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Origin Jazz

Transformers Buzzworthy Bumblebee
by yo go re

I don't care how buzzworthy this figure is, it's still not Bumblebee!

"North side of Cybertron's blacker than the inside of a drive shaft!"

After the success of last year's two-years-ago's Origin Bumblebee, Hasbro went back to the "More than Meets the Eye, Part 1" well, pulling up a big bucketful of the last character shown to have a Cybertronian altmode, Jazz. On a solo recon mission for energy stores, Jazz returned to Iacon City, managing to not notice Soundwave transforming like five feet in front of him. Pay attention, Jazz! Maybe the Autobots never would have gotten stranded on Earth if you didn't insist on driving with your eyes closed!

It was 2021 when we got the best Jazz to date, so we have a pretty good example to compare this one to. For example, the head is the correct shape, but the visor really needs to be a lighter blue to stand out from the black "helmet" around it. Yes, this shade is cartoon-accurate, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's what's best for the toy. And why no blue panels on the front of his hips?

While the animators created crazy space-car modes for the Autobots on their home planet, absolutely no work went into changing their robot mode models at all. Surely the thought process was that these were one-time-use designs in very short scenes meant for a notoriously dumb demographic (children), and that therefore it wasn't worth spending time and money on something they'd never even notice. Silly animators, how could you not predict how obsessive fanboys like us would be 40 years later! That lack of impossible foresight means Jazz has identifiable Porsche kibble on his chest and back more than 10 years before the first Porsche was designed. [technically, yes, 4 million years is more than 10 --ed.] That's about the time Australopithecus first evolved.

All the kibble on the toy's back is in service of his altmode, so it doesn't match the cartoon's Porsche-parts, but it is equivalent: roof on the back, spoiler on the heels, etc. He does get a piece of faux-kibble for his chest, creating a flattened version of the familiar curving hood and bumper, features that don't actually appear anywhere at all on his eventual altmode. Where'd you get that chest from, Jazz? Where'd you get that chest from? It's super compressed, as it was often drawn, but it would look better if it could stick out just a bit more. We need something halfway between this and the Studio Series version.

Jazz has a balljointed head, hinge/swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, a swivel waist, swivel/hinge hips, hinged knees, and rocker ankles. He's armed with a black rifle matching his G1 accessory, and has a grappling hook that can replace one of his hands (as seen in "More than Meets the Eye, Part 2"). The grapnel can also fit onto the tip of the rifle, for some sort of combo weapon.

Converting Jazz is not without its problems. It's not too complex: you basically just lift the fake chest over the head, fold the arms in, open the back of the legs so you can extricate the doors, move the car's hood up and the windshield down, and fold the upper legs into the now-hollow shins, then press everything together. The thing is, the legs fold up best when the panels are open, but it's almost impossible to actually get them into place against the rest of the car unless they're closed; the arms have to turn the opposite direction it seems like they would, but you get used to that quickly; the tabs on the doors are so large it's hard to push them into place, and even harder to open them again; and the translucent windshield has to flex past the body of the car instead of just moving into place easily. (You can shave a little plastic off the inside of the window on each side - it doesn't change the appearance or stability at all, but means the plastic no longer has to bend dangerously.)

While Bumblebee and Wheeljack went on a heist and got in a running fight with the Decepticons, all Jazz did was drive up to a building, go inside, and ride an elevator; with that in mind, it's kind of strange he got a Cybertronian mode at all. It's like they'd already designed it, then had to contrive a reason to put it in the episode so the effort didn't go to waste. That would certainly explain why he seems to be showcased from every possible angle despite such a mundane scene.

Jazz's altmode is a "Cybertronian hovercraft," according to Hasbro's official product listing, and it looks about as much like a Porsche as Bumblebee's flying saucer looked like a Volkswagen. Rather than being round and curved, it's straight and angular, with a scoop intake on the front that honestly makes it look like a space dustbuster. Still more alien than other attempts, that's for sure. It does still have a comically large spoiler on the back, though, and the Autobot logo in the stripe on the hood is brighter and easier to see than the one that was on the robot's chest. Unlike Bumblebee's inanimate carbon rods, Jazz can actually store all his accessories: the grappling hook fits into a spot under the car, while the rifle can plus into the roof.

It seems like Jazz is a fast seller. When he came out two weeks ago, every Target I went to had at least two pegs entirely full of just this figure, but I went hunting yesterday and only saw a single Jazz left. Good for him! He's not as good as the last "Origin" figure, but still fun. Now that we have Bumblebee and Jazz, it almost seems a given we'll get a Wheeljack at some point, too; so the question is, after that will they also do Lamppost Soundwave, or Triangle Seekers?

-- 04/18/23

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