Friday, 22 May 2015

Generations (30th Anniversary) Chromia

(Femme-Bot Friday #19)
Whether it's because it was never fully shown or because I'd simply lost interest, I didn't get to see those episodes of the G1 cartoon which featured the original Femme-Bots. In fact, aside from a few random images and video clips on the interwebs, my first proper experience of Chromia as a pseudo-G1 character was in the Windblade comic, in which she was the titular character's bodyguard on Cybertron

Given the fringe nature of the character, she wasn't an immediate must-buy... But how does Hasbro's Generations take on one of the earliest canonical Femme-Bots shape up?

Vehicle Mode:
Back in the days of the G1 cartoon, when Chromia was first introduced, she transformed into an extremely simplistic, unimaginative, downright boxy vehicle, despite her curvacious Femme-Bot robot mode. Naturally, Hasbro are trying to make their toys' alternate modes somewhat attractive these days, and so have recast Chromia as a different version of the motorbike Femme-Bot she's become more recently.

At first glance, you wouldn't necessarily know this is nothing more than a reshelling of TF Prime Arcee because the shell is so extensively redone that virtually no common parts are fully visible in vehicle mode. There's a certain similarity in that, obviously, it's another motorbike... but this one has a canopy over what could be a cockpit, and it looks all very futuristic if not traditionally Cybertronian. Comparisons to the older TRON light cycles are somewhat inevitable, though she's rather more colourful than any of them and doesn't seem quite so smooth and/or aerodynamic. One thing that does give her a light cycle-ish vibe is that her wheels are connected to the vehicle by pieces of colourless transparent plastic which bisect the wheels, with the 'tyres' spinning either side. The front wheel is all one piece but, due to the way she transforms, each side of the rear wheel rotates independently. You can almost imagine her wheels giving off a light trail, though that's never show to be the case in the Windblade comics.

Molded largely in a deep sky blue plastic, she has pastel blue, white and red painted accents which mostly follow the harsh lines of her molding, emphasising the impression of overlapping plates of armour. Given the number of separate pieces, she comes together surprisingly well, looking like a coherent vehicle rather than a folded up robot partially hidden by vehicle panels. I do think that the cockpit could have used some paintwork - not that there's any molded detail in there that really needs highlighting - just to differentiate it further from the outside of the bike. Strangely, the overall look of Chromia's alternate mode makes me think of the G1 Technobot Afterburner (and I'm clearly not alone), which makes me wonder if/hope that the Collectors' Club will ever create an exclusive, Femme-Bot version of the character who has, this year, become their first non-transforming premium figure.

Chromia's pistol weapon can be mounted on either of the 5mm ports on the sides of the bike just behind the front wheel, but it sticks out at a weird angle and just makes her look asymmetrical. I'm not normally one to complain about asymmetry, but rumour has it that one of the guns that eventually ended up with Generations/Legends Arcee was supposed to be packaged with Chromia, and a second gun would certainly have balanced her out. However, given that Chromia's weapons of choice in the comics are an energy poleaxe and a selection of throwing blades, being lumbered with a single pistol that mounts awkwardly in vehicle mode is a huge disappointment.

Unlike any other version of this basic form, Generations Chromia can just about balance on her wheels without recourse to the kickstand. It's a bit fiddly, but it can be done...


Robot Mode:
While vehicle mode matches (at least) Sarah Stone's interpretation (probably because that was based on the toy to a large extent), robot mode seriously disappoints - as if Hasbro started out determined to do the character justice using an existing mold, but ran out of steam partway through and just got lazy. The biggest gaffe is that the distribition of her wheels in robot mode is exactly as it was in the mass release of TF Prime Arcee, so her silhouette is all wrong. I would have thought that a hybrid of the First Edition (for the legs) and something entirely new (for the shoulders) - so the wheels ended up looking something like they do in the comics - should have been perfectly feasible, given the extent of the remolding.

Making matters worse, the entire top/front of the bike ends up hanging off her back, and it's even more intrusive on this model than it was on TF Prime Arcee. The 'skirt' I can almost understand, and that's probably the one part of Chromia that works better than the equivalent on TF Prime Arcee, but the canopy and front wheel just look like lazy design. Considering Chromia's use of a shield not dissimilar to her canopy is prominent within the Windblade mini-series, it's disappointing - not to say a little ridiculous - that her canopy cannot be removed. I mean, this is one occasion where what might be considered 'partsforming' would be easily forgivable, but we have the typically massive backpack instead.

