Everyone has a different definition of what the Transformers Masterpiece line should be and what it means to them. A majority of us are pleased with the figures we receive in the line and how much more regular a dose we receive of these fabulous creations than during the early years of the line. Some believe that the Masterpiece line, with its current direction and ethos, has wandered from the path that made it great in the first place. This week we look at whether or not the magic is still there.
Back when Masterpiece MP-25 Tracks was released and I reviewed it for TFSource, he was a very divisive figure. I was very much on the side of appreciation, and this is how I defined what Masterpiece was to me at the time:
“While it’s accepted that fundamentally all collectors will have a differing definition, it is my feeling that the modern post MP-9 era Masterpiece Transformer has to have a number of significant features to qualify. The criteria is even more specific based on the character sub-group they belong to.
“We’ve had enough Autobot car releases now that I feel this sub-group deserves its own criteria, chief among those being real life vehicle modes that the G1 toys represented, with greatly improved real world accuracy to the manufacturer’s designs for Masterpiece. In addition to that, the robot mode on the character – rightly or wrongly – should show significant deference to the on-screen G1 cartoon animation model over that of the original Diaclone/G1 toy. The size of the figure should also be primarily scaled to robot mode accuracy as opposed to relative alt mode size accuracy. In the minds of some, Masterpiece equals words such as ‘definitive’ and ‘perfect’, so inclusion of distinctive, associated and historically significant accessories has become part of the framework for Masterpiece toys.”
While that is highly relevant to the Autobot cars in the Masterpiece line, and a summary of the modern direction, I feel there are many applicable points in the above quote. The discussion about Masterpiece being less special now than it was before came about between friends of mine recently due to the rather lacklustre feeling towards the upcoming MP-40 Targetmaster Hot Rodimus. A minor change in paint application and the addition of a previously used accessory hardly qualify for a major landmark release when compared to a MP-36 Megatron, a MP-1 Convoy or a MP-9 Rodimus Convoy. We had also been discussing how none of us could shake the feeling that TakaraTomy would soon announce a revamped Masterpiece Convoy that would be more comparable with MP-36 Megatron than MP-10 currently is.
Dan Ghile offers the following on the subject: “I’d say the MP line has for the most part become what it should never have, which is a general toy line. So much of the excitement has been stripped out by stepping up releases and 40+ (numbered) toys is starting to become bloated. The individual toys are in themselves mostly fantastic, but it does start to blur a bit. It does feel like a new ‘focus’ is due. You can even see it in the 3P MP scene which is becoming less ‘obvious’ now that, essentially, the ‘main’ characters to the bulk of the fan base are done. Now we get niche giant bots and… more Insecticons?”
My response to that was that I was quite happy for Masterpiece to become a “regular toy line” should all of the releases be of the same quality as MP-36 Megatron in terms of concept, and – yes – execution.
Kit Tang says “MP lost its excitement for me a long time ago. I’ve said it before, but after MP-9, I’ve always felt they lacked a certain something, rekindled a bit with Tracks but since faded away again until Megatron. But Megs was like an ‘event’ MP, whereas most everything else is on a schedule, y’know?
“MPs before MP-10 were a lot sparser, both in moulds and release schedule. That made them feel more of an ‘event’, especially since we were bolstered by other ‘high end’ toys like Binaltechs, which were a whole separate line. These days it feels like the MP guys have had the BT line shoved in, in the form of the Autobot cars, and we’re being charged accordingly for it. Objectively I don’t think I’m making much sense though. Pre MP-10, the figures weren’t exactly fault free (MP-5, MP-9 QC, MP2/4/6/7 all repaints) but it felt different, y’know? Maybe my standards were just lower then and I’m looking back with rose tinted specs.”
I think it is easy to highlight signature characters like Megatron and Star Saber as event releases, but MP-22 Ultra Magnus, MP-21 Bumble, MP-27 Ironhide, MP-33 Inferno, MP-13 Soundwave and a number of others are events to me, also. They are exceptional figures, and while some of them have come out in the ‘on schedule’ era of the Masterpiece adventure, they are no less a marvel than the ones mentioned in the quote above. I can certainly make a lot of links between the aforementioned MPs and my definition of what I feel a modern Masterpiece should be and why Tracks is every bit the MP as Convoy.
Here’s Sixo with his thoughts on this: “It’s an interesting topic as I do agree with the point about the ‘old’ MPs being more ‘special’, but purely on account of how infrequently they were released. However, I don’t think the newer toys are any less amazing – it’s just that we’re getting more of them, so naturally they seem like less of an event. Clearly they do follow a bit of a different philosophy than what was used for MP-1, for example, but I don’t think it’s as simple as saying all the old releases were more high end, all the new ones less so. For example, MP-8 isn’t exactly a cut above a release like MP-22, quality-wise. I think it’s mostly MP-1 that people think of when they imagine the older MPs being somehow more prestigious, loaded as it was with diecast, rubber tyres, pistons etc. However, that hasn’t been replicated to the same degree since, even pre-MP-10. Having said that, a lot of the larger modern MPs now still do have rubber tyres and diecast; it’s really just the smaller cars that don’t. Again, I get that maybe these releases are not finished to the degree people might have expected, but I honestly can’t fault them myself – the design and engineering on stuff like Inferno is just too good. Also, I think the increased frequency makes the whole philosophy of the line more about having an abundance of characters rather than one or two standalone pieces, and that’s interesting unto itself. In many ways the whole collection becomes a masterpiece as a group.”
So, there’s enough on both sides of the fence to maintain a healthy debate about whether or not Masterpiece still holds the same weight as it did when it was young, or whether the newer scheduled releases are as much of an event when they are released compared to the likes of MP-1. What I will say is that MP-36 Megatron, MP-33 Inferno, MP-22 Ultra Magnus, MP-21 Bumble and the like were events. I was there, I remember. They caused a stir and they were/are exceptional figures the likes of which may take years to topple, certainly in my affections. They just weren’t the first of their kind, nor were they the only example of this line’s brilliance in a whole year or three.
All the best