Tetsuro's Review: MP-24 Star Saber
"Let's say go!"
Star Saber is the first Masterpiece Transformer to be selected by fans, in a poll conducted in 2013. In the past, I had simply assumed that the Japanese TF fandom were obsessed with and only the 1984 line-up, but Star Saber winning the poll clearly marks a change from that trend. Either that or it's just TakaraTomy having propagated that impression. Then again, the poll had no 1984 characters at all, and the closest to a '84 was character Ginrai, and he only ranked third with the Armada(!) Optimus Prime coming second.
Or perhaps there is more to it than that. Victory was the last full-length Generation 1 TV series, and while there was the Zone OVA, the general interest in Transformers was waning in Japan and Takara was shifting it's interest to it's new, original property; the Braves. While the Transformers toyline was still going in both Europe and Japan, the latter getting several exclusives from the former's market and likewise moved on to G2, the Brave series were clearly at the greater focus, especially once Brave Exkaiser (the MP of whose review can also be found on this site) became a runaway success.
How is any of this relevant at all, you may ask? Well, the Braves were basically just copying the success of Transformers and discarding it's massive mythos in favour of something brand new, many of the mech designers and production team members came over from Victory, with which it shares a lot in common - the story progression is similar, the combiner teams supporting a main character who, in addition to having his own alt mode, combines with a larger vehicle to form an even larger robot or vehicle, although this seed was inadvertedly planted by Hasbro by creating the Powermaster Optimus Prime, who shares this characteristic. If you were to remove all the explicit Transformers references such as the faction names and the occasional cameo, what you would be left with would be a distinctly Brave rather than Transformers series. What all of this means is that in some circles, at least the Brave fandom, Victory is considered something of a prototype of the Braves that followed it. Conversely, Car Robots (Robots in Disguise - no, the other one) probably has more in common with the Braves that preceded it than any other Transformers series.
What all of this boils down to is the simple possibility that Star Saber has more fans outside the Transformers fandom than it does within - that is not to say he doesn't have his fans in this fandom as well. Personally I didn't care for Victory, but anyone anywhere who has followed my comments on the relevant message boards should already know my opinions on that subject. It probably does say something when on it's release week, MP-24 Star Saber
soared to the top of sales charts in Japan, even beating Sentai
to the #1 position.
Brain of Courage:
Before I move onto Saber's actual robot mode, I'd like to take a moment to mention what an amazing amount of detail they managed to cram into Yuki no Brain
, that tiny figure that goes inside Saber's cockpit; this little guy, although the original toy didn't quite express it quite as well, looks in both the anime as well as this toy like a tiny version of Star Saber's large robot mode, and the paint applications are absolutely stunning considering he's only a hair over an inch tall (3cm for everyone who uses metrics), blowing the likes of Spike and Daniel clean out of the water. Of course, due to his small size, he has only minimal articulation in the form of swivel joints at hips and shoulders.
Saber's alternate mode is a fictional futuristic jet plane. The Masterpiece benefits from the fact that, being a late G1 Transformer, Star Saber had a completely made-up alt mode and was in general less about being a robot in disguise and more about having a functional transformation (admittedly, one that could accomodate whatever gimmick was popular at the time). Much like the original, little attempt is made to hide the fact that this jet does, in fact, transform into a robot, with the arms snuck under the wings being the primary offender. In this mode, the little Brain guy fits snugly inside the cockpit, cast in translucent blue plastic with the frame painted red, and the interior has detailed control panels on all three sides, although painted entirely in silver. It also has landing gear with rolling wheels, folding down from the feet and nosecone.
The transformation is fairly simple; the nosecone comes off, the arms fold out, elbows extend, fists fold out, legs extend, feet fold out...and that's pretty much it. The cockpit slides back slightly, but this is one of those things that is purely done for cosmetic reasons and only serves a real purpose in the large robot mode. Of course, you now have have a robot, but what good is a robot without a face? The chest opens up, you plug in the Brainmaster component, and much like the original, closing the hatch causes the face to pop out. Unlike the original however, the face is built into the Saber unit rather than the Brain unit, but this is done so Saber can actually turn his head. It hardly makes a difference anyway, since much like the Godmasters and Headmaster juniors from the previous series, the interexchangability of the partners on the toys was ignored in the anime.
