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Cal's Review: Masterpiece Rodimus Prime v2

Name: Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime
Allegiance: Autobots
Function: Cavalier/Protector

Strength: 10
Intelligence: 10
Speed: 9
Endurance: 10
Rank: 10
Courage: 7
Firepower: 10
Skill: 10

Before the coming of Unicron, Rodimus was already a talented warrior, recognized by his comrades for his potential and lack of patience. When he became Rodimus Prime, he immediately set out to lead from the front. He was already the first on the battlefield, and the last off, thrusting himself into the deepest danger rather than asking any of the robots under his command to sacrifice themselves.

Ah, Rodimus Prime. Maturing from the Padawan Hot Rod (or Rodimus if you’re some trademark-worshipping pussy) to become a fully-fledged Jedi Master and lead the Autobots in Optimus Prime’s stead. But like Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, his destiny as Supreme Military Commander, President-for-Life and King of Kings is one that fills him with doubt and might be more fitting for the equally modest veteran Ultra Magnus (who is silently chuckling to himself). Forever living in the shadow of Optimus Prime and a legion of sourpuss fans, it’s small wonder that his courage rating is a tepid seven point oh. Not dissuaded from giving Rodimus Prime his fair credit, Takara enlisted him as the next candidate for their Masterpiece line. Alas, the plan backfired rather spectacularly as Roddy was plagued with multiple quality control issues that turned even his most vocal supporters away and led to a tearful breakup with Arcee (or Springer, if you’re into that sort of thing). It was only when Hasbro stepped in with their engineering wizards to fix these faults that Takara decided to copy the improvements for a second release. Canny or what?

You know, there are a few cartoon idols I had a crush on as an innocent, wee squirt: Rock-1, Lisa Raccoon, Sarah Spencer, Cheetara, Shiela the Thief, Flora, Princess Allura, and Hot Rod. Now you’re probably raising your eyebrows and thinking there’s something amiss with that last entry. As I grew up and sat giggling through sex ed week, I was ashamed to realize the horrifying truth: I had a crush on a robot. After the show ended, all I could do is stare at a faded Polaroid photograph of Hot Rod with sad eyes and wounded lips, envying Arcee and Springer, and trying to ignore the deformed Classics Rodimus on my shelf. It’s only now that Takara have released a perfect representation of Hot Rod that I can finally replace that old photo to fill the empty half of my double bed. What? Kids sleep with their toys all the time!


FLAMING RED CAR MODE:

I’ll start with the car mode because in this review, I outrank everyone short of Kim Jong-il. Excuse me, make that Kim Jong-un. When The Transformers: The Movie came out, Hot Rod happily murdered Sideswipe and buried him next to Jimmy Hoffa to become the pimpin’ red sports car of the far, far flung future of 2005. Seriously, how often can we reuse that same gag? Well, if you’re not comatose by now, I may get Horatio to take over. During his first transformation on screen, he even had his own theme, Dare, as he careened through the grasslands with his hostage Daniel and made old man Kup lose oil control. This Masterpiece treatment is a perfect rendition of that flaming pinto for fans to recreate his barrier-smashing joyride. Without the barrier. Or the smashing.

Though Hasbro evolved Hot Rod into the Dome Zero sportscar for his Classics release (a design I quite approve of), Takara have set the Wayback Machine to 1986 and revisited Master Mecha Designer Floro Dery’s original car mode. Considering the Dome Zero was merely an ambitious prototype supercar from 1975, a (retro)futuristic sportscar with a V-shaped spoiler hardly seems implausible. Unlike his fellow sportscar Sideswipe (Oh wait, I forgot. He’s dead), Hot Rod has more curves than Megan Fox’s ass and looks just as sexy. Put him next to his forebear Optimus and you can see the difference in aesthetics. Optimus is all about rivets, panel lines and molded details, while Hot Rod is as sleek as the T-1000’s mimetic poly-alloy. His ass too. Not to say Hot Rod doesn’t have his fair share of features. His most prominent motif is a flame decal on the hood that he scavenged from Tracks’ charred corpse - another victim of Hot Rod’s murderous rampage. Unlike the Hasbro version, the flame is outlined by a black stroke, a wise decision from Whoever-san at Takara to help it stand out against an orange background. And awwww, he’s got that cute widdle engine block on the hood that can bob up and down on a spring just like in the Movie. And lookit, Mommy! It can even flip open to hold one of Hot Rod’s Photon Lasers and obscure the vision of his panicked driver! Is that the bee’s knees or what?

