numbat's review: Astrotrain
Astrotrain has something of a fan following, despite never having had a particularly large role in any of the G1 cartoon episodes (other than ‘Triple Take-Over’). Of course, he did perform a pivotal role in the G1 Movie, transporting the injured Decepticons away from Autobot City after the fall of Megatron, and playing painful host / venue to the ensuing power struggles.
His inclusion in the original wave of the Hasbro Classics line was something of a surprise because of this – and the fact that expectations for a re-hashed original Triple Changer, after all these years, would be high and difficult to meet.
The result, released in 2006, was, in my view, a huge success – delivering extremely well, especially given the size limitations imposed by the Deluxe scale used. For a full, fairly exhaustive review of the mould, I’d direct you towards my review for Classics Astrotrain
The Classics release used a more realistic colour scheme of white and black – which worked well given the steam engine locomotive upgrade to a bullet train. Dark purple brought out the shuttle wings, in a nod to the Hasbro release of the G1 figure (G1 Astrotrain
), and is used for stripes along the side of the train mode, with a dash of red. This provides an excellent homage / upgrade of the first Triple Changer toy I ever owned as a child. However, Astrotrain, like a number of G1 characters, differed considerably in the G1 cartoon series – with the colour scheme bearing little resemblance to the toy.
In recent years, Takara have tended to step in and provide more G1 anime accurate renditions of figures – although it was eHobby who did so for the G1 Astrotrain figure in 2004 (eHobby Anime Accurate Astrotrain
). However, as time went by, and interest in traditional Transformers figures waned in Japan, it seemed less and less likely that the Classics line would even see a Japanese release.
Roll on the 2007 live action film, and interest seems to have been re-injected, and the now TakaraTomy took advantage of the Classics moulds as a quick-to-release line (Henkei) after the Movie line finished.
And, as can be expected, far more G1 anime faithful paint applications were announced – including chromed parts.
Astrotrain has received one of the most extensive repaints (equal only to Megatron) – with far more anime accurate dark greys and purples. Given my love of the mould, I could not resist picking up this cartoon accurate version.
As I’ve already reviewed the mould thoroughly, this review will concentrate on the differences in colour schemes.
The big, and surprisingly difficult question is – how does this version compare to the Hasbro Classics release?
Alternate Mode 1:
As a Triple Changer, Astrotrain has two alternate modes. Due to the tricky nature of designing a toy which can transform in to two different vehicles, often one mode shines over the other. In the case of Henkei Astrotrain, the space shuttle (the mode he is packaged in – although I expect that packaging size and shape is a consideration here, above execution of mode!) is undoubtedly the superior mode.
Measuring 5 3/4” (14.5cm) long with a 4 1/4” (11cm) wing span, the shuttle mode is littered with moulded detail, which truly stands out a lot better in grey and a lighter purple than on the sharply contrasting Classics version.
Interestingly, Astrotrain’s colour scheme does change a little later on in the G1 anime – with his robot mode wings changing from grey with purple trim / heat shielding to purple with grey trim / heat shielding. While the eHobby G1 Astrotrain repaint has the grey wings, this Henkei figure sports purple wings.
This is slightly unfortunate, as it creates an inconsistency between the colour of the heat shielding on the fuselage (purple) and the wings (grey). It does allow for a neater underside than the Classics Astrotrain, though – with grey under the wings and purple almost everywhere else.
(Also, while the original Classics line used rub stickers and no printed symbols, the Henkei release does not include a rub sticker, but instead has printed Decepticon insignia on either wing – which I prefer, as the rub stickers hardly work in Scotland’s climate, and I like the consistency with other figures.)
The reasons for the decision to go with purple wings may have been to provide a contrast against the otherwise overbearing grey in the robot mode, and to help the bullet train front halves blend in with the shuttle mode a little better – because, frankly, they stick out like a giraffe roaming the Scottish Highlands.
While a number of people complained that these train halves looked a little conspicuous on the Classics Astrotrain, they were at least painted in such a way that they blended in to a good degree, giving the impression of fuel tanks. Indeed, the choice of upgrading the steam locomotive to a bullet train provides two sleak modes with a lot in common – helping any kibble go by relatively unnoticed. However, the Classics bullet train lacked much detail paint applications (such as front windows and lights and middle wheels – and even the black side windows were almost totally hidden by the near-black purple stripe they were embedded in) – which, although detrimental to the train mode, allowed the shuttle mode to be near-perfect. Not so with Henkei Astrotrain. Here, the train has been painted well – with a contrasting white stripe around black side windows, black front windows on grey, and headlights which are an almost fluorescent yellow. And these are tacked on to the sides of a space shuttle… And, if that weren’t bad enough, the train’s middle wheel mountings have been carefully painted purple (well, actually, the wheels have been painted grey), drawing attention to them as they thrust into the sky! Alas, this just does not fly.
