Thursday 25 April 2024

Toybox REVIEW: Transformers Missing Link C-01 Convoy

 Transformers Missing Link C-01 Convoy 01

Release Date: February 2024
RRP: 15800 yen

2024 marks the 40th anniversary of the Transformers franchise, and a milestone like that certainly isn't going to uncelebrated. And part of that celebration is naturally looking back to where it all began with the original 1984 Optimus Prime toy. While there have been countless renditions and reissues of the Autobot leader over the years, none of them have been quite like what TakaraTomy have delivered here. Transformers Missing Link C-01 Convoy is an all-new rendition of the original Optimus ("Convoy" in Japan) toy, not only improving the deco and engineering but also giving it the one thing it lacks when stacked against modern toys - proper articulation. This properly poseable version really is a toy for the ages, exciting fans with a concept that's been dreamt of for decades. In addition to the C-01 toy deco edition, a slightly cheaper (9800 yen) C-02 Anime Edition was also released which more closely resembles Optimus' look from the original Generation One cartoon.

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Even if you weren't around in 1984 it would be hard for any Transformers fan to look at Missing Link C-01 Convoy's box and not be hit with a wave of nostalgia. It uses the original Japanese G1 box as a starting point, bringing back the familiar grid background that was a staple of Generation One across the globe. Although the artwork is styled like those that adorned the original line this is actually a brand-new piece by original artist Shin Ueda – showing off the toy's new capabilities in a pose inspired by Transformers: The Movie while also continuing the whole "old yet new" feel of the release. Each side of the box features images of the figure in both modes, while the back brings back the iconic G1 battle scene that was again featured on so much of the original line. It even has the classic tech spec underneath, which can be decoded using the red plastic piece included inside the box. Open it up and straight away you have another slice of classic toy packaging – a Styrofoam tray. Not being the most environmentally-friendly of things these are a bit of a rarity on modern releases, but whenever you do see one you know it's a release that's trying to recapture that classic toy feel. Along with the figure itself and the accessories (some of which are initially attached to model kit runners), there are also the transformation instructions, collector card and a small leaflet detailing both versions of this Missing Link release.

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Missing Link Convoy is a very faithful recreation of the original toy, so much so that in vehicle mode the untrained eye would probably barely see any difference. It retains the same size and shape as the original 1984 toy, complete with the same detailing, paintwork and vac-metal/chrome areas. Even the die-cast metal usage is the same, featured on both the top half of the cab and the feet/tail end of the vehicle. It's even got rubber tires like the original release. However there are subtle differences between the two, the main one being the headlamps at the front of the vehicle. No longer requiring peg holes for the fists to fit in, these are now properly moulded in all their chrome silver glory. Little details like the wheel rims also differ as well. In vehicle mode Optimus sports tampograph Autobot symbols on either side of the cab, as well as a traditional heat-activated rubsign on the top. Additional sticker details for the bumper are included on the aforementioned sticker sheet, however application is entirely optional.

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The C-01 version of the toy also includes the trailer, which is absent from the C-02 anime version (presumably to make it a cheaper release) despite the trailer still being a key component of Optimus' look in the cartoon. While the cab portion has a significant amount of tooling changes invisible in vehicle mode, the trailer has had much less altered from the original release – there are differences, but mostly just tab sizing and slightly mould changes. The only immediately noticeable difference is that it's a lighter grey plastic than the original. However true to the original (as well as its numerous reissues), the side detailing comes in the form of a pre-applied sticker rather than paint. The trailer fits comfortably over the peg section on the back of the cab, not particularly tightly but well enough that it can both pivot separately from the cab and is easy enough to detach. While trailer may hold lots of exciting things inside, in this mode there isn't a whole lot to say about it other than it really completes the look of the Autobot leader.

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While there are still plenty of features to talk about when we get into the transformation, in standard vehicle mode this is just a fun truck toy that excels at being just that. It's colourful, it's heavy, it rolls around on its six wheels (ten if the trailer is attached), the trailer's back door can open (allowing certain G1 Autobots to fit inside) – what more could you want? However one thing you are able to do is open the trailer up, extend out the Repair Drone inside (more on that further down the review) and have it poke out of the hole in the top to give Optimus a more "battle ready" vehicle mode. Ultimately most of the allure with Transformers may come from the robot modes, sometimes you just can't beat a solid-looking vehicle mode – especially when it's as iconic as this.

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The transformation to robot mode is largely similar to the original release, with a few new steps added in accommodate the changes in the design. These include unpegging the back of the cab a little more to create the legs, as well as swinging the hands out from the sides. It's a simple but elegant transformation – long time Transformers fans will know it like the back of their hand whilst newcomers will pick it up straight away. After a few steps you'll have Optimus Prime in robot mode! Again this looks very much like a faithful recreation of the original G1 toy, however TakaraTomy have made some significant improvements to the finish. Details on the arms, legs and feet that were stickers on the original are now fully sculpted and painted in vibrant metallic colours. These go beautifully with the glossy paint job of the figure as well as the shiny vac metal/chrome finish of the legs and grill. Here is also a good place to discuss the deco differences between the C-01 and C-02 releases. While C-01 here follows the original toy deco with yellow eyes, brown windows, and the aforementioned sculpting on the arms and legs, C-02 has a cartoon deco that features blue eyes, blue windows and none of that additional paint on the arms and legs (though the sculpting itself remains). C-02 also only has an Autobot symbol on the left shoulder, whilst C-01 has one on both. Though seemingly minor the differences make a big impact to the look of the figure, and it's great that TakaraTomy have catered to both types of nostalgia right off the bat.

