YEAR IN REVIEW: Counting down the top 10 toys of 2021 (part 2)

It’s time to continue my rundown of the top 10 toys from last year! If you missed it, then be sure to catch up on part 1 first. As I explained, this is my personal list of what delighted me the most from the various new figures I picked up during 2021. With that said, let’s crack on!


TOP TEN FIGURES 2021 (cont.)

#8: TakaraTomy Masterpiece Movie MPM-12 Optimus Prime

There are several toys on this list that, had you asked me about them when they were first unveiled, I never would have imagined ending up on this list… or indeed anywhere near it! MPM-12 Optimus Prime firmly sits in that category, so underwhelmed was I by the initial reveal.

Genuinely, when those first photos of this toy landed in February of last year, I couldn’t have been more unimpressed. It didn’t help that I’d already had my mind blown by the incredible ThreeZero interpretation of Bumblebee movie Optimus Prime, and despite being significantly less than convinced on the subsequent transformable third party effort, Toyworld Freedom Leader, there was no denying at least it *looked* great. Thus, the rumours of an official Masterpiece attempt conjured up certain expectations in my mind that those initial reveal pics just didn’t quite meet. 

For one thing, the proportions looked awkward, the finish unspectacular and the kibble obtrusive. There seemed to be notable elements of the design that appeared either undercooked or just plain bizarre, and I fully prepared myself for being at best fairly indifferent to this toy once it was finally due to land.

But it’s funny how the in-hand experience can completely shift your perspective of a design sometimes, isn’t it? In this case, after only a cursory examination, I quickly started to realise MPM-12 achieved a lot more than I had given it credit for based on the pictures I’d seen. It’s not that the faults I had perceived weren’t there, but somehow they were entirely mitigated by just how much enjoyment I had with the toy in spite of them.

That’s not me apologising for this toy’s quirks – far from it. Stuff like the weird ‘cat ears’ on the truck mode is a good example of something rather unfortunate still (and will be one of the elements I look forward to solving with the impending DNA Design upgrade kit!). Yet, in the context of everything else this toy does well, I’ve come to realise what a comparative non-problem these elements really are. 

After all, the toy still looks fantastic, as it turns out! The finish is quite spectacular on the whole, with nice paint, eye-catching moulded detail and a very attractive sculpt. It is a definite departure from the drop-dead gorgeous ThreeZero design, no doubt, but maintains a charm all of its own. It also happens to be a ton of fun to handle and, not for nothing, has been one of the toys I have most enjoyed transforming back and forth between modes throughout the last twelve months. All stuff that I hadn’t appreciated from those promotional pictures but has entirely won me over in hand.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend it’s a perfect release (obviously not, considering I do plan on getting that upgrade kit!) but it is a toy I’ve enjoyed hugely all the same, and for that reason it’s come to more than earn its spot on this list.

Check out the original review of this toy here.


#7: ThreeZero Dlx WFC Optimus Prime

From one cracking Optimus Prime toy to another, although here we have something a little different, as this time it’s a non-transforming effort from ThreeZero! This officially-licensed figure caught a lot of bemusement when it first landed (some of which continues to today) for being perceived as a kind-of oversized reworking of the Siege Optimus release. True, it matches the basic appearance of that mainline toy, given it in turn cribs from the corresponding cartoon, a source that was already very faithful to the original WFC figure. However, once you have it in hand, it’s clear how different they are!

Let’s clear up the obvious point, to begin with – this is significantly larger than the Generations toy, not to mention far more detailed and articulated. It also boasts the kind of incredible finish we’ve come to expect from ThreeZero, as well as some fun features to boot. At the unintended risk of sounding a little snobby, it is to the Siege toy what a premium cut of steak is to a fast-food burger – they both have their place on the market, but one is an altogether more premium experience, for those that want that kind of thing.

I add such a caveat because of course, a high-end non-transformable figure of this kind is simply not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve seen the usual cries of “it’s a Transformers toy that doesn’t transform” for starters, but beyond that, it’s not hard to understand why people might be bemused such a thing exists when the Siege figure is already very well-received in its own right. If you want a representation of WFC Optimus on your shelf then why shell out for this thing when you can get a mainline toy at the fraction of the cost?

Again, I think it’s hard to convince people of how this figure succeeds until they actually experience it. I have a friend who collects a *lot* of Optimus Prime toys and even he was bemused by it until I had the chance to show it to him one day and within all of a couple of minutes, he was suitably ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’ at just how spectacular it is to witness up close and how much fun it is to pick up, play around with and pose. Needless to say, by the time he was done, he was entirely converted on the subject.

