Saturday, 6 October 2018

RID2015/Clash of the TransFormers Paralon

One would think, given the long history of Autobot/Decepticon conflict within the TransFormers franchise, that subtitling one portion of the newest Robots in Disguise continuity "Clash of the TransFormers" would be unnecessarily excessive tautology... Yet here we are. I know nothing about Clash of the Transformers except that it consisted mainly of repaints and was supposedly exclusive to Toys'R'Us.

Carrying on my habit of randomly purchasing RID2015 figures, I picked up this repaint/retool of Scorponok for a fairly flimsy reason, even by my standards: he's a more overt Beast Wars reference than the original version of the mold. Scorponok hadn't looked particularly impressive, being another one of RID2015's bizarre beast-robot Decepticons, but with a beast mode rather than a vehicle mode... making the toy as much a tautology as the name of the subline.

But does the toy rise above this inauspicious start?

Beast Mode:
I've tried watching RID2015, I really have... I like the voice acting, the artwork style is no more outlandish than TFAnimated seemed at first... I just can't get into it because there's always a lot of squabbling between the characters who are ostensibly 'the good guys', each episode seems to be a 'teamwork lesson of the day', but it's never really learned, and that just irritates me... so the chances of me ever getting to a point where I understand why there's a distinction between the beast-bots who have loosely terrestrial vehicle modes (Thunderhoof and Bisk, for example) and those that turn into straight beast-bots (which aren't so frequent in the toyline as they are in the show, probably for engineering reasons) is pretty slim. Does that really matter, though, considering I only pick up the toys that appeal to my sometimes bizarre sensibilities, and a purple scorpion is not, in and of itself, quite enough as a general rule.

However, this is a pretty good - if basic - representation of a robotic scorpion. One thing that struck me when I first transformed him into this mode was that the scorpion's head looks a lot like Overbite - while more rounded, it's still quite beak-like, and the attempts at mandibles are upward-curling extensions of his lower jaw. Other than that, it looks OK - the proportions look good, albeit with cartoonishly exaggerated parts here and there. The claws are pretty crappy, in that they're basically large shells wrapped around the robot's slender arms. They're a decent size, but don't open, and appear to be oriented oddly. The tops of the claws are very stumpy and the sculpting suggests the mobile part would be on the upper side, where it would tend to be on the lower on a real scorpion.

Colour-wise, Paralon is very, very purple. In this mode, he shows two shades of purple, with the paint applications on the head and tail closely matching the darker plastic shade used for the legs, claws and structural parts at the base of the tail. The head also features applictions of red paint in the eyes, while the claws and tail feature some sloppily applied patches of yellow representing glowing parts. Since I'm not familiar with the character in the TV show, I can't be certain, but it seems like a minimalistic paint job - for example, the sculpted details on the outer face of the claws are repeated on the inner face, but not painted there. It also seems as though the tail should have plenty of additional paintwork, but simplistic is about average for the line, and (slightly) better paint jobs tend to be found on Takara Tomy's version of the toys.

Paralon is packaged with a curious-looking, segmented/serrated sword - something akin to the kind of thing often wielded by pirates in movies, or almost everyone in the old Sinbad movies (this style of sword is sometimes referred to as an Arabian scimitar). It's rather more intricately molded than most TransFormers swords outside the movie continuity (certainly better than those supplied with Sideswipe and Drift), but is entirely without paint. In beast mode, it can be plugged into a socket on the tip of his tail, but it sits perpendicular to the integrated stinger so, while it does extend the reach of his tail, it looks rather weird.

Robot Mode:
Paralon cuts a very strange figure in robot mode, with his skinny, digitigrade legs, impossibly narrow waist, weird, hooked forearms and massive shoulder chunks. He's also deeply hunchbacked, and it's never entirely clear what his tail is meant to do in robot mode... though, having looked up images of the character from the TV show, it appear that it just functions as a tail in both modes.

The biggest problem in Paralon's appearance is that the scorpion mode's back plate is so much wider than robot mode's torso - they match perfectly at the shoulders, but the waist tapers in to about a third of that width, while the back plate - from which the beast's legs still visibly protrude - remains at shoulder width, and comes down to his hips. Sure, it's in some shadow so you do get the impression of the narrower waist, and it's all but unavoidable in a figure of this size, at this level of complexity... but it looks clumsy and ugly. Shifting the claws to the shoulders emphasises the larger upper body further, but they're just extraneous clumps of beast mass when compared to his lithe torso and limbs. It's a shame because, like many of these figures, the torso is nicely sculpted with overlapping armour panels, and one's attention gets drawn to the shoulders. The code sticker is placed sensibly, in an area that wouldn't have much detail anyway, but the the torso suffers from minimal and inaccurate paintwork. The upper chest is supposed to be dark purple, to match the shoulder mass, and the pink around the waist appears to represent both the pale purple of the animation model's waist and the pink block on his 'belt', but it covers more of the waist than it should - the lower, central section of the waist should have been left unpainted.

