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Blackjack's Review: First Edition Optimus Prime (Takara)

Name: Optimus Prime
Series: Transformers Prime – First Edition (Takara)
Size Class: Voyager Class
Accessories: Sword and Ion Rifle

The dawn of a new series always heralds a new Optimus Prime toy (or Optimus Primal), being the main hero and everything. And it would be rather absurd if the series titled ‘Transformers: Prime’ did not have an Optimus Prime toy… or toys, as it were. Transformers Prime’s toyline was beset with a few problems early on, mainly due the actual lack of toys for a good part while the cartoon ran on the hub. The first toy released was an all-new Optimus Prime toy in some sort of convention exclusive until Hasbro finally released the ‘First Edition’ series of toys, meant to be the gateway to a massive series of toylines starting with the ‘Robots in Disguise’ series and followed by the ‘Beast Hunters’ series. In theory, anyway. First Edition toys received minimal release, and Robots in Disguise’s distribution is so haphazard and delayed that the first waves had only begun to hit shelves when the show was well in season two.

But I’m not here to bitch about poor distribution and timing; rather I’m here to review Optimus Prime. There are several Prime-series Optimus Prime toys – a brand new Voyager-class mould in every subline – and in this review I shall cover the First Edition Voyager class Optimus Prime, specifically the Takara edition. As far as I know, the only notable difference between the Hasbro and Takara FE Optimus Primes are the shade of red used. No annoying stickers, no random peg holes to accommodate half-assed Targetmasters.

Most likely, your local toy shop would be carrying the ‘Robots in Disguise’ Optimus Prime… which is certainly true in all my local toy shops (those that carry Prime toys, anyway). RID Prime is, like everything else in the RID line, smaller, and comes with a ridiculous ‘Weaponizer’ weapon that is stuck as a pile of random parts if you don’t physically pull it. Also, in my opinion at least, it looks less show-accurate compared to the First Edition mold.

Still, Optimus Prime is a highly well-defined and likable character in the show… which is probably the best-ever Transformers series I’ve ever seen, even compared to strong contenders like Beast Wars. Plot, pacing, characterization, realism, humour, grit, strong themes, legacy characters, original characters, homages, originality… it’s got everything. And the Optimus Prime here is everything Optimus Prime should be.

So I needed to get a toy of him, if not the entire cast. But after getting RID Megatron, the Weaponizer weapons disgusted me so much that I steered clear of RID Optimus Prime, not when a better alternative is present. So get First Edition Optimus Prime, I did. And is he good? To put it bluntly… yes.

Alternate Mode:
As with his predecessors, Optimus Prime transforms into a semi-truck cab, this time a long-nosed cab popularized by the Bay movies, but coloured like the original G1 design. This is probably going to be the definitive Optimus Prime alternate mode for me, being massive fans of both G1 and the Movies. So, anyway, Optimus Prime is a pretty little truck. He looks powerful, yet doesn’t look small the way the flat-nosed G1 cab implies him to be. The long-nosed cab does look far more imposing, giving an aura that this Optimus is one that can totally knock anything in its path. Also, in addition to the obvious G1 and Movie vibes, TFP (I’m going to stick with this because ‘Prime Optimus Prime’ is rather awkward to type) Optimus Prime also has a curved wind vane roof similar to his Classics toy counterpart, which is a nice nod.

As mentioned before, TFP Optimus Prime is coloured like his G1 counterpart, being mainly dark red for the body of the cab, and blue for the rear part that connects to the trailer, and extends fashionably into some of the lower part on the sides of the truck. The entire front grill is moulded in light gray, and the wheels are obviously black. The metallic step thing on the sides are decked in silver paint, some details including window rims and the trailer hitch are picked out in a darker shade of gray. The windows and headlights are cast in transluscent dark blue. The little lights on top of the windshield are painted yellow. An Autobot insignia adorns the center of the grill.

