Friday, 24 April 2015

TransFormers Animated Arcee

(Femme-Bot Friday #15)
Dearest reader, I am a bad person.

I have mentioned on my extended 'About Me' page that I once bought and then deliberately wrecked another collector's G1 Doubledealer to facilitate a custom of my own but, more recently, I have bought from another collector a fairly rare, MOSC, early, glossy version of TF Animated Arcee - a rare enough figure, regardless of which version - and opened it up with malice aforethought. I have never and probably will never understand the bizarre motivations of the MISB/MOSC brigade, so I am unrepentant... but it feels rather awkward to have received a message from the seller hoping that I 'enjoy the figure' as much as he did, when I'd always intended to open it up. To my way of thinking, he'd never really enjoyed the figure, only the idea of it, sealed away in its plastic bubble.

So, confessions of my depravity out of the way, what's it like to finally own one of the first official TransFormers Arcee toys?

Vehicle Mode:
Sleek and futuristic, TF Animated Arcee's vehicle mode is similar in feel to the original Arcee, but utterly different in appearance. She looks like a car built for speed (and probably mostly in a straight line), and possibly for breaking through barriers, going by her low profile and rather sharp front. The curve of her bonnet smoothly transitions into her cockpit, which then carries on smoothly down toward the rear. I kind of feel the spoiler ruins the look of the vehicle (or - haha - spoils it?), and might have been better had it been smaller... or at least the outer wings shorter. They seem to be there largely to cover over the robot's hands, which just stick out between the rear wheels' housings, but they're not even especially successful in that task. Given that the robot's hands are the only things offering any cover for the robot's head, one might think the rear of the vehicle mode could have used a bit more effort  Both spoilers are held in place by friction only, and the left spoiler really doesn't like to stay in place - I think I got it right once, but later knocked it off and have never been able to get it right since.

Arcee's body is largely a dark magenta, verging on purple, and I believe she's still about the darkest 'Heroic Autobot' Arcee figure, though that'd be a close-run thing between this one and the original live action movie Arcee, the latter winning more because her secondary colour is black, while this one goes with the more traditional white. One of the reasons this version of Arcee was of particular interest to one of the MISB/MOSC brigade is that, unlike the majority of TF Animated figures, this early version of Arcee has a shiny finish rather than the more usual matte finish. She also features a sparkly metallic flake component which I believe was still present in the later-run matte-finish Arcees, just not as prominent. The front of the car features yellow-painted headlights and bold stripes of silver, while the spoilers have silver on the wingtips. Her Autobot insignia is printed as a white outline showing through to the translucent blue of her cockpit.

Inside the translucent blue cockpit, a single seat is visible and, assuming it's average human-size, Arcee is actually a pretty massive car. Other than that, the oddest molded detail is the car's front grille, which almost looks as though it's intended to fool you into thinking it's the robot's fingers.

This toy being from back in the days before adding weapons to vehicles became the cool thing to do, Arcee's weapons merely store in the rear of the vehicle, looking like very weird indicator lights, or perhaps some extrusion related to the engine... if you're feeling charitable.

Since I didn't get to see any of the episodes of TF Animated which featured Arcee in anything more than Ratchet's flashbacks, I can only assume this is her Cybertronic form rather than an attempt at a terrestrial disguise. The way the wheels are almost covered over makes it look as though this could have been a hovercraft, and the overall look of the vehicle is closer to G1 Hot Rod than G1 Arcee, but it's a pretty cool vehicle mode.

Robot Mode:
I'd have to say that TF Animated Arcee was probably one of the hardest models to realise in plastic form as her animation model is so slim and lithe, yet still had to transform into a vehicle. More than any of the others, she was drawn with almost human proportions and smoothness to her limbs, so it's no surprise that the toy is not particularly accurate to the animation model.