Still, in a final defense – the chrome is gorgeous! The rear boosters are shiny silver, surrounded by purple chromed plastic. No doubt this is superior to the unpainted white of the Classics version.
Regarding the quality of the paint applications (an area where Hasbro did sorely disappoint – through sloppy application, inconsistent colours, and easily scratched paint), while totally consistent in colours, and with neat application, the paint is easily scratched. My Henkei Astrotrain came with a scratch out of the grey in front of the shuttle tail, showing the purple beneath. That’s a tad disappointing, but still better than the Classics quality.
The gun can be attached to the bottom – much in the same way as Megatron used to clip on to the bottom of the Seekers in the G1 cartoon.
It cannot be argued in any way that the shuttle looks at all realistic in the G1 cartoon colours, although this is how many of us remember Astrotrain. Frankly, given the red windows in the Henkei version, Astrotrain has never resembled an evil shuttle more – but it’s scant disguise!
Alternate Mode 2:
As a quick note regarding the transformation, as with the Hasbro release, the TakaraTomy instructions neglect to include a small step. When transforming, rotate the shuttle tail before unfolding it – this points the ‘V’ towards the front of the bullet train, providing a more streamlined look, and giving less of an impression of kibble.
Interestingly, the purple, grey and white colouration of the bullet train looks more train-like than the white and black Classics version. I think this is because of the consistency. The TakaraTomy designers have put a lot of thought in to how to best achieve a uniform look in the train mode, whereas Hasbro sacrificed this for a superior shuttle mode. The little touches, such as the front windows and headlights make a huge difference as well (ironically, given the detrimental impact on the shuttle mode!).
The only slight oddity is the horizontal Decepticon insignia on either side at the rear of the train.
Due to the chrome, the shuttle boosters are a lot
more obvious in the Henkei version’s train mode, but, given Astrotrain’s anime counterpart also had boosters at the rear of his train, I think this is actually a plus point in the context of the character – to me, the boosters at the rear of the train are an Astrotrain hallmark. And, in comparison to the bland white of the Classics release, the stunning chrome works a lot better.
With this mode measuring 9” (23cm) in length, it’s not surprising that the figure does not come packaged as a train! This allows Astrotrain to match up with the RID bullet train team
– and the Henkei colours certainly single him out as the Decepticon (which is fun, although a poor disguise, once again).
The grey gun can be attached for an ‘attack mode’, and this looks less ridiculous, thanks to the colours, than with the Classics version, but I still dislike it.
This is the main event. The mould delivers such a superb robot mode (with the trademark boosters on the back!), and the anime colour scheme is breathtaking in this mode.
Where the paint applications allow for passable shuttle and train mode, whilst failing both through compromise to the other, the scheme comes together beautifully in the 5 ½” (14cm) tall robot mode.
The purple has been used to accentuate the general grey of the robot, while the purple wings (as opposed to the possible grey, depending on which episode of the G1 cartoon you watch…) contrast nicely, with the Decepticon insignias peaking through at the corners.
The train front features are slightly distracting on the arms, where they were as inconspicuous as possible on the Classics version. However, this is not detrimental – after all, Astrotrain does turn into a train after all! And I enjoy seeing where vehicle parts end up in robot modes. The white stripes from the train are new to the character, though – but a nice addition to the colour palette, and complimenting the face (which would otherwise be a white island amongst dark colours).
The Henkei colours also make for a more interesting back for the figure – not that it’s the most important part of a toy! Greys, purples, and the chromed boosters really liven it up compared to the monotonous white of Classics Astrotrain.
My favourite feature, though, has to be the split shuttle tail chest plate (not positioned at his waist, as in the cartoon, but more G1 toy accurate). The purple stripe has been chromed, and was a real delight when I first unfolded it!
Also – although it may just be my individual toys – the train halves on the Henkei figure actually lock out of the way of the hands, while my Classics version remains loose. In fact, all the joints are tighter, which is great for posing.
