Friday, 28 July 2017

Iron Factory IF EX-16 Pink Assassin

(Femme-Bot Friday #42)
When the first few figures in Iron Factory's line of miniaturised transforming robots appeared, there didn't seem to be much of interest to me. I'm not overly keen on smaller, more simplified models of anything, particularly if they go for the Cybertronian aesthetic (often quite lazy and of inconsistent appearance) or if I already own a larger format version. Of course, that all changed when the first of the line's Femme-Bots - Windsaber/'Miko for IronTitan' - and suddenly I was hooked.

But, when it comes to Femme-Bots, Arcee is pretty much always the starting point, and it wasn't too long before Iron Factory revealed 'Pink Assassin', their impossibly cute but heavily armed take on the franchise's most poorly represented character.

Packaging:
Before I picked up Windsaber, I wasn't really sure how small these things were, so the biggest surprise was how large the boxes are compared to the content - honestly, you could fit three Pink Assassins into this box without too much effort. It's not even as if the box is so heavily decorated that it's oversized to make it more aesthetically pleasing - this one features only photos of the vehicle and robot modes on the front - one either side of the box's small, irregular window - and a single picture of her on the back, in the middle of a sea of background texture. I get that they want to make the product look fairly substantial - and it does, after all, contain a display stand - but the box could easily have been smaller and less empty.

Nevertheless, the design is decent enough - aside from the wasted space on the back of the box - but there seems to have been a glitch in the layering of the artwork (#printproductiongeek), as the product photos are in between the pink grid background and the texture overay, rather than being on top of the overlay. This gives the impression that the whole box is dirty or has been artificially 'aged', even though none of the text is affected.


Vehicle Mode:
Sort of loosely based on IDW's Cybertronian hovercraft mode, this is a compact and fairly tidy vehicle mode. It is, sadly, quite obvious that this is basically a shellformer, though. The front end has the familiar Arcee 'sweeping curves' look, but it's made up of three large chunks of shell, while the back end is very clearly a pair of legs wrapped back over themselves and pegged into a handgun. The robots forearms and hands are not concealed in any way but, equally, they don't stand out too much as both match other vehicle pieces in their vicinity and due to the generally angular nature of much of the vehicle.

Much of the vehicle is bare pink plastic, but the 'white' parts are coated in a paint which gives them an amazing pearly sheen, and other details are painted silver and gunmetal. The windscreen is either painted with a very fine, almost translucent coat of silver, or just a slightly pinkish metallic colour because it's certainly not as bold as the silver on the front end. Overall, it looks great from the front, but rather poor from just about any other angle.

Pink Assassin comes packaged with a handgun and two swords. The former is necessary to the stability of vehicle mode as it has to plug into her backside so that her heels plug into each side of the gun - making her a partsformer as well as a surprisingly unconvincing half-shellformer - but the latter are not. They can plug into her heels, but they don't really add much to the vehicle mode other than a very slight distraction from the fact that the rear end is just a pair of robot legs.

What's really daft about this model is that there's no socket to allow her to make use of the display stand in vehicle mode. The stand comes with two tips - one large peg, one small peg - but nothing on the vehicle actually fits either. This wouldn't be so bad if the vehicle would lay flat but, being rather more bulky toward the back even without the swords attached, it has a tendency to tip its nose upward.


Robot Mode:
The big problem with a lot of shellformers - and particularly those of the Femme-Bot ilk - is that it turns out that robot mode is just an action figure with a few vehicle parts tacked on. Somewhat disappointingly, this is very much the case with Pink Assassin. The car shell hangs off her back on a little arm, doing it's best to look like the sticky-up things behind G1 Arcee's shoulders. It's all a bit awkward because it feels like it's too close to the back of her head, but there's no other option. She does actually look remarkably like the Generations/Legends Arcee figure that came out back in 2015, and even that was mostly a shellformer, so this is just simplified and deliberately cutesified.

On the upside, the Pink Assassin action figure part is great - she looks exceptionally cute and feminine without being overly sexualised and, while some of her parts are quite chunky, she looks like a cute anime robot rather than a blocky mess. Her proportions are pretty much spot on, albeit slightly doll-like - she's not super-deformed but, with a head comparatively larger than many official TransFormers toys, she does look it a bit odd - reminding me a little of Sari from TransFormers Animated, if there had been a version of her in between the 'little girl' version and the 'teenager' version. Her forearms are also surprisingly large, though they wouldn't look as bad if it weren't for the little 'wings' on the outsides, which are basically the closest thing she has to landing gear in vehicle mode. The feet seem quite large, but fit her overall look well enough and provide good standing stability.

