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Cal's Review: Henkei Red Alert

Name: Red Alert
Allegiance: Autobots
Function: Security Director

“Caution can never be overused.”

As security director for the Autobots, Red Alert tries to keep his eye on everyone and everything, all the time. He installs hidden cameras and security sensors everywhere, and keeps detailed records of the known movements of enemies and allies alike. Nothing escapes his attention, and - to him - everything is significant. His paranoia keeps him constantly on edge, but it’s paid off more than once by stopping Decepticon plots before they did any damage.


The bio from the Generations card certainly does Red Alert justice. He is the Richard Nixon of Transformers. Anyone who has seen the episode Auto Berserk would know what a funny nutter he is, panicking like a scared bunny that the other Autobots are out to get him. His spastic personality made an impression on me, and as soon as Sideswipe came out I was looking forward to seeing the inevitable repaint as the Autobot security director.

Red Alert was one of the last figures in the Henkei! Henkei! toyline and the only Deluxe released by Takara before Hasbro could follow suit prior to Revenge of the Fallen. So while little Japanese boys and girls were paying biscuits for Red Alert at their local Walmart-chan, us Westerners had to fight like animals over the few we could get on import for a higher price. After two years of pining, I finally received mine from eBay along with the scalp of the fellow I outbid. He wasn’t so clever after I finished with him, because I knew he was after me. Yes, that’s it. They’re all against me. Everyone! You’ll never take me alive, I tells you! Never! *snip*


ALTERNATE MODE

Red Alert transforms into a modified Lamborghini Gallardo as a step up from his original Lamborghini Countach vehicle mode. The car’s paint and design have been retooled for this release to serve as a fire chief’s car. While this has often been a source of humour for some fans, I should point out that there are public service sports car out there, but you’d have to be someone like Jack Bauer to ride one. Ever since Universe Sunstreaker and Sideswipe came out, I’ve always loved this vehicle design. It evokes the feel of the Countach while displaying the curves and aerodynamic design that you’d expect from a modern sports car. The chassis flows smoothly from the hood up a wide, trapezoid windshield and along elongated side windows with a horizontal split that matches the one on the Countach. While the car rides low to the ground, the wheels roll freely provided you transformed them correctly. There are no rear windows on this modified toy, but rather a stair-like slope concealing the Gallardo’s V10 engine, which belies Red’s speed rating of 3. Red Alert does not come with superchargers to assist with forced induction (even though the slots are still there), but instead sports an angled Japanese-style lightbar that was previously used on Henkei Ratchet. Unlike Ratchet, the centre of the lightbar is painted white to highlight the assembly. The detailing also extends to a very attractive rear end with sculpted ventilation, four red taillights and a license plate that reads “ALERT” - Red’s Japanese name.

Red Alert features more paint apps than were previously seen on Sunstreaker or Sideswipe. While the majority of the car is molded in white plastic, the lower half is painted red and the hood and doors feature “F. [badge] D. FIRE CHIEF” decals that scrupulously replicate those on the G1 toy. Not that I’m against the larger “FIRE RESCUE” decals on the Generations version, but the original look manages to appeal to my sense of nostalgia. In fact, that’s not the only difference why I find this décor more fetching than Hasbro’s release. The plastic itself is a beautiful gleaming white that makes Generations Red Alert look cheap by comparison. The contrast between Hasbro and Takara’s whites is the same as it is for RTS/United Jazz, and it’s something that marks the distinction between a collector’s item and a mere toy.

Despite being the second repaint of this mold, the ever-present Autobot insignia manages to be seen in its own way. While Sunstreaker’s insignia was plainly visible on the roof and Sideswipe’s was entirely concealed, Red Alert strikes the middle ground by having his insignia partially visible through the windshield. This is another key difference, because Red Alert’s windows are cast in a gorgeous translucent blue that complements the colour scheme much better than the previous opaque black. My only criticism about this redeco is the chrome used on the spoiler, which characterizes the Henkei line. The chrome spoiler is something that began with Sunstreaker in an effort by Takara to make him resemble his G1 toy more closely, but neither G1 Sideswipe nor Red Alert had chrome spoilers and the effect is distracting. In fairness, silver is less visible against a white base than red or yellow, but it’s still one point on which I can acknowledge that the Generations version surpasses.


