Review by EVA_Unit_4A
The distant planet of Cybertron was the home to a race of intelligent, feeling alien robots who could change shape at will- the Transformers. For reasons no longer remembered by anyone living, a war broke out between the two factions of robots- the Autobots and the Decepticons- which eventually drained Cybertron of all its power sources, including all-important Energon. In the quest to get more Energon to sustain their fight, the Autobots created the Ark and some of them left Cybertron. But the power-hungry Decepticons were waiting for them in their great flagship, the Nemesis, and boarded the Ark to stop them. A battle between the two ships eventually brought them both crashing down onto Earth. With their leaders and greatest warriors lost, the war on Cybertron continued on to a stalemate. For over four million years, the Ark rested hidden inside a volcano located in what would eventually become Oregon, its occupants unconscious and helpless in stasis lock. Then in 1984, the volcano harboring the Ark erupted, reawakening the on-board computer system Teletraan-1. The computer, realizing that the ship and its crew were in danger, awoke the Transformers aboard the Ark, and reformatted them to change into disguises matching those of modern day Earth vehicles so that the giant robots could move among the population in secret. The surviving Decepticons, having lost their great ship millions of years earlier, also gained new disguise forms and hid themselves on Earth until they could rebuild their forces and gather enough Energon to destroy the Autobots, subvert the intrusive and annoying humans, and renew the war on Cybertron in their quest for total galactic domination.
One of many Autobots to make it to Earth on the Ark, Mirage, too, was trapped for millions of years until Teletraan-1 woke him up from stasis lock. And he missed his home of Cybertron dearly. This would lead him to become one of Optimus Prime’s most skilled and specialized fighters even if he didn’t care much for the fighting itself. But his skill was clear- sharp-shooting, diversionary tactics, and covert reconnaissance. For him, Teletraan-1 selected for his disguise mode that of a Formula-1 race car, one of the fasted land-based vehicles it could find. This allows him to make speed runs past Decepticon positions and escape unscathed if fired upon. Mirage is also a master of deception. He is equipped with advanced holographic systems which allow him to turn invisible, imitate the appearance of other vehicles, or even impersonate Decepticons in both appearance and voice, though not always in function. His frequent solo scout missions sometimes led some other Autobots to think that he may be collaborating with the enemy in secret, but Mirage has proven his worth hundreds of times to quash any rumors. He just really wants to end the war so that he can go home.
This Transformers Classics figure is a completely new toy based off of the original Mirage who appeared in the classic G1 cartoon series from 1984. In that series, he was also a blue and white F-1 race car who could turn invisible or create illusions. He was indeed a member of the Ark’s crew, but played a fairly minor role in the war on Earth. The same character appeared again throughout several other series (a single Decepticon was named Mirage, though it was a different character), but never really retained his F-1 origins… Until now.
(Alas, the original molds for the G1 toy have become lost over time, so he will not ever be made again unless new molds are built. Personally, I think that the G1 toy more resembled a streamlined go-kart…!)
Mirage’s vehicle mode (back) is that of a Formula One race car, with the exception of the enclosed canopy on the toy. Regulations used by the F1 racing industry decree that all cars must be built by the teams that drive them. Also because of the exacting standards that these cars must perform at, the materials to make them are very lightweight and durable, but incredibly expensive to manufacture. And so, F1 cars are almost always covered in the colorful logos of sponsors from around the world to balance these costs, usually from car parts manufacturers, petroleum/gas refineries, electronics and entertainment industries, and even alcohol breweries. The original G1 Mirage character toy- made at a time when trademarks on a toy were not nearly as scrutinized and politically correct as they are today- featured decals with sponsor labels from two real French-based companies: race car-manufacturer Ligier, and the cigarette brand Gitanes (though spelled “Citanes” on the original toy). This would, of course, be, heh- ‘completely inappropriate’ today, and so those two brands were removed and new fictitious ones made up by the Classics toys’ manufacturer Hasbro:
- On the front aerofoil in orange writing- “Lithonian Drivetrain”. This is a reference to the unfortunate planet Lithone which was devoured without mercy by the giant planet-sized transformer Unicron in “The Transformers: The Movie” (1986).
- Along the side cowling on a rectangular space- “F.P. Racing”. This, I am told, is a tip-of-the-hat by Mirage’s designers at Hasbro to a popular online Role-Playing Game (RPG) forum, as are the orange & black checkered squares next to the name associated with the forum’s own colors.
