Friday, 16 October 2015

Mastermind Creations Reformatted: R-08D Azalea (Stealth Assassin)

(Femme-Bot Friday #31)
You might think that, with three other iterations of this mold already in my possession, I wouldn't think it worth paying over the odds for a(nother) limited edition, event exclusive repaint of the Azalea mold... But then, dearest reader, you would reckon without the dangerous allure of the dark/evil repaint of a Fembot, not to mention my OCDs.

You'd also reckon without the amazing good fortune I had on eBay with this one...

By and large, I've been quite impressed with Mastermind Creations' boxes - they're a decent size, sturdy, and, in general, nicely printed. This one is no different except in one respect: the photographs on the back are rather poor quality versus those on their other Azalea-derivatives. It was tempting, when I first received this, to wonder if this is some kind of super-high-quality knockoff but, given that all the other elements of the box are spot-on, I suspect it's either just poor photography or sloppy design rather than crappy reproduction packaging. It lacks any of the spot varnishing that some of the other boxes have, but it retains the metallic print for her name on the sides and the front of the box - one side is plain silver the other and the front are a very dark, vaguely purplish colour.

There's a classy, mostly-monochrome comic running to five pages including the inside of the front flap which seems to relate somehow to the story included with the original Azalea. The manual includes exactly the same full colour comic as the other Azaleas, which is a bit of a disappointment. I'm not sure whether the shorter comic is a prequel or a follow-up, but it involves Azalea's pursuit of her Jhiaxus-analogue after a coating of stealth paint that somehow allows her to get close to him without being detected... or does it?

Of the two event exclusives, this one feels like the more interesting package. Sure, Asterisk may have all the bright colours, and a digitally painted action shot on the front of its smart slipcase, but this one has added story... if that is something you like with your exclusives. The quality of product shots on the back don't ruin it but, in terms of 'first glance' presentation, this does rank below most of the others.

Vehicle Mode:
Yep, it's the same old hovercraft-type-thing that surely I must be getting bored of by now... Honestly, though, it has started to grow on me. Certainly, this colourscheme helps immensely - it's definitely my favourite of the Azaleas - even Asterisk looks a bit bland compared to Stealth Assassin. What really works in this model's favour is that Mastermind Creations didn't go the easy and obvious route of a straight black repaint - it's all shades of grey and purple, with odd details painted in red and silver. 

Admittedly, this colourscheme doesn't appear very 'stealthy', but it suits the mold, and it's interesting to see how much more molded detail is visible when none of the plastic is white.

Robot Mode:
The impression that this is essentially Galva-zalea continues into robot mode, where one could be forgiven for thinking it's a true G1 Galvatron inspired repaint, were the grey parts not cast in so dark a shade of plastic. The legs, in particular, with their two shades of grey and red painted detail, remind me a lot of Galvatron's animation model, or Takara's Superlink Galvatron G.

The detailing with red paint is interesting as much for its appearance on this model as it is for its omission on the original Azalea. Just about all the slightly recessed line details have a coating of red, giving the impression of overloading power starting to glow through her chassis. It's especially effective on her 'abs' details, which would have looked pretty dull in plain grey.

The weapons included with this version are functionally identical to all the other Azaleas - two swords, now with metallic purple hilts and opaque orange blades (not even any shading on them) and two pistols, also painted metallic purple. Now that I have all the Azaleas, I do rather wish Mastermind Creations had been a bit more imaginative with their armaments... Surely a variant called 'Stealth Assassin' should have included a few additional or different weapons?

The colouration of her weapons rather reminds me of Galvatron Colour Lio Convoy, a 'Lucky Draw' version of BWII Lio Convoy, painted (loosely) in BWII Galvatron's colourscheme (hence the name!) of which only 50 were ever made.

Given the scary, crazy look of Azalea on the front of the box, the head sculpt is disappointingly familiar. Other than its colourscheme - grey plastic, silver face, yellow eyes - it's exactly the same head as the other Azaleas (and Zinnia). Not only did they not resculpt the face into the terrifying expression of the CGI image, they left her with the bare minimum of paint on the face... I know this isn't a Nemesis repaint, as such, but I do feel that she deserved to have her lips painted a different colour.

While any discussion of transformation and articulation is, by now, entirely superfluous, there are some things unique to this purchase which I feel are worth bringing up. Most importantly, this thing - being a limited edition - regularly turns up on eBay for about £120-£150 ($180-$230). You won't often see more than a couple at any one time, but they're around. Whether you think a limited edition repaint like this is worth the price hike, when something as glorious as Salvia Prominon can be obtained for about half that, is entirely a personal choice. Personally, as hinted above, I was very fortunate. I found this on eBay as an auction, rather than a 'Buy It Now'. There was no reserve, and the starting price was ridiculously low. That's where it got interesting... because if you consider it perfectly acceptable to pay up to £150/$230, you would be very surprised by two aspects of the price I paid. First, that my winning bid was ridiculously low - below £30, in fact. Second, that a figure routinely sold for five (or more) times that amount could possibly be obtained at auction for so paltry a sum because, surely, someone else should have been prepared to pay at least the £50-odd that the basic, original Azalea sells for. This is a fine example of how stupid the secondary market tends to be when it comes to niche collectables: eventually, a thing is only worth as much as some mug is willing to pay for it... and Azalea Stealth Assassin clearly ain't as interesting as some folks perceive her to be.

The other unique factor in this purchase - which ties in with my suspicions about the quality of the packaging - is that this figure was slightly misassembled. When I first got her out of the box, one of her legs was misaligned at the right knee, so she wouldn't transform properly. I'm normally loathe to try to fix third party figures because they can be tricky to work with and very expensive to replace if it goes wrong. What with this one being so damned cheap, part of me felt the assembly error was further evidence that I'd been fleeced into buying a knockoff, so I pulled out my toolkit and pushed out the lower knee pin, just to see what was actually wrong and what, if anything, could be done to fix her.

As it turned out, the pin had simply been pushed through a solid plastic part of the knee joint - the piece wasn't properly aligned with the leg was assembled. The knee joint had three holes in it: one for the upper pin, one for the lower pin, and one that shouldn't have been there. It was easy enough the properly align the joint and push the pin back through the correct hole and, since then, she's been perfect. One of the ankle joints is a bit loose, but that kind of thing happens whenever a mold is repeatedly reused. I think it's a shame when it happens on a limited edition... but then I remember I payed about half it's original asking price, let alone the secondary market premium, and it no longer bothers me in the least.

So, ultimately, the only disappointing feature of this model is that Mastermind Creations didn't give her a unique, crazy-screamin' head sculpt to match the CGI image on the front of the box. Other than that, it's the same, excellent model... though, for some, that would be the problem in a nutshell.

Since other iterations of this mold are more easily (not to mention far more cheaply) available than Stealth Assassin's usual asking price, I would urge anyone interested in Mastermind Creations' Azalea mold to pick up Azalea, Zinnia, Salvia Prominion or even Eupatorium. The two event exclusives are cool, and all... but probably not really worth the secondary market prices. Since I now own both exclusives, I can tell myself I payed below the odds for both (£190 ÷ 2 = £95 each)... but I got extremely (not to say unbelievably) lucky!

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