Wednesday 26 April 2017

Toybox REVIEW: Transformers Masterpiece MP-36 Megatron

Release Date: March 2017
RRP: 24,840 yen

It’s been a long time since TakaraTomy released the original Transformers Masterpiece MP-05 Megatron way back in 2007. In that time the line has gone through quite a few changes – a new scale, a closer adherence to cartoon accuracy and a dive into the worlds of Beast Wars and Japanese-exclusive G1 characters. With Optimus Prime having been redone in this new scale way back as MP-10 in 2011, it was high time that the leader of the Decepticons had the same treatment. There may have been a number of third-party “Masterpiece” style figures over the past few years – Xtransbots’ Apollyon, DX-9’s Mightron, Maketoys’ Despotron (all of which I won’t pretend to know anything about because I’m not a third-party person), but the MP-36 Megatron is the real deal. An official, cartoon-accurate, transforming G1 Megatron. That’s the stuff that dreams are made out of.

Transformers Masterpiece MP-36 Megatron comes in standard Masterpiece line-style packaging – a black box with big glossy images of the figure in both modes as well as the character’s name, rank and the classic Transformers series logo. The back of the box features an actual-size shot of the figure just to give you a good idea how big this thing is before opening it, alongside a ton of really nice stock images showing off the toy’s various features. Inside the toy is packaging on a covered clear plastic tray, with the accessories on a separate tray fitted underneath.

Also in the box is an instruction booklet and trading card featuring some nice artwork of Megatron on the battle field. The 16-page booklet outlines the transformation steps from robot to gun mode, as well as all of the other various features Megatron has together with corresponding images from the G1 cartoon. The back even has a bunch of really cool "making of" design sketches that make this feel even more like a special collectors' item. With Megatron’s transformation split up into 15 different sections (each with a number of steps) and spread across six pages don’t get expecting it to be easy, but more on just how useful these instructions are will be covered a bit further down.

Have you ever seen a more perfect looking G1 Megatron? The accuracy of this figure is mind-boggingly good, to the point where part of you might initially think it's just an oversized Action Master and is actually completely incapable of transforming. But no, this thing is most definitely the real thing. Megatron is covered almost entirely in this gorgeous pearly grey paint, with all the additional details such as the painted red eyes and translucent plastic abdomen sections really popping against it. Admittedly the back isn't the cleanest look in the world, but given all the compromises Megatron figures have had to make in the past (such as MP-05 gross hollow trigger legs) it really isn't that bad considering how good the rest of the body look. The only other thing that might have buyers a bit up in arms is the choice to use a cartoon-accurate Decepticon symbols rather than the standard design (especially since previous Masterpiece figures don't match), but I personally think it suits this figure much better. 

Megatron's fusion cannon also has an electronics featuring, playing a variety of sound clips at the touch of a button. Hearing the classic transforming noise and blast sounds are pretty fun, but the voice clips are of course Megatron's Japanese voice actor Seizō Katō rather than Frank Walker. Great if you have a particular affinity for the Japanese dub, but I'm sure many reading this will have watched the English version and so this feature may not get used all that much.

The figure comes with a number of swappable faceplates, including stern, angry and laughing expressions (as well as a battle damaged face which will be looked at further down in the review). These faceplates also include the front half of Megatron’s helmet, so attaching them is simply a case of pushing the face upwards to unpeg it at from the top. As well as swapping with ease, each face is beautifully expressive and together capture Megatron’s range of moods perfectly. But perhaps what’s even cooler about this figure is that removing a face reveals a perfect depiction of Megatron’s inner-workings, as seen during his reformatting into Galvatron in Transformers: The Movie. This isn’t a flat sticker either – all that detail is moulded onto the head itself.

Obviously to accommodate such a big change between the two modes there's quite a lot going on with Megatron's body in terms of moving parts, giving him a really good range of articulation. As well as a full range of motion in the shoulders to allow all manner of maniacal pointing and fusion cannon blasting Megatron sports a ball-jointed head, bicep/waist/leg swivels, rotatable wrists,  hinged elbows, knees and feet and then finally even a very minor ankle tilt just to make things a little bit more dynamic. Sometimes with higher end toys there can be some hesitation when it comes to really dynamic poses for fear of breakage but Megatron handles posing like a treat. All the joint movement is nice and seamless, with the figure looking like a badass in even the most basic of poses.

MP-36 comes with a pretty impressive number of accessories, some of which were previously included with MP-05 as well as a few new ones as well. First and foremost is Megatron’s energon mace, which only appeared in the second part of More Than Meets the Eye but went to become an iconic piece of the Decepticon leader’s arsenal. Moulded in translucent purple plastic, this nicely sized weapon comes not only comes with a standard chain but also a jointed version so that the weapon can be properly posed. MP-36 has a lot of great features, but that is definitely one of the best ones. Attaching the mace first requires removing the hand, replacing the panel with the handle section. Either chain then simply plugs into the hand and ball at each end.

