Saturday, 15 January 2011

Henkei Inferno

There are times, in this world, where the inclusion of chromed plastic is excessive - an unnecessary luxury which may or may not do something to improve the look of a model. Typically, chrome has been wholly eschewed by Hasbro in the many permutations of the line that began as Classics a couple of years ago. For the most part, Classics have not suffered for want of chromed plastic and, certainly, when Takara Tomy began Henkei, their equivalent line, the use of chrome was positively vulgar in some cases.

Then there are times when the lack of chrome, and certain other aspects of the colourscheme, in the Hasbro version of a model puts it at a disadvantage. Such is the case with the updated form of G1 Inferno. The US/UK release was molded mainly in a dark, almost burnt red, with bronzish parts and a touch of silver here and there. The watergun was left as plain black plastic. Takara Tomy's version, meanwhile, uses what can only be described as 'fire engine red' - could anything be more appropriate? - and chrome is used quite sparingly - for Henkei - to cover the watergun and a couple of panels only seen in robot mode.

To cut a long story short, I wasn't intending to get Inferno - the mold seemed awkward, not quite right either in vehicle or robot modes - until I saw the Henkei version. At that point, all the deficiencies were outweighed by the improved colourscheme and paint job.


Vehicle Mode:
It's certainly a fire engine - there can be no mistaking the shape or the colourscheme. In terms of its overall silhouette, it could almost be modelled on a UK fire engine... Almost. Naturally there was some fan outcry that Inferno had a watergun, rather than his G1 ladder, but at least vehicle mode seemed to fit the purpose, rather than being a middle-ground between a fire engine and a crane.

Nevertheless, the mold isn't perfect by a long shot. The rear end shows too many signs of being a robot in disguise, and even Takara Tomy's paintjob isn't as extensive as it really needed to be.The colourless, transparent plastic of the windscreen could have done with a bit of framing in red paint, the lights on the roof could have done with some colour to help them stand out, and the bumper needed to be either chromed or at least painted silver to look more authentic - the bare bronze-ish plastic doesn't do the job.

On the whole, the vehicle just doesn't seem long enough, despite having four wheels at the rear, and the strange lump in the roof just behind the cab serves no obvious purpose, and thereby looks as though it exists purely to accommodate some feature of robot mode.

Strangely, though, this vehicle mode appears to be quite closely based on real life firefighting vehicles, particularly the 2006 Pierce Contender, even down to that lump in the roof. In fact, that this mold even has four wheels at the back seems to be more of a G1 homage than an attempt to make it more real.

The addition of a watergun rather than a ladder makes sense - the length of the vehicle doesn't seem great enough to carry a decent-sized ladder (though a certain third-party manufacturer seemed to disagree), and everybody knows that spring-loaded missile launchers add to play value. Ahem.
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Robot Mode:
Here's where it all starts to look a little strange... while it maintains the G1 homage by having only the truck's cab as robot mode's torso, it's only the very front of the cab that ends up being used, making Inferno seem broad and flat. I'd guess that about 4/5 of the vehicle mode forms his legs and arms, just sticking straight backwards from the cab. And that lump in the roof of the cab... that one that looked like it only existed to accommodate some robot mode component... Not so. In robot mode, you see how utterly superfluous it is, as it just hangs off his shoulders... And it's not even particularly obvious where they're supposed to hang - most photos seem to show them hanging down the back, virtually invisible, but at least they look like protective armour when hanging off the sides...

My one real gripe about robot mode is how floppy it all turned out to be. The arms are mostly OK, but the legs seem incredibly loose. They support him well enough, but they sure don't feel like they should. Then again, with so much of the vehicle's bulk in the limbs, Inferno isn't exactly top-heavy.

The head mold is an excellent homage to the G1 original - while it's not an exact match, it's close enough and even features the 'wings' that were mounted on the G1 model's back, now molded as part of the update's head. They could have done with being painted white or silver, so that they actually stood out, but they're a neat addition as they are.

I'm a little troubled by the bumper - part of me wonders why the designer felt the need to have it flip down to cover his groin/upper thigh area, but leaving it up doesn't make it look any better. The trouble is, the body is so wide, even having chunky thighs doesn't make him look any more 'right' without the bumper, but it hangs down too far, intruding on his leg articulation. And, again, I would have thought that this, rather than the outer panels on those shoulder flaps, was more deserving of chrome.

The way the watergun is mounted below the wrist seems unusual, but Universe Onslaught did much the same thing. It works well enough and, chromed, it doesn't look as much like an afterthought as the plain black one on the US/UK model. There's not a great deal more visible paintwork in robot mode - just a couple of touches of silver on the legs and feet.
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Transformation is simple enough - basically the legs and arms flip out from the rear and the head rotates out from the cab - but features rather too many flat panels that do nothing more than collapse. Considering some of the other models in this line, it seems that Deluxe Class molds were lavished with far more time and attention at the design stage, with the larger models tending to be quite blocky, albeit with excellent articulation.

The basic model is pretty average, but the addition of the TFC Toys Gear of War ladder and hose thing (pictures will be forthcoming at some point) really add to the homage. While this model certainly improves on the articulation of the G1 model, the original still has far more character, and better proportions.

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