Cal's Review: Henkei Silverbolt
”Don’t look down. Look straight ahead.”
As the leader of an elite group of Autobot warriors known as the Aerialbots, Silverbolt shoulder a great deal of responsibility. He is a careful planner who never risks the lives of any of his men, unless it is absolutely necessary. All his care, however, hides a deep insecure nature. Optimus Prime actually put Silverbolt in such a stressful position largely to distract him from his paralyzing fear of heights; a weakness he hopes the other Aerialbots never discover. He is a capable leader nonetheless, and has honed the Aerialbots into one of the finest Autobot units in the Universe.
I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to the phrase “Optimus Prime actually put Silverbolt in such a stressful position largely to distract him from his paralyzing fear of heights” for a moment. It’s hard not to doubt the ethics of our noble Autobot leader when you stop to consider that decision. Not only did Optimus Prime personally build the severely acrophobic Silverbolt into a high-flying Concorde, as seen in The Key to Vector Sigma, part deux
, but his ingenious remedy to cope with the stress is to add MORE stress. Bastard!
As part of the Universe Ultra-class figures, the combiner team leader Silverbolt seems to be a counterpoint to Combaticon leader Onslaught. But without the release of the rest of his wingmechs to keep him focused, Silverbolt flies alone and exposed to the stratospheric dangers above. It’s enough to turn a bot white with terror, and the Henkei release seems noticeably paler than Hasbro’s version. Does Silverbolt have the spark to survive until the Beast era, or is this one plane that’s doomed to be grounded?
In the cosmic joke of Silverbolt’s fate as a Concorde SST, the only small consolation is that the airlines had a perfect safety record, with nary a crash in over twenty years since its introduction. (Well, that and the thought that the seasick/aerophobic Broadside is worse off than him.) Then when tragedy struck flight 4590 in 2000 and sent the jet ablaze near Charles de Gaulle, Concorde became the most
deadly commercial plane to fly based on the number built. Since then, Silverbolt has tried to drown his sorrows at Maccadam’s Old Oil House, downing shots of raw Energon and slurring clumsy passes at Lickety-Split. Unwilling to abandon the sozzled bot, Optimus Prime picked up Silverbolt and had him reformatted into a new supersonic jet based on the XB-70 Valkyrie. No, not the Macross jet. Get your head out of Shoji Kawamori’s ass! With only two prototypes built of the XB-70 - the X standing for experimental - that leaves far fewer opportunities for accidents. Of course, Prime neglected to mention that one of the prototypes collided with another jet and crashed. Hrrmm....
Unlike his fellow Ultra-class flier Powerglide, who has stuck firmly to his original A-10 Thunderbolt mode, Silverbolt updates his wardrobe for the Classics style to stay hip and happenin’. The irony here is that the Valkyrie predates Concorde by a good five years, having first flown in 1964 when Simon & Garfunkel blazed the charts with The Sound of Silence
. Nevertheless, they share a very similar delta wing planform, which is a crucial aspect of making Transformers recognizable in any guise. As Silverbolt was originally the only passenger airliner in a formation of fighter jets, it’s hard to imagine him striking fear in anyone but himself. If he took one of Soundwave’s cassettes for a ride outside of Paris... nah, maybe not even that. But now returning as a supersonic bomber from the Cold War era, Silverbolt’s insane killing power is enough to send Decepticons and Soviets scattering.
The overall shape of the design follows the Valkyrie quite closely, including twin stabilizers and a pair of canards behind the cockpit. One of the biggest changes is the addition of two exhausts on the afterbody that house the toy’s batteries and electronics. Now a lot of fans find electronics in Transformers annoying, but I helplessly regress into a dribbling five year-old when handed a toy that flashes and makes noise. And yes, I still dribbled at five. The switch for this is located between the exhausts, letting loose a sound and light show that would put Jazz to shame. The sweet part is that, unlike Powerglide, the lights vary on the sound emitted. The exhausts flash for a take-off sound, the forward lights flash for a machine gun sound, and nothing flashes for a swoosh sound. Another change is that the tail has been sculpted in a zigzag wave reminiscent of the B-2 Spirit, and the same shape extends to Silverbolt’s Electrostatic Bolt Rifle pegged underneath the cockpit. Unlike Powerglide’s weapon that rubbed uncomfortably against his pelvis, Silverbolt can fly freely unmolested.
It’s not all roses and wine. Although Silverbolt looks great from atop, try peeping underneath like you would a schoolgirl’s outfit to expose a shocking amount of robot kibble. Judging by the overall shape and intakes formed by Silverbolt’s feet, I can only assume it’s a gross parody of the Valkyrie’s undercarriage. Hasbro didn’t even try
to reconcile the two modes, and the appearance of a plane sitting on top of a robot is so obvious, it makes Grandus look like Mirage, in disguise, at Monaco, with Auggie Cahnay behind the wheel. You could argue that the electronics restricted the design of the figure, but Powerglide managed it without supergluing his two modes together. Dear, oh dear.
