REVIEW: Ocular Max PS-04A Azalea Alternative (part 1)

Some characters have a long and convoluted history when it comes to being represented in Masterpiece style, whether official or non, and Arcee is likely one of the examples many people would think of. Although a TakaraTomy toy is finally on the way, it’s not exactly been met with the warmest of receptions so far, with many writing it off on account of the promotional photography alone.

There have also been third party takes aplenty, with at least three of those attempts hovering in the arena of being just about cartoon-accurate enough to be a serious consideration for any Masterpiece collector’s shelf (to say nothing of some of the more weird and wonderful interpretations outside of that). However, even some of those have had their fair share of mixed feedback for various reasons, leading many to proclaim that this is a character that perhaps simply cannot be done justice.

Step forward Ocular Max (perhaps you’ve heard of them? Maybe from the seemingly dozens of articles about their toys I appear to have been pumping out of late!), who actually managed to wow pretty much everyone with their first Azalea release when it hit the market, with most reviewers and collectors giving it the veritable two thumbs up.

Here’s the thing though – yours truly skipped it, didn’t he? Like a mug I concluded that it wasn’t something I desperately needed at the time, even though I have to admit to at least being tempted. So what’s changed? Well, firstly, this is the subsequent “Alternative” version of Azalea, which is now decked out in all-new colour scheme (ok, it’s a darker pink) and a few extra stylistic flourishes. The concept is to make the toy more reminiscent of the character’s “Studio Ox” appearance from the pages of TV Magazine, which ran stories about the robots in disguise during Generation 1 in Japan.

As for me now giving it a go, well, let’s just say that Ocular Max have been on such a roll with me of late, I figured it was worth a punt at long last, and this new take provided just the opportunity for that. Simple, really. So, how does Azalea fare, and is she the Masterpiece-styled Arcee of my dreams, as so many might suggest she could be?

OK, ok, first things first – the car mode. Before even opening the box the obvious thing to say is that it’s tiny! Like, way smaller than I thought it would be.

Second thing – it’s fairly tidy, with everything feeling solidly tabbed together and quite cohesive on the whole.

I don’t know if I would say it’s the cleanest-looking design I have seen out of Ocular Max though, with a lot of obvious joints and seems, not to mention the clear presence of engineered parts and screws going on around the interior section. There is at least an attempt to craft a pair of seats, so that’s something, but it’s hard to not look at that portion of the vehicle form and think it’s at least a little messy.

There is also some obvious kibble in other places too, such as the clear presence of feet hanging out of the back of the car. I think it’s more abrupt on this version of the toy on account of the prominent heels it’s rocking, but still.

You will then find a set of very thin wheels all doing their best to rest stably on a flat surface, although you can pretty much forget about this thing rolling along with any real intent. I do really like how it sits so low to the ground though, making it appear as though it’s almost hovering, just as it should be.

Those points aside though, there are a number of other aspects that make it look good on the whole, including a very striking shade of pink. It contrasts wonderfully with the white, but I also love the tiny translucent blue highlights and what they bring to the mix. It’s subtle but really pops.

As for how well Azalea performs when it comes to standing in for Arcee in Masterpiece-style, I have to say I think it’s a decent effort overall here, even if far from perfect.

It’s clearly quite a stylised rendition in many respects, although where it succeeds is in most of the key details being where they should be. The front of the bonnet is spot on, the vent on top is present (although doesn’t sit flush again the windscreen), and that little pink fin sits in pride of place atop the car. Funnily enough it’s actually an optional piece which can be replaced with a flat alternative, but for my money the fin is such a classic part of Arcee’s look that it’s just a no-brainer to have it.

Where it departs from the source though is in the general proportions of the thing. The bare details may be present, but the shape is very different and the way the legs connect at the sides creates enough of a visual break from the animation model to set it apart.

Overall, it’s certainly not a bad attempt, especially as it seems that this character’s vehicle form is one that is hard to deliver alongside an equally-successful robot mode, and I’m sure for most collectors this will be “close enough” to be given a nod of approval on the whole.

Perhaps we’re just a bit spoilt with all those other options now, but it’s also worth acknowledging that for all its many perceived faults so far, the official toy does appear to have an incredibly stunning alternate form at least. Azalea and the other 3PMP takes have stiff competition in that regard.

Really though, there’s enough good going on here to strike a balance against some of the legitimate nitpicks I do have about it. It ain’t perfect but it’s not so shabby either, and it does at least look decent enough versus any number of other Masterpiece-styled efforts.

I guess part of me is wondering how much people prioritise Arcee’s alt’ mode at this stage, as I feel like a lot of collectors might be happy to take a few compromises here in order to try and deliver a superior robot form on the whole.

The big question, then, is do they manage it? I guess we shall have to see in part two, soon!

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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