Like many collectors, I’ve committed heavily to TakaraTomy’s Transformers Masterpiece toy line over the last few years. I’ve been rewarded with toys of extremely high quality and often very high accuracy to my preferred source material too. The figures have acted as primary display pieces in my collection and they’ve been marvels of engineering, regularly providing fresh and fulfilling transformation experiences. Occasionally, they will have flaws that can either be overlooked or require replacement toys, I’ve written about those before. Like any Transformers figure – modern or vintage – the more I interact with them, the more likely they are to show signs of play wear.
Some figures endure better than others, but sadly a number of my figures stand out as having suffered worse than others over time. MP-13 Soundwave’s cassettes are quite prone to damage in the long term. Many Laserbeaks have broken over time, including my own. The opening photo of this article shows that he broke at the hinge where the silver thrusters attach. Some have had the neck joint break. In addition, my MP Ravage broke as well, again not an isolated incident. This particular casualty involved the breaking off of one of the central tabs that help hold the cassette mode together. Soundwave himself has started to develop hairline cracks around the pinned joints where folding panels pivot, the ones that hang down beside his legs.
So, an absolutely fantastic Masterpiece toy with superb cassettes – Laserbeak’s design being a stroke of genius – but some things to look out for. My Soundwave is of the first release in 2013, and I’ve replaced his cassettes with Hasbro release ones. Hoping they last more than 4 years.
The Datsun mould is one I have grown to enjoy more over time, as a result of repeated transformation for photo shoots above anything else actually! There’s no shortage of releases with this mould either, as you can see. Deterioration does not necessarily have to be due to the user and repeated transformation, though. I still find that the best specimen I own of this sculpt is the first release, MP-17 Prowl. Both subsequent releases, MP-18 Streak and MP-19 Smokescreen, are now exhibiting joint looseness in the shoulders (Streak) and the knees (Smokescreen). All except Prowl give me serious anxiety when separating the hood from the abdomen for transformation back to car mode, as that connection is fiercely tight. I have also noticed spots of paint wear on Streak. Prowl remains the most enjoyable one for me to handle.
Masterpiece MP-22 Ultra Magnus is one of my favourite Transformers figures of all time. It contains possibly the best transformation on a figure I have ever experienced, especially when you consider the two modes it is going between and the size involved. He has limited posability, of course, but his presence is second to none. There’s a few bits of die cast on Magnus here and there, but his paint has held up extremely well in my opinion. The area for concern on Magnus for me is how his shoulders no longer stay tabbed in securely when in robot mode. The grey hinged connectors will pop out of their housing at the slightest provocation now, and I have also started to spot some looseness in his shoulders. In addition, the butt flap – which I have occasionally displayed at 90 degrees elevation to the body – is starting to sag. The latter may be of my own doing, though, as the flap is meant to be positioned facing downwards, so the joint may never have been intended to support its weight without being tabbed in like it is for truck mode.
Despite those niggles, this remains one of my go-to figures for guaranteed enjoyment, and I use him in my photography at the smallest sign of an excuse.
I had already written about the problems I had with MP Ratchet and the way his paint has been flaking since the first day of ownership, but I’m sad to report that occasionally I do see a new flake or two upon handling. I do also worry on the Ironhide version that the chrome will continue to deteriorate and the forearm flaps will soon become loose too. This is such a spectacular mould, I’d hate to be so off-put by wear that I would be reluctant to transform it in future. Because Ratchet has already done a fair amount of shedding, I think I’ll just keep on messing with it whenever the mood takes me, as it’s never going to return to pristine state.
Grapple is another that came out this year and flaked from the get-go. At the last count, there were 13 spots of paint wear on my specimen, whereas others have barely noticed any wear on theirs at all. You can see above the kind of eye sore these can be when the toy is clear underneath the coat of paint. I’ve been extremely careful with MP Artfire as a result, but so far I have not noticed any paint wear on him. However, that is after just 2 transformations…maybe after 10 or 15 conversions, he will start to exhibit the same spots of paint wear on the cylindrical thigh drums, head baseplate and upper thigh flaps as the more durable Inferno. I hope not, because these are three of the finest MPs of all when it comes to engineering, playability and looks.
And of course, there’s MP-36 Megatron. For all of his standard-setting excellence and competition-flattening qualities, he is prone to immediate paint wear in many locations. Where I attached the stock pieces there are now scratches and where I attached the silencer, there are marks. There are spots of paint wear on the corners of moving panels like his chest plate and all of the bits that make up the top half of the gun mode. Every time I have put him in gun mode, I’ve made sure to remove the face completely to avoid any possibility of scuffs there, as that is the one place I won’t be able to stand damage.
The figure is so mighty enjoyable to transform for me, though, that I very nearly bought a second MP-36 to keep exclusively pristine in robot mode for photography and display while I transformed my first specimen into oblivion. That’s the key thing here, as I guess it has been with vintage toys since the earliest days of Transformers collecting; no matter the wear one inflicts on a figure through play, the fact that you are compelled to play with it repeatedly means that toys will inevitably lose that feeling of box-fresh tightness, pristine gleam and factory perfection. We’ve learned to accept it as part of the character of vintage toys; some even see it as an essential marker of the journey that a toy has been through. The marks left on it by those who have loved it throughout its uniquely lived existence. Will we ever come to see Masterpiece Transformers that way, or is it impossible to feel that way about toys that can still be bought MISB and pristine off the shelf or online? I’ll be completely honest and say that at this stage in my collecting, and the age of MP in general, I am more annoyed about the signs of wear than endeared by them….but I’m still deeply in love with the toys themselves.
All the best