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Transformers Animated
by yo go re

After some strong initial resistance, the fans really warmed to Transformers Animated. Unfortunately, stores' interest waned before the fans', so there were several toys that went unreleased. A few made it out, but not all of them - at least, not through Hasbro.

Blackout is the biggest of all soldiers in the Decepticon army. His mission is of critical importance. First, he'll secretly infiltrate a target planet. After the opponent's communications capabilities have been paralyzed and the enemy is in chaos, a full-blown invasion will begin. Up against him, mechanical bodies are nothing more than a burden!

Aww, isn't that nice? They worked his movie activities into his cartoon bio. Because, yes, Animated Blackout is an homage to movie Blackout, and no, he didn't really do anything in the cartoon. That bio is also translated from Japanese, because while Hasbro has apparently given up on getting any use out of the mold they paid to design and create, Takara wasted no time in releasing Blackout.

Blackout's altmode is a helicopter of indeterminate design - it's not quite the Pave Low, but there are influences of that present. He never actually had an Earth mode, but if the cartoon had made it to Season 4, who knows? Maybe he would have been back. The front end is short and rounded, with glossy black windows, and the tail is almost comically huge. There's no landing gear, but the rotor spins and there's a veritable arsenal of weaponry: six Gatling guns and four small missiles under the "wings" near the rotor. The vehicle is 9" long, 3¾" tall, and will be 7½" at the most - that's the span of the rotors, while the body is 4¼".

Sadly, we can't link you to any instructions, because obviously Hasbro doesn't have them on its site. Begin by pulling off the tail, which makes a large cracking sound, but don't worry: it's not breaking, that's just the sound it makes. Fold back the rotor blades, and as you swing down the legs, an automorph feature pops up the entire rotor assembly. Neat! Next, straighten the legs and flip out the toes, including the little heel spurs that will let him stand. Swing down the arms, rotate the guns, then split the cabin to reveal Blackout's head. You'll also fold back the arms at the shoulders, pull out his little fingers and tuck away the "missile wings."

Remember how movie Blackout was one of the smallest Voyagers ever released? Well congratulations, big guy, Animated Blackout is even smaller! His head is only 5" from the ground, and the kibble on his back maxes out at 7¼". He's a stumpy little TF, make no mistake - a Blackout figure really needs to be Leader Class to duplicate his stature, but no one would ever buy that.

Blackout's head is somewhat similar to the movie version, but it's much more interesting - instead of looking like a metal insect, it looks like, you know, "a head." It's rather horizontal, so he looks like a robotic Stewie Griffin. With a bit of Wilford Brimley thrown in for good measure.

The figure moves at the shoulders, biceps, elbows, fingers, waist, hips, thighs and knees It's not a lot, but remember, he's supposed to be a big bruiser. He does have one weapon/accessory, as well: remember how the first step in converting him was to remove the tail? It converts into a... I don't know what. It probably has a name on the package, but it's in Japanese, so let's just call it a disc launcher. Pull the trigger on the bottom, and friction makes the helicopter's tail rotor shoot out. It's sculpted with a blade pattern, so imagine him firing buzzsaws around the battlefield. If you fold away Blackout's hand, the weapon can plug onto either wrist.

I was really reluctant to buy an imported Animated Blackout - I still laugh at anyone who bought a Japanese Arcee, Ironhide or Hot Rod, thinking they were never going to come out. But while Hasbro said they wanted to find a way to get Blackout in US fans' hands, they've since admitted they don't currently have an outlet, and the more time passes since the end of Animated, the less likely it looks.

Blackout is a really cool toy, a wonderful addition to the Transformers Animated ranks. But still, when I opened that Japanese box and finally played with this figure, I had one simple reaction:

"Man, why wasn't this released?!"

-- 05/03/11

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