Friday, 20 May 2016

Beast Wars Metals Airrazor

(Femme-Bot Friday #38)
Yes, you read that correctly - I had to double-check the box, instructions and bio card to be certain but, for no obvious reason, Beast Wars Metals Airrazor has a double-R in her name. For the sake of simplicity (and because I'm more used to typing a single R in her name) I'm going to call her Airazor throughout. That's not the strangest thing about the BWM version of one of my all-time favourite femme-bots, though. The strangest part is that, since she and Tigatron were imprisoned by the Vok at the point when the quantum surge hit, she never had a TransMetals form in the TV show, though she did in an incomplete 3H Productions comic.

I've seen plenty of photos of this figure over the years and it never really lit my candle in any way, shape or form, despite my fondness for the character, because the vast majority of TransMetals toys seemed to be a bit on the rubbish side, and the fact that she was repurposed into Armada - largely a junkpile of poorly-designed toys - kept her off my radar.

...Buuuut... Times change, I started this Femme-Bot Friday feature, and I figured it'd be worth picking up the first ever TransFormers mold that was designed to be a canonical femme-bot (the original BW Airazor wasn't designed to be any specific gender, and the original Blackarachnia doesn't count as she's just a repaint of Tarantulas). I picked up the Japanese version largely because it was available fairly cheaply on eBay, but I've since realised there are some significant differences to the US/European version, so I'm very glad I chose this one over the Hasbro version.

Beast Mode:
Straight away, in hand, this thing looks drop-dead gorgeous. I wouldn't say I'm a sucker for chrome - in fact, these days, having read about the things that can happen to chromed TransFormers, I'm terrified that it'll quickly flake off - but the jet engines and armour on Airazor look stunning, with a faintly blue tint applied to all the chrome. The Hasbro version uses opaque white plastic for the head, wings and tail, but Takara chose to use a slightly translucent, pearlised plastic that looks fantastic in person. The pale blue and orange plastics both feature a metallic flake component so fine they look pearlised as well.

Paintwork is fairly minimal, with orange-to-red gradients around they eyes, on the wingtips and across the tail. The eyes themselves are simply painted black, and the exposed engine detailing at the front has a matte black gradient over the blue plastic and an almost fluorescent pink on the body of the engine. The leading edges of the wings also feature angled panels that have a multi-coloured shimmering effect, almost like hologram-style foil. The bird's breast has a burnt orange gradient over the orange plastic, but most of that detailing is for robot mode.

What's quite cool about this mold is that, despite the whitish translucent plastic and vast areas of chrome, the sculpted detail remains apparent - all kinds of panel lines are on the wings, the engines, even the large plate on her back, and all of it stands out well. It almost looks as through the wings were meant to have mobile tips due to the circular details toward the outer edges, and the fact that the section at the very tip is raised slightly above the level of the rest of the wing, but that may simply be the look they were after, rather than signs that the budget would have been exceeded by adding another couple of jointed parts.

I'm quite fond of the tail, in that it looks like a middle ground between the tail of a robotic bird and a jet, so it suits her very well, and the subtle gradient in the orange/red paint looks as much like plumage detail as it does the kind of linework one might find on a jet.

Vehicle Mode:
I'm not sure why the designers working on Beast Wars Metals/TransMetals felt the need to add these half-baked third modes to the metallised beasts. Some were certainly interesting, but none really seemed to involve any significant transformation between modes. Airazor certainly fits that bill: while the fronts of her wings redeploying as pontoons, the remaining part swinging forward a little, and the bird legs simply lift up and lay straight underneath the tail to create what looks like a cross between a robotic bird of prey and a seaplane. Given that her default alternate mode already flies, already has jet engines and had feet for landing on and carrying stuff, I'd have said the ability to shift into the form of a plane that has to land on water is more than a little redundant... though it does cover the one surface her bird feet wouldn't, I guess.

Not really much else to say... Nothing new is exposed in this form, it's a seaplane that looks like a robot bird... Or had a said that already?

Robot Mode:
The TransFormers brand has a long history of robots with wings on their backs, starting with the G1 Seekers and coming right up to the present day with... the Seekers - seemingly reimagined with every toyline lately - and the likes of Windblade. Beast Wars had a lot of that sort of design as well, as very few toys in the history of the brand have figured any way of putting the wings to good use, or even of getting them out of the way. The original Airazor also swung her wings onto her back, so it's no surprise that this one does the same. It's also very similar in that her tail ends up folded onto her back between the wings, but this version has it folded down from the top, rather than up from the bottom. Both also have their temperature-sensitive Maximal insignia stickers on their backs but, while the original's sticker is on the underside of her tail, on this one, it's concealed by the tail.

