Friday, 22 April 2011

Beast Wars Reissue Rhinox

The thing about Beast Wars is that it was so very different from every other iteration of TransFormers that came before it. Here were the same old robots (well, some of them), but they changed into animals rather than vehicles or other mechanical things. Considering the amount of time and effort that went into explaining why the G1 robots turned into vehicles, etc (because their equipment could not identify organic life and so assumed that cars, planes cassette players... were the dominant form of life because they were so prevalent), it seems strange for a later continuity to contradict this. It'd take one hell of an accompanying storyline to fix this mess...

...Thankfully, that's just what Beast Wars got, courtesy of the awesome Mainframe Entertainment (creators of ReBoot). They explained that The Ark was experiencing technical difficulties when it sent out its probe to scan for life, and that these newer, smaller, more Energon-efficient 'bots could quite easily fabricate organic alternate modes which, as luck would have it, not only served as disguise against the indiginous life, but protected them from overload as a result of spending too much time around the raw Energon that had been seeded on their adoptive homeworld.

Still... Robots that turn into animals? It's a bit weird, innit?

Beast Mode:
Weird doesn't begin to describe Rhinox. Broadly speaking, he seems to have been based upon an Indian Rhinoceros... albeit one that looks like it might have had one facelift too many. One could rationalise this by saying it's not a Rhinoceros, its an ancestor of the Rhinoceros... but that's just making excuses.

This being the 2007 Takara reissue, rather than the plain and anaemic original, or even the lazily repainted reissue Hasbro put about in 2006, the colourscheme is fairly strongly based on the TV series. It's a light, desaturated brown with a darker wash bringing out the detail on the skin, with painted toenails, horns, eyes and even teeth and gums!

It is, let's face it, a bit of a brick. The four legs can be moved, but this phenomenon cannot be described as 'poseability'. All four feet must be flat to the ground to give this Rhino any kind of stability, meaning Ramhorn is still, technically, the most poseable TransFormers Rhino... What a thought!

The body is well molded, and looks pretty convincing (even if the proportions are off, making him far wider than he should be, this just makes him look more powerful), but is very much let down by a head that looks nothing like that of a Rhinoceros, and a fixed, open-mouthed expression that makes him look like he's actually dead, and his dessicated skin is pulling back around his mouth... Not a pleasant thought, but then some of the later Beast Wars figures actually had panels that would flip back to reveal massive injuries to the beast mode, so not impossible, either...

Robot Mode:
Erm. Well... One of the many problems with Beast Wars was that the toys actually seemed to reflect the idea of robots inside organic shells a little too well, and Rhinox is a prime example. He has massive panels of Rhinoceros hanging off his hips, shoulders and back. One of the other problems with Beast Wars was that it's robots, by and large, didn't really look like robots and, again, Rhinox serves as and excellent example. Back in the day, these could have been described as aliens that transformed into Earth-creatures, and no-one would have batted an eyelid... there's barely a single detail to suggest Rhinox is anything other than an armoured organic being in his 'robot mode'.

But, on the upside, this Takara reissue blows the Hasbro release out of the water all over again with its paintwork and colourscheme. Whereas the western release was basically an update on the original western model, and didn't stray too far from that colourscheme, the Japanese version tried to make the toy look as much like the CG animated version in terms of its colours and decoration. There's far more paintwork on this one's weapon than there was on the Hasbro version in its entirety and, while it's still not a completely accurate depiction of Rhinox from the TV series, it's the closest anyone's been with a real-world toy. The colourscheme remains quite muted, with the grey-brown Rhino skin supplemented with a fairly flat, light pea green (as opposed to the vibrant or acidic shades of the western version) and a decent application of gold down his front. On a more subtle note, the rings of studs/spikes on his lower legs are picked out in silver.

There are two oddities about the reissue: first and foremost is the misassembly of the arms. I've fixed mine but, straight out of the box, the shoulders and upper arms were on the wrong sides, so the shoulder screws were visible, as were the plastic-saving indentations on the molding of the upper arms. Similar indentations are impossible to disguise on the forearms, but taking the upper arm assembly apart and switching the sides makes for a far more presentable robot mode.

Second, I've no idea why the 'battle masks' were kept, rather than remolding the heads as they did with the upgraded reissues of Optimus Primal and Megatron. OK, obviously cost-saving was an issue... but the masks were never used - or even referred to - in the TV show, and Rhinox's 'shutters' are both unsightly and obstructive to his head movement.

Being, essentially, a shellformer, Rhinox can be a bit of a pain to transform. He's certainly not the worst (I think Mach Kick would win the award for Most Annoyingly Awkward Transformation), but getting everything into its proper place is a bit fiddly. What's particularly impressive in this one - and much of the Beast Wars line - is the way his weapons stow in Beast Mode. The saw blade plugs into the robot's back, the balls-on-chain plug into his 'skirt', the motorised saw body slots into his chest cavity (hidden behind the Rhino's lower jaw) and the sword becomes the Rhino's tail. Very neat.

Beast Wars in general is one of those lines that you either love or loathe. By and large, I'm not a huge fan, and only tended to get the outstanding(ly weird) models, more from the Japan-only lines than from the western mass-releases. In all honesty, I would have passed on most of the Beast Wars line - both the originals and the reissues - were it not for Mainframe's sterling work on crafting the accompanying fiction. Rhinox was such a brilliant character that I just had to get this version.

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