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Blackjack's Review: Shrapnel with Reflector

Name: Skrapnel Shrapnel & Reflector
Allegiance: Decepticon
Size Class: Legends Class

I have been a big Insecticon fan for years. Granted, the little buggers hardly do anything in fiction, but thanks to playing Shrapnel for over… uh, six years in the site’s old RPG you can safely say that he has grown on me. The Insecticons themselves are generally never really defined character-wise. The cartoon portray them more as a group of mercenaries with a chronic backstabbing disorder that happen to command a massive army and a series of rather awesome superpowers. Shrapnel can summon and control lightning bolts and shoot shrapnel grenades, Bombshell has these cerebro-shells that can control people’s mind and Kickback… can kick stuff. Well, his bio paints him as this guy who acts as your friend but is really only being all buddy-buddy to get blackmail on you, but apparently no one cares about that. Shrapnel is further defined in the cartoon by repeating every last word he says, and a speech impediment is like characterization in the cartoon, cartoon. His toy bio also notes that his screams are really loud and deafening, though those haven’t been shown anywhere in fiction, fiction.

The comics had Shrapnel be Straxus’ personal whipping boy, which is the only scene featuring the Insecticons that really stood out to me. They had some other appearances elsewhere and had some major roles in the Earthforce and Dreamwave and IDW comics but none of them really had them doing all that much other than being a bunch of semi-powerful Decepticons.

Still, I love Shrapnel the dumb thug and his two buddies, and I have been almost obsessively tracking their original toys or a reissue down for years. I ended up getting loose samples of the TRU reissue, minus stickers (which in my opinion actually makes them look better), and I was simply overjoyed. The original Insecticons, other than being personal favourites, are really good toys for Generation One’s standards.

Come 2014, and as I was browsing the internet looking for toy news, I stumbled upon pictures of the all-new Legends class toys set for release this year. This was after the two-packs featuring mainstays Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee and Starscream are clogging up the shelves, and while other people are flipping out over new MTMTE-based versions of Swerve and Tailgate, I believe I am the only one that had my mind blown away by a new Shrapnel.

(Well, Skrapnel thanks to trademark reasons – but I’m not typing that)

Shrapnel comes packaged with Reflector, which is basically the trio of Decepticon camera dudes from season one kind of acted like generics. Reflector never saw release in retail until 1986, where he was a mail-away exclusive, and has kind of been ignored by both Hasbro – a rumoured planned retool of 2010’s Perceptor never materialized – and even the modern G1 reboots only made a half-hearted attempt to have them cameo in some of their stories. Reflector is another one I rather enjoyed, again, thanks to the site’s old RPG, so having him come with Shrapnel is a rather nice bonus.

Anyway, with the first two waves clogging up every single store I tried to go to, it is extremely disheartening since all the Legends class toys I really wanted came from the latter waves. I really, really wanted a Shrapnel, and after a grueling and exhausting search I finally stumbled upon one. One single Shrapnel upon like a dozen Tailgates. I’m not sure if he was shortpacked, but I’m betting that skinny kid who walked away from the store with three Shrapnels in tow might have something to do with it.

I didn’t really expect much from the new Shrapnel other than, y’know, the old one, but with a better insect mode and elbows and knees. But it is absolutely nice to be able to track him down and have him hanging out with the older Insecticon team on my desk.

Beast Mode:
Shrapnel transforms into a robotic stag beetle. And compared to the original Shrapnel toy, it becomes painfully obvious how dated the old Shrapnel’s beetle mode. I mean, I love G1 Shrapnel’s inherent boxiness and how his insect mode is basically him lying flat, with his antenna covering his robot face, and a bunch of sticks with wheels pretending to be robotic insect legs. Generations Shrapnel? Well, Generations Shrapnel is a real, honest-to-goodness robotic insect. It’s got jointed legs, it’s got angled stag beetle horns, it’s got a clearly defined abdomen slightly raised away from where the legs are joined to the thorax… the only real thing missing is an actual beetle head -- insects are supposed to have three distinct parts of their body, and while the abdomen (that big bug-butt) and thorax (the place where the legs meet the body) are evident, Shrapnel's head section is kind of missing. The toy just goes from thorax to antenna. Still, though, it's a minor niggle and it won’t exactly be a proper homage if Shrapnel suddenly sprouted a realistic beetle head. He’s got what passes as fangs on the inner side of the base of his stag beetle horns, though, so I guess that counts for something?

