Friday, 15 June 2018

Iron Factory IF EX-05 Windsaber (aka Miko for IronTitan)

(Femme-Bot Friday #50)
You know a new character has made it in the popularity stakes when the Third Parties start churning out their own versions, and it didn't take long for the 'fan-built bot' Windblade. It actually also made a lot of sense for Iron Factory to produce their own, diminutive version of Windblade since none of Hasbro's own output really scales properly with the likes of Metroplex. After all, one of the character's defining characteristics is that she's one of the few able to communicate with these city-sized robots, despite being ant-like in comparison.

Since 50 Femme-Bot Fridays is a bit of a milestone, I'm going to celebrate it by kicking off a short run on the remaining Windblades in my collection. This will include a comparison between a Hasbro version of the character already covered in my FBF series and the Takara Tomy version I've picked up more recently, as well as a direct Titans Return/Legends comparison of the most recent model... but the first will be Iron Factory's takes on the original, and concluding part will be the SDCC2015 Combiner Hunters-inspired repaint...

Iron Factory's boxes don't seem to follow any particular style. Pink Assassin's appeared to be faux-vintage G1 in inspiration, but very pink in execution, while this one... is entirely different and unique to this figure. The front features a faintly floral/fan/scale-textured red background around a large window showing through to the figure in her robot mode, and her trademark sword. Down the righthand side is a lightly textured black strip featuring stereotypically Japanese patterns of clouds, flowers and a Kobayakawa clan insignia (the circle containing three white apostrophe-like things). If there's any significance to that, I've no idea what it may be.

Two names are given for the figure - Windsaber, under her ID number in the top right corner, and 'Miko for IronTitan' emblazoned across the bottom of the front. 'Miko' translates as '(shrine) maiden', while the mention of 'IronTitan' almost comes across as a reference to MasterMade's 'Titan', a Super-Deformed Metroplex figure made to a similarly diminutive scale.

The back of the box features a dark and moody image of Windsaber perched atop Generations Metroplex (a silhouette version of one of their early prototype photos), with the almost invisible caption "I'm standing on the shoulders of giants!". Alongside the Iron Factory logo, on both the front and the back of the box, is a logo for - if I'm reading it correctly - Model Comprehend, along with the URL of their website. Since the English side is currently unavailable as I write, I can't tell what involvement they had in this... but their logo doesn't appear on later Iron Factory releases, including their Pink Assassin and even the Hunter version of Windsaber, so it seems to have been short-lived. The top, bottom and sides of the box feature continuations of the nearby textures, along with the Iron Factory and Model Comprehend logos and the figure's ID number, making for a very pretty and well-designed box, even if it's not consistent with other Iron Factory packages.

Vehicle Mode:
Thanks to a very strong original design, as well as a very similar name, Windblade is instantly recognisable in Iron Factory's Windsaber. The red and black VTOL jet with hook-like wingtips is unmistakeable. Despite her size, Windsaber actually looks like a more complete vehicle than the original Generations/Legends version, as the legs peg together to make a single, coherent rear section, and her feet are designed to sit flush with sculpted engine details on the main body of jet, behind the cockpit. The body overall seems wider and flatter than other Windblade jet modes, but it does look as though it could actually fly, at least.

While the legs are more successful in their disguise than other versions of this character, the arms fare no better than any - they're attached to pegs on the undersides of the wings, and remain in clear view at all times. I can understand this sort of simplicity in a figure this size, but it's always going to be disappointing to see such obvious robot parts tacked on to an otherwise quite successful vehicle mode. Obviously, with something this size, other sacrifices have been made, and the streamlined look of the jet is a little hampered by some of the transformation hinges. Those on the wings have been cleverly disguised with conical tips and look like intentional features of the wings, but the one behind the cockpit isn't so lucky, though it looks as though the designers tried to make it look as good as possible. They also deserve some praise for adding a fold-away landing wheel to the front. Small, simple and non-rolling it may be - and it doesn't even stow away properly when not being used - but it's a nice touch, and much appreciated... even if the closest the jet mode has to rear landing gear is a couple of incredibly subtle, curved protrusions from what will be the robot mode's heels. If it weren't for these, the next best thing would either be the square knee pegs right at the back, or the robot's ample bosom, both of which hang off the bottom of the jet only a little less than the 'wheels'.

The paintwork is mostly quite simple - the most complicated part is the nose, which features white paint leading from the tip of the nose to the start of the cockpit, a purple frame around the canopy, and cyan for the canopy itself, along with strips of red leading around the edges at either side. The rest of the body is either molded in black plastic with red paint, or red plastic with black paint, though there are touches of cyan on the afterburners and silver for the wing fans. Most of the paintwork is very sharp and clean, with very few, and very slight instances of overspill or misalignment. The strangest part is that the red stripes on the sides of the nose section don't continue down the sides of the main body, even though the sculpted detail there seems to imply that they should. Instead, the central strip of the jet and the raised engine intakes have been painted red, with the sides left as bare black plastic. It's also worth noting that the red paint over the black plastic isn't quite dense enough, so it doesn't match the colour of the red plastic.