But before you rush your parents down to your local car dealer to shell out your third mortgage for this guy, you still have to see the driver’s compartment. The windshield opens via a hinge at the front in perfect animation accuracy. It has a steering wheel, a dashboard, and two sculpted seats... that... end... halfway where they meet the robot feet. This is the part where Bobby Bolivia beams the widest and hurries onto the next feature so he can close the deal. Those chromed exhaust pipes ought to grab your attention. Like the original G1 toy, they’re a combination of the pipes on Hot Rod’s arms and legs to create a mild incline at the midpoint and match the animation model. I guess when it comes to futuristic supercars, etiquette dictates exposing multiple exhausts and how much CO2 they can dispense to finish off our precious ozone layer. Gits.

Hot Rod’s caboose is just as faithfully molded, sporting those turbine-taillight thingies and sculpted rectangular panels below the spoiler like the G1 toy. The spoiler itself is as sharp as a Seeker’s wing, yet as smooth as the rest of his Fox-and-Terminator-ass chassis, save for all those scratch marks on the yellow paint that came from trying to insert the car into the trailer. Oh wait, that’s your first version, not my second edition. HAW HAW! Yes, you’re probably wondering what’s different about Hot Rod this time around. Well, the only noticeable change in car mode is that the crotch plate is thinner so that it doesn’t scrape your faux wooden linoleum while driving. Needless to say, the majority of changes are in robot mode, but I’ll get to that later.


STAR TRUCKING ACROSS THE UNIVERSE:

There are some mysteries of the Universe that will never be answered. What happened to Emilio Estevez’s career? Who’s better, Kirk or Picard? And was Windcharger yet another victim of Hot Rod’s murderous jealousy of other sportscars? Likewise, Rodimus Prime’s alt mode is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in an oversized cardboard box. For what it’s worth, fans seem to call this mode a Winnebago. A SPACE WINNEBAGO! So if your next summer hols is to go camping somewhere near Alpha Centauri, Mr. P. is right up your alley.

Now here’s the interesting bit. In order to transform him into that cosmic RV, you need to insert the car backwards into the trailer. That’s exactly the sort of ‘assymetrical reasoning’ that Cyclonus lauds about Galvatron in the MTMTE bios (if only to sugarcoat his insanity). The top half of the cab is a section that folds out from underneath the trailer, and you may think that the darker shade will clash with the car, but I find that the subtle variation in tone is like a fine blend of spices in a Jamie Oliver dish. The only real drawback to this design is that there is a noticeable gap on the roof of the cab. I think it could have been covered with a little more tweaking to allow the spoiler to sit further forward, but that’s just picking nits. The transformation means that the cab has a shorter, bulkier body distinct from the car and a generally more cartoon-accurate appearance without the engine block. Bobby can even bring your gullible folks back outside, because the driver’s compartment has two complete seats and... a noticeable lack of anything else. Okay, so maybe he should focus on getting that contract signed instead.

The windshield swings forward just like the car, but the hinge is extremely loose and will often remain open when it’s folded away upside-down. However, one positive change to this release is that some plastic has been shaved off so that the spoiler slips smoothly into place like a well-lubricated... you know. If you thought that Hot Rod’s triple exhausts were pollutant, Rodimus Prime’s extended chrome pipes would make Greenpeace hippies howl in fury. Unlike the Titanium figure, which saw Roddy’s smokestacks pointing straight up in a sensible manner, Takara retained the final bend along the length of the trailer to blow smoke up any tailgater’s arse and result in a horrific crash to add to Rodimus’ casualty list. Sorry, Tailgate.

