Convoy (AKA Optimus Primal)
Review by Optimal III
I could write a doctoral thesis on the importance of Beast Wars to the Transformers franchise, never mind how amazing and special it is. But this is a toy review, so I'll try to stay on topic and talk about the actual toy I'm reviewing. For 12 years, Takara's Masterpiece line has been focused on G1, and that makes perfect sense. It's the most prolific, fondly remembered, and celebrated part of Transformers, for a lot of good reasons. The closest they came to straying from that "box" was when they did the "Masterpiece Poll" for the 30th anniversary. Not all choices were G1 characters, but Star Saber won in the end. A character introduced in Japanese G1 in 1989, but still G1.
I've even said that doing anything post-G1 was sort of pointless, because late G2 is when the toy designs started to become modernized, especially in terms of articulation. I'm not saying there isn't room for improvement, just that I didn't think there was much. But boy was I wrong, and boy am I glad no one at Takara ever listened to me or anyone else with similar notions. Because if they had, I wouldn't have this Masterpiece in front of me, which I didn't realize how badly I wanted till it was announced. And not just any MP. No, it's FREAKING MP Optimus Primal!!!
Primal is kind of beefy, so his box is bigger than the MP cars type, but not as big as any of the others. What immediately stands out is the background, an up-close of the eye of a seemingly reptilian beast. This is the same background used for all the early Beast Wars toys released in the west, but the skin color was red instead of black. I'm guessing the change is to reflect this figure's status as a Masterpiece.
Additional callouts include the banner on the bottom right, noting the 20th anniversary of Beast Wars. On the top left, "TRANSFORMERS MASTERPIECE" is printed in the same font & arrangement as "BEAST WARS TRANSFORMERS", the official title of the animated series. Beneath that is the same thing, but done in the style of the Japanese Beast Wars logo.
This MP happening is quite the east/west amalgamation. Takara created the MP figure, but pretty much everything about Beast Wars hails from the west courtesy of Hasbro, Kenner, and Mainframe. Beast Wars was also a much bigger hit in the west, so I was surprised by this whole happening. But I'm not complaining.
The back of the box is the usual MP affair. There are multiple shots showing off both modes, accessories, weapons, gimmicks, and in a first, animation shots for comparison. They're always seen inside the manuals, but never on the back of the box. This is probably to sell how close the likeness is. More on that later.
Additional contents include the typical instruction manual & tech-spec card.
In beast mode, Optimus Primal assumes the form of an actual gorilla. Organic forms were one of the many hallmarks and revolutionary things Beast Wars introduced to Transformers. To that end, I think Takara did as good a job as possible of capturing the look without making a statue or non-transforming figure. Beast Wars was also the first Transformers series completely animated with 3D/CGI animation. Thanks to 3D printing, I'm guessing it was an easy matter to print a perfectly proportioned model and then make cuts and insertions where necessary.
Also interesting is the deco. There isn't a lot of sculpted detail besides the chest, abs, face, hands, and feet. But his body is covered in the CG fur texture deco where there isn't skin or eyes. Many have said previous MP figures looked like Transformers who just walked off the screen, including me. But I think if we're being honest, most of the previous MP figures are idealized versions of the characters they depict, and in turn we see what we want to see. Primal here isn't idealized, but he truly looks like he walked right off the screen.
From the front and sides, it's not terribly obvious that this primate is more than meets the eye. But once you get behind him, that's no longer the case. The robot mode's legs are exposed. The original toy had a similar issue, but covered it up with its backpack. Here, it's just not possible to replicate the animation magic without extra parts that wouldn't have anywhere to go in robot mode.
The elbow hinges/forearm swivels are similar in placement to the original toy, and there's even a short lever in his back. It doesn't do anything here besides flip out, but with the original Optimus Primal toy, it served as a lever for making the arms move. I suppose it could be used with a stand too, but I doubt many are interested in displaying Primal's beast mode.
