Friday, 12 April 2019

Cybertron Ransack

While the majority of my Galaxy Force/Cybertron collection is made up of Takara's version, there were a few toys that, to begin with at least, didn't exactly light my candle. I wasn't even watching the TV show (I don't know if it actually aired in the UK - probably only on satellite TV if it did), there was no investment in the characters, as such, so my purchases were entirely based on how I felt about the toys.

One such toy was Gasket, who just looked weird... But, having decided against importing him, I ended up buying his cheaper Hasbro analogue after acquiring the BotCon 2006 boxed set, 'Dawn of Futures Past', in which the mold had been repainted as a pre-Beast Wars Rattrap.

Vehicle Mode:
Even with the chronic assembly error that lifts the back end of the bike to a weird angle, Ransack cuts a pretty fine figure as a Sci-Fi motorcycle. It looks like it's taken design cues from the likes of the anime Akira and the movie TRON, to create a long, low-riding, chunky-wheeled, open-topped Lightcycle. Admittedly, much of the Akira vibe comes from the use of red plastic and the way the front wheel is mounted - rather than spinning on its hub, it's held to the bike via the wheel's inner rim. The use of translucent red plastic for the wheels is one of my favourite aspects of the toy, though this appears to be a trait common to the characters from Speedia/Velocitron.

The bike looks a little ostentatious thanks to a generous trim of gold and silver, but it's applied in fairly sensible locations - wrapped around the nose of the bike, on the top of the petrol tank, and on the sweeping sections of the sides - and perfectly aligned with the sculpted details of the bike, so none of it really looks out of place. In fact, being a Hasbro version, if anything, it looks like there should be more paint, particularly at the back of the bike. The front wheel is able to turn, ostensibly for transformation, but it's a completely unnecessary step that happens to give bike mode something like steering... though the absence of handlebars makes it look a little odd.

Ransack's weapon connects to the back of the bike and, to be honest, vehicle mode looks incomplete without it. It's a weird-looking piece, with translucent red guns that point forward when it's 'inactive' and back when triggered by the key. It definitely looks as though paint applications are missing from the sides of the weapon - gold on the part that slides over the robot's arms, where the existing paint application becomes obscured, would have been an ideal starting point - but Ransack is one of those rare Cybertron figures whose paintwork is virtually identical to his Galaxy Force counterpart. As far as I can see, the only significant omissions on the entire toy only become visible when the guns are deployed (the Galaxy Force version has gold paint over the angled portion at the very back of the gunbarrels) or removed (the gold paint on the figure's feet wraps around the sides, like the black paint, on Takara Tomy's version).

The aforementioned assembly error has remarkably little effect - the rear wheel halves still spin unimpeded, but they don't align properly with the sculpted void in the body of the vehicle. It's simple enough to fix - the hinged suspension sections that attach them to the bike need only be switched to the opposite sides - but I've not been able to remove the pins, and would prefer not to break the figure trying.

Robot Mode:
Ransack looks pretty bizarre... and that's the main reason I wasn't intending to buy him before I picked up the BotCon 2006 set. Even within the strange, futuristic aesthetic of Galaxy Force, he's a weird looking robot - very skinny, with some oddly-place protrusions, including a wheel on his back, half wheels hanging off his knees, ginormous shoulder pads, and a sort of robo-hoodie effect due to his head being sunk within the nose of the bike. Considering how much I liked the aesthetics of Galaxy Force for the most part, this one was very much the black sheep of the family, and seemed to be further evidence that motor bikes were a poor choice of vehicle mode for TransFormers toys, even in the new millennium.

Additionally, with such a sleek vehicle mode, there's not a great deal of detail on show in robot mode. A good chunk of his waist area is basically just an exposed hinge, with the chest plate being largely flat with only a few panel lines. The biceps feature a little panel lining, while the forearms feature raised panels on the cuffs. Much of what's there on the legs is obscured by the ginormous wheel halves, and the detailing on the interior surfaces of the wheels is very basic and spoke-like.

