Welcome to the second part of our look at Masterpiece MP-49 Black Convoy! Last time it was all about that rather spiffing vehicle mode, and we started talking a bit about how this repainted version of the MP-44 mould had trimmed things back a little in order to deliver a significantly slimmer package overall.
Of course, one of the main aspects of MP-44 that has been widely talked about online is the transformation, with many collectors all-too-eager to point out the WTF level of intricacy going on in order to convert this toy between modes. Well, it’s no less complex this time around, but with MP-49 having eschewed his predecessor’s heavily-painted finish, things are at least a little less hair-raising now!
Where previously you might find yourself holding your breath or saying a quick prayer to whomever you fancy during the transformation, the very nature of having no paint to chip or scratch makes Black Convoy a significantly less worrisome (and therefore way more fun!) process. And yes, I did say it was fun.
See, here’s the thing. I’ve long maintained that complex transformations (even ones as bananas as this) don’t have to be torturous; in fact they can often be highly enjoyable! Equally, I know of plenty of toys that have notably less convoluted conversions that somehow still manage to squeeze all the enjoyment out of it by how they frustrate you along the way. Black Convoy is perhaps the best evidence I’ve encountered to back up my point.
I say that as someone who had been nervous to give MP-44 another round after initially getting him in hand, but honestly I really relished getting to grips with this design all over again, and found there was plenty to love and admire about how it twisted and turned back-and-forth between modes. It may be complicated, yes, but everything tabs so beautifully, snaps together so tightly and, well, just comes together in a manner that never ceases to cause amazement that it truly is a work of art, in many ways.
Will it be for everyone? No, of course not, and I’ve little doubt that many fans will continue to be turned off by the notion of having to complete such a time-consuming and elaborate undertaking. Yet there’s honestly not really anything to worry about here if you take your time and think through each stop logically. I’ve genuinely come to enjoy it, as I say!
And what a result it is. There are few Transformers designs that can claim to be anywhere near as iconic as Optimus Prime in his original form, and this mould recreates it down to a tee. I know there are many who do not like the more-recent lurch toward heightened levels of cartoon accuracy, but surely there’s little doubt that this thing looks the business, right?
Yep, it’s pretty fabulous from every angle, with even that large backpack (something that could be considered a legitimate nitpick on the MP-44 release) seeming significantly more in proportion when worn in this colour scheme, somehow.
The proportions, the sculpt, the overall look – they’re all just excellent, and make this toy a joy to behold purely on account of how great it looks.
Of course, then there’s the fact that this is one of the most intuitively-articulated figures I think I’ve held in a long time. I’ve mentioned before that, regardless of your opinion on the aesthetics, one thing the more-recent Masterpiece toys have wholly embraced for the better is a considerable helping of extra poseability, including in ways that I’d never even considered before. To my mind, the first real example of this was MP-36 Megatron, followed swiftly by MP-39 Sunstreaker, in that they both boasted stuff like shoulders that could move back and forth, outward ankle tilt, wrists that contort in an exceptionally lifelike manner… not to mention arms and leg joints that feature just that extra little push of movement that allows for more extreme posing.
None of it may sound revolutionary, and to be fair, it’s not. They’re all little touches in the grand scheme of things, but add them together and you find yourself with a superbly-articulated action figure that just happens to be a transforming robot. Honestly, it makes stuff like MP-12 Sideswipe look like a brick, by comparison, and I genuinely maintain that it’s one of those aspects on a toy like this that needs to be experienced in hand to fully appreciate.
That might sound like high praise indeed, but honestly, I’ve had more fun posing this toy than anything else in recent memory, no question. That’s especially true of MP-49 now that I don’t have the slightest concern about the finish, too. He’s just a joy to handle.
Well, all except for a slight give in the knees, maybe. Much was made of this part of the design on MP-44 as being a serious flaw, in that the knees often gave way somehow. In truth I never once found it to be a problem on that toy at all (so much so that I was scratching my head a bit as to what the fuss was about, honestly). Here it’s been claimed that TakaraTomy have redesigned the knees just a smidge in order to smooth out any issues, but somehow I find that my copy has just the slightest propensity for coming untabbed in that area during movement. It’s not a major problem by any means, but it is worth a mention at least. I do wish he felt just a tiny bit more sturdy in a couple of areas, too, although he certainly has no difficulty holding a pose.
In fact with a bit of thought and consideration, it’s incredible to see the sheer number of bizarre yet dynamic poses you can crank out of this chap.
The other thing I’m going to gush over a bit is the headsculpt. MY. WORD. It is honestly one of the best designs I have seen on any Transformers toy in years. Just look at that thing! Oh, and it’s just superb with MP-49’s sultry red eyes and darker-yet-sparkly face, too.
Should you prefer then MP-49 retains just one of the original’s alternate heads, and it’s the design that is meant to ape Optimus Prime’s alternate look from the original on-screen animation. Personally I don’t care for it as much as the stock head and if I’m being honest, I don’t really see the need for its inclusion here, but it’s still an option should you prefer.
In terms of other accessories, you can of course equip him with his signature ion blaster, which looks nothing shy of incredible in hand. Sadly it doesn’t peg all that securely into his palm, however, and it will require you to make sure that the fingers are closed as tightly as possible to have a decent chance of staying put. You can also stow it away on his back, if you prefer, or indeed on his bum, in a strange twist.
