New Masterpiece releases are always kind of a big deal. Love or hate the current direction of the line it never fails to get people talking! However for Beast Wars fans things are generally pretty rosy, as the line continues to pump out one excellent mould every year or so since we first saw MP-32 Optimus Primal back in 2016. Well now here we are with the latest contribution in Blackarachnia, but does she continue the positive trend? Let’s find out!
Straight out of the box Blackarachnia is liable to give you a fright if you’re not a big fan of spiders! She comes packaged in her black widow beast mode along with a host of different accessories as one might expect from a Masterpiece release, including weapons, alternate faces and a pretty nifty stand.
— Sixo (@SixoTF) December 4, 2019
The beast mode itself looks suitably gruesome and ably recalls to mind the character’s appearance from the CGI cartoon. One thing that all of the Beast Wars MP toys have done well so far is a distinctive texturised finish that represents their animal forms really nicely, and Blackarachnia is no exception. The main body of the spider has a bumpy, almost eery texture to it that works really well and definitely adds something a little creepy to this form.
There are other neat details too, including the freaky set of eyes which really carry a sense of her personality over from the show, and neat little touches such as moving mandibles to add a sense of play value. There’s a lot going on that is easy to miss from photographs, so it’s really worth taking a beat to appreciate when you first get her in hand.
The legs also work really well, in my opinion, despite being pretty simple overall. They’re on balls joints connected to the main body and each feature a single joint in the middle, but they allow for a lot of motion and posing and look really creepy. I will say that my copy has one leg that whilst not loose, could do with being just a bit tighter than it is, but I’m sure it’s something I could sort out with a dab of floor polish. Fortunately the legs are not actually required for the figure to stand on, as she mostly rests on a small part of her undercarriage towards the rear. That might sound a bit of an inelegant solution but it works really well, and allows for this mode to stand stably whilst still giving the impression of not just being sat on its belly.
Of course you can also display Blackarachnia on the included spider web stand should you so wish! The stand includes a base piece and a poseable arm section which pegs into it, and then four separate pieces of blue webbing that snap together very easily. In order to adhere the spider mode to the web you will first need to attach the blade from her weapon to the underneath of the toy, as it’s this piece that actually clips onto the stand itself. In my experience this was what caused a little bit of frustration, as you kinda need the spider mode tabbed together just so in order for the weapon storage to work, but once you have it all in place there’s no arguing with the results! I still have mine displayed in this form on the web now, and it looks awesome – a really great inclusion to this package.
Sadly whilst there’s a lot to love about this mode it’s not all good, and it’s fairly obvious even from photos that there’s a definite bit of robot mode kibble going on that just cannot be hidden away. In truth this has been the case with every Beast Wars MP so far as it’s a reality of trying to achieve a realistic animal mode that transforms into a animation-accurate robot, and especially when the conversions themselves were often achieved through cartoon trickery on-screen. However it feels like the reaction to Blackarachnia’s beast form has been especially harsh, perhaps because it is somewhat impossible to miss the visible folded-up legs and feet on the abdomen section or indeed the robot mode arms stowed underneath the main body. That said I actually think they’ve achieved about as sleek and good-looking a spider mode as maybe could be expected here, and that’s still deserves some major props.
For my money the bit I like least is actually the obvious hinge joint on top of the spider body, including the visible gold joints from the robot mode chest. Arms and legs I can live with, but somehow it’s this top section that most visually jars to my eye. Still, all things considered it’s a banging spider mode and features more than enough cool features to carry it over the line towards being a success. She also looks especially cool when suspended from the included rope accessory, which pretty simply plugs into the spider mode’s rear end. Seeing that thing just hanging there is definitely enough to give you a bit of a chill!
As far as transformation to robot mode goes it’s a surprisingly intricate affair for a robot of this size, though definitely not on a par with the likes of some of the current G1 MPs. Some bits are comparatively simple, such as the robot mode legs and arms which just unfold in exactly the way you might expect. But it’s the contortions required to make up and shape the main robot body that require the most twists and turns, and arguably even more so on the return to spider mode. That said, there’s nothing too taxing required here and definitely one or two bits that are devilishly clever in their simplicity, such as the spider head rotating around to form the robot mode abdomen. Oh, and once you’re all done you can hardly argue with the results – just look!
Yep, that robot mode is an absolute belter. Say whatever you will to the compromises in the spider mode, but there’s no denying that this is the very essence of a cartoon-accurate Blackarachnia.
All of the little details one would expect from a Masterpiece representation of this character are present and correct. The proportions, the angles, the aesthetic – it’s all entirely on point and very much looks like the Blackarachnia we know and love from the ’90s cartoon.
I’ve read a few comments from people of late saying how this robot mode is not something that would pass as being acceptable for a young audience on television today, and most likely that’s true. But for better or worse there’s no denying that the Masterpiece designers have stuck to the aesthetic of the line and delivered something that genuinely looks like it walked off the screen. I so often find myself thinking of that phrase as hyperbole, but given the CGI nature of the Beast Wars cartoon and how well the MP line seems to have captured that aesthetic, it rings true on this occasion.
