In case you’ve missed it, it appears as if the latest character to receive the TakaraTomy Masterpiece treatment has been unveiled, and it’s the little red horny devil himself, Cliffjumper!
Photo credit: Transformers Prototypes
Arriving in slightly less than auspicious style, all we’ve been treated to so far are a couple of snaps of the supposed prototype of the new toy, although assuming this is genuine, it gives us a fair bit of insight into what we’re about to receive. You can perhaps obviously ignore the colour scheme at play here (unless this is an early Tap-Out repaint, of course!) and focus on the design instead, which is clearly a fairly extensive retool of the second Masterpiece Bumblebee, MP-45.
Now, a lot of people are going to be unhappy about that to begin with, especially given that toy didn’t exactly earn itself the best of reputations since it was first revealed in early 2019. There were numerous critiques about the proportions, the design of the face, the kibble, the backpack, the transformation and the obviously panel-heavy robot mode design (y’know, to name a few things), and although Nu-Bee did manage to win over some collectors once it made it into their hands, there were still many who remained convinced it wasn’t exactly TakaraTomy’s finest hour.
For my money, I had a bit of a rough ride with the toy myself, although I would have enjoyed it a lot more had the execution been up to snuff. As it was, my copy was plagued with errors, including loose joints, scuffed paint, fingerprint marks and a broken piece in the backpack. That last point was no doubt down to the design relying so heavily on painted clear plastic for the roof of the car, not to mention some of the joints there too! Whereas a lot of Masterpiece toys will have clear plastic windshields encased in separate solid plastic parts for greater durability and aesthetics, MP-45 instead opted for a solution similar to a lot of Generations efforts (including recent examples such as Earthrise Prowl and Studio Series Jazz) and felt more brittle as a result.
Photo credit: Transformers Prototypes
Unfortunately, it appears as though the supposed MP Cliff is following suit in that regard, as you can already see a lot of that clear plastic on the backpack, although it does at least appear as though one of the joints will be solid, so fingers crossed it turns out ok! Ultimately I am still excited to see a character like Cliffjumper finally given his Masterpiece moment, despite there being one other element of the design that’s sure to divide opinion amongst fans.
Yes, seeing as how this is an MP-45 retool, it’s a fair assumption that we’re in for another ‘chibified’ vehicular form, meaning squished proportions similar to the compacted Volkswagen Beetle we saw on Bumblebee. Some people will love this idea, feeling it much better represents the character as they remember him from the 1980s, and others will pine after a solution more comparable with the real-world look of Bumblebee’s first attempt, MP-21. In some ways though, it feels as though Cliffjumper is going to be an even more divisive interpretation, which perhaps all stems back to a lot of confusion about his Generation 1 alternate form to begin with.
First released in 1984, Cliffjumper transforms into a Porsche 924 Turbo. The toy was available in both red and yellow and was subsequently repainted into many more colours besides through various means, but suffice it to say, it was a fairly faithful approximation of the sporty real car model aside from its perplexing proportions!
This element of the toy’s design makes much more sense when you consider its origins, as it began life as part of Takara’s Micro Change Mini Car Robo line-up, and was never intended to represent a real car in toy form at all! Instead, it was a toy of a toy, so to speak, with Micro Change’s central gimmick being robots that turned into everyday household items and this particular example becoming a super-deformed toy car in the style of Takara’s own Choro-Q line (later imported to Western markets under the name, ‘Penny Racers’).
All of the first year Transformers Minibots hail from that same Micro Change subline, which is why they all bear the same ‘squished’ proportions and all continue to cause comment till today (though perhaps none more so than Cliffjumper, in my experience!).
As part of their incorporation to the Transformers line-up, the whole idea of these lads being ‘Penny Racers’ was dropped, and instead, they became representations of real cars in much the same way as the toys inherited from Diaclone. This peculiarity was never explained by the Transformers toyline itself, nor by any of the corresponding fiction, which unsurprisingly chose to portray the Minibots as faithfully to the toys as possible.
