REVIEW: TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-47 Hound

It might sound incredible but we’re now in the 17th year of the Transformers Masterpiece line, making it far and away the longest continuously-running part of the franchise. Yet the design philosophy has evolved so much in that time that the move in recent years to a more slavishly cartoon-accurate aesthetic has been divisive among fans to say the least. Well today we’re looking at the latest entry in the ranks with MP-47 Hound to see if he’s a good boy or something that should be sniffed at. Let’s find out!

Hound comes packaged in his vehicle mode, and straight out of the box it’s looking really swish! He transforms into an officially-licensed Willys Jeep, and so features the brand logo in several key spots. Given the endorsement, it’s no surprise to see that the vehicular form is recreated somewhat flawlessly and looks terrific from every angle, with a surprising amount of detail given to areas such as the rear and the interior which also feature some lovely paint apps.

The matt finish on this guy looks great, although it’s interesting to note the coat of paint on the overall body seems somewhat lighter than on other recent releases such as MP Sunstreaker and MP-44 Convoy. That’s no bad thing though, and the colour scheme is really pleasing overall. It carries over the warmer tones that we’ve seen on the more cartoon-accurate Masterpiece releases and “Plus” repaints in an attempt to ape the look of the characters from the original animation.

It works well in this case, and I particularly like the pea-green they’ve chosen for Hound. He more than recalls his on-screen look with ease.

What really sells this vehicle mode for me is the detailing, whether it’s the interior section, the winch on the front of the Jeep, the wing mirrors, the rather stunning headlights, or the little accessories such as the spare tyre and mounted rifle. It all works wonderfully well and makes MP-47 look and feel like a quality release in this mode. I will say that the wing mirrors do give me a slight amount of nervousness for how thin they are, but I haven’t actually had any problems with them and there is a spare set included in the package just in case.

One thing that is very notable though is how light this toy feels. He’s distinctly lacking in weight and feels positively airy next to other Masterpiece toys of this size. That’s not necessarily a complaint, although collectors who like a bit of heft might be somewhat surprised. The feel of the plastic used is also rather different to what we’re used to, and doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as I might have expected. Oh, and the lack of rubber tyres is not surprising, but still notable.

That said he looks superb when lined up next to his comrades, and ably fits the look and feel required. All of the little details and real-world touches come into play here, meaning that he more than carries his own next to the likes of the Datsuns or MP-20+ Wheeljack. Of course he’s rather oversized in comparison to some of his teammates, but then this line has always been about robot mode scale so that’s to be expected.

It’s certainly interesting looking at him next to the likes of MP-45 Bumblebee, which was of course the last G1 release in the line. The finish on Hound is noticeably superior, and the sculpt significantly more flush and well-put-together. Still, they work well alongside one another somehow.

The other obvious comparison to make here is with some of the third party MP-style Hounds that have dominated the proceedings over the last few years. I was a big fan of Maketoys Gundog, although for better or worse decided to move him along some time ago in favour of FansToys Willis. What Gundog possessed in fluidity and smoothness of design Willis just about makes up for in terms of build and good looks, although it’s worth noting that he’s really not much fun to transform at all. He does present very well in vehicle mode however, and there is still something appealing about the cold touch of diecast that he offers, not to mention his rubber tyres

That said, I think MP-47 takes this round to my eye, mainly because of how beautiful that unsegmented bonnet section looks. It’s a small thing but makes a bit difference. That said, if you’re already a fan of Willis then I don’t see a massive chasm between these two, necessarily.

Of course it’s not just Hound that features in this package, as we also get (yet another) Masterpiece Spike! The human character was originally paired up with Hound in the cartoon’s pilot adventure, More Than Meets the Eye, so it’s no surprise to see him featured here. What maybe is more surprising is how big he is.

He absolutely dwarfs the previous Masterpiece Spike that was included with MP-45 (or indeed any of the previous versions we’ve seen) in an effort to make him scale better with Hound’s oversized vehicle mode. He still features all of the extra articulation found in the smaller version though, including stuff like a waist swivel, ab crunch and bicep rotation, but is notably more detailed and better built. Where the smaller Spike has a tendency to pop apart in some sort of extreme body horror moment, Bigger Spike (as I’ve taken to calling him) stays together pretty well.