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But of course the real reason Missing Link Convoy has made such a stir is the articulation. As previously mentioned, this version completely reworks the engineering of the figure to incorporate nearly twice the amount of articulation the original had. Altogether this includes;
- Head, waist, elbow, wrist, thigh and foot/ankle swivels
- Ratchet hinge ab crunch, elbows and knees
- Swivel hinge and butterfly shoulders
- Hinged finger sections
While this was never going to be highly poseable by today's standards simply by the the nature of the design, TakaraTomy have done an INCREDIBLE job at making it feel pretty damn close. The amount of articulation loaded into the shoulders alone puts the figure at a whole level, and that's before discussion the really genius parts like the ankle tilts and ab crunch torso. The ratchet joints in the torso, elbows and knees are particularly good because of that ever so satisfying clicky sound they make, but they're also nice and sturdy too. The ab crunch can be a little daunting at first because it's really stiff and requires a bit of force, but the joint can take it and adds so much to the figure. For starters the toy not only finally able to recreate the pose from the original box art, but also the new one created for this release too! Fans who've handled G1 Optimus toys for years will get something entirely new out of all the poseability the Missing Link figure has to offer, while those handling one for the very first time will get the best its over had to offer.

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Both Missing Link Convoy releases come with a number of accessories, with even the toy version including new pieces that originated from the cartoon. Among the accessories are Prime's blaster rifle, Energon Axe and Autobot Matrix of Leadership. Though the moulding on these pieces is the same on both versions of Missing Link Convoy, they do have slightly different decos – C-01 has a chromed Matrix, fully-transparent Energon Axe and all-black rifle, whilst C-02 has cartoon accurate decos on the Matrix and rifle and a semi-translucent axe. The rifle is an all-new version based on the original toy, but adding a second peg to the trigger section. Finally after all these years, Optimus Prime can hold his gun straight! Meanwhile the Energon Axe is a faithful recreation of Prime's now iconic weapon (even though it only appeared in one episode of the cartoon), which opens up at the base to allow it to slip over either hand comfortably. Finally we have the Matrix, again a newly moulded piece that accurately captures all the key detail but does so in an appropriately G1 style. The vac-metal/chrome exterior with metallic blue centre looks beautiful. The Matrix can be stored in the Matrix Chamber installed into Prime's chest (which can be removed to reveal the traditional Diaclone pilot seats of the original toy), but can be removed and held by the figure too thanks to those new articulated hands.

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Finally we return to the trailer, which as per the original release can open up to reveal a Combat Deck base mode. While the Combat Deck does already have some stickers pre-applied, there are several included on a separate sheet which will need to be applied by hand – these are identical to the original release. Given all the paintwork advancements made elsewhere with the figure (as well as the fact some stickers are already applied) it's a shame that you have to do some yourself, but I guess TakaraTomy wanted to keep some "hands-on" element of the original there. Personally I haven't applied these stickers yet myself anyway, because the trailer still looks pretty good without them. Once opened up it becomes far clearer that the Combat Deck sports new tooling, the big difference being that the spring-loaded launching gimmick has been completely removed from this release. A shame, but made up for by the fact that the Repair Drone can now be removed and rolled around on its own wheels. Removing it from the Deck isn't the easiest thing to do (pushing the section forward unclips it from the base, but it's extremely stiff), but it's a nice extra feature to have. The Repair Drone sports several articulated parts – as well as being able to raise/lower it also features moveable radar and claw-arm parts and spring-loaded missiles. Again the tooling is slightly different to the original, but the functionality is exactly the same. The Combat Deck includes two seats for Diaclone-sized pilots, and the Repair Drone can also open up to reveal another one. There are also several peg holes where the gun can be placed in storage (particularly handy for vehicle mode). As well as the standard base mode the Combat Deck can also be displayed upright, turning it into a repair bay that Optimus can stand in.

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Of course the Combat Deck wouldn't be complete without Roller, Prime's faithful drone module. In the original Diaclone release, this was an additional vehicle that could carry up to four of the pilot figurines. Appearing in numerous colours over the years, here Roller is painted silver to match his G1 cartoon appearance but also features some new tooling to make him even more cartoon accurate. As per the original version the back sports a peg hole that that house either Prime's blaster rifle or an alternate oil can accessory, but this piece can now also be flipped around to reveal a translucent red siren light. Roller requires some slight assembly as its wheels are among the pieces initially on runners, but once clipped on you've got yourself a nice little extra that really completes the package.

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Transformers Missing Link C-01 Convoy is just about the perfect Transformers 40th anniversary release. It's nostalgic yet innovative, giving long-time fans the kind of toy they've been dreaming of for decades. The presentation is absolutely pristine, the added paint apps and articulation creating a whole new spin on an absolute classic. The simultaneous release of both toy and anime deco versions is also a nice touch, ensuring both sides of the fandom are comfortably catered for. While there is certainly scope for Missing Link to become a range in itself this could work just as well (if not better) as a standalone piece, celebrating just how far the franchise has come in 40 years. That said, of course I'd buy a Missing Link Megatron in a heartbeat.

1 comment:

John Hood said...

Of all the Transformers, Optimus Prime is held in greatest reverence. On a personal note, my late mum bought me the original Optimus Prime toy - as a surprise gift - whilst I was off, sick, from school in 1984.