not just mine, but seemingly all) has been assembled with two right sided forearms. Duplicate parts on MakeToys city bots are not new, apparently Utopia has this as well. It’s not a big deal at all unless you are obsessive about symmetry, and you just have to adjust the orientation of forearm parts during rotation, as well as the clipping on of the missile pods via the t-shaped sliders. It can be easy to become flummoxed by which part you have rotated and ratcheted out in order to make the scorpion claw arrangement appear as it does in the instructions, but overall it is a simple interface with only so many permutations.
The ratchets are strong enough to support upward facing claws, gripping and a suitable amount of posing. You can see Pandinus in scorpion mode grappling convincingly with fellow citybot Utopia, and knowing how big Ironwill is in vehicle mode, you get some idea of the scale of this utterly massive beast in this mode too. Just nuts. You may also have noticed that the cannon can be mounted onto the tail thanks to the rotating gun grip. The gun can have its central cartridge element removed, and the whole thing then slides up to become a little smaller.
Let’s talk about that enormous and cheeky sting in the tail. The very impressively articulated and segmented tail. It’s purple, it’s a masked robotic face, and it looks suspiciously like…well, you know what it looks like and I love that it’s there. It is a fantastic addition, in my opinion, and one of this figure’s instantly classic features. Sure, Pandinus is hugely stylised and an aesthetic departure from the Generation 1 Headmaster base with added artistic interpretations here and there (giant green and orange missile pods, honking great grey pistons, faction face tail, temple mode), but as a scorpion he looks faithful enough albeit slightly more busy than the original inspiration. As with Utopia, there are little flaps and openings that can house smaller figures like the other MakeToys Headmaster Nebulans.
As you would expect, Pandinus comes with his own Headmaster which has been heavily based on the original leader of The Hive on Nebulos. This time out, the Headmaster is a triplechanger! There’s the robot mode (with articulated elbows and head), inner head mode and mini scorpion mode. Attached like a keychain, there’s a translucent red tail made up of segments ringed together. In virtually every other Pandinus mode, that red scorpion mini tail can get in the way and as a mini scorpion it’s not exactly a posable part of the design. I do like it, I liked it immediately, but I know others will remove it at first opportunity and I can’t say I blame them. The entire novelty and artistic liberty taken with this design is something I bought into with Pandinus immediately, but I respect that from a distance it’s turned off potential buyers instantly. Anyway, that Headmaster, he plugs into the large scorpion canopy but he is not 100% concealed, the Nebulan’s lower legs are visible and exposed. It’s a nice touch to have him plug into the cockpit here, as it increases security of the whole thing. Have to make sure the red mini-scorpion tail doesn’t get in the way and is threaded out somewhere it cannot cause a jam.
And finally, there’s robot mode. You might be expecting a goliath that can stand eye to eye with Generations Metroplex and G1 Fortress Maximus, and you couldn’t be blamed judging by the phenomenal size of the scorpion mode and temple mode. Robot mode, however, ends up as the smallest of the three modes! Pandinus is about as tall as Utopia. This is because the waist section requires collapsing and the tail folds up. Completely predictable then that this would be its most compact configuration, but make no mistake, it’s still a show-stopper, a gasp-inducer, a sun-blocker. An event.
I haven’t mentioned them so far, but the colours on Pandinus are beautiful. See him standing next to the original incarnation of this character and even with the departures, there’s a lot of similarity there. It’s just been exaggerated in some instances. The translucent orange sections with sculpted details are not overdone and compliment the green/beetroot purple/grey mass excellently. The vibrant light blue detailing that used to exist on the original’s stickers is so nicely implemented. He is a monster, no question, and those scorpion claws in robot mode that are his trademark do lead one to believe it’s a beast standing up. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of robot detailing and proportion there to suggest a less feral/beastly demeanour than I first imagined.