But seriously, Shrapnel’s beetle mode impressed me back when I was just looking at pictures, and it impressed me even more in the flesh. Shrapnel is mainly black and purple, with yellow highlights all over his body. There’s a Decepticon insignia no the center of the yellow bit on his chest. I always thought that the yellow bit on Shrapnel’s chest takes up proportionally too much space compared to the traditional Shrapnel, but that’s a problem I am happy to overlook in this mode. Mine appears to be slightly sloppily painted on, though I’m not sure if I just got a dud Shrapnel or if it’s a common problem. The yellow paint on his insect abdomen/robot legs, though? It’s kind of washed out, though I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not considering that the yellow parts seem to resemble exhaust vents, and it might be a deliberate to make Shrapnel more battle-worn? In any case the original Shrapnel toy doesn’t have any details on the abdomen beyond a single rubsign on the original toy, so the extra yellow actually goes a great deal at making him look more Insecticon-like now that his legs are all purple.

Generations Shrapnel takes on a lot of design cues from the original toy, and it surprised me just how much the new toy homages the old one considering that deluxe class Kickback doesn’t really resemble G1 Kickback all that much beyond the head-antennae. First up, other than the yellow moving from G1 Shrapnel’s bad legs to colour part of his abdomen, the colour layout is practically identical. The general shape? Also identical – right down to the location of the purple bit that could once be opened to put in a pilot. Generations Shrapnel even went so far as to include Shrapnel’s purple boots pointing straight out from his abdomen with jet booster detailings on them. The shape of the horns? Generations Shrapnel adds a little more three-dimensional curves to make it look more like something an organic beetle would have (which is awesome) but it’s nearly identical right down to the little groove inwards around halfway through, and the two cannons on the tip. Generations Shrapnel even has moulded wheel-detailings on the tip of his insectoid legs to homage the original! Shame about the different shade of yellow, though -- the new Shrapnel's yellow is just so light.

Shrapnel is mostly a static bug, though. He can open and close his pincers, but his jointed legs are all static. They hold on his weight pretty well, keeping his main body off the ground, though. I don’t have much of a problem with the bug legs being unarticulated – I would take stability over posability any day. And besides, considering the disaster that was ROTF Scalpel and his extremely fragile bug legs, I am sorta happy they didn’t go that route. He’s got a 5mm peg on the junction between his thorax and abdomen, where you can plug in Reflector if you have the desire to totally ruin what is so far an awesome robot insect.

Overall? I am ridiculously happy with this insect mode. I may be biased being that I am a massive Shrapnel fan, but it is still a pretty majestic-looking stag beetle. It looks like a real stag beetle, but still retains that kooky 80’s sci-fi Japanese insect mecha feel that the original Shrapnel has.

Robot Mode:
Again, Generations Shrapnel homages the original toy to even minute details like the little nubs on his chest. Shrapnel’s transformation is quick, simple, and produces an extremely satisfying robot mode. It’s basically G1 Shrapnel given better proportions, more realistic insect kibble and a lot of ball joints and the result is just phenomenal. The Insecticons are some of the best-looking little toys from Generation One, and Generations Shrapnel updates that look perfectly. There are two probelms I was worried about when pictures of Shrapnel first hit the internet – the first being that his head is a bit small relative to his body, and the second being that the yellow portion of his chest takes up too much space. The first problem isn’t so bad in the flesh, and I personally got used to it relatively quickly. Might be an optical illusion caused by the large yellow portion of the chest. Speaking of which, I wished they hadn't painted so much of Shrapnel's chest yellow… or used a slightly more orange shade of yellow, but while it's distracting it’s not a deal-breaker.

Like the original Shrapnel toy, the positioning of insect kibble is almost identical. The stag beetle horns split apart to reveal his head, his arms have circular shoulders and have a pair of legs jutting out of them, the rest of the legs jumble up on his back, and the abdomen extends, splits and forms the legs. Generations Shrapnel updates that transformation with a couple extra steps, of course, but the essence of the character is still there. It’s just a beautiful figure all around that captures Shrapnel’s silhouette perfectly. It would be ideal for his horns to be painted silver to make them stand out even more, and I still think the head is a little too small, but otherwise? It’s Shrapnel and I love him.

Articulation wise Shrapnel has it in spades. It's rather difficult to turn the head thanks to the massive horns on his shoulders, though. His shoulders and elbows are both double-jointed, and both the thighs and knees are ball jointed as well. The ankles can waggle. Rather embarrassingly Generations Shrapnel loses out to a thirty-year-old toy by not having a waist joint. That’s right, people – G1 Shrapnel, who’s the same size as Generations Shrapnel, has a waist joint! It’s no big loss, though, since Shrapnel’s limbs are maneuverable enough and the insect legs surprisingly don’t get in their way, and that more than makes up for the lack of a waist joint. The bug legs attached to his arms are a bit distracting, though, but not really that much of a dealbreaker.

Overall, Shrapnel is a toy that blew my expectations of him by being surprisingly good instead of ‘meh, I’m getting it because it’s a Shrapnel toy that turns into an actual bug’. Shrapnel’s robot mode is pretty impressive, and you can just imagine him raising his hands up to the sky and summoning lightning to rain down at the enemy, or point his hands forwards all Palpatine-like.

