Wednesday 10 November 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Transformers Studio Series 86 Gnaw

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Release Date: September 2021
RRP: $22.99/£21.99

Transformers: The Movie changed a lot of things in the Transformers Generation One landscape, but one key thing was that going forwards it wasn't just about the war between Autobots and Decepticons anymore. As well as introducing fans to the planet-sized chaos bringer Unicron, the movie also introduced the manpulative Quintessons – a race that went on to become key players in the show's third season. On their home planet, the Quintessons carry out mock trials where, innocent or guilty, the defendant will inevitably be fed to their army of Sharkticons. Though Hot Rod, Kup and the Dinobots were able to temporarily put a stop to this with a Sharkticon revolt, the Quintessons would return to fight the Transformers on multiple occasions. Though unnamed onscreen, ever since their original G1 toy the Sharkticon figure has gone by the name of 'Gnaw' – returning now for the film's 35th anniversary with the deluxe class Studio Series 86 Gnaw.

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Gnaw is numbered as the eighth release in the Studio Series 86 range, coming in the same standard packaging (at deluxe class size) as the rest of his fellow Transformers: The Movie characters. While there may not be a whole lot left to say about the packaging design overall at this stage, it does provide the opportunity for some great new Gnaw artwork and it certainly doesn't disappoint. Personally I’d have preferred an alt mode graphic since that's how I picture the Sharkticons, but artist Marcelo Matere has done wonders with their robot mode here to be fair. This release is also notable for being the first Studio Series 86 release to not feature an Autobot or Deception insignia next to the name, instead sporting a multi-faced Quintesson judge insignia instead. Surprisingly, it's the first G1 Gnaw figure to receive this treatment too. The back of the box features some images of the figure in both modes, alongside a small one-sentence bio and the number of steps it takes to transform him. The box also features the tagline "Mockery of Justice" to denote the scene in which the Sharkticons appear, which is identical to that of Grimlock's packaging. Inside the figure and accessories are neatly laid out on a moulded plastic tray, however take not that Gnaw's back (the top half of the shark head in alt mode) is loose and requires attaching to the figure for the proper look.

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One particularly cool trait of the Studio Series line has been the inner tray dioramas included with each figure, representing a specific part of the movie that character appears in and offering collectors even better display ideas. So it's pretty disheartening to see the Studio Series 86 range completing losing steam only two waves in. Granted Gnaw and the Sharkticons don’t appear in a whole lot of the film, but there are definitely more options available than just a shrunken-down deluxe-sized version of the background that came with Grimlock. How about the pit when it was filled with water and had Sharkticons swimming around in it for starters? Worse still is that the leader class Slag/Slug & Daniel in this wave ALSO uses this background, so it's appeared three times in the range already. While it may not be a huge detail to a lot of people, surely there are more than enough scenes in Transformers: The Movie for everyone to get a unique background.

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Admittedly there haven't been a lot of G1 Gnaw/Sharkticon toys over the years, so it probably goes without saying that Studio Series 86 Gnaw is easily the best looking of the bunch. Not that the others haven't look great in their own ways (with all three of them excelling at the all-important shark mode), but when it comes to robot mode this one is the perfect representation of the Quintessons' portly executions. The eye sore colour scheme of greys, blue and light purple goes together brilliantly, all the more from it predominantly being coloured plastic as opposed to paint. The areas of paint it does however are applied well and help accentuate the sections its been applied to. The robot mode head sculpt looks great, however the green eyes being sunk so far back into the sockets sadly takes away a fair bit of the vibrancy. Lastly most of the hollow sections on the figure aren't really visible from the front, giving it a nice silhouette in-keeping with the screen accuracy.