When you line up all of the various MP Spikes we’ve seen over the years it becomes a very bizarre tale indeed, and sort of throws the whole notion of consistent scale out of the window. Still, for what it’s worth I think this is the best version we’ve had since MP-10 Spike, and certainly the most stably-standing.

I’d also argue he scales better with a lot of the robot designs too, and even stuff like the couple of Masterpiece Targetmasters we’ve seen so far. I might use him quite a bit from now on, I think.

Of course his main purpose here is to fit inside Hound’s vehicle mode, and in that respect he does his job pretty well. It’s slightly fiddly to get him looking naturally seated and “holding” the steering wheel, but once you’ve achieved it everything looks pretty good.

All that additional articulation does breath a lot more life into Bigger Spike, especially given that he holds together so much better than his diminuitive namesake. I was able to crank a number of interesting poses out of him, and so there’s definitely a lot of fun to be had.

In terms of other accessories, Hound also features a roof cover accessory that clips into place over his vehicle mode for a dose of real-world accuracy. It’s entirely unexpected and not something that any of the third party versions thus far have attempted, so there’s something at least.

I do think it looks pretty good and the frosted windows are a really nice touch, but I suppose if I’m being honest it’s not something I’m likely to see myself using ever again. People often talk these days about Masterpiece accessories that they could have done without, and this does kinda fall into that category for me.

The other far cooler accessory available here is the hologram man that can take his rightful place in the driver’s seat to recall a scene from the cartoon where Hound shows off this ability to Spike. The translucent figurine is entirely static but looks really neat and is a nice touch if you like recreating the animation.

Oh, and in a final nod the designers have sort of managed to incorporate an attempt at a realistic engine under the bonnet section on this vehicle mode. It’s hardly exact but it’s a decent feature nonetheless. The MP line will never be shooting for Binaltech levels of real-world accuracy but this kind of stuff is still fun. Oh and hey, it’s a required step for Hound’s transformation too!

Much has been made online of MP-47’s transformation scheme, and so I was equal parts excited and nervous to give it a go myself. Here’s the thing – it is pretty intricate and certainly very involved, but actually I don’t think it’s much more complex that your average third party conversion and perhaps entirely on par with the likes of MP Sunstreaker, at least for the most part. The majority of the complexity is in the feet, which feature a couple of tricks that are nothing short of spectacular in how they contort to store away the various Jeep accessories out of sight. The rest of the main body is relatively simple by comparison, and shouldn’t present too much in the way of challenge in my opinion. Well, that would be true were it not for the purveying nervousness when it comes to Hound’s quality of plastic and the possibility of breakage.

I will state for the record that I haven’t had any of these problems problems myself, even after repeated transformations, but having read a lot of reports online where collectors have experienced snapping plastic joints and significant paint rub I’d be lying if it didn’t give me some pause. For what it’s worth I’ve been extremely careful with mine, not forcing any joints if I’m unsure of them and taking time to apply minimal pressure, and all I’ve noted on my copy is a tiny bit of paint wear on the inside of one of the knee joints, although it’s barely noticeable. Either way it’s probably fair to say this isn’t going to be the most robust warrior in your army, and should be treated with care.

That said once you’ve got him into robot mode he looks a treat! He’s surprisingly tidy from every angle, with nary a whiff of vehicular kibble to be seen. Perhaps the only offending impediment is that steering wheel hanging down and the rear assembly for his shoulder cannon, but even then they’re the kind of things that looks worse in photos than they ever do in hand. This is a handsome looking robot mode that ably recalls to mind the character’s look from the cartoon.

All of the smaller details are on-point and present in a way that the various third party versions can’t quite claim. The proportions too might seem a little unusual on their own, but match them up against the animation model and you immediately see what they were going for.

There’s been much debate online about the merits of the move toward more cartoon accuracy in the Masterpiece line, but I’d argue that Hound is one example that hits the right notes on the whole, managing to produce something that is both slavish to the intended source whilst still being pleasing in its own right.

