Friday, 28 September 2018

DX9 War In Pocket #14 Leah

(Femme-Bot Friday #59)
My final purchase on the Sunday of the inaugural TFNation was a boxed set containing two of DX9's War In Pocket line of diminutive transforming figures. Toufold wasn't really of any interest to me, being based on Kup from the 1986 animated movie. Leah, on the other hand, was right up my street.

Considering Arcee was supposedly based on Princess Leia, the choice of name makes a fair bit of sense, and it's less flouncy than the names used by some other Third Party Arcee figures.

When I split a boxed set into multiple posts, I normally end up regretting it, but I figured it's worth the risk for this one, since Leah is a Femme-Bot and Toufold is actually a bit dull. No doubt I'll get to him eventually (2023, perhaps?) but, for the moment, let's take a look at Leah...

Going the full-on G1 route, DX9's display box for this set features a hyper-stylised, almost Anime-style image of Arcee and a slightly remixed interpretation of G1 Kup's box art on the front cover, with a very familiar 'grey grid over yellow blooms in a red-to-black gradient' in the background. It even rips off the metallic red/blue gradient colourscheme of the old G1 TransFormers logo and the black/yellow character name boxes. I'd imagine the two character images were done by different artists, as there's nothing similar in their style - Leah is super curvy, slender and shiny, while Toufold is chunkier and far closer to the more subdued look of genuine G1 art.

The back of the box continues the orgy of G1 referencing, with a simple space battle background with photos of a whole bunch of DX9's figures slapped on top - Leah and Toufold are most prominent, the latter appearing in both robot and vehicle modes (albeit with vehicle mode mostly obscured by the Tech Specs readout cards) along with Ratchet, Ironhinde and Blurr analogues, facing off against the Constructicons, Cyclonus, Scourge and his Sweeps... and Galvatron riding himself. The Tech Specs readouts are rendered almost entirely useless by the absence of any labelling, but their presence is appreciated nonetheless. The top and sides of the box feature more product shots and logos, while the bottom carries the usual caveats and web links. They've used good, sturdy card, and the plastic tray within seems quite durable. The instructions look comparatively cheap-and-cheerful, being just a single-sided leaflet with red-highlighted grey photos of both figures at each stage of their transformation.

Considering there's a clear plastic 'lid' on the tray containing the two figures and their accessories, it seems a bit of a shame that DX9 didn't complete the G1 styling of their box with a window showing through to the figures... But, then, the box prioritises Leah while Toufold is on the far left of the tray...

Vehicle Mode:
While Leah's vehicle mode looks pretty good at first glance, her simplicity is easily apparent. Most of the front half of the vehicle is one large chunk of shell, and her legs are clearly visible making up two thirds of the car's side panels, and the ball joints of her knees are exposed. That sort of thing is pretty much par for the course, and even Hasbro/Takara Tomy's own Deluxe class Arcee didn't do a particularly good job of disguising the legs, but that's not the extent of this car's problems...

The front end is downright ugly - too angular, with the bonnet details far too deeply sculpted and no detail other than a few sculpted panel breaks over the remainder of that shell piece. With nothing resembling headlight detail, the front end has only the perfunctory, silver-painted grille to break it up, and that appears only on the top surface of the nose. The white-painted sections seem too squared-off, with the one at the front featuring only the smallest little central peak, and the one at the rear of the bonnet isn't even painted all the way to the windscreen. The windscreen itself is, for no obvious reason, a separate piece of plastic which has been painted cyan and slotted in to the windscreen frame, but it protrudes slightly from its frame rather than looking as if it sits fully within it.

I wouldn't expect a full cockpit on something this size, so I'll add that I'm pleased to see they at least sculpted seat backs, even if they've been left unpainted. Leah's shoulders and a transformation joint occupy the cockpit hollow, with space all around. The whole rear end is quite blocky, entirely unpainted and, while I know is a small and very picky point, I'm a bit disturbed by the fact that the scuplted panel lines on the central section don't line up with those on the rear wings. The rear of the car has a bit of panel detailing sculpted on but, just like the front, features no sculpted lights. Compared to Toufold, she looks unfinished.

I'll briefly touch on the wheels, also, because there aren't really any wheels - just semi-circular nubs protruding below the front and rear wings of the car. This wouldn't be a big deal for me - Arcee can just as easily be a hovercar, after all - if it weren't for the fact that Toufold has four fully-functional, rolling wheels. The pair clearly weren't designed by the same person/people, but it's almost as if the two figures aren't even from the same toyline.

