Welcome to the second part of our extended look at Ocular Max Azalea, their recent take on a Masterpiece-styled Arcee. Back in part one, we assessed that the vehicle mode is a tiny and fairly striking thing, although one with a fair dose of compromise to boot, as seems to be the way with toys of this character! How will the robot mode fare?
Much has been made online about the transformation on offer here, so I was certainly intrigued to experience it for myself. Arcee toys seem to swing one of two ways, by either being ridiculously over-complicated in order to achieve something resembling the required look, or by playing it very simple indeed and just living with the result. This one falls somewhere comfortably in the middle of that, perhaps rather fortunately!
In fact I’d say there’s just the right amount of challenge going on here, with a decent dose of complexity and clever engineering, but with everything still twisting in what you could kind of argue is the expected fashion. The legs are especially uneventful, but that’s no bad thing either, whereas the upper body could honestly be done without instructions. Perhaps my only real gripe here is how the “wings” never seem to tab into anything all that sturdily, meaning that they have a bit of a tendency to move around a fair bit during handling.
Still, as takes on the character go, this certainly veers on the right side of “how it should be done” territory, even managing to spit out a very attractive (and surprisingly clean-looking) robot form indeed!
Yep, there’s no mistaking who this is meant to be, is there? Yet even with so many other attempts at Arcee available now, this one manages to add a bit of a twist and provides something a little different in how it chases the character’s Studio Ox” appearance, as she was depicted in the pages of TV Magazine during Japanese Generation 1.
It’s not such a stunning shift as to make Azalea unrecognisable in any way, but there are some notable differences to Ocular Max’s original design, no doubt. The most obvious of those is definitely the colour scheme.
Whereas the first Azalea had a brighter and arguably softer shade of pink employed, this update opts for a distinctly darker and more saturated finish, also contrasting with a brilliant white. It looks really good in robot mode, and certainly sets it apart from the original.
In fact the colours on the whole are wonderful, and whilst the finish may be unpainted, this toy still manages to present very nicely. I’m a big fan of how “clean” the stark white makes it look, for starters.
I will say that I’m less of a fan of the lighter pink found on areas such as the biceps, mind, as somehow it just looks a little odd when you line it up next to the white on the legs. It’s a weird choice too, as I don’t believe it’s necessarily all that specific to the intended source, but there you go.
Anyway, I’m not grumbling really, because Azalea does look great on the whole. The finer paint applications are all on-point as well, with even a close-up examination showing how crisp and even everything is.
The other main difference to the original version that you’ll no doubt notice right away are the redesigned feet, with Azalea now sporting a pair of heels, no less. Arcee toys can be notoriously hard to stand up stably and unfortunately this addition does precisely nothing to aid that here, although arguably that’s more to do with some rather unforgivably loose joints in the ankles than anything else.
The decision to use pins in this area is a baffling one, as sadly the friction provided is simply not enough to prevent Azalea from taking a tumble or five when trying to get her properly posed. The heels don’t help, mind, and it does mean that my experience with handling her has been a bit of a mixed bag on the whole.
I mean, don’t get me wrong – she can pose very nicely, as hopefully some of the accompanying photographs will demonstrate. It’s just that actually securing her in such a pose can be more than a little fiddly at times, which is something that could have been so easily rectified with a better solution for those ankles. Everything else is relatively solid on this toy, but that seems to be a bit of a crucial spot in terms of getting her stood stably.
It’s a real shame as the actual articulation allowed for here is magnificent. There’s a fantastic range of motion available at all of the various joints, and everything moves in a way that looks mostly quite natural, thus meaning that you can contort Azalea into fantastic poses with little effort as long as you don’t plan on having her standing up, necessarily.
One thing that is a little odd though is how you’re required to pull her legs down at the hips in order to facilitate a little more clearance for posing. I can’t help but feel that there could have been a more elegant solution for how the legs were designed here, as constantly sliding them up and down just to be able to pose her properly is a bit of a weird one.
I’m also not in love with how the knee pads move with the legs. They tend to remain in place with the thigh section and end up looking a bit bizarre, to my eye. It’s not a major problem, but something about it just doesn’t feel quite as elegant as perhaps it could.
Another very strange solution employed by this toy is the hands. I’ll admit it, I was simply not prepared for Azalea coming with non-articulated swappable hands. When I first clocked it during my Unboxing video, I was quite surprised and at least a little disappointed.
