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Transformers Beast Wars Neo
by yo go re

When Japan created a few exclusive Beast Wars cartoons - Beast Wars the Second and Beast Wars Neo - they got things we'd never see in the US. And it wasn't just new toys, but there were some animals that had never been seen stateside. Stampy's a rabbit; we have rabbits. Longrack's a giraffe; we know what giraffes are. But here in America? Ain't nobody ever heard of what Heinrad is.

Heinrad likes things simple. He eats when he's hungry and sleeps when he's tired. Heinrad He speaks in a yawning voice and sounds tired most of the time (though he's actually pretty energetic). He's also very traditional and likes to live life without all the hassles of technology. Heinrad is quiet and reserved but occasionally throws out a light-hearted joke. He rarely does anything wrong and no Maximals has anything against him. Though Heinrad really just wants to relax he is still a dedicated warrior who goes into battle without a trace of fear.

Heinrad is a tanuki, a quite confusing animal. Some people think it's just a mythological beast, no more realistic than the unicorn, the jackalope, or the platypus - and to be fair, it does feature in a lot of Japanese folktales. So? Aesop told a lot of stories about crows, but we don't think they're fake, do we? No. And neither is the tanuki.

Their name is often incorrectly translated to English a tanuki as "raccoon" or "badger," but the tanuki is neither of those: it's actually Nyctereutes procyonoides, the Asian racoon dog. About two feet long and weighing up to 20 pounds, the tanuki looks like a fat, shaggy fox with a raccoon's coloring. The real Heinrad toy duplicates that, but since this is just a "Space Warriors Transformable Beast-Tech Fighter" knockoff (like my Lio Convoy), he's painted more like a skunk than anything else.

Heinrad's beast mode is okay, but there is quite a lot of robot kibble visible. not a skunk He's more than 7" long from his nose to the tip of his tail, and he stands more than 3" tall. His shoulders, elbows, wrists and hips are balljointed, and his head and tail are hinged. This knockoff version has black fur with white and blue robot parts showing through. The circles around his eyes are silver, as is his nose, and the eyes themselves are black with white pupils. His claws are silver, but for some reason his hands are blue. It's very weird, but you won't have any of those problems if you get the real thing.

Transformation is simple - almost a bit too simple. Fold open the animal's back to reveal robot legs, and spin them around. Open the lower panels and fold out the bot's feet, then fold the tanuki's rear legs up. Turn the "hip pods" (which we'll discuss later) out to the sides, raise the torso up to click in place on the waist, and raise the tail. Pull the head and upper torso apart to reveal the robot's head, and flip the pieces back so they're out of the way.

the future's so bright... The robot has just as much kibble as the animal. Even ignoring the fact that they share same arms, there are bits of fur shell on the backs of his legs, bits of head hanging off his shoulders, the legs are wrapped around his ribs and that tail never really goes away. The real Heinrad has a clear visor that can drop down over his eyes that this version lacks - they're sculpted on the head, but as a solid piece rather than seperate.

One of Heinrad's abilities was It's a time machine, Marty! that he could control the flow of time: he could freeze everything but himself, then move his enemies into the path of their own laser blasts. Yeah, it drained him of all his energy, but it was worth it. Along those lines, the real Heinrad toy has a working alarm clock in his chest. Put a battery in his back, and you've got a real clock. The alarm is set by pulling up on the robot's head, and is shut off by pushing the head back down when you can't stand the shrill noise anymore. Since this toy is a knockoff, he just as a giant yin-yang sticker surrounded by the eight I Ching trigrams, though not in either of the usual arrangements. In fact, they seem to be in sort of a family order: xun, li, dui, qian, zhen, kan, gen, kun.

Heinrad has a gun which he can't hold very well, front towards enemy since the knockoff lacks articulated thumbs. Some of his joints are very tight, while others are very loose, but that's to be expected from a figure like this - the real one is almost assuredly better. The real one can fire a missle from his gun, too, while this one lacks both the missile and the launching mechanism. All these Beast Wars knockoffs also come with a tiny, translucent blue dinosaur man, for some reason.

Heinrad also has a third mode, but unlike a lot of TFs with crappy "battle base" modes, try not to stare at his hypnotic red testes his is actually pretty good. It's basically a secondary beast mode, with the tanuki sitting upright and showing off his clock. And his gigantic testicles. Yes, tanuki have legendarily huge balls, and this TF does its part to copy that. Those "pods" on the robot's hips? Not everyone keeps their reproductive organs in the same place. They're not big by tanuki standards, but can you think of any other Transformers that have visible genitalia? And no, fanfic doesn't count.

In the myths, how meta tanuki are mischievious tricksters with magical shape-shifting abilities. They tend to con people by turning leaves into money (briefly), and love getting drunk. Heinrad's gun splits in two to become a bottle of sake and a bundle of papers - a booklet full of the IOUs he'll write to cover the wine. Each accessory has a cord to allow the sitting tanuki to hold them. The pose is an imitation of the tanuki statues seen all over Japan. It was in this mode that Heinrad made an appearance in the Robots in Disguise pilot episode - one of the kids has the alarm clock in his room.

To see how Japan views the tanuki, fly, my mighty nutsack army, fly! check out Studio Ghibli's Pom Poko, which is all about the little buggers trying to defend their home from land developers. Of course, the English dub refers to them as "raccoons" and inexplicably tries to pass off their scrotums as "pouches." Uh, what? Since when are raccoons marsupials? Incongruous to say the least. But you won't be fooled by such shenanigans, will you? You know what a tanuki is, and you know the truth about its dangly bits. The dirty, dirty truth.

Heinrad is an interesting toy. Despite all the kibble, despite the dubious transformation scheme and the oddity of both the animal and the clock in its stomach, I really like this little knockoff. So much so, in fact, that I'm almost tempted to get the real thing from an importer - and I usually hate Beast Wars toys. Of course, the real Heinrad costs about $30, while this Big Lots knockoff is only a fifth of that, so this price was a lot easier to swallow.


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