Robot Mode:
For the most part, Leah actually looks like a pretty competent figure in robot mode - perhaps a little broad-shouldered, and the chest is offputtingly angular, but the arms and everything from the waist down look good. It strikes me that her backpack sticks up too far, and the square panel directly behind the head is ugly, but the hollowness of the backpack is the worst part of it. Obviously, it had to be that way to accommodate robot parts in vehicle mode, but it just looks so crummy. Even the Iron Factory mini-Arcee had solid parts at the tips...

There are three rather gappy points on this figure - at the collar and the waist. All are necessitated by transformation, but the huge open space behind the chest is revealed by a large, U-shaped hole between the shoulders, and there's a triangular hole in the belly just below the vehicle mode's grille, and a hole running through the figure from side to side just behind it. None of them are excessively noticeable, and all the gaps are to facilitate clearance, but that doesn't make them any less ugly.

Where vehicle mode seemed to feature only the barest minimum of paintwork, robot mode has received a little bit more attention. Leah's cuffs and mittens are painted white, her shoulder armour and - weirdly - her kneecaps are painted pink, while her waist is painted grey - pretty much par for the course for an Arcee, but it looks like the bare minimum of decoration.

Leah comes with a large pink handgun that slots easily into either of her blocky, underdetailed mitten-like hands. It features fairly basic detailing, so there's no mistaking what it's supposed to be, but it's not as finely detailed as Toufold's gun. It can't be holstered anywhere on the figure when not in use, but it can be plugged into the small plastic base provided. The base itself isn't really necessary, but does allow Leah to stand on one leg more easily.

The head sculpt is disappointingly bland. Objectively, it's quite similar to the Iron Factory Femme-Bot faces, just with less exaggerated/cutesified proportions, so it has no real character. The face seems too small, starts too low down in the helmet, and has a sculpted expression of Dreamwave-style dull surprise. The paintwork is par for the course - pink on the face and the same cyan as the windscreen for the eyes. It's serviceable, but doesn't quite seem like Arcee somehow... and it ain't just the absence of lipstick...

Compared to other small-scale Third Party transforming robot's Leah's transformation is fairly involved. The groin splits apart to get the legs into position, but they also need to be rotated at the hip, knee and ankle to connect up with the car shell at the front, with the tightness of the knee joints being a particular cause for concern. There are transformation-specific joints at the shoulders, concealed by the robot's chest, and the head actually has to be rotated 180° to grant clearance for the chest to swing back up to become the front of the vehicle. The unfortunate thing is that very few pieces actually clip into place in either mode, relying instead on 45° angles and friction at the transformation joint. In most places, this doesn't cause any real problems in terms of her overall integrity in either mode... but the front of the vehicle never quite aligns with the main part of the shell (since taking the photos, I've shaved down the plastic on the backs of the hinges to fix this). Probably the strangest part of transformation is that the requisite 'nacelle' on the rear of the vehicle actually has to be rotated 90° in either direction to allow the backpack to drop into place in robot mode. This piece isn't fixed in place in any way, and can be pulled out... In fact, it's entirely possible that the idea behind this is that the nacelle can be swapped out for her gun, as they use the same size peg.

Most of Leah's joints are ball joints, so she has a decent - effectively Beast Wars-era - level of articulation and is surprisingly stable giving her tiny, awkward, high-heeled feet. She does come with a small stand which has sockets for one or both heels, as well as sockets for her handgun should one wish to display her unarmed, but the stand isn't really necessary for most poses. It should come as no surprise that there's no waist articulation, but the knees are particularly disappointing, stopping at about 45°. The head is also a bit weird - it's mounted on a peg that allows not just rotation, but a couple of millimetres of extention. This is primarily for clearance purposes in transforming her into vehicle mode, so the head can just skip over the shoulder transformation joints, but may also be because the head looks too low down when it's pushed right to the bottom of the stalk. I've never quite managed to find the vertical position where it looks 'natural', though.

Leah's not a bad figure considering her size, but she looks as much like her lithe, curvy and shiny box art as the average G1 toy did. She's surprisingly angular and blocky, and it's only her limbs that look at all feminine. While her backpack is proportionally smaller than that of Iron Factory's Pink Assassin and makes up less of her vehicle mode, it's uglier and just doesn't look enough like G1 Arcee's shoulder pontoons. There are less elegant interpretations of Arcee out there - most of them far larger, and one has to take scale into account - but I'd say this is the least impressive Femme-Bot in my collection.

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