At a time where the lion’s share of 3rd party attention is directed at Masterpiece scale products, MakeToys and a handful of others are continuing to provide products at Classics, legends and city scale. Cross Dimension is MakeToys’ latest concept at this Classics/Generations scale and the first product is MTCD-01 Striker Manus, quite obviously based on the most iconic heroic leader of any transforming robot faction anywhere in the world! It’s impossible to say that there’s no Generation 1 influence here, but at least Striker Manus is not trying to be the G1 leader’s exact same truck cab and robot, there’s a great deal of aesthetic departure from that well known model. While the looks will be a defining filter for many collectors, let’s explore Striker Manus’s features beyond just the visual.
I think with the advent of Titans Return and my recent foray into Fansproject Function X (it is once again the era of the Headmaster, you see), I’ve suddenly refocused on this scale of toy once more and have drifted away from my Masterpiece-scale priorities. Having said that, the promotional photography for Striker Manus did not grab me and I never considered buying into the Cross Dimension line, instead wishing MakeToys would continue their fabulous efforts on Re:Master and Citybot. Then came TFNation and the very excellent MakeToys special convention product event, basically a TF collector focus group to give feedback on and experience their newest items. Cross Dimension Striker Manus – as well as his upcoming nemesis Rioter Despotron – were given to the attendees and after 30 minutes, I could see the appeal in technicolour.
Classics already had an excellent voyager class leader figure from way back in 2006, but Striker Manus takes that further in terms of poseability and intricacy. Picking up the robot for the first time, you are immediately struck by the quality of the materials it is constructed with and the wide range of articulation it offers. The toy just begs you to pose it, manipulate its limbs, fiddle with it and act out those dynamic stances in your imagination with what has – albeit a little unfairly – been called a superb action figure. There’s much more to Striker Manus than an excellent and enjoyable robot mode, there’s a truly solid transforming toy there with a respectable alternate mode that we will explore later.
Manus comes with two axes that can be combined into a battleth-type weapon, and they also double up as a set of smokestacks. Also, much like the classics original, his detachable truck cab wind deflector turns into a hand gun, but not a particularly attractive or recognisable weapon for a leader of such stature. There’s a collector’s card which is also an augmented reality token to be used with the MakeToys app, allowing one to see what Rioter Despotron will look like in your collection, or on a carpet! There’s also the instruction manual featuring the comic explaining the story behind Cross Dimension. Inner packaging is the now familiar MakeToys/Fansproject plastic clam shell.
During the special MakeToys product event, we had 30 minutes to spend with Striker Manus before being moved onto other toys, and in that half an hour we were expected to explore the figure’s transformation back and forth. After about 10 minutes, I was approached by the MakeToys representative, he said in jest “Maz, you’ve only got 20 mins left, are you going to transform it or just play?”. That tells you all you need to know about Striker Manus and his robot mode. There’s a double jointed knee, there’s the feet which can be pulled forward for extra stability (making the ankle more gappy) with a great tilting range in one direction, and enough outwards to manage The Run – something I could not manage in the pressure cooker that was the MakeToys special product event!
There are thigh swivels, bicep swivels, ab crunch, great neck articulation, a vast range of shoulder movement, waist swivel, but no proper double jointed elbow. I know that’s an issue for some – it is for me as well – but I have not noticed any limitations to my posing of Striker Manus as a result of this. My main desire is more of an outward ankle tilt, but I want that for virtually all my figures. Striker Manus also has an opening hand and an individually articulated index finger for tremendous pointing poses.
The robot mode has been described as skeletal, and I think I can see where that criticism comes from. Gappy isn’t something I’d level at it, I am quite happy with the space between panels and limbs, but agree that the abdomen could do with more filling out. This can be achieved to some degree by rotating the waist/bumper pieces there specifically to achieve a classic heroic leader bot look. I absolutely have to stress, though, once I was in the presence of Striker Manus and playing with it, the aesthetic issues I may have had beforehand evaporated, because I was enjoying myself handling the figure. On my shelf, in my display – despite not being a particularly CHUG-rich collection – Manus looks good and at no stage are my eyes drawn to a particular standout section that bothers me. I accept this isn’t supposed to be G1 and I see him as a new concept, a new direction but enormously faithful to the original character inspiration. This is aided by that excellent headsculpt.
He runs, he kneels, he balances, basically he can do virtually everything in robot mode that my imagination can conjure up. From the back he looks plenty neat enough, and do remember that the grill is double hinged and so can sit flush against a couple of tabs on his back instead of just being held up there with friction. There’s no locking into place, but it does rest more flush if you utilise the double hinge to make it sit lower on his back. That does bring up the issue of the faux grill on his robot belly, but if we can forgive MP-10 for it, and G1 God Ginrai/PMOP for it, then Manus gets a pass too.
For increased shoulder articulation, you can untab the arms from the cab and those shoulders will crunch forwards for a meaty flex pose, but it’s not an improved look. The weapon grip is more than functional, using the same rail system the MTRM MakeToys figures employ. The gun does not sit as flush with his wrist as I’d like, and the length of the accessory occasionally hinders what Manus can do when holding it. I do also wish that the barrel of the gun locked into the large rear section a little better and that the extension of the barrel locked into place too. It’s definitely the weakest part of the whole Striker Manus package.
