Monday, 30 January 2017

Beast Wars Neo Mach Kick

OK, now for something from the weirder portion of my collection, to celebrate another milestone - TFCC/SS4.0 Windsweeper being my 500th post to this blog - it's kind of a shame I didn't hit the 500th post before starting the new year, considering how close I was... but I've had a hard time with anything creative recently...

I think I've mentioned before how the more ambitious Beast Wars molds came along after Hasbro had gradually started reorienting the brand back towards the mechanical, and Takara picked up the idea and ran with it in some very strange directions. The original set of characters was quite small and, while it certainly covered a wide range of animal types, quite a few others were conspicuous by their absence... For the most part, the animals of Beast Wars Neo were fun, quirky, and beautifully detailed.

Robot modes, however... that's where things went truly bonkers...

Beast Mode:
I am a huge fan of horses (even tried taking riding lessons, once upon a time), so the idea of a horse TransFormer is appealing on several levels. First and foremost, this is a highly detailed model of a horse. Its proportions are spot on, and it even has a tail made up of nylon 'hair'. The sculpted musculature looks at once fantastic and disturbing, with a twisty vein popping out of the neck on both sides. The sheen of the plastic makes him look like a well-groomed thoroughbred and the seams aren't overly distracting, though it does remind me somewhat of a butcher's diagram of the cuts of meat on a cow.

What is odd is the choice of colour - it's a very blue - bordering on purple - sort of grey, with darker, not-quite-black forelegs and lower-back legs and grey hooves. His mane, rather than being more nylon hair, is solid plastic, sticking sharply up in eight pinned, interlocking segments which hint at a feature of his robot mode. The head, while a little small-looking, is nicely detailed and features the only paintwork visible in this mode - the crown of his main, the eyes and a white blaze down the snout.

Less natural-looking are the red robot parts visible through wide slits in the back legs - a necessary feature due to transformation, but rather unsightly and distracting - particularly what looks like a pair of hooks sticking up out of each side of his rump, just below the tail.

The coolest thing about Mach Kick is that his beast mode is rather mode poseable than many figures of a similar size. If you look at figures like Cheetor/Tigatron, Silverbolt, or Longrack, what little beast mode articulation they have is generally required only due to transformation. Mach Kick got rather more extravagant treatment, with ball-jointed 'shoulders', hinged knees and ankles at the front. The 'shoulders' are mounted rather too low for realism, but it's a sterling effort. I'd also argue that the back legs could have been properly jointed at the hip, similar to BW Megatron, without overly affecting robot mode.


Robot Mode:
OK, we all know that a fair majority of Beast Wars toys, across all the sub-continuities, were shell-formers but Mach Kick tries to make a virtue of it - the horse's head and neck make up his right arm, with a strange red claw popping out from the horse's chin by way of a 'hand', the horse's back and flanks end up on his left shoulder as ridiculously oversized armour, the chest and front legs are folded up on his back, while the shoulders just hang off the backs of his hips on long red stalks. Most of it is more-or-less out of the way, but it looks pretty daft and seems very wasteful, even if it does allow for a well-proportioned and more pleasing-looking base robot within the shell.

And pleasing it is, with some gorgeous red and gold paint supplementing the blue/grey sheen of the shell parts and a creamy, off-white base plastic colour for the chest, arms and thighs. The paint doesn't seem overly heavy, but it's nicely dense and, in the case of the red, beautifully glossy. It's also an excellent match for the red plastic, though that has a very matte finish. The gold paint is used effectively to highlight certain sculpted details on the thighs, as well as providing a buffer between the red and off-white parts of the chest. There's also a coating of off-white paint on the outsides of the robot's lower legs, breaking up the blue plastic and giving the impression that the blue plastic represents beast mode shell over white-ish robot parts even on these parts. All the paintwork is pin-sharp, and tries to emphasise that this is a robot with separately coloured armour panels... even though it looks more like a rather macabre cosplayer.

Mach Kick's only real weapon is a dinky unpainted, off-white plastic axe which plugs into his more traditional hand via a peg sticking out of the butt of the axe rather than what would normally be its handle. The sculpt is nicely detailed, but really could have done with a touch of paint to liven it up... Then again, considering how restricted the left arm is due to the horse shell mass balanced atop the shoulder, he can't really swing it effectively anyway. I do wonder if the strange fin on the underside of his wrist is meant to be another weapon, given that a blade-like section was left unpainted. As a combined manipulator/mêlée weapon, the claw in the horse head/right 'hand' can be thrust out from the 'wrist' via the spring-loaded lattice of joints that make up his alarmingly erect mane, like one of those cartoon boxing glove things. It looks pretty eerie considering the red claw actually looks as though it's supposed to be the horse's bottom jaw thanks to the ever-so-subtly sculpted mouth and the overly flat bottom jaw of the blue/grey plastic horse head.

The robot's head sculpt is the icing on a particularly nutty fruitcake of a TransFormer, looking almost entirely organic were it not for the silver colouration of the face 'beneath' what looks for all the world like a kind of luchador mask or a superhero-style cowl. It also comes with its own nylon 'hair' ponytail - entirely separate from the beast mode tail, which is actually on the axe. It's a nicely detailed head... just utterly bizarre, and not really even in keeping with the style of other Beast Wars Neo figures.


Like Longrack, Mach Kick has a third mode which is some kind of weapon platform/utility vehicle... only, made up of a mixture of horse parts and robot bits, it looks like something from a particularly grim knackers' yard crossed with one of the traps from the Saw movies. Frankly, getting this thing from beast mode to robot mode and back is complicated enough, with all the horse shell parts and the fact that he only comes together with the waist parts rotated in a particular direction. With the instructions still in his box, I couldn't be bothered to even try to figure out the redundant alternate form.

This is one of those transformations that takes a while to figure out but, once everything starts coming together, the only problem is all that nylon 'hair', and the way it gets trapped inside the horse panels. The robot's pony tail on mine had a kink in it straight out of the box, and I've no idea how to correct it. In Mach Kick's favour, once everything is correctly oriented, all the panels clip together very smoothly and beast mode looks great... it's just a shame that robot mode ends up so awkward due to a weird spring-loaded gimmick and all those shell panels. One interesting and unusual feature is that, due to the waist being a bell joint, he has a small amount of ab-crunch as well as waist rotation.

It's a tough call, but I'd say this fella is better articulated than Longrack. In fact, were it not for a particularly loose set of joints on mine (right rear ankle, both rear knees), Mach Kick's beast mode could actually hold a 'rearing up' pose. Sadly, this doesn't translate well to good articulation in robot mode, despite the plethora of ball joints all over him. The right arm is functionally useless because the elbow bends inward and has very little range, and even the double ball-jointed shoulder can't quite compensate as it's a bit too floppy. The left arm has a ball jointed shoulder, then a double ball-jointed elbow, but is limited in its range by the mass of horse bum sticking out from above the shoulder. The ball jointed thighs are nice and stiff, but limited by the boxes containing the ball joints for his 'skirt' pieces of horse shoulder, and the knees just don't have as good a range as you might expect given that they're ball joints in hinged sockets (a trick used to better effect in Gundam model kits). The feet are essentially immobile as the small amount of movement in the robot toe and the horse hoof heel doesn't do much to support his poses.

Mach Kick is a wonderful curiosity, but a terrible toy - its overcomplicated design gets in the way of both modes, though the fact that it's (even slightly) more than a simple horse statue in beast mode surely counts in its favour, and shows that a good deal of thought went into him. The bonkers styling of robot mode sets him apart from pretty much every other BWN figure... though that isn't saying much considering the variety of designs that toyline had.

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