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Warcry's Review: Airazor (VHS Pack-In Redeco)

An aerial reconnaissance expert, Airazor's optical matrix scanners can detect Predacon ground movement from 30,000 feet. Internal radar transmitters then relay data to fellow Maximals, complete with 3-D virtual reality maps detailing enemy location. Cyberblades located within wings open for attack mode. And although the photon cannon concealed beneath tail is her weapon of choice in robot mode, she prefers attacking Predacons with her armor slashing, titanium-plated talons!

Airazor isn't my favourite character from the Beast Wars show. In fact, she's probably the one I like the least. That's not to say I dislike her, though, or that she's a bad character, because she's not. But compared to the rest of the cast, Airazor was a bit boring. If you asked me to sum up her character in one line I couldn't, because she never really developed past the bio above -- a set of traits and abilities rather than a real, fleshed-out person. I also found her voice incredibly irritating and was often cheering for the Predacons to shoot her so I wouldn't have to hear her anymore, and I'm sure that doesn't help.

Because of that, even though I'm hoping to collect the full cast of the TV show Airazor wasn't very high on my want list. Of course, naturally that means she was one of the first BW toys I stumbled on when I started looking. The figure I picked up was missing parts, and it was the "VHS pack" deco rather than the original Airazor. I almost passed on her, but once I got her home and compared her to some of the other Beast Wars toys in my collection I was really glad that I didn't.

Alternate Mode: Airazor's beast mode is a peregrine falcon, a majestic bird that is renowned for soaring through the air and swooping down on it's prey. Given that that's all Airazor ever does, it's a very fitting disguise for her. It's nowhere near flawless, though.

Airazor's plumage is dark brown, with complex molded feather patterns on her head, back, wings, legs and tail. The stab at realism is scuppered, though, by her bright orange underbelly and feet. Furthermore, splashes of bluish-purple paint adorn her feathers as well, and they blend in surprisingly well in spite of not being realistic in the least. The original Airazor's colours were a bit more muted and she could more or less pass for a real falcon. This version, not so much. And while that is a strike against the toy, from a purely aesthetic perspective I like the unrealistic colours a whole lot more. While she might not be able to pass as a bird under close inspection, in practice if a Predacon got close enough to her to check they'd be rewarded with a fist to the face.

Another negative point is that Airazor's belly and legs are far too large for the bird they're attached to. Obviously that's because they're made up of robot parts, and the figure as a whole would be better if those parts could compress together somehow to fit better. I'm not entirely sure that would be possible, though, and the designers did go the extra mile by adding an extra transformation joint just above Airazor's robot-mode knees that lets to tuck the legs in a lot closer than you'd be able to otherwise.

While there are some clearly visible compromises, Airazor has one big advantage over her contemporaries -- articulation. Many Beast Wars toys are bricks in their beast modes, unable to do anything but stand around looking like an animal. Airazor blows most of them out of the water by having three points of articulation in each wing, poseable legs and feet, a hinged tail and an articulated beak. You can pose her doing almost anything a real bird can do, and the only issue I have with my figure is that it's showing signs of wear and her joints aren't tight enough to always hold her in place.

Airazor also comes with two different gimmicks. The first are a pair of panels on her wings that flip forward, becoming blades that she can use to strike her enemies in an aerial duel. The second gimmick is a spring-loaded system that arches her wings forward when you pull back on a lever. With the lever (which doesn't lock, sadly, but can be stuck open using her robot-mode arms) Airazor can assume a "divebombing" pose or slash with her blade weapons. The gimmicks are a lot of fun, and surprisingly unobtrusive on such a small figure. I've always liked the way the Beast Wars line handled gimmicks, and Airazor is no exception to that.

While she's not a perfect figure, Airazor is a good-looking bird with a lot of good features in beast mode. In fact, I'd say there are very few BW toys that can compete with her in that regard.

