Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Generation 1 Mirage Knockoff

Knockoffs, by and large, have a bad reputation - poor plastic quality, reduced articulation, psychedelic paint jobs, stickers that don't - but, once in a while, a knockoff comes along that's virtually indistinguishable from the original. Such occurrences are made all the sweeter when the original in question is almost impossible to find intact.

G1 Mirage had a weak plastic waist joint that frequently broke, leaving two halves of an otherwise excellent TransFormers toy. This may or may not have had any bearing on Takara's decision not to reissue Mirage in the 20th Anniversary TF Collection line. These days, finding two halves of Mirage probably isn't too difficult... nor is the fix to get him back together... but the fact remains that a whole Mirage is better than two halves fixed with nuts, bolts and washers.

Vehicle Mode:
Racing cars haven't looked like this for years. Even in the 1980s, they were beginning to look sleeker and sharper. And yet, this is still recognisably a racing car - from the foils and small wheels at the front to the exposed engine, oversized wheels and spoiler at the back, this may be chubby, but all it's angles and curves say that it was designed for going fast. Strange choice in disguise for a transforming alien robot, but we've seen worse...

One of my favourite things about G1 - faithfully reproduced in this knockoff - were the rubber tyres. While the Binaltech/Alternators lines brought these back, they were custom marked 'Cybertronian Radial'... back in Generation 1, they were Dunlop tyres. It's a measure of the makers' devotion to G1 that this knockoff sports Dunlops - most knockoffs would remove such frivolous details. Then there's the paintjob... Not only does this model come with an almost-authentic sticker sheet, but it has painted/printed details far superior to the average knockoff. Not only that, but it includes chromed parts and die-cast metal, with no obvious signs of it being a knockoff.

Robot Mode:
The superlative quality of this knockoff continues... Frequently, the finer details - such as on the face - will be blotchy, but Mirage is as sharp as I would have expected from the genuine article, back in 1984. Every little detail is there, even down to the copyright information embossed on the backs of the lower legs.

Like most of the G1 toys, the weapons are additional parts, not stored in vehicle mode (gotta love Classics/Universe 2.0 for sorting that out!). He comes with a spring-loaded, shoulder-mounted missile launcher and a rifle, both featuring some degree of chrome. His proportions are a bit off, and his head is positioned too far back compared to his shoulders and the front of the chest, but this is 1980s engineering, and there wasn't much choice: his head is the underside of the vehicle mode's cockpit.

All the articulation is there - shoulders, elbows, even wrists. The waist rotates as a point in transformation, but it does make for a more dynamic model. The Prowl/Bluestreak/Smokescreen mold also offered waist rotation, but this had to be locked to complete transformation both ways, so it wasn't actually available to the robot.

Transformation is actually not that far removed from some of the G1 Mini Autobots, bar the rotation of the waist. That puts it closer to being a vastly oversized, part die-cast Mini-Con with additional weapons. It's so very basic by today's standards, but the nostalgia value of having an accurate reproduction G1 Mirage, one of the hard to find models, is incredible. I almost wish Takara had licensed these, and given them an official re-release.

The only thing that marks it as a knockoff is the packaging - it's an almost perfect recreation of the original box design, apart from a couple of obvious variations in the fonts used. The bolder text on the front of the box looks like it was traced in Adobe Illustrator, and the font used for the Tech Specs is way off the original... similar to Roman text in Japanese fonts, in that the heights of some characters don't quite match as they should.

It's an amazing job, to the point where even calling it a knockoff seems insulting. The people behind this put time and effort (and, no doubt, a fair bit of money) into reproducing a very rare Generation 1 TransFormer. It may well have the same flaw as the original (I have to say, the waist joint on mine does feel a little loose and saggy) but, as the old saying goes, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".

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