I have some odd obsession with trains. Always have. From big old steam-driven boilers to modern diesel behemoths, I just can't get enough of them. Once while in college, I forwent a flight home at Thanksgiving in order to take a train. I watch that one show about trainwrecks on the History Channel every time it's on. So when I heard that in Japan, Transformers: Car Robots had released train-styled robots, I was ecstatic. When I heard that those trains were also a Combiner, I was sold.
Midnight Express is the Bullet Train team's friendly, easygoing junior member. He sets the mood for the team with a cheerful, fun-loving attitude that will have everyone feeling upbeat - yet when it comes to the enemy, he's tough and unrelenting. He's good in the cold: he melts snow with his heat missiles and slices icebergs down to size with his light swords.
Sold as J-4 in Japan, Midnight Express has just recently crossed to our shores. Modelled after an E4 MAX series shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) right down to the specific colors - white top, yellow stripe, and a deep blue base - Midnight Express is 10" long and 1 1/2" tall. The train features metallic blue windows and free-rolling wheels. There's a hole under the nose and a towing hitch at the rear to attach Midnight Express to the rest of the team.
To begin this Level 3 transformation, lift the front and rear roof panels, revealing the robot's arms folded beneath. Pull the ends of the train away from the middle, and rotate them to the left and down. Pull the legs down from the torso and flip down the front panel before folding out the arms and rotating the top panel to reveal the head.
I'll interrupt myself here for a note; the joint in Midnight Express' head is extremely stiff, and the head almost always pops off when I try to transform him in either direction. However, the pieces snap back together easily and nothing breaks, so you'll be fine. On with the transformation!
The only step (no pun intended) left to complete are the feet: pull the train's nose and rear down, rotate them and flatten them out, and you're finished. The robot's weapon is formed by the removable hitch and a section found under one of those initial flaps. Press a button, and it fires a missile surprisingly far.
In robot form, Midnight Express stands 7" tall (discounting those massive shoulder pads, as they can be positioned any way you like). His head turns, he moves at the shoulders and elbows, he's got a wide range of motion in his hips, and both knees and ankles are poseable. There is a bit of train kibble left over, but nothing distracting; this really is a fairly decent robot design. He looked a bit weird the first few times I played with him, but his anime styling (huge legs, ridiculously oversized shoulderpads, itsy bitsy head and arms) has grown on me.
As I mentioned earlier, the JRX team are all sections of a Combiner, and Midnight Express forms the legs. From robot mode, return the arms to their folded position. Rotate the head away, fold up the chest panel, and push the legs back up into the torso, and you're done with the easiest of all three pieces of the giant Rail Racer.
I do wish that the trains sets had been a bit cheaper, but I'm a notorious skinflint. On his own, Midnight Express might be considered a weak toy, but let's face it; if you get one of these trains, you're going to want the whole set. Whether you're a locomotive fanatic or just enjoy Transformers, Midnight Express is a fine purchase.
Up next: Rapid Run.
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