It's widely stated that this is the first official TransFormers mold that was designed to be a femme-bot but, if that's truly the case, whoever sculpted it - and the chest in particular - had a lot to learn about female anatomy. The breasts are bulbous, yet curiously flat - as if suspended in zero gravity. The left mound has a large circular detail sculpted in and picked out in silver though, aside from being exposed mechanical parts, I'm not sure what it's supposed to represent. The ridged central portion does a good job of resembling armour, as do her chastity pants and everything from the knee down. The thighs and arms look more on the organic side of things, going by the way they're molded.

In terms of paintwork, there's not much specific to robot mode - a spray of copperish brown appears on the shoulders as well as the sides of the torso and the thighs but, other than that, Airazor's robot mode is bare orange, blue and pearl plastic, so it's lucky all three look so good. Nevertheless, it's a great shame that she didn't get a bit more on her robot form as there's a lot of detail on the groin and lower legs that could have been highlighted with some paint.

Weapons-wise, this version if Airazor is even worse off than the original - gone is the bird claw-like handgun, to be replaced by bird claws mounted on her wrists, though they do resemble the look of the original's gun when attached to the underside of one of her forearms - perhaps that's the intention? She doesn't have any weapons to speak of beyond those claws (which are, admittedly, ideally placed), though her plane mode's pontoons can be oriented to point over her shoulders and, with the rear strut deployed, they almost look like over-the-shoulder cannons.

For self-defense, the chrome panel from the bird's back can be snapped together over the front of Airazor's robot mode, though it requires the arms to be jostled into nigh-perfect positions so they can be enclosed by the jet engines. Aside from several elements of the colourscheme, one significant difference is apparent on this armour - where the Hasbro version features Airazor's name (spelt correctly, with a single-R) stamped on one side of the plate, Takara's version features the word 'Cybertron' and the Maximal insignia.

The head sculpt is, I suppose, a development of the original but, to me, it looks less interesting. It's angular and spiky, carrying over a certain degree of the look of the original, but the colourscheme seems too bold, and the lack of silver paint on the faceplate strikes me as strange. The red paint is on the face only, none of the continuations of the details down the sides and over the top of her head feature any paint, and the edges of the red above the mouthplate are quite fuzzy on mine.

Collectors' Card:
Like Silverbolt, the Japanese version of Airazor comes with a lenticular collectors' card with bio and specs on the back. Unlike Silverbolt, this one shows three images: her TransMetal robot and beast forms, as well as a head shot of her original, fully-organic beast mode. The images of the latter two feature the tower from the 2-part story from the TV show called 'The Trigger', though I don't recall Airazor playing a major role in that.

There's no avoiding the admission that I was very wrong about this figure. Aside from the central, structural body section, just about everything moves to some degree during transformation, though the wings don't so much transform as simply redeploy. In particular, it never occurred to me how Airazor would get a whitish waist between her brown-and-orange upper torso and her mostly orange lower body... and it turns out that's her beast mode head, folded back on the body! While her legs only straighten out and hang underneath her tail in both her beast mode and her seaplane mode, they manage to be reasonably unobtrusive, while the use of the arms as the beast legs is pretty obvious due to the beast claws hanging off her wrists. The only problems I've had so far have been pegging the breast into place in either mode, where the round pegs are a very tight fit to the sockets, and the hinging part of the shoulder assembly, which has to be aligned just so to enable it to plug into the internal base of the bird.

All the joints in Airazor's upper body are ball joints with a decent range of motion. There's no waist articulation due to the odd system of transformation, but the hips are incredibly stiff ball joints (to the extent that the left hip on mine was showing stress marks straight out of the box). The knees and ankles are both fairly standard hinges, but neither offer particularly good range and, with no thigh swivel to speak of, it's difficult to get a particularly dramatic pose out of her. Adding to this, she's well and truly back heavy and, while it is possible to get her balanced on only her feet, it's far easier to tilt the wings down to offer additional support.

Naturally, beast mode has very little articulation - the legs and feet have the robot arms' ball joints, obviously, but posing her while also balancing the weight of the body can prove tricky. The wings only really move for transformation and the only part of the head that moves is the beak, which folds down for transformation. Plane mode loses the leg articulation but gains it in the wings, though only because detaching the pontoons from the wings means they can swing back and forward freely.

For several reasons, even as a fan of Airazor who blogs about TransFormers toys and has an irregular special feature on femme-bots, I was quite cagey about getting this figure, but I'm utterly delighted with her. The chrome, the paint job and the plastics used all look fantastic, and it's nice to find a Beast Wars toy that's more complex than I'd expected, rather than less so. Sure, the winged backpack seems like a bulky waste and adversely affects her balance, but that's hardly uncommon and is very true to the original Airazor anyway.

I'm even tempted to pick up the Armada version now, simply because she's one of Unicron's heralds in that continuity... and that's fairly cool in itself.

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