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Mighty Metalhead

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)
by yo go re

So is it just us, or should this review be getting intro'd by the likes of Matt Pinfield or Riki Rachtman?

Metalhead has the minds of all four ninja turtles ingrained into its programming.

Yes, and also all four of their personalities and their voices - like April said, "great, a schizophrenic robot." (Because not being able to tell the difference between schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder was all the rage back in the '80s.) He was built by Krang, who then sent Shredder to scan the boys' brains. After demonstrating his prowess by dispatching Bebop and Rocksteady, Metalhead was sent to capture the Turtles. Whereupon he was swiftly reprogrammed by Donatello and turned to the side of good. Yay!

Metalhead is shaped much like one of the TMNT, though much taller (6⅝") and much blockier - his snout has harsh angles rather than smooth curves, and the top of his head is flat. Just as the Turtles all wear color-coded bandanas and pads, so too does Metalhead: his color is yellow. Or technically it's supposed to be "gold," I guess, but it's definitely yellow in the animation and on this toy.

The blockiness is not limited to the head. The upper arms are totally boxy, and while the legs aren't exactly cubes, there are still fewer polygons here than on a PS1 game. The robot has two big toes, yet textured soles like he's wearing boots, and two fingers and a thumb on each hand. He has shells on both the front and back, just as angular as everything else. A big black belt goes around his waist, and features four pale gray grenades. Because he's a robot in a funny kids' show, there's a single big red toggle switch right in the center of his back to make him function. This is the way!

The flat "shading" used on the rest of NECA's cartoon-style Turtles is still present here, but it's less noticeable thanks to the harsh angles of the sculpt. To really spot it, you have to look at the forearms or calves, which are the only parts round enough that the line between light and shadow can be seen. The olive drab of his shell (which serves to make him look more like war equipment than a simple maintenance bot or something) has a tendency to blend in with the grey body behind it, but the green on the feet and wrists reminds us this is supposed to be a Turtle, and the orange accents on his ankles and shoulders match nicely with the triangular eyes.

Metalhead has swivel/hinge ankles, knees that have a hinge at the bottom and a swivel/hinge at the top, swivel thighs, balljointed hips, swivel/hinge wrists and elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, and a balljointed head. There's a hinged jaw, as well, but it's made of a soft enough plastic that if the hinges stick at all, you won't really be able to get them moving; I had to get a really thin screwdriver and pop the jaw out entirely before I could get it working. (Luckily, the kind of connection it uses allows that.) Additionally, you might not even realize there are hinges at the top of the knee at first, because of the way the sculpt helps conceal them. And of course, the power switch on his back is hinged.

Metalhead only appeared in two episodes, so this set's accessories manage to cover both of them. We begin with alternate hands: the ones he has on in the tray are fully relaxed, but you can replace those with either closed fists or a set shaped to hold things. Even though he doesn't have anything to hold. Eh, maybe he's going to grab one of the Turtles' weapons when they fight him. As for things he can actually use, you can replace his hand with a big drill like the one he used to dig his way up from the Technodrome - it's only "like" that one because the cartoon had his arm from the elbow down turn into the drill, not just the hand. After finding the Turtles, he popped a blaster out of his chest, so the set includes a piece that can plug in after you open the hinged hatches there. And then in his second appearance, Donatello tried to use him to get out of cleaning up the lair, so now you can replace the hand with a vacuum cleaner. The bag is darker in the front than in the back, a reversal of how the paint usually is, and the head of the vacuum is hinged so it can rest flat on the floor.

Krang was actually the second "VHS" figure released (though the first to make it to store shelves - fortunately NECA was able to offer Metalhead through their site as well), so Metalhead's packaging similarly mimics the old FHE cassette tape boxes, with screenshots, retro logos, and even a "Vol. 1" on the side so we can remember the (intended) release order.

Metalhead is a deluxe figure, sold by himself instead of in a two-pack like most of the Target exclusives. Why does he warrant the change? It's not really clear. But also, it hardly matters. The toy is good, it's fun to play with, and it has some cool accessories. That's what we're here for, and Metalhead delivers.

-- 02/24/21

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