Saturday, 10 August 2013

TransFormers: Prime Airachnid

The TransFormers brand doesn't have many proper femme-bot characters, and even fewer femme-bot toys. Aside from Arcee, the next most prominant must surely be Blackarachnia or Airazor from Beast Wars. They have tended to pretty strong characters and, where they've been turned into toys, they're generally pretty good...

...And then comes Airachnid, the chilling yet alluring predator from TF: Prime...

Vehicle Mode:
First off, this is pretty small, even for a Deluxe. Helicopter Deluxes always seem that much smaller than anything else (movie Blazemaster/Evac/Tailwhip being prime examples) but, even so, Airachnid is positively miniscule. It's tempting to call her Scout Class, except there is no Scout Class in the TF: Prime line, the closest size class is the Cyberverse line. Straight away, compared with other TF: Prime Deluxes, Airachnid isn't looking good...

She also makes for an exceedlingly bland helicopter. Small, angular and almost entirely black, she's built almost like a fish that's lost most of its tail and gained rotor blades (perhaps I should try customising her into a new character, 'Airguppy' maybe?). There's just so little to her - a few panel lines, and just about every other 'feature' is robot mode detail from the legs and feet - that there really is very little to say.

The cockpit opens, revealing a translucent purple seat, which is actually the back of Airachnid's head in robot mode. Warning sign number two...

She comes packaged with two 'electro-stingers' and the rotor blades, due to some bizarre decision at Hasbro, are referred to as a 'triple-blade sword'. Neither weapon is ever shown or used by Airachnid in the TV series - the rotors become her spider legs in her alternate robot mode, and she only ever seems to use web shooters for ranged combat. Still, the electro-stingers can attach to the 5mm ports on either side of the helicopter, just below the cockpit... but they look kind of ridiculous, however you choose to attach them.

Robot Mode:
Oh, God, Hasbro... what have you done? What heinous crime have you perpetrated against this awesome character from the TV show? One of the most frightening and dangerous characters (or, if you're like me, dangerously sexy characters) ever to grace the TransFormers franchise has been reduced to a tiny, barely articulate chunk of plastic.

Bad enough that she has only three rotor blades, giving her an uneven distribution of claw things in robot mode, but those awkward-looking panels hanging off her shoulders are suppose to be arms? I get the need to have everything fold in nicely for vehicle mode, but the arms are almost completely flat and lack any useful, recognisable detail, and the hands are just pathetic. Their main feature is the massive hole in each palm, so she can hold those electro-stinger weapons that she never uses in the show.

And what's with the enormous backpack which is almost the entire helicopter?

Airachnid becomes slightly less plain in robot mode thanks to occasional applications of metallic purple paint, but there's a serious lack of other colours. In the TV show, she has purple feet, gold knees and lots of gold highlighting on her head. This model is largely unpainted black plastic and, given the size of the model, it just looks cheap.

The head sculpt - or perhaps I should say 'face sculpt', since it's really only half a head - is actually fairly good, and the light piping would be great if it weren't for the large chunk of helicopter sitting directly behind. It's lacking paintwork - only a couple of gold details are filled in, and the entire face is painted silver, with no effort to highlight the dark slits below here eyes, or her mouth.

And those weapons, however you fit them - either to her elbows/upper arms or to her hands - are too large and just don't suit the character. Worse still, so much of the paint budget was squandered on coating them with metallic purple and gold, they end up making the robot look even plainer by comparison.

...And after a bit of customisation using metallic Sharpies and the kitbashing instructions in a video by YouTuber MisterFanwank...

She's still not great... but it's a huge improvement on the model straight out of the pack.

Being such a small model, it's no surprise that her transformation is simple. In fact, half the problem is that it's too simplistic. Many cues from the CGI model have been missed, so the robot basically forms out of the wrong parts. Look at the character in the TV series, and the design of the cockpit windows, and tell me they're not meant to be on the shoulders. Given a bit more effort, Airachnid could have been a much more poseable - and larger - robot with very little difference to the size of the vehicle mode.

Without customisation, Airachnid is barely poseable. Not just because of clashing panels, but because of remarkably poor design. The hips have the standard ball-joint-leading-to-thigh-rotation, when it would have been more sensible to put the rotation at the knee on this model, or at least further away from the hip. The shoulders are ball joints, but the arms have such abominable articulation that they might as well be static. Airachnid can't even stand especially well, because her actual heel is too short and only touches ground when the lower leg is angled forward slightly. You can't even rely on the chopper's tail as a heel spur, as that isn't long enough either. The head is on a ball joint, but the helicopter pilot's seat, hanging off the back, will bash up against the frame of the cockpit before the head has moved in any significant way.

Airachnid, without a doubt, should have been a Voyager to do her proper justice. There's no alternate robot mode, she doesn't have enough claw legs hanging off her back and, without customising her, she can hardly move. I've read that the Cyberverse version, though only about half the size, is better in every way... and when people say that kind of thing, you know Hasbro has utterly failed. Airachnid in the TV series is lithe and agile. In toy form, she's a skinny brick.

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