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Blackjack's Review: Prime Jet Vehicon (Takara)

Name: Jet Vehicon
Allegiance: Decepticon
Repaint of: Transformers Prime: Robots in Disguise Vehicon
Accessories: ‘Igu’ Arms Micron

So, the new Transformers Prime show has reused the name ‘Vehicon’, the evil faction in Beast Machines, for the legion of identical-looking low-ranked Decepticons that serve as guilt-free cannon fodder for our beloved freedom-fighting Autobots to murder, maim, decapitate, butcher and otherwise brutalize in lots of Bay-esque ultra-violent action scenes. But even though the Vehicons have exhibited personality and emotions time and again, they are generics so apparently it doesn’t matter if they die en masse. Of course, despite being cannon fodder they look totally bitchin’. There are mainly two types of Vehicons seen in the show – one that transforms into a muscle car, and one that transforms into a jet. They look basically identical other than their vehicle mode kibble.

Naturally, being a gorgeous design which appeared in virtually every episode (and also to appeal to army-builders out there) the Vehicons got toys. The first toy was of the car Vehicon in Prime’s short-lived ‘First Edition’ line, which is a decent effort but was blown away by an all-new mold of the car Vehicon which was released several months later as part of the ‘Robots in Disguise’ subline. Transformers Prime does that…apparently they’re changing sublines every now and then, just for the hell of it.

But Japan has everything under a single, unified banner of ‘Arms Micron’. See, Takara removes the weapons from the Hasbro toys and gives us little robots that turn into giant, oversized, out-of-scale weapons. Also, you get to put stickers onto your toys because Takara’s too cheap for paint. It isn’t the most popular decision around since the Microns themselves have to be assembled and most of the time they look awkward. Not that Hasbro is guilt-free either…terrible distribution in general, and most egregious of all the failure to release some toys as part of their line.

First up there was Breakdown, who was released as part of Takara’s line (and even got two repaints) but despite being a core cast member was ignored by Hasbro even though they apparently had the time to release random nobodies like, oh, Hot Shot or Rumble. Then instead of releasing a design meant to be Ironhide as, well, Ironhide, they paint him green and randomly release him as Kup. (Of course, Takara did look totally stupid by bleaching Knock Out and calling him Smokescreen two months before an actual new Smokescreen mold was released by Hasbro, so.)

But I’m rambling here. So, anyway, Takara decided to give us a toy of the jet Vehicon. It should theoretically be simple…the Jet Vehicon and car Vehicon basically have different kibble, and a reshelling could be easily done, but Takara could just as easily drop the ball. But retool the excellent RID Vehicon they did, and release the Jet Vehicon they did. It’s a pretty extensive retool, replacing nearly every single vehicle kibble yet retaining what’s basically the same transformation, and I have to say I actually like this toy very much. Your judgment may be different, so read on so to encourage/discourage yourself from buying the toy.

Alternate Mode
So, this is the deal breaker for most people. Does the reshelling make him out to be a jet? Yes. Well, it’s still a batmobile, only with wings… but after squinting at screenshots for a long time, I’m convinced that the jets on screen looks reasonably like the Jet Vehicon toy. After all, to achieve the same robot mode they’d need to have a similar enough alternate mode to account for kibble distribution. So the Jet Vehicon toy is actually a reasonable representation of the on-show model. The major difference is that the show jets have a shorter hood, but there’s nothing you can fix with a simple reshelling. Otherwise it’s perfect. Well, as far as I can tell, anyway. The damn things move around so quickly in the show and blow up so fast.

What is changed, then? Practically every vehicle mode kibble. They stay on the same place in robot mode, but everything is changed. Barring the windows and the roof of the batmobile, every single part has been completely replaced with new tooling. The sides of the vehicle look bulkier and protrude more to the side to give the impression of sleekness, and the hood of the batmobile has been revamped to resemble the on-screen jets by having intakes and everything. The spoiler’s also gone, replaced with what passes for tail-fins. And we’ve got two pairs of Cyclonus-esque reverse-shaped wings, one pair much smaller and serving as horizontal tail wings. It’s a shame that they hang a little too low for my tastes, and are probably too small to allow Jet Vehicon to fly properly. If only they had grown out of the center of the car’s height, it would’ve looked so much better.