All that said, the newly-sculpted parts do look good and, as with her vehicle mode, Chromia looks more unique at first glance than she actually is. Part of this illusion comes from the bulking up of her biceps with a sky blue clip-on part, beneath which her upper arm is identical to TF Prime Arcee's. It fits snugly, though it could have been molded for a better fit at the front. The forearms are entirely new and far bulkier than Arcee's, but her hands are the same. The thighs, meanwhile, simply have a new inner section, which is molded to fill in the hole through the leg, just above the knee. The bulk of the lower legs are remolded entirely, though the knee spike comes from the Beast Hunters version of Arcee, so there's some clever recycling of parts going on. The multi-layered armour effect works well and her legs look powerful without seeming too bulky. Sadly, the torso is the stock Arcee mold so, even with a vastly different paint job, it's not different enough to maintain the illusion of Chromia being 'new'.

Chromia's pistol fits nicely in her hands though, again, it's a shame that it's her only packaged weapon. Now she's on my shelf, I've taken to displaying her with TF Prime Cliffjumper's 'engine club' thing - even though it's a little loose in her hands - just to give her something like her poleaxe. The pistol is a decent mold, and could probably be reused with any number of figures - nothing about it makes it uniquely Chromia's weapon.

The head sculpt is pretty good - kind of a halfway house between her appearance in the G1 cartoon and the current IDW comics, albeit without the 'lipstick' (which was added to the Takara Tomy version). What's rather disappointing is that, with colourless transparent plastic already used in the model, the part of her head which would grant light piping has been coated with barely translucent dark brown paint. Given that her face is painted pastel blue, if Hasbro were dead set against light piping, they could surely have used the sky blue plastic to give her proper eyes... with light piping so dark it may as well be black, she looks rather dead-eyed.


Transformation is, for better or worse, functionally identical to the mainline release of TF Prime Arcee and the Beast Hunters remix. For me, that's a crying shame as it means she doesn't look as much like Sarah Stone's artwork as she could have. Had the redesign split the rear wheel across its diameter, as per TF Prime FE Arcee, and the front wheel bisected the way the rear wheel does on this, so that she ended up with the appearance of a full wheel on each shoulder, this would have looked much better. The real problem, though, is that the vehicle mode's canopy just hangs off her back. If you're familiar with the comics, you'll know that Chromia carries a shield apparently formed of her vehicle mode's canopy, and there's really no reason (other than budget constraints) why the canopy couldn't have been made removeable. I also dislike the way the rear of the vehicle hangs off her backside - sure, it's not as intrusive as TF Prime Arcee's positively insectoid bum-baggage, but had it split into halves mounted on ball joints, they could have been rolled forward over her hips, further disguising her similarities to Arcee. Also, had she been modelled more on FE Arcee, the flaps sticking out of her backpack could have remained on her shoulders, thus making it even easier to make the canopy removable. Essentially, basing Chromia's transformation so rigidly on the lesser version of an existing figure, she's something of a wasted opportunity.

On the plus side, she retains all the poseability of the TF Prime figure and even gains a few degrees of useful rotation in the legs and bending of the knee due to the substantially reduced butt-flap. That said, pushing her 'skirt' fully into place renders the hip joints mostly useless. Her remodelled feet offer a slightly firmer stance than other variants due to an extended transparent plastic heel, but stability was never really a problem on the others. The arms, while bulked up, are still very mobile, but still slightly limited by an awkward shoulder joint.

I picked up the Hasbro version of Chromia (albeit a US import at Forbidden Planet, which included a comic in which Chromia does not appear) because I just didn't feel like paying the import premium on what amounted to yet another TF Prime Arcee variant. As turns out, I also prefer the paint job on this one - Takara Tomy's is more uniformly blue/lavendar-coloured - though it still could have been done better. On balance, I'd say both Legends and Generations Chromia are eminently skippable unless you're especially keen on the character and aren't too fussed about accuracy to either G1 or to the IDW comics.

This toy has got me wondering if Hasbro's habit of not painting the lips of its Femme-Bots is a sort of attempt at toning down the femininity of the character, as if they're worried boys won't buy something so overtly 'female'.

But that would be stupid, right?

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