Transformers Masterpiece Lambor (Sideswipe)
Review by VF5SS
A little over a decade ago, the original MP-01 Convoy (Optimus Prime) burst onto the scene and rocked the toy world as the first truly high-end Transformers collector's toy. With its impressive size, copious amounts of diecast metal, and numerous character accurate gimmicks MP-01 was almost universally accepted as a toy that lived up to its title of "masterpiece." From here on out fans eagerly awaited for more releases in the Masterpiece line, confidant in the knowledge that every subsequent toy would be just as much as a triumph as MP-01. Every toy would be a perfect blend of size, gimmicks, heft, and show-accuracy!
Then the line immediately threw fans a curve ball with MP-02, the whitest Optimus you know pretending to be Ultra Magnus. Next came the smaller sized MP-03 Starscream (ver. Kawamori) whose use of "real type" colors and Kawamori-tastic design choices confused fans as to what was the overall goal for Masterpiece. After another Starscream repaint, the mechanically fascinating but ultimately unsatisfying MP-05 Megatron was released at retail in countries with lax toy gun laws. Despite being just as large as MP-01, the complex transformation demanded by his alternate mode meant his lanky appearance and fragility could not match the solidity of Optimus. Next came MP-08 Grimlock whose show accurate appearance, well executed gimmicks, and solid construction were a welcome return to the supposed core ideals of the Masterpiece line. His size, however, was still lacking compared to the mammoth MP-01. With the lukewarm reception of MP-09 Rodimus Convoy, Takara Tomy decided to re-evaluate the direction the line was going. Despite some grumbling on the part of fans, MP-10 Convoy Renewal Version was a chance for Takara Tomy to use a new Optimus Prime figure to set the tone for the rest of the line in what some are calling a "soft reboot" of Masterpiece Transformers. A more show accurate "de-Kawamori-fied" MP-11 Starscream complemented the new Optimus Prime. The latest toy, MP-12, is the subject of this review.
The twelfth mainline Masterpiece Transformer release (discounting odd variants) is Lambor. To the rest of the world this guy is known as the impulsive yet steadfast Autobot warrior, Sideswipe. I will refer to this toy as Sideswipe for the benefit of our western minded readers. As much as Sideswipe is the quintessential Autobot car from the original 1984 lineup, the red Lamborghini Countach he transforms into is also the quintessential 80's sports car. His car mode measures about five and a half inches in length, making him one of the smallest Masterpiece figures to date. He has plastic tires and no diecast metal.
Even at his small size, Sideswipe catches the eye with the allure inherent to the Lamborghini Countach. His outer surface is covered in a glossy red paint. His large Autobot symbol is perfectly framed by the sleek contours of the Countach's hood. This image is so burned into my brain that I always thought a red Countach without an Autobot symbol looked wrong somehow. Note that he has a tiny tampo printed Lamborghini badge.
While Sideswipe's car mode is appropriately sleek, my example has some minor issues fitting the panels together. This does not appear to be a widespread issue and is not a deal breaker for me. Unlike Masterpiece Rodimus, Sideswipe's car made is neatly locked together which allows him to roll along any flat surface with ease.
Speaking of Rodimus, we all remember back in the year 2005 when cars were over-sized gas guzzlers right? While some cite Sideswipe's size as a detriment, I will argue he is the perfect size while Rodimus is a bit too big. These two figures are conceptually quite similar as they are both modern updates of classic Generation 1 car Transformers. The overall layout of their transformations is roughly the same, but Sideswipe's smaller size means he uses simpler engineering such as regular hinges instead of ratcheted joints. As a result, Sideswipe is a much cleaner and smartly designed toy who does not suffer from needing tight tolerances that Takara Tomy's factories (normally geared for the mass market) may fail to deliver.
The rear of the car mode is where most of the extraneous robot parts reside, which manifest as a slightly blocky exhaust array. Other than that he is an excellent looking vehicle.
Sideswipe's rear bumper has tampo printed text reading "Lamborghini" and "Countach." It's a nice attention to detail.
About twenty years ago I received my first taste of early Generation 1 Transformers with the first wave of Generation 2 figures. For myself and fellow writer, Dkun, the G2 repaints of some of the earliest Transformers were the only way to get brand new examples of these toys. This particular G2 Sideswipe is one of my childhood toys. Sideswipe's G2 repaint is a fan favorite variation on the classic Sideswipe colors.
