It’s hard to find an opinion on Masterpiece Transformers – toys, concept, direction or otherwise – that collectors and enthusiasts generally agree upon. Some preferred Masterpiece when they were a good fusion of toy homage and cartoon accuracy, while others appreciated the extreme cartoon look or the ‘best incarnation that it can be’ approach that occasionally gets used to describe pre-MP-10 Masterpiece toys. Instead of trying to provide a commentary on prevalent fandom opinion regarding Transformers Masterpiece, I’m just going to share some of my own thoughts on the line. Specifically, how I feel that Masterpiece MP-36 Megatron represents the best that Masterpiece has given us so far, and how it’s so important that the line continues to improve and surpasses MP-36.
The shifting mission of the Masterpiece line among the G1 releases has not pleased everyone, and that is down to a number of things. First of all, the move towards heavy G1 cartoon accuracy among the G1 Masterpiece releases means that there are older figures now that may not necessarily gel so well with the more recent aesthetic; MP-12 Lambor versus MP-39 Sunstreaker is a comparison that springs to mind immediately. Even MP-36 Megatron represents a significant and unmistakable evolution in style and substance from MP-11 Starscream – itself different from the MP-3 sculpt. The upcoming MP Convoy (Optimus Prime) version 3 will at least give MP-36 a comparable adversary that is very much in line with the current Masterpiece aesthetic.
For what it’s worth, I really did like the cartoon accuracy of the recent MP releases because along with that change came a vast improvement in articulation of the figures and some truly genius – but more complex – transformations. The added amount of painted sections, for me, led to more visible wear after the more intricate conversions and that was something that started to detract from my enjoyment of the line, as did the inevitable increase in costs of the Masterpiece Transformers. While paying £170 for Megatron was pretty hard to take at the time, it doesn’t bother me now since I believe it’s the very best thing the line has produced. It has also survived my Masterpiece collection sell-off. Any other MP that remains in my collection (Hasbro Sunstorm, MP-9 “Frost Rod” and MP-8 Grimlock) is down to them being gifts.
The quality and immense brilliance of MP-36 Megatron is the crux of the matter. I felt that they achieved a pinnacle there, with an involved yet enjoyable transformation, superb modes, incredibly fun accessories and a figure that nailed the intended character in a way I didn’t even know I wanted. I’ve derived so much enjoyment from just handling the figure and photographing it, all thanks to the degree of expression he is capable of and the quality of the figure. He has lost a few specks of paint, no question, but he’s fared much better than MP Ratchet, Grapple, Hot Rodimus and Sunstreaker.
In actual fact, MP-39 Sunstreaker had the potential to triumph over Megatron in my affections. The modes were stunning beyond belief and the transformation was even more of a joy than Megatron’s. Both were occupying the same highest echelon of Masterpiece design, execution and enjoyment for me. Then, Sunstreaker started to shed paint and he broke, leaving me extremely disappointed with the figure and Masterpiece generally. Following a rather lacklustre MP-12+ Lambor Anime edition and MP cassette recolour set, I felt it was time for me to wind down my involvement in Masterpiece collecting. Megatron still stood as the pinnacle.
Looking at the Beast Wars Masterpiece figures, Dinobot is a wonderful thing. For those that are fiercely devoted to Beast Wars, I wouldn’t be surprised if they felt Dinobot was the best figure ever to come out of the line, it really is that good. But, it is horrendously costly, and the upcoming MP Beast Wars Megatron is even more expensive, although probably another spectacular achievement technically.
I believe that it is a fair assumption to make in saying the Generation 1 Masterpiece toys are ultimately the majority portion of the success of Masterpiece Transformers, both historically and into the future. While Sunstreaker was even more of a technically marvellous achievement as a figure than MP Megatron was, its durability ultimately stops him trumping Megatron in my view. So, it’s up to Convoy V3 and Hound to show that TakaraTomy can continue to grow the G1 Masterpiece line in more ways than just roster. Why is that important, though? Why can’t Megatron as such a wholly significant character be the pinnacle forever?
Standards are adjusted very quickly within a community like Transformers toy collectors. Can you imagine telling fans a few years ago that MP-10 Convoy would be the peak of Masterpiece and that we’d never get anything better? Regardless of Optimus Prime’s stature and reluctant acceptance by most that he’d be the best of the line, I think a concept like Masterpiece could only stagnate if that were really the case. We’re currently at the point where the smaller Autobot cars like MP-33 Inferno and MP-39 Sunstreaker represent a significant improvement in design quality (if not durability) over MP-10. So it’s not hard to believe that a year or two down the line, if a V3 Optimus or perhaps a V3 Starscream, V2 Soundwave etc have not improved on Megatron in terms of the overall design, durability, enjoyment and being a definitive release without obvious areas for improvement, questions will be asked of the line’s future.
I’m not particularly concerned that TakaraTomy are not capable of producing high quality products. Megatron is not yet two years old, Diaclone V2 is utterly spectacular, Convoy V3 is just around the corner and the Beast Wars MP toys have been rather breathtaking, so we know the guys and girls have got it. In that time we’ve had a fair number of Movie Masterpiece toys as well, so the output is respectable, although G1 MP collectors will tell you it’s not ideal. Looking ahead, there are repaints of Megatron, Laserwave and Sunstreaker coming, all of which signal good news for fans who want decent toy representation and continuing Diaclone homages, but we still get the odd dull MP-17+ Prowl to counter that excitement.
I really do hope Convoy V3 and Hound absolutely nail the improved engineering and enjoyment of MP Megatron, while at the same time marrying it to excellent durability and hints of improvement, innovation and a solid foundation for the future that Transformers Masterpiece absolutely must strive for, beyond the excellence of MP-36 Megatron.
No matter the cost.
All the best