Other accessories from the G1 cartoon include the clone control helmet from the episode A Prime Problem, and a diecast Key to Vector Sigma from the two-part story of the same name. Out of all the episodes TakaraTomy could have pulled something the control helmet seems like an odd choice, but given how wonderful dorky it looks on Megatron’s head it turned out as a pretty good one. Meanwhile the Key to Vector Sigma doesn’t do anything, but is a popular item that would look good with any Masterpiece Transformer. Personally I’d have liked a new Kremzeek akin to the one originally released with MP-05, but TakaraTomy understandably probably didn’t want a full repeat of accessories.

Perhaps the coolest selection of accessories MP Megatron has though are the pieces lifted directly from his climactic battle with Optimus Prime in Transformers: The Movie. These include alternate battle damaged chest and face plates (complete with fluid leaking from the eyes and mouth), blaster pistol and the “totally not a lightsaber” beam sword complete with translucent purple energy blade. The effect part can even be removed from the sword and connected to the pistol to simulate an energy blast instead, should you want to recreate the fatal blows Megatron deals to Optimus Prime at the end of their fight instead. To switch out the chest plate simply push the attached one upwards much as you would the faces, locking it out of place and off the body.

Finally there’s the alt mode silencer and stock pieces, which while primarily may be for gun mode do have a few little features that can be utilised while the toy is in robot mode. Firstly the two can be combined together with Megatron’s fusion cannon to form a massive cannon station just like the original G1 toy could. But on a more bizarre note the silencer and fusion cannon can also be clipped onto Megatron’s back, folding over the shoulder to give him a weird gun face mode. This is a homage that goes even further back than the G1 toy, homaging the figure’s early days in the Japanese Microman line. It’s strange and highly unlikely to be displayed by anyone, but it is nice to see that a toy intended to be the “perfect” Megatron looks back on his roots as well as G1 cartoon accuracy.

The stock can also transform into a handy display stand to pose Megatron in various flight or mid-air poses. Navigating the way the stand clips to Megatron’s rear isn’t particularly easy as they instructions aren’t all that helpful, but once fixed the stand grips the figure firmly and is able to support its weight in all manner of poses. Despite not seeming like all that much having the stock transform into a stand is an insanely cool feature, giving this large and cumbersome piece purpose outside of the gun and weird toy modes.

And now the part I had been dreading the most – the transformation. I’m not the best with complex Transformers at the best of times, and with horror stories about paint chipping and parts breaking almost immediately after release I almost decided to forgo transforming him altogether (and thus, skip over doing a review). But curiousity got the better of me and I just had to experience this engineering marvel – parts like the collapsing legs just have to be seen to be fully appreciated. The first piece of advice I have to anyone planning to follow suit is to forget the instructions – the text is Japanese, the pictures are small and in general it really isn’t all that much help. Search Youtube, find a good video detailing the transformation and follow that. Robot to gun mode took me around an hour to do and was a pretty intense experience, while the reverse was a much easier process and only took about 15 minutes tops. Some parts are incredibly stiff (loosening the hip screw before bringing the legs down makes a BIG difference) and sometimes it really does feel like you have to force the parts, but as long as you take care and have patience you should generally be fine. Unfortunately paint scraping is most definitely an issue when transforming, but again taking care while doing so should hopefully minimise any potential damage. After one transformation to gun mode and back again my figure just has two tiny chips on the abdomen and then a bit around the barrel hinge (completely hidden when in robot mode).

After that daunting transformation process here you have Megatron in his reasonably accurate gun mode, modeled on a Walther P-38. As you can clearly from the various panels the end result isn’t exactly seamless, but given just how intricate the transformation has to be to get two accurate modes one of them had to have some compromises somewhere and the gun is the much better choice. As well as fitting comfortably in your hand, in alt mode Megatron sports a working trigger, safety lock AND hammer – features that are exceptionally cool but make this even less of a toy want to go brandishing around in public. It’s also worth commenting that getting the barrel straight is undoubtedly the hardest part to lock into place, and since I was only transforming the toy to take these pictures I make the decision not to force it for the sake of review.

If you prefer the full G1-accurate look you can also connect the stock and silencer to create a massive monster of a gun mode, but just be aware doing so is at your own risk. Since the silencer fits so tightly around the gun barrel if applied fully there’s almost no way to remove it without taking some paint along with it. In the pictures above the silence isn’t on tightly because again it wasn’t worth damaging the figure just to get a more accurate photo. Collectors have already started coming up with various modifications you can make to fit the silencer easier, so if you’re likely to display Megatron in this mode they might be worth seeking out beforehand. Despite these flaws though it really is an impressive gun mode, and absolutely mind-boggling how TakaraTomy were able to get it out of such a cartoon-accurate robot mode.

Given the sheer terror of transforming it for the first time and the widespread paint issues, Transformers Masterpiece MP-36 Megatron does have some flaws that buyers should definitely consider before purchasing. That said, even acknowledging those flaws it’s hard not to be completely blown away by this figure. From the incredible cartoon accuracy, great poseability and impressive accessory count to the intricate transformation that leads to a shocking well-proportioned gun mode, MP-36 really is a “masterpiece” in almost every sense of the word. I will freely admit that now that I’ve transformed it once it’ll probably never go into alt mode again, but this toy looks so damn good in robot mode that I don’t even care. In terms of handling this is about as far from a “toy” as a Transformer can get, but in terms of Megatron figures it doesn’t (and probably never will) get much better than this.

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