Sunday, 9 August 2009

Beast Wars Neo Heinlad

Something a bit different this time... In several ways. It's Beast Wars, it's a toy and an alarm clock... and, in honour of the commercial success of Revenge of the Fallen, I present an entry with testicles.

Heinlad is some kind of time-travelling TransFormer (hence the big clock in his chest which, with the addition of a couple of batteries, transforms into a functional alarm clock) with a very strange alternate mode, even for a Japanese Beast Wars model - yes, that's right, this fella never got a US/UK release... which is a real shame, because the model has enormous character. Anyone familiar with Japanese folklore (or Studio Ghibli's anime Pom Poko) will be aware that Tanuki are somewhat special. They are the original transforming beasts, as they can magically take on any form they choose, and their large scrotum play a very prominent part. They are known for thievery and for excessive consumption of Sake, which is why Heinlad carries a jug and a 'promissory note' (an IOU, essentially). Something of these characteristics is carried into Heinlad.

Beast Mode:
The Tanuki is often described as a 'raccoon dog', though it's actually quite a distinct creature in and of itself. The sculpt of this model is quite cartoonised rather than being as accurate as transformation would allow, like many of the other Japanese Beast Wars models. Regardless of this, the detailing of the fur is very impressive. Heinlad is also very poseable in this mode - far more than most other Beast Wars models, which often just sit there in Beast Mode. The head can turn slightly from side to side due to clever jointing for transformation - it's actually two halves that are independently jointed, but the joints are complementary. The arms offer a fairly extensive range of motion, and the legs are placed and jointed such that he can stand up proudly, or walk on all fours. There's even some slight jointing in the tail. While the colour scheme is predominantly shades of brown, it's broken up somewhat by the large, yellow and gold clock on his belly and, less intentionally, by hints of his robot mode's white and blue.

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Robot Mode:
The only disappointment with Heinlad's robot mode is the lack of stability: his footprint is rather small and his feet have no real functional joints, so it's quite difficult to pose him without additional support. That said, he is very poseable. Beast Mode arms are also Robot Mode arms, offering the same excellent range of motion. While the legs and feet aren't stable, they are very well articulated (hips are four-way, knees bend and rotate), and are supplemented by some waist (actually crotch) articulation so, if some kind of stand could be made for him, he would be a very dynamic model.

Although the instructions show the alarm clock coming into play in Beast Mode, it can really only be used in Robot Mode, since the alarm shut-off is the robot head. I cannot imagine anyone would have a Tanuki-shaped alarm clock which they would have to (at least partially) transform into Robot Mode to switch it off. That said, you'd certainly be awake by the time the alarm got shut off! Considering the functional nature of the head, I'd half expected it to be fixed facing forward, but it does rotate. Additionally, his visor can be dropped down in front of his eyes.

Robot Mode is far more colourful that Beast Mode - the brown is supplemented by more white, some blue, and a touch more yellow, so the overall effect is quite significantly different from Beast Mode. Possibly the best part - depending on your sense of humour - is that Heinlad's Spark Crystal is embedded in one half of his Beast Mode's testicles!

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Heinlad's transformation is quite original, and the use of Beast Mode's arms as Robot Mode's arms is unusual if not unique (after all, Optimus Primal used his Beast arms as Robot arms and his Beast legs as Robot legs). There's also a small amount of robot detail moded into the insides of the Beast head, visible when they're hanging off his shoulders in Robot Mode. There's something about the head that doesn't quite work for me - it's just not robotic enough... but, to be honest, much of Beast Wars was the same.

Overall, this is a great, quirky model, and I'm glad I managed to find him. Unlike many models from this toy line, Beast Mode is full of character and play value in and of itself, and Heinlad is a mold I'd been trying to get hold of for years... Can't remember now whether I got it mail order or at a show... but I have a feeling I found him at Auto Assembly 2007...
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