Friday, 9 September 2016

Robots in Disguise (2015) Windblade

(Femme-Bot Friday #40)
It comes to something when a toyline includes a homage to a toy/character that only came out one year ago... But then, Windblade isn't just another toy, she's quite a significant entry into TransFormers mythology for several reasons. First and foremost, she was the inaugural Fan-Built Bot, created from a series of online polls (an exercise which seems to have clued Hasbro in to the idea that TransFormers fans have been clamouring for more Femme-Bots, where the myriad Third Party releases did not). Secondly, she was introduced with a 4-part miniseries of comics from IDW, - written by Mairghread Scott and illustrated by Sarah Stone - in which her pivotal role in the upcoming stories (and, by extension, the toyline) was introduced.

I'm still not intending to collect the new Robots in Disguise range - I'm not a great fan of the angular aesthetic, most of the toys seem terribly simplistic and I've read reports of light and flimsy construction on some toys - but there are a few which are just no-brainers... or, at least, which should be...

Vehicle Mode:
While I feel there was something curiously retro about Generations/Legends Windblade's jet mode, this version is all sleek and futuristic... but it's also bulkier and more simplistic. The back end looks smoother and more angular, with an additional piece that sits over the gap between her folded-up legs to give her a more complete, coherent look. The small rear wings which, on the original, were connected to the main wings, are now attached to this separate covering piece, and at an upward angle, along with a pair of wide stabiliser wings right at the back. One significant omission at the back is any sign of what propels her - the original had afterburners, this version has blank, angular surfaces that lead down to the points of her robot feet... which seem to serve as her rear landing gear. On the upside, and like the original, she has a proper (albeit non-rolling) landing wheel which deploys from the nose of the jet.

As an alternative to the already questionable built-in landing gear, Windblade's scabbard has been altered slightly from the Generations/Legends original, giving it a landing foot at the tip. The way it connects has been adjusted slightly, with the 5mm peg at the tip replaced by a grooved peg closer to the sword's hilt, which slots in between the legs rather than into the back of the pelvis. The downside to this is that it relies on the alignment of the legs, so getting it to lie straight beneath her body is quite tricky.

While it's easy enough to ignore the robot's shoulder pads from the front, it's not so easy to ignore her forearms and hands, which just lie back under her wings and peg into her thighs. Part of the problem is that no attempt has been made to disguise them (the smaller wings served that function on the original, as her hands held onto pegs on their undersides), part of the problem is that she's molded largely in scarlet plastic, but the paintwork at the back is closer to burgundy.

And, as with the Hasbro version of the original, the colourscheme and paintwork are a huge bone of contention - the front of the jet is molded almost exclusively in red plastic with paintwork only on the top of the nose and the cockpit, the back end is molded largely in black or dark grey with only a few large blocks of colour that don't match the plastic colour.

Ultimately, this version of Windblade - moreso even than the original - is just another jet with a robot hanging off the bottom. This one even needs an extra flap on the underside of the nose section to conceal the robot's head as it doesn't even transform into her chest. Viewing jet mode from the underside, it looks like the robot is simply kneeling and wearing an elaborate headdress with an opaque veil. It may not be as gappy as the Generations/Legends version, but it's absolutely not an improvement.

Robot Mode:
Oddly, Windblade is far more familiar in robot mode - the design is basically a simplified, less curvy version of the Generations/Legends figure, with much bulkier, more angular lower legs. The build of the torso is very similar but, again, more angular, and with less obviously defined robo-boobs. The sculpting of the chest area seems to suggest a short jacket, almost like a cross between body armour and a bolero jacket, over some kind of top with a raised collar. The circular code sticker on the chest distorts the proportions slightly and occupies a large plain area in the middle. Like the original, this version of Windblade has large, segmented pauldrons on her shoulders, but these are fixed - a solid part of the upper arm - rather than being separately mobile. The upside to this is that you won't spend ages trying to ensure that they're sitting in the right position, only for them to drift the moment you move her arms. The downside is that they're molded in red plastic, and the section of her upper arm that leads into the pauldrons isn't even painted to match the lower part of the bicep. Similarly, the upper part of the thigh, where it connects to the hips, is molded in grey plastic, while the lower part, down the the knee, is black.

It's often noted that TransFormers toys really aren't intended to be seen from behind, but Windblade's back looks especially clumsy, even compared to the original - the jet's nose, hanging off behind her shoulders, is far bulkier, and there's a chunk of tail section beneath it. Her thighs look solid enough (except from the insides), but the lower legs are completely open. Granted, both are symptoms of her transformation... but this is 2016, and over a year since the original 'Fan-Built Bot' arrived on the scene with a far superior design.

The weapon is identical to the Generations/Legends version except in one significant detail - the sword is molded in plain black, opaque plastic rather than transparent plastic with a pink wash on the blade and opaque black paint on the hilt, so it basically looks like a cheap and crappy knockoff of the original. It's disappointing - to say the least - that there's no paintwork at all on the weapon, but the same is true of Sideswipe's sword.