That said, the distribuition of colour ends up being pretty clever - the silver-topped petrol tank splits to become oversized silver shoulder armour with built-in gold-painted epaulettes, while the gold sections from the sides of the bike become little armour panels on his forearms with blade-like parts which protrude back behind his elblows. The chest panel features blocks of both gold and silver paint, while the shins have a strip of gold breaking up panels of black just below his knees and over his 'toes'.

Ransack's weapon makes a bit more sense in robot mode, plugging into either fist via a 5mm peg on the underside and seemingly wrapping around his forearm... but it's ridiculously oversized, being almost as long as Ransack is tall. Plus, I can't help but thing that a large handgun that has to be activated by one of the line's key gimmicks is a needlessly fussy weapon. Since the key slot is in the back of the weapon, it has to be removed once the gun barrels have deployed, or Ransack has to keep his arm fully extended to wield the gun. Interesting to note, also, that Ransack's only Decepticon insignia appears on one side of the gun, with none visible on his body. Then again, as far as I can see, the Takara version features no faction insignia at all.

The head sculpt is a cute little thing, with a sort of uniform cap look combined into the overall 'helmet' by way of a small black brim over the eyes, and the fairly common 'ear wings' on either side of the head. The face has a strangely panda-like appearance due to a seemingly intentional overspill of black paint around the eyes, and there's a truly bizarre expression on the mouth - I can't quite tell if it's intended to be a smirk or a sort of 'biting his lip' look. As with most of the toys in this line, the eyes would be light-piped, but they've been painted over in a bright, opaque green.

Given his size, it's not surprising to find Ransack's transformation is very simplistic... it's pretty much just a case of flipping his chest plate back over his head, raising his lower body via the hinge in his waist, then swinging everything together. What's odd about it is how little of him actually pegs together. The legs remain loose, and are really only held in place because the rear wheel halves tab into each other, while the arms feature only one peg/socket at the wrists and stay in place as much because of the weapon clipped over them as the large pegs on the knees that slot into the undersides of the forearms... But for all those comparatively flimsy connections, he holds together remarkably well... and his transformation is pretty much on a par with other figures his size.

As one might expect from a figure this size, the key points of articulation - hips, knees and elbows - use ball joints, with the shoulders being a combination of a hinged bicep section and a mushroom peg on the end of the transformation joint (which also gives a couple of degrees of forward motion before the shoulder gets stopped by the chest plate). The awkward feet - essentially two long, thin protrustions from the ankle - offer decent stability in a surprising range of poses though, obviously, Ransack can't stand on one leg. Also, with the hips being comparatively large and flat, their range of movement is quite weird. Due to protrusions on the front and back of the hip, their range is only about 90° between forward and rear extents, but the outward swing is restricted more by the wheels hanging off the lower leg than by the hip joint itself. Similarly, the wheels tend to get in the way of the arms, but it's actually marginally better than it could have been due to the misassembly putting the wheels further back on the leg than they'd otherwise be. The biggest surprise is that he actually has waist rotation, despite the joint not being required for transformation. The fact that the waist joint is enclosed on three sides means that he ends up leaning forward if the waist is twisted too far in either direction, but it's still an unexpected bonus and reasonably useful for posing purposes.

The key provided with this figure is one of the most significant differences between the Hasbro and Takara Tomy version - the frame on this one is unpainted. I don't recall any other instances of unpainted keys in the line, so I have to assume it was some kind of factory error.

I'm not quite sure what it is about this figure, but it ended up being quite endearing in-hand, to the point that I later tracked down Takara Tomy's Toys'R'Us exclusive Gasket Police-Type as well, though I didn't bother with Hasbro's Ransack GTS. It's certainly not one of the best toys from the Galaxy Force/Cybertron line, but nor is it one of the worst... it's just a bit average, not particularly inspiring.

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