He's at least on par with any other Transformer with a gorilla form, though that's not saying much. His articulation below the waist is limited. But that doesn't mean Takara didn't give him other tools to compensate.
He can get down all four limbs, close to the typical gorilla posture. The plate behind his neck can lift outward, letting him tilt his head up enough to look ahead/above.
His skid plate can also be lifted, which assists with crouching and letting the legs out, basically when he's not standing upright.
And then there's his one gimmick in beast mode, swappable faces. He comes out-of-box with his neutral face on. Grab it from the sides and it's easy to pull off, thus revealing Primal has been the Red Hood all this time.
The alternatives are a happy, grinning face and an angry, yelling face. Extra faces are common with toys today, but it's cool here because the animation style of Beast Wars allowed the characters to be extremely emotive in both beast and robot modes with their facial expressions. So, this is a good way to capture that.
Grodd was happy when he found the box, because the logo and Maximal symbol made him think he'd found a toy.
But he went ape-@#$% when he realized it was full of bananas. Grodd hates bananas.
But in all seriousness, Optimus Primal's beast mode is solid for what it should be. All his previous toys have been toys first, but here was an opportunity to perfectly capture his appearance in the TV show, the driving, defining force of Beast Wars. And I think they nailed it as much as possible without losing focus on what should be the meat of every Masterpiece figure......
......that sweet, sweet robot mode. I've been looking at pictures, screen captures, and clips to compare. As far as I can tell, this is the spitting image of Optimus Primal. The only noticeable differences are the addition of panel lines, pins, screws, and the holes they occupy. The hinges for his forearms are also placed differently. But that's it. He's practically perfect.
Is it good lighting, or is he squinting because Rattrap just did something to cheese him off? You, the viewers, will decide.
They did what they could with beast mode, but Primal's robot mode is where the money is, and they didn't flub a bit. Save maybe his peg-like elbows, there's nothing unsightly from any angle. It probably helps that for the most part his transformation scheme is practical and logical, pretty much like what you see in the show. He does a 180 at the waist. His crotch locks into place, keeping him upright. His forelegs detach from behind the upper legs. His knees and various plates rotate into position to solidify everything. His feet flip-flop front & back from one form to the other.
His shoulder pads raise up from his upper arms and his shoulder joints settle into their sockets. The edges of his back fold out to release his back so it can flip over vertically and then dock back in place. His gorilla chest folds out enough to let his gorilla head rotate back into his chest cavity, which in turn brings up his robot head. The gorilla chest then collapses in so that the gorilla abdomen can pull up and become the robot chest plate, with the inner plate pulling out and up so it can be rotated to the mechanical side.
I'm not sure if any one detail stands out as exceptional, but they all come together for the complete presentation. There is no paint slop at all. There are two or three spots of what could be nub remnants or flash, but they're so small that they blend into the fur pattern. And maybe it's because it breaks up in robot mode, but the fur pattern somehow looks almost real. Like it has texture and depth. Guess that's the power of optical illusions.
Articulation is great, both by MP standards and in general. His head is on a ball-joint which lets him tilt, turn, gawk, stare, etc. as desired. His shoulders are stiff click-ratchets on the vertical and firm hinges on the horizontal. You can pull them out even further, but his gorilla arms are so long that it won't be necessary. His elbows are swivels with hinges at the front end. His wrists also swivel, stiffly. I didn't think they could at first till I firmly grabbed one and turned it. His hands have a little tilt too, within the confines of the gauntlets. He has the typical open/close grip, but with individual index fingers.
Here he's deciding whether he needs to groom again already. But probably not. His fur looks perfectly brushed and his manicure is still on point.
His feet are rockers with tilting toes and heels. His knees get about a 90-degree bend. His kneecaps only extend down so far, which results in a gap, but this is another one of those animation tricks they couldn't duplicate, so that's fine. His hips are ratchets (clicky on the horizontal but not the vertical) encased in balls, which his upper legs move around (the way you'd expect a ball joint to behave). And his waist swivels. So, he's poseable & easy to pose. Good steps towards being a winner, but what else can he do?