The head sculpt is quite good - albeit not very like the character model from the TV show, which appears flatter in the face - but the paint job is pretty horrific. Her face features a sloppy coating of white paint, her fringe is painted grey, her eyes are picked out in blue, and I think there's even some unnecessary, slightly darker red paint over the red plastic for her 'makeup'. Everything else is bare red plastic bar a strip of orange paint on the front of her (removeable) fan. Evidently neither the remainder of  her hair nor her 'jewellery' merited any additional paintwork.

And here's why I'm getting rather cheesed off with Hasbro's versions of toys. In the cartoon, Windblade almost seems mostly black with a few red and cyan details, as evidenced by the artwork on her card:

But what you actually get is an absurd lack of paintwork, poor choices of plastic colour and a figure which looks pretty hideous:

This version of Windblade has a far simpler transformation than the earlier Generations/Legends version, though it's surprisingly similar in functional terms - the shins still fold up over the thighs, the waist still needs to be rotated 180°, the arms still peg in at the sides and the jet's nose still flips over from the robot's back. There aren't quite so many moving parts involved (which is arguably a good thing for her shoulder pads) but she feels terribly simplistic, even for a figure from a line which is ostensibly for younger kids.

By and large, her articulation is as good as the original, and the collar on this version offers less obstruction to the movement of her head, despite being larger. The arms, being bulkier, feel less perilous at the bicep rotation joint, and the mid-thigh rotation joint offers more range than the Generations/Legends version's combination ball joint/mushroom peg hip arrangement, particularly without the upward protrusions from the hips. The biggest plus point on this version, though, is a far more solid footprint, even though that comes at the expense of afterburners in jet mode. Whereas the original required lots of fiddling with the heel and occasional unnatural arrangement of the legs, this version stands perfectly well in a variety of poses and, while the arm that connects the knee to the lower leg doesn't quite give her a double-jointed knee, it can be fudged to resemble a far deeper bend from some angles. The lack of a wrist joint is disappointing, but any shortcomings in her articulation pale beside the cheap and lazy paint job.

If I've been ambivalent about the new Robots in Disguise range in the past due to its simplicity and cheap construction, Windblade makes me feel downright hostile toward Hasbro's miserly treatment of the line. I'm keen to see what Takara Tomy do with this mold because, despite being rather underachieving as a TransFormers toy, RID2015 Windblade deserves to more closely resemble her on-screen appearance. With a better paint job, I'm sure I'd quite like this figure due to its stylish design and improved stability.

One thing that struck me as curious, in the light of the BotCon repaint of Legends Slipstream as Combiner Wars Airazor, was that this mold would probably look even better as Airazor. Jet mode, at least, seems more bird-like... I think it'd need a dedicated new head sculpt to complete the picture, though.


  1. I was hoping I could get a good look at RID Windblade somewhere. And wow, that's a lot more red than I thought. Admittedly though, Hasbro's work with the original Windblade had a lot more red on it than it should have. But the toy and the artwork look so different, a definite shame.

    I've only just picked up my first RID figure, TAV Scorponok. While he's nice, he doesn't make me want to pick up any other RID toys. I'll keep an eye on Takara's Windblade when they get to her, but, I don't expect great things.

    1. Yeah, Hasbro's choices of plastic colour leave a lot to be desired, but at least it's a good, solid scarlet rather than the anaemic shades of red they normally seem to use. It'll take something not far short of a miracle for Takara Tomy to make the most of this - I'm expecting their version to be better but, like their Strongarm, still not quite perfect.

      Scorponok is one of those figures I'm sort-of tempted by - largely due to Beast Wars nostalgia - but the weird mutant creatures most of the Decepticons have for 'robot' modes seem pretty daft to me. RID2015 just ain't aimed at adult collectors, I guess...

    2. Ha ha ha, that's true, although the thing I like about the Decepticons is the animal variation they have going for them. I've almost finished season 1 and I've quite liked a lot of their modes, I just wish the toys managed to pull of the look of the show a bit better. I suspect old RID is a show where the show character is made, and then Hastak have to work some magic to make it into plastic.
      Seems to be common practice now, Animated and Prime did this to, and while the FE toys were great, the regular line didn't tickle my fancy either

    3. That does seem to be the case, and I'm pretty sure someone in Hasbro's management said in an interview a few years back (around the time of either one of the TF movies, or possibly Battleship) that they don't want to be seen as 'a toys and games company' anymore, but rather 'an intellectual properties company that also makes toys and games'... That's all well and good, maybe, but I tend to think the toys suffer when they're not the design priority.

      I remember hearing that they hadn't intended to make toys to accompany Prime beyond a few First Edition figures, so what we got afterwards was essentially Hasbro reluctantly answering the persistent question "But where're the toys of everyone else, Hasbro?" That question will continue to be asked because, whatever Hasbro may like to think of themselves, TransFormers is perceived as a toy brand first, with a gradually expanding universe of supporting media. </soapbox>

      RID2015 seems to be much the same deal, as you say, but they're going even cheaper on the toys' design, construction and paintwork. It's a bizarre and utterly backward way of doing things, and I don't understand how they think it's ever going to work for them in the long run.

      That said, I'm weirdly intrigued by deluxe Bisk...