- Across the back aerofoil in black lettering- “Witwicky Sparkplugs”. This is, obviously, a reference to “Sparkplug” Witwicky, father of Spike Witwicky, both of whom befriend the Autobots during the G1 series.
It is not another made-up sponsor, but there is a green label which sits on either side of the cockpit. It says “Plasma Injected Energy” in very tiny lettering. Sounds like cool technobabble, right? In the process of researching for this review, I asked several well-known TF know-it-alls if this had any significance. And they replied that this too is an inside joke, to be said as “Mirage runs off of pie.” And finally, to keep some of the authenticity of the G1 character, the identifying number “26” returns onto the nose and side cowlings on the Classics figure.
This is an F-1racer. No doubt about it, it looks just like one in every way- with the minor exceptions of the unavoidable exposed robot parts in the undercarriage, and the enclosed cockpit (which, on the other hand, some cars actually do use to cut down even more on airflow drag). The front of the car features the forward airfoil, and two black ABS wheels hanging beyond it along two painted skeleton-like suspension supports. The forward aerofoil is designed slightly different from the real cars’ because it is used in a different way for robot mode. I’ve also heard some frequent complaints that due to how he transforms, the front aerofoil drags along the ground and lifts the front wheels off the ground slightly! (I have experienced this as well, but I also make absolutely certain that everything is locked up correctly and tightly before I roll him around. Besides, I usually keep him in robot mode, so it’s a non-issue with me.) The flattened, streamlined bottle shape of the car’s chassis is there, dressed in both white and blue. Due to serving two different needs here (both a vehicle and a robot mode), the blue plastic behind the cockpit curves slightly upwards as opposed to smoothing back out flat on the real car, but it isn’t really that noticeable. Air intakes are molded both above and to either side of the transparent-blue cockpit. Mirage’s head is just small enough that if you look closely, you can see it facing forward inside the cockpit! (I like that touch.) The back airfoil with the “Witwicky” sponsorship curves upwards, and four dark gray ABS exhaust pipes hang out below that in the back of the car between the larger black ABS wheels.
As an additional tribute to the G1 series, each Classics figure has a heat sensitive decal placed on it. When the heat from your finger warms the black patch, the bots’ associated allegiance- Autobot or Decepticon- is revealed. The decal on Mirage is located on top of the right side of the vehicle mode between the cockpit and rear aerofoil. In robot mode, the decal is located between the knee and foot of the left leg.
Mirage’s robot mode (back) is very thin and light. He is still dressed in mostly white ABS plastic, with blue ABS on his head, upper arms, chest, lower back, and lower legs, but then adds dark gray at the waist, and elbow & knee joints. I have seen some pictures of the G1 Mirage toy online, and I must say that several of the details on him were carried directly over to the Classics figure, despite the dramatic design differences between them. Classics Mirage is almost twice as high (5”) compared to the original (3”?). The various parts of the robot mode end up in pretty much the same locations on vehicle mode between them, but the Classics ver. goes about it in a radically different way. There are quite a few other similarities between them:
- The nose of the F1 folds down to become the chest.
- The curved sides and undercarriage become the arms.
- The front wheels end up in back behind the head, the back-half of the F1 becomes the lower legs & feet.
- Torso-twisting is possible for both transformation and posing.
- The Classics head sculpt shares traits, but put them in a new style; it also has transparent blue eyes that can have light shown through them as opposed to the original’s painted yellow eyes.
- The front wheels and cockpit are repositioned onto the back.
- White lower arms, upper legs, and black fists.
At this point, the comparisons become more about aesthetic, and also show the difference in toy design & manufacturing over 20 years (which I do not have enough confidence to describe in detail here). Needless to say, this is an excellent and flawless transition & homage to the G1 character. I am sure that any long-time TF fan will be able to look at the Classics design, and immediate recognize him as the Autobot Mirage.