How does Henkei Astrotrain compare with Classics Astrotrain? Well the quality of the toy is certainly higher than the Hasbro equivalent. In terms of appearance, the Classics version has an excellent shuttle mode at the expense of the train, while Henkei Astrotrain has two passable mode, with neither being excellent. However, I do prefer the Henkei robot mode to the Classics version – if for no better reason than the fact the details stand out a lot better (which is surprising, some how, as there are actually less paint apps on the Henkei version!).
Which should you buy, though? Well, if you like the cartoon, buy Henkei. If you like a bit more updated realism, or were fond of the G1 toy, then buy Classics. Or, better yet, buy both. I can’t be more helpful than that!
Marks out of ten for the following:
7 – It’s not tricky, but it’s very nicely designed.
6 – The tail halves / chest plate are a constant worry, and the paint does seem to scratch off.
10 – This mould is just perfection! Or close to it as a Triple Changer has yet to achieve. And the colours are great in both versions. You can’t go wrong!
7 – Generally, the cost of importing this figure does make him a little steep for a Deluxe Class figure. However, there are bargains to be had (I got mine for £14 [$28] including postage, which seems to be only £1 above the Universe / Classics Deluxe mass retail price in the UK now!).
7 – This is a great figure. You really ought to treat yourself to one version of the mould or another. However, due to realism and price considerations, I expect Classics Astrotrain will have more takers outside of the Astrotrain fan club.
Ionic Displacer Rifle
"In confusion there is opportunity."
When I returned to collecting Transformers again in late 2007 (some time after the first movie), I tried my best to look for Classics toys. All I could get were the later waves like Cliffjumper and Rodimus. I couldn't find the likes of Mirage, or, more specifically, Astrotrain. At this time I was unaware of the Japanese Henkei line. It was until a trip to Singapore, when I walked around and my eyes rested on rows of Classics Transformers with Japanese packaging. Judging from the paint applications, those couldn't be knock-offs. Or at least, those are good knock-offs if they were. Happy, I picked up Megatron, Mirage and Astrotrain.
Later, when I got home, I found out from this very website that these Japanese Classics, a.k.a. Henkei, are Japanese/Asia-exclusive Classics toys with a TV show-accurate paint job, chromed details, and, um, a heftier price tag. Oh, and it comes with a bonus comic.
Astrotrain is probably one of the best Classics toys ever, and that's including the recent Classics 2.0. And, more importantly, the Decepticon triple-changers, all three of them, had been reincarnated in modern toy form. Blitzwing in Animated, Astrotrain in Classics, and Octane (Tankor) in Classics 2.0. Despite Octane coming nearly two years after Astrotrain, Astrotrain is still the better toy.
Astrotrain first appeared in the second year of the Transformers, 1985. He appeared in the second season out of nowhere, but he soon made regular appearances, and his spotlight episode was Triple Takeover. Not his best moment, but that's a funny episode. Astrotrain's most memorable scene was in the 1986 flick Transformers: the Movie, where he ferried the Decepticon troops back to Cybertron. He claimed that there's too much weight (though there's no weight in space — he's lying!), 'forcing' Starscream to dump Megatron and a few other damaged Decepticons into space. Unicron rebuilt Megatron into Galvatron, and Starscream got turned into boots. Astrotrain, however, was not punished, and would make cameos throughout season 3. While Blitzwing and Octane got kicked out from the Decepticon army (one being noble and the other being an opportunist), Astrotrain was the only triple changer that Galvatron found valuable. See? Astrotrain's the best. The cartoon version of Astrotrain had a slightly different colour palette than his toy. In the comics, Astrotrain didn't appear until much later, well after the movie, except in some UK stories. His US debut was alongside Octane and Blitzwing, where they got infected by scraplets. Astrotrain made cameos throughout the US run, until he got vaped by Starscream in the Underbase saga. Astrotrain appeared in Dreamwave comics as part of Shockwave's new rule. He also appeared in the current IDW comics as part of Starscream's Earthen group, and made constant appearances in Infiltration, Escalation, Devastation
and All Hail Megatron
. A second Astrotrain appeared in Transformes: Universe (a repaint of Armada Jetfire) and another one in Shattered Glass.
Actually this toy had already been reviewed by fellow Astrotrain fan numbat. But I like him so much that I had to give him a review.