Robot Mode: Airazor's toy wasn't originally designed as female. Because of that, she doesn't have to deal with the sculpted breasts, shapely hips and hooker boots that 90% of the modern female Transformers cast are cursed with. But it's easy to see why the toy was eventually assigned a female gender, because even without stereotypically female features she still manages to look feminine. Like most of the early Beast Wars Basic-class toys she has a very lithe physique, and her head sculpt has a streamlined, aerodynamic look that could almost be classified as 'pretty' even though she's wearing a faceplate. The TV show interpreted her head crest such that it looked like she was wearing her beak for a hat, but the toy is much more subtle and in my opinion much better-looking.

Unlike a lot of the early Beast Wars toys, Airazor doesn't have to contend with unsightly beast-mode kibble. For one thing she has proper hands rather than useless animal claws, instantly placing her above and beyond strange figures like Snapper and Armordillo. And unlike a lot of the toys, her beast-mode parts are smoothly integrated into her robot mode -- the falcon head on her chest and the wings attached to her shoulders look like they belong there, not like they're stuck there because that's just where they ended up.

Beast Wars toys were a revelation to anyone who grew up with the original series (or at least those of us who didn't turn our noses up at 'animal Transformers') because it was the first line that included articulation as a standard feature. In fact, Beast Wars toys were often much, much more poseable than the normal non-transforming action figures of the time -- certainly they blew the Batman and Power Rangers toys my cousins and I had right out of the water. Airazor is no exception, and like most of the smaller toys she's a mess of ball joints: neck, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees, plus hinged feet. She's well-balanced and no kibble gets in the way of her limbs, making her easily the most poseable Basic/Scout-sized toy I've ever owned. Unfortunately that's a double-edged sword, because Airazor is old and her ball joints have gotten a bit loose with age. Her knees are the worst, and since she's got another joint right above the knee removing them to fix the problem is a dicey prospect. No figure is immune to the ravages of age but she seems to have suffered pretty badly from it.

As I mentioned in the introduction, my Airazor wasn't complete. The figure is meant to come with a talon-shaped pistol, but mine is missing. She's also missing her brown shoulder pads, a loss so notable and obvious that I owned the toy for several days before even realizing she was supposed to have them. Suffice it to say she looks great with or without those parts, but if you have the choice you should try to track down a complete version.

Airazor's beast mode gimmickry still works in robot mode. The orientation of her wings means that it's not much use unless she needs to stab someone standing directly above her, but it's there if you want it.

Airazor is the best Basic-size Beast Wars toy I've ever owned, easily and by far. She's better than 90% of the toys that have come out in that size class since, too, and a whole lot of fun.

Transformation Design: Airazor's transformation is simple, but effective. She's not a flipchanger like the first wave of Basics, but her design is simple enough that she easily could be. In spite of the simplicity both modes turned out very well, issues with her beast mode underbelly aside. 7/10

Durability: Ball joints and pop-off parts apenty on the figure means that there are very few spots where she can be broken by accident. The down-side of that is what my figure suffers from -- lost parts and loose joints. I'll sooner take that than permanent breakage, though. A kid could do some harm to the toy, but a collector who finds Airazor in one piece will have no trouble keeping her that way.. 9/10

Fun: Good articulation and unobtrusive gimmicks mean that she's great fun in both modes. 9/10

Aesthetics: This is the only difference between the VHS deco and the original, but the more saturated colours on this redeco make the toy shine (not literally though, she's not a Transmetal or anything). The original is good too but this version of Airazor is a thing of beauty. 9/10

Articulation: A waist swivel away from perfection in robot mode, and great as a beast as well. 10/10

Price: The redeco can be hard to find, but I got mine for next to nothing. The standard deco, on the other hand, is cheap and plentiful. I've seen a few complete, near-mint Airazors sell for less than $10, not a bad price for a figure that's nearing twenty years old. The same holds true for most Beast Wars toys, honestly. Die-cast construction might be a lost art, but ball-joint construction makes tracking down vintage figures a much, much more affordable proposition. 10/10

Overall: I'm stunned by how much I like this toy, but Airazor is flat-out excellent. Anyone who's after a Beast Wars collection will get her eventually, but 'eventually' isn't soon enough. Airazor is the embodiment of everything the Beast Wars line did right. 9/10

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