In part 1 of our Half Time Report for 2017, I looked at TakaraTomy Masterpiece and Hasbro Titans Return Transformers, as well as 3rd party Mastermind Creations figures that had caught my eye in the first half of the year. Now, for the second and final part of the mini-review, I’ll be talking about which TakaraTomy Diaclone and Transformers Legends, as well 3rd party figures from FansToys, MakeToys, Fans Hobby and Ocular Max have grabbed my attention in the first half of 2017 and will potentially be threatening the end of year top 10.
My problem with FansToys in 2016 had been one of inconsistency; Stomp was magnificent but the insects and Spotter were – for me – below their usual standards in terms of QC and playability. They’ve started 2017 in stunning form, though, with standout figures like the unbelievably character-accurate Sovereign, the breathtaking event that is Phoenix and the perfectly refined and top drawer Grinder. The latter had every chance of being the least interesting, given it was barely different from the existing Masterpiece, and yet it’s been a true joy.
The rest of the year looks just as bright for FT with the crazy Terminus Giganticus not just on the horizon, but actively blocking it out. They have a great chance of getting all three of the above pictured figures into my end of year top 10 as things stand. This is not just down to their enormous improvement in producing more accurate, and actually stunning, headsculpts. FansToys are also improving the transformations of the figures they produce at this scale, especially for Grinder and Phoenix. And while Sovereign’s conversion is much more involved, it’s the kind of complicated I can get on board with. It makes sense, is a fun and engaging process and it’s invited me back for more regularly.
Every year needs a solid and promising newcomer to keep a scene fresh. For 2017, Fans Hobby have not just shown up and demonstrated some potential, but they’ve actually produced figures that are end of year contenders. They’ve gone Masterpiece scale, because it’s safe and popular, but their choice of characters really sets them apart. Robots In Disguise Scourge, Monsterbots and G2 Laser Prime are toys that many collectors probably didn’t realise they needed at this scale, but one in-hand experience of this group’s quality and fun products will soon remedy that false belief.
I wanted to be sure I was not attributing my affection for Fans Hobby products to the fact that they have been a dream to work with and communicate with, or that they were doing a personal favourite sub-category of mine in the Monsterbots. Experiencing their Archenemy and improved repaint Gun Fighter II – knowing what they have planned for the rest of the year – I am confident in saying they’re scaling great heights in my estimation on merit alone. Of the four figures I’ve had my hands on so far, all are keepers and every time I pick each of them up, I’m impressed. Sure there is some pedigree in their staff from other 3P projects and initiatives, but they’re a total breath of fresh air for the 3P scene right now. Unquestionably the newcomers of the year, with a good shot at displacing some of the usual suspects at the end of the year.
What else can be said about MakeToys? Every year they produce figures that rival the official stuff for aesthetics, quality and genius. The items are usually durable, gorgeously finished, desirable in their looks and nature and sell very well. They’ve also taken on the challenge of previously untouched characters in a figure like Contactshot, as well as a sacred one in Downbeat. Both are utterly magnificent and will end up in number 1 spot for many a collector, whatever the rest of the year has to offer. Great transformations, excellent accessories, look that fit in precisely with whatever niche they were aiming the above two gems at (whether you’re an official MP aesthetic lover or the MT Re:Master post-Movie enthusiast). Downbeat and Contactshot are top 10 material without a doubt, the latter being an early contender for top spot in 2017. I, along with many others, are begging them not to abandon the Re:Master series and continue with the Headmasters and Targetmasters.
A quick mention for Mastermind Creations’ Masterpiece arm, Ocular Max. The year started off with Terraegis, which I found tremendously underwhelming. However, their retool of that figure is quite wonderful, actually. In the same kind of ball park as their majestic PS-01 Sphinx is Ocular Max’s maintenance bot, Perfection Series PS-07 Artifex. He seemed to correct all the tolerance issues I had with Terraegis, and he had precisely the looks I was hoping for regarding this character’s proportions. A joy to pose and fits in with official Masterpiece product beautifully. Great display options and a far less frustrating – or paint destroying – transformation than Terraegis make this a figure I return to often.
My pick of top purchase for 2016 was TakaraTomy’s incredible Diaclone Dia-Battles V2. A figure so packed with quality, playability, accessories, potential for combination and stunning looks that I laughed in the face of people who said it was poor value for money because it was smaller than what they wanted it to be. I loved it so much that I now have EIGHT of the bastards. And two of them are the new DA-06 Diaclone Dia-Battles Cosmo Maneuver type release from 2017. Same basic figure with remoulded parts, including giant boosters and epic cannons. First released in a stunning white, they then did an exclusive set of parts for the regular red Dia-Battles version too. I couldn’t possibly give the same figure toy of the year in 2017, but man that Cosmo Maneuver set is breathtaking. Again, so much to play with and do, so much interaction, it’s a dream. In addition to Cosmo, TakaraTomy also gave us the Powered System Suits this year, and while – again – the price will be off-putting for such tiny figures for most collectors, they are barrels of fun. Literally. They are fun and come in little barrels. Great posability, a bunch of modes, tons of interaction with the larger figures and some of the most natural troop-builders I’ve ever seen. Knowing that the immense Big Powered GV is also hitting this year, even if Cosmo doesn’t make it to the top spot for me, seeing what I have of DA-14 Big Powered leaves me confident that a Diaclone figure will be somewhere near the top in 2017 for me.
So far in 2017, I think Hasbro’s Titans Return line has outshone the TakaraTomy Transformers Legends equivalent. OK, TakaraTomy have given us a much better paint job for Astrotrain, we’ve gotten the quite lovely Leo Prime and some fancy show exclusives like the LG-EX Black Convoy and Head Master Set, but the big ticket Legends item from the first half of the year was supposed to be Godbomber – and therefore God Ginrai. While he certainly looks magnificent, the looseness of many parts on Godbomber make the combined form a little tricky to balance and pose. And by ‘a little tricky’, I really mean a genuine pain in the arse. Add to that the fact that a God Ginrai giftset with exclusive Head Master Minerva and Cab was announced before the shipping boats had refuelled to return home, and you have a handful of rather disgruntled fans. I’ll get both because I’m ridiculous that way, because I want the exclusive Head Masters and because the giftset version is chromed…but most of all because I’m desperate to own this combo with the hope that QC and tolerances/looseness will be massively improved for the later release. The second half of the year will see TakaraTomy give us proper Targetmasters with their release of Hot Rodimus, Kup, Triggerhappy and co, and with improved paint jobs and sculpts, as well as their version of Trypticon (Dinosaurer). That could be a major factor in how I judge their performance against all of the previously mentioned gems of 2017. Then we can talk end of year top 10.
Let’s just say that 2017, so far, has exceeded expectations in pretty much all areas of collecting that I focus on. Masterpiece, Diaclone, 3rd Party MP scale, 3rd party classics scale and Titans Return. The second half of the year has been great so far. and the remainder looks spectacular too. With MP Sunstreaker, Artfire and Dirge, Titans/LG Trypticon, box sets and Targetmasters (Slugslinger!), Diaclone Big Powered and more 3rd Party than I could possibly do justice in one paragraph, my top 10 this year will be the hardest I’ve ever had to devise, without any shadow of a doubt.
All the best