Warcry's Review: Masterpiece MP-18B Bluestreak
For those of us old enough to remember the 1984 pack-in catalogues or package art, this toy has been a long time coming. As many Transformers fans already know, the toy that eventually became the original Bluestreak was released as a Diaclone figure in two different colour schemes. One of those was used to create the cartoon character model and the other (upon which this toy is based) was used for the toy's package art and catalogue photo shoot. Of course, the actual toy used neither of those, going with an all-new light silver colour scheme instead. Although this was far from the only time a Transformer's toy didn't agree with his depictions in media or packaging, it was easily the most famous. Over the years Blue Bluestreak grew into a mythical holy grail, with numerous people swearing that they'd had one as a kid and even more people hoping for a the figure to finally see release as an official Transformer due to its obvious popularity. But for the longest time, that release never came. Not as a reissue, even though many other, less-popular Diaclone schemes were appropriated into Takara's reissue lines, and not as a redeco of the new Bluestreak figures that came out under the umbrella of Alternators, Universe or Generations.
But with the Masterpiece line, it's finally happened. It almost didn't, and in fact there was a small fandom riot after online retailers advertised that the Tokyo Toy Show 2014 Bluestreak repaint would use this deco, only for fans to discover later that it was going to be a (really quite lovely) toy-accurate G1 deco instead. But in mid-2015, thirty-one years after the colour scheme was first erroneously used on a Transformers product, Takara finally
unleashed this glorious son of a bitch on the world. And as someone who's wanted one for as long as he can remember, I hadn't been so excited for a toy since I was a kid.
I'll be honest. It took me a while to get on board with the Masterpiece cars. Because although they generally pull off the alternate modes really well -- usually as good or better than their 80s counterparts -- I have a hard time not comparing them to the Alternators of the early 2000s. And while the MPs are very good, the vehicle modes just can't compare, lacking the finished interiors, rubber tires and functional steering that the old line offered. But once you get past what they're not, what they are
is pretty damned cool.
Bluestreak is a licensed, highly accurate early-80s vintage Datsun Fairlady 280Z-T, which means he's one of the most beautiful automobiles ever assembled. On top of that he's painted a vibrant, sparkly blue with a shiny silver hood and trim. The end-to-end paint job that he and most of the other car MPs got is actually a big part of what eventually convinced me that, shortcomings aside, these guys could actually be just as good as Alternators. And out of the small number that I've put together, I'd have to say that Bluestreak's the best-looking of the bunch. His colours are just phenomenal and work amazingly well on the highly-detailed Datsun mold, making him easily the prettiest car-mode Transformer I own.
Unfortunately, he's not without his flaws. Although the full-body paintjob looks great, up close it's far from perfect. The blue paint isn't quite as thick as it should be in some spots, and in others the silver trim has smeared because it wasn't given enough time to dry before assembly. Most notable, though, is the big gob of silver paint that somehow wound up on the blue of his undercarriage. By sheer luck it wound up in a spot that's not highly visible in either robot or vehicle mode, but if a square centimetre of silver can wind up in the middle of the blue parts there I'd imagine it could wind up in other, more important places too. And based on message-board scuttlebutt, it seems like paint QC issues on this guy were pretty common. Unfortunately that probably means that some poor guy wound up with globs of silver on their toy's doors or windshield or something. So while mine turned out okay, it's a bit dicey since you usually can't inspect these toys before you buy.
But while a nice paint job goes a long way towards matching the Alternators' cool factor, Bluestreak just can't match up when it comes to the fun factor. He's got rolling wheels, but aside from that he doesn't do very much. His doors open, though not accurately to the real-life model (a big chunk of his fenders serve as the hinges), and neither his hood nor rear hatch open at all. He lacks the front-end steering of the previous high-end collector vehicles, too. You can
mount his rifle and missle launchers to various hardpoints if that's your thing, though personally I can't ever see myself doing that for more than a fleeting laugh. So while Bluestreak looks great, his car mode really isn't all that much fun.