ROBOT MODE

If you’ve never owned this mold before (and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t), you’ll probably find the transformation rather challenging at first. The vehicle mode is extremely tight and finding where to apply pressure to unlock the doors is only the first obstacle. Although Red Alert’s arm transformation resembles Bumblebee’s, the shoulders pivot on a lever that needs to be carefully aligned in both modes. Reversing the transformation is even tougher because all the parts need to line up almost simultaneously in order to fit back into place. As with all Transformers, it gets easier with practice and you come to appreciate it for its famous two-sided torso and a head that slides up when you rotate the windshield.

Red Alert remains true to his roots by featuring a robot mode that bears a good resemblance to his cartoon appearance. Because the parts are so compact in vehicle mode, he stands a bit taller than your average Deluxe, which is always good for getting your money’s worth. He’s very well proportioned and comes with minimal kibble, so you can be sure that Red is capable of some dynamic poses. Although the instructions say to fold the knees down all the way, I prefer to keep them slightly elevated like in the photo to extend the appearance of the legs. Since the lightbar is attached on a swivel joint, you can rotate it 180° to resemble the spoiler on the character model, but it looks just fine as it is. Red’s articulation is second to none and he comes with ball-jointed feet that do not require heel struts because of his excellent balance. His head, shoulders and hips are also on ball joints, and anything else can swivel a full 360° without hindrance. Red Alert’s tailpipe becomes his weapon, which you can fit either in his hand or attach to his shoulder - preferably his right shoulder like the character model.

Red Alert’s paint job is predominantly red and white, which makes him look more like a medic than a security chief, as evidenced by his later incarnations in AEC and Animated. While the Generations version’s colours more closely resemble the G1 toy, this figure appears to be based on the cartoon. The most obvious indicator of this is the head, which has been painted in a glossy bright red. This is a major point why I prefer the Henkei version and it’s not just a case of cartoon accuracy versus toy accuracy. The head is always the first thing you look at, and having one that looks unique helps establish the character’s individuality. When I look at this figure, I see Red Alert. When I look at the Generations version, I see Sideswipe with Red Alert’s colours. You see the difference? Like the vehicle mode, there are other areas of the robot that put this repaint above Hasbro’s release. Red paint covers a wider area of the chest, and the arms and thighs are cast in the same bright white plastic as the chassis, which looks much cleaner than Hasbro’s flat grey. The thighs feature the same blue panels as Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, complementing the windows and the light piping used for Red’s eyes. The weapon features another application of chrome that was used before, but the tip of the gun is painted red to distinguish it and make it more faithful to the cartoon.

All in all, Henkei Red Alert is a successful retool of one of the most popular molds in the toyline and a must-have for any G1 fan. Primus knows I should have bought him sooner, but I’m confident my money was well spent. Hopefully you’ll come across a fan who will be willing to sell his for the cheaper Generations version, but I guarantee you’ll be getting the better deal.


Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 9/10 - This mold broke new ground by featuring a transformation that can be reversed for two different characters, but the tight vehicle mode requires a bit of force to transform, especially around the doors.
Durability: 10/10 - Totally rock. Red Alert’s sole accessory holds very securely and the compactness of the car helps brace it against clumsy drops.
Fun: 8/10 - Not much in the way of weapons, but how can you say no to a fire chief’s Lamborghini? The robot mode is supremely poseable.
Aesthetics: 9/10 - Chrome aside, this is top-notch repaint that adheres faithfully to the G1 character with bright colours and a cartoon-accurate layout. The blue tinted windows look especially nice.
Articulation: 10/10 - Flawless. Since the robot was designed to have two orientations, Red Alert features excellent balance, minimum kibble and a wide range of articulation.
Price/Value: 3/10 - This is the dealbreaker. Prices for nearly all Henkei figures have soared in the last couple years, with later Deluxes like Red Alert, Ratchet and Smokescreen commanding outrageous prices on eBay. (I’ve seen Ratchet go for as high as £138!) While the Generations release has decreased this figure’s value slightly, you’re still in for a nasty shock if you haven’t purchased him already. Think before you buy.
Overall: 9.5/10 - Would be a 10 if not for that chrome spoiler. Takara have still done a fantastic job with this redeco of Red Alert and I would recommend investing in him over Hasbro’s toy. Just try and get him loose to save money, otherwise you risk paying a fortune. But that’s what they want. That’s what everyone wants. They’re after your money, but they won’t get it! Don’t let anybody near it! You’re not going down without a fight! Never! *snip*
 
 
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