And speaking of articulation, Saber has it but not crazy amounts of it. The arms are fairly posable, the wrists rotate, the shoulders have those spring ratchet joints, and of course he has elbows that bend 90 degrees. The legs have ratchet swivels on both hips and knees, although there is barely any outwards movement on the former, allowing you to do only basic posing just so he won't look like a brick; however, the hips do swivel around, allowing you to still do some dynamic posing, and the lower legs rotate as well. Unfortunately, he cannot ride the V-Star holding onto the helmet antennas like handlesticks like in the anime, probably the only thing from the TV show he can't do.
Saber has quite few paint apps, with the red on his wings, the gold-chromed "V" on the back, silver on his abdomen, forearms and face - speaking of his face, the visor is cast in translucent blue plastic, with eyes faintly visible beneath, giving him a slightly Lee Sullivan-esque visage.
Oh, and the nosecone pegs into Saber's left arm to function as a sort of shield. Of course, both arms have the same connector, allowing you to turn him into a leftie if you wish. In this mode, Saber can utilize some of Star Saber's accessories, but for the sake of simplicity, I'm just going to talk about the one accessory that is meant specifically for Saber, the mini-Saber Blade. The hilt and the blade are separate components, both of which can be stored inside V-Star. Speaking of which...
Okay, let's face it, the V-Star looks pretty goofy without Saber attached. It's a spaceship with a gaping hole where the cockpit should be. So let's correct that oversight, shall we? To combine Saber with V-Star in vehicle mode, simply fold down the former's stabilizers, fold up his wings and plug him into that cavity. Bam, you're done.
Even moreso than Saber himself, Star Saber makes no attempt to disguise itself as any sort of a realistic vehicle. The lines are fairly smooth though, and if you were to show this to someone without innate knowledge Transformers, they probably would not be able to tell it transforms into anything - apart from the obvious helmet sitting up front, of course. Interesting thing about the V-Star is that unlike Saber, nearly all of the colours are cast in that colour rather than painted. All the yellow, blue and grey bits are made of plastic in that colour. The only painted details are on the wings, the interior of the front landing gear, and the Autobot tampographs. And hey, this guy has die cast! All the thrusters, as well as the guns/antennas on the front are all metal.
V-Star has a few gimmicks. For one thing, the Saber Laser, Star Saber's gun, pegs to the back; on the underside of the blue fuselag, way out in the back, is a small hole where you can peg the small Saber Blade hilt. I've no idea if this is actually intended for this purpose, the manual makes no mention of it and it cannot be used in the large robot mode, but it works. And much like in the anime, the small lids up front conceal both of the chromed sword blades. Lastly, the front gun emplacements fold up, revealing missile batteries cast entirely in yellow plastic.
V-Star also has it's own landing gear. The red pieces with the Autobot symbols fold out, allowing you to flip out the front landing gear with rolling wheels, likewise in the back, the red foot covers flip out, revealing a pair of four-wheel landing gear. The front landing gear are rather suspectible to buckling under the weight of of the V-Star, so it takes some balancing to get them to stay upright. I probably wouldn't recommend leaving it like this, not for very long periods of time anyway.
To that end, MP-24 comes with a flight pose stand! There is a piece that replaces the handle on Star Saber's shield, cast in translucent blue plastic, that plugs into what becomes Star Saber's crotch in robot mode. It doesn't place Star Saber at a very high altitude, but it is a much more stable manner of displaying Star Saber in his combined vehicle mode than the landing gear.
The transformation is very simple, largely due to the original already being a fairly simple toy, with the only added complications being to facilitate the additional articulation. The legs unpeg from the arms and the sides, unfold, the upper legs rotate around, the arms extend, wings fold down, feet fold out...Saber's folds up and plugs into the empty chest cavity. Just like the original, the large helmet, held by an articulated arm, slides over Saber's noggin with the face folding down and the head antennas rotating up. Unlike the original however, the arm holds the helmet with a spring-loaded clip that can be detached and folded away; otherwise Star Saber would not be able to turn his head. In fact, I've found it nearly impossible to remove the helmet if it's attached to the arm. Lastly, the Saber's jet intakes flip around, revealing the grey vents on the bottom of Star Saber's chest.