I have to be honest, I never questioned it as a kid, as I know many other fans didn’t. I just immediately adopted the notion that these compressed car modes existed alongside the more traditional line-up in the cartoon and comic, and I think if anyone had shown me at the time what they were meant to look like as real-world vehicles, then that’s the bit that would have seemed jarring, somehow!
All of which brings us up-to-date and ready to consider both options for a Masterpiece-styled Cliffjumper then. I’m sure everyone can agree on roughly how they’d like the robot mode to appear (give or take a bit of cartoon-slavishness, maybe), but it’s the vehicle mode that’s the real point of contention here – to squish or not to squish, that is the question!
There’s definitely some merit to both approaches, in my opinion, especially when you have a gander at just how sleek and stylish the real-world Porsche 924 Turbo really is! I’m sure some folks will be surprised to consider Cliffjumper with such an elongated look, but we have seen it done in toy form already…
The first real release in this regard was Ace Collectables Tumbler, an attempt by a then-fledgling third party outfit to create a Cliffjumper that fitted well alongside MP-21 Bumblebee. The car mode itself looked pretty decent, despite missing some of the finer details from the bonnet and that black rear spoiler.
Sadly, the robot mode let this one down big time, as it was, not to mince words, a load of old bunk. Despite taking heavy influence from the design of MP-21, this lad missed the mark on pretty much every aspect, in my opinion, and looked exceptional awkward as a result. That the quality control was sadly lacking was the final straw, really.
Next up we have X-Transbots’ attempt, with their Toro figure. This design again chases the heavy real-world look by giving Cliffjumper a set of non-squished proportions in line with the actual car, although arguably to greater effect here. A number of the details are more on point, although interestingly this is one design that still causes confusion in a vehicle mode line-up photo, with a lot of fans not necessarily identifying it as Cliffjumper. Still, at the time of release, this approach felt consistent with what the official MP line was attempting to do.
The robot mode took a fair dose of compromise to allow for the larger car form, with a very sizeable backpack on the go and the feet being the only bit actually left incorporated in both modes besides. I know some collectors didn’t care for this solution, although I will say that Toro remains the representation of the character on my MP shelf for now, at least.
Moving things along in the ‘squishy’ stakes, we have Ocular Max Hellion, which rater interestingly blurs the lines of realistic car and ‘chibified’ cartoon take by ending up somewhere in-between. The result is a slightly strange effort, perhaps not quite one thing or the other, but it does pay attention to a surprising number of 924 details and features an attempt at a real-world interior despite then opting to drop things like wing mirrors!
The robot mode could be seen as yet another effort that seeks to ape MP-21 in a lot of regards, although in this case there’s a bit of the usual Ocular Max flair thrown in for good measure. The proportions of the midriff always raised an eyebrow on this one for me, but there’s no denying that there’s a lot to like here too!
And finally, we come to the third party attempt that I’m sure a lot of people have been waiting to see – yes, it’s FansToys. Collectors who opt to wait for the FT effort may have needed extra patience in this case, although based on these early renders, it could well end up being worth it! Well have to see how it pans out in time, but one thing above all others remains sure for now – this will be our most squished unofficial take on the character yet!
It seems as though FansToys have been slowly and subtly shifting their aesthetic to greater match that of TakaraTomy’s evolving Masterpiece line for some time now, and this is possibly the best evidence of that so far, as the excellently named Parkour will be more in line with MP-45 than MP-21, by all accounts. Some may miss the more realistic trappings of earlier efforts but hey, at least there are now going to be plenty of options out there, to cater for all different squishiness tastes!
Of course, it remains to be seen just how the official TakaraTomy Masterpiece toy will shake out (assuming it is even genuine to begin with!) but it certainly looks like it’s going to be more in line with the original Cliffjumper toy, whether that’s your preference or not.
All of which makes me think that perhaps we already had a masterpiece Cliffjumper all this time, and we just didn’t even know it.