Well for starters, releasing his back allows this bottom plate to be flipped over to reveal his Prime jets (sorry Takara, Convoy jet sounds too "super-robot"). He's even got a peg hole between his legs, so you can mount him on a stand.
He has three alternate faces. One's a glaring mouth, one's a squinting eye, and the other is the Optimus Prime-style mouth plate. That last one is most appealing to me for that reason and because the original toy also had a mouth plate. These are further accented with light-up eyes, activated by pushing his head down. Strangely though, mine didn't come with any batteries, even though the manual shows you how to remove the plastic that's supposed to block the contacts (they're inside the back of his gorilla head).
All his signature weapons are present as well. He's got the double-barreled shotgun that lifts out his forearm.
It's so cool that they gave him two, which I think is the same thing that happened in the show.
He's got his shoulder-mounted missile launchers. You pull them to the side slightly to get over the storage tabs. They're independent and can sit at any angle.
Of course, those storage tabs are for storing his swords, which he can easily reach. They can't stay there in beast mode like the original toy, but that's no big deal.
He has tab slots in his hands, but his grip is so good, so organic, that they aren't necessary. He has no problem holding anything you can fit in.
No coconut or palm tree is safe.
Bring on MP Dinobot! He'll be ready.
And finally, anyone getting buying this outside of Japan has a shot at this. Starting with MP-31, Delta Magnus, Takara dropped the collectable coins. Starting with Primal here, something else diecast is included.
This time, it's a die-cast flail, modeled after the same weapon the original toy came with and stored inside its right forearm.
Every part is metal, but the head's the heaviest. Fortunately, Primal's joints are strong enough to handle it.
Comparisons are natural, especially since the original Optimus Primal toy was so well made the first time. I sold mine with the rest of my "loose" collection years ago, but to celebrate, I went ahead and picked up the most recent iteration from Takara's Legends line.
Over the past two decades, Takara has retooled and repainted the original three times, always pushing towards greater animation accuracy. Even so, the differences between it and the MP are numerous.
He's not much bigger than MP Red Alert, but that fits. Being CGI also meant Beast Wars was very consistent with scale, especially between characters. He's the third largest Maximal out of the first season cast.
Man, what a difference 20 years makes. For those who don't know, Optimus Primal is the leader of a team of Maximals (Autobot descendants) who find themselves stranded on prehistoric Earth & locked in battle with a team of Predacons (Decepticon descendants). The toys were hitting store shelves well before the cartoon launched, and it took Hasbro a while to commit to a narrative. Originally, Optimus Primal was meant to be Optimus Prime and the setting our present. But they decided to go all in on a new direction, so he became a descendent of Optimus Prime, named in his tribute. The first two episodes of Beast Wars I ever saw were "The Web" & "Double Jeopardy". Going off those, I found Primal to be a major jerk and dislikable, an insult to the legacy of his name.
But that perception soon changed with more episodes and he quickly became his own character with his own legacy, shared & shaped by the saga of the Beast Wars. He's worthy of the name "Optimus", and for a long time, he was well represented with the original toy. But now he's joined the ranks of the Masterpiece, a well-deserved status resulting in an equally amazing figure. Prime will probably always be my favorite character, and MP-04 is still awesome, but Primal just took his place as my favorite MP/toy. There are no cons, so unless you hate Beast Wars or are just super-attached to the original, he's well worth the $120+ he's going for now and a must-have.
Primal's reception was so positive before he was even released that they've already announced another Beast Wars Masterpiece, Cheetor, who should arrive in January 2017. If he's more of the same, I'm guessing more Maximals & Predacons won't be far behind.
|Posted 29 November, 2016 - 11:38 by Optimal III|