Sunday, 27 March 2016

AM06 Arms Micron (TF Prime) Skywarp

Hasbro have really been dropping the ball of late. Ever since the first live action TransFormers movie, they've had an alarming habit of releasing a Starscream, and then either Skywarp or Thundercracker, with the missing Seeker becoming some hard-to-find exclusive, frequently from Takara Tomy only. While they have begun to correct this baffling omission (releasing all three as Leader class figures in Combiner Wars based on Generations Jetfire), they declined to create any repaints of the Voyager class Starscream from TF Prime, and only released alternative versions of Starscream using the First Edition mold, rather than repainting into other characters.

Thankfully, then, Takara Tomy were not afflicted with the same unreason, and happily produced the appropriate repaints of the FE figure as part of their Arms Micron take on the TF Prime line (albeit with one as a retail chain exclusive). Since buying these invariably means importing - with the additional expense that implies - I ended up getting Skywarp on the cheap, second hand, via eBay... Which may not have been the best plan...

Vehicle Mode:
Since I've already gushed about the FE Starscream mold, what I'll focus on with this one is the colourscheme - which is Skywarp's mostly traditional black, silver and purple - and the Arms Micron features tagged on. Just about any TransFormers figure can look classy as a black repaint, but a good Skywarp has to take full advantage of the mold.

This version is a mixed bag because, like other Arms Micron figures, the actual paintwork has been cut back and replaced with a sheet of chrome plastic stickers. I've had peeling issues with most of the AM figures I've bought, to a varying extent, so one of the things I was dubious about on this second hand figure, was the placement/adhesion of the stickers, having already been applied. Most have fared well, but a couple show signs of persistent peeling and one or two were inaccurately applied. One oddity in the stickers is that some of the new details are red - the tailfin and stabiliser wings all feature small amounts of metallic red linework, which seems more appropriate to Starscream or Thundercracker. That's not to say they don't look good, or that I object to colours other than black, silver and purple on Skywarp, just that it seems an odd choice given that the it's red ink applied to silver foil, and could just as easily have been purple. Still, the black plastic is a good, solid, glossy black, while the purple is warmer than the usual Skywarp purple, and cast in a matte plastic.

The only physical addition to the mold versus the FE release is the pair of bomb-like Arms Micron connector pods on the wings. Each one features three 5mm sockets - one on top, just behind the wing, the other two on the underside of the pod - and one 5mm peg at the back. These are attached over the area where the missile racks attached on the FE Starscream mold, and are where, more than a month after buying him, I discovered the 'caveat emptor' element of my purchase: it appears that the former owner attempted to lever one of the pods off its wing, and then hastily superglued it back. Weirdly, the first thing I noticed was the rather sloppy application of superglue (which has left a couple of fogged patches on the underside of the wing), and only afterward saw the slightly mangled grey plastic toward the front of the pod. I presume the former owner wanted to know whether or not the standard missile connector was still under there, but to what end, I know not... Still, the damage isn't terrible and doesn't harm my enjoyment of the figure.

What I don't quite understand about these additions is that Skywarp wasn't then packaged with an Arms Micron that could actually make good use of any of those ports - none of Balu's modes fit the idea of partnership with a jet, let alone being mounted either over or under his wings. Plugging in over the nose I could almost understand, but that would require more significant modification of the base mold.

Robot Mode:
What can I say, other than how much I love the balance of black and purple plastic in this figure? It may not entirely fit the traditional pattern for Skywarp, but it fits the mold perfectly and, considering the number of times some fans get upset when a version of Skywarp has grey or silver thighs rather than the traditional black, I'd imagine that the balance of colour here is appreciated by most.

As with all Arms Micron figures, there's not a huge variety of paintwork on this figure - just the chestplate, the cockpit and the groin area were painted, as stickers just wouldn't have worked for the finer details or the large curved surfaces. What's there may be minimal, but it's to the toy's benefit, and as far as the stickers go, while few and far between, the small amount of colour they add is perfectly sufficient.

If Balu seemed like a daft partner for Skywarp in jet mode, he's not a massive improvement in robot mode, largely because there's no real way for Skywarp to effectively wield him. The stabiliser wings can fold back out of their weapon mounting position to free up the 5mm socket in the forearm, but they remain as an obstacle to positioning Balu usefully in his drill mode. His throwing star/shield form disguises the problem quite effectively, but even that isn't ideal and, to be honest none of the gun-type Microns would have been a better fit to this mounting point.

The head sculpt is the exactly the same as on FE Starscream, with the same smirk and even mostly the same colour placement, only he has metallic purple paint rather than plain bluish-grey.

Arms Micron: Balu
I'm really not sure what to make of some Arms Microns. Whereas the old-style Mini-Cons mostly had diminutive vehicle modes of their own, these turn into weapons... and I don't know that the combination of drill and throwing star would be especially effective in the best of hands.

Also, the 'robot' mode is pretty bizarre, looking like a cross between a moose and a bull, but with heavily armoured legs... that wouldn't move very well because each one is a quarter of the drillbit.

Being molded entirely in grey plastic, the stickers do a lot to improve Balu's look, but the 'horn' stickers only cover the fronts of his horns, and even them not completely. Disappointingly, no sticker was included for his solitary eye.

Every so often, the designers at Hasbro/Takara Tomy come up with a new toy design that's so good, it deserves as many repaints as they can think up, and the FE Starscream mold is one such design. Considering I have been perfectly happy to shell out for three iterations of this mold as Starscream - and having already bought the Voyager class version - I jumped at the chance to own official TF Prime versions of both Skywarp and Thundercracker and haven't been disappointed with either. The choice of Arms Micron is a little bonkers considering what's available in the way of gun-type Microns, but then the whole idea of packaging Arms Microns with TF Prime figures is strange enough.

It is worth noting, however, that the wing-mounted pods, while not restricting the movement of his limbs, do somewhat limit the positioning of his wings as they occupy what was a fair bit of space between the wings and the split tailfin on his back... and it's not as if that space and be recovered by leaving the tailfin in one piece, because it faces into his body. It wouldn't be so bad if the Micron included could be mounted as a wing-based weapon of some kind, or if there were other plug-in accessories included. As it stands, turning the FE Starscream mold into an Arms Micron figure by adding ports unnecessarily has had a slightly detrimental effect on the figure... but only slightly.

I can imagine I'll have to replace some, if not all of the stickers at some point in the future, but the peeling on this has been minimal compared to my Thundercracker or War Breakdown. I really wish Hasbro would be a bit more consistent in repainting characters like Starcream as, once made, each mold is basically an opportunity to get more money out of those of us with the Seeker OCD. Hell, they could re-release FE Starscream in his G1 colours, and I'd probably buy it... Skywarp and Thundercracker are no-brainers, and yet collectors like me have to get them either on import or on the secondary market.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting take on old SKywarp this one. I bought him, but the smirk was too much Starscream and I ended up selling him. I just kept seeing him as a purple Starscream, and not Skywarp.

    His promotional pictures had the micron mounted on his back as a shuriken and I thought it looked cool as it reminded me of Fuujin and Raijin and other eastern god effigies, but in reality it looked a bit naff. The lack of depth perception given by the photo, was deceptive.
    AS much as I like applying stickers, the long one of Warpy's wings are hard to get straight, and Breakdown's 42 stickers were a nightmare to put on!
    Oh Arms Micron, how you baffle me so. I should like it, but it's just 'OK' Definitely a bit of a strange choice. Glad you like him though