Astrotrain transforms into a space shuttle mode that's very reminiscent of his original G1 alternate mode. At first glance Astrotain looks just like a normal NASA space shuttle, but on closer inspection, it would reveal that there is, to use a cliché, more than meets the eye to him. Of course, there are the Decepticon insignias that Astrotrain wears proudly on his purple wings. There are also parts of his train alternate mode sitting at his sides. Of course, the train parts couldn't be placed elsewhere, and besides, it flows with the curves of the shuttle mode so that it's barely noticeable.
A personal opinion, I prefer Astrotrain's cartoon colour scheme (a more subdued gray and dark purple) to his toy scheme (white and purple with black rims). It gives Astrotrain more of a... dangerous feel. I can't describe it, but it's better in my opinion.
Astrotrain's entire back thing had been chromed, and (other than the three exhausts) painted over with purple. Now, here's a little warning. Be very careful with it, the purple finish scratches off easily. You don't want that to happen.
Astrotrain's electro-disruptor rifle could be pegged onto his undercarriage for storage, and he has landing gears. And, also, by a 'complete design fluke', Hasbro claims that the Classics Astrotrain mold's front landing gear could peg onto Cybertron Jetfire's head section. Looks stupid, but I'll mention it here anyway.
A few twists, a few adjustments, and we have ourselves Astrotrain's train mode. His original G1 train mode was a steam train. Now since Classics wants realistic alternate modes, Astrotrain's steam train had been lovingly updated into an up-to-date bullet-train. IDW chose a modern steam train for their
updated Astrotrain, but the Classics/Henkei toy picked a bullet-train.
This toy's bullet-train looks wonderful, with the white lines on the front and detailings like windows being present. Unfortunately, since this is a triple changer, compromises had to be made. Thankfully, a space shuttle and a bullet-train look very similar—both are sleek, and have to look powerful. Astrotrain's train mode is the worst of the three, with the shuttle's wings forming the back of his train mode (with unpainted windows molded in) and the flashy chromed exhaust thingies on the back. Whatever the case, those must've given Astrotrain a boost on the rail tracks.
peg Astrotrain's gun on his back, to form a 'battle mode', but it looks stupid.
Surprisingly, considering this is supposed to be a 'worst' mode, Henkei Astrotrain manages to again pull it off. Compared to, say, the recent half a piece of twisted plastic that is
Octane... Honestly. If they had placed effort into Octane's actual transformation instead of focusing into his gimmick (i.e. the giant claw) Octane would've been a more interesting toy.
Of the three modes that this space choo-choo offers, I must say that his robot mode is my favourite. In addition to the chromed engines (which rest on his back), his chest panels, which is the tail fin split into two, is beautifully given a metallic finish as well, and painted over with purple and red. Unlike some other Henkei toys I could name, Astrotrain's chrome application doesn't seem forced, nor did it break the flow of his paint job.
Posability is nice as well. The neck is on a ball joint and can crane up. The shoulder and elbows are on ball joints, and the knee and thighs are jointed as well. No waist joints, due to the transformation, but hey, at least it's worth it. He's no Classics Mirage, but there's only so much you could cram into a Deluxe Class figure.
Overall, we have Astrotrain in all his glory. Very similar to his G1 incarnation, yet subtly different. The detailed head sculpt harks back to his character model, while the characteristic chest to the toy. Honestly, he looks just like G1 Astrotrain other than the train cabs hanging off his arms.
Astrotrain comes with an electro-disruptor rifle that is a splitting image of the original G1 toy. A large gun, not dinky tiny guns that the Classics 2.0 toys have. Sure, it doesn't fire, but he does look badass carrying a huge gun like that.
Overall, this figure is highly recommended, the only question being whether you want the Classics version or the Henkei version. For me, I like the Henkei paint job better (and it's affordable here).
Marks out of ten for the following:
5/10 The transformation is simple enough, not quite as challenging as the newer Classics 2.0 molds. Simplicity is beauty, no?
8/10 Astrotrain is a very durable toy, but there are some qualms about him. Firstly, the chest/wing thing feels like it could just snap off. Another thing is the chrome. It could chip off.
10/10 Three excellent alternate modes, quick transformation, adequate posability, a big gun... Astrotrain's very fun to play with.
8/10 Astrotrain is definitely worth it for me.
10/10 What else do you want? Three excellent modes, nice posability, a big gun, excellent transformation, modern alternate modes, G1-esque robot and shuttle modes... if the price is a problem, buy the Classics toy. This mold is a definite must-have.