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Tetsuro's Review: Masterpiece Rodimus Prime

Name: Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime/Rodimus Convoy/Hot Rodimus/Rodimus Major/Rodimus/Futuristic Space Winnebago
Function: Kid appeal character/Autobot Commander
Subgroup: Masterpiece

Those of you who have read my review of the Titanium Rodimus Prime already know that I'm a big fan of Rodimus Prime, but on hindsight that's a very narrow way of saying it; in reality, I'm a big fan of the post-1986-movie continuity in general, both in cartoons and the comic; most Americans are only familiar with the events of the cartoon continuity, with Rodimus in charge of the Autobots, now enjoying a new universal peace which, unfortunately, doesn't last as in addition to the Decepticons making a comeback under the helm of now-utterly insane Galvatron, the original creators of the Transformer race, Quintessons, also seek to take back their ancient home world of Cybertron. In the UK comics however, Quints were reduced to little more than a bit part as Galvatron had instead escaped into the earth's past, causing a great deal of havoc in the contemporary timeline while Rodimus merely places a bounty on his head as his efforts are concentrated on fighting off the new Decepticon menace under the helm of Shockwave, and then there's the whole sorry mess with Unicron...

...but I think I'm just rambling now. And I think even my opinions on the writing on the third season of the cartoon are rather irrelevant in the context of this review. When Optimus Prime was first released as the first installment of Takara's Masterpiece line, fandom have been speculating on what the next entry will be. So far we have gotten Megatron, Grimlock, Starscream and all the obligatory repaints; yet Soundwave, who at least in the west is probably the only character to give Optimus himself a run for his money in popularity, remains unseen in the line; and yet, now we get Rodimus Prime.

I have to admit that getting Rodimus was a bit of a left field release for me, but I suppose he makes sense since he's the only character to have ever actually replaced the most legendary Autobot of all time. Yes, I know there have been several Autobot leaders in the past, but let me explain; in the cartoon, he was an obvious no-brainer, but in the comics, although there was several Autobot leaders, there never was a definitive successor to Optimus Prime. After he died, the Autobot forces were split between the original Autobots now led by somewhat self-imposed and power-mad Grimlock, and a bunch of new guys under the leadership of Fortress Maximus. And of course, we get the Japanese continuity with it's variety of new characters, many of which may have even resembled Optimus to some degree...and now I am rambling again.

I say "bit of" because for a while I had been hoping for a Masterpiece Rodimus Prime; in fact, I had been hoping for one before the Titanium one came out, because before then the options were either using the Energon Rodimus as a stand-in or getting the original toy, which to be totally honest is pretty terrible, even by G1 standards.

Oh, and did I mention? He transforms to Hot Rod as well.

ROBOT MODE:

Okay, normally I'd just skip the packaging part, but in this case, I think I should mention something I think a lot of people feel the same way about; that is, the Masterpiece packaging is NOT a space saver, a fact which is made even more ridiculous by the fact that since all MPs are blindpacked, you won't see the contents anyway. Basically, rather than stuffing all the accessories onto the back of the box or generally somewhere where they're not even seen in windowed packages, the MP boxes put everything except the paperworks on the "display layer" with the actual figure - in a box without a display window.

The toy comes packaged in the Hot Rod's robot mode so we'll start with that. Takara have gone all-out with the animated look, and Hot Rod looks dead-on like his movie counterpart, down to the maroon colour. And he even has his black boots! However, unlike virtually every other Masterpiece in the line so far, Rodimus is very, shall we say "smooth"; as in he has virtually no molded in details, resulting in him having a lot of large, undetailed surfaces - which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing. Only his feet are die cast, just like the original toy, and chromed exhaust pipe arm cannons.

