It's a shame that Hasbro didn't forsee the nostalgia cycle that would return their toys to prominence - if they had, they might have tried harder to hold onto their characters' names. A lot of GIJoes and Transformers now have overly complicated names because Hasbro wasn't paying attention when the rights expired. Hawk is General Abernathy. Hot Rod is Autobot Rodimus or something crazy like that. But apparently that system wasn't good enough, because instead of being Autobot Jazz, this G1 update answers to the name Meister.
Jazz would be cruising down Bourbon Street in New Orleans or be double parked outside a cellar club in Greenwich Village soaking up the local sounds if he weren't in the middle of a war. He's a confirmed Earthen culture junkie - he can talk fluently about ballet or break-dancing (although he prefers the latter) and he's always on the lookout for more stuff to turn on to. His knowledge of Earthen ways and his easy adaptability to Earthen environments make him the indispensable right-hand man of his commander, Optimus Prime. He's often given the most dangerous assignments, and with characteristic coolness, usually pulls them off using something out of his seemingly bottomless bag of tricks. He'd rather dazzle you with style than accomplish a mission the easy way.
Back in Generation 1, Jazz was a sleek racing car. Painted white with red and blue racing stripes, the #4 car was, like most of the early Transformers, designed after a specific vehicle; this one was actually Martini's race-tuned Porsche 935 Turbo, with the "Moby Dick" body kit (so named because the giant rear spoiler made the car look like a whale from the side). The idea behind the Alternators is simple: robots in disguise. But this time Hasbro has licensed real designs from manufacturers, re-creating specific cars with uncanny detail.
Alternators Jazz is no longer a racecar, but he's still sporty. Now he's a Mazda RX-8, the newest incarnation of Mazda's classic RX series, powered by the unique twin-rotor Wankel engine. In car form, Jazz is entirely indistinguishable from the real thing: it's got the distinctive exterior lines, the tiny fog lamp set and even the rotary crests under the front and rear bumpers. Did you know that the antenna for an RX-8 is actually built into the rear window? Well, Hasbro and Takara did, because it's right there on the toy.
Even the interior of the car is detailed. The dashboard has all the readouts and gauges of the real vehicle, a glove compartment on the passenger side, a gearshift and parking brake, adjustable seats and a moving steering wheel. The hood, trunk and all four doors (two full-size, two half) open. This really is a dead-on 1/24 scale model of the RX-8; but this is a Transformer, so we're not finished yet.
Jazz's transformation is just as much a reference to G1 as everything else about this toy: his head and arms are under the hood, his feet are in the trunk, all that. Things are much more complex, now, though. Jazzmeister is basically the same as the first Alternator, Smokescreen, but there are lots of small changes that have really improved on what we got before - the way the arms fold out, the way the legs move... just minor things, but they help. In robot form, Jazz stands 7" tall.
The point of the complex transformation is that Jazz looks just like he used to, but actually has some articulation. He moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees and ankles. He's also got two articulation points in each hand to move his fingers and allow him to hold his gun. Rather than a separate piece, his gun is a transformable part, too - it doubles as part of the exhaust system, and looks a lot like the G1 Photon Rifle. He doesn't have his shoulder-mounted rocket launcher, sadly.
This figure is available in either white or red versions: the red goes by the supremely embarrassing name "Zoom Zoom." Oi. Really, it just makes me wish even more that they'd managed to hold onto the name Jazz - though, in reality, it's such a common word that I find it hard to believe that anyone could lay a defensible claim to the exclusive rights.
"Meister" is the first Alternator they've released whose G1 counterpart I had, so I was really looking forward to the figure. He was also one of my favorites back on the old cartoon, where Scatman Crothers (possibly best known for taking an axe in the back in The Shining) provided his rough voice. But really, that name's just dumb. Jazz forever!
Who owns all these name rights that Hasbro let slip? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.