I will always lament that the rich vein of original characters first glimpsed in the 1990 Action Masters line is so vastly underutilised in the wider Transformers franchise.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been a few nods that way over the years, which has only increased in more recent times with even some rather neat new Generations toys overhauling some of the designs for a fresh outing. This isn’t even the first time today’s specimen has been given a revival. Yet, by and large, it’s an era of Transformers that deserves much more attention than it gets, in my opinion.
My reasoning is simple: Action Masters are awesome (you heard me), and the original designs the line pumped out are exclusively terrific. Take Banzai-Tron as the ultimate testament of that, if you will. Dude’s a mean-looking robo-samurai with a popping black, orange, green and purple colour scheme, for crying out loud. What’s not to love?
He’s also one of the more bizarre choices from the roster in that there was never any obvious evidence of a particular alternate mode going on. Is he a car? A boat? A tank? Well, he’s been reinterpreted as all of these things on subsequent toy versions of the character, yet none of them is apparent in his original outing, and it’s that take that Super7 has brought back to life in ultimate form.
Or should I say ‘Ultimates’, as that’s the subline in question today, as Banzai-Tron joins the likes of Optimus Prime and his fellow Action Master, Bombshell, for the treatment. I’m not sure I’d have believed you if you’d told me even a couple of years ago that we’d be seeing designs like this being given such a do-over. Honestly, I feel like they’re spoiling me rotten with this stuff.
Anyway, leaping right into it, I’m going to assume that the merits of Banzai-Tron’s appearance are at least relatively evident to you. I mean, just look at him. This has always been a character design that I’ve admired, and it’s simply fantastic to see it given such obvious love and attention to detail here.
Super7’s recreation is much larger than the vintage figure, which barely reaches the waist of his modern counterpart, but otherwise, the details are amazingly on-point. As with Bombshell, I honestly think you could be forgiven for seeing a photo of the new toy and thinking it was the 1990 original, given they look so close in general aesthetic and design.
Perhaps the only slight variation is some of the colour tones, with the green and purple of the G1 figure being distinctly more saturated and quite a bit darker. The new toy also has a more pronounced eye-shadow vibe and some newly-designed ball-jointed hips, but otherwise, it’s a dead ringer in many regards.
All of this is wonderful, as whilst there’s definitely a market for brand new interpretations of classic stuff, it’s thrilling to see such a cracking character design given such respect and reverence. Banzai-Tron and Bombshell can’t help but have me salivating at the idea of a whole line-up of original Action Masters brought back in such a fashion, including names from the Autobot roster, too. Imagine.
Anyway, the finish on this guy is fantastic, with nicely-applied thick layers of paint and a quality feel to him despite the softer plastic found in the Ultimates line. There’s a good hefty feel to the figure and all of the joints are tight, allowing him to come off as suitably solid. He’s got the looks, he’s got the touch.
I need to give particular attention to how well-defined and beautifully realised that head design is because, in my view, it absolutely makes this figure. It’s chef’s kiss levels of utter perfection.
Some might quibble slightly on the articulation, which is generally fine but perhaps a little lacking in one or two areas. Overall, I’d say Banzai-Tron is more poseable than Bombshell and definitely more than Optimus, yet some of the joints don’t pose quite the range I might look for. For example, the knees and elbows stop short of ninety degrees, and the ankles barely rock from side to side. That’s to say nothing of the bizarrely-impeded ab crunch, which, honestly, may as well not be there at all.
Still, what he lacks in extreme poseability, he more than makes up for in sheer presence, especially once you equip him with his signature hand-blaster. There’s a knife moulded underneath the barrell, with a peg on the back of the gun allowing it to be held for hand-to-hand combat, too.
Speaking of which, the hands offer a further range of posing options once you unplug them and swap them out for the various alternatives included in the box. You’ll need the right option for holding the weapon, but beyond that, there are closed fists, double-points and open palms aplenty, with three different takes for each arm.
Also included is Razor-Sharp, who is Banzai-Tron’s traditional Action Master partner. This little chap is a robotic crab (of sorts) and features a pair of spiky claws and some fairly horrific orange legs. If you thought seeing the main character given the Ultimates treatment was niche, he’s got nothing on his crustacean accomplice.
I will say that whilst the new figure generally recreates the original with surprising accuracy, it’s a shame that the head design (such as it was) has been replaced with an all-too-obvious peg instead. It makes the updated Razor-Sharp look a little odd, especially as he’s mostly pretty solid and unposeable, too, save for a tight turn at his shoulders.
Even more annoying, Razor-Sharp’s legs don’t sit flush on the ground, so he has a permanent wobble to him no matter how you try and pose him. Additionally, the flip-out main cannon of the original is now statically moulded in place, leaving the updated figure feeling rather underwhelming overall. Whereas I felt like Bombshell’s partner knocked it out of the park, this one barely gets off the bench.
You can peg Banzai-Tron’s gun onto the end of Razor-Sharp and position it as a larger cannon of sorts, which just about manages to recreate the original’s feature in spirit, if not quite in accuracy. Yet the peg underneath doesn’t fit solidly in Banzai-Tron’s hand and must be balanced precariously on his shoulder to achieve the right look. It ends up feeling like a bit of a faff where it should be all kinds of silly unadulterated fun.
Never mind, despite his buddy being a bit of a bum note, the overall toy here can’t help but win you over. I refuse to be too disappointed by the animal partner having a few compromises to it when Banzai-Tron himself looks this level of incredible. It remains a childhood joy come to life, and no mistake.
Besides, he and Bombshell do a surprisingly fabulous job filling in for Masterpiece-style Action Masters. Yes, the articulation may not be on that level, but size-wise they just about work, at least. I’ve always wanted to see some of these characters filling out my modern collection, so this is a dream come true.
In all honesty, they could be perhaps a bit larger, and I’d be even more thrilled with the result, but still, considering how niche a prospect all of this is, I’m not one to start complaining here. Super7 could make many, many more of these 1990s homages and I’d be all in, every time, frankly.
Oh, and did I mention how good he looks?
WHAT’S HOT? The main toy is just a joy, with near-perfect looks and finish when bringing a vintage Action Master back in modern form.