Now, there are some problems here; most of the rear end of his car mode is folded up on his back, and from a side view, he does slouch forward a bit, but it isn't really obvious from the front (and certainly not as bad as the Titanium). A bigger problem however is the fact that there is a little grey tab that is supposed to hook up to two small tabs behind his head to actually keep the backpack up; unfortunately, I can't for my life figure out just where to press to actually make it slide on properly, it just keeps popping off. The actual joint keeping the backpack up is very stiff, so the backpack won't fall off even if the tab isn't connected, but should help the bottom of his chest to remain down; manipulating his arms will cause the chest to pop up, so you will just have to sort of hold him by the chest with one hand while moving his arm with the other.

He has a great deal of articulation, about on par with Optimus Prime but with double joints for arms and knees, allowing you to fold his legs in two and have him sit on his knees or flex his arms or something. The head is on a ball joint, the arms rotate outward and around on ratchet joints, there's several joints on his ankles but most of those are for the transformation.

Available gimmicks in this mode are all the ones you saw him use in the movie; you can pop either of his arms open, spin his hand inside the arm and close up, leaving him with a connecting fork on which you can either connect the spinning saw blade, which is cast in translucent plastic with painted-on metal blades, or the little welding tool he used to fix Kup in the same scene. Also, if you hold down on his "ears" and twist them forward, you can slide down translucent blue goggles like we also saw him use in the movie. However, these goggles are extremely loose and will often fall down with the slightest bump.

Turning Hot Rod into Rodimus is so ridiculously easy that I am reluctant to even call it a transformation; all you do is extend his legs at the hips slightly, and pulling his head up, exposing the alternate face and then lowering it along with the helmet down in front of the other one. The instructions also tell you to push up his spoiler fins to make them more prominent, but this will be hardly noticeable; however, although not described in the manual, a lot of people also like to push his shoulders up which adds a little to his more "grown-up appearance".

Both face sculpts are dead-on accurate to the animation model. All the gimmicks except the goggles are also usable in both forms, obviously. There is also a tiny little Matrix stored in his chest - or rather, his abdomen, which you can reveal simply by flipping down the large tab with the Autobot logo on it. Now, when I say tiny, I really do mean it. There is absolutely no way Rodimus can hold it, and most publicity shot and fan shots have displayed him holding the Matrix that came with Optimus Prime, but it is just the right size for, say, Generations Thunderwing; all in all, the Matrix is pretty useless apart from looking nice (it doesn't even open), but I still think he's better off with it included.

He also has two different looking guns for Hot Rod which you can peg into his hands. Unfortunately, herein lies a problem; the guns have tabs on them that fit into small sockets in his palms, but his fingers, which are all molded together as a single piece, do not wrap around the handles properly; the handles overlap with the knuckle joints slightly, preventing you from wrapping his around the handle properly, and at best they will only prevent the guns from falling off his hands completely and the guns are pretty much clinging onto his hands instead of the other way around. The guns slide into each other to form one large gun which he can hold in his Rodimus Prime mode; obviously he can hold the guns in any way you prefer, but obviously this is the intended effect.

Lastly, there's the trailer, but more about that later...

VEHICLE MODE:

Now, I am not going to describe the transformation because if it drove me insane, I don't even want to think what trying to describe it would do. However, I can provide a few tips for transforming him here; the upper knee joints are very stiff, you you will want to bend those in first; pull the foot struts all the way out of the leg to make more space for the hands because they will go there. One thing I can say about the Transformation is that although he is not quite as complicated as Megatron, he does share the same problems - namely, there is a lot of fragile parts and you find yourself with very little to hold onto while preventing him from flopping in your arms while transforming him while also trying to move those particularily stiff joints without damaging the fragile ones.

In fact, the transformation is far more excruciating than it was with Megatron; whereas a few gaps with him didn't really matter all that much, he would still look like a gun, the problem with Hot Rod's car mode is that there is very little room for error, lest he ends up crooked. That is, you won't get all four wheels touch the floor. Even if you do, there is an insignificant amoutn of space under his car mode; the crotch plate curves towards the floor and will most likely scrape against it when you roll him back and forth unless you've transformed him just right. The leg plates also pop off easily from their slots in the crotch piece and drop against the floor. And were his wheels really this tiny?

