FansToys appear to have marked 2017 on their calendar as the year they plan to take over the scene. That’s not to say that companies like MakeToys, FansHobby and Mastermind Creations etc are not doing enough to compete for your money, but FT have pumped out quality new mould after quality new mould so far this year. We’ve had an amazing run of FT-16 Sovereign, FT-08 Grinder and now FT-10 Phoenix. Oh, have I given the game away a bit there with regards to what I think of Phoenix? Well, if you ever come across me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TFW2005, you’ll already know how highly I rate this Masterpiece-scale faction-and-IP-swapping behemoth. It’s Phoenix, he’s in the sky, and he’s definitely on fire.
FT-10 Phoenix comes with a huge double-barrelled handgun, a replacement set of blue eyes that allow the light piping feature to work (as opposed to the default opaque chrome blue eyes) and two chest pieces for the two main warring factions, depending on how you feel like displaying him at any given time. This is the first figure by FansToys to have the highly articulated fingers that not only bend in three places, but also spread out, giving him a huge deal of expression in his hands. Phoenix also comes with an adaptor for the standard issue FansToys flight stand (sold with Soar and Sovereign) as his connection point in jet mode is different. The final version will not come with the full stand, just the adaptor.
Any cartoon accurate rendition of this character is always going to be mostly plain white with careful dabs of red and blue across its body to break up the monotony. If it’s going to try and stay on the right side of the holy Masterpiece G1 scale divide, it needs to be gigantic, and Phoenix certainly has both of those bases covered. Truly, he’s enormous. I know we’re growing slightly desensitised to huge transforming figures thanks to Titan class Hasbro Transformers, MakeToys Citybots and sky-scraping combiners, but Phoenix still manages to wow with his stature. The joints and ratchets are tight, tolerances are mostly excellent and he feels as solid as a figure of this size should, without unnecessary weight added to him.
It’s been nearly a week since he arrived in my possession, and even having seen him in the flesh before that, I am not yet over Phoenix’s prodigious size. I know he was big in the cartoon and capable of transporting other robots, but just look at how he compares to the not-so-small figures above! In terms of proportions and aesthetics, FansToys have scored top marks there. If a robot can be enjoyed as much as I’ve enjoyed Phoenix, just by standing there and looking glorious for extended periods of time, then already quite a lot has been achieved. Actually, standing can be a little bit of an issue. Phoenix has a 3-part foot structure, a semi-articulated toe section, a central thruster and a heel. I have found it continuously difficult to align those three parts on each foot when posing in order to achieve immediate stability regularly. There’s always a degree of faffing about required to get him to stand as desired and securely.
Posability on Phoenix is something of a frustrating conflict between upper and lower body. For the wide range of movement in the head and neck, we have limited ankle tilt. For the incredibly articulated fingers we have a 90 degree knee bend. For the varied and expressive wrist movement we have limited freedom in the legs at the hip joints. Finally, shoulders that let you pose with wild abandon are balanced with the incomprehensible lack of a waist swivel of any kind. A tragic omission, truly. The running pose is not as convincing on Phoenix as other 3rd party and Masterpiece figures we’ve owned, a kneel is all but impossible, and general dynamic motion in a pose is limited to what you see in this article I’d wager.
It’s a credit to what FT got right on Phoenix, and his tremendous looks, that he is still so expressive despite the limited lower body posability. Goodness he’s lovely to look at, helped by my undying love of the original inspiration from Takatoku and Bandai via vintage Macross, the Transformers equivalent and subsequent Classics/Generations incarnations of a character I really adored from the get-go. Speaking of Macross heritage – something Phoenix and his cartoon inspiration are quite wildly removed from thanks to the joys of licensing – I love how his massive rifle can be stored similarly to how the gun clips allowed vintage Generation 1 and Macross jetformers to store their guns.
I always felt that this character had a hugely handsome face, and we have been lucky in that every toy of him – the cartoon-inspired ones specifically – had gorgeous headsculpts. Not just good, but exceptional. FansToys have been riding a wave of improved headsculpts recently, and thankfully Phoenix doesn’t disappoint. He’s got lovely features, and while I wonder if he’d look even better with slightly bigger eyes and a mouth that’s not as wide, I’m happy. Really happy. The inherent benevolence in his face is spot on, making his presence in a group shot of evil alien robots quite incongruous. Rightfully so! Here’s something that’s taken me by surprise, I am actually disappointed at the lack of alternate faces with different expressions. When this was first introduced to Masterpiece Transformers and 3rd party Masterpiece-a-likes, I didn’t care for it. It felt like a gimmick used to justify higher prices and very un-Transformers. Now, I’ve grown used to – even fond of – their inclusion and the variety they bring to photographing toys.