Overall, Pink Assassin tends to be quite smooth, but certainly not without molded detail, with armour panelling apparent on the forearms, shoulders, and the abdomen, as well as subtler lines on the legs. Much of her upper body is molded in the same pink plastic as the car shell, while the legs are pearlised white apart from the pink kneecaps, but there's a decent amount of paint to bring out the details - a touch of gunmetal at the collar, around the well-detailed waist, and on the feet, with a touch of blue below her curiously angular bust.

The weapons included in this set are a mixed bag. All three are molded in translucent blue plastic, but only the swords feature any painted detail - silver, running from the hilt to about the halfway point along the back of the blade - so the gun ends up looking a bit odd. It also seems rather oversized for this cute little Femme-Bot, being slightly larger than her forearms. While swords have become a staple for the contemporary Arcee (introduced, I think, by TF Animated Arcee and then picked up by IDW's grittier take on the character), and while they look undeniably awesome in Pink Assassin's hands, I tend to find the whole idea of robots wielding blades a bit strange.

The head sculpt it super cute - the helmet is recogniseably Arcee, nicely detailed, with a silver band round her face, the eyes are huge pale blue orbs, and the face seems to have a very slight smirk. While the helmet is largely painted the same pearlescent 'white' as the robot's legs, the face is matte white.
 

Stand:
Having picked up a few Play Arts Kai figures over the last year or so, I now own quite a few toys with their own display stands - previously more the sort of thing one would expect from a Macross or Gundam figure rather than TransFormers (even the Third Party ones). That said, official TransFormers toys have had very conspicuous display stand sockets designed into them for a good few years now, so they're certainly in need of one, and aren't always a good fit for the likes of a Gundam stand.

This is a very bare-bones affair, with a v-shaped base, a two-part arm and two heads - one with a small peg, the other with a large peg that doesn't seem to actually fit anything other than the holes on the stand itself. Its movement is fairly limited and the stopping point on the 'elbow' almost seems counterintuitive, but it's easily strong enough to hold up Pink Assassin, let alone larger figures. Official Deluxes are no problem for this stand either, depending on the position of their stand port, and I wouldn't be surprised if some larger figures could make use of it. The joints are tight to the point of being alarmingly creaky, but I see no signs of plastic stress so far...

Also included in this set - for no obvious reason - was a translucent pink version of the sword packaged with Windsabre, possibly an attempt to make up for the fact that that one looked a bit dull, despite its bright pink paintwork.

There really is barely any transformation to speak of - the backpack shifts upward/forward on its arm and pegs into the robot's back, the head doesn't have to be rotated 180°, but it does protect the paintwork on the face. The 'wings' fold down and peg into the holes in the backs of her forearms, then it's just a case of plugging in her pistol, wrapping her legs up around the top of the vehicle and pegging the ankles into the sides of her gun. It's even more simplistic than the average Legends class figure, and far less involved even than other Iron Factory mini figures.

On the plus side, the fact that Pink Assassin is effectively a miniature action figure rather than a true transforming robot works well in her favour in terms of articulation. Every joint from the hips up is a ball joint, including one within the body itself, allowing her chest to rotate and tilt back/forward slightly independently of the lower body (where the vehicle shell is mounted). Immediately below the hip, in each leg, there's a rotation joint, then the knees are double-jointed and the ankles are ball joints with an excellent range. Coupled with her stability - helped by being such a small, light figure overall - the joints make for some very expressive and dynamic poses. While far simpler than Mastermind Creations' Azalea design, it's ultimately no less expressive. The only problem I've found is that the backpack can make moving her upper body a rather fiddly process as it's difficult to find a good, stable place to hold while moving the arms, head or chest. Some of the ball joint tolerances are questionable - tight in certain positions, floppy in others - but she holds most poses very well, whether standing or suspended.

While I'd like to vehemently disapprove of shellformers and Third Party transforming robots that barely transform, I can't help but like this thing because it's a Femme-Bot, it's recognisably Arcee, and it's really, really cute. There's a huge amount of enjoyment to be had in finding new poses for it, displaying it standing on its feet, kneeling, sitting, or suspended from its display stand. It may not be entirely satisfying as a 'transformer', but it's a hell of a lot of fun as a Femme-Bot figure. The weapons are just about good enough, but it's fairly clear that the bias was toward the swords, and the gun is basically an embellished clip for completing vehicle mode.

Considering this is a third party figure, I was surprised by how affordable it was - £17 plus shipping from TFs Express, while it tends to be around (and above) £20 via the likes of eBay. Granted, it's a smaller, more simplistic model than many Third Party figures, but still remarkably cheap. In fact, all things considered - including the sturdy box, the display stand and, of course, import duty - that's an absolute bargain.

This sort of thing won't be up everyone's street... but as a fan of the Femme-Bots, I'm delighted to have this (and Windsaber/Miko... and Night Assassin... and Alleria...) on my shelves.

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