Sunday, 10 January 2016

TransFormers Animated (Takara Tomy) TA-33 Rodimus

I've not seen any of the episodes that Rodimus appeared in since season three of TransFormers Animated never made it over to the UK... But, then, neither did this toy. As a Toys'R'Us exclusive in the US, 'Rodimus Minor' wasn't even easy to come by over there. Weirdly, Takara Tomy's version became available via Amazon in the UK, though, and thereby made it onto my wish list...

...And, for the second Christmas in a row, my girlfriend's family have enabled by addiction to the plastic crack that is TransFormers very generously added to my TransFormers collection. Last year it was TransFormers Go! Hunter Shockwave, this year they bought me one TransFormers Go! figure and this, the last missing figure in my TransFormers Animated collection.

I wouldn't normally bother mentioning the packaging on what's essentially a mainstream release (albeit a foreign one in this case), but just had to remark on Takara Tomy's treatment of the TransFormers Animated packaging. It almost looks like a spinoff of the movie universe due to the red base colouring and the masthead using the old style font in the movie's metallic finish, rather than anything like the bold, angular logo used by Hasbro. The Japanese version of the TV show did get its own unique intro which used the same masthead, and it really didn't suit the look of the cartoon... But then, the packaging seems to put the emphasis on the toys rather than the animation, with only one small, partial image of cartoon Rodimus on the back of the card.

Vehicle Mode:
TransFormers Animated was known for its exaggerated, frequently boxy and very cartoonish vehicle designs, and its use of matte finish plastic for the toys. Takara Tomy's take on decorating the line flew in the face of the logic behind Hasbro's choice of plastic finish, and had everything coated in hyper-glossy metallic paint. While I'm not sure this look really suits the line generally, it looks incredible on Rodimus. It helps that the look of his vehicle mode isn't so rigidly TF Animated-looking that it couldn't be from any other continuity - an advantage that Hot Rod/Rodimus toys have had since the very first, with the only real exception being the Alternator/Kiss Players version, which ended up just not really looking like Hot Rod. This, for my money, strikes a perfect balance between being a uniquely TF Animated representation of the character, and paying homage to the G1 character.

The main paint colour, a faintly purplish metallic burgundy, looks positively opulent, to the point where it just doesn't matter that there aren't many other colours used. The headlights are picked out in gold, the central portion of the nose in back, while the flame pattern on the bonnet is gold cleanly and precisely outlined with flat orange paint. All the hubcaps are painted silver and, while the rear lights aren't highlighted in any way, a couple of patches at the back of the vehicle are picked out in silver. It's a real shame that his exhaust pipes weren't painted silver, but I guess that would have taken even Takara Tomy over their lavish budget. Just below the exhaust pipes on each side, a grey piece of robot mode is visible, continuing the exhaust pipes to the underside of the car. It's quite neat, but they don't line up properly with the three pipes on the top of the car, and the flat parts really should have been painted to match the shell of the car.

The rear of the vehicle - like a certain other Rodimus toy and also curiously similar to TF Prime Wheeljack - is completely open, leaving the robot's groin visible. This is probably the biggest let-down of the figure, since the vehicle mode, while not seamless, otherwise looks excellent, and all it would have needed was a extra flap - or the attachment of some kind of accessory - to make the back of the car look a bit more solid.

Rodimus' bow weapon can be mounted on the roof of the car, towards the rear and just in front of his spoiler. It's quite an odd look, almost as if the bow should have transformed out of the spoiler rather than being a separate piece. Like the spoiler, all of its plastic is unpainted and of the standard TF Animated matte finish so, while it's not a perfect match to the glossy metallic look of the car, it doesn't look too out of place - the gold plastic is the same as is used for the spoiler, and the burgundy has a slight pearlesence, so it's a decent match overall... just strange to see a dual-launching bow mounted on a car...

...And, yes, that's Rodimus' face you can see - very clearly - behind the windscreen.

Robot Mode:
While definitely in keeping with the TF Animated aesthetic, Rodimus has a unique appearance within the toyline. The upper body retains the bulky look of just about every toy in the line, but the legs are small and slender all the way down to the feet, rather than having the enormous knee-high, booted look of the others. He has a more traditional superhero/American Footballer silhouette, and remains the only official character (that is, not including the Collectors' Club's uses of the mold, such as BotCon 2011 Breakdown and G2 Sideswipe) designed this particular way.

That sporty impression extends to the distribution of colour, where his upper body is mostly the glossy burgundy with the flame pattern and an Autobot insignia on his 'jersey' (on the opposite side of a rotating panel which also features the exposed engine part from vehicle mode), while the forearms, groin and thighs are orange. The lower legs go back to being burgundy, but with a mixture of the glossy painted parts and the unpainted, pearlised plastic. The feet even look somewhat like trainers, or some kind of slip-on running shoe. The car panel stuck on the outside of his lower leg is a little unsightly, but it's a fairly small panel and I think we're all pretty much used to worse than this by now, so Rodimus can get away with it. As I observed in the vehicle mode write-up - and going by the character artwork - the grey parts on his thighs should have been coated in the metallic burgundy, at least where the molded exhaust pipes are not. Then again, the groin area (and the cuffs) should also have been the metallic red, so I guess the paint budget was used up elsewhere.

