Saturday, 23 April 2011

BTA-03 Broadblast

Binaltech may not have been the most well-regarded TransFormers line and, certainly by today's standards, it set its sights rather low in terms of complexity. Nevertheless, it lasted a good few years - from the 20th Anniversary in 2004, to the year after the first live-action movie in 2008, Binaltech models were released, although new molds became scarcer in the Japanese line, and a couple ended up only seeing release as Alternators. It successor, Alternity, didn't even manage half that lifetime.

The BT Asterisk subline was very shortlived, though, comprising only three models by the time it was cancelled, and really noteable only for providing a part die-cast version of Sunstreaker. The gimmick was that these were transforming robots who lived and worked alongside human partners - Red Alert was a police car operated by a female police officer, Sunstreaker was a racing car 'owned' by a race queen, and this one, Broadblast (aka Blaster) was a news van partnered with an investigative journalist. In several ways, it almost seems like the spiritual predecessor to Human Alliance...

Vehicle Mode:
The Toyota bB was not the most well-received mold in the Binaltech/Alternators line - it's ugly and boxy, and really doesn't seem to fit the assumed theme of Binaltech as contemporary performance cars. This is a people-mover. A family car. Almost a small caravan...

However, as a model, Broadblast looks pretty awesome. While it does, to a certain extent, fit the pattern of 'the fewer the seams, the more chunks of car will be hanging off the robot', it bucks the trend to some degree by being very well-planned. By and large, the seams are the existing car seams, rather than artificial mid-panel breaks that end up looking unsightly and detracting from the 'disguise' element of the model. At first glance, it's unlikely that anyone would realise that Broadblast is, in fact, a robot.

Still, it's one of the extremely unusual Binaltech models that (a) isn't based on a TransFormer who originally turned into a car and (b) doesn't follow the original character's colourscheme. At all. I mean, look at him - he's silver.

In many ways, the bB is one of the more successful Binaltech/Alternator models because it disguises its robot form so well. Open the doors, and all you see is seats. Open the bonnet and, yes, you see robot shoulders, but they could easily be genuine car parts around the VVT-i engine. It's only when you open the boot (and it is one of the best Binaltech boots, in terms of how well/how far it opens!) that you see, very clearly, robot feet occupying the rear of the vehicle.

One incredibly cool aspect of the BT Asterisk line is that the human figures are roughly to the same scale as the Human Alliance figures and, since the bB is one of the roomier models, you could probably fit a couple in, with a little effort. Lumina, meanwhile comes packaged with a couple of alternate arms (left and right empty-handed for holding the steering wheel, left hand with folder, right hand with camcorder) and legs for standing or sitting in the car. It's almost a shame that they're not articulated like the HA figures, but they are several years older... and molded in soft, rubbery plastic. She does come with a small extra piece of plastic which fits around one of her feet, allowing her to stand freely. The HA figures could have done with something similar...
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Robot Mode:
Despite the fact that the head mold is identical to that used in Skids, the first iteration of the bB mold, it makes a surprisingly fitting Blaster with the adjusted paintjob. It's not perfect... it would have been nice to have a proper visor but, by the end of the Binaltech line, Takara were deliberately molding heads for more than one use, to cut production costs. This one strikes an acceptable middle-ground between Blaster and the comics/cartoon version of Skids (the actual toy being much more angular).

More of Blaster's trademark red and yellow are visible, but this model is still predominantly silver in robot mode. Red turns up where it counts, but yellow - quite prominent on the G1 toy, because the cassette door is a great block of yellow on his chest - is reduced to a couple of accents on his shoulders.

The bB is probably one of the most poseable Binaltech models, if only because it more-or-less cheats the arms inside the car shell, but the legs are quite cleverly done, and well jointed. They are let down by the ankle ball-joints, which just aren't strong enough to hold a body with this much die-cast metal.

The way the roof and rear of the car fold in on themselves is both impressive and disappointing. Impressive because it collapses quite neatly. Disappointing because it still leaves the bB model with a huge hunchback of car bodywork. The biggest downside to this model, though, is the incredibly wimpy little gun he has. It's basically a small, flat panel representing the top of the engine, a handle, and a short nozzle... nothing like the enormous rifle that G1 Blaster wielded.
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Changing the bB from one form to the other is a bit of a mixed bag. Some parts are very easy and work well. The legs are simplicity itself, and even collapsing or expanding the roof of the car tends to be trouble-free. Getting the head to sit in place, though, or stowing the arms in vehicle mode, can be an absolute pest.

Despite the fact that the Toyota bB is an incredibly ugly vehicle, it has become one of my favourite molds because it's so adaptable. Not only can it adequately represent both Skinds and Blaster but, with a little work, it can be turned into a pretty darned good Soundwave or Soundblaster (I made one of the former myself). Something about that wide, almost rectangular bonnet fits the two characters who commanded their respective cassette teams.

Broadblast looks better in robot mode than in vehicle mode, but that's probably not saying much, so I will emphasise that it does look excellent in robot mode, and can almost give the impression of waist articulation, though it is completely fixed in place, thanks to excellent leg joints.

The Lumina figure is disappointing when compared to the Human Alliance figures but, for its time, and for its purpose, it works pretty well. And for such a small figure, she manages to be cute and quite expressive.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review. The mold (including the head) also makes a passable Ironhide or Ratchet.