It feels like we’ve been on a bit of a run of Fans Hobby reviews of late. It wasn’t so long ago that we took a look at their excellent God Armor (as well as the corresponding black version) after which it was the tricked-out Power Baser repaint, Lightning Eagle. One thing all of those (and indeed their previous back catalogue) have in common is that they’re extremely chunky – more than bulked out enough to catalyse Transformers fans into making any number of “they didn’t skip leg / arm / head day” jokes all day long.
For their latest release, Fans Hobby have done something a little different though. Instead of another beefy boy, they’re bringing us their smallest and sveltest figure to date with Athena, who is intended as an interpretation of Minerva from the Japanese Masterforce line.
If you’re not yet up on just who Minerva is or indeed what Masterforce is all about, then fear not – we got you covered. Just head on over to my unboxing video where we go through some history on the character as well as an initial overview on the toy itself.
Which brings us nicely to our in-depth examination of that vehicle mode, and it’s only fair to say that it’s looking pretty fabulous overall! The sight of a Porsche 959 tricked out with Red Cross emblems has always been a slightly unusual one, but it certainly makes for a distinctive visual and Fans Hobby have recreated it extremely well here.
The emblems themselves are actually stickers which come on a separate sheet with the rest of the in-box paperwork. There’s a split cross for the bonnet (required for transformation) and one for each of the doors (plus a few other decals, as we’ll see). They’re extremely easy to apply (even the two halves on the bonnet) and seem to adhere just fine so far.
I’ve already read a couple of mixed responses to the idea of putting stickers on a Masterpiece-styled toy, but ultimately I presume that this was a necessary solution in order to avoid possible complications with The Red Cross themselves. Let’s not forget that Masterpiece Ratchet employed a similar solution after all.
Besides, once they’re applied you really do kinda forget that they were never there, as they certainly complete the look of the car mode for me. I thought it looked pretty swish before, but if anything it must’ve appeared quite plain by comparison!
The stickers match well with the red paint applications elsewhere, most notably the curved stripe on the rear section of the car mode. The paint is crisp and nicely-applied, which is especially notable where the line remains consistent across multiple panels despite them needing to separate during transformation.
The red also adds a much-needed splash of colour to that predominantly white colour scheme, along with other sections such as the translucent plastic lightbar on the roof.
Translucent plastic can be found elsewhere too, which the headlights looking really lovely and quite lifelike.
Other little touches include those moveable wing mirrors, which are connected via small clips right out of the box. They don’t seem to be fragile at all, so no worries there, although I do find that they need a bit of adjustment during play and posing to make sure that they’re pointing the right way!
The tyres are a decent approximation at looking and feeling like rubber, although in truth I’m still undecided as to just exactly what they’re made out of! My best guess is that they’re simply cast in soft plastic and so have a slightly squishy feel to them, but I could be wrong. Either way they look great.
It’s worth noting that the car mode will stand on all four wheels unimpeded by the undercarriage kibble, although the clearance is quite tight and relies on you having everything transformed fairly crisply in order to not have robot bits dragging along the floor. Assuming that you get it all just so, then Athena should roll quite nicely.
Otherwise the entire car mode is loaded with attractive detailing, such as the vents at the front and the rear, as well as a petrol cap, door handles and the like. It’s a healthy amount of attention-to-detail and ultimately helps to sell this car mode as being suitably Masterpiece-style.
The overall finish is decent too, and although the main body is bare plastic it still looks really good for it. Besides, it’s quite a relief to be able to handle a toy like this without worrying about paint chipping for a change, so I’ll take it!
As an additional touch, there are some further stickers which can be applied to both bumpers that resemble licence plates. The one for the front is slightly smaller, and although it doesn’t match the grey paint that it goes on top of it still looks surprisingly good in hand!
I say that as I was honestly a bit skeptical about applying these particular stickers, and had thought I’d give it a go purely for the purpose of writing a comprehensive review. However, now that they’ve been applied I quite like them and will definitely be keeping them in place! It’s slightly strange to have this releases’ MB-12 designation emblazoned on the toy itself, but if anything I guess it’s at least a little consistent with some TakaraTomy efforts in the official line.
Speaking of which, Athena lines up extremely well versus the Masterpiece carbots, fitting in nicely in terms of size and proportions.
Stylistically there are differences, most notably the unpainted finish, but really unless you’re scrutinising then you’d be hard-pushed to argue that she doesn’t fit in well with an official crew.
I particularly like that Fans Hobby gave her a set of blue-tinted windows in order to help everything feel consistent with the more-recent Masterpiece releases. It works a treat as well as providing a very welcome splash of additional colour.
In fact it’s almost uncanny how well Athena slots in next to the original Ark crew of Autobots overall, despite her coming from a very different place in terms of fiction.