I found it sometimes difficult to first get the pose I wanted out of Manus, then plonk him on a hard surface and have him stand/balance straight off the bat. I usually have to massage the heels/feet into a particular position and alignment to achieve the kind of solid stability one needs for dynamic or extreme posing, or even idle standing poses on a surface that is susceptible to Hurricane Toddler blowing through the display room. Extending the feet outwards from the ankle does, as mentioned above, create a gap there but it does increase the surface area in contact with a shelf or table and in turn, stability. While the axes are fun to mess with, I far prefer them as smokestacks, and the translucent orange energy blades do nothing to detract from Striker Manus in robot mode with that particular configuration of parts. Speaking of the arms, you may have noticed the exposed silver rails on which the flipped truck window panels slide. I was asked if those panels flap about in robot mode, but they do not. At either end of the rail there is more friction that holds the flaps securely in place, only during transit between the two ends of the rail do they flap about loosely.
The transformation of Manus from truck cab to robot is very straightforward, quite quick and enjoyable. However, as most of these figures now come packaged in robot mode, requiring us to squint at instructions produced with the best intentions at heart to find the alt mode, I should say a bit about that too. My first couple of times from robot to truck did not go particularly well as I didn’t spot the tricks required, and the instructions did not assist me as much as I’d hoped. This was of course due to the oddly serene yet intense environment of the TFNation MakeToys special product event where I first experienced Manus’s conversion. When at home after TFN, in peace, I was able to enjoy the conversion to truck mode and it’s very repeatable. I do admittedly struggle to get the side skirts tabbed in to the fuel tank occasionally, and getting the arms/shoulders tabbed in is often a fiddle, but that is all weighed up against a lot of genuinely nice steps. Once I realised I had to bend the knees to disengage the shins and move them up, that became one of my favourite steps. It should also be noted that one must pull the thighs out a bit before transformation to cab mode, a point highlighted by an extra slip of paper included with the paperwork.
Similarly, the feet tab in much more easily to become the rear of the vehicle – as well as allowing all four rear wheels to roll freely while in contact with a surface – once I aligned the rear section properly, making sure the tabbing and sliding was done to the full extent as required. This did sometimes involve just pressing upwards underneath the area surrounding the middle set of wheels to get them positioned level with the rear wheel. It is also important to snap the arms/headlights into the sides of the grey cab grill to remove the gaps in that section. It does seem as though every single part of the truck tabs in somewhere, and while I highlighted that on the feedback sheet as an area for improvement, I actually quite appreciate it now.
Striker Manus rolls freely and properly in a very secure and nicely dense vehicle mode. Most of the criticism of this toy visually has been directed at the vehicle mode, and I shared that when I only had an online representation to go by. In hand, again I can only say that my issues with its vehicle mode looks are far reduced. I like it, what a chunk. A well-tabbed, dense and quality chunk that does what it says on the tin. It isn’t the prettiest cab that this character has sported through the years, but I get it, a new concept and direction. An original design. If there’s a trailer he can haul in future, it could be the making of this vehicle mode.
The visually striking features of Manus are no more hidden in vehicle in mode than they are in robot mode, positive or otherwise. For example that beautiful translucent blue of the windows, the moulded matrix detailing behind the windshield and the silver paint detailing shine just as brightly in this mode. I think the section that jars with me visually is the front bumper, the way it turns down at the edges. The general outward slope of the cab is also something I had to get used to. I know it’s not as clean and smooth as other truck cabs we have enjoyed down the years, but I see it as an interesting amalgam of Cybertronian and Earth mode vehicle design.
The above photographs give you a good idea of how Striker Manus scales with other similarly-sized figures such as Fansproject Function X Headmasters and Titans Return Legends class stuff. In robot mode he does stand taller than all of those, as well as the official classics voyager iteration of the character. You can see Manus is quite wide in vehicle mode too.
So what we have here is MakeToys launching a whole new sub line, a reinvigorated stab at a line of classics-scale toys of original design and distinctive aesthetic. Toys that seem to – from my experience of Striker Manus and Rioter Despotron – concentrate as much on the enjoyable aspects of transforming and posing a toy as the detailed sculpting and intricacy that 3rd party figures are sometimes known (and criticised) for. The alt modes shown so far do not represent much departure from Generation 1 the way in which the styling of those modes do.
So far everyone I’ve spoken to who has had hands-on time with Striker Manus enthuses about its quality, fun factor and promise as the inaugural Cross Dimension figure. I think the only piece of the figure that gave me cause to be mindful was the blue side skirt, even then I see no reason for it to get damaged now I know what I’m doing. Striker Manus has made me consider going all in on Cross Dimension, which surprises me as it just wasn’t on my radar previously. Enjoying the Rioter Despotron test shot at TFNation helped too. MakeToys will have to similarly impress with their other characters for Cross Dimension beyond the two eternal nemeses that appear in virtually every line and scale these days, but they couldn’t have gotten off to a more encouraging start. One of the best things about this release is that it does not render any other figure irrelevant, bollocks to that, it can be completely its own thing or fit right into a pre-established CHUG scale display. I expect this one to do well.
All the best