Getting Pandinus into robot mode does require rotation of the waist, compacting of the shoulders and the usual twisty-twist of the forearm sections, clipping the scorpion legs onto the back and folding up the scorpion tail so that it tabs into the lower back. This can be a hard one to execute, but some persistence will reward you with a secure connection. A really interesting part of the transformation involves unpegging the huge pistons on the feet, extending them from the ball-jointed base and then clipping them into T-shaped connectors positioned either side of the knees. They should now operate properly as pistons, just one more new stylised addition to the character that I wholeheartedly approve of. Getting this beast to stand up means you need to separate the legs at an angle *CLUNK* and then engage the gargantuan ankle tilts (haha “tilt”, more like angling of tectonic plates). Cue even louder and nerve-wracking *CLUNKSQUEAK*. They go both ways, those ankles, so believe it or not this leviathan can actually do The Run!
Those ankles really are hard to move and it’s the only part of the figure that I have felt concerns about pushing, but I have repeatedly interacted with them for dynamic posing, and they’ve been fine. There’s a more intricate transformation of the Headmaster required than was immediately apparent to me, and that’s nice. Once the orientation is correct, the helmet is folded down and the Headmaster plugs into the neck. The helmet goes over him and the unforgettable look of this guy’s head with horns, visor and all is recreated. Add in the translucent red Padawan-style braid/ponytail for a new take on him. I love it, genuinely, I think it’s great that not everything of a significant price point has to be a slavish Generation 1 homage in the Masterpiece style. Allowing MakeToys’ designers to run riot with their imagination and talent has not been a disappointment – but it does put this figure on the radar of rather specific types of collectors/collections.
The robot mode on Pandinus is almost overwhelming. The way his faction-symbol tail hovers over the head menacingly and the mass of detailed sculpting and varied finishes on the torso can exhaust the eye. In hand, though, all it does to me is make me stare and sigh because he’s magnificent. That’s not just a shallow comment amount his sheer scale, it’s more to do with appreciating what I believe to be a piece of art. And it’s a piece of art that you can play with. Posability is really impressive for Pandinus in robot mode. The giant protruding knee caps do have a habit of coming un-clipped (it isn’t immediately obvious that they can be pressed in just a bit more for a click) and the attached shield halves can rotate downwards under their own weight and lack of friction in the T-connector on the forearms, but generally it’s a joy. A deafening joy.
The double-barrelled shoulder guns are hugely reminiscent of the original, and if you really compare the feet to the Generation 1 toy, you can see design cues expanded upon. Sure, this is no evil Masterpiece Headmaster base, but it has so many of its own merits that I am grateful for that fact. The two shield halves can be combined into a mega shield but often the weight of it means that it cannot be positioned to your heart’s desire. I haven’t mentioned much about the grey missile pods that can be unclipped from the forearms, but they can be rotated and also placed on the shoulders. I prefer this look because it leaves the forearms free for the shield halves.
The giant purple claws have a slot on them for the big cannon, similar to the Ironwill/Cupola weapon grip interface. This has a very good and secure connection. The claws can also be split and removed entirely, leaving an unexpected and well-articulated pair of humanoid Pandinus hands underneath! No seriously, really nicely articulated, proportioned and functioning hands. The claws can then be attached to the shoulders to form an attack mode of sorts, adding even further width to Pandinus. As if he wasn’t hench enough with his head sitting below his shoulders, those tremendous shoulders, witness this:
Someone recently asked me if the gigantic green and orange knee caps had any use besides aesthetics, well I guess the above kneel answers that question! You can also see the smaller, compacted configuration of the orange cannon being held in the above shot. Beyond the tilting mountains he calls ankles, the double-jointed knees, ball-jointed waist flaps, working pistons and all, there is waist articulation but you will need to lift the chest section up to get it to rotate more than just a few degrees. The head also doesn’t look up or down a great deal, you’d need to lift the panel on which the neck sits, creating a gap in the chest, for Pandinus to look up. Thigh and bicep swivels are part of the package too. I’m still amazed – even after Utopia – at just how much dynamic expression one can convey using a figure of this bulk and size.