It’s not just that it’s a beautiful thing to behold with a striking paint job that doesn’t quit, but it really is an enjoyable toy all the same. The light-up gimmick found in the head and chest is one of my favourite examples of such a feature from recent memory, entirely changing the figure’s appearance but also activating in a very unique and fun manner at the same time.

Then there are numerous other accessories to keep you entertained too, all while you’re taking advantage of those creative points of articulation and cranking it into any number of extreme poses. It’s just a joy to handle from start to finish and rightfully takes its place alongside the mainline release as a thing in its own right. One does not need to cancel out the other, as they both achieve different things.

Perhaps it is a bit of an odd duck release in several regards and maybe I’ll never suitably convince everyone on its right to exist, but that’s ok because I’m very glad it does. Keep doing what you do, ThreeZero!

Check out the original review of this toy here.


#6: TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-52 Starscream

Oh boy, I feel like this is one of those entries people will have something to say about, both good and bad! After all, MP-52 arrived this year as the third (don’t give me any of that ‘Version 2.0’ nonsense!) attempt at a Masterpiece Seeker mould, despite seemingly very few people (myself included) thinking such a thing was needed at the time.

I’m not kidding – when I first heard talk of a new MP Starscream, I pretty much baulked at the notion, not least because you know that one does not simply collect a single Seeker, with the inevitable Thundercracker and Skywarp repaints even following in much quicker succession this time around than we’ve previously seen from the line. However, my mind was completely turned around once the first photos started to roll in, and by the point MP-52 was up for release, I was 100% on board and ready to take the skies one more time (until we inevitably have this conversation again, I suppose).

And you know what, he didn’t disappoint once he landed, either. The process of unboxing and assessing Starscream was every bit as enjoyable for me as I might have hoped, winning me over in both (or maybe all three?) modes and firmly earning himself a spot on this list pretty much immediately. Despite my initial dread at the idea, I can now comfortably say this is the best Masterpiece Starscream we’ve had so far (even more so than my beloved MP-3), and comfortably beats out the now-outdated shenanigans of MP-11 and even stuff like third party options, such as Maketoys Meteor. 

Not that everyone has been similarly convinced, mind. Numerous reviewers gave this lad a distinctly less warm reception on arrival, and there have been a fair few folks underwhelmed by him in the months since, too. Some of those complaints I can understand and sympathise with (my copy has developed rather loose-ish ankles over time, which is annoying when it comes to general stability), others I really couldn’t give a monkey’s about (the lack of waist swivel is the very definition of non-problem, in my opinion, and complaints about the faux cockpit chest can go hang). And of course, there are the price concerns too – it’s a lot of bread for anyone to put down on a character already over-represented in most people’s collections.

Ultimately, MP-52 may have become one of the more polarising MP releases of recent memory (more than normal, even!), so all I can offer is that my time with him has felt really rewarding and exactly in line with what I would have wanted from a new Seeker design. It helps that this time, TakaraTomy has ably captured the look, feel and presence of the duplicitous character from the screen, so much so that I can all but hear Chris Latta’s distinctive squawk when I look at this thing.

And yes, it isn’t perfect. No doubt if the joints were a bit tighter and more robust, MP-52 would have earned a spot considerably nearer the top, an assertion which is immediately proven by how much more satisfying the subsequent Thundercracker release is just for having improved on this one factor. However, it is a remarkable thing to behold in hand and a downright engineering marvel when it comes to the transformation too, including at least two or three moments of sheer open-mouthed awe through the process.

It’s also a spot-on take to stand next to the likes of MP-36, by my estimation, ably bringing the character to life in a way one can hardly believe is possible in toy form. It’s fair to say even this element has split opinion though, with some collectors finding the results don’t quite work for them somehow, or that MP-52 is too short or whatever else. I’m pleased to announce none of that has been an issue for me.

Instead, I’ve been left with a figure that represents some of the very best of what modern Masterpiece has to offer and which leaves me now tremendously excited for Skywarp to turn up and complete the new trio. Let’s just leave it a long time before the fourth version though, yeah?

Check out the original review of this toy here.


#5: Fans Hobby MB-15 Naval Commander

Fans Hobby has a habit of ending up somewhere on these year-end lists of mine now, having typically produced at least one release that catches my eye to the right degree. Yet in 2021, they mixed it up a bit and took the bold step out of the overly-familiar Generation 1 arena by bringing us our first proper attempt at Armada Optimus Prime in Masterpiece-style.

The danger with these sorts of landmark releases is that the novelty of them sometimes overshadows analysing the actual toys for what they’re worth. We want so badly for such a thing to exist that a certain amount of goodwill kind of carries it through and masks flaws that might otherwise be more picked on. Yet in Naval Commander’s case, the good news is that Fans Hobby has more than delivered the goods alongside the hype.

