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Transformers: Prime
by yo go re

It took a while, but eventually all the fanboys warmed to Transformers Animated. And just as they came around, the show ended and was replaced by Transformers: Prime.

The idea behind Prime was to create a cartoon more like the live-action movies, and also to tie in with Hasbro's new "all in one" series bible - which means it's also in the same continuity as War for Cybertron, despite all the differences between the two. For instance, in the videogame, Arcee was her traditional old form, a pink car; in the cartoon, she's a little blue bike.

"Little" is really the operative word: the biks is 4½" long and 2½" tall; that makes it about the right size for a GI Joe to ride, and siginifcantly tinier than other recent TF bikes. We like this size - because, face it, it's fun to put GI Joe figures on a Transformer - but when prices keep going up, seeing something this small sold as a Deluxe Class figure is disappointing. It feels like you're getting cheated.

On the cartoon, Arcee's bike mode is covered in sharp points that A) give it an aerodynamic look and 2) show aninfluence from the live-action movie, just like Hasbro wanted. They've been toned down for the toy, so no one stabs themselves with an errant point. The bike's windshield and headlights seem to be different from the animated design. In all honesty, though, we can only tell you that by looking at the toy and the CGI model at the same time - unless you're setting out to compare them, the differences are minor enough that you won't notice.

A major change, however? In order to integrate Arcee's weapons (which we'll talk about later), there are large panels on both sides of the bike. They integrate really well, absolutely looking like they belong there, but they're definitely not something seen in the animation. You can leave them off if you want, but they look just dandy when they're on.

Hasbro doesn't have Arcee's instructions online yet, so you'll have to suffer through us listing all the steps. Remove the weapon panels (if you have them on) and pull the sides of the bike out on their hinges. Unfold the bottom of the bike, then split it in two to form legs. Fold down the seat and turn the front half of the bike around at the waist. Straighten the arms and spin them 180°. Pull the headlights to the side so you can flip over the windshield. Pull down the front wheel, raise the head into place, and lower the headlights down over her shoulders. Turn the wheel so it lays flat against her back, and do the same with the windshield.

In this mode, Arcee stands 6" tall, and looks just as sleek as the bike. On the show, she's changes size to a ridiculous degree, but the toy doesn't do that. It can't. And it's better off for it.

The sculpt duplicates the animated design as well as it can. A few liberties are taken to accommodate the realities of a three-dimensional object, but not too many. Since she changes size so much on the cartoon, they can hide kibble by leaving it the same size - a luxury the toy doesn't have, so the figure has to deal with the front wheel and windshield in a way that the animation model doesn't. It's amusing that the front end of the bike becomes the robot's feminine chest: there's a joke in there somewhere about her "headlights," but we'll let you write it yourself. Her feet also look like high heeled shoes, acting as another gender indicator.

Surprisingly, while Arcee's design may use a lot of design cues to remind us that she's female, her main color is a dark blue. Wow, considering that Transformers' general drive is to re-create G1 as closely as possible, the expected move would have been to make her hot pink. She does have a few pink accents, but even then there's a lot more silver, and the pink is lighter on the toy than on the show. Her forearms are unpainted, when they should be blue and pink, like her legs. Eh, not a terrible loss.

So, those weapons we mentioned. On the show, she has blades that pop out of her arms - no, not like Wolverine, out the bottom of her arms. Rather than have some sort of hinged feature there on the toy, she has big blades that plug in place. They're certainly a lot more threatening here. Her articulation is quite good as well, with hinged knees, swivel thighs, balljointed hips, a swivel waist, hinged wrists, double-hinged elbows, swivel biceps, balljointed shoulders, hinged neck and a balljointed head. She's dynamic!

This figure was released (in a ghastly powder pink colorscheme) as part of a New York Comic Con exclusive, but she's started to show up - mainly at Toys Я Us - as a "First Edition" figure, whatever that means. Prime turned out to be a really good cartoon, and unlike GI Joe Renegades, it actually has a pretty good shot at getting a second season. No one knows if Arcee will be released in a non-"First Edition" series or if this is it, but thankfully she's good enough that we can tell you that you won't feel bad about picking her up right away.

-- 12/13/11

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