With all that said however...it really is amazing how accurate the car mode is to the movie. Again, he is very smooth, with little molded-in detail, but he does have a chromed engine - the engine has a small cover which you can flip open, revealing a slot which fit either of the guns, much like Targetmaster Hot Rod, and indeed, this will no doubt be put into use later with Hasbro's release which omits the trailer but includes Hot Rod's targetmaster partner, Firebolt. His cockpit also opens, exposing a pair of useless seats which are filled in by his feet. Oh, and he does have rubber wheels with chromed hubcaps.

Again, the transformation to Rodimus Prime is a bit of a stretch. Namely, rather than what you would think, Hot Rod doesn't somehow manage to hide a good half of his front section for the winnebago mode. In fact, his front section will actually be the back section! What happens is that you pull the real front section of Rodimus out from the bottom of the trailer (once that's done, you will see what I meant with a stretch); What you do with the actual Hot Rod module is you basically open his cockpit all the way, turn the top of his back section 180 degrees and then shove the front section of the car inside the bottom of the trailer, sliding the spoiler into their reserved spots and then close up the trailer around the kibble.

Now, at this point I would like to point out a common problem; the slots for the spoiler are very tight and the paint on the spoiler is very likely to scratch, so you will want to file off some of the extra material from inside the slot - I've already managed to scrape some paint off the spoiler myself, much to my chagrin...I ended up using some fine sandpaper to scrub off all the paint and some of the plastic to make more clearance for the spoiler. All of which raises some questions; namely, why was the spoiler painted yellow instead of being cast in yellow plastic, and why is the inside of the spoiler slots in the trailer painted as well!?

THE TRAILER

It's big, red and has flames painted on the sides. Yes, I know, that's a ridiculously oversimplified description, but to be totally honest, considering the look of Hot Rod/Rodimus' robot mode, I guess my initial impressions of the trailer being ridiculously undetailed aren't all that justified after all. In fact, it pretty much is just an oversized version of the original G1 trailer, with it's chromed exhaust pipes and rubber wheels. I was originally miffed when I first discovered that the Masterpiece Rodimus would opt with the separate trailer approach like the original toy rather than being part of the actual robot mode like in the cartoon and the Titanium toy, but considering we get Hot Rod in the same deal, I find that a very acceptable compromise. That, plus the battle platform is kinda cool.

To open the trailer, just press the big black button on the top and the whole thing will spring open. You will still have to pull up the cannon, extend the strut, flip out the panels and turn up the handles, which have tabs for Rodimus' hands as well, and that's it. All I can say is that when fully deployed, the battle platform IS pretty massive. Despite being much smaller than MP-4's trailer when closed up, I would say it is quite a great deal more massive when fully opened. There are storage slots for all the accessories in the trailer, and in addition, you can place Hot Rod's handheld guns in several places to increase it's firepower; there are slots for the handles in the rear, the front as well as the platform's own cannon, and you can also attach the combined rifle under the cannon's barrels.

I did say earlier that it might be a good idea to file off some of the paint and possibly then some from the inside of the spoiler slots in the trailer with some fine sandpaper; this is relatively easy to accomplish as the chrome exhaust pipes pop off easily, attached on the trailer with simple friction plugs so don't worry about breaking them too much.

DURABILITY

There is something I really should mention. Now, I think I've been lucky as my Rodimus arrived to me all in one piece and I even managed to transform him without breaking anything, but a lot of folks have complained about the fact that this is a VERY fragile figure; in addition to the aforementioned issue about the spoiler going inside the trailer, points of concern are the swiveling leg plates on his shins, namely the screw plug attaching the plate on the strut seems to break off relatively easily and for many people display visible stress marks out of the box if they haven't broken off while still in the package; another one are the little tabs that connect the middle-rear section of his car mode in the thighs of his robot mode. If you look at them from the right angle, you can see that the actual connection of the tabs to those flaps are VERY thin, and these also seem to be a point of breaking for many people.