OK firstly, to address something – this is not a 100% slavish recreation of the Optimus Prime we knew from back in 2002. If you’re after an ultra-faithful take on the Unicron Trilogy’s initial Autobot leader design, you may find yourself holding out for someone else to have a go, as Fans Hobby have certainly applied their usual stylistic flair to the proceedings here, crafting something that’s entirely its own thing, despite heavy influence from the Armada source.

That’s not unusual for them – none of their designs is ever really entirely accurate to the source (just take their Power Baser for example, which takes a huge dollop of their creativity alongside a fair dose of influence from G1 Powermaster Optimus Prime). That said, the spirit of the thing is what matters here, and in that regard, Naval Commander more than delivers. It’s big, loud, robust, chunky fun, and capably brings Armada OP to life in new form with a bit of a makeover along the way.

And yes, it’s not all without fault. The smaller robot form has a degree of compromise to it, particularly in the weird solution employed for allowing a waist swivel of sorts. However, even that sort of has to be acknowledged as a checkmark in terms of how creative Fans Hobby can be at times, despite it not quite panning out in this case. Besides, there’s a lot more right going on here than anything else, meaning that whatever legitimate nitpicks there may be are firmly put into context overall.

And really, who’s quibbling by the time you’ve made it through to that combined super robot form, eh? There’s so much fun to be had along the way but this feels like the culmination of everything else, a kind of grand achievement that is so impressive to behold in hand that any grumbles just immediately melt away. It’s a glorious thing.

Again, it’s not an exact match to the classic ‘superpants’ Prime many will remember from their youth, but as a reinterpretation of that original idiosyncratic design, this is stellar stuff. It has all of the cues needed to ‘feel right’, yet comes at it with a ground-up design that deserves its own level of praise. It’s the kind of high-end product that ably bridges the gap towards still being huge amounts of fun, to the point where you’re almost giggling like a child just messing around with it!

That Fans Hobby have seen fit to continue down this road is to their credit, with further Unicron Trilogy nods to follow. It’s a welcome step in the third party world and hopefully heralds more designs beyond the G1 sandbox.

Check out the original review of this toy here.


#4: TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-51 Arcee

OK, hear me out. I know what you’re going to say but honestly, this toy is incredible, I promise.

“But, the chestplate is too low!” Don’t care. “But the backpack is too big!” Don’t care. “But the face is so stylised!” Don’t care, don’t care, don’t care. I’m not saying that stuff isn’t true (it all is!), but really, when you get Arcee in hand, it all fails to detract from just what a delight she truly is.

And look, I say that as someone who was not immediately convinced on some of these elements either. The initial reveal photos were certainly a cause for concern, and even now it is legitimately hard to understand quite why the chest has been designed as it was. All I’m saying is this figure is about so much more than those points, and simply writing it off because of them is akin to refusing a good meal as there happen to be Brussel sprouts on the plate.

For example, the articulation on Arcee is first-rate; it’s well beyond the usual kind of thing you find even on a Masterpiece release, and coupled with some impressive balance, allows her to achieve many outright incredible poses. Of all the various toys I’ve photographed in the last twelve months (and that’s a lot!), MP-51 is one that I had the most fun with, purely on account of what a joy she is to handle.

She’s also no slouch in the presentation department, with the typical premium painted finish and bold colour scheme helping to show off the alternate mode to its finest. This is without a doubt the best-looking G1 Arcee toy of all time, in my opinion.

It’s more than that though, as there’s a legitimate thrill from seeing this tricky character decked out in relatively faithful fashion at long last. Arcee toys typically come with a fair slice of compromise to them, best exemplified by the recent WFC release requiring you to remove half the car mode just to make it through transformation, and whilst yes, the backpack on MP-51 ends up being rather sizeable, there’s no denying how utterly wonderful it is to see her done justice overall.

Besides, it’s yet another example of that old cliché that some toys need to be seen and experienced in hand to be fully appreciated, and whilst I’m aware that’s becoming a strong theme of this list, it does happen to be true in this case!

It’s just another example too of how TakaraTomy’s Masterpiece designers really can outdo the competition at every turn, given half a chance. I’ve enjoyed third party attempts at Arcee, including the likes of both FansToys and Ocular Max’s efforts, but MP-51 is another league, in my opinion.

Needless to say, this is one Masterpiece release that landed with a strong kick!

Check out the original review of this toy here.

So, that’s part 2 of our list! Check back for the final part very soon…


About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at or on YouTube at


Don't miss out on the latest