Other than the robot thighs peeking out, there isn’t any robot mode kibble visible from the outside. Everything is well hidden, and fits together quite securely even if you have to do a little adjustment to force Optimus to fit into vehicle mode. The robot feet/roof wind vane in particular need a little force to have it click into place, which worries me a little. The detailing on the mold is rather impressive as well, with lots of rivets lining Optimus Prime’s frame, and little notches and greebles cut into the smokestacks and the silver pad thing. Most impressively, while transforming him, if you take a peek into the interior of the cab, you see that they have molded a steering wheel, a car radio set and even a little cup holder. These serve no function since you can’t even see them from the windows, and it’s just a nice touch to have some interior details. Of course, not every detailing on Optimus Prime is painted… some silver detailing are left out, but it’s rather understandable, considering the amount of paint that goes into this mould in both modes.

A major gripe I have is the usage of soft plastic/rubber to make the smokestacks, as well as the sword accessory. It’s for safety reasons, I understand, but that does not stop me from getting annoyed at them. For one, rubber warps easily. So if, say, one of the smokestacks gets pressed against another toy on display for a period of time, it will warp and stay warped, which is not a good thing. For another, they tend to flop around, and generally look terrible.

As mentioned before, my issue of First Edition Optimus Prime is the Takara version, which uses darker, more show-accurate shades of red and blue. Thankfully there are no stickers or random chrome this time, and instead the plastic are cast a funky glossy shade. I do quite like it, even if the gloss invites some stress marks.

Other than that, Optimus Prime functions in truck mode as well as any other Optimus Primes function in truck mode. He rolls around on his six wheels, and he’s got a trailer hitch. Not that he has any toy trailers out at the time of writing, but it’s nice for them to pre-empt such a release. Both the gun and the sword can peg onto the trailer hitch hole, or the holes on either side of it.

Overall, this is a pretty glorious truck mode that represents Optimus Prime well.

Robot Mode:
Optimus Prime’s transformation is pretty well thought-out. It is easy enough after several tries, yet it is relatively complex enough to mimic the CGI model’s near-movieverse complexity. Of course there are some cheating involved, namely the usage of fake chest windows which end up over the actual vehicle mode windows. It is inevitable, though, since the show model has things like the side windows and lights and all sorts of little kibble that move around (again like the movieverse) which are simply impossible to replicate in toy form.

Optimus Prime manages to pull of looking powerful, athletic, sleek and boxy in the same breath, looking like the result of the G1 character done in both the Movieverse and Animated aesthetics, then combined… which, considering the franchise’s history and Prime’s alleged status as THE show, is very appropriate. He ends up looking very much like his the classic Optimus Prime transformation, with the iconic colour layout – blue helmet, silver faceplate, red torso and arms with window chests, gray abs made out of (fake) grill, blue hips, grey thighs and blue lower legs. The only deviation is that this time, Optimus’ smokestacks end up jutting upwards at an angle from his back instead of from his shoulders, since his shoulders are now these curved armour-like things. And it replicates the show model excellently, with clever use of fake vehicle mode kibble. In fact the only obvious thing that contradicts the show model are the curved roof toppers, which are red and end up jutting backwards from Optimus Prime’s ankle in robot mode… whereas in the show model there is nothing there.

Optimus Prime gains more dark grey in robot mode, namely in his abs, crotch and part of his knees, as well as the entire section of his neck filled with funky alien robot wire things. Lots of vehicle mode kibble are picked out in yellow and silver paint as well, which are nice touches. All of this is show accurate, remember, and it’s amazing work on part of the designers. He looks excellent, and red ankle parts aside he looks like he just walked out of the show.

Articulation wise, being a Voyager class toy, Optimus is able to enact a relatively large number of poses and action scenes. He’s stable enough to withstand them without falling down as well. While he doesn’t have that many articulation points, all the key ones are around – head, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hips, thighs, knees and feet, and has enough range of motion and balance in order to use them properly. There is a major gripe with Optimus Prime on the shoulders, though. They are supposed to peg into the wheels on the sides of Optimus’ torso, and the shoulder joints will move independently from the piece that pegs into the wheel… but this pops off very, very often. It’s just that the hole in the wheel just doesn’t have enough friction to hold the shoulder properly, so the slightest amount of posing will invariably pop the peg out of the hole. It’s not harmful since you can pop it back in just as easily, and it doesn’t spontaneously pop off like Movie Brawl, but it’s annoying nonetheless. That, I think, is the one biggest flaw for Optimus Prime.

Being a Voyager toy, he’s about as large as the average Voyager from the past, and thankfully is as tall as Prime: RID’s Voyager Megatron. Ideally Megatron should tower over Optimus by a head or two, but I’d rather have the same height than to have Optimus tower over Megatron.

