Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Energon Arcee

I have a confession to make: I have something of an obsession with biker femme-bots, and Energon Arcee/Superlink Ariel was the beginning of it all. While I can't ride motorbikes myself, I do find myself admiring them in passing but, historically, they didn't work well as alternate modes for TransFormers. G1 Protectobot Groove, G2 Laser Cycles, Beast Machines Thrust, etc. all tended to have a bias toward making a decent bike at the expense of being a believable robot in disguise.

That all changed with Energon/Superlink, where the only unique Omnicon, Arcee/Ariel, proved that one could have aesthetically pleasing and well-proportioned motorcycle which transformed into an aesthetically pleasing and well-proportioned robot... providing it was a femme-bot.

Vehicle Mode:
All things considered, I've never really understood Hasbro/Takara's fixation with turning Arcee - presented as a slender fem-bot in the animated movie - into a car. Nothing about her sleek curves suggested the vehicle she transformed into, though I can't say she looked like a motorbike either. This has led to numerous attempts by third parties to recreate the look of the robot while creating a viable alternate mode, so it's nice to see that Hasbro/Takara took a completely different tack with the Energon/Superlink line.

At first glance, Arcee seems like such a well-designed and sensibly-proportioned motorcycle, it's difficult to see where the robot comes from. There are odd little giveaways here and there (not least the rather awkward, angular piece jutting out from the fuel tank) but, for the most part, vehicle mode comes together in an almost seamless fashion.

Where G1 Arcee was literally just pink and white, the Energon version throws some black and metallic blue into the mix. The metallic pink used on the spokes and that piece jutting out of the fuel tank are almost brick red, so that presents a nice contrast with the light, flat pink used elsewhere. The transparent pink plastic used for the windscreen and the energon weapons is likewise not exactly pink - it's actually fairly orange - ensuring it stands out well against the rest of the model. Considering the extent of the paintwork - no large areas, really, but strategic blocks and lines - it's a shame that the exhaust pipes aren't painted, as they're pretty much lost in the white plastic. Grey plastic is used in the mountings for both wheels, probably representing bare metal...

Arcee's energon weapons attach almost like panniers or side-cars, giving her a spring-loaded missile launcher on one side and enlarged exhaust pipes on both. Having the weapons fitted is the only way to get Arcee standing on her own in vehicle mode, as it's rather too small to have a functional kickstand. and the long peg on the lefthand side isn't quite long enough to serve that purpose. It does double as a Mini-Con port, making her - I think - the only Omnicon to have Mini-Con ports anywhere other than on their weapon. Each half of the weapon features a Mini-Con plug, giving them means of connecting to other robots in addition to the standard 5mm pegs.

Robot Mode:
One of the big drawbacks of a motorbike as an alternate form is that they're not very wide and, unlike cars, aren't even vaguely symmetrical from front to back - literally all they have in common is a single wheel. This means, almost without exception, that legs and arms have to be stuffed somewhere in the middle. This invariably bulks up the bike, making it look unwieldy and potentially unridable. More recent models, like TF: Animated Prowl and Reveal the Shield Wreck-Gar, have come up with very creative ways to turn a robot into a bike by doing away with all ideas of symmetry in transformation and/or robot mode. Arial is completely symmetrical in both modes, and still manages to look pretty awesome for her size.

Naturally, the colour scheme remains unchanged, but more of the light pink is visible, because the majority of her head is painted that colour. Her face is silver, with her eyes picked out in blue. All things considered, compared to more recent models, Energon Arcee seems positively awash with painted colour.

While there's not a great deal of molded detail on this model, what's there is very clearly feminine... or, at least, stereotypically feminine. The odd protrusion from the fuel tank becomes Arcee's chest (thankfully avoiding the temptation to have two separately molded robo-boobs), and the sides of the bike become her shapely legs. Her feet are molded in two parts - the unfeasibly long stiletto heel, and the pointed toe - and they never seem to line up in a way that constitutes a stable 'foot' unless both legs are straight and, annoyingly, angled backward. From the sides, it almost looks as if she's mid-crouch.

The head sculpt is probably the best Omnicon head ever molded - it's not a perfect representation of G1 Arcee - nor should it be - but there are certainly plenty of design cues present. I'm particularly fond of crest on the back of her head, which is almost like a pony-tail of sorts - despite her having very much a helmet-head, it manages to appear feminine, and not just because of the colour. There's even a fair bit of detail - subtle panel-lining - on the face.

Her energon star is a very tight fit to the port on her torso, and I've read dire warnings elsewhere that caution must be taken in removing the star - twisting too much can break the body. I've noticed the tube part around her spark crystal seems to rotate slightly counterclockwise, so that could be a warning sign.

In robot mode, her energon weapon parts combine to form a bow, described simply as an 'energon bow'. It can be attached to either arm, but only really works when attached to the left, since otherwise the sight is at the bottom rather than in line with her head. The two halves can also be attached to her lower legs, much as they are in vehicle mode... this looks pretty cool, though I'm not sure how much use it would really be...

Arcee's transformation is quite innovative, with her legs flipping round and folding back on themselves to form the bulk of the bike behind the robot's back, and the arms snapping together to form the seat and the exhaust pipes. The front wheel doesn't quite fold into her back far enough and so the bike's windscreen hangs between her legs like an enormous peacock fan of a tail, but the way the rear wheel splits between the shoulders looks pretty cool.

Some of the bike parts do get in the way of her movement. In particular, it's very difficult to get her standing straight. Dynamic poses are, in some respects, easier to achieve... but the windscreen makes posing the legs rather tricky, and the stiletto-heeled feet aren't exactly conducive to stability. The arms could be better but, given their construction, the compromises made to poseability aren't desperately bad. Her shoulders are on ball joints, but their movement is limited both by their bulk and their proximity to the rear wheel halves. The elbows only bend inward but the hands - such as they are - are on ball joints, giving them a greater range of motion. It's not quite possible to get her into decent 'cheesecake' poses due to the way the arms bend and the way the windscreen gets in the way of basically everything, but experimentation with her limbs can produce some impressive results.

When I said I have an obsession with biker femme-bots, I wasn't kidding. To this day, I own four different versions of this mold alone (this one, Superlink Ariel Paradron Type, and the movie-repaint Scouts Arcee and Elita-1), though I'm still hoping to get my hands on Botcon 2005's Chromia, Flareup and Flamewar, and might consider picking up the Japanese Ariel, just because of the colour difference. Then I've got two versions of the first TransFormers movie Deluxe Arcee (the standard UK mass release and the Japanese one with the G1 colourscheme), and am still hoping to find the black repaint to satisfy two counts of OCD ('Must Own All The Biker Femme-Bots' and 'Black Repaints Shall Be Mine'). I even picked up all three Revenge of the Fallen 'Wheelsnakes', despite Elita-1 being a repaint of Chromia rather than the unique mold Hasbro hinted at. I have both the mass release and the First Edition of TF: Prime Arcee, and I'm hoping to get the Beast Hunters version. Then, of course, there are the Perfect Effect Motobots, which look pretty awesome...

This model, by comparison to newer biker femme-bots, is pretty basic... but, for the time, for her size, and as a template, Energon Arcee/Superlink Ariel is awesome. The few flaws in execution are understandable given the size, and the overall model is both an excellent homage to G1, and a brilliant first step into the future of transforming motorcycle babes. Strange that, Reveal the Shield Wreck-Gar aside, most of the masculine biker bots are still pretty disappointing...

"Hey, meatbag, when you're done admiring my fine chassis, my optics are up here..."

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