Tuesday, 19 May 2015

AM12 Arms Micron (TFPrime) War Breakdown

I don't mind saying that getting hold of this was rather more complicated than it needed to be. It started out easy enough - I simply found him available via Amazon's Marketplace - but, once ordered, he failed to arrive within the estimated deliver date range, so I had to get in touch with the seller and ask them to try again. They couldn't have been more helpful, to be honest, first of all offering to send a near-mint replacement, then tracking down a factory-sealed replacement within a week. They also sent the replacement with tracking, and he arrived very quickly.

But all of that would have been unnecessary if Hasbro had chosen to distribute him at all.

I'll also admit that my write up will be neither as concise nor as eloquent as the video review by Thew Adams, which convinced me I couldn't pass this one up in the first place, but that's not going to be a surprise to anyone.

Anyway, Breakdown - voiced by the perpetually gruff Adam Baldwin the the TV show - is Bulkhead's nemesis. An equally big bruiser-type, with a similar style of alternate mode and a similar preference for melee weapons. Hasbro apparently felt the model wasn't cost-effective, and so declined to release the Voyager version at all. Thankfully, Takara Tomy had no such issues...

Vehicle Mode:
To be honest, this thing kind of reminds me of a very large scale G1 Mini Autobot - it has very Choro-Q/Penny Racer-style proportions. Then again, it's clearly an armoured car of some kind - I might even suggest a SWAT van were it not for the spare tyre mounted on the rear. While it rides quite high on its large tyres, some of the robot parts - notably the kneecaps - reduce its ground clearance considerably, almost scraping the ground.

Aside from sheer size and bulk, the main hint that Breakdown means business is that he has a grand total of 12 Micron sockets and two Micron pegs placed strategically around his vehicle mode, as well as a single, solitary C-clip point, despite the fact that TF Prime toys never included any C-clip accessories. Since Micron sockets/pegs are standard 5mm ports/pegs, the designers were actively encouraging owners of this toy to steal Microns and weapons from other TransFormers toys - and continuities - to turn Breakdown into the most fully-tooled-up Decepticon since Armada Unicron.

While the windscreen and cab windows are molded in translucent grey plastic, all the other windows are filled in with stickers. This is one of the most noticeable oddities about this model: some parts are painted - the front bumper and grille, the wing mirrors, and much of the cab section, since it's molded in translucent grey - but the bulk of vehicle mode is unpainted blue plastic and, even with a fair amount of molded detail, it looks rather plain without the stickers...

...And they are a real bone of contention. In this mode, they went on and seemed to stay on fairly well, but most of them aren't very complicated - headlights and indicators up front, Decepticon insignias and coloured stripes on the sides, windows dotted about. The coloured stripes are technically superfluous, as they don't appear on the character's CGI in the TV show, but the most bizarre choice of sticker detail is the entire rear bumper which, with all its angles, seems pretty perilous... and yet, strangely, that one oddly-shaped sticker has suffered from the least peeling as far as I can see.

Breakdown's Micron can be attached to any of the sockets or pegs but, since it's a melee weapon, it ain't much use to him in vehicle mode.

Robot Mode:
The moment you see Breakdown in robot mode, you know he means business. While Bulkhead basically looks obese, Breakdown looks like a bodybuilder, with a high, broad, heavy chest, gorilla-like arms and beefy legs. Curious, then, and entirely contrary to the TV show, that he stands a little shorter than Bulkhead... At least versus the First Edition version.

Being a Takara Tomy figure, there's a surprising dearth of paintwork but, as with all the Arms Micron figures, that's intended to be supplemented by the stickers... and most of Breakdown's robot mode stickers are an absolute pain to apply. His kneecaps, for example, are made up of four stickers each, probably due to the way they curve. However, the purple bands over his feet and the silver panels on his inner shins are single pieces. The former have stayed put fairly well... the latter have not. Before the stickers are applied, he does look rather plain, but robot mode does introduce two shades of grey paint and plastic, as well as - oddly - using the translucent grey plastic on his waist. There's an interesting bit of detail molded inside Breakdown's torso, using this translucent plastic - somewhat foreshadowing the character's grizzly fate at the hands of MECH, but I guess it's supposed to be his spark chamber. If that's the case, it's a bit of a shame there wasn't a sticker for that... and it does seem strange to have that much detail on a part that's really not meant to be seen.

I have to admit that I find the forearms rather untidy, but grudgingly concede that they way they're built is a very effective element of his transformation. If only something could have been done about the part of the vehicle door that sits just outside Breakdown's hands...

