Saturday, 12 March 2016

When Is a Knockoff Not a Knockoff?

Or "How to Make a Masterpiece"

The word 'knockoff' has traditionally had obvious and very negative connotations: this product is cheap, yet of such shockingly poor quality that it's still a waste of money. That started to change a good few years ago, with uncanny the arrival of 'knockoff' G1 toys that were functionally identical to the originals (Mirage being the only example I own thusfar). Since then, knockoffs of the shockingly poor variety have continued to arrive but, in more recent years, the knockoff merchants have upped their game in terms of product quality and a trend of upsizing toys has emerged. A quick look over at SirToys.com gives one an overview of the gamut of knockoffs, but there's one company that quickly seems to be climbing to the top of the food chain when it comes to upsized TransFormers toy knockoffs simply because they don't just upsize a mold, they're willing to improve it. That company is WeiJiang.

I've only recently become aware of them, largely thanks to a sudden glut of videos about their upsized MP10 (cunningly named MPP10), which then led me to discover M01 Commander, an upsized, part die-cast, premium painted version of Age of Extinction Evasion Mode Optimus Prime. If you look back at that write-up, you will see certain key phrases - not least "something approaching a Masterpiece at the Voyager price point" - that would lead to believe that I'm very fond of the mold... and you'd be right, but it's certainly not without its flaws. As with Dark of the Moon's Voyager class Megatron, I felt that Hasbro could have got away with enlarging the mold to Leader class size simply because they're both awesome figures which prove that all the lights-and-sounds gimmickery of previous movie Leaders are a hindrance to the quality of the toy. Pared down, yet just as complex in terms of molded detail and transformation, these two movie Voyagers have easily outclassed those that preceded them, and many that followed. Aside from their size, their only flaws were the miserly paint jobs they received.

WeiJiang, having already upsized and partially remolded AoE Bumbleblee (and Stinger), then decided to tackle a larger project and, while Bumblebee ended up slightly simplified (his battlemask no longer deploys), their take on Evasion Mode Optimus Prime ramps up the detail, adds a number of small yet significant improvements to both modes and has a paint job of a quality beyond even Takara Tomy's idea of 'premium'. I'll deal with it in detail in a separate post soon (camera battery is charging as I write and, while I'm dubious about the amount of good light I'll get this weekend, I do have some time off work later this month, so hopefully I really do mean 'soon') but, suffice it to say that, so far, this thing looks awesome.


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