Wednesday, 22 February 2017

TransFormers Legends (Titans Return) LG25 Blurr

Back in the 80s, the G1 Blurr toy was an easy pass for me: a large, poorly proportioned mess of a robot that transformed into a sci-fi doorstop of a hover car and, in the thirty-plus years since the character's introduction in the animated movie, only one Blurr toy - the TransFormers Animated version - seemed worth picking up thanks to its improved design and articulation.

...And then Titans Return happened, and Blurr's G1 wedge-shaped alternate mode returned, with massive improvements both to the vehicle mode and the robot mode... albeit with the slightly incongruous Titan Master aspect tacked on. Blurr had been one of the G1 Autobot TargetMasters, along with Hot Rod and Kup, so reinventing him as a HeadMaster initially seemed like a poor choice. That, coupled with Hasbro's hideous colourscheme (seemingly based on the G1 toy, but with less colour variety) made him an easy pass all over again.

But then photos of the Takara Tomy version, from their Legends line (continuing from their 30th Anniversary releases), surfaced, and suddenly the HeadMaster aspect didn't seem so bad after all... And it's about time I posted about something properly new... Though, unlike the other TF Legends figures I've picked up, I won't bother writing about the packaging...

Vehicle Mode:
There's no getting around the fact that Blurr's vehicle mode is still basically just a wedge. The overall design is much improved on the flat, mostly featureless G1 original - not least in that it's clear that the central section is a cockpit (on the original, the split between the front of the vehicle and the back - in which Blurr's face would be visible - just looked like an oversight) thanks to the clear plastic and a visible seat. What's always struck me most about G1 Blurr's vehicle mode is looks like a more angular, 'masculine' version of Arcee's: the central bulk rises smoothly from the nose to the cockpit area, then sweeps down toward the back and features some kind of ornamental nacelle, the gently curved outriggers attached to the sides - Arcee's housing her wheels, Blurr's housing only boosters - either one could be a concept car from the far-flung future or the 1950s (Arcee probably skewing closer to the latter, Blurr to the former). The main difference being that Blurr is a hovercar, this new model designed quite cleverly with three small wheels in the underside of the central portion so he actually looks as if he's hovering from most angles.

Unlike the Hasbro version, which is molded largely in a curiously detail-swallowing pearlised turquoise (which looks far better - and far bluer - in photos than in real life), Takara Tomy's Blurr has a nice cyan as its main plastic colour, with dark blue, pale grey and colourless transparent plastics making up the rest. This is supplemented by a well-matched blue paint for some panels and cyan for the outer faces of the grey plastic of the cockpit. It's a fairly simplistic paintjob of blanket coverage for the most part, and features virtually no detail work specific to vehicle mode. This is actually quite disappointing considering the extent of the molded detail. It's nowhere near any of the Third Party, Masterpiece-style Blurr figures that have turned up over the last few years, but it's easily sufficient for a Deluxe. All that's really missing is a touch more colour on the nose, and perhaps some metallic paint to highlight the boosters and other details at the rear. What he does have - oddly - is a patch of yellow paint in recess at the front of the nacelle - odd, because there's only one other instance of that colour on the entire figure.

The cockpit opens up to accommodate a HeadMaster/Titan Master figure, pegging in via the angled tab on the back of the feet and they seem pretty snug in there. From what I remember, G1 HeadMasters tended to rattle around in their respective cockpits. There's a fair bit of molded detail inside the cockpit, but no paintwork to highlight it in the off-white plastic.This is probably something Reprolabels will address at some point, if they haven't already.

While Blurr features 5mm ports on each side, his weapon is intended to mount via a peg on the underside of the nose - it having a 5mm socket of its own just behind its handle. The boosters at the back looked as though they might also be 5mm ports, but seem to be a fraction too small. Blurr additionally has curious pentagonal recesses in his sides, though I can't figure out if this is intentional molded detail or just a means of making holes into which pins were inserted, to attach the robots arms, look like something deliberate.