The top half isn't too bad apart from the large slabs of car roof sticking out of Arcee's elbows and the horrifically exposed mid-forearm swivel joint. The legs actually aren't bad either, they're just nothing like as slender as those of the character in the TV show... though, to be fair, it just looks like she's wearing bell-bottomed trousers. The only thing that breaks that illusion is the weird layout of the shins, where a small panel of the bonnet folds into the shin, but doesn't integrate well as it's such a strange shape and nothing around it is molded to 'receive' it... so it just... sits there. The bell-bottoms and the way the legs naturally curve backwards also has the effect of making it appear as if she's slouching, even though she's standing as straight as she can.

Robot mode brings black into Arcee's colour palette, with her biceps, waist and the tops of her hips standing out strongly. The way it breaks up the magenta and white areas has the unfortunate side-effect of making it look like she's wearing a black onesie underneath magenta thigh-length boots and elbow-length opera gloves, a white sports bra over a pink crop-top and magenta and white knickers... But I suspect it's not wisest to dwell on such things.

Her backpack is very traditional G1 - two separate chunks sticking up over the backs of her shoulders - except now they have added spoilers, which look pretty awful... that is probably one good reason for making them removeable in the first place. The backpack is also where her swords are sheathed and, to be honest, I don't believe for a moment that she'd be able to reach them up there so, unless they're supposed to have some sort of ejection mechanism, they're pretty useless as scabbards. Since she has a pair of pouches hanging off her waist, it might have been more sensible to have additional storage space for her swords in them.

As well has the two chunks of car on her shoulders, Arcee also has the vehicle's cockpit hanging off her backside as a coat-tail. It's not the most elegant solution to storing an otherwise redundant part, and it can get in the way of her waist articulation if it's not pulled fully down, but we've all seen much worse on TransFormers toys.

The head sculpt is a fantastic adaptation of the animation model, but it's seriously let down by the absence of black panel-lining, especially around her eyes and nose. The light piping is exceptionally effective (the entire back of her head is translucent blue plastic), but there's too much white around her eyes - it may even have looked better if the pink paint used on her face had gone all the way to her eyes, but the bold black lines would have been preferable. The weirdest thing about the paint job is that, despite her prominently molded lips, she doesn't have the animation model's bold 'lipstick'... which seems to be a running theme with Hasbro's femme-bots. Considering there's magenta paint on her helmet, I can't imagine that adding that little touch of colour to Arcee's lips would have increased the paint budget beyond the limits.

Arcee's transformation is very simple and clear, with only a couple of potentially troublesome parts: the 'pouches' on her hips can get in the way of rotating her waist, and the legs and feet are tricky to line up and fit under the cockpit, partially, again, due to the 'pouches'. The combination of the waist rotation, the ball-jointed hips and the thigh swivel mean that the car frequently ends up rocking on two wheels while the others are up in the air, and it's very difficult to be sure where it's gone wrong.

Like most TF Animated figures, Arcee has great articulation, let down only by her footprint and the lack of useful articulation in her feet. Her hip joints, being quite square, don't always move the way you might want, but the thigh swivel compensates for some of this. The arms are great, though, and I especially like the fact that the neck is fairly long and its joint is right at the back of her comparatively large noggin, as that allows for plenty of freedom of movement in all directions.

It's a real shame that Arcee came along so late in the TF Animated toyline's lifespan, as it meant she received a comparatively limited release (if I remember correctly, there were stacks of her in some areas of the States, and none at all in others, while the UK and many other countries were skipped entirely). She got a Japanese release but that didn't really help with the scarcity issue and, on import, it tends to be just as expensive as any other version.

This being the case, Arcee is one of those figures which should be a must-buy whenever it turns up. Weirdly, my first experience of this mold in the BotCon 2011 boxed set, The Stunti-Con Job, where I was tickled to see it used as Drag Strip. That was a great re-use of the mold... but it's always good to have the original usage of a decent mold like this, and I could easily stand a few more repaints.

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