Friday, 9 November 2018

TransFormers Adventure TAV03 Strongarm

(Femme-Bot Friday #60)
When I wrote about the Prime of Micron version of Strongarm, last year, I noted that I didn't think Hasbro's Deluxe was worth considering and that the cost of importing Takara Tomy's was prohibitive given that it's the same toy, just with a slightly improved paint job. Of course, that was before I realised that PoM version was smaller than a Deluxe and so not really the Strongarm figure I wanted either.

So, you know what that means, right..?

Vehicle Mode:
If there's any justice in the world, 'Femme-Bot As Bulky SUV' will become a thing in the TransFormers franchise, to give is a break from all these lithe, bondage queen motorcycles and poorly-handled jets. I mean, it's not as if bulky Femme-Bots have never happened before, just that they've not been done well (see Beast Machines Strika). Strongarm's SUV vehicle mode is that much more bulky because it's so stylised, and just intended to look like the bulkiest, most hardcore vehicle on the road. Oddly, according to the TV show, she scanned a random vehicle from the junkyard, not an actual Police vehicle, so I'd imagine her choice of disguise isn't that effective, because it ultimately looks more like a pickup truck than a patrol vehicle that would be deployed anywhere near a city.

Being based on a relatively simplistic animation model rather than a real-life vehicle, it doesn't have the most intricate of sculpts. However you look at her, she seems pretty much squared-off, though there are a few angles that are not quite a hard 45° or 90°. The bonnet features a central raised area and, aside from the obvious panel lining for doors, etc, she has sculpted door handles, wing mirrors and the little notches around her wheelwells. Towards the rear, there are a couple of long slots in the walls of the truck bed which almost look as if they're meant to accommodate accessories... but I think they're only present for the purpose of fitting (or perhaps removing) her wheels at the assembly stage.

While the paint job is far better than Hasbro's meagre effort, it's still not that great. Most of the necessary blue/white blocks and striping is here, but everything else is missing... The front and rear bumpers are unpainted, leaving bare white plastic at the front, and a mixture of blue and white at the back, with no 'Energon Glow' on either. The front grille is painted entirely silver rather than black with silver framing. The headlights are painted cyan, but the silver frames are absent, while the tail end is completely devoid of paint - neither the indicators nor the frames are picked out to any degree. Also, there should be a second, darker shade of blue paint applied to the wheelwells and the door areas, and the rear windscreen hasn't been painted to match the main windscreen and the side windows. Getting into even finer details, the window are supposed to be framed in blue, the white stripe on the doors is supposed to run down the sides of the truck bed, there's meant to be a white block below the doors and the hook-like protrusions from the back of the cab are supposed to be black. It's really strange to find that the Takara Tomy version of an underdecorated Hasbro figure still needs the Reprolabels to make it look anything like 'right'... They very much dropped the ball on this one, to the point where, honestly, I'm very much inclined to do some custom paintwork of my own.

Strongarm's weapon can be attached to vehicle mode in one of two ways: the traditional 5mm socket in the middle of her roof-mounted lightbar, or a secondary stocket behind her chest plate, on the underside of the vehicle. Since the gun was molded with a permanent muzzle flash (about the only RiD2015 weapon to get that treatment, I think), it looks even more daft than usual when pegged into the lightbar, so the concealed socket is preferable.

One strange thing about this Strongarm is that, as is customary with this sort of vehicle, she appears to have excellent ground clearance - the base of what would be the chassis is around 1cm above the base of the tyres - however, this is misleading, as her toes are hidden behind the rear wheels, and reduce her clearance to a little over 1mm. Surprisingly untidy, given how wasteful this toy is with its apparent bulk.

Robot Mode:
Disappointed as I was in the Prime of Micron version, this 'full-size' version of Strongarm is a bit of a disaster area in robot mode. Even from the front, she looks awkward thanks to the massive chunks of the car's front wings on her shoulders and the front grille folded around her forearms making them looks even more stubby than they actually are. The torso is so obviously faked - even with Takara Tomy's improved paint job - that it almost looks like a simplified knockoff of a bigger, more complex toy. The backpack is something I really wouldn't expect to see on a TransFormers toy in this day and age... it's basically the entire cab area folded back over the bonnet via a hinge at the top of the windscreen, and its resemblance to Strongarm's door wings is minimal. The doors are there, but they're in the wrong place and at the wrong orientation, and the two hook-like protrusions behind her shoulders are, I think, intended to represent them in this form. What little illusion there might have been is shattered by the unpainted rear windscreen spanning the space between these vestigial 'wings', and the actual door panels sticking out behind her arms at entirely the wrong angle.

It's tempting to praise the toy's designers for at least trying to add some semi-show accurate detailing to the inside of the car shell backpack and, certainly, a bit of additional paintwork might have worked wonders here. There's also the extended inside of the 5mm socket in her lightbar, offering the opportunity to holster her weapon on her back. Even the backs of her lower legs, while utterly hollow, feature some sculpted detail and structural support parts that are designed to resemble details on the backs of her legs on the animation model... but the simple fact of all that hollowness dashes any hopes that any of that might actually work.

