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Blackjack's review: Arcee

Name: Arcee
Allegiance: Autobot
Size Class: Deluxe Class
Accessories: Sidecar/Gun Stand

In Revenge of the Fallen, a trio of female Autobot bikes is introduced… and they were simply referred to as ‘Arcee’ as a group. Depending on whichever IDW writer was at the wheel that time, they were either three separate characters, a single Autobot whose mind was divided between three bodies, until Chris Mowry decided to merge both origins together – they were initially separate characters, but under experimentation, the singular mind of Arcee (who starred in IDW comics in her first-movie body before) was split between three bodies, two of which were corpses of other Autobots. Michael Bay, Roberto Orci, Titan Comics, the novelization, Hasbro’s Q&A… depending on who you ask, you get a different answer. Stupid, I know, since in the movie the bikes did jack-all. Hasbro’s stance, of course, was that the three bikes are separate characters. The better to sell toys with, after all!

In any case, pick your favoured story for ROTF Arcee – they don’t do much after their initial introduction and get killed in a split-second scene in the end because Michael Bay didn’t like them.

Oh well, not that any forms of Arcee, Chromia, Elita-One or what-have-you ever did anything substantial before, right? In G1, Arcee was introduced… and her main thing was that ‘she’s a girl, and she’s pink’. She’s very generic as a character, and had absolutely nothing going on for her other than her leia buns. She was, with Unicron, the only new character introduced in the 1985 movie that didn’t get a toy. In the comics, at least, she was a generic warrior. The cartoon paired her with Hot Rod and/or Springer depending on the episode (because, you know, girl) and the Japanese sequel would turn her into a secretary and pair her with Chromedome. Or something The name Arcee would be reused in 2003, in the Energon line, as an all-new female Autobot based on the original Arcee who transformed into a motorcycle. This Arcee was even more devoid of life and personality compared to the first Arcee. Yet somehow, despite her lifeless persona, Arcee was very nearly among the lineup for the 2007 life-action movie as a Buell Firebolt motorcycle, although she was thankfully dropped in lieu of Ironhide, to introduce a larger Autobot and not to explain female Transformers (although she and Alice all appeared in ROTF without so much as a remark to their gender… although knowing Bay, this is a blessing). IDW’s G1 reboot turned Arcee into a psychotic bitch out for revenge against her abusing ex. The Movie Arcee went on to have her own toy and adventures in the IDW comics. Transformers: Animated had their own spin on Arcee, but she was more a plot device than an actual character, spending nearly the entire series in stasis.

Come ROTF, and Arcee is still little more than a blank slate, although at least she actually looks awesome now. I heartily prefer the trio of unicycle bikes compared to the very generic pink design she had in G1.

Thankfully, the highly excellent Transformers: Prime came along and made Arcee a main character… and she is everything a female character should be, and everything past versions of Arcee or Elita-One or Chromia or Firestar could never be… an actual character whose characterization was more than simply ‘I’m female’ or ‘Powerglide’s love interest’.

So, Arcee’s history out of the way, she appeared in Revenge of the Fallen, right? So she should get a toy. She should get three, actually, since there were three bikes. Chromia, the blue Arcee bike, came out first as a Deluxe toy and she was a horrible mess. Arcee, the red bike, came out next… followed by Human Alliance and Legends Class variants of both Chromia and Arcee. Elita-One is out of luck and would forever be a repaint because no one gives a shit about Elita-One. That’s a silly name, ‘Elita-One’, isn’t it?

Alternate Mode:
Arcee transforms into a red Ducati 848 motorcycle. It is a gorgeous, gorgeous motorcycle and it’s actually available in the bright, vibrant red that was used for the Arcee bike. And, compared to Chromia’s attempted replica of the Suzuki B-King, Arcee does a much better job at replicating the Ducati’s curves. It helps that the Ducati is, in my opinion, a much sleeker and better bike than Chromia’s Suzuki. It is a very accurate replica, as much as I could tell. Every curve is replicated lovingly, every detail… ignore the gap below what’s supposed to be the seat, the actual Suzuki apparently has that. I thought it was ugly and way too big, but since the bike has it, it’s forgivable.