Jet mode. You never knew you needed a transforming jet this big. It’s utterly humongous and a phenomenal joy to behold. The accuracy to the animation model is admirable, although the darker metallic coloured vents on the outer legs really stand out in this mode. To be honest, they did in robot mode too. Seeing Phoenix in this configuration reminds me of how I felt as a child when one of my classmates brought in his G1 equivalent to “Toy Day”. My only Transformers at that point were G1 jets, minibots and G1 cars, so I was suitably blown away – and I have been again thanks to FT-10. Those little fins on the top come off when the wind changes direction but other than that, solid as a rock. The weight is excellently supported by the very sturdy, easily-operated landing gear and undercarriage.
Transformation from robot to jet and back is great, so easy and completely intuitive. Absolutely no instructions were required and at absolutely no point did I feel I was in danger of breaking anything. It would, however, be nice if the robot head had just a bit more clearance with the backpack when being stored away or removed again. It’s frightening how close FansToys have moved towards official TakaraTomy Masterpiece product in terms of simplicity of transformation and feel of tolerances during the conversion. From the button operated leg collapse to the folding in of the collapsing arms, from the solid clipping of the backpack to the folding thinner panels of the neck/head assembly, Phoenix is fiddle fodder. A titanic fiddleformer! Make sure you fold out/in all required panels around the chest and head area to make sure things line up for solid clipping/tabbing, you’ll know when something’s amiss. One trick you must learn, when going back to robot mode, is to make sure that the backpack clips into the back of the neck at the right time. You have to fold back the panel on which the robot head rests. Once you do that, the backpack will clip in and you can fold the head back down into the right place, confident that the backpack will move with it and hold. It’s user friendly indeed, I really enjoy transforming Phoenix.
It’s true that Phoenix, thanks to the original animation model, ends up supremely boxy and not extraordinarily aerodynamic. Compared to the Generations figure, you could even call him unattractive and lumpy along the sides of the craft, but nostalgia and a desire for accuracy will bridge the gap for a lot of collectors. In my shallow and vapid little corner, his size is doing most of the work, honestly! I don’t really understand why they even decided to put thrusters on the bottom of his feet, as you can see clearly in jet mode the feet have folded around on them to completely hide them. The thrusters visible here have come out of the backpack. Considering how adversely they affected the immediate stability of the figure in robot mode, I wish they’d done away with them completely. Once I had swapped out the adaptor on the flight stand to fit Phoenix, I had trouble getting the stand to support his weight when pointed upwards. The tightening of the screws on the stand helped solve that little issue.
What you see above is successful self-enabling on World’s Smallest Transformers. I placed the ones I had with Phoenix and immediately realised I needed the rest, and I’m not the only one that was affected this way by those pictures! Thanks to a keen-eyed follower on my social media, I was inspired to try and use the flap under the nosecone as a ramp, and it worked an absolute charm. Even TakaraTomy Diaclone Dianauts are not small enough to fit in his opening canopy, though. This jet mode truly is an event, what a treat.
While on his own, Phoenix is a marvel with very few but glaring drawbacks, he’s still completely worthy of purchase and will feature extremely highly on most end of year lists. Placing him with other similarly-scaled toys, though, unlocks a different world of play and display. Hold onto yer hats, folks…
Keeeeeeeeeerist almighty! That’s how you boss a group shot. It’s like, I know he’s supposed to be big and he’s technically in scale, but COME ON. And it’s amazing, right, wrong, excellent, exasperating. Toys like this should give you feelings, and he certainly does that. The character is supposed to be a pacifist, a scientist, but there’s so much intimidation in his presence and he packs quite a rifle. Speaking of the rifle, have you noticed how his index finger fits through the trigger, making it look like an incredibly natural grip? Fantastic. It’s a rather solid weapon grip, too.
We all love a good scene re-creation, right? I am an enormous fan of the direction certain 3rd party companies are heading, especially FansToys. They are simplifying their transformations to the point where they are on par with official Masterpiece – even if they may occasionally lack the breathtaking moment of genius – and the conversions are becoming user-friendly. The addition of raised surfaces to aid manipulation of parts or extraction of stored hands is another official characteristic that FT have adopted, so Phoenix is excellent in this regard. The way almost every section has a clearly-defined final position and tabbing/clipping point screams a refinement of their art and understanding of what it takes to make a figure more than just accurate and pretty, but impossible to put down. An enduring appeal is what we want, and what we get.
If Phoenix had better movement in his hips, waist and ankles, I’d just be done with 2017 and give him the crown. The thing is, though, those are limiting factors that you will feel when playing with him in robot mode. For display and transformation, they are not issues, so the importance you give to those shortcomings does depend on what type of collector you are. Phoenix looks so good with Masterpiece figures that it causes physical pain. His quality seems top drawer as well, a welcome bonus we are entitled to for the $220 price tag. A huge toy and a huge success, then, as FansToys continue to have a wonderful 2017. I’m crazy about this figure, and I know many other collectors will be too. Ladies and gentlemen, we have our Air Guardian.
All the best