He also boasts a fair amount of presence and personality, thanks largely to the impressive range of articulation on offer. When Sunstreaker was first released I talked a lot about how he felt more like a full-blown action figure than previous Masterpiece carbots, and Hound follows that trend. He’s lithe and poised in a way that earlier entries in the line can only dream of.

In fact the sheer range of moving parts here takes a while to become accustomed to. We’ve become increasingly familiar with stuff like ab crunches now, but the motion that can be achieved in this guy’s arms and hands takes things to new levels alone. I had a lot of fun playing around with Hound and putting him through his paces

Another concern I had from photos was the “floating head”. The way he transforms without breaking up the bonnet section means that his head and neck are held on a small arm connected to his back, and actually sit untabbed atop his chest section. It’s a weird solution no doubt, and does have its drawbacks, most notably that the range of motion at the neck is ever-so-slightly impeded by the arm holding it in place.

However the main worry that the floating head would look weird and not quite in the right place is not something that has bothered me at all, honestly speaking. It is a strange design choice, but not one that presents as a major turn off for this toy, in my opinion. In fact you barely notice it in hand.

So all in all it’s a very attractive robot form with some major plus points and a few nitpicks. In terms of accessories he looks really good next to Spike, who again I think sizes up really well with the established robot mode scale going on.

As well as his trademark gun Hound also features a translucent effects piece that pegs onto the end of it to recreate the look of him producing a hologram. It works well enough.

The Jeep mode’s roof cover can be used as a shield in robot mode, although frankly it’s a total pain in the wotsits to attach to his hand. Even then it’s heavy enough to weigh down his arm a little, making it a nice idea but not something I’ll be looking to try again.

Another small but neat feature is a key that can be hooked onto a pop-out peg on Hound’s waist section. It’s specifically meant to recreate a scene from the cartoon pilot adventure where the character captures Ravage in a cage.

As well as his stock face Hound features a few alternatives which can be easily swapped out by flipping open the top of his head. First up is a shouty face, which looks about as you’d expect!

Next up is a smiley face, which I have to say is my favourite of the bunch. It’s the one that most ably brings the character to life in my eyes, and looks way better than the default face even. I think this is likely to be the one that I’ll stick with the most.

Finally there’s also a nifty feature where you can flip down a translucent visor to give Hound his underwater appearance from the cartoon. It’s a simple gimmick but all the better for being incorporated into the design.

So, the real test – how does MP-47 fare next to the likes of FansToys Willis (or Maketoys Gundog). I think for my money the new Masterpiece toy is the best option available for a couple of reasons, most notably the playability factor that comes from how articulated and fun the robot mode is overall. I also think some of the smaller touches are really nicely executed and add up to a decent package overall, giving him the edge over the third party equivalents.

That said it’s hard for me to look at FT Willis as a distinct “loser” in this case. I still really like that figure and had MP-47 never materialised would have been more than happy to keep him representing the character on my shelf. His major drawback is the transformation scheme, but looks-wise he does a great job at bringing the character to 3D form, and even now I think I might prefer his facesculpt to the official version. I think if you have Willis already and you’re unsure about whether to go for MP-47 instead then it’s by no means a “necessary” upgrade.

I will say though that MP-47 does a clearly superior job at fitting in alongside the more recent Masterpiece releases in the line, and looks especially good next to Sunstreaker. You may not agree with the direction the line is going in but seeing them together like this makes it really work for me.

Likewise he fits in spectacularly next to MP-44 Convoy, with that animation aesthetic making them both appear like they’ve leapt from the screen.

So, that’s MP-47. Whilst not completely perfect, he’s still a fantastic attempt at bring Hound to life overall, and looks great as part of the current team roster. If you’re in the market for a Masterpiece Hound and you don’t mind being a little delicate with your toys as you’re handling them, then he’s worth sniffing out.

WHAT’S HOT? Great vehicle mode and a well-articulated robot mode with a lovely finish and nice paint. Some fun gimmicks and a decent Spike make this a good overall package.

WHAT’S NOT? The plastic quality is not quite up to other MP releases and there have been breakage reports (although mine seems ok). The transformation is kinda fiddly.

SHOP FOR THIS TOY AT TFSOURCE

TTFN

About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at twitter.com/SixoTF or on YouTube at youtube.com/SixoTF

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