Mirage’s body structure, however, is quite different from even the regular lines such as those from the most-recent ’04-‘06 Unicron Trilogy (“Transformers: Armada”, “Transformers: Energon”, and “Transformers: Cybertron”). As stated above, he is very thin, especially at the waist. He is designed for speed even in robot mode. Mirage’s head, also, is on the smaller side. As a recent gimmick built into the yearly lines, the back of his head is transparent blue plastic; that way when light shines through it, his eyes glow. The back of his upper torso carries the front wheels and cockpit of the vehicle mode, streamlined with the air intake from above the cockpit to merge diagonally with the rest of the upper torso. His arms are some of the most flexible I’ve even seen in a toy of equal size, rivaling that of even the 5” G.I. Joe figures from the ‘80s! Because his chest triangular in shape, Mirage can actually cross his arms in front of it, almost to the point of being able to touch one fist to the opposing shoulder… and then holding that pose all on its own. This is also partially due to how his shoulders change during the transformation process, and allows for just that more range of motion. Fantastic! His legs are equally impressive. Ball-and-socket joints at the hips are covered by flexible skirt armor in front. His knees are the location of the vehicle mode’s exhaust pipes, that and adds a nice bit of tech detail there. From the back of the legs, the effect is screwed up a bit because the interior is completely exposed, but you lose very little because of this. The feet- once more the back aerofoil from the vehicle mode shared with his G1 counterpart- are also of interest. Rather than being attached in the center of them to the ankle, the ankle joint actually attaches to the outer edge and is a lever/ball-and-socket joint combo. So not only can his feet pitch up and down, but they also twist horizontally to accommodate wider stances! The only disadvantage to this set-up is that the joints tend to wear out quickly if used too much.
At first I was repulsed by the (no pun intended) flat-footed approach- large lower legs and small upper body. But then I had a revolution… If you look at art from the early Marvel Comics™ stories, and even the G1 cartoon itself, the Transformers typically don’t have details like servos, pistons, or wires exposed for the sake of simplified, faster animation. It’s all blocky to save time and money. The toys counter this by molding them into the joints. The 2008 series, “Transformers Animated”, and the toy line from it, shared this as well with more of a streamlined-organic style to the characters’ appearance. Well, Classics Mirage, whether intentional or not, shares this style. He has long legs the grow steadily wider the closer to the feet you get, arms that do the same towards the fists, a thin waist, and small, triangular upper body and smallish head. Oh, my God- I thought to myself- this toy jumped right out of the TV from an 80s cartoon! After that, my love (yes, I just used the L-word) for the design of the Classics toy grew even faster and stronger.
In the series, Mirage had a single missile launcher over his right shoulder, and had a long-range laser sniper rifle. (Reason for the latter is that he liked to hunt turbo-foxes on Cybertron before he left on the Ark, and had become quite the marksman.) The front aerofoil separates from the nose section (which it couldn’t on the original) and becomes a hand-held “electro-disrupter weapon”. Me? I prefer to think of it as any other small but powerful energy weapon, and so tend to think of it more as a crossbow, and then have the illusion/cloaking/ECM systems inside Mirage’s body itself. Looks better thinking of it that way too.
There are only four things I can really complain about:
- Though the legs are quite dynamic in how they can pose, the knees have double joints due to how he transforms, so when posing him, they don’t stay together properly and flex too easily. I would have made then snap into place, and then leave the knee joints as they are.
- The connection levers on the feet are incredibly sensitive. (They’re ball-and-socket; what do you think they’re gonna do after a while…?) While I like how flexible they are, those joints are just too loose for what they are used for in supporting even the light weight of this figure.
- The whole eyes-light-up gimmick is fun, but it never seems to work out right for the toys they design it for. In this case, yes, they should have painted his blue eyes in.
- The range of motion in the head is a bit limiting. Despite having two joints in the neck, in order to look left or right, the head is forced to tilt downwards by the white ABS behind it.
The waist joint does have a tendency to pop-off when transforming him, and maybe if it had been larger it would have been done differently, but I’m willing to put up with it.
This toy is, by far- and I’m not exaggerating here- superior to a lot of transformable toys (not just including the trademarked Transformers) I’ve seen despite its size. (Hey- some of the favorite pieces in my collection stand on the smaller side of 7 inches!) The transformation is fun and involved, he looks fantastic in both modes, his poseability is exceptional, and the style of the figure (as I talk about above) is a great comparison to the cartoon character designs of the past. Plus, this is a wonderful successor to the G1 character. He very quickly and unexpectedly became my favorite toy in the entire Classics line. I highly, no- strongly recommend getting Mirage!
|Posted 26 September, 2007 - 15:00 by EVA_Unit_4A|