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Masterpiece Optimus Prime

by yo go re

In 2003, Masterpiece Optimus Prime was pretty much a perfect toy. So naturally, eight years later we got an even better one.

For millions of years, noble Optimus Prime has led the Autobots in their war against the tyranny of Megatron and his evil Decepticons. His unwavering courage in the face of centuries of desperate battle is an inspiration to his comrades. He is an unstoppable warrior and a flawless leader, pushing ahead through the darkest times in the history of Cybertron and remaining unbowed, unbroken, and always committed to victory.

The directive for the Masterpiece line is still "make the toys look like the cartoon," so Prime's design is entirely familiar. This isn't some homage or reimaging, it's the same Optimus Prime who's been preaching at us since 1984, just with more intricate details sculpted on him, and with a body that is less obviously a truck - like, he has a waist, not just a gap between his hips and his chest, and his legs look like legs rather than I-beams. Basically, this toy is what we thought Optimus Prime looked like, not what he actually looked like; the memories of a child are a hazy thing.

This Masterpiece Prime is smaller than the first Masterpiece Prime - he almost reaches the 9⅝" mark, which makes him more in scale with Alternity figures than Alternators. There's plentiful articulation, with joints aplenty in the head, neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, fingers, waist, hips, thighs, knees, shins, and ankles. It's not quite as much as his bigger brother (no balljointed head, no thumb articulation, single knees instead of doubles, no separate toe joints), but it's still enough to make him a lot of fun. And there's a lot less die-cast metal this time, so he'll hold his poses more securely, without you having to worry if his weight will topple him over or cause something to break.

We also lose a few gimmicks. For instance, while Prime's head is still the old familiar design, with the blue "helmet" over a gray face and bright blue eyes, with antennae ears, and a solid mouthplate, but now there's no button on the back of his head that makes his jaw bob up and down like he's talking. Comparatively, the head is shorter and wider.

Also, while the Autobot Matrix of Leadership is still housed inside his chest (and still removable, naturally), there's no longer a lightbulb behind it to illuminate the translucent blue center, and the casing doesn't open. Will you miss those features? Probably not, considering all the other cool things he has.

For instance, his Ion Blaster rifle: rather than being a plain accessory that he either has to hold or lay on the ground, it folds up into a small package that can be stored inside Optimus' back (in either robot or vehile mode). He's also got his translucent orange energy axe, because Japan loves that thing. It's designed to fit over his right fist, and the blade can turn to face different directions.

Converting the figure is rather complex - not because it's unintuitive or anything, just because there are so many tiny bits that have to be moved back and forth in order to get everything moved around. "Did you remember to unfold the headlights? No? Well screw you then, now you can't form his arms!" Just follow the instructions a couple times and you'll get the hang of it.

The truck mode looks even more coherent and refined than the original MP Prime did. The windows don't overhang the front of the truck any more, and he has separate little side-wiew mirrors (which seems like an excessive move, but they're still neat). All six wheels roll, and the smokestacks are adjustable, so they can be long in robot mode and shorter for the truck. The grill, bumper, headlights, smokestacks, hubcaps and gas tanks are all vac-metallized, but it doesn't look too bad here.

Another feature that makes this Prime better than the original? He comes with his trailer - and not just a cardboard version, but a fully functional, up-scaled version of the one from the '80s. It's 12" long, 4" wide, the rear doors open and a ramp pulls out of the back so other cars can drive on in.

But it does more than that, too. Like we said, it's a full update of the original. That means it can hinge open to reveal a Combat Deck, complete with battle stations where tiny figures can sit, and a defense/observation pod on a hinged arm. The pod has an opening canopy, a radar dish, and a grabber arm that can bend and swivel. To support the sides of the deck, you can swing support struts out from underneath the trailer - spring-loaded feet lower as you move them to the side, adding a bit of automation to the toy.

Alternately, you can stand the trailer on end, and it becomes a repair bay - the little seats even fold down so you can store his gun and axe.

Also inside the trailer is our old pal Roller, the little six-wheeled buggy. It's 3⅞" long and 2⅝" wide, and all six wheels roll. The body is blue, with yellow headlights, black seats, and a red light on top. The underside is detailed like an axle and suspension, and there are two posts on the back that, on the original toy, pushed up against the spring-loaded panel that would launch it down the ramp (there is no equivalent feature on this toy).

The original Roller could carry Optimus' gun, and this one can do the same. A panel on the back flips open, revealing a slot sized for the Ion Blaster's grip. Or you can go a step further, and open the entire back end, which allows you to flip that whole section over, which does away with the slot of the gun, but does allow Roller to haul Prime's trailer. And that looks pretty cool if you take advantage of the two small flaps on the roof of the trailer, which, with some effort, can be folded open to allow the Combat Deck's control pod to poke out the roof.

Finally, the set includes a small Spike Witwicky figure. Now, Masterpiece Transformers have come with humans before (remember Dr. Arkeville?), but this is still better. Spike is ~1½" tall, the same size as the old Diaclone drivers, and is articulated at the shoulders, hips, and knees. He's wearing his traditional outfit - beige shirt, blue jeans, and giant yellow boots - but doesn't have any paint on his facial features. Additionally, the arms are a better fleshtone than his pasty face. He's sized to sit in Roller, in the truck's cab, or in any of the three seats in the Combat Deck.

This figure was released as MP-10 in Japan, but in the United States he was a Toys Я Us exclusive. It wasn't quite as hard to find as Soundwave would eventually prove to be, but it wasn't what you'd really call "plentiful." And that's a shame, too, because despite being smaller, this is the superior Masterpiece Prime.

-- 02/17/15

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