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Transformers ROTF
by yo go re

Happy now? Are you satisified, fanboys?

Decepticon Bludgeon was nearly destroyed by a fight with the Metallikato Master Autobot Whirl. Forced to retreat and hide, he scanned a new vehicle mode and disappeared into the Southeast Asian jungle. He is desperate to prove himself against an Autobot, however, so he has caused just enough chaos locally to attract the attention of Ironhide. Now he lies in wait for the Autobot, ready to spring his trap and destroy his victim in an instant.

Wow, really? That stuff about Whirl is a pretty damn obscure reference. After the first movie, two figures were repainted and thrown in a box set together as a Toys Я Us exclusive. It was a bit of a slow seller, and can still be found today in substantial numbers, despite the fact that Bludgeon is one of those characters who's ridiculously popular among hardcore Transfans. Why, then, didn't he sell? Because he was in the wrong body.

The original Bludgeon was a Pretender - a subseries of TFs with external shells that were meant to allow them to go "incognito." Yes, even more than usual. Supposedly they were designed to allow the robots to pass as human, though in most cases, the illusion was less than flawless. For instance, Bludgeon wore samurai armor and had a skull face... you know, a perfectly normal thing you'd see every day and would thus never draw any attention to itself.

While the previous movie Bludgeon was just a non-descript green drone, this one is what fans had been waiting for: it's the skeletal samurai in all his glory. Of course, this time, rather than being a solid plastic shell, the armor is the robot - his chassis just happens to look like 16th century Gusoku armor. There are heavy shoulderpads, layered armor hanging from the waist (kusazuri) and detailed plates on his shin (suneate). His chest armor (do) looks like a big bug-eyed face for some reason.

Bludgeon isn't as "pointy" as a lot of the movie designs are, but that's to his credit. His construction is very square, but not to the extent that he ends up looking like a Cybertron figure. Like many of the movie characters, he seems to have a thin internal framework, covered by surface plates - this is most visible in his thighs, or the elbows and upper arms. This also has the unintended [citation needed] effect of suggesting the way the old toy's Pretender shell covered the robot within.

The face isn't literally a bare skull, like it used to be, but the idea still comes across. You do have to wonder why his face is pure white, though, if it wasn't intended to look like a human's skull. The actual structure has hints of insect mandibles, like a lot of movie Decepticons do, and his eyes are painted bright red. The original plan was for them to be light-piped, but that was obviously scrapped somewhere along the line: the back of his head, which would have been the clear plastic, is solid gray.

One of Bludgeon's trademarks back in the G1 comics was that he always carried a samurai sword, something the toy had been designed with but didn't actually make it into production. This version not only has his sword, he has a smaller dagger to go with it, a place to store both on his belt, and enough articulation to look natural wielding the blades either alone or in tandem. He moves at the neck, has six joints in each arm and five in each leg, plus double-hinges in each ankle. The lack of a waist is only a minimal problem; he can still get into a ton of dynamic martial arts poses. The two can even be plugged together to create a single fearsome weapon.

Alternately, the weapons can be left in his "backpack" where they start out. Why would you want to do that? Well, not only is the thing ridiculously well detailed, even deep inside, but it's also got a historical basis. While samurai swords were often worn at the waist, in times of peace they were worn slung across the back. Considering that G1 Bludgeon was actually commander of the Decepticons for a while, that suits him. The tanto dagger remains accessible over his right shoulder (since the Decepticon Leader still has to fend off a lot of usurpers).

The orange and green colors are a bit eye-stabbing, but they were chosen as a specific reference to the original figure: a green robot with an orange shell. His arms and helmet being maroon is another direct copy. Still, the black and gray help break things up a bit.

Converting Bludgeon is a pleasantly complex procedure, and will probably take you a few times with the instructions handy before you're confident of doing everything right yourself: stow his weapons in the backpack, then close it up; raise the flaps on his shoulders, fold away the hands, rotate the arms up to the front, then fold them up against the shoulders; raise the entire upper body, and flip up the waist armor; stash his feet behind the armor on the back of his legs, then rotate his shins inward; pull the hips out to the sides, swing the entire crotch 180° around, flip the armor around to the top, and fold the waist armor back down; finally, connect the flopping treads to the underside, and you're done.

One note? Getting the head to raise or lower can be frustratingly difficult. Whatever peg or notch or detent or what have you that keeps the head from immediately falling down whenever you pick up the toy can get stuck, leaving you with a head that refuses to disappear into the body again. And sometimes it works the other way, not wanting to "latch" into place and stay up. This is a problem with the toy, sure, an annoyance, but it could be a lot worse.

Bludgeon's altmode is a tank, just like it was in G1. Of course, this one is much larger and more ornate - it also has a real-world inspiration. While the original version was just "generic tank," this is based on the Japanese Type 90, which, let's be honest, is still pretty darn close to anyone's generic idea of "tank." And hey, using a Japanese tank makes sense, since he already has a Japanese influence showing in the robot design!

The tank looks like Brawl's baby brother, what with the missile launchers sticking off the top. The toy is still showing some flashes of orange, partially because of a paint app error that leaves the rear wheels uncovered - their black app is on the inside of the toy, where it can't be seen. There are a few sculptural differences that set the design apart from the real Type 90, but overall, this is a good military vehicle. It's 8¼" long, 3¼" wide and 2¾" tall. A real rarity for the Transformers line, part of the tank treads are rubber! That's just so they can detatch and hang properly in robot mode, but it's still cool. And of course, the turret can rotate.

This version of Bludgeon began as a design by TF artist extraordinaire Don Figueroa, submitted during the Energon era. That never moved forward, but the idea was resurrected for Universe/Classics 2.0 - and then eventually dropped, when it was decided there were already too many tanks in the line. You know, tanks such as Galvatron and... okay, just Galvatron. Apparently "one" is too many. On the plus side, if he hadn't been cancelled, maybe Bludgeon would have turned out as poorly as Galvatron did. The design is here now, and that's what matters.

Bludgeon is a fan-favorite character made for the first time the way fans wanted him. The vehicle is great, the robot is fun, and the transformation is complex yet entertaining. This is one worth getting.

-- 03/16/10

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