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Warcry's Review: First Edition Arcee

Name: Arcee

Arcee is an important character in Transformers lore, but one who's always been handled very awkwardly by Hasbro and the fiction. She was a major character in the 1986 movie and the third season of the original cartoon, but never made it into the toyline because the designers assumed that little boys wouldn't want to play with a "girl toy" -- which, since she was a stereotypical bubblegum pink emotional team mom, is probably true. Shortly afterwards, the character was carried over into the Japanese cartoons and introduced in the Marvel comics, both of which turned her into an even more riotously sexist caricature. With the numerous retoolings that the franchise went through in the 1990s she was forgotten like many traditional characters, aside from an obscure showing in a convention-exclusive comic and what amounted to a cameo in the nostalgic Dreamwave comics. Eventually she was reimagined as an Omnicon in the 2004 Energon series. Energon itself was thoroughly forgettable and Arcee was a minor, forgettable character in it...except that it marked both the first time Arcee used a motorcycle as an alternate mode, and the first time she recieved a mass-released toy. That was about the time that Hasbro began to mine their back-catalogue for characters again, and so Arcee would appear as a background character in the live-action movies and the Animated cartoon along with a rather dreadful showing in the IDW comics, after Simon Furman (writer of her poorly-conceived Marvel appearances) decided that female robots were she should be a psychotic transsexual instead.

The point of all that is to show that while Arcee as been around a lot, the character has never really gotten a fair shake. And so when I heard that she was going to be a major character in Transformers: Prime, my first reaction was a pained groan. When I saw her first character design I groaned even more, because her slender, almost frail appearance made it seem like she was destined to be stereotypically girly and probably one of the other Autobots' girlfriend. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. Arcee is a vitally important part of the show, both as the heart and soul of Team Prime (by default if nothing else, considering the rest of the crew are the cranky Ratchet, big, dumb Bulkhead and mute Bumblebee) and as the driving force behind much of the plot. In fact, out of the cast of Transformers Arcee is pretty much the main character. Let's stop a second and let that sink in -- the girl is the main character in a Transformers show...and it's awesome. Not only is she the most relateable out of the show's robotic cast, but her tragic back-story makes her the sort of character that you can't help but root for.

Because I'd grown so fond of the character, I was very eager to pick up her toy when it came out. But because of the timing of the third live-action movie versus the start of the TF: Prime cartoon, the first wave of Prime toys (the so-called 'First Editions') didn't come out until almost a year after the show began and practically on the cusp of the show's second season. Even then they were fairly difficult to find, but I managed to get my hands on an Arcee, who was at the top of my want list. But, does it live up to the character that it represents?

Alternate Mode: As has become the standard for Arcees, this version of the character transforms into a motorcycle. Happily, though, the designers opted for a dark blue with silver highlights (along with a few flashes of very light pink). Aside from defying the "girls must be pink" trope that's so common in cartoons, it's a striking colour scheme in its own right. Unfortunately, the colours are the best thing about her motorcycle mode. Because of her transformation scheme the proportions are pretty dramatically off -- she's about half as wide as she is long, and doesn't appear sleek at all unless you're looking at her from the side. It's no surprise that a lot of robot-mode kibble is visible here, either, because that's a long-running problem for motorcycle Transformers. Her arms are just sort of stuck to the sides of the motorcycle behind cowlings (creating the previously-mentioned chubbiness) and her legs are clearly visible in the bike's undercarriage. The latter can be hidden by attaching her robot-mode blade weapons, but doing that only makes the bike even more bulky.

As a motorcycle, Arcee really doesn't have much play value. Her wheels turn and the front one moves side to side as if she was steering. She's also got a kickstand, letting her stand up in bike mode without assistance (although if you have her blades attached there's really no need for it). Beyond that she really doesn't do too much, and sadly there aren't any small, poseable figures of her human partner Jack to ride on her either.

Robot Mode: A common feature in many of the TF:Prime toys released so far is that there's a lot of robot crammed into some fairly small vehicle modes. Arcee is no exception. Her motorcycle mode is fairly small by Deluxe standards, but her robot mode is quite tall, if slender. The figure looks quite a bit like the character, but it's not entirely accurate to the CGI model. There are a few main points of divergence -- she's carrying her windshield and front wheel behind her as a very prominent backpack, her wings are quite a bit larger than they are in the show (and attached to her shoulders instead of behind them) and her, uh, breasts are made up of her vehicle-mode kibble and wind up being much blockier than on the show. The newer Arcee figure (the one released under the Robots in Disguise banner) is more accurate in terms of molding, but at the cost of some of this version's nice paint apps.