Windsaber's sword can - just about - be attached to the underside of either one of her fans, but it's an incredibly tight fit and requires a lot of fiddling. I also had to take a scalpel to the peg on mine, as the mold was a little fudged, leading to a lump of plastic on one side. That said, since she only came packaged with one sword (with an additional, translucent version included with Pink Assassin), it seems a bit pointless to try attaching her weapon to vehicle mode...

Robot Mode:
The very moment I saw the first preview images of this figure, I knew I had to pick one up, somehow or other - Windsaber is quite the cutest transforming robot figure I have ever seen. Stylistically, it's very different from other Iron Factory figures, which have all tended to be miniature but proportional, and very G1 in their overall design. Windsaber, meanwhile, isn't quite Super Deformed, but she is far more cartoonish in her design and proportions. The head is proportionally larger than usual, with enormous round eyes, the waist is tiny, the hips wide, and the lower legs enormous. Like Pink Assassin, she's also remarkably curvy throughout - a far cry from the very squared-off and robotic-looking figures that make up the majority of this line. Windsaber could almost be an action figure of an anime-style cosplayer that just happens to transform, rather than being a robot in disguise.

The torso is basically one solid piece of plastic featuring pronounced robo-boobs bursting out either side of am X-shaped collar/chest piece, a narrow, armour-detailed waist and a large, wide groin section where the legs attach. The vast majority of the painted detailing is applied here, with cyan paint slightly misaligned on the collar and black paint giving a sort of armoured corset effect around the waist.

Sadly, just like every version of Windblade thusfar created, the front end of Windsaber's vehicle mode ends up on her back, just dangling and looking ugly. I wouldn't expect any different from a figure this small and simple, but it does go to show how little effort is going into Hasbro's Deluxe class offerings.

The sword can be held in either hand, or stored on her back using the sockets on the backs of the wing fans. It seems like a shame that there's no scabbard included with this set but, considering there's barely storage for the sword, having a scabbard as well might just complicate things further. The sword's blade follows the usual 'flame-like' style, and the hilt features the usual fan on one side. The blade is painted a pretty purple-ish magenta, while the fan is left unpainted, so it looks a little plain. For the size, though, this is not unexpected.

The head sculpt is both fantastically cute and painted to a similar degree as a Takara Tomy version of Windblade. The face is almost devoid of detail - there's an extremely subtle nose and a tiny line of a mouth, no bold, kabuki-style red lips here - and mostly painted white, though there are patches of red above the large, pastel cyan eyes. Her headdress is mainly cyan, with a sunny yellow central crest and a little hairpin-like detail in one corner, then the fan at the back is painted the same sunny yellow... though only on the front.

Since this is a figure in the smaller size class - roughly equivalent to Hasbro's Legends class output - Windsaber's transformation is very simplistic... though actually remarkably similar to the Titans Return version in that the cockpit flips up over the head, the arms peg into the wings and the legs simply fold back over the body of the jet turning the kneecaps into her afterburners - all very quick and fluid. In robot mode, the wings can be made to angle both upward (via an internal gear system that makes the wings move together) and backward for a more dramatic, sweeping look. She feels pretty sturdy in both modes, and there are no real sticking points in transformation, though I'm not entirely certain that rotating her head 180° is a good idea, as it's likely to wear away the paint on her face - particularly her nose or chin - over time.

Windsaber's articulation is better than that of the average Legends class figure - shoulders and elbows are ball joints, with their freedom of movement inhibited only by the presence of her wings. Even when these are angled up and back, the parts that connect the wings to her back are right behind her shoulders, and the size of her elbows means they're going to clash the moment her upper arms try to swing backward. There's no waist joint, but the hips are ball-joined, and there's a swivel joint just above the hinged knees. The feet are fixed, and the 'heel', such as it is, is only on the outside of the lower leg, which can make it difficult to balance her when the legs in are some more extreme poses. The head is on a ball joint, and at the end of a neck that's sufficiently long to allow her to look up and down, and even allows a touch of quizzical tilt. Unlike some of the other Iron Factory figures, Windsaber doesn't come packaged with a stand, but she can make use of those provided with other figures by jamming the smaller peg into the slot on her backside that the pegs on the backs of her feet slot into in jet mode. It's not a perfect fit, but it's secure enough, given how light she is.

While these figures cost approximately the same as a contemporary Deluxe, the fact that it's so cute, so well-designed and so well put together easily offsets the expense, before even considering the limited production run on most Third Party figures. That it's not a very good fit, stylistically, with a good proportion of Iron Factory's other output, let alone the likes of Generations Metroplex, Combiner Wars or Titans Return figures is only really a problem if fitting in with official toys is your one and only expectation from a Legends class Windblade. Personally, I quite like that she's something unique - except within Iron Factory's so far limited roster of Femme-Bots, she fits in well with Pink Assassin and the other figures based upon that mold. I'll be interested to see the next Femme-Bot they produce, after the much-delayed Shrike's Feather, and certainly hope they stick with this aesthetic.

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