So, anyway, Arcee’s a great representation of the Ducati… from the left side. Incidentally, the side we see when we buy her. What’s that? Oh, just turn her around. From the right, she’s missing a huge chunk. They’re just gone. Granted, it’s all black plastic, and under it is more black plastic, but instead of the loving details of motorcycle parts and the gears running to the rear wheels and the upraised pistons or whatever, we get to see Arcee’s contorted spine instead. Tut-tut, bad Hasbro. It’s a very lazy design that has always bothered me.

Other than that, though, Arcee is pretty good. The choice of red is vibrant enough and bold enough not to be pink. I’ve got nothing against pink, but it just doesn’t look good on a sporty, powerful-looking motorcycle like this. I mean, pink on Seacons or Misfire or Skullcruncher or whatever? Sure, they look good with that. Just stop slapping it on every female Autobot, please. Every other repaint of this mould makes Arcee look pinker, and the original’s vibrant red is always the best. She’s mainly red and black, with the front half, where all the sleek parts are, being predominantly red, and the rear, where all the technical machinery are, being predominantly black. Two different Cybertronian glyphs adorn either side of Arcee’s red expanses, which looks quite nice in my opinion. Arcee also has a silver Autobot insigia on her seat, subtle enough not to draw attention.

Action wise, though, how does she fare? She rolls pretty nicely, although the wheels are held in place. She’s got a kickstand that, while doesn’t work perfectly, is better than Chromia’s and can actually support Arcee’s weight without needing to fiddle around with it first. Other than the big gaping hole on her right side she also has no noticeable robot kibble. Well, the chest is pretty obviously the front of the motorcycle nearest to the windshield, and the slightly silvery tinge gives it off, but it’s not very evident.

She doesn’t flop around like Chromia at the slightest touch, although after some years of playing the chair bit (that forms one of Arcee’s arms) becomes quite loose. It’s not quite a big problem, though, because it doesn’t move at every provocation, but it’s annoying nonetheless.

Otherwise, though, seen from any side but the right, Arcee is a brilliant representation of the Ducati… shame about the hole.

Chromia comes with a weird-looking gun tank stand thing, whereas Arcee tries to make it look slightly more plausible by… turning the gun-stand into a side-car. It’s got moulded mechanical details resembling a chair where the sidecar is, and it’s got some red paint on it, so it does vaguely look like a sidecar… with two giant turrets sticking out of its sides. You can attach it by a peg onto Arcee’s left side, forming the sidecar configuration… which looks completely ridiculous because the motorcycle looks so realistic and the giant turret sidecar looks so random. An alternative would be to plug the hole on its bottom to the peg on Arcee’s right side, thereby covering up the big messy hole with a gun emplacement. It doesn’t look any better than the sidecar, but at least this covers up the big hole, and besides this configuration makes Arcee even more stable.

In any case, a more-or-less serviceable alternate mode, but what about the robot mode?

Robot Mode:
Ignore Arcee’s instructions. They are completely needlessly complicated, and turn the robot mode into some weird thing suffering from scoliosis. There is a way to transform Arcee into something more resembling the Vehicon-inspired unicycles seen in the movie, although the odd placement of joints make this a little difficult to achieve. Regardless, though, Arcee far more resemble her on-screen counterpart than the mess that is Chromia. She is a rather well representation of the on-screen model as far as freeze-frames can tell… nice head sculpt, both wheels touch the ground, she’s got a giant spike on one shoulder and her motorcycle front on another (although these are swapped from the one in the movie… not that anyone cares). Also, she’s missing the giant gun she’s sporting in the movie that replaces her right arm in the Shanghai scene, although not a big loss there. She looks rather funny, though, because the odd jointing system means that she would forever lean towards the right because the weight is distributed unevenly. Properly aligned, she looks very nice. Not properly aligned, though…

I’m at a big loss why they did all this contortion in her spines, though. The Human Alliance Chromia toy (which uses Arcee’s model… painted in blue) did not and looks so much better for it. It simply looks completely awkward, and is very difficult to position properly. The only function this would provide is to make it collapse easier in the motorcycle mode, which could really been improved better.

