TakaraTomy Transformers Masterpiece MP-39 is important for many reasons. Now that he’s been released and thoroughly enjoyed, assessed and judged, we can have a look at the significance of this release. When the toy was first announced, I posted an article about my initial thoughts regarding the figure. Please join me throughout this MP-39 Sunstreaker gallery while I think out loud about what I believe this figure represents for Masterpiece going forward.
MP-39 Sunstreaker is important because he’s the first new post-MP-36 Megatron G1 Masterpiece sculpt we’ve received. The Autobot car Masterpiece range is a highly known quantity, and while it has been evolving since MP-12 Lambor’s release in 2012, Megatron was a watershed moment for the Masterpiece line. This makes a comparison between Sunstreaker and other contemporaries very simple. The price for Sunstreaker was noticeably higher than that of other MP Car Robots, and this was not just some arbitrary price hike, seeing as how MP-12+ Lambor released mere weeks beforehand was not priced the same. Having gotten the toy in hand, collectors are realising just how much of a step up Sunstreaker is compared to the other Autobot car MPs in terms of posability, engineering, moving parts count and just overall standout features. There’s a lot of paint on the figure too. So, was Megatron a one-off in terms of a significant rise in engineering and ambition for Masterpiece? No. Sunstreaker absolutely maintains that supremely high level and for a toy of this size, that’s phenomenal. Megatron was a step above what the competition could muster, and so is Sunstreaker. I’m now absolutely excited for what G1 Masterpiece will offer next, if this is the established and consistent standard moving forwards.
Sunstreaker is important because he was teased showing significantly improved vehicle-specific features than we had been enjoying recently. As an iconic Lamborghini Countach, MP-39 would have flip-up headlights and those amazing vertically-opening doors. Sure, there’s no vehicle interior a la Binaltech, but for a line that has recently been painting over headlights and foregoing rubber tyres, this was a step back in the right direction. Sunstreaker does not disappoint; the headlights, doors and hood all providing an absolutely gorgeous distraction while not obstructing the transformation or robot mode engineering or appearance in the slightest. A tremendous victory, there.
MP-39 represents another very key and important development, too. Car manufacturers like Lamborghini and Ferrari are notoriously stringent with their licences, ensuring that any party producing goods that bear their likeness meets a certain standard and fulfils particular criteria. How willing were Lamborghini to accept a proper branded Transformers toy with no real life equivalent alternate mode? I have even asked Lamborghini myself and been told that the Countach LP500S “Super Tuning” that the original G1 Sunstreaker and Diaclone figures were based did not exist. TakaraTomy have incorporated a genius way of flipping the iconic Sunstreaker chrome vents around to become a perfectly ‘normal’ road-going LP500S. This is a fantastic solution because it has seemingly allowed the project to be greenlit and it has not introduced partsforming into the equation, for those that mind that. It’s also one more triumph in their ongoing game of engineering one-upmanship. The ability to slide the rear wing assembly forward/backward and switch between real life Countach and screen accurate rear lights to complete either look is bordering on showing off. I love it.
What else is important about Sunny? Well, recent Masterpiece Transformers have had a lot of paint application on them, and the complicated engineering has sometimes resulted in paint wear to start becoming a visible issue. My MP Megatron, Inferno, Ratchet and Grapple are all genius figures with too much paint wear on them now from transformation and posing. Sunstreaker is no less complex, but after MP-37 Artfire I had hoped that things were on the up, as the aforementioned Artfire had little to no issues with paint for me. Most of the time when I handle Sunstreaker, I see a fleck of yellow or even a speck of sparkly chrome on my hands. Normally this would mean panic stations, but apart from one spot that was my own doing, I have not really seen where the chips have come from, and that may mean there’s just a little too much excess paint on him that will sort itself out after use. While this is good news generally, I can see the painted hands getting worse over time, and I have had to shave off plastic flash from under the figure to ensure everything closes up properly in car mode. All in all, I am not at all discouraged from handling MP-39. This ain’t no Grapple or Ratchet.
