There was no guarantee that 2007's Transformers movie was going to be any good - after all, it wouldn't be the first toy-based movie that sucked. And to be honest, it's not like Michael Bay had an unblemished track record, either. Things could have gone either way, but there was one thing that was sure: there was going to be a ton of extra interest
in Transformers as a brand, and Takara was ready to take advantage of it. They reached out to new audiences with oddities like Music Label Soundwave and, even stranger, their Sports Label assortment.
It is a world transformed, where things are not what they seem. It is the world of the Transformers... a world of heroic Cybertrons and evil Destrons!
The packaging for the Sports Label figures
is really innovative: since they change into shoes, it's designed to duplicate a shoebox. Made from sturdy cardboard, the box is printed with orange, white and grey ink, and really looks like a Nike box, save for the giant picture of the robot taking up more than half the top.
Open the lid, and the shoe is displayed in its two-part plastic tray. The sleeve that holds the tray has a window so you can see the shoe without removing it, and there's some sort of descriptive sticker on the inside of the lid. Beneath the shoe, you'll find a collector's card and the folded instruction booklet.
The shoe looks very impressive - after all, it's fully licensed by Nike, so it's not like Takara had to cut any corners. It's not full-sized, of course, unless your foot is 5½" long: about a child's size 5 or 6, according to Nike's own sizing chart. Much more narrow, of course. Can't really assign it a scale, since everybody's feet are different, but let's call it a 1:2.
The shoe itself is impressively realistic. It's supposed to be a red and white Nike Free 7.0 running shoe (a left shoe, specifically), and it captures the look perfectly. The large mesh panels to make the shoe breathe, the synthetic body to maintain the fit, the broad, raised midsole to add stability... it's all there. Okay, so it doesn't have the bit inside shaped to mimic the curve of your heel, but that's understandable. What it does have, however, are real laces!
The stitches are painted on,
which the mesh areas have a sculpted texture. It's very good over the toes and tongue, but is a bit problematic on the heel: out near the sides, it lines up as it should, but as you near the center of the heel, the grid stretches out and becomes distorted: it's like the grid was just projected on the shoe, and distended when it had to deal with a curve. The Nike Free 7.0's unique sole is duplicated just as handily as the rest of the shoe, right down to the "7.0" logo on the bottom and side.
The Sports Label TFs are pretty much shellformers: Transformers in which the transformation involves not so much moving pieces from one location to another as opening an outer case to reveal the robot within.
Like Big Convoy. Anyway, the transformation begins by untying the laces - yes, that's in the instructions, so if you don't re-tie them when you change him back, he's not properly transformed.
In robot mode, Prime (or Convoy, as he's known in Japan) looks very... Prime-ish. This may be the first Prime figure that lacks the usual "window chest," but his arms and torso are mostly red, his upper legs are silver, and his lower legs are blue - that's classic Prime, right there. The tip of the shoe's tongue ends up on his chest, so he has a Nike swoosh there, and instead of a truck's grill, his abs look like a shoe's crossed laces. Oh, and on his feet? He's wearing a pair of Nike Frees. Meta!
As a shellformer (not to be confused with a shelfwarmer), Sport Label Convoy has a lot of kibble - from behind, he looks entirely like the sole of a shoe. The worst offenders,
however, are the huge bits of shell that hang off his upper arms. They stick straight into the air, reaching the 7" mark. Oh, and the laces? They just dangle down to the ground. In robot mode, Convoy has hinged ankles, hinged knees, hinge/swivel hips, elbows and shoulders, and a balljointed head.
Prime has a weapon, and a pretty clever way of storing it. His gun, which looks rather like Ultra Magnus' G1 weapon. The red and white gun splits in half to store inside the shell in shoe mode. My Sport Label Convoy had excess plastic preventing the front half of the gun from snapping in place properly - good thing I had a Dremel so I could fix that easily.
The figure in this review isn't an official Sports Label Convoy;
the real ones - both Convoy and Megatron - fetch upwards of $70 apiece on auctions, and some retailers' prices are even worse. This, on the other hand, is a Chinese knock-off. The sculpt is just as detailed as the real thing, the size and the plastic quality are the same... really, there are just a few exceedingly minor paint and packaging differences between the real thing and the fake thing, so if you want this oddball toy for a (somewhat) affordable price, don't hesitate to pick up the knockoff.
There are some more blatant knockoffs, which are smaller, simpler, and painted solid bright colors (all yellow, or all green, for instance), but you can spot the difference.
You can't have a TF assortment without an Optimus Prime - heck, he even showed up under the Music Label banner without having the slightest connection to music - so it's no surprise that was also one of the first two Sports Label figures. In fact, the official releases all use the same body, just with different heads. Sports Label Megatron is an exact duplicate below the neck, just done up in different colors. It's a shame they didn't do one right shoe and one left shoe, so that they'd seem more like enemies, but that would probably make the prices even worse. As it is, Sports Label Convoy is a strange toy, and not a must-have for the casual fan, but if you like TFs and aren't wed to one particular storyline, this is a nice oddity that will surely attract attention.