Sunday, 26 September 2010

Alternity A-03 Bumblebee (Champion Yellow)

And so, Alternity continues... Initial impressions suggest this line is going for popular characters rather than just going through the roster of G1 characters and applying them to the most likely licensed vehicle (Alternators Honda Civic Rumble? Really, Hasbro?). Takara had tried to get a license to make a Bumblebee out of the new Volkswagen Beetle, but this was denied - VW, without any intentional irony, did not wish to associate themselves with 'war toys'.

Plans were sadly abandoned and, outside the Movie continuity, Bumblebee was updated in the Classics line as a sporty 2-door hatchback, and then in Animated as... a sporty 2-door hatchback. Somehow, this form suited Bumblebee more than adequately, so this update is only surprising because it happened in the first place - one wonders if Takara Tomy were motivated by the popularity of Movie Bumblebee, or by their own desire to finally produce a modern, part die-cast incarnation of the character.

Vehicle Mode:
After Classics Bumblebee and Animated Bumblebee, expectations for the character have changed dramatically, to the point where using the Suzuki Swift is a no-brainer. It's a sporty hatchback - 4-door, in this case - and has a similar character to the original Beetle. Unlike the Beetle, however, it's sporty and curvy rather than twee. It's also far roomier a car than either of Nissan's entries into the Alternity line, not only because it's a 4/5-seater.

All the doors open, as does the bonnet and the boot, and it all looks pretty good... apart from the boot, which has large structural pieces blocking the rear windscreen. Also, while the bonnet opens to reveal a good-looking engine compartment, the boot opens to reveal two large blocks and the robot's head. On the downside, the doors on mine don't close very well, particularly the rear doors, and the seams are far more visible on this iteration than on the Cliffjumper/Supreme Red Pearl version. The colour generally isn't especially flattering - a very stark yellow, almost cold compared to the likes of Classics and Movie Bumblebee and, being a very flat colour, it is less impressive than the metallic look of Cliffjumper.
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Robot Mode:
I have to admit, when it was first announced that Alternity Bumblebee would be a Suzuki Swift, my curiosity was piqued... but when I first saw the grey prototype, I thought it looked terrible. Using the car's roof as the chest may have been a direct G1 reference, but it made the upper body look far too bulky; using the car's bonnet as a crotch-plate just made it look like Bumblebee was wearing a huge nappy; the arms were stubby and the legs were far too spidly compared to the rest of the body.

Of course, better photos of the finished product eventually emerged... but I still wasn't entirely impressed. The initial photos certainly seem to have been of a slightly mistransformed model, and taken from unflattering angles, but the end result is still a strange mixture of spindly legs, stubby arms, and an enormous upper body.

Still, it evokes Bumblebee very well, and as a homage to the Generation 1 character, it's very successful. I'm somewhat saddened by the use of a cartoon-styled face rather than an update of the toy's original visored appearance, but it suits the model quite well. There's even a kind of movie reference, in that the rear doors hang off his back as 'wings'.
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This is probably one of the most complicated and fiddly Alternity models to date, despite some fairly large parts that just hinge from front to back. The legs are incredibly fiddly - too stiff in some places, too loose in others - and the feet are very difficult to transform properly, let alone pose adequately. The knees are particularly awkward, but the lower thigh joint, used to collapse the leg for transformation, frequently bends more easily than the knee, and the rotation joint just above is particularly weak. By comparison, the hip joints are very stiff, and much of the hip's potential movement is hindered by the bonnet sitting on the groin.

In hand, Bumblebee is much more impressive than in any photos - the bulky upper body is still quite glaring, but works quite well, and the only real disappointments are the stubby arms. Still, he gains points by being the first Alternity model - and, in fact, the first non-movie Bumblebee - to come with any kind of handgun. Animated had his stingers, but they always struck me as melee weapons, rather than the blasters they were portrayed as in the TV series.

The oddest thing about the Suzuki Swift model is that its robot mode is actually marginally taller than Convoy or Megatron - the smallest Autobot from G1 has become larger than the leaders.

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