I'm not sure if this is a common problem, but I have a hard time getting the bow weapon into Rodimus's hands - they're molded open to accommodate the enclosed handle, but the combination of the precise shape and the two wrist joints makes it awkward. The hand and grip aren't molded in completely rigid plastic (likely to prevent the thumb breaking during insertion) but, pushing the bow into the hand, it does feel as though something is going to break. It also feels as though part of the problem is the size of the cuff, which sticks out a little way into the 5mm grip area, meaning the hand has to be rotated slightly to ensure the bow can be held straight. It's not the most elegant of weapons, but I guess it's a bit more interesting that Hot Rod's traditional handguns.

The head sculpt seems strangely devoid of expression for a Hot Rod/Rodimus figure - there's an enormous gap between his 'nose' and mouth, and the mouth is little more than a straight, horizontal line across his face. Coupled with some rather well-defined cheeks, he looks like a older, more mature sort of 'bot, which doesn't seem right considering he was released as Rodimus Minor as a Toys'R'Us exclusive in the US. The head appears to have been entirely coated in the metallic burgundy, then overpainted with orange on the crest and silver for the face, though a slight flaw in the burgundy on the central part of his crest suggests that the colour is a translucent overcoat on another kind of paint.

Transforming this figure is fairly simple and intuitive, though separating the legs from the windscreen can be troublesome as they clip together very securely. I was also surprised to find that the bonnet doesn't peg into place at the waist, which leaves it all a bit floppy unless - strangely - the collar is pegged fully into the inside of the windscreen. The rods on which the arms swing between vehicle mode and robot mode positions peg in tightly for the latter, but they do tend to feel like they might break before separating again. I like the way the wheels fold into the chest, and the rotating panel to disguise the engine and keep robot mode tidy. I did get a bit confused with the spoiler initially, since it's able to rotate on its connection. It doesn't need to for transformation, so I wonder if the joint is there as a precaution against breakage in certain circumstances.

For the most part, Rodimus is just as poseable as most other TF Animated figures, but there are a few glitches. First and foremost, his feet are on ball joints with cuts at the back to facilitate transformation. This would also facilitate posing were it not for the specific position the cuts were required to be in to allow the feet to peg in to the front of the car. Rather than being able to tilt the foot to balance an outstretched leg, it's forced to twist outward at an unnatural angle which prevents it from making good contact with the ground. The arms, too, are subject to some awkward limitations. In theory, the combination of joints sounds great: the shoulder has a hinge on the inside leading to a ball joint in a barrel hinge at the top of the arm; the elbow is technically double-jointed; the wrist is a combination of a hinge in the hand and a ball joint in the forearm. Sadly, these joints don't quite work together as well as they could - the car panels on the backs of Rodimus' forearms extent back far enough to prevent the ball joint part of the elbow from fully straightening his arm, and the hinged transformation joint behind it doesn't move far enough to remedy this. The hinged joint on the shoulder tends to be a little floppy and, while the ball joint has a reasonable range, the barrel part of the joint is still necessary to get the full range... but it's stiff enough that moving it feels like it will either dislodge the rod that the shoulder joint connects to, or possibly break the hinge on the ball joint. Similarly, the wrist joint is hindered in a lot of ways by the bulk of the forearm, so aiming his weapon in any particular direction can take a lot of figuring out.

Arcade Game Character Card:
Designed for use with the two TransFormers Animated arcade games produced by Sega - TF Animated: The Chase and TF Animated: The Shooting - these cards were apparently sold in packs as well as being included with some of the toys. As is common with this kind of card-based game upgrade, some cards were rarer than others. Weirdly, mine is labelled P-017, P being a prefix which doesn't even appear on the lists featured on (they're prefixed A for Autobot, D for Decepticon or M possibly for movie) and the link there to Sega's TransFormers card page doesn't seem to work anymore, so I'm not sure what makes my card so different... The lists give the reference numbers A-016 and M-018 for Rodimus/Rodimus Convoy. The front of the card shows Rodimus (looking very dark) along with his tech specs, while the back shows images of the cabinets and indecipherable screenshots for both games.

I found a YouTube video of someone playing The Chase, and the thing that struck me was than the game used the toys as the basis for its graphics, rather than the animations models from the TV show...

This is the only Takara Tomy TF Animated figure I own, so he really stands out on the shelf - as a Hot Rod toy should, I suppose. Despite the disparity in his finish versus all the US/European figures I picked up, he still feels like part of the line. The sheer gorgeous glossiness of it also does go some way toward compensating for the rather odd limitations on his articulation. One way or another, I'm very glad to have him in my collection!

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