One of the more interesting aspects of Masterpiece Sideswipe is how Takara Tomy reached out to Lamborghini in order to make their toy an officially licensed product. The front of the box has a large image of Lamborghini's famous Bull and Shield logo, while the bottom has a holographic seal which marks Sideswipe as an officially approved recreation of the world famous sports car. Some further research reveals that Lamborghini even oversaw the paint job on the toy down to the last detail such as the shade of red chosen for the paint job. Unfortunately I have heard there may be issues with this figure getting a US release because this license only applies to Japan and would require some extra negotiations for the rest of the world.
One of the unfortunate side effects of covering the toy in red paint is there are some quality control issues. I feel the paint work on my toy is at an acceptable level but I have seen horror stories of splotchy black detailing and amateur touch ups on the painted red parts. Red paint is especially difficult to apply so this is one aspect of the toy that may need visual inspection before purchase.
The small black square on the roof is a spring loaded panel where Sideswipe's weapons can attach. Simply plug his handheld "flare gun" into the side of the missile launcher and then push the mounting peg of the launcher into the little black square. The launcher fits nice and snugly into the roof and gives Sideswipe a pleasing toy-like appearance.
The driving reason for Sideswipe being smaller than other Masterpiece Transformers is that he is meant to be in scale with MP-10. These two toys complement each other quite well in their respective vehicle modes. I am very eager to see what Autobot cars are announced in the coming years as a full lineup of 84-85 Autobots next to Optimus would be a dream come true.
Sideswipe easily fits inside MP-10's trailer. Now, despite the fact a Countach could never get down that steep ramp, Sideswipe overcomes this limitation in true Cannonball Run 2 style!
With MP-10's trailer unfurled, Sideswipe looks as natural as can be nestled underneath the repair drone.
As I alluded to before, Sideswipe is a smartly design Transformer. His conversion process strikes a perfect balance between ingenuity and intuitiveness. While there are some rough similarities to the original Generation 1 toy, Masterpiece Sideswipe employs the right amount of engineering to create a modern rendition of the character that is never frustrating to transform. Upon receiving Sideswipe I must have transformed him back and forth about twenty times. It's really something you need to experience first hand to appreciate.
One of the more ingenious aspects of the transformation is how panels sandwiched around Sideswipe's thighs in car mode swing a full 180 degrees out and around to form his lower legs. Note that the rear sides of the car have also rotated 180 degrees in order to maintain Sideswipe's recognizable leg configuration with his tires pointing forward. The front edges of the sides of the car flip down to fill in gaps at the edge of his shins. His torso has a simple two part hinge that collapses the length of the car mode in a neatly packed robot torso. Numerous clips keep everything together.
With the final steps of the transformation, Sideswipe's legs come together with an extra flip-out panel that forms his inner calves. The taillights tuck neatly into a slot at the bottom of his shins. Due to how compact Sideswipe's car mode is, the top of his head actually hinges backward just to give it more clearance to fit underneath the windshield. His arms and hands unfurl with a few simple twists. The whole process is just fun to do and is one of the strongest aspects of this toy.
Sideswipe's robot is mode is extremely evocative of his appearance in the cartoon. He stands roughly seven inches tall and feels quite robust. Given his transformation I honestly do not see any place for diecast that wouldn't compromise something much more vital like stability and articulation.
Add Sideswipe's non-firing missile launcher to either shoulder and pop his gun into either hand to complete his appearance. The gun itself tabs into a slot in either palm and is held in by lightly closing his single piece fingers around it. Even if the gun is knocked out of its slot, the fingers do a good job of keeping the gun in place.
A few extra tucks with his windshield backpack along with how his legs come together makes Sideswipe a very clean looking figure from almost any angle.
Sideswipe's head is well sculpted with details that echo both his toy and cartoon design. My only complaint is his blue eyes can get lost behind the cheek guards of his helmet. I do enjoy his full and expressive lips though.
I always find it oddly charming how small many Generation 1 figures really are. Our collective toy nostalgia always inflates the size of a toy tenfold. As a child, my G2 Sideswipe was just as big and amazing as the Masterpiece figure. I believe a lot of people owned a classic Sideswipe in some capacity (such as the G2 repaint) and have many fond memories of it partially due to how Sideswipe is a classic Transformer who both broke the least and had the fewest bits to lose.