The trailer is the key difference between Takara and Hasbro’s release of this Masterpiece, and fans are debating whether or not it’s worth the expense. Unlike Optimus Prime, who could function without his trailer, this one results in a completely different alt mode and ultimately a different character. When you stop to consider, this effectively makes two Masterpieces in one, that’s a lot of bang for the proverbial buck. Hoo-cha!


TURBO-REVVIN’ YOUNG PUNK MODE:

”I have nothing but contempt for this court.” (TFTM)

Now you’re probably already aware that this figure came packaged in robot mode. But if you followed my review and somehow managed to get yours into its alt mode on your first try while blindfolded, you’ll either be in for a doozy of a treat transforming him back, or be immediately voted the president of the Rubik’s Cube club.

The transformation to Hot Rod’s robot mode is elegant and particular focus seems to have been applied to designing his black boots. Since the colour is present nowhere on the car, the boots needed to be separated into panels that could slide out of view. Now here is one of the biggest problems that have entailed countless horror stories from fans who once raved at promo shots of this figure online and now find themselves lamenting the money they wasted on a “cruddy, fragile piece of overpriced plastic”. Imagine feverishly tearing the wrapping off your delivery, peeling off the tape and opening the box to find that - sufferin’ succotash! - his sodding shins are busted! It wasn’t long before the complaints reached the pen-pushers at Hasbro who dictated that the flaw be corrected immediately, and I’m happy to report that this re-release by Takara shows a more stable and unbusted design.

Like most Transformers, getting it into robot mode is relatively easy, but transforming it back into vehicle mode is something that will really test your tenure as the president of the Rubik’s Cube club. Despite the improvement on the legs, those shin panels are still quite niggly and won’t peg securely into place. There are some tabs under the windshield that obstruct the transformation of the feet, but these tabs are as useless as Katie Holmes’ acting career because they don’t peg into the slots on the arms. (This is the part of the transformation that discombobulated me for hours and had me wondering if the naysayers were right.) In fairness, Transformers of this size and complexity are by their nature prone to one or two engineering flubs. I don’t want to sound like an apologist for this figure. The criticism lobbied at the first version in Tetsuro’s disappointing review is certainly deserved, but I think Takara did a commendable job in getting no less than four cartoon-accurate modes out of the transformation.

So you got him back into car mode. Huzzah! No, hang on, I’m not done with the robot mode yet. Change him back, you twit! Anyone who has read my review of the Challenge at Cybertron set will know how disillusioned I was with Rodimus’ dumpy, primitive robot mold. It was like waking up for Christmas and instead finding Chris Moyles in your bedroom, introducing the latest selection of Classical Class. Rest assured, dear readers. Like all Masterpieces, Takara have gone to great lengths to ensure that Hot Rod is as accurate to his all-American bot roots as possible. Now instead of Christmas, you wake up to find Christmas Jones and the rest of the Bond girls perched around your bed.

Hot Rod’s design aesthetic is just gorgeous. I mean, look at him. Look at heeeeem! He’s got a flaming Autobot tattoo on his pecs, chromed arm exhausts that he can use to laser the eyeballs off some unsuspecting squid, and of course a yellow wing-like spoiler on his back that just screams, “This is all that’s left of Sunstorm, bitches!” If that isn’t enough to win over your LED heart, rotating his ‘ears’ will flip down the stylish blue visor he used in the movie. Ooh! Aah! *faints* Screw Horatio! Hot Rod is more than mech enough to spout cheesy one-liners to the sound of The Who. YEEAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!