The retooling actually adds a fair bit more bulk with the replaced parts so Jet Vehicon uses a fair bit more plastic than his car counterpart, probably a reason why our beloved penny-pinching Hasbro elected not to release this tooling unless they can charge it as part of a two-pack or something.

Jet Vehicon is mainly jet black (see what I did there? Hur hur) although there are some lavender details on the side of his vehicle mode. Since this is Arms Micron, you have to summon patience to slowly apply stickers onto the toy yourself for detailing. There is some shiny silver on the sides of the hood and on the front of the wings. And a tiny Decepticon insignia adorns the center of the hood. It’s all well and good until two or three years down the line and all the stickers start peeling off from rough play, friction, transformation or simply degradation of the adhesive. And putting them in just the right angle and position? Total pain. No, I am not a big fan of stickers. And Arms Micron likes to use these shiny metallic things that simply look positively ugly. Thankfully the jet mode doesn’t have much of these, and silver is one of the few colours where shininess is a plus.

He’s also covered with twelve 5mm ports, plus two 5mm handles under the main wings, which sadly mar the otherwise aerodynamic-looking figure. Personally I don’t mind it, but a lot of people do. This is Arms Micron where you buy lots and lots of the transforming guns and plug them in, though. It’s not the brightest of gimmicks, and while I’d be happier if they had done away with it entirely it could be a lot worse. I may sound like I’m complaining, but this is still a gorgeous, gorgeous toy.

Robot Mode
Transformation is exactly the same as the RID Car Vehicon, except that the rear of the ‘car’ that uncovers the robot head doesn’t fold all the way down like the Car Vehicon. It’s still out of the way so you won’t see it in robot mode, but it doesn’t go all the way down in order not to mess with the wings’ articulation.

Jet Vehicon’s main colour in robot mode has been replaced with a shade of lavender (to differentiate from the Car Vehicon’s dark blue). It’s a catchy colour that goes along well with black. He’s cast in lavender in most of his joints, except for his swanky chest piece which has some sort of metallic sheen. His head and the center of his chest are cast in silver. I’ve done my piece on how awesome the Vehicon model looks, so I’m going to skip that bit. Assume I spent two paragraphs praising how bloody pretty this thing is, okay?

Of course, the thing still looks bland without (groan) stickers. It’s mostly additional lavender details on the lower legs and crotch, and nowhere near as difficult as Breakdown, but the additional bits are glossy bright. Thankfully the chest plastic is likewise shiny, and the end result actually looks very nice instead of awful like many poor Henkei and Arm Micron toys. While the Car Vehicon has a more subdued paintjob more similar to the show, I do like the Jet Vehicon’s flashier deco as well.

He still retains the entire articulation set that the Car Vehicon has, which, if you haven’t read my Car Vehicon review, is pretty damn good. The wings, of course, add more. You can have them splayed straight out, Seeker style, or you can bend them backwards the way a butterfly would. The Vehicons in the show are able to waggle their wings like that, and I’m a big fan of these sort of things. It’s a nice touch, and the wings look suitably nice in robot mode. It’s clear that the wings’ size is meant for Vehicon to look better in robot mode, and it appears that the vehicle mode suffers a little due to this. The Vehicon’s reshelled parts, on the other hand, work very, very well to differentiate him from the Car guy. The shoulders look far more bulky and impressive, and the lower arms actually have mass instead of being simple car doors. All in all, I’d say that this retooling improves the already stellar robot mode by a fair bit.

Japan’s release of the RID Car Vehicon came with a boar that turned into an approximation of the triangular guns that the Vehicons use in-show. Jet Vehicon comes with an all-new mould. The gun mode is the same, obviously, but instead of a boar it transforms into what’s supposed to be an iguana instead. I say that because after assembling it from the model kit and applying the stickers (do put the Decepticon sticker before you attach the clear plastic bit, otherwise it’s impossible to remove afterwards) this thing looks more like a gun with an iguana’s head slapped to one end, what passes off as limbs attached on its sides and iguana spines on its back. Evidently they didn’t put very much thought into this, although to be fair it looks a lot more like an animal than the awful ‘boar’ that came with the car Vehicon.