In his robot mode, Star Saber is a sight to behold. Maybe it's the heroic colour scheme of bright white, red and blue with touches of yellow - or maybe it's the fact that he's hair over a foot tall, towering above virtually every single other Masterpiece with the possible exception of Ultra Magnus. The design is very contemporary Kunio Okawara, the guy responsible for many of the Gundams, and the similarity is not all that far fetched; the colour distribution is very similar, the yellow bits on his helmet resemble the camera emplacements on a mobile suit, and he even has those tiny machine guns (a simple molded-on detail here) on the sides that he only uses in his final battle against Deszaras. Pretty much the only thing missing is the V-fin, and the antennas kind of function as a substitute. The implied "V" symbol in gold chrome stands out nicely as well.
Star Saber fares slightly better in terms of articulation than Saber; he can properly swing his legs outwards, apart from which the leg articulation is very similar...there is some ankle tilt, but not enough for highly dynamic posing. The arm articulation is interesting; the shoulders, in addition to rotating around, unpeg from their sockets similarly to MP Ultra Magnus, allowing you to swing the arms outwards to the front for two-handed sword poses; the elbows are double-jointed, with a ratchet joint on the forearms and a swivel joint on the upper arms, and the arms can be swung out at both the shoulder and the upper part of the elbow. Both the forearms and wrists rotate, allowing you to swing those ridges on his forearms out of the way if needed. The latter has some minor tilt motion as well. Lastly, he rotates at the waist, and he even has an ab crunch!
For accessories in this mode, the primary accessory is, of course, his large sword. The blade concealed inside his backpack comes out and plugs into Saber's nosecone, the handle folds out and pegs into Star Saber's fist. While the original toy had an awkward slot for the blade, the Masterpiece's nosecone actually opens up to hold the blade. This has the unfortunate side effect of making Star Saber hold his sword with the side facing forward, like a giant ping pong paddle. There is an additional handle extension that plugs into the nosecone while the short one is still folded inside which remedies this problem, but it does not peg into his hands securely and is clearly designed for two-handed poses where such a feature would be an obstacle. If you wish to display Star Saber without a sword in his hand, the nosecone actually tabs onto the backpack right behind the blade storage.
A second accessory is the Saber Laser, or simply his gun. The peg that attaches it to the V-Star's back (can be stored the same way in this mode)folds back and reveals an actual handle, which allows Star Saber to hold it. However, the gun is clearly meant to be held by both Saber and Star Saber, and ends up looking rather awkward as it's too tiny for Star Saber and too massive for Saber. Plus let's face it, it would be rather silly for a guy named Star Saber
to go around shooting people. Unless he wanted to go for that Ralph Bakshi's Wizards
approach I guess.
The last accessory is the shield. Cast in white plastic with a painted blue stripe, Star Saber used it for one episode, but it does look nice on him when he's holding his sword in his other hand. The handle part slides off to accomodate the flight pose stand for the vehicle mode.
There are these strange pegs under Star Saber's feet that totally don't serve any purpose and most definitely do not imply this guy can combine with anyone or anything. Nope, no sir.
There has been some reports on TakaraTomy's quality control being it's usual self, but my speciment fortunately does not suffer from many of the commonly reported problems like loose arm joints (or in one case, two of the same side head antenna). The only problem I have really is the outward leg swing joint, there's too much clearance between notches that allows his legs to slowly spread open under his own weight. The other problem I ran into was mold flash on the large blade that actually prevented it from pegging into the hilt, but this was quickly corrected with the use of some nippers; wish I could say the same about the obvious runner nubs on the blade itself. Tip: when collapsing Saber's leg, do it while pressing down on the kneecaps.
- So simple that you could probably do it with your eyes closed. Quite a few cosmetic changes you are guaranteed to forget when taking photos and only discover after the fact.
- My sole biggest grievance here is the white plastic which might become discoloured over time. The long, thin handle for Saber Blade is also something to look out for.
- Normally I prefer buying mediocre toys of great characters rather than the other way around, but Star Saber is the glorious exception. He may not pose like an olympic gymnast, but he still makes for a great display in any mode or pose.
- The legs on V-Star tend to pop off their tabs rather easily in vehicle mode, making it a bit difficult to wave this guy around the room while making fwooshing noises.
- Star Saber is in the higher end of the Masterpiece price range, but still cheaper than MP-10. He's also cheaper than most of the high-end gokins I normally buy, which is a definite plus.
If it weren't for my phobia of white plastic, I'd give him a full ten...and the iffy leg articulation is a strike against it...but I still have to give him 9/10
at least, he's just that fun.
Fun fact: "Let's say go!" is actually a pun on the word "seigo", which means "coordinate".