Robot Mode:
Takara Tomy's version of Blurr cuts an excellent figure and looks a fair bit like the G1 animation model in terms of its colours and their distribution, with far more variance in tone and hue than Hasbro's feeble attempt. Considering he's the speedster, G1 and Legends Blurr both appear fairly chunky, but I guess this one kind of works as his basic frame appears quite slim, and he has boosters on his legs and shoulders... albeit not necessarily oriented for extra speed in robot mode... It's really only from the sides, where the extra mass on his forearms, ankles and back are more easily visible, that he looks overburdened.

One interesting difference to note between the Hasbro and the Takara Tomy versions of Blurr is that only this one has an Autobot insignia on display in both modes - there's a molded detail in the back of the chair that folds up to become Blurr's belly plate, which is clearly designed to be occupied by an Autobot insignia, but which is left entirely blank on the Hasbro version. That belly plate is about the most detailed part of the sculpt for the upper body, with subtle mecha-abs just below the canopy area.

The HeadMaster noggin looks very much like Blurr from the cartoon rather than the toy, with a curved, sweeping helmet and a miniature representation of the car's nacelle that slides up at the front of the helmet. It takes the simplistic cartoon look and adds a few minor tech details, in keeping with the continuation of Combiner Wars. One complaint I have is that the noggin-nacelle is held up - barely - by friction alone and, while it doesn't spontaneously drop down, it really doesn't need much encouragement. Several times, I had to retake a photograph because I didn't immediately notice it had been jostled back down while re-posing the figure. It's the sort of thing I'd expect to click into place - both up and down - but it doesn't. The paint job on the head is fairly simple - pale grey for the face, cyan for the eyes and the central section of his helmet, then a touch of yellow in the small recess - but it does the job of paying homage to the animation model. Given that the protrusion from his head is a reference to the vehicle mode's nacelle, I'd have expected the yellow paint on there, if it was deemed necessary at all, so this strikes me as a bit strange... but it is accurate to the animation model. What isn't accurate is having the protrusion in the blue plastic rather than cyan, but it's a small detail and it doesn't bother me in the slightest.

One feature of the G1 HeadMasters was the spring-loaded, geared Tech Specs readout on their chests, concealed behind a panel. While many of the toys of characters who were G1 HeadMasters have painted details in their chests referring to those panels, the geared feature has been dropped. Honestly, it would have overcomplicated things and reduced - if not fully removed - the neck articulation offered by the HeadMaster figure's ball jointed neck, and it wouldn't even be applicable to Blurr, who used to be a TargetMaster. This does leave him with a gaping chasm in his chest, fully visible through his clear, colourless canopy. Since this chasm is the vehicle mode's cockpit, it does seem like a wise choice not to fill it with geared barrels at the expense of giving the HeadMaster figure somewhere to sit.


HeadMaster:
Here's where things get a touch hazy for me: I know the western HeadMasters were Nebulans - organic beings who somehow convinced both Autobots and Decepticons to give up their heads and allow them to turn them into mech suits, but I rather get the impression that the Japanese version did it differently, hence Blurr's HeadMaster doesn't have a unique name, and the caption on the box just says "HEAD MASTER". I should probably research it but, by now, readers of this 'ere blog should know that I really don't give a monkey's about the fiction.

Blurr's HeadMaster figure is made up of blue and pale grey plastic, and features a surprising amount of paintwork given his size, with touches of blue on his arms, shins and head, as well as cyan for his visor. The body is unpainted, but there's quite a bit of sculpted detail, marred only by the comparatively large screw through his waist. Additional paintwork may have proved to be a distraction, but many of the details are too small to be worth trying to highlight with paint.

Perhaps as a symptom of being smaller than the G1 Headmasters the lower legs are a single piece, but what you lose in leg articulation, you gain with a ball-jointed neck and shoulders. Another loss from the G1 mini-figures is the hinged section of the main robot's face which sort-of acted as disguise. The upshot is that every Titan Master/HeadMaster figure just has the larger robot's inverted fact hanging off their back permanently.

Blurr's vehicle mode nose/riot shield features a swing-out foot which apparently turns it into a sled for the HeadMaster to ride in. As with vehicle mode, Blurr's weapon can be plugged in just in front of the cockpit but, to be honest, it just doesn't look enough like a vehicle in and of itself. Unless you think it's OK to call a wheel-less, handle-less wheelbarrow "a vehicle".