This Masterpiece is the first figure of Hot Rod to get his magenta colour absolutely right. Over the years, we’ve seen everything from crimson to burgundy to... *shudder*... that unspeakable explosion of saturation on the aforementioned Challenge at Cybertron set. Returning to his primary shade of red with a pinkish tint is a bold move in a society where any dude wearing pink gets thrown into the asylum with some guy who thinks he’s Michael Jackson. Just ask Misfire (or Miss Fire as I like to call him). There’s some maroon paint on the head and crotch that, although easily discernible in animation, is a very subtle effect on a toy. The overall colour scheme differs considerably from Hasbro’s release in that Takara aims for cartoon-accuracy while Hasbro prefers toy-accuracy. To me this release looks significantly better with Hot Rod’s whiter face. Hey, maybe he is Michael Jackson!

Let’s go over some of the other features in this mode, shall we? Unlike Hasbro’s release with Firebolt - *sigh* I mean, Offshoot because I am a trademark-worshipping pussy - Hot Rod comes with two toy-accurate Photon Lasers just like the G1 release. Now I love Targetmasters almost as much as I love Sarah Spencer, and I thought that impersonal guns would be an inadequate substitute to a bouncing, brash buddy boomstick. How wrong I was. The designs feel as meaty as a Gravity Gun, and their clever combination as Rodimus Prime’s equally accurate Photon Eliminator is enough to give Optimus’ Ion Blaster a run for its money. Hot Rod’s wrists can open and rotate to reveal a clip that can hold one of two accessories: the buzzsaw he used to make sushi on Quintessa, or the blowtorch he used later to mend Kup and carelessly leave a piece out. Considering how small these accessories are in comparison to Optimus’ massive Energon axe, Takara probably could have designed them to be integrated into the arms instead of being separate pieces. Plus I can’t seem to get the wrists to close properly with the clips out anyway. This is one area that was clearly designed on the morning train.

What would the leader of the Autobots be without the Matrix? He’ll be Morecambe without Wise, Simon without Garfunkel, beer without the little plastic thingy that holds the six-pack together. So you open his chest and look. There it is! It’s...! It’s...! It’s frickin’ tiny. Clearly the Sylvanian Woodkeeper has played a very cruel joke here, because I can just hear Brian Hyland and the whole band of Bombalurina singing, “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny...” Sadly, old Roddy’s chest transformation leaves little space for a Matrix compartment. The dinky thing is so small, he can’t even squeeze his thumbs through the handles. Ah well, at least they tried, folks. Give it to Deluxe Thunderwing if you don’t want to leave the poor guy cold turkey. Anyway, let’s see what happens when we use the MATRIX STONE on HOT ROD...


FULFILLED POTENTIAL MODE:

”How ‘bout we blow this popsicle stand?” (The Face of Nijika)

What? HOT ROD is evolving! Lengthen the hips, pull up on the spoiler and transform that ingenious face-changing gimmick to bring about lines of age, wisdom and grumpiness. HOT ROD evolved into RODIMUS PRIME! (Dee-doo-doo, dee-dee-dee-doo-doo-dee-doo.) That’s right, Hot Rod is more two-faced than Two-Face. The gimmick is extremely well-designed and doesn’t hinder the visor at all (although I don’t know why Tetsuro said it does). One thing I didn’t expect is for Takara to take the effort in increasing Rodimus’ size. Subtle though it may be, it’s another affectionate nod to the source material. In this mode, Rodimus Prime can wield the combined Photon Eliminator with both hands, but he has access to a far more devastating arsenal in his trailer.