‘Igu’, as he is apparently named (Takara isn’t very creative with these guys), is mainly dark grey. Scratch that – he’s entirely dark grey before you put on stickers. His single cyclopean optic is red, while the length of his tail or gun barrel is covered with a bright, glossy purple with random mechanical detailing. A Decepticon insignia set under clear plastic is on his left side, which gives the impression of a spark crystal or something. It’s apparently good for some kind of additional game (again, minimal effort bullshit to pass off as a feature) but since I can’t be arsed to look up what the hell it means, I’m going to skip it. The end of his gun barrel is covered with shiny silver sticker that wraps around the end of the gun barrel and has a tendency to peel off at one end because Takara stickers are shit.

In beast mode, Igu can wave his legs (or the stumps that act as his legs) around. He’s pretty cute, actually. Shame about the handle, which just hangs under his chin like some kind of weird tumour. With the handle he can be latched onto Vehicon’s shoulder so he can act like he’s got some kind of pet or something.

Transformation is relatively simple, since Igu’s already a gun. Straighten out the legs, orient the handle, and move the entire spine-covered backbone back to cover the iguana head. The end result looks surprisingly nice, with the chunk of iguana back looking like a flintlock (or whatever that juts out of a gun’s top). Vehicon can hold it pretty well, and there are three handles – one on the bottom and two on either side. He can hold it with one hand on the side like some sort of heavy-duty weapon, which Igu is big enough to pass off as.

Being an Arms Micron he’s got 5mm holes on each front leg, and two more on the bottom. It’s silly stuff, though the added play value is certainly there. These things look a great deal more like weapons and are much cuter than the ugly blocks that is DOTM’s MechTech, anyway.

Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 9/10 Of course, they didn’t change a thing. And they had trial-and-error with First Edition’s Mister Backpack. So it’s all good and wonderful and leaves both mode free of kibble. Igu, on the other hand, well, is evidently minimal-effort work.

Durability: 7/10 Stickers are a big problem. The one that wraps around the edge of Igu’s gun barrel and the Decepticon insignia on Vehicon’s chest are susceptible to wear if you don’t apply them properly, and those are important ones.

Aesthetics: 8/10 The chrome-y shiny stickers bug me a lot, and he’ll look positively uglier if you don’t have steady hands and ample amounts of patience. His wings are also marred by peg holes, and Igu looks positively horrid in beast mode. The jet mode might not be to everyone’s liking as well. The random holes aren’t hidden as well as Breakdown’s is. All that said, however, he still looks pretty damn badass.

Articulation: 9/10 Vehicon doesn’t disappoint, like the mould he was retooled from. None of the new kibble hinder articulation in any meaningful way, and the wings add to some variations in posing to boot.

Fun: 9/10 Jet Vehicon’s good for fiddling around. Iguanus doesn’t bother me all that much, and the large gun actually looks quite nice. The mold itself is still as gorgeous as ever, and I had loads of fun posing him around.

Price: 3/10 I got him for what amounts to $35, $8 more than what his Hasbro counterpart costs, which is a fair deal accounting for the additional Micron and added mass. Of course, for reasons I didn’t pay any shipping price. You’re probably not as lucky as I am, though, and with the added charge of the shipping price I’m not sure if a winged version of a generic troop builder you can (probably, hopefully) find in your local Walmart is worth it.

Overall: 8/10 Jet Vehicon is still a damn good toy. He has faults, but it’s easily overlooked by how well-designed he is. However, the fact that he has to be imported all the way from the Land of the Rising Sun leaves much to be desired, since unlike Breakdown, you can buy what’s basically the same toy for much less. There are several problems that may be deal-breakers according to taste: the 5mm ports on his wings, the Arms Micron, stickers, and obviously the price. The reshelling really gives him a distinct appearance from the RID counterpart without deviating from what it is supposed to represent. It all boils down to whether you want him... he's not a proper character like Breakdown, and he's too expensive to reasonably be an army-builder. It’s a good representation of the Jet Vehicon from the show, however, and if you’re burning to have one in your collection (or simply have money to make Takara richer) you won’t be sorry getting him.
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