This has always been one of the things I’ve most enjoyed about a Masterpiece-styled line-up – seeing different ‘bots all represented in similar form, making them feel consistent with one another, where previously their G1 toys were all kinds of odd shapes and sizes. I said as much about X-Transbots’ Stunticons but Athena is another great example of why this works so well.
Ultimately Athena looks remarkably at home in a Masterpiece rescue ‘bot squad, complementing the likes of Masterpiece Prowl and Ratchet, along with the many other emergency vehicles we’ve seen done already.
Of course Athena is more than just a pretty car mode, as the main character in question here is actually represented by the small driver figure that accompanies it.
It’s funny that this is actually the second copy of a Minerva mini-figure that we’ve received from Fans Hobby, with the first one having been packaged with their God Armor release. This version is identical and looks absolutely brilliant alongside her fully-realised car form at last.
Although they’re famed for big ‘bots, Fans Hobby do great work with the little details too, and so it is here. The driver figure is really tiny but impresses for how much detail is packed in at the same time. There’s a surprising amount of poseability and play that can be derived, too.
One thing that is slightly odd is how Athena’s face is just sat on the driver’s back when you turn it around, not to mention how the face has a bit of a habit of coming unpegged without the helmet section in place to hold it. Still, you can just remove the face and leave it to one side if you prefer!
Ultimately the little driver figure adds a whole world of play value and intrigue to this release, making you feel that other releases are almost a bit bog standard without such an inclusion, if anything!
Of course the real fun here is that the driver can be stowed away inside the car itself, although doing so requires you to remove the roof section first.
There’s an attempt at a real interior going on here, even if it doesn’t look like any car I’ve ever seen! Ultimately it would have been very difficult to create anything too accurate, and credit where it’s due as Fans Hobby have included a couple of stickers for this section too, allowing you to spruce it up a little.
There’s even space for some accessory storage too, with the helmet for the robot head and the two guns all stowing away in different sections securely. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere for the spare robot face to go, but hey – I guess you can’t have everything!
With a bit of wrangling, the driver fits snugly inside the interior and can be posed to look as if she’s driving the car. You can even replace the roof section and flip up the windshield to get a closer look, if you wish.
Once you get everything tabbed back in it all looks pretty great with the driver in proper position! It’ll be really quite something to see this lined up with Fans Hobby’s take on Goshooter and Cab, too.
In the meantime, the mini-Minerva fits in quite nicely with a raft of other Masterpiece-styled interpretations of humanoid characters. She’s noticeably smaller than official attempts such as Nightstick, who partners with MP-37 Artifre though.
That said, Nightstick himself is woefully out of scale with how human figures have been presented elsewhere in the MP line (such as MP-10 Spike), so ultimately the “correct” size for toys like this is very much open to interpretation!
Athena’s driver does fit in surprisingly well alongside Maketoys’ efforts, with their Headmaster and Targetmaster companions both standing about the same size.
She looks good opposite FansToys’ Headmasters too, although weirdly their Targetmasters are bigger again!
Ultimately she looks most at home next to the representations of Shuta and Cab we’ve already seen with God Armor, and unsurprisingly there’s a lot of value in seeing the two releases lined up with one another.
In fact I think Fans Hobby are honestly bringing us some of the best interpretations of these little chaps overall, with the likes of their Ginrai figure still setting the standard for what can be achieved at this scale, to my eye.
Unsurprising then that these two miniature warriors work so well together, as indeed do their vehicles. It’s quite impressive to see what Fans Hobby are steadily assembling here.
I really hope we won’t have to wait too long for more, to be honest!
Let’s not forget the likes of their Decepticons too, as Double Evil also works amazingly well alongside Athena, and brings a notable sense of scale to the proceedings!
Credit where it’s due, as it often feels like third party companies can be easily distracted by changing moods or just by chasing the latest craze or whatever, but Fans Hobby have remained remarkably consistent in their line-up thus far (despite a few deviations here and there). Whilst we’ve all been hanging on waiting for the third Decepticon Headmaster from FansToys for years now, it feels like it won’t be long before Fans Hobby have Masterforce all sewn up at this rate!
In terms of other comparisons, I sadly don’t own a copy of the original Minerva toy, and I’m unlikely to any time soon, either! However it’s still interesting to see how Athena shakes up next to her mould-mate, Nightbeat.
There’s little doubt that the Porche form is represented a little more elegantly this time around (although I will defend Nightbeat’s charm till my dying day!), as is the Headmaster figure itself. Fans Hobby have of course also teased their take on a Nightbeat too, so I can’t wait to see how that plays out.
Oh and why not see how Athena lines up with her teammates in Generation 1 form too, eh? Or at least the Hasbro versions thereof. This will be a very impressive line-up once Fans Hobby have finished it, I’m sure!
For today though there’s more than enough to enjoy with Athena so far, as she’s definitely making a strong first impression in that car mode.
Join us soon for part two when we’ll be talking transformation and taking a look at that tantalising robot mode!