Henkei Silverbolt is molded in pure white, which helps the silver trims stand out sharply compared to Hasbro’s grey version. While Takara retained the “BOLT-25” deco on the fuselage in homage to Transformers 25th anniversary, the numbers on Silverbolt’s wings have been replaced with an Autobot logo. Regional differences are more apparent in robot mode, and getting there involves one of the most simplistic transformation I’ve seen in years...
You can’t be serious.
To transform Silverbolt, you have to fold the plane in two, pull out his arms and legs, and slide his head up. That’s it.
No, really, I’m talking Shyamalan-meets-Avatar-level you can’t
I know that this figure is meant to be a throwback to G1, but that doesn’t mean you need a frickin’ 25 year-old transformation too! It’s all the more egregious that it belongs to an Ultra-class figure when I’ve seen Scout-class toys show more imagination. It’s for this very reason that I avoided Silverbolt for years, relegating him to the bottom of my ‘to buy’ list, just below powdered milk and Katy Perry’s latest album. It was only when the Henkei version surfaced on eBay recently that I figured, “Ahhhh
, what da hell!” and added him to my collection.
While the transformation is nothing to write home about, it does have its perks. Sliding Silverbolt’s pelvis into position pops up his head with a transformation sound effect and flashing green eyes. Transforming him back also produces a sound effect, although it’s much more sensitive and only seems to work half the time. Since the fuselage folds up behind him, it creates the impression of Silverbolt wearing a plane on his back. I’m sure that this is an intentional throwback to the G1 era where Aerialbots found plane backpacks to be the height of fashion, but another stroke of irony is that Silverbolt’s backpack was more discreet on the toy and absent in the cartoon. It still doesn’t affect the electronics, since the switch is cleverly extended on a peg that allows you to play the machine gun sound effect while you run around pretending you’re holding a fearless leader in your grubby, wee mitts.
Since the design is reduced to basics, it does have the advantage of keeping Silverbolt’s robot mode supremely faithful to his G1 roots. He looks the spitting image of his cartoon self, which is enhanced further by Takara’s choice of colours. The chest design is accurate to a tee, and he sports the same winglet shoulders as in the show. Silverbolt’s ratcheted legs are conspicuously thin and blocky, resembling those on the G1 toy (and the stress problems that resulted). His articulation is unremarkable, especially for his size, with Hasbro restricted by the backpack from including waist articulation, and forgetting to add any in the hands altogether. One small boon is that Silverbolt possesses elongated heel struts to help support the weight of the backpack, and his balance is quite good overall. The head sculpt has the same horse blinders design to help him stay focused ahead, only this time his brow has been painted gold, crowning the Aerialbot commander as a flight fit for a king!
Now the big change here is the colour palette. Like Cyclonus and Inferno, Takara have painted Silverbolt in the most saturated version of his cartoon colours. Since the white plastic is lighter than the silver trims compared to Hasbro’s dark grey, it creates the curious impression that Silverbolt’s values have been inversed. While this does boast a more classic look that should please many fans, it does remove any subtle variations in tone as seen in the shifting shades of maroon on the Universe toy. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what seems like chromasplosion to me would be nostalgia porn to G1 pimps.
At the end of the day, I find Henkei Silverbolt to be no better or worse than his Western counterpart. Like other Ultra-class figures, he’s noticeably out of scale with other Classics - even towering over Autobot giant Jetfire - and would probably have worked better as a Voyager release to mitigate his austere transformation. With his updated alt mode, Silverbolt’s future remains as bright as his colours - or at least that’s what he believes. Prime also neglected to mention that the XB-70 Valkyrie was cancelled due to Soviets divining how to blast high-flying bombers out of the sky. Mum’s the word!
Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 2
- It works, but it’s as simple as sin. Clearly something that was planned out on the morning train.
- Reasonably robust for a heavy Ultra-class toy. Compared to G1 Silverbolt and his cursed gold plastic syndrome, this is rock.
- You can switch between modes quicker than Quickswitch while chorusing the sound effects with your own burrs and hums, but more thought and creativity could have been invested to make Silverbolt a winner.
- A solid choice of alt mode and props for cartoon accuracy, but the humongous undercarriage would make Sky Lynx blush.
- Functional, yet as uninspired as the transformation. No ball joints, waist, hand or foot articulation. The plane backpack restricts the arms somewhat, but he has good balance despite it.
- Perhaps due to his simplicity, Silverbolt’s value hasn’t soared along with the rest of the line. I paid £22 for mine loose, although I still think he would have been better off in the Voyager class for financial reasons among others.
- Henkei Silverbolt is a curious oddity that satisfies the look of the character at the expense of any real insight in the design. Is it possible to be G1 to a fault? Fans will no doubt delight at posing him with the rest of their Classics figures, but Silverbolt’s shortcomings forever gnaw at his already shaky confidence. Don’t let this plane crash and burn.