I've heard that some Titan Master figures can be a bit flimsy - arms popping off ball joints and such - but this one, at least, seems pretty solid, which feels like an achievement on a figure this small. Sure, I would have preferred separate legs... but I guess that sort of extravagance is the province of the Third Parties these days.


Anyone familiar with the Deluxe class figures from Combiner Wars will be on familiar ground with Blurr - it's a very simple transformation which leaves the entire nose section hanging off his back. When the nose is removed, be it to act as a shield or a sled, the blue part it pegs onto looks alright just sticking out of Blurr's back, managing to look like intentional, wing-like details against the, unpainted off-white molded detail of the back. The only issues I've had are with the canopy, which likes to pop into its robot mode position, but can be tricky to pop back out again. Probably my favourite aspect of the transformation - because it's pretty subtle and extremely unusual - is the way the ornamental nacelle flips into the inside of his right lower leg, rather than staying outside and either leaving his legs very visibly asymmetrical, or having it split between both legs.

We're also on familiar Combiner Wars-style ground with his articulation, with ball-jointed hips and everything else on pinned hinges or mushroom pegs. While the shoulders are only pinned for rotation, one of the joints used during transformation gives it pretty much all the range of a ball joint, if not more. The HeadMaster's ball jointed neck also acts as Blurr's neck, giving him a full range of rotation with just a touch of nod and tilt, restricted mainly by the mostly flat nature of the large area between the shoulders. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Blurr also has wrist articulation, given that many Combiner Wars figures had to sacrifice that because their fists fold away into the forearms during transformation. Blurr solves this issue by having vehicle parts simply fold back onto the undersides of his forearms for robot mode, and then actually tabbing back into the firsts when transforming back to vehicle mode.

I received Blurr as a Christmas present from my girlfriend's parents - they being rather more inclined to feed my plastic crack habit directly than my own folks, in general - and, to begin with, he was originally the only Titans Return-style figure I was interested in picking up as I have just about every other significant character from the Autobots' new line-up in the animated movie, and the Classics/Generations version - a repaint of Drift with a new, IDW-inspired head and weapon set - just didn't light my particular candle. On the strength of this one figure, I subsequently bought a set of four of Hasbro's Titans Return figures and, while I don't expect to buy many more, I suspect the occasions where I hold out and pay the extra for an imported Takara Tomy figure will be few and far between (starting with Super Ginrai). Blurr is no technological marvel of a toy, but he does demonstrate that the Titans Return 'play pattern' potentially has some merit... even if it is missing the geared gimmick that made G1 HeadMasters interesting. Without the HeadMaster element, he'd be at least on a par with any Deluxe from Combiner Wars and, reluctant though I am to admit that a gimmick I disliked 30 years ago is cool, it does actually work well. Perhaps it was simply an idea ahead of its time..?

2 comments:

  1. In the TT Legends toys, the head is tha character and the body is essentially just a mech suit for the head. So the head is Blurr and the body is nothing.
    Shameless plug: I've translated some of the comics on my blog ;)
    To be honest the whole two character thing didn't make any sense to me.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the clarification, Tets! Takara Tomy's way of dealing with the concept does seem to make a bit more sense - certainly within the Titans Return toy concept of having all these extra, interchangeable heads. It also seems to have parallels both with Mini-Cons and with the Beast Wars idea of the Maximals and Predacons being smaller and more Energon-efficient - part of their evolution, perhaps?

      I do wonder if the original rationale behind the Nebulans becoming HeadMasters and TargetMasters was that old narrative chestnut of "conflict=drama", so having these giant robots' lives directly influenced by humanoid organics who wouldn't necessarily see things the same way was intended to introduce some new tension to the ongoing war..? Or maybe I'm thinking about it too much, retrospectively...

      Thanks for doing those translations - seeing them in the original Japanese is one thing, but actually being able to understand them really highlights how irreverent and just plain bonkers these little Legends stories can be.

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