Optimus Prime comes with two accessories: a rifle and the aforementioned rubber sword. In the show, Optimus is able to retract both of his hands and replace them with either a big rifle, or with a sword. None of the accessories included are coloured right, although their moulding are exquisite. Now, unlike FE Cliffjumper who actually switches out his hands with his weapons, Optimus Prime’s weapons slide over his hands, with parts of the weapon covering Optimus’ hands to create the impression of the hand ‘morphing’ into the weapon. It’s obvious if you look at Optimus’ hand from any angle that shows the bottom, but it’s a nice effort.

The cannon is a perfect replication of Optimus’ cannon from the show, except that the toy is moulded as a single solid black piece (and seems like the Takara model has been dipped in a little glitter) instead of the dark gray of the show, and while all the little details are moulded in, they aren’t painted light blue like they are in the show. On the other hand, while the sword should be more or less coloured entirely grey, the longer blade is coloured light blue. And it’s rubber. Still, both attach well onto Optimus’ hands and he looks pretty nice with one rifle arm and one sword arm, although in an ideal world the toy would include two of each weapon for maximum dual-wielding craziness. (You can also plug the sword onto the underside of the rifle to create a ridiculous-looking bayonet.)

So, overall, a great robot mode. However with the sheer amount of Optimus Prime toys out there it really is a little hard to get excited about yet another great Voyager Class Optimus Prime, whose claim to shine is to be a simple transforming toy that has a great truck mode and a great robot mode with nothing special. It is my favourite among the three Voyager Optimus Primes I own (the other two being Animated’s Wingblade and the Movie Trilogy’s Battle Blades) by being the funnest among the three to pose. It all boils down to how much you like the Prime design in general.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 7/10 Prime designs are invariably similar to each other, what with all Optimus Primes being similarly-shaped robots that turn into similarly-shaped trucks and all. First Edition Prime is pretty ingenuous, though, and his transformation is pretty well-designed and pretty fun to boot. However, I really, really, really wished they had handled the shoulder peg problem, which could be done with minimal adjustment to the mould, but since they didn’t it becomes a constant irritation.

Durability: 9/10 The rubber sword and smokestacks worries me, but otherwise other than ball joint loosening I don’t see anything on this toy that seems problematic.

Aesthetics: 10/10 Ooh, I do like the mixture of Movie and Animated aesthetics myself, and he is certainly Optimus Prime. Chest windows, red torso, blue legs and that face… he’s very much show accurate, and he looks really grand for that. The Takara version takes it even further by making Prime a shade darker, amping up the coolness and show-accuracy.

Articulation: 8/10 Optimus Prime’s got enough articulation points and balance to pose himself. It’s not much quantity-wise, but I’d take a sturdy toy which is able to pose without balancing problems than a multi-jointed mess that can’t even stand up any day. As it is, Prime is able to be put into loads of great poses; probably only the ankle joints are limiting in any way.

Fun: 9/10 I certainly had loads of fun posing and mucking around with Optimus Prime. His transformation isn’t too complicated either so he’s great for fiddling if you’re bored. Plus he’s got great accessories as well.

Price/Value: 8/10 For a Voyager Class toy, he isn’t bad at all. It’s just that unless you’re one of those lucky ones who live near a toy store selling First Edition stock, you’ll probably have to go through great lengths to hunt him down, or import him from Japan, or buy him from a scalper. I personally got my Takara FE Prime for a cheap price due to some shenanigans, so for me it’s pretty worth it.

Overall: 8/10 Optimus Prime is certainly a great toy, although there are several weak points that caused him to be a couple points shy of a perfect score. I do quite like my Optimus Prime toy a lot, and he’s both a great toy and a great display piece. Still, while he is not a must-buy, anyone collecting toys from the Prime toyline certainly needs an Optimus Prime figure, and neither the RID nor the Weaponizer look anywhere as good, let alone better, than the First Edition toy. And while Beast Hunters looks like it might be a nice toy the green windows and weird-looking alternate mode really ruin the image of the thing. The Deluxe toy, while nice, is too small. Therefore, by default, your definitive Prime Optimus Prime would be the First Edition toy.
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