REVIEW: TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-48 Lio Convoy (part one)

It seems like we’ve had a few new Masterpiece toys to review of late, with both MP Hound and Bumblebee being given the treatment just recently. Well now it’s that time again except now we’re back on a Beast Wars kick, which is pretty exciting as they’re typically some of my favourites from the line! But wait, this one is a bit of a twist as it’s a character from Beast Wars II –  it’s Lio Convoy!

So if you haven’t seen the show (and you haven’t watched my unboxing video which explains all of this in more detail!), he’s the leader of the good guys in that series, which is a sequel to the original Beast Wars show many of us know and love. His beast form is that of a glorious white lion with a golden mane, something this toy replicates with a fair degree of accuracy (to the cartoon, not to actual lion anatomy!).

So, where to begin on this mode. Well, it’s drawn a bit of a mixed reception online ever since the first promo pictures of it were released, and to be honest I can see why. Whilst you do expect that there will always be an element of visible kibble with these realistic beast modes (even in Masterpiece form), Lio Convoy pushes this to the extremes of acceptability.

Even a cursory glance from any angle will reveal a fair portion of noticeable robot bits & bobs seeping through, with the obvious offenders being the red forearms and hands near the front and the prominent red kneecaps on the lion’s rear legs.

However it kind of goes beyond that, as a side view shows you just how obvious the various seams and joints on this toy really are. Whereas designs like MP Dinobot and Megatron did a bang-up job at cohesively tabbing together to give a mostly smooth animal form, here it feels like there are a lot of joins and flaps that don’t blend very well and that we just sort of have to live with.

Here’s the thing though, whilst those obvious joints aren’t ideal, I have to be honest and say they don’t entirely detract from my enjoyment or appreciation of this mode. Yes, it’s not the tidiest and some bits of the kibble are a tad unsightly, but the overall form still appeals, to my eye.

In terms of articulation I did find Lio Convoy to be a bit of a mixed bag in beast mode. Whilst there are in theory all the right joints available to have him pull off some nice poses, it doesn’t go far enough for me in allowing you to get really creative with how the lion mode could be posed.

Perhaps the most obvious comparison to demonstrate my point is Masterpiece Cheetor, which, despite his faults, is a toy that does a great job at giving us a lithe and highly poseable cat mode. The hinge joints in the front legs and the foot tilt allow you to accomplish a number of interesting feline poses with that toy, but they’re all elements sadly missing on Lio Convoy.

I think the main problem is the front legs really, as whilst the back legs do allow for a relatively extensive range of motion the front set are so dependant on the robot mode arms staying in place that they’re missing a lot of potential movement. Even when I did try for some more dynamic poses I found that I was untabbing the robot arms in the process.

I will say that Cheetor does do a better job at hiding much of that aforementioned robot mode kibble too, despite those less-than-ideal hind legs.

Much has also been made online of the beast mode head, with many people definitely not liking the stylised look this figure is serving up. Again, if you’ve seen my unboxing video then you’ll know it’s at least true to the celluloid animation of the cartoon he hails from and does recreate the character pretty faithfully.

I guess it’s surprising to see that he almost looks kinda… cute? Not to mention very friendly, almost cuddly. Not exactly the down-to-business military commander he’s often portrayed as being (though he does have his lighter moments in the cartoon!). That said I really don’t mind it myself and I do think the face works well overall. The detail looks really good and the paint on the teeth and the mouth is very nicely done. You can kinda open the mouth although it involves lifting up the top half of the beast head which looks very strange if you do it too much, so it’s less than ideal.

Again, if we were to compare to a toy like Cheetor, then it’s only fair to say that it’s not as exciting as the moveable eyes or poseable whiskers on that figure, but hey.

One thing I do like quite a bit is the golden mane, which looks great overall and especially so from certain fortuitous angles where it helps to hide a lot of the kibble quite substantially.

I’ll be honest and say it actually took me a little while to spot the triangular beast mode ears in amongst all of the orange mane section! It’s a shame that they’re not painted to match the white of the beast face, although I guess I can understand why that’s not the case given some paint rub concerns. The side sections of the mane which are connected to the robot mode arms and front beast legs also look a little strange, but then they’re hiding a secret surprise…

Yep, they flip open to reveal hidden blasters which you can pop a set of missiles into. There’s an additional set of launchers hidden in the top of the mane too, although this bit involves spinning around an entire section of the hair and flipping open a couple of panels, making it much more discreet when not deployed.

This gimmick might look a bit odd but it’s a direct recreation of one of Lio Convoy’s abilities from the cartoon and to my eye is actually kinda fun, in that it makes him look a bit like a cat-tank. You can leave the missiles in place when you fold all the various launchers back to their hidden position but then they will stick out just a smidge so my preference is to remove them.

The other main gimmick on offer with this beast form is a set of deployable claws which are tucked away in the front legs. They look cool enough (and are surprisingly sharp) but it’s equally hard to find a pose where they really work well. It’s basically impossible to have the lion mode standing tall on its back legs without a lot of creative posing (and especially not without looking fairly awkward!), but the front legs equally won’t bend up enough to allow the claws to be deployed in any meaningful fashion. Let’s just say I can’t imagine anyone using this as a posing option.

So overall  I guess it’s a bit of a mixed bag with this mode. I know a lot of people won’t be convinced about the look of it, although for my money I think as a whole package it’s actually quite decent. It’s fair to say that of the two modes on offer here this is definitely the one that took a large share of the compromise, which does pay off substantially if you plan on having your Lio Convoy mostly posed up in his robot mode, as we’ll see.

Still, he does do a really great job at evoking the look and style of the character as we saw him on-screen, something that’s only accentuated by lining him up with the MP-38 “Legendary Leader” version of Beast Wars Convoy (or Optimus Primal, if you’d prefer). I’m a big fan of that particular repaint and the “flat” colour scheme and cleanly-painted lines really do gel very well next to MP-48.

It will be really interesting to see if TakaraTomy continues to mine this bit of the Beast Wars franchise (or even the further spin-off, Beast Wars Neo) for later Masterpiece designs, but even as a double-act these two look pretty fabulous together.

Right, that’s the beast mode. Be sure to join us next time when we’ll be taking a look at how this cat fares once you contort him into that rather lush-looking robot form!

SHOP FOR THIS TOY AT TFSOURCE

TTFN

About Sixo

Transformers photographer & blogger from the UK with quite a well-known carpet. Collects both vintage G1/G2 and Masterpiece/3P.

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