The robot-specific paintwork is limited entirely to her chestplate which, unlike the Hasbro version, features the striping on her chest plates and matte black paint for the section of faux-windscreen visible behind them. Much of the sculpted detail for her waist and 'belt' is there, but none of it is painted and, while the shins are painted white, the kneecaps and ankle guards are bare blue plastic, and the rims of her feet are similarly unpainted white plastic.

As mentioned above, Strongarm's gun features a baffling sculpted and painted muzzle flash, which looks more than a little out-of-place compared to guns wielded by other figures in the line. Aside from this, it's a slim, but fairly well-detailed handgun - probably one of the most intricate weapons out of the few gun-toting figures in my small RID2015 collection. What's odd about it is that, as far as I've seen, it's not a gun she actually uses in the TV show. Granted, I've only managed to sit through a handful of episodes so far, but the guns packaged with other toys seem to broadly match what they're shown holding in screenshots, while this looks like several guns stuck together, and even appears to have a secondary barrel sticking out the back. It's also another one of those weapons whose main 5mm peg is so far forward, it ends up restricting her elbow movement.

One of the biggest problems with the Hasbro version of Strongarm was that her head was molded in blue plastic and the white parts weren't painted in. On this version the head is still molded in blue plastic, but some of the white parts are now painted in. Her Wheeljack-style 'ears' have their white parts, but the paint doesn't extend onto her cheek guards, the yellow striping around the blue tips and the Energon glow strips aren't painted in and the fine white striping on the top of her helmet is absent. Her crest is only painted yellow on the front, leaving too much bare blue plastic visible around the edges, and neither her eyebrows nor her chin-strap are painted black. On the upside, the sculpt is reasonably detailed and accurate, though her lips are perhaps sculpted a little too pouty. Without the character's blue lipstick, it's difficult to be sure, but she's either got an open-mouthed sculpt, or her upper lip is far too harshly sculpted and looks unnatural. The eyes feature rounded indents intended to represent the lighter outline of her 'irises' as well as what appears to be eyelash details on the lower outer corner. Going by the panel of unpainted black plastic on the back of the head, I'm guessing that light piping was an option for this figure but, for whatever reason, the decision was made to use opaque plastic and paint the eyes.

To be perfectly honest, Strongarm barely qualifies as a TransFormer. A good 80% of the vehicle is just shell that ends up hanging off her back or folded up onto her forearms, and the robot is little more than a very simplistic action figure concealed within this oversized car shell. The arms basically just rock upward 90° at the shoulder, then compress inward before the front grille unfolds from her forearms, while the backpack simply inverts and folds around the torso and thighs, with the feet flipping round at the ankle. There's not even any necessity to flip round the chest panel, other than to give her somewhere to conceal her handgun - while it's intended to keep the shoulder rocker joint in place in robot mode, it doesn't actually peg onto it, so the joint can move freely and, in fact, moves just as freely in robot mode than it does during transformation, so I'd call that an abject failure of design. In robot mode, she ends up with hollow lower legs and a horrific, floppy backpack that barely resembles the small wings of her animation model. On the upside, despite her vehicle mode amounting to a comparatively small robot contained within an oversized shell, it's remarkably sturdy and stable once tabbed together.

For such a chunky figure, Strongarm's articulation is OK. The feet only really move for transformation, but she has a decent amount of knee bend (which could have been better considering the knee isn't even used for transformation and the lower leg is hollow), a lower thigh rotation joint (just above the kneecap), ball-jointed hips and a full 360° waist rotation due to transformation. It's only above the waist that it becomes a little sub-par, as the shoulder articulation joints - hinged ball joints - are less inclined to move than the transformation rocker, as mentioned above, and the shoulder bulk - most of the front wings of the car - clash with the torso and the floppy backpack. Mounted on a ball joint just behind her jaw, Strongarm's head has an excellent range of movement, with about 70-80° of vertical tilt, unimpeded rotation and just a touch of quizzical tilt. A large footprint means she's pretty stable, but the lack of ankle tilt means the legs have to stay pretty straight to make the most of that stability. One rather significant problem is that the handgun reduces the range of her elbow joint because there's so much bulk at the back of the weapon.

It's probably unnecessary to say that I'm disappointed with this figure... but it's not just the surprisingly poor paint job that's barely an upgrade on Hasbro's version, it's the whole figure. It's poorly - wastefully - designed and only succeeds in looking anything like the character from the TV show by cheating. Granted, that's what most of this line has done, but at least some of them have made better use of their vehicle mode parts in the robot.

Ultimately, the RID2015 toyline - as exemplified by Strongarm - supports my contention that the toys should be designed first, with the character models in the TV show based directly upon them. Doing it any other way makes the actual toymaking much more difficult and, while TF Prime largely succeeded in striking a decent balance between using actual vehicle parts on the robot and cheating the appearance of actual vehicle parts, RID2015 largely flunks it... And I don't feel that claiming the TV show and toyline are aimed at a younger audience is really any excuse.

To me, it seems quite sad that RID2015 marks such a low point in the TransFormers brand. Strongarm had the potential to be a very interesting character and a very cool Femme-Bot toy but, if this is the best version Hasbro and Takara Tomy had to offer, something went very much adrift with the whole concept of both the TV show and the toyline... Then again, with the exception of a couple of figures, that's been my impression from the start.

No comments:

Post a Comment