I like MakeToys face sculpts. I think the humanoid faces on Ironwill, Gundog and Wrestle are simply gorgeous. Pandinus is also extremely handsome and suitably malevolent. The classic red visor is spot on, although you will notice a large spot of silver over-spray on this specimen’s clear red plastic visor. The braid hanging down from the side of his head is clearly visible there too. Another cool feature is how the translucent orange chest can be raised up in front of the robot face to act as a targeting screen or blast shield. The tail insignia looming in the background just adds so much menace to every shot of Pandinus.
So what we have above are some examples of extra functions incorporated around the Pandinus figure including opening flaps on the double-barreled guns, calf flaps that house two more central cannon cartridges and a flap between the toes that opens up allowing imprisoned Nebulans to escape (seen already in scorpion mode).
In terms of scaling with the MakeToys Re:Master series, sure the Headmaster Nebulans are of comparable size and interact effortlessly, but when you think about how Utopia and Pandinus are supposed to be city-sized, there really is that paradoxical discrepancy in size between the fully combined robot and head, versus the scale of the Headmasters themselves which are mere humanoids in exo-suits. With the entire Headmasters concept, you’re never going to get away from that discrepancy. Accept it, embrace it. Believe me, Pandinus is big enough. And though his transformations are not complex, they’re perfectly suitable and accessible enough for a figure of this height and size. I think if this was a leader or even voyager class figure, with the same degree of engineering in its transformation and posability, it would still be a lovely toy to manipulate without the cumbersome bulk.
I am still immersed in joyous disbelief at the fact that I can pose citybots of this size together, pulling off running stances and natural-looking battle poses, interacting believably with each other. This is an enormous credit to MakeToys for allowing some to collect at this scale. To collect, display, enjoy and create dynamic dioramas at this scale. I have never collected figures of this size class before. I skipped G1 Fortress Maximus and Generations Metroplex, my life never had space for them. I was missing out, because even though Pandinus is not a Generation 1 toy made ‘Masterpiece’, he appeals to me greatly. Something I did not feel before having him in hand.
For $400 you must have bought into the aesthetics, the new take on a classic, the stylistic abandon with which this stunning creature has been created. Maybe one day there will be a totally faithful G1 homage at this size, so if that’s what you are waiting for then I’d understand your hesitation to embrace Pandinus. I know there is a market for figures like this, but considering how seriously Hasbro and TakaraTomy are going for the 1987/88 ‘Masters era in Titans Return, that has got to have some kind of effect on the projected success of this item. We all know Trypticon won the Titan class fan vote, but we also know who came second and what that means for the future.
So, yes, the risk is huge at this price. But the fun is huge, too. Pandinus has made me smile since he arrived in that vast shipping box. I feel confident pushing those ratcheted joints around. I adore watching the separate and distinct modes come together. Each mode being a success in its own right and a worthy display option (although nobody I know could find space to display this beast in temple mode) makes Pandinus a quality triplechanger. I enjoy marvelling at the range of movement a robot as expansive as Pandinus can achieve. Duplicate forearm aside, I haven’t experienced any other quality issue, having only been left to concern myself with matters of space, imagination for poses, photos and – I hope – appreciation of detail and accomplishment. This could easily be someone’s collection centrepiece, and I get the feeling that’s what MakeToys wanted it to be as opposed to one more tick in the giant robot collection list. While he may be created to exist in a world with Utopia, WSTs, Legends class toys or even those microscopic MakeToys figurine packs, for me he’s going to be the giant inaccurately-scaled Headmaster nemesis of Cupola, Ironwill and whatever comes next from the MTRM ‘Masters stable. He’s huge, he’s expensive but he’s also a toy. A giant, fun, interactive toy with the looks and finish of a collector’s item, and I love that about him. He is indeed a special event.
All the best