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Masterpiece Optimus Prime

by yo go re

We all have our heroes. Those people after whom we try, at some level, to model our lives. Athletes, leaders, movie characters, whoever. Often those connections are formed when we're young - witness Poe's slavish devotion to the stern patrician values of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, for instance. Well, like Poe, my formative years were in the '80s, so we share some ideals, one of which is the reverberating sanctimony of Optimus Prime.

Optimus Prime

On Earth he would have been a doctor, a mechanic, a scientist and a warrior, but on Cybertron there is no difference between these professions. So Optimus uses his skills to heal and repair, to improve the world around him and, if necessary, to fight. Both in power and intelligence, he has no equal. He can be immensely kind and his compassion extends to all that lives, including the creatures of Earth. Yet he will battle unceasingly to protect the weak and defend what he believes in. To accomplish this Optimus knows that the Decepticons must be defeated for all time.

Now, I'm not going to turn this into some big rant about how today's kids are spoiled, but when we were young, our toys required No! NO! Bad Human! Sit. Stay. imagination. No line embodies this fact more obviously than The Transformers. An amalgam of several pre-existing lines of transforming Japanese toys, the robots' American cartoon counterparts often bore little resemblance to their physical beings; Jetfire/Skyfire might be the most obvious example, but none of the toys actually looked very much like they were supposed to. There's a lot of discussion over how "G1 Accurate" new toys are, but fans forget that even G1 wasn't G1 Accurate.

To celebrate the Transformers' 20th anniversary, Hasbro and Takara are both releasing a tribute to those early days. This "Masterpiece Edition" Optimus Prime goes beyond any other Transformer toy in remaining true to both the cartoon and the toys that inspired it.

Prime has stature befitting his role: in robot form, he stands 12" tall, well out of scale with any other Transformers. Yes, Prime is in a category of his own. While the original toy was barely mobile, Masterpiece Prime moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees, ankles and toes, as well as having a few other panels and compartments that open. All ten fingers are articulated, allowing for a selection of fun gestures. Most of his joints are decorated with nice pistons that help give him a realistic look.

To combat the Decepticon threat, Prime comes with his Ion Blaster, the laser rifle that could burn a hole in the nosecone of a Decepticon jet fighter at 30 miles. The 5" long gun is painted mainly gray, with highlights in silver and blue. A bit of translucent green plastic is located in the barrel of the gun, reflecting light and giving life to the weapon. Recreating the very few times that Prime fell back to his holdout weapon, the figure includes a translucent orange 3 3/4" Energon Axe, which can be plugged into his wrist. The axe is not a smooth piece; rather it is molded with various details, such as a spiked ball at the base and waves on its blade to suggest its energetic nature.

Finally, as a cool added bonus, he also includes an in-scale Walther P-38; for those of you playing along at home, yes, that's a tiny little Megatron: true, he doesn't transform, but he does come with the silencer, scope and stock that the original had, and all three are removable. They even put a tiny little Decepticon logo on the sides. It's been far too long since there's been a non-suckass Megatron, but that's neither here nor there.

There are a lot of cool little features hidden all over Optimus, and they all relate to his cartoon incarnation. Vents on his shins open when you flex his ankles, he's got communicators on both forearms (the right features an image of Starscream and the left has Bumblebee), his chest opens to reveal a 1" Matrix that can be removed and opened and, with the addition of a few batteries, will light up with the push of a button. Eat that, Unicron!

A button concealed on the back Pime's head makes his mouthpiece move as if he's talking. Did you know that Optimus Prime had a face under that thing? Well, apparently he does; a little metal nose and mouth are visible behind his familiar faceplate. His light blue eyes, rather than being light-piped, are vac-metallized to give them a spark of life.

Now, as nice as all that is, a Transformer just isn't a Transformer unless it changes into something else (usually accompanied by that distinctive transforming sound). Now, granted, we've had those Heroes of Cybertron and Mega SCF figures before, and their purpose is to look like the G1 cartoons, but Masterpiece Prime is more than a glorified PVC - this Autobot can transform and roll out.

In order to accurately portray both the robot and vehicle forms, Prime's transformation is easily the most complex ever created for the line. No longer is it as simple as G1, where the head rotated out of the cab, the arms pulled out of the sides and the legs folded down. Yes, those moves are still present, but there's a lot more twisting, folding, opening and closing involved for this edition, most of it to duplicate the cartoon's design.

In vehicle mode, Optimus looks great: the cab measures 4" tall, 9 1/2" long and 4" wide. He features real rolling rubber wheels, a suspension system and intricate detailing from windshield wipers to tail lights. As awesome and as long-awaited as Unicron was, I am completely blown away by this figure - it's the best Prime in the character's long history. The only thing missing is the back half of the tractor trailer.

Oh, wait, no, here it is.

In toy form, Prime's trailer became a combat deck with a little scout car; on the cartoon, it just dropped out of frame or rolled away over the horizon, conveniently forgotten about until he transformed back and it returned. It's no big surprise, then, that Hasbro and Takara didn't bother making it into a real toy. However, the Japanese release at least gives it a nod: the cardboard tray in which the figure rests is printed with an image of that superfluous appendage; the cardboard can be folded up into a nice-sized companion piece that actually plugs into the cab and completes the look. Sure, it's just a hollow piece with fake wheels, but it speaks of an attention to detail that a lot of toys lack these days.

The Japanese release also comes with a 16-page booklet that explains the history of Convoy (as he's known in Japan) from G1 all the way up through Armada, complete with pictures, bios and stats. The back half of the booklet contains the transformation instructions, which are easy enough to follow despite the kanji notations. I hope something similar will be adopted for the North American release, because the info in the booklet (translated for us by Ben's World of Transformers) is pretty cool, and much more worthwhile than a simple series of diagrams.

The 20th Anniversary Masterpiece Optimus Prime is not an easily affordable toy; his price tag makes even Unicron look like a thrifty buy. But if you do decide to spend the extra money to bring him home, Optimus Prime won't disappoint. To this day, I can't see a red Freightliner tractor trailer without thinking of Optimus, and I'm proud to finally own him.

Who would you kill to get a Masterpiece Edition Megatron? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.


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