Now, the hands themselves do actually look quite good, for the most part. There are four options altogether, including closed fists, gun grips, open palms and a pair that seem to be subtly pointing. Of those, I think the fists and the gun grips are the most successful on the whole, and in particular I like how the latter manages to wrap convincingly round the handle of the weapons with the index fingers resting suitably on the triggers.
However… is it just me that thinks the hands look a bit oversized? At least in comparison to the proportions of your typical Transformers toy, they just seem to be a tad too large for my tastes. It’s not shocking, but it can make Azalea look a little goofy from the wrong angle, somehow.
Still, there’s no denying the guns themselves do look excellent when in situ, and it is indeed a veritable ton of fun to pose her with them both on the go. Something about the inherently posable nature of this toy really lends itself to working well with such armament. It makes mean work of a character that is all too often presented in a very different light.
Coming back to the hands, the two options for open palms also have a bit of a habit of looking a little oversized, but can still be used to great effect depending on how you’re trying to pose the toy.
It’s not hard to use them in all manner of different ways quite creatively, and to be fair the process of swapping them out is at least really easy to do!
I’m just still rather underwhelmed by it as a solution on the whole. I know in my heart of hearts that I’ll always find it a bit of a faff to have to reach for her pile of accessories any time I want to pose her hands in any way, as I’ve already caught myself tutting when they needed changing for different photos. It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just not a design choice I’m keen on, I guess!
What does work infinitely better is the more-traditional face swap gimmick, which again allows for four different options. The default face is a little stark for my taste but I really think the shade of pink looks great with the blue eyes at least.
I’m much more of a fan of the slight smirk found on the choice above, as it looks fab and definitely fits the character very nicely, in my opinion.
As well as a wider grin, there is then also the visor option from the 1986 movie, in reference to when Arcee zooms in to see Hot Rod and Kup outside the city walls. It looks really neat and works well even outside of referencing that particular scene.
Overall then, there are definitely some nice options when it comes to displaying Azalea, and to be fair there’s a lot to like about this robot mode on the whole. I guess maybe I was expecting to be utterly blown away by it, based on the general word-of-mouth about her on the internet, whereas my actual reaction in-hand has been decidedly more muted.
Again, don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot to like here. She looks fab, handles nicely on the whole and there is definitely some elegant engineering at play. I guess I’m just not seeing quite what the sheer magnitude of fuss is about though, even if I can of course acknowledge that she’s ultimately a decent toy, all things considered.
I will say that those loose ankles definitely haven’t helped matters, and were she absolutely solid to pose then I would almost certainly been weighing in on this one a lot more enthusiastically than indeed I am.
Is this the ultimate Masterpiece-styled Arcee of my dreams, then? Well, perhaps not, but it is still a decent stab, I’ll admit. Even this more stylised version managed to hold her own in any kind of MP display.
In fact for collectors who are looking for something a little beyond the ultra-slavish levels of cartoon accuracy we’re seeing in the official Masterpiece line these days, there may still be a lot to like about this particular take.
Azalea is still a bit of a departure in terms of aesthetic whichever version you go for, mind, so I guess it just depends on how she looks to your eye when considering her for your shelf.
For my money, I think I’m still leaning towards FansToys Rouge at the moment, as something about the look of that figure just fits my mind’s eye of what an Arcee toy should resemble maybe a little closer, and in terms of how solid they are, I can’t say I’ve seen Azalea as being that much of a significant improvement.
Of course there is another very definite consideration on the horizon, as the official MP Arcee toy is upon us now too – I’ll be checking her out for review shortly, and then it really will be time to decide which of the various options is the one to stay on the shelf.
For today, Ocular Max have delivered a solid effort in Azalea. I may have a few nitpicks and it may not live up to the extreme levels of hype surrounding this toy on the whole, but there’s still plenty to like about her too. And really, in the weird world of Arcee toys, it could all be a lot worse, now, couldn’t it?
WHAT’S HOT? The overall design is good, the car mode is a decent attempt and the robot mode is a lot of fun to pose.
WHAT’S NOT? The ankles feel very loose and make it hard to pose her stably. I’m personally not a fan of the hand-swap gimmick. The backpack feels a bit loosely tabbed together.