In fact, 'nice' is too mild a word to describe how good Arcee looks. The dark blue plastic is a great base colour, and the silver, black and silvery-pink secondary colours combine with it to create a very unique colour scheme. The pink especially is a really good addition to the palette, and in my opinion it's the First Edition's biggest plus when compared to the Robots in Disguise Arcee (which replaces it with more silver). There's very little of it on her (just her head crest, cheek protectors and a couple flashes on her shins), but there doesn't need to be. Pink is colour that usually works well in moderation, and the small highlights of it on Arcee give her a distinctly feminine flair without metaphorically shouting "look at me, I'm the girl!"

There's only one thing that makes Arcee imperfect, but it's a big one. Her head mold just looks...wrong. The helmet is right, but the expression on her face is soulless and a little bit creepy. She's so expressive in the show, so it's a bit of a disappointment that Hasbro couldn't capture that in toy form. An angry or indignant expression is what comes to mind when I think 'Arcee', but the figure's got a little smirk that doesn't carry through to her eyes. Other Prime toys have done a good job at this, and it's too bad that they couldn't quite pull it off with Arcee.

Arcee's more than just looks, though. She's also got quite a bit of articulation. Her legs are wonderfully engineered, integrating the rear wheel of the bike seamlessly enough that it doesn't interfere with poseability at all. The transformation scheme keeps her from having ankles, but her ball-jointed hips, thigh swivels, knees and even a rare waist swivel more than make up for it. Her upper body, sadly, isn't quite as well designed. Although she's got double-jointed elbows and shoulders as well as hinged wrists, the wings mounted onto her shoulders tend to catch on her handlebars and backpack, hampering her poseability. She's also got a double-jointed neck that lets her look around a bit more realistically than your average transformer.

She's also got some unfortunate, unwanted articulation. Since her breasts are made up of robot kibble, they're mounted on hinges and tend to get bumped out of place very easily. More seriously, it can be very difficult to get them to sit symmetrically -- and I just realized how creepy a direction this was headed in, so that's all I'm going to say about that.

Arcee also comes with two accessories, based on the forearm blades she uses on the TV show. They're far from accurate, though, being about three times as big as they should be. They look kind of silly, honestly, and they only make the shoulder-wing kibble problems worse. They can mount onto the outsides of her legs when they're not in use, although they're kind of silly there too. But they make much better "play weapons" than they would if they were the right size, so there's that going for them.

All in all Arcee's pretty good toy, but not one without flaws.

Transformation Design: Although there are some obvious robot-mode parts in bike mode and some problems with upper-body kibble in robot mode, when you compare Arcee to other Transformer motorcyles she comes out looking pretty good. 7.5/10

Durability: I've heard a few complaints about this mold, especially about the swivel that her feet swing on during transformation. I haven't had any problems personally, though, and she seems like she's pretty tough. 8/10

Fun: Arcee's a pretty basic figure, when you get down to it. She doesn't have any gimmicks and her alt-mode's nothing special, so transforming her and posing her in robot mode are the only real draws. 6/10

Aesthetics: Arcee's looks are definitely her best asset. Even though she's not 100% show-accurate, she's pretty close and the divergences aren't ugly -- just different. Her great colour scheme and distinctive silhouette makes her a great display piece. 9.5/10

Articulation: Lots of joints, but she's not without her issues. I suspect the RiD version of the character might beat her out in this category, but she's not bad by any stretch of the imagination. 6.5/10

Price: If you can find the First Edition toys, then she's neither hard to get nor particularly expensive. If you can't...well, you'll end up paying a fair bit more. Unfortunately, as a Toy'R'Us exclusive she's not going to be marked down as often as your average Transformer. 7/10

Overall: Arcee's a pretty good toy, and if you're trying to build a TF: Prime collection she's not a bad choice. Honestly, though, she's not good enough that I can recommend searching for her if you can find the Robots In Disguise figure. She's worth owning, but not a must-have by any stretch. 7.5/10
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