So the screen-accuracy is there, but what about the overall fit and finish. Well it’s all up to the kind of standard that’s been set by previous Beast Wars MPs, with nice sparkly paint that’s remarkably well-applied, stunningly captured smaller details (such as a gorgeous Predacon logo on her collar) and an incredible sculpt. Everything adds up to make this feel like a quality release that, quite frankly, even puts some of the G1 MPs in the shade. As many of you will know I’m a big fan of those toys too, but I really am strengthening my opinion that it’s the beastformers that are showing the line at its best right now.
I will say that Blackarachnia is maybe not the most stable of toys, though. Whilst all the joints on my copy are sturdy enough it’s kinda the nature of those tiny feet coupled with the span of those spider legs up top that might require you to do a little fiddling to get her secure in some more extreme poses. Still, once you do she works it like an absolute charm!
There’s also a lot of nuance to the articulation that allows for some very subtle ways to pose her, such as a welcome swivel in the pelvis, shoulder sections that move independently to the arms and body, and even a method that allows you to extend the hips slightly to accommodate more complex stances. The designers have clearly put a lot of thought into how to get this robot mode feeling natural and lithe, and it pays off in spades. I could honestly have spent hours and hours cranking out dozens of poses to take pictures of, such is the range of articulation on offer here.
There’s also a dynamism to the sculpt that means Blackarachnia can pull off those extreme posing options convincingly and with ease. The spider legs maybe present the biggest challenge here, and will require a lot of readjustment as you go, but aside from that it’s honestly quite hard to have her not looking nifty however you decide to display her.
Blackarachnia’s main weapon is formed from a section of the spider mode abdomen and the blade missile that attaches to the underneath of that form. It presents exactly like you would expect from the show and really adds a lot to the look of this toy. It pegs onto the inside of her claw-like “hands” very securely, although I did find it to be a bit of a pain to remove again and even noted the tiniest bit of pain rub on the handle peg afterwards. It’s also a shame that you can’t technically use the threaded version of the blade with the gun, as it would be cool to have her swinging through the air in this mode too. Still, I decided to fudge it for the photo below, and it looks ace all the same!
The robot mode headsculpt is already a thing of absolute beauty, but there are several alternative faces that just add to the play value and charm on offer. Each of them is an easy swap-out by simply unpegging the face from under the chin. First up is a sly smirk. It’s very subtle but it certainly fits the character well!
Next up we have a face to represent Blackarachnia’s possessed look after her mind was forcefully inhabited and her body taken control of by Tarantulas in the show, as seen in episodes such as Aftermath.
And finally there is a visor accessory which can be placed over her stock face to replicate the tech she used in the season 1 finale, Other Voices, as she attempted to take control of a leftover statis pod. It’s another fun inclusion that adds to the overall package, even if it’s likely the kind of thing that most fans will use once or twice and then pop back in the box forevermore!
The other notable gimmick of this toy is how you can bend the spider legs forward in an effort to recreate the character’s “machine gun” weaponry. It’s maybe one of those things that requires a bit more imagination than anything (unless you cheat, like me!), but it’s fun that it can be done nonetheless.
So, overall it’s a tidy and comprehensive package, but how does she fair when lined up next to the previous Beast Wars MPs? Well, take a look!
Despite being the overall smallest toy in this range so far, there’s little doubt that Blackarachnia packs a heavy punch when it comes to filling out the range. What could have been an extraordinarily tricky show model to recreate has been achieved with roaring success, and she looks practically perfect stood next to her contemporaries.
In fact it speaks to the success of this part of the MP line in general that the more toys are added to the range, the more impressive the whole picture becomes. Each one is highly evocative of the TV show, but also made in such a manner that they ooze quality and charisma. I wasn’t lying when I said I really thought that they’re currently the best of what the MP line has to offer.
Perhaps it’s no great surprise that every time I post pictures like these on social media, someone will inevitably reply to tell me that they look exactly like stills from the cartoon. Such is the astounding degree of accuracy and slavish devotion to the source material at play here.
But it’s more than that for me. The toys are also largely articulated and engineered in a way that makes them fun and even quite charming, exuding an approachability and play-value factor that again puts the traditional G1 MPs to the test.
Simply messing around with any of these toys will show you just what a joy they are, and by that measure Blackarachnia more than ably fills her spot on the roster.
One can only hope that they continue the Beast Wars releases with the same sense of consistency and cohesiveness. If they do then that will certainly give this line-up the leg-up on their Generation 1 counterparts in the eyes of many fans.
Just looking at what’s been achieved thus far makes us hopeful the likes of Rhinox, Rattrap, Terrorsaur and, of course, Tarantulas. Maybe even beyond that the likes of Masterpiece Transmetals and Fuzors, who knows? For now we can definitely appreciate the releases that we have in hand, which are truly deserving of the name “Masterpiece”.