Sunday, 28 January 2018

AM32 Arms Micron (TFPrime) Stunt Wildrider

And there was me, thinking I was done with the TFPrime Wheeljack mold after picking up the TFCC's Subscription Service 2.0 Chromedome. Frankly, most of the other reuses - and particularly the Beast Hunters remolds - were of no interest to me, but Takara Tomy's Arms Micron Stunt Wildrider and its amazingly cute Micron, Ozu, were definitely appealing... just harder to obtain.

Thankfully, sooner or later, almost everything ends up on eBay... occasionally even at a reasonable price... and so, I came to order Wildrider, a repaint based on the eponymous G1 Stunticon.

Vehicle Mode:
Essentially, what we have here is a grey Wheeljack... with stickers... Except, this being the Arms Micron version of the mold, there are a couple of Mini-Con ports added atop the small spoiler. And, yes, they are proper Armada-style 5mm Mini-Con ports with sockets in them, just in case you felt like getting all cross-continuity with your toys. Those additions aside, this is the same vehicle mode as the original TFPrime release, but with the chassis molded in a gorgeous gunmetal plastic and a translucent red window, both in homage to the G1 Stunticon. The wheels are still molded in black, but he's been given extravagantly funky gold hubcaps. Curiously, there's also a bit of gold paint on the vents in the bonnet, but the rest of the colour comes from the stickers included in the set. One jarring thing about the plastic colours is that a section of his roof - the parts that became Wheeljack's 'wings' - is black, and really should have been painted to match the rest of the body of the car, with the slatted section at the back possibly painted black to make it look a little more consistent. However, they're unaccountably molded in rubber, so it's possible that paint just wasn't an option...

Head- and tail lights are all stickers, as are the simulated carbon fibre bonnet details and the incorporated large, angled Decepticon insignia (which is fairly tricky to match up across three separate chunks of the bonnet). Additional stickers include two Decepticon insignia, two purple-on-silver Stunticon logos (derived from Fun Publications' logo, created for the BotCon 2011 exclusive 'Stunti-Con Job' boxed set), two slightly smaller, black-on-silver versions of the same, a gold wrap-around for Wildrider's fake torso windscreen (visible behind the real, red windscreen) and Ozu's detail stickers.

It does strike me as very odd that these additional things would be stickers rather than paint when they'd already applied some gold paint to the model... but this was back in that innocent time, before Titans Return/Power of the Primes, when some of the fans said they actually wanted stickers for their contemporary TransFormers toys.

Like Wheeljack and Chromedome, Wildrider comes with a pair of swords, but his are molded in black rubber. It's a fairly stiff rubber (at least, it is on the swords, compared to the aforementioned roof sections), but still very much softer than the plastic used for the two Autobot iterations of this mold, meaning they're even more inclined to sag downward when tabbed into the underside of vehicle mode... and they just feel unpleasant. That they can be mounted on the front of the car almost seems intentional with Wildrider, where it seemed daft and unnecessary on Wheeljack.

Ozu can be plugged into the 5mm port above either of the rear wheels in his weapon mode, or resign himself to the fact that he looks like a cute little heffalump and perch atop Wildrider's spoiler in his robot mode, thanks to a hexagonal connection port on his belly. For comedic effect, he can also attach via a similar port midway down the underside of his trunk, but that seems a little cruel... and his feet are all Mini-Con ports... which is really weird...

Robot Mode:
And so we come to grey Wheeljack... with stickers... and a new head. The mixture of gunmetal as the primary plastic colour and glittery red as the secondary more than makes up for the lack of additional paintwork in robot mode, but the gold 'window' on his torso seems extravagant and downright wrong considering his real windscreen was red. Then again, carrying over the red windscreen may have looked a little weird unless they'd made it significantly darker, the way Wheeljack's smoky windscreen became black in robot mode... it is, after all, sandwiched between the red shoulder joints and the red groin area. He also has seemingly random black parts - on the insides of his shoulder armour, his feet (all plastic), his knee spikes and, of course, his 'wings' (all rubber). All in all, and despite the common mold, he really doesn't look too much like Wheeljack.

The head is a mixed bag. It takes design cues directly from the G1 animation model - on which Wildrider had spikes unaccountably protruding from the sides of his head - and from the G1 toy, in terms of the overall shape of the head and the design of the helmet/forehead. He has a typically flat, quite bland TFPrime-style face - painted the traditional red, but with an oddly sad expression - with two beady, gold-painted eyes. This latter point is all the more strange when you notice that the eyes are intended to be light-piped - the back of the head is cast in the same translucent red as the windscreen.