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Surprisingly mobile for a portly little robot, Gnaw sports the following articulation; 
- Ball Jointed head 
- Swivel hinge shoulders and hips 
- Hinged elbows, knees and ankles 
- Bicep and thigh swivels 
On top of that the wrists are also moveable as a by-product of the transformation. It's a shame there isn't any waist movement to make poses a little more dynamic but looking at the torso shape it's understandable why the design team opted not to included one. But even without it Gnaw is a spritely little fellow, with touches like the ankle tilts and bicep/thigh swivels really coming in handy to give him a little bit more personality.

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Gnaw comes packaged with both his tail mace and blaster rifle as accessories. One extra feature that isn't advertised in the instructions is that the detachable fin can also be held in either hand as a sort of knife, however the extended sections around the wrist do result in some clearance issues. The mace has a single pin joint located at its base, giving it some articulation in addition its curved moulding. The blaster is moulded in grey plastic, and is sadly incompatible with the various blast effects that have been included with recent Transformers releases. Whilst the tail mace as a given (after all it's part of the shark mode's body), the blaster is a little more of curiosity given that none of the Sharkticons in the film ever wield guns. It was included however as a reference to the original G1 toy, and its likeness to that is pretty spot-on.

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At only 17 steps Gnaw's transformation to shark mode isn't the most complicated one, but it is quite nifty to see the robot mode legs fold up into the body to make up that mass of techno-organic shark meat. Spending the majority of their screen time in alt-mode, arguably this is the real highlight for Transformers: The Movie fans – a weird blob of vaguely alien-looking shark with spindly dinosaur arms and two thick legs. It isn't 100% accurate to the onscreen model (sadly lacking the antennae), but it's pretty damn close and looks brilliant. Those vibrant metallic green eyes really stand out on that top slab of dark grey plastic, while the silver teeth make it look like this thing means business.

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As Gnaw's mace is his tail weapon storage is covered pretty succinctly there, but if you do find yourself wanting to keep all his accessories on him whilst in shark mode the rifle can also mount onto his left side. Personally as is the case with most weapon storage on modern Transformers I find it spoils the overall look of the alt mode, but I'm sure some of you out there will find a strange techno-organic shark monster with a side-mounted blaster rifle rather charming. It's a pity that his arm can't really reach up to hold the rifle whilst mounted, because with some slightly better posing this might actually look a little better.

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In shark mode Gnaw's robot mode arms have now become his legs, giving him ball joint connections where the legs connect to the body as well as upper leg swivels and hinged knees. It can be a little fiddly to get those stumpy legs to properly support that bulbous body sometimes, but to their credit they are able to hold that mass of plastic up pretty well. "New" articulation for this alt mode include full 360-degree swivel and elbows on those spindly little arms, as well as a fully moveable jaw so he can munch any opponent that gets in his way. It's a shame that opening the mouth widely reveals a fully exposed robot mode head, but with the fact out of sight you could potentially pass it off as a tongue if you squint hard enough. It's a shame it's just a basic swivel on the shoulder movement because the poseability would definitely be improved by some ball joints to get a good slash pose going. Given all the fun features on a lot of the other Studio Series 86 figures it would have been nice to see a few more interactive features referencing the movie as well. Though the Sharkticons might not be in the film all that long that sequence of one's teeth getting smashed to pieces always stuck with me, so removable teeth (potentially with a battle-damaged alternative) would have been a cool addition. Given the aim of the line, I'd have rathered that then a gun referencing the original toy.

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Studio Series Gnaw is a fun toy, but just how much fun you're truly going to get out of only one Sharkticon is questionable. Rarely (if ever) seen on their own, the Sharkticons are a quintessential army builder – but at this price point the figure perhaps isn't quite good enough to warrant multiple purchases. Though it may be the best Gnaw figure ever produced (which arguably isn't that high of a bar anyway), it doesn't quite match up to the ingenuity or fun of the other Studio Series 86 figures. With a couple of fixes and maybe a little more movie-specific features this could have been as good as the rest, but as it stands unless you're a big fan of these creepy little guys it doesn't feel like one to prioritise.

1 comment:

Iodaspark said...

Nice review. Real helpful.