Yet one more important point about MP Sunstreaker is that he’s an entirely new mould based on a car we have already had multiple releases of in Masterpiece. I am of course referring to MP-12 Lambor / Sideswipe, his canonical twin brother. Seeing as how we’ve all been very keen to display the brothers next to one another in both modes, ably assisted by TakaraTomy with their recent anime-accurate release of MP-12+, a comparison is in order. What everyone has noticed is that Sunstreaker represents a serious departure in engineering, complexity and intricacy compared to the elegant, straightforward and fast-transforming MP-12 that set us off on this course originally. They can definitely be displayed alongside each other, but when it comes to expressive posability and little things like the hands, the differences stand out in stark contrast. There have been a few calls for an updated Sideswipe, but being 7 or more toys deep into the MP-12 mould, I think I’m alright with it.
Next to more recent Masterpiece figures – although Tracks is a couple years old himself now – the difference is still noticeable. Sunstreaker really is a big step into a higher level of operation and production for TakaraTomy with respect to Masterpiece G1 Transformers. They’ve got to the point where they are dragging cartoon accuracy, vehicle accuracy, top-end articulation, complex engineering and enjoyable transformations to a point of dream convergence. When you pose him, play with that exceptional alternate mode or transform MP-39, the price point completely makes sense, as it did with the phenomenal Megatron.
More importance? OK well following in the footsteps of MP-36 Megatron and MP-33 Inferno, Sunstreaker wades into territory that 3rd party manufacturers like MakeToys, X-Transbots, Ocular Max and specifically BadCube had already occupied. Sunsurge was a successful figure, finding himself in many Transformers Masterpiece displays with an aesthetic that was more than close enough, albeit with a transformation that was not to the tastes of all. My ownership of Sunsurge ended not long after MP-39 was announced, and I didn’t miss the figure even when I didn’t have a Sunstreaker stand-in, although I did appreciate it for being a great figure in both modes and not the absolute worst to transform – and of good quality. So, some collectors say that TakaraTomy have benefited from BadCube’s foray into the Sunstreaker-sphere, picking up where they left off and polishing the work that they had pioneered. There are similarities there, the whole clip-on backpack mechanic for example. However, the way MP-39 delivers its solutions ensures that virtually every step is a joy, with no dreading of flexible tolerances and questionable outcomes. Some have had breakages which is uncool, but on the whole it seems that Sunstreaker has been extremely well received. I have not been able to put him down, and I’m sure I’ve transformed him as many times already as I did my Sunsurge in my first year of ownership. As with Megatron, I think Sunstreaker has completely swept the competition off the table.
MP-39 Sunstreaker has met all of those important challenges it faced head on and has – along with MP-36 Megatron – set a frighteningly high standard for upcoming new Masterpiece sculpts. It’s also signalled to me that any number of years is worth waiting for figures of this quality, whatever obstacles may lie in their way in terms of engineering and legality. I’ve no longer felt that I need 3P representations of other MP Autobot cars as stand-ins, especially as they’re not currently on display. As long as Masterpiece remains profitable for TakaraTomy – whether that means adopting the Hasbro marketing and production model wholesale for their mainstream Transformers – I am deeply excited about what this means for future MP toys.
If the line should stop, then we will always have Megatron and Sunstreaker, and I am already prepared to hand out the best toy award of 2018 to MP-39, such is the depth of the impression it has left on me. All of this despite having a headsculpt that features none of what my heart desires in a Sunstreaker figure. Going forward, MP-39 is also important in other ways, such as providing a basis for further well-loved and historically significant Diaclone-based repaints of MP-39. We have not yet gotten a blue MP-10 Convoy cab, blue Cobalt Sentry cassettes from Ravage and Laserbeak, black Ironhide or Deepcover, so it will be fascinating to see whether or not TakaraTomy reignite that wonderful niche area of repaints with a police or red deco of Sunstreaker.
If they give us a red and police repaint with a toy accurate headsculpt, the entire world will hear me scream.
All the best