Ozu comes into his own as Wildrider's TargetMaster Mini-Con - the exaggerated proportions of the weapon suit the larger robot perfectly, and the pegs on the sides of Ozu's cylinder mean that Wildrider can wield him two-handed for extra stability. On the downside, I really don't think the swords suit the character - the best that can be said is that they fit his hands.

I've already covered transformation and articulation with other iterations of this mold, but it's worth mentioning a couple of things on each point. The stickers on the bonnet are marginally larger than the surfaces they cover, and getting them perfectly aligned would require specialist equipment, so expect some rubbing, distortion, and possibly even peeling during transformation. There's nothing terrible on mine so far, but at least one side has sort of puffed up on one edge due to friction. Meanwhile, what with this being one of many iterations of this mold, one would tend to expect variance, if not outright degradation in the joint tolerances... and my Wildrider's knees are seriously floppy. There are very slight ridges that give him three 'soft-locked' positions of knee bend but, when they're straight, they have a tendency to sag forward under the weight of his upper body only, let alone when he's carrying Ozu.

So, that out of the way, let's get straight onto... the Elephant Gun, otherwise known as...

Arms Micron Ozu:
Except, of course, he's a mammoth who turns into a grenade launcher... I just like calling him an elephant gun because (a) elephant guns are a real thing and (b) the central part is clearly designed to look like the cylinder of an old-style revolver.

Like all Arms Microns, Ozu comes in kit form, on his sprues, with a few stickers of his own. He's a nice, simple build that only takes a few minutes and barely needs reference to the included instruction sheet. He has four metallic red/gold stickers that attach to the sides of his 'hump' in robot mode, a red circle for his eye, and a Decepticon insignia to go behind the little translucent orange 'gem' on the lefthand side of his chamber.

In robot mode, he's a super-cute, dinky mammoth with the cutest, stubby little legs you will ever see and a trunk that features one point of articulation that's not strictly necessary for transformation. In gun mode, he looks like someone tried to miniaturise a revolver by removing the frame and just sticking a barrel on the front of the cylinder and a grip on the back... but I do gather he is intended to be a grenade launcher, not a mere handgun. According to the image on the back of the box, Ozu can combine with Balo (AM Skywarp/Thundercracker's Micron) and Gra (AM Medic Knock Out's Micron) to form the Asteroid Drill... Sadly, while I have both Balo and Silver Metal Balo (AM Thundercracker's variant of the Micron), I don't have any version of Gra to complete the gestalt tool.

He transforms simply, by flipping his head back onto his hump, his legs back round to his backside and extending the barrel from the chamber by means of a slider on the righthand side. The guns mode is perhaps a little awkward-looking, but it's unmistakably a powerful weapon, and it fits well into Wildrider's hands. It also reminds me of a slightly exaggerated version of the multi-purpose launcher from the first Resident Evil game... Perhaps, like G1 Hun-Gurr, Ozu can fire rounds made out of whatever he just ate..?

While I'm obviously a little disappointed by Wildrider's floppy knees and the likelihood of ongoing damage to his stickers through transformation... that's all very much "so far, so G1". Wildrider is an excellent re-use of the Wheeljack mold and manages to appear almost unique despite being a recolouring with only a new head. He's also far more coherent and more soberly coloured than Hasbro's own Stunticon homage, TFPrime Dead End, and his head is also a far better fit to the usual TFPrime aesthetic. I'm mostly ambivalent about the stickers - they're better than the thin, plastic abominations used on Titans Return figures, but they're still going to be very prone to wear over time, even with careful handling.

The rubber swords were somewhat unexpected, but I tend to leave them slotted into his backpack, and Ozu more than makes up for them by being, without doubt, the cutest, most awesome Arms Micron Takara Tomy have yet produced. Had they produced him in any other colours, I can imagine trawling eBay to build up a herd of elephant guns.

Ultimately, I bought Arms Micron Wildrider as a cool Stunticon homage with a seriously cute partner/weapon... and he's pretty much exactly what I wanted out of him: an appropriate and well-considered re-use of one of my favourite TransFormers Prime molds, as an underrepresented G1 character, and he fits perfectly among the other TFPrime Decepticons in my collection.

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