Tuesday, 23 July 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2009 (Timelines) Banzai-Tron

I have to confess that the whole Action Master phenomenon passed me by completely. I'm not even sure they made it over to the UK, though I wasn't really looking for TransFormers by that point. The idea was that certain Cybertronians lost the ability to transform through use an a new kind of fuel - probably the weirdest, not to mention (oxy)moronic decision in the entire history of the TransFormers toyline - and thus equipped themselves with transforming partners of one kind or another - in the case of Banzai-Tron, a kind of TargetMaster who was a robotic crab.

This Timelines homage to the Action Master was an attendee extra figure for BotCon 2009's 'Wings of Honor' storyline, packaged with Skyquake, and uses the Superlink Shockfleet/Energon Mirage mold, even though the original toy showed no boat-like elements.

Vehicle Mode:
Obviously the original Banzai-Tron, being an Action Master, had no alternate mode at all, so this Botcon figure is a massive improvement already. Shockfleet seems to have been able to travel through space just as easily has he did over water, which I guess makes him a pretty awesome kind of boat.

The colour scheme may seem a bit weird, but it's no stranger than that of Shockfleet, and it's a good match for the Action Master's colours, albeit with vastly more purple visible in this mode. Were it not for the purple, however, Banzai-Tron would be almost uniformly grey, with only a few small orange and green highlights toward the rear of the boat. One cute addition to the paint job is the tampographed lettering on each side of the hull. It translates as Banzai-Tron's motto, "To the victor go the profits", but there's been a bit of a cock-up as it's written in 'ancient Autobot script' (going by the TF Wiki page about Cybertronian language) rather than the commonly acknowledged Decepticon lettering.

Naturally, this being a BotCon figure, the electronics of the original toy have been removed and, in case there was any doubt, the battery compartment has been glued shut. Mine also had a broken connection on one of the fore missile pods, so I ended up gluing it. It now has a tendency to sag, but I think that's more to do with the spring inside, rather than the mounting.
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Robot Mode:
Banzai-Tron looks no less Gundam-influenced in this colour scheme, though it's surprising how good the head sculpt looks. The Action Master had rather a curious head, with quite a defined crest. This model's crests aren't exactly similar, but are just about reminiscent enough to be suitable.

Much more colour is visible in this mode - he strikes a better balance between the purple and the grey, and the green highlights on the head, chest and wrists are supplemented by bands of green running down the shins. Not quite sure why they went that route, rather than painting around his knees, but it works pretty well. Touches of orange also appear on his legs, fitting to the model rather than randomly painting areas lower down to match the Action Master. There are also, somewhat oddly, touches of red on his hips... not quite sure what they're about, but more colour can never be a bad thing.

It's rather sad that no TargetMaster partner was added for BotCon but, at the time, there weren't any molds that would have worked... and, in fact, the closest equivalents or analogues for Razor Sharp would be the Japanese TF: Prime Arms Microns Gabu (a sort-of-crab/sort-of-ray that turns into part of a sword) or Zori (a scorpion that turns into a staff weapon). On the upside, all four of the spring-loaded missile launchers are still spring-loaded.
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Something I didn't note in the write-up of Shockfleet was the amount of twisting and turning and overlapping involved in the transformation. The massive panels of boat hull - and the arms they're mounted on - are certainly the main cause the problems. It's not exactly complicated... and the need to accommodate electronics in the Superlink/Energon original meant that large chunks of the boat couldn't be transformed into anything but backpack. It's not the worst example of Superlink/Energon design, but it's not the best.

I've read that this mold was prone to extremely stiff joints - particularly the knees - but I've had no trouble with either iteration that I own. It's very well articulated, but the feet don't do a very good job of counteracting the model's back-heaviness, so those large panels of boat hull, while unsightly in robot mode, are invaluable for creating dramatic poses.

Despite its problems, this is one of my favourite molds from Superlink/Energon. In fact, larking about with this model while writing, I've developed a strange hankering to track down the Energon-specific repaint, Dreadwing. As an update of an Action Master, this Club exclusive turns a quirky, fun toy into a huge improvement on the so-called action figure that inspired it. What's the point of a non-transforming TransFormer? Well, if they can inspire the likes of this, they've served some useful purpose! By and large, Wings of Honor was of little interest to me... but this optional extra from the show was a must-have.

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