CONCLUSION

I think at this point, the really big question is, how does he compare to Megatron? Both notoriously difficult to transform in addition to being perceived as extremely fragile, but I would have to say that Megatron is the "better" one. Although MP Rodimus' transformation is considerably simpler, looking like a spychanger compared to Megatron, he's a lot fiddlier and as a consequence, not getting every single piece aligned absolutely perfectly is much less of an issue on Megatron while on Rodimus you will be hard pressed to even get all four wheels even. Also the cause for a lot of the breaking on Megatron was excess force where it wasn't needed, trying to force the wrong part, etc. while Rodimus really is that fragile. A lot of these issues might've been avoidable with some extra die cast parts.

After leaving him in vehicle mode for a whole week, I transformed him back into robot mode, and discovered that the ratchet joints at his ankles had become very loose - and unfortunately it's the exact setting used when he's standing up in robot mode, making it almost impossible to keep him standing up! I had to fiddle with his ankle struts a little to keep him upright, but now he has blatant gaps where his shins meet his feet. I might be able to fix it by placing a little bit of superglue between the teeth to tighten the gap, but I'm not holding my hopes up. Also after transforming him back, I did notice some stress marks on one of the red tabs, so time will tell whether that too will eventually break off.

Since this IS a blindboxed toy, and even then a lot of people will buy this online where they couldn't inspect the actual toy before purchase anyway, buying MP-9 might be far too risky considering the hefty pricetag, so I am forced to say that I really cannot recommend him. Unless you're a huge fan of the character, you may be better off getting Fans Project's Protector Trailer for your Classics/Henkei Hot Rod for all your Rodimus Prime needs.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation design: 4/10 - Hmm. The transformation itself is actually far simpler than Megatron's, and I would even put it on par with Optimus, but most of the issues are caused by the difficulty of aligning all the necessary parts in vehicle mode to even get all the four wheels touch the floor, and even then the crotch plate is likely to scrape against it.
Durability: 3/10 - ...and the difficulty of transformation is also caused by the necessity of extreme carefulness on manipulating those parts that have been reported as extremely break-prone. In fact, the biggest problem is finding a good place to grab a hold on when manipulating those particularily stiff joints.
Fun: 7/10 - The transformation itself isn't particularily fun - however, in robot mode, he has some decent gimmicks, the vehicle modes are really nice if you get the parts aligned right, and for some reason I just really love that big battle platform and the various ways you can implement his guns on both the figure and the trailer. Not to mention you DO get the option of displaying him as either Hot Rod OR Rodimus Prime.
Aesthetics: 9/10 - Takara set out to make him look as much like his animated counterpart and I have to say, they really succeeded here; whereas the previous Masterpieces have taken several cues from their toy counterparts to add to the overall look, Rodimus is all cartoon - and I don't think he's one bit worse off for it. The backpack sticks out a little bit, but I find it forgivable. Definitely the best looking Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime we've ever seen.
Articulation: 8/10 - The double joints on his knees mean he can be posed kneeling like he did in the episode Burden Hardest to Bear (which was actually used as a marketing point), but his shoulders can only swivel outwards properly if they are aimed straight down; otherwise he can't spread out his arms at all.
Price: 3/10 - Yeeeecch. Considering the fragility issues, and the size of the toy, I have to say that the Masterpiece line as a whole has taken a dip as far as value is concerned; even Grimlock, who was a vastly superior toy, had many people turned off by the sight of his pricetag.
Overall: 5/10 - Do you really like Rodimus Prime? Chances are you've already bought it in spite of all the negative reviews already available. Do you like Hot Rod? You might wanna hold out for the Hasbro release. If you don't like either...well, no amount of praise is going to persuade you to blow over $200 for a toy that will probably be broken before you even lay your hands on it. Plus if you want an actual toy that you can play with, there's always the Classics/Henkei Rodimus and the Fans Project trailer; He does, however, make a magnificent display piece in any of his four modes.
 
 
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