There’s also a blast effect piece included for the rifle, which pegs in onto the end and makes it look like Black Convoy is firing away. I like that they cast it in this character’s signature teal colour for a bit of a change.
Also in teal is his energon axe, which can be put into place on either arm by removing his hand from the joint and tabbing in the weapon instead. I’ll admit that I’m a little over the idea of Optimus toys coming with such an accessory now (hey, it was novel back in 2003…), but that said it does look superb on MP-49 and definitely works well with the evil twist on the character in question.
Finally he comes with a matrix accessory to slot inside his chest cavity (of course!), which is now coloured in an attractive red to match his tinted windows and eyes. It looks the absolute business, needless to say.
So, as I mentioned last time, this is an appreciably paired-down package overall, featuring a mere fraction of MP-44’s almost-bloated set of accessories in total. Still, he has everything you could conceivably need in order to make this repainted version work, and feels all the more streamlined for it. Robot + gun + axe = fun.
Truthfully, whilst I thought I might miss some of the previous version’s bells and whistles, I found myself having more than enough enjoyment from what Black Convoy had to offer. A trailer would have be nice in some ways, but really, you don’t think about it all that much!
I was also initially quite skeptical about MP-49’s unpainted finish, and whilst I do think that it looks a tiny bit less special as a result, he’s still more than won me over enough by allowing me to sit and have fun with the thing without being even a little concerned about the consequences. Besides, he still looks pretty terrific, eh?
So I suppose the big question we should be asking then, is which of these two is the best version for you to go in on as a first experience of the mould? Well, they both have their merits, that’s for sure.
MP-44 works in how it so slavishly and faithfully brings to life the heroic Autobot leader as we know and admire him from the animation, and in that regard it’s a resounding success. Some people may not like the look, but personally I adore it, and even then you can’t deny that it accomplishes what it sets out to with aplomb. It also looks exceptional in hand, sporting a beautifully thick layer of paint that lets you know this is a premium release (even if it does have a price tag to match).
By comparison, MP-49 keeps things very simple. Minimal accessories, yes, but also a very different look and feel on account of the mostly bare plastic on offer here. Paint applications are present, but they’re surprisingly understated for a typical Masterpiece release (and perhaps especially so for one of this size).
I would even go further and say that some sections, such as the teal plastic finish on the crotch section, look a little undercooked as a result, and a straight-up comparison of the two toys will no doubt showcase how much nicer the painted thighs on MP-44 are versus MP-49’s bare grey plastic. I say that despite him presenting well on the whole, mind.
But here’s the thing, I have already had one or two paint scratches on my MP-44 (including one that was very significant), which I have been able to fix but have left me feeling that nervousness I mentioned when it came to handling him. By comparison, I find that I can pick, play with and pose MP-49 without a shred of worry. There’s something to be said for that.
MP-44 may end up feeling all the more premium as a result, but truthfully MP-49 takes it as the toy that you can have fun with, in my mind.
Mind you, both of these will set you back a pretty penny or two, and I don’t doubt that there’s an argument to say that even with his reduced retail price, MP-49 is still a hefty outlay overall.
Still, taking everything that you get out of this design into account, I think it’s worth the price of admission overall – at least to me. As I said, it genuinely is the most fun I’ve had messing around with and posing any Transformers toy in a little while, and so by that estimation alone, it’s hard to not sit back and think it’s value for money, somehow.
I guess really, the next big question is what lies beyond this? It’s surprising to some that we’ve still only had one repaint of the MP-36 Megatron mould in the three-and-a-half years since it was first released, yet here we are already on our second time around for the latest Convoy design from barely a year ago.
Perhaps that’s by and large due to Convoy’s popularity in Japan (which, let’s remember, is still the main target demographic for this line, at the end of the day), but either way there’s little doubt that we’ll see further releases of this mould at some point in the not-too-distant future.
I guess you only have to look at the fact that they’re still finding new and, in some cases, bizarre colours schemes to give us for the MP-10 mould as evidence to suggest that this could simply be the first of many when it comes to a long line of potential MP-44 recolours, in which case it’s also fun to speculate what future designs we might see.
I’m still very much hoping for both a blue Powered Convoy and a yellow Shining Magnus homage myself, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens another day, won’t we? It’ll be fun finding out.
For today though, MP-49 more than brings the goods as the first MP-44 repaint in the Masterpiece ranks, and by my estimation presents enough variation that he could be a serious consideration for collectors who vetoed the idea of going in on the original.
If nothing else, he marks another notch in the grand old tradition of Black Convoys being a thing. It’s great to see all different iterations of Convoy in the Masterpiece line having been given the treatment in such a fine fashion.
That’s to say nothing of the now endless black versions of Optimus Prime designs that we’ve seen through the years. It may be almost an expectation by now, but that doesn’t make it any less fun when it happens.
One things for sure, it means we can finally say with confidence that, yes, it does indeed come in black, and it’s awesome.
WHAT’S HOT? This toy is *loads* of fun. Great truck mode, superb robot mode, fun transformation for those who like that kind of thing! The unpainted finish means that you won’t have to worry about handling him so much, either.
WHAT’S NOT? The backpack is still relatively sizeable and the knees on my copy have a habit of coming untabbed a little.