Friday 10 November 2017

Toybox REVIEW: Transformers Legends LG-45 Targetmaster Hot Rod

Release Date: September 2017
RRP: 4320 yen

Though the Titans Return line is slowly coming to an end to make way for Power of the Primes, TakaraTomy still have a fair few of the moulds to make use of as part of their Transformers Legends line. The 21st wave of the all-encompassing line celebrates all things Transformers: The Movie, with the release of Autobots Kup and Hot Rod alongside a Sharkticon complete with an alternate Sweeps head for the previously released Scourge figure. Hot Rod and Kup are particularly special releases however, with the two now packed with Targetmaster partners alongside the usual Headmaster gimmick brought over from the Titans Return line.

Hot Rod and company come packaged in the standard Transformers Legends line packaging, which is the perfect upgrade of the original G1-style boxes complete with a big window and gorgeous artwork. Hot Rod himself is packaged in vehicle mode (unlike the Hasbro release which packages figure in robot mode), his Headmaster in head mode and the Targetmaster in robot mode, giving the presentation a nice variety of modes to display. The back of the box features some nice big images of the toy in all its various modes, particularly showing off the Targetmaster gimmick as opposed to the Headmaster.

As has been the case with the other Transformers Legends releases Hot Rod’s instructions are printed on a fold out A3 flyer, which also features the box art graphics (along with a character bio and tech specs) and latest chapter of the Legends manga on the reverse sides. This section of the manga is notable for resurfacing one of the franchise’s more sordid moments – Kiss Players. If you’re unfamiliar with the Kiss Players storyline I’ll leave you to Google that, but let’s just say no one expected Hot Rod’s Kiss Player partner Shaoshao Li to suddenly make a reappearance. But then again, Takara do like referencing every faucet of Transformers continuity when they can.

Hot Rod’s vehicle mode is perhaps the best representation of the original animation model the character has had outside of the Masterpiece line, with the designers finally managing to nail the wide, sleek look that previous figures have often lacked. However the design itself still incorporates elements of other Hot Rod figures produced over the years, such as the Classics/Henkei figure’s central exhaust booster. Legends Hot Rod sports a more cartoon-accurate deco than its Titans Return counterpart, changing the bright red plastic with a more subdued magenta as well as a darker shade of yellow for the lights and spoiler. And though from a distance the hood flames look like a crumpled up chrome sticker, it is in fact a patterned piece of translucent yellow plastic. A strange change, but certainly an interesting one. Legends Hot Rod also features four free-rolling wheels (with painted hubcaps, unlike the Hasbro version) and an opening canopy, which unfortunately doesn’t quite peg down quite as firmly as it perhaps should. All in all it’s a really nice representation of Hot Rod’s vehicle mode, and a definite improvement over the chunkier Classics mould.

In the Legends fiction the Headmaster itself is Hot Rod and the body a lifeless Transtector, but as the Titans Return packaging refers to him as Firedrive let’s just go with that name here. Firedrive is a nice little robot whose magenta and orange colourscheme perfectly matches Hot Rod’s, even if the robot itself doesn’t have much in the way of detailing. Interestingly the design itself is actually based on Hot Rod’s Targetmaster partner Firebolt, but with the name changed for trademark reasons. The Hot Rod facesculpt is also excellent, though it’s a little disappointing Takara didn’t opt to give him a suitably cocky smirk instead of keeping the generic neutral expression. Firedrive can also sit comfortably into the vehicle mode cockpit.

Usually the big draw in getting the TakaraTomy version over the Hasbro one is the more detailed and usually cartoon-accurate paintjob, but this latest batch of Legends also have another selling point – Targetmasters. The twin blasters Titans Return Hot Rod came packed with have been replaced by a brand Targetmaster mould, which the Legends fiction states is actually Shaoshao Li but I’m sure many fans would rather identify as Firebolt. Either way the Targetmaster is superbly detailed for such a small sized figure, moulded in two shades of dark grey plastic along with a number of silver paint apps (along with a blue visor) and clear plastic gun barrels. This colour scheme is quite different to the original G1 or Masterpiece Firebolt figures, which featured a predominantly black torso. The robot itself is also surprisingly poseable, featuring ball-jointed shoulders, hips and knees along with a waist swivel that also moves the head in tandem. In gun mode it can either be wielded by Hot Rod in robot mode, or pegged into the vehicle mode’s hood via the exposed engine block.

As anyone who’s ever watched Transformers: The Movie will tell you, Hot Rod’s particularly notable for constantly transforming in different ways throughout the film. However this toy has a nice simple transformation clearly laid out in the instructions, which is easy to follow and doesn’t at any point feel like it’s going to break part of it. Takara have even implemented an additional step for that extra bit of show accuracy, which involves flipping the exposed engine block over to reveal a smooth orange surface that matches the rest of the car hood chest.

Just like in vehicle mode Hot Rod’s robot form shows off a sleeker, more youthful frame that’s often been lacking from Hot Rod figures over the years. There’s a really nice mix of thin, humanoid-like limbs and chunky, car-part sections on show here to give Hot Rod a properly satisfying “robot in disguise” silhouette. But this sleekness does come with a price, and like many of the newer Transformers figures Hot Rod features quite a fair few hollowed-out sections – most notably the forearms and legs. Thankfully the lower legs bypass this by having the wheel sections fold backwards, which adds a much needed bit of thickness as well as creating more streamlined legs. A better look at Hot Rod’s robot mode also shows off some of the other colour changes Takara have made, namely changing the lower legs and feet from a red/silver combo to solid black. It’s a bit more plain than the Titans Return version, but he’s cartoon accurate and that’s what matters most to them. More significant than that however is the alterations they've made to the chest, with the hood now folding down as a solid piece (ala the animation model) rather than folding up to reveal an ab section like on the Titans Return figure. While that was a rather intuitive change on the original mould, those favouring animation accuracy won't be too sad to see it gone.

What really makes this toy great though is just how much articulation that's been packed into it. Hot Rod features a head swivel (though since the joint is the Headmaster head you'll want to be really careful moving that), ball and hinge jointed shoulders, a bicep swivel, waist swivel, ball-joint hips, thigh swivel, hinge-swivel knees and hinged feet. With the design being so clean as well it means there isn't much joint hindrance from the vehicle parts either, though the shoulders do have some upwards issues purely because of how big they are. However there are some rather significant issues when it comes to posing him. The legs are extremely loose, and because of their small frame often struggle to hold up the upper body weight of the figure when placed in certain poses. This isn't helped by the feet either, which despite having a decent surface area could have really done with some sort of ankle rocker for that extra bit of stability. The feet issue would probably be easier to overlook if not for the loose legs, which would repeatedly collapse under the pressure of even the most basic action poses. Aesthetically Hot Rod is an absolutely gorgeous figure, but in motion it doesn't feel quite as stable as some of the other Titans Return/Legends offerings.

Transformers Legends Hot Rod is a definite improvement over the old Classics/Henkei version when it comes to shape and articulation, but definitely has some shortcomings when it comes to build and balance. The Headmaster gimmick is as fun as always and Takara have done a superb job with the added Targetmaster, but the hollow frame and cumbersome feet really bring this figure down when it comes to making the most out of all that articulation. Unless you have a particular fondness for Targetmasters there’s also the question of whether you’d want to pick this up when there’s the even better looking Power of the Primes Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime combo just around the corner. Still, despite the flaws this is still a great looking toy, and worth the upgrade if you just want a standard Hot Rod figure for your Autobot collection.


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