Occasionally we stumble across a Transformers toy that ticks all the right boxes, strikes a chord, presses the right buttons etc, and yet leaves a majority of others cold. There are plenty of unpopular figures in the Transformers toy universe, both official and otherwise. Some figures, however, were supposed to be game changers and all time greats that for some reason don’t fulfil their promise in the eyes of the majority. Even if the criticism is justified and I understand the hatred for certain Transformers toys, on a handful of occasions I have not had my own appreciation or enjoyment of them dampened. In each case, however, there have been mitigating circumstances.
Mastermind Creations’ Azalea promised to be a definitive Classics-scaled Arcee with all the quality and trimmings expected of MMC after the success of Feral Rex and Terminus Hexatron. Unfortunately, many were turned off the figure by a hyper-fiddly transformation that involved just the wrong mix of tabbing, contorting, threading and squeezing. Bits had a tendency to pop off easily too. What was never in question was the insanely good posability. While for some it never quite hit the correct aesthetic notes, I was more than happy with how it looked as a robot (especially the Salva Prominon edition), but more specifically thrilled with how it looked as a vehicle.
As a long time fan of Sony PlayStation’s futuristic Wipeout franchise, the vehicle modes for Azalea, Zinnia, Eupatorium, Salva Prominon and the various recolours allowed me to build a transforming Wipeout-style grid of race vehicles. The transformation was something I struggled with hugely at first, but once I cracked it, there was an inherent challenge that dragged me back every time. I’ve even transformed other collectors’ Azaleas for them, for some reason the process just came naturally to me after two or three attempts. The reward of that alt mode just forced me to come to terms with the conversion and having learned the tricks, I now consider it a lovely process. I know I’m in the minority here.
Our next featured Transformer mirrors Azalea in terms of what I like about it and what others despise. Beast Hunters Smokescreen, Prowl, TFCC Barricade, TF Go! Hunter Smokescreen and Protectobot Streetwise all share a base sculpt, have another widely-hated transformation but a vehicle mode to die for. Again, in my opinion. While the robot mode does have a few strange features, like those huge feet that are limited in articulation, it’s still a beauty. The Barricade truly stands out as one of the nicest repaints I’ve ever seen the Club do.
Getting to this mode requires some tabbing and squeezing which almost always results in the arms popping off at the shoulder, or stuff just not compacting down the way it should. I recall being completely defeated by this mould at a London pub meet a couple of years back. Once I had a few versions of the mould in my collection, the perseverance needed in order to achieve that glorious vehicle mode bore fruit once more. I had the process down to such an art that I even recorded a couple of videos showing how it could be done to perfection. I truly believe it’s a process that can be followed with patience in the right order, and it will yield a perfect result every time. I did have a special incentive, though, and surprise surprise it was the vehicle mode. Not at all unlike Azalea! Just one more figure I will regularly fail to convince many others to love as much as I do.
Now, TakaraTomy MP-27 Masterpiece Ironhide is not an unpopular figure. Even if pre-release, it was considered to be one of the least interesting or impressive MP toys of recent times, once in collectors’ hands the general consensus was that Ironhide was superb. Excellent engineering, a very clever transformation and a stack of accessories kept enthusiasts happy for hours on end. Myself included. I still believe Ironhide to be the best Masterpiece release of 2016, such is my adoration of this toy.
What I love, specifically, is the newly-released Hasbro Asia exclusive die cast drill accessory that comes with the MP-27 “reissue”. Cast in a gorgeous gunmetal and presented in a cool but admittedly flimsy briefcase, one can only get their hands on this cartoon-referencing drill accessory by ordering the Hasbro Asia release. As usual, that’s not cheap, and for many of us it would mean getting a duplicate Ironhide. People rightfully resist having to buy the figure again and bemoan the fact that we never got it with the toy in the first place. Blame Hasbro Asia, they tend to do their own thing.
That is neither here nor there, because if you know where to look, you can get the drill and case separately. This was also the case with the Amazon JP exclusive MP Prowl launchers, MP Bumblebee battle mask and MP Wheeljack anti-hypnosis device. It may have been an eye-watering £16.99, but my goodness was it worth it.
Ironhide looks great wielding this accessory, and although it’s quite heavy for him and has trouble staying tabbed into his palm, any accessory that pays tribute to an Arrival From Cybertron/More Than Meets The Eye scene is alright by me. I’d be heartbroken if eventual Masterpiece versions of Mirage, Jazz and Trailbreaker did not have an invisibility cage, hook and fire extinguisher respectively.
This is the one, though. This is the one that will have me running for cover. I never got around to buying MP-9 Masterpiece Rodimus Convoy as it was pre-reboot and I was not yet collecting MPs properly again. I love Hot Rod and this was a figure I knew I’d adore, but I missed it, as well as the Hasbro edition. I have subsequently bought every MP since MP-10, including the ultimately disappointing (for me) MP-28 Hot Rodimus. The latter just was not the essential high end Hot Rod toy I was after. In May 2016 I got my hands on the Hasbro version of MP-9, and after working my way through 2 broken ankles, I arrived at a serviceable version of the Hasbro toy and fell in love.
The transformation and ambition is the stuff of genius, albeit slightly fiddly when it comes to getting those feet tucked in and aligning everything (but it can be done and he WILL roll). The panels on the outer leg will pop off and not clip into place, the backpack will not stay clipped on, the trailer will scrape the spoiler, the springs in the ankle will cause trouble, the shoulders, chest hinges, ankles, knees and canopy will almost certainly snap or crumble on you given time and without provocation. Every criticism of this toy, TT’s refusal to apologise for the flaws or eradicate them for V2, all of it justifies the vilification of MP-9. But once I laid eyes on it – especially the TakaraTomy release – I knew that no matter what fate befell it, no matter how much it cost me, I would cherish every moment I had with it before it disintegrated on me. And it would be worth it.
Many kind thanks to TFW2005 screen caps for the Ironhide still
All the best