Cliffjumper's Review: Masterpiece Red Alert
Red alert! Red alert!
It's a catastrophe
But don't worry.....Don't panic
Ain't nothin' goin' on but history, yeah
But it's alright, don't panic.
Red Alert's always been a favourite character of mine – his enrapturing Universe profile, the sheer weirdness of a Fire Department Lamborghini Countach (no doubt some joyless nerd has tracked down a Tokyo Fire Department vehicle register which suggests a Countach was attached to a station for a fortnight in 1982 or something, but screw them - in England in 1986 the idea was fascinatingly exotic), the teasing fictional appearances (why the Hell is he hanging around with the TF:TM
characters in 2009? And why is the very idea so inherently intriguing?) and the way that – unlike fellow 1985 oddball Skids – he hasn't been mined out in recent years. His manic appearances in the original cartoon only helped, Red being one of the few Autobots in the show to actually have a personality which couldn't be described using the words brave, enthusiastic and/or cheerful. This was all further capped off when an unaired Transformers PSA about him trying to kill juvenile cyclists was unearthed.
His status as a recolour of Sideswipe means he's always a good bet to show up a few months after any new version of the more famous Countach. Takara's revamped Masterpiece
line proved to be no exception, with 'Alert' arriving on the market soon after 'Lambor'.
So, Fire Department Lamborghini Countach. Pow. Probably needed them to race the various police Lambos and Datsuns through the streets; it's a blessing Diaclone
ended before we got the police versions of Mirage and Grimlock. First impressions of the Masterpiece
figure's alternate mode is that it's very low, but then checking pictures of real Countaches out online this seems to be more than the original Transformer isn't as sleek as it should be and the Masterpiece rectifies this somewhat. The only real fault is that this low ride-height means the underside of the car touches any surface you put the car mode on as there just isn't much clearance, though it's unlikely you'll be whizzing this thing along the floor and it's not really a child-suitable toy.
The size is very good, not far off a modern Voyager; considering the quality the new Masterpiece
cars offer relatively good value for money. The mode itself looks tremendous, all eighties wedge sculpting. The join lines are perhaps too prominent but then this is often exacerbated on white figures anyway. It's only on the car doors that it's much busier than the original. The detail level is just right – nothing's missing but no-one's gone over the top. The all-plastic car is quite sturdy and has some nice quality touches like the clear plastic headlights and attempt at a tiny Lamborghini badge. The lack of rubber tyres bothers me less than I had originally expected – hubs and tyre patterns are moulded nicely and what could have been cheap actually looks presentable.
There's only one very minor quibble with the mode. The top of the lightbar features a hollow hole for the included (non-firing) launcher and rifle to clip into; Sideswipe had a more subtle moving panel. On Red it's annoyingly obvious, especially as the weapons being plugged in like they never were in anything looks very silly on this sort of thing – do the kind of collectors who buy Masterpiece
figures really lose accessories bigger than some Legends figures? Can they really not be trusted to lose them whenever the figure's in car mode?
Of course, Takara have handily countered this problem by making the toy look superb in robot mode. First you've got to get there, though. Thankfully Red is a joyful step away from the over-complication often seen on fan orientated figures, being an excellent mix of good engineering and solid fun. The inventive leg sections take a few tries to get the flow perfect and the hinging upper head feels like a last-minute design fudge but overall the process is surprisingly intuitive. Everything also feels very solid, with none of the “bits are likely to pop off, so prepare for frustration” ethos seen in Binaltech
. The only slightly weird bit are the car rear ankle guards, but I found them easy to get used to after the initial contrast with the original toy's clear shins. Red is generally very solid and – in a welcome development that's finally started appearing in the Transformers line over the past five to six years – three-dimensional, looking good from most angles. The only fudge comes with the shoulders, which are just nebulously connected to a vaguely-defined part of the toy's back.
The robot itself looks fantastic. Red Alert's animation model actually varied considerably from Sideswipe's, generally being closer to the toy where Sideswipe's just loped most of the car parts left on the robot off. The Masterpiece
mould is a mixture of both, doing some things which suit Red Alert better (the prominent car roof on the back) and others which suit Sideswipe more (such as the arms clear of car doors). I find the mould makes a slightly better Red Alert, though I've always found Red to have the better scheme and more interesting character, so I may be biased.
That said, Takara have put a few nice touches into making the figures look different. Firstly, Red Alert has a different head, closely modelled on the one used for the cartoon. This has come out nicely and actually won me over on the decision to make it red - being a toy/comic fan I wanted black, but seeing the toy in the plastic it works surprisingly well and is another point of variance when displayed. Red Alert's shoulders have been remoulded with a pair of dummy wheels – as per his animation model – which are a nice touch, if not entirely convincing. Adorably a pair of notches are also moulded on his chest as per the original toy, even though they're not necessary for the engineering of the Masterpiece. It all adds up to a decent attempt to make Red look like something other than a straight redeco of Sideswipe, an effort which is appreciated.
In terms of things to do, Red Alert has very good – if not absolutely stellar – articulation. Arms, legs, waist and feet all have a good range of movement and the figure has a good weight distribution. Only the neck lets the side down, with a relatively restricted range which means a lot of the poses the limbs and body can pull off end up looking unnatural. As well as the faithful G1-replicating weaponry he comes with a little extra - a little clear plastic set of headphones designed to replicate his security warning light-up ears in the cartoon; the effect of a cel-animated light effect doesn't really translate to plastic but it's a harmless addition.
9. Fun, complex without being complicated, short on frustration and the need to make things millimetre-perfect. Unlike a lot of recent car Transformers he's also just as much fun going back to vehicle mode.
7. He won't last too well in the hands of a child and the large amount of paint adds a wear factor you won't get on many 2013 toys. However, nothing feels outright fragile and the tolerances seem very good.
9. Good transformation, two good modes, captures the character nicely, decent range of articulation. He's low on features beyond “transforms from awesome car to awesome robot” but he does the main job so well it's not a problem.
9. Great weight distribution and sensible joint layout means there's a good mix of poseability and stability.
9. He's not cheap but you get what you pay for; compared to the price of some War for Cybertron
abomination he's very reasonable.
9. Not perfection but really as close as you're going to get for either Red Alert or a transforming Countach. Anyone who likes the character or the Autobot car moulds in general should own one version of this mould and for my money Red Alert's the superior option.