She is still predominantly red, although more black has shown up. A wee bit more silver on the chest has become more prominent as well. Arcee’s biggest fault, I think, is her arm design. Her left arm, the one with the motorcycle front (which can separate for some reason, which does not look good at all when separated) is fine enough, with both the shoulder and the arm (which had the entire left side of the motorcycle fold in upon itself, probably in an attempt to recreate the gun arm in the movie. The left arm, however, has a very thin upper arm and a big chunk of motorcycle seat as the lower arm. It limits articulation severely due to the lower arm being a block, and pops off more often than not. The right arm looks rather awkward no matter how you position it.

She can’t stand on her own, obviously, having no legs, and this is where the gun stand comes into play. Unlike Chromia or the Human Alliance bikes, there is no way to make the gun stand go anywhere not visible from the front. There is only one way the wheels are ever going to peg onto the stand, and that’s it. The gun stand can peg onto the left arm, probably, again, to emulate the gun arm in the Shanghai scene, but this severely unbalances Arcee… both because the gun stand is a giant chunk of weight, and because she can’t stand on two wheels.

Articulation wise, she’s ball-jointed in the head, as well as both shoulders and elbows. There are multiple joints on her spine, but those only look good in one or two configurations while the other turn Arcee into something very very weird.

Arcee’s got two action features. The first is the ‘Mech Alive’ gimmickry, where moving her head forwards will cause gears in her chest to move. Pretty forgettable. The second is a spring-loaded knife on her right arm, which was actually quite a cool-looking weapon. Even though Elita-One the purple bike was the one with the knife in the movie… I’m not sure if I’m paying ungodly amounts of attention to the movie, or the designers don’t pay enough attention. Probably the first.

On her back is a chunk of plastic that’s supposed to connect with one on Chromia to start their combined mode. But since Elita-One turned out to be a Chromia repaint it seemed that this combined mode isn’t an actual feature and is an afterthought, so it’s best left forgotten.

There’s nothing much to say about Arcee. There’s nothing more to complain about, yet I can’t find anything else to praise. She’s just that average. On to the marks, then.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 2/10 It’s better than Chromia, but I absolutely abhor the way the spine is handled. The fact that there is a huge gaping hole in the vehicle mode does not do Arcee any favours either. The fact that the smaller Human Alliance figure is able to do Arcee’s transformation perfectly into a show-accurate motorbike and robot is the final nail on the coffin.

Durability: 4/10 Her ball joints may wear – the one on the right shoulder and the ball joint connecting her chest to the spine assembly are the worst offenders. Mine haven’t broken yet, but they are showing signs of friction.

Aesthetics: 6/10 She’s got a gorgeous motorbike mode, but her robot mode, as much as I like the movie designs, is ruined by the odd-looking mutated spine. And try as I like, I just can’t give her that high a score. She does look better than Chromia, though.

Articulation: 3/10 She’s only articulated from the chest up, and even then her massive lower right arm and upper left shoulder all get in the way of the slender bits of her arms. Girl’s got misproportioned bulk, no?

Fun: 5/10 Mmm, I actually had some fun with Arcee, and figuring out how to position her best was one of it. I do like the Arcee bikes’ designs, though, so this is very subjective.

Price/Value: 4/10 Meh, much as I like, I still think I’m robbed by paying this much for Arcee, especially when I could’ve brought the Human Alliance toys and gotten better (if miscoloured) representations of the bikes.

Overall: 3/10 I love the Arcee bike designs, but none of the Deluxe class toys are any good, and part of it, I think, stem from the fact that the Bay designs cheat around transformation a bit, and I constantly see them in movement, which helps things a little. However, this does not deny the fact that both Chromia and Arcee’s designs have been done by Human Alliance figures in a far better way than the Deluxe class ever did… which means that deluxe Arcee isn’t the top on your list, even if you’re a completist. I recommend Human Alliance or Legends class figures more than this scoliosis-suffering toy… even the Fast Action Battlers look more show-accurate (and sturdier to boot) than her. Although if you must have this mold, make sure this version is the one you buy. The repaints are all painted in disgusting shades of pink masquerading as red.
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