I'm puzzled by the forearms as they're sculpted almost like a pirate's hook hands but he's depicted in the TV show as having almost flipper-like hands with three distinct 'fingers'. A closer inspection of the hooks reveals that they are sculpted as three digits, but neither the sculpt nor the paintwork are particularly effective in emphasising this detail. What paintwork there is on his forearms - darker purple down the middle, with lighter purple chevrons near the elbow - doesn't appear to match anything on the animation model. Similarly, the legs are made up of dark purple, bold purple and grey plastic parts that are broadly accurate to the animation model, but there's so much supplementary colour missing. The plainness of the tail can be disguised if it's folded up against his back, but leaving it swinging as intended just highlights what's missing in terms of paintwork.

The scimitar can plug into either of Paralon's curled tentacle 'hands' and is about as effective as one would expect given the joints in the arms... it just seems like a really peculiar weapon to give one of the Decepticons since the Autobots (and most other Decepticons, I think) tended to carry guns of some form. Then again, I tend to think almost any mêlée weapon is a daft thing to include with a TransFormers toy. Hammers make a kind of sense, but surely a metal blade against metallic beings is kind of like attacking a human with a sharp sausage..?

The head sculpt is where this figure gets to its weirdest: it's based on the animation model for Scorponok in the Beast Wars TV show. Paralon in the RID2015 TV show has a head virtually identical to its Scorponok, just with a semi-permanent visor over the eyes, and that visor is about the only common factor between Paralon's appearance in the show and as a toy. Despite its inaccuracy, it's a fantastic sculpt, let down only by the fact that it's mostly purple (so it gets lost against his shoulders) with a silver face and the barest slash of red for the visor. Believe it or not, there's purple paint on the crest and chin, but it's barely visible in my photos or in person. A bit more colour variety on the crest or the mandibles would have been worthwhile.

There's nothing really innovative or unusual about Paralon's transformation - the robot's legs unfold from under the torso, the claws open up to reveal the robot's forearms, slide up the arms to the shoulders and peg in to secure the chest to the back, and the two modes heads are concealed inside the body and deployed as necessary - the robot's head sitting just behind the scorpion head in beast mode - with clearance granted by a double-hinged arm inside the torso. The beast's legs simply fold over the back, but remain quite visible in robot mode. The claws close up securely enough in scorpion mode, but they don't really connect to the forearms in any meaningful way and are prone to rattle loose eventually.

The scorpion's legs are fixed and don't even offer support for the body as they're hinged to move up over the body during transformation. His tail is jointed - a ball joint at the base, a hinge around the midpoint and another at the base of the stinger - but not in a particularly useful way, and the way the hinge works doesn't look remotely natural. I know it's too much to expect a toy like this to have a fully ball-jointed, properly segmented tail, but I'd honestly prefer Hasbro stop turning things into scorpions if they can't do them justice. Thankfully, robot mode is a bit better, having ball-jointed hips with thigh swivel, properly jointed digitigrade legs and a stable, if slender footprint. The ankle is jointed for transformation, with the foot clipping into place for robot mode, but the joint is just about tight enough to offer support with the foot angled to facilitate a pose with one leg extended forward, though it does require a bit of fiddling with the other leg to ensure he's stable. The arms have ball jointed shoulders, bicep swivel and elbows with almost a full 180° of range, though a good part of that is an unnatural backward bend. With a bit of work, and sufficent space for him to stand in, he can adopt some very dynamic poses, making him one of the better figures in the line in that respect, but some of his pinned joints are a little loose. The robot's head is the biggest letdown, as the neck's ball joint plugs into the back of the head, offering minimal up/down tilt and negligible side-to-side movement... Pretty much all it does well is rotate around the joint, so he can do a great quizzical tilt, or just have his head upside down, but not much else.

I'm not sure what I was expecting out of Paralon. I didn't have a particularly good reason for buying him and virtually all of the RID2015 I've bought have been disappointing in one way or another.He is, nevertheless, something fun and unusual... I just wish his paint job was better, or that the Beast Wars homage was more overt. RID2015's treatment of Decepticons feels like a huge experiment without a defined hypothesis, intent or conclusion - some of them transformed into vehicles, some of them transformed into beasts, all of them looks kind of beast-ish in robot mode... and that was cool, I guess... but there was never really any explanation for their outlandish appearance, given they all originated on the same planet. Then again, much the same could be said for the original RID/Car Robots, which featured Autobots going up against both Decepticons and Predacons. Maybe this was intended as the same, but it never really made it clear.

Having played about with Paralon, I'm not sure I'd choose to buy him again - at least, not at full price. The homage is a cool feature but, for the figure as a whole, its disappointing qualities far outweigh its quirky charm.

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