His Arms Micron, Zamu, works as Breakdown's hammer and can be held in either hand, mounted on the wrist just behind the hand or, thanks to clever design, his hand can be flipped back into his forearm to allow the hammer to be wielded as it is in the TV show - transformed out of his wrist. While this method is cool and authentic, it doesn't look as good as it could because the mounting is obviously just the vehicle mode's windscreen and roof, with a noticeable gap before the forearm proper.

On this version, the head sculpt is of Breakdown when he was first introduced, before his first run-in with MECH. He has a fairly neutral expression, but it's a good, clean head sculpt with all the necessary detail and a sharp paint job, in silver, blue and red. It lacks light piping, but the construction of the head would have made its inclusion rather tricky, and the eyes are so small it probably just wasn't worthwhile, especially because the only translucent plastic on this figure is dark grey.

Some aspects of Breakdown's transformation are simplicity itself, but getting the arms into their vehicle mode position is, frankly, quite terrifying the first time - they just don't seem to bend the way the instructions portray, and it feels as though the pressure required to force them is likely to break the joint. Some aspects are quite ingenious, but most of it is fairly simple, logical and straightforward. He does have parts that seem awfully hollow in robot mode, and there is a huge amount of vehicle shell simply folded up onto his back. My only real gripe, though, is that his backpack doesn't peg securely into place: it doesn't flop about, but it is rather wobbly

For such a bulky figure, Breakdown is very poseable and, for the most part, his vehicle parts don't tend to get in the way. His shoulders are very well serviced by large, sturdy ball joints and, despite the spikes sticking in toward Breakdown's body, they don't cause any obstruction. The elbows don't have great range (less than 90°), and the vehicle parts around the elbow will hinder the bicep swivel if the elbow is anything other than dead straight, but it's easy enough to work around that. The legs have average articulation - ball jointed hips with thigh swivel, pinned knees, a small amount of forward/backward ankle tilt due to transformation - and the feet offer decent stability. He's also one of a very few TF Prime figures with decent waist articulation, though that's entirely down to transformation. The head is mounted on a ball joint, and is on quite a high neck... but it's still very limited by the collar pieces either side. Unlike most ball-jointed necks, Breakdown's allows him to look straight upward, giving the impression he's meant to stand with a slight (or not-so-slight) forward lean.

Arms Micron Zamu:
Arms Microns are kind of a natural development from G1 Soundwave's cassette minions as much as they are from the Microns/Mini-Cons of the Unicron Trilogy, and Zamu exemplifies this well - he's a cute, dinky robo-rhino who turns into a close approximation of Breakdown's melee weapon, a honking great hammer. Like most Arms Microns, there's not a great deal to him as far as articulation goes - everything is there for transformation - but he wasn't as frustrating a build as some have been. The stickers add some colour to the pale grey plastic, but they don't really suit the model and take it further away from its resemblance to Breakdown's hammer rather than adding to it. The sticker that runs around his waist is a prime example of why stickers were a terrible idea in the first place. Getting it on was easy enough... but the very next time I looked at Zamu, the sticker had unrolled completely, and was sitting balanced on his back, almost perfectly straight, like a pair of very thin wings.

One thing that puzzles me is that the Igu Micron that comes packaged with Takara Tomy's Vehicons (both varieties, I gather, but I only own the Jet version) serves exceptionally well as Breakdown's shoulder-mounted cannon (except inasmuch as the only socket it really works in - due to its size - is on the wrong shoulder) and might have been a better choice to include, with the hammer being separate and non-transforming, like First Edition Bulkhead's wrecking ball. That said, perhaps that's what Hasbro would have done had they considered releasing Breakdown worthwhile.

All things considered, I think the designers did a fantastic job with Breakdown, with some very clever - if fiddly - elements of transformation and better than average accuracy to the CGI from the TV show. Breakdown is, appropriately enough, on a par with First Edition Bulkhead, though somehow manages to be slightly smaller, both in terms of height and bulk, which is a little disappointing. The included Arms Micron is certainly not one of the best, and the stickers are downright irritating (let's hope Takara Tomy have got through their 'return to stickers' phase, at least until they find a more reliably glue), but War Breakdown is definitely worth tracking down and, if you can accept Third Party prices, the cost of importing this toy shouldn't be too shocking.

What's quite galling about Hasbro's decision not to release Breakdown in any of their territories is that Japan has had (to date) three iterations of the mold - this one, Silas/CyLAS Breakdown and (bizarrely) Swerve - and now the TransFormers Collectors' club are using him in this year's BotCon set as a hybrid 'movie' Megatron. Their marketing 'strategy' continues to confound the fans, when we get two version of Cliffjumper - who died in the very first episode of the TV show - several billion repaints and remolds of Bumblebee... and yet Breakdown is unlikely to see any form of mainstream release outside of Japan.

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