Did anyone play Polly Pocket? Anyone? Yeah, well I can’t think of anything more manly right now while staring at that pinkish-red chassis. So sue me. Press the black knob on the roof to open the trailer and voilą! You’ll find Rodimus Prime’s fabled Mobile Defense Bay. The turret is as big as the Matrix is small. I mean, this puppy could blast a Star Destroyer out of orbit without even burning a dilithium diode. It’s an exact replica of the one on the G1 toy, and the simplicity of the transformation is a refreshing counterpoint to the main figure’s complexity, bringing back memories of when I used to go “Pew! Pew!” with Thunder Clash’s similar combat trailer. (Ah, see I did think of something manly.) You can store the accessories inside or place the weapons on a number of different slots. I find that the best configuration is to attach the Photon Eliminator under the turret, giving Rodimus additional firepower as the Mobile Defense Bay barrels over Thunder Clash and his weedy battle box like a death-toting death machine of death!

Rodimus can wrap his hands fully around the handles to help him stand on the uneven surface. Speaking of which, Rodimus' general balance is a bit dodgy. He’s got die-cast feet to weigh him down and give some extra ‘oomph!’ to his jaw-crunching kicks (“Boot to the head!”), but I wouldn’t mind some optional heel struts when the foot articulation isn’t that great. Most of his joints are ratcheted, and his leg articulation allows him to kneel down like in the The Burden Hardest to Bear - an advantage that the white-collared, plastic-smiled salarymen at Takara’s marketing department were quick to advertise. Rodimus’ elbows are double-jointed, but he has some trouble extending his arms sideways, typical of all Transformers with heightened shoulders. No wonder Ultra Magnus perished in battle; he could never broaden his shoulders to pull the Matrix open. Damn it, open!

You can raise the arms this time without the chest flipping up too due to an improved clip design. Apparently the white tab by his spoiler has been revised to allow the back to peg in securely, but I can never seem to get mine to stay in place for long. Oh well, at least it’s better than the first release that couldn’t peg in at all. Yes, I’m talking to you with the scraped spoiler and the busted shins! Other changes on this version include stronger heel springs, improved hand slots and a slightly lighter tone overall. The million-dollar question on everyone’s mind is: is he worth it? QC problems are a common source of frustration among Transformers fans, and when you’re paying for a figure this big and expensive, the cost of eliminating most of these faults justifies the price in the long run. If nothing else, I’d recommend investing in Takara’s version over Hasbro’s. The robot looks the biz, the Mobile Defense Bay is as great for display as an Olympic podium, and getting an extra alt mode out of the trailer kills all known Offshoots dead. ‘Nuff said.


Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 9 - You lost the election; Takara has been voted the new president of the Rubik’s Cube club for their four modes. That won’t stop you exposing a few engineering niggles in the Daily Mail, mind.
Durability: 5 - Kick the tires and watch the trunk pop open. An improvement over the first release, but Masterpieces are heavy figures with some fragile joints. Don’t drop him, by Thor!
Fun: 8 - About to climax with your harem of Bond girls, then Chris Moyles shows up with a loose spoiler that he unwittingly bought off Bobby Bolivia. Serves him right, the plonker.
Aesthetics: 10 - Oh yeah, Cheetara and Princess Allura are mud-wrestling on channel nine, baby! But they need to find a new audience, because you’ve changed over to Hot Rod’s Hot Stuff.
Articulation: 7 - Perfect if you want to have him jumping up and down on what’s left of Offshoot, but he won’t be prying that Matrix open with such narrow shoulder articulation. (Oh wait... it doesn’t open.)
Value: 5 - Paid £130 for mine, although I’m seen him go for as low as £110 ($170). Some fans are decrying the extra expense for the trailer, but I think the additional alt mode and generally nicer colour scheme are worth it. Find the first release in Bobby’s discounted lot if you can live with the QC problems.
Overall: 9 - President Takara reads about your smear campaign in the morning papers, but positive changes can drown out critics with cries of “Four more years! Four more years!” Despite a false start, Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime is the culmination of the Masterpiece line and he’ll deal with anyone who disagrees. He’s already killed five Autobots and his Targetmaster partner, and he may just add you to his hit list unless you buy his toy. Now give us Masterpiece Arcee so he can have someone to snog! Or Springer. ("He’d ‘settle’ for Springer." - numbat)
 
 
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