While I usually find myself comparing these guys negatively to their older counterparts in vehicle mode, that stops pretty quick once they've been transformed to robots. For me, what constitutes a good robot mode hasn't changed much since Beast Wars. What has changed, however, is how well the designers have met that goal. The Alternators were a bit clunky and primitive all around, while Classics and Generations figures tend to be extremely hit or miss -- for every brilliant Darkmount or Springer there's an underengineered Starscream or an awkward Galvatron. The Masterpiece line aims for a higher standard of quality than mass retail stuff, though. And while they don't always reach it, in general the finish of the robot modes has been very, very nice. Bluestreak is no exception. Not only does he have all the requisite articulation for a Transformer this size (including the oft-forgotten waist swivel, ankle tilts and double-jointed knees and elbows) but the joints are all designed to be nice and unobtrusive. He's got a smoothness to him that not even my other MP cars can match.
His colour scheme carries over from vehicle mode, but heavier on the silver and with the addition of a lot more black highlights. This makes for a very eye-catching figure, especially with his silver rifle and shoulder cannons equipped. But some Diaclone purists are bothered by the Autobot symbol tampographed to his chest, and honestly I can't blame them. This colour scheme was
a Diaclone, after all, and has never actually been a Transformer before. I think an optional sticker might have been a more apt choice in this case, but personally I would have applied it anyway, so it doesn't bother me one bit.
Poseability is great, as the ton of joints I mentioned earlier would suggest. The figure is quite light, with big poseable feet and a low centre of gravity, so it balances well and can hold more poses than a lot of the toys I own half it's size. Normally I'd be a bit put off by the articulated grippy hands, but even they seem to work pretty well in this case. The shoulder guns are articulated too, with ninety degrees of up and down motion that lets you point them up at the sky to give a better line of sight to his face, or have them flat against his hood like the original Diaclone figure.
If you own any of the other Masterpiece Datsuns, you might notice that this guy uses a mix of parts from two of the others. In particular, he's got most of Bluestreak's body including the vehicle mode, but with Prowl's head and crotch pieces swapped in. The aim was to make him a bit more toy-accurate, since he's a homage to an old figure rather than a cartoon character the way most other MPs are. The big launchers help quite a bit in that regard, though obviously he still
looks quite a bit like an escapee from an 80s animation cell. The new parts do a good job of differentiating him from the show-accurate Bluestreak, though, and save him from being "just a repaint".
I honestly can't think of a single bad thing to say about this guy's robot mode. He and his mold-mate Prowl are two of my favourite figures to take down off the shelf to fiddle with, and with good reason.
Bluestreak's transformation is fairly simple, not deviating very far from the classic 80s figure. The way the toy's legs collapse into its feet on the way to car mode is a brilliant wrinkle, though. Beyond that, if it's not broke, why fix it? 10/10
I have to admit, I'm nervous every time I pop his hood loose to transform him to a vehicle. The tolerances on that tab are just too tight and I have to use way more force than I'm comfortable with. He and Prowl show no signs of breaking, but if you're not careful you could have problems. Beyond that, the design is solid and I wouldn't worry about much beyond scratched paint. 7/10
The car mode is a bit boring considering the size, but the robot is basically perfect and that makes up for a lot. 9/10
I honestly don't think I've ever owned a toy that was prettier. 10/10
I tried to come up with a complaint or two, but I'm having a hard time thinking of anything that could be better. Maybe some side-to-side sway on the launchers or a bit more up-and-down range on the head? Petty complaints, really. 9/10
Bluestreak here wasn't a regular retail release in Japan, which meant he was a bit pricier to acquire than my Exhaust or G2 Bumblebee. That means he demands a higher prices on the secondary market too. I didn't mind spending the money because I've wanted a toy like this since I learned to walk. People without the emotional attachment might think twice, though. But on the other hand, give it a few months and you'll be able to buy a decent-quality KO of the thing for $30, which is a much easier pill to swallow. 5/10
Now obviously I love this thing, but it's expensive and it's not perfect. I would definitely recommend it if you've got a soft spot for this gorgeous old colour scheme. He's probably not going to be the first Datsun you buy if you're just starting to collect Masterpieces, since he represents an historical oddity more than an actual character. But if he was
, I think you'd be happy with him. 8.5/10