One of these bits was his flare gun which the Masterpiece figure faithfully reproduces in a larger size. Due to how the cartoon model was drawn it did lose the fore grip as seen on the G1 gun.
While he lacks any ratcheted joints, Sideswipe is a figure feels like he doesn't need any. All of his articulation is accomplished with numerous hinges and universal joints that move smoothly yet are stiff enough to hold many, many poses.
It's just like the opening credits!
Sideswipe is balanced enough to deliver a few high kicks!
Even the classic box art pose is no problem.
Retracting Sideswipe's fists allow you to snap on his twin pile drivers. People who ordered through Amazon.co.jp received an additional pair of chromed pile drivers shaped like the ends of a straight-blade screwdriver. In the show, Sideswipe's pile drivers changed from episode to episode so Takara Tomy picked a few choice examples.
These are simple accessories that work quite well.
As I mentioned before, Sideswipe is designed to complement the new MP-10 Optimus Prime. Their relative heights are based on size charts the animators sometimes followed in making the cartoon. "Scale" is often seen as a dirty word in the Transformers mythos due to how just about every character changes size at some point over the course of the story or even during their transformation like with Megatron and Soundwave. Due to the necessity for Sideswipe to interact with Optimus and his accessories, I see Sideswipe as being scaled in a practical manner.
The relative heights are surprisingly similar between the Masterpiece figures and their Generation 1 based counterparts. For me this picture is twenty years in the making.
The somewhat maligned Repair Bay mode for Optimus's trailer gains some much needed legitimacy when displayed with an appropriately sized Autobot. It almost makes you forgot this is accomplished by merely standing the trailer's base mode on end.
The small Spike figure included with MP-10 looks about right next to his Autobot friend.
Next to the archenemy of the Autobots, Sideswipe can look somewhat diminutive. The size disparity between the old toys wasn't quite as noticeably as with the Masterpiece toys.
With his brash attitude, Sideswipe charges at the Decepticons without fear because the bigger they are...
... the harder they fall!
He's been working on his Jet Judo!
"Gee I didn't even know Decepticons had uncles!"
This particular Masterpiece Transformers has been at the center of equal amounts of unbridled joy and indignant debate. All of it seems to boil down to whether or not an all plastic figure of this size can both justify its 5800 yen MSRP and a rightful place in the Masterpiece line. I can confidently say that yes, Masterpiece MP-12 Lambor is worthy of being a Masterpiece figure and justifies his price. I do fully understand that, given several factors (many of which are beyond our control), his 5800 yen price tag can be hard to swallow. This is especially true given the current exchange rate. If the paint on your figure is bad or if there are any other problems inherent to mass-produced figures that rear their ugly heads, it may be a hassle to exchange the toy for a new one or a refund. For collectors of Japanese toys, we know that you can buy far worse for 5800 yen. To Transformers collectors unfamiliar with the Japanese market this can seem odd. I offer as an example the all PVC Figutto Mechanicals Nineball from Armored Core Ninebreaker by Griffon Enterprises which is 7800 yen MSRP. That is for something at the level of a NECA figure that is even smaller and less capable than Sideswipe.
For me, Sideswipe is the complete package from his iconic Lamborghini Countach mode all the way through his transformation into a excellent rendition of a classic Transformers character. Admittedly, he can seem less impressive all alone, but alongside MP-10 and any future Masterpiece Autobot cars (such as the upcoming Red Alert repaint of Sideswipe) this toy really shines. Sideswipe is a toy who works best as part of a greater whole much like how his character is a soldier in a much larger conflict. I see this toy as a good sign for the Masterpiece Autobots that may come in the future. Years ago MP-01 tried to be the best toy it could be, but time and the economic realities of today have not been kind to it. It was an important first step for the Transformers brand, however, that begot all of the toys that followed in its wake for better or worse. I find MP-12 to be a similar milestone as it represents a clearly defined direction for the Masterpiece line and that is perhaps more important than rubber tires. If Takara Tomy makes a Prowl, Sunstreaker, Mirage, Jazz, or any other Autobot car with this level of quality then I think it will be all the better for Masterpiece to get a little leaner (and smarter) in the coming years.
|Posted 22 November, 2012 - 18:25 by VF5SS|