Shame that he comes with this little dude to ruin our day:

Reflector:
I wanted a Reflector. I actually did. I was psyched when it was announced that Shrapnel would come with my favourite crowd-filler generic, but when I scrolled down to the pictures, well, Reflector is pretty weak. Reflector is cast primarily in the same shade of purple as Shrapnel’s purple parts, with his arms and parts of his ‘legs’ cast in gray. His visor and the characteristic chestpiece are coloured in lime green. Reflector is partly based on the Reflector character model from the cartoon, specifically the Viewfinder unit with the camera lens in his chest, but his mouthless head seems to draw inspiration from the toy. Though other than his head, torso and stomach, the rest of him is pretty messy. His legs don’t even look like actual legs – from the waist down it’s just a jumbled-up mass of random shapes. He looks like he’s gotten stuck in a Dalek and can’t get out. Reflector can swing his arms around at the shoulder, but that’s about the extent of what you can do with him in robot mode. I mean, it’s cool that I finally own a Reflector toy and I certainly appreciate having Reflector more than, say, random Micromasters like Flanker, Blast Master or Groundpounder, but with him being such a crappy robot I can’t see why they bothered at all.

By pushing Reflector down flat on his face, you get something resembling a camera as a homage to Reflector’s original camera alternate mode. It’s not a very convincing camera, though I mean, it sorta looks like those super-professional and super-expensive machines with super-long lens you can rotate, and it does have some moulded grooves suggesting that, plus there are some moulded knobs and whatnot on the black bit… but the fact that the handle for Shrapnel is moulded in purple and lies smack dab on top of the control panel or whatever you call that bit of the camera ruins the entire illusion. Considering the arms and the head aren’t even trying to hide, it just makes it worse. Also, Shrapnel can’t hold the camera unless he’s holding it from the top, which ends up looking really idiotic. And if you try to hold him in any other way (or attach him into the peg in bug mode) you can see Reflector’s robot mode, which is just as idiotic.

But while most of the other Legends class dudes have at least one mode they actually look good in – Chop Shop’s beetle mode, Groundbuster’s bulldozer mode, Blaze Master’s helicopter mode to name a few – Reflector can’t even call his weapon mode that. It’s just him laying splayed out and it’s such an ugly-looking thing that exposes all the greebles and groves within, and the fact that it’s a cacophony of purples and grays makes Shrapnel look like he’s holding a piece of junk, not a weapon! And while Reflector tries his best to hold his hands in a way that mimics G1 Shrapnel’s original Diaclone grenade launcher, but the illusion doesn’t even materialize thanks to how shit Reflector is.

They could’ve gone a more creative way and eschew the splayed-out-robot mode and have the camera turn into a cannon, but no. They try to do so much, and ended up completely and utterly failing in all three modes.

Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 8/10 Shrapnel is relatively intuitive as these things go. There’s no particular part where I find fault other than the rear legs being a bit difficult to fold out. Reflector, though? He gets 1/10. None of his modes really work, with the robot mode being the only one that’s remotely not ugly.
Durability: 8/10 Neither Shrapnel nor Reflector looks like they have anywhere that is made out of softer plastic. Shrapnel’s bug legs all seem sturdy and aren’t super-thin like Waspinator or anything.
Aesthetics: 9/10 Shrapnel gets some points cut off for the tiny head and the weird yellow chest (which I’m still pretty ambivalent about). Reflector gets 2/10, because he is just flat out ugly. His robot mode is still… acceptable, and his camera mode is somewhat nice if you squint, but he’s really an ugly thing.
Articulation: 9/10 Shrapnel is basically perfect, but loses that one mark for the fact that he doesn’t have that one joint present in a thirty-year-old G1 toy – the elusive waist joint. Reflector, as you can guess, gets 1/10 because all he can do is swing his hands.
Fun: 8/10 Even the crappy accessory that is Reflector cannot underscore just how much I had fun with Shrapnel. He’s just the right size to tip vehicle-mode Tailgate over! He’s an awesome robot that turns into an awesome metal robot bug!
Price/Value: 5/10 Now here’s the deal – the new Legends class charge more than what a Basic or Scout would cost thanks to the addition of the mini partners. And while his compatriots like Groundbuster or whoever are weak enough to make me frown on the price tag, Reflector is just straight-up horrible, making me feel dirty for even owning him. I don’t really shed a tear for the loss of these partners in 2015’s Generations line.
Overall: 8/10 Shrapnel himself is pretty much a really awesome little bugger, and really surprised me by just how good he is. However, this review sadly needs to consider Reflector in the same set, and the little Kodak shit just drags the whole score down. Still, Shrapnel is a good enough toy to warrant you checking out.
 
 
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