Thursday, June 5, 2014

What Now, Masterpiece? Part I

TakaraTomy recently announced that they would be focusing future Masterpiece output on the Decepticons.  This is good news, as we've been inundated with loads of Autobots over the past couple of years.  Yes, we had a retooled Starscream, Soundwave, Soundblaster, and the cassettes, but that's only one new mold for the big guys.  Since it's inception, the only Decepticons to be featured in the line are: Starscream, Skywarp, Thundercracker, Sunstorm, Megatron, Soundwave, Soundblaster, Rumble, Frenzy, Buzzsaw, Lazerbeak, Ravage, and Ratbat.  That's seven molds.  So, with this announcement, who can we expect to see?  I have a few ideas.

If one looks at what has been released thus far in the Masterpiece line, it's pretty much been a first-two-season-of-the-cartoon line.  There has been the odd third season figure like Ultra Magnus and Hot Rod, but those are pretty much outliers.  Hot Rod was, I believe, designed and released to coincide with the Welcome to 2010 initiative that TakaraTomy was doing to celebrate the third season.  At least, that's when he was announced.  Ultra Magnus is pretty much a heavily retooled MP-10. And of course, the initial Ultra Magnus was nothing more than a repainted MP-01.  Going by these guidelines, there aren't very many Decepticons to choose from, but I will go through those that I think we have the best chances of getting released.
The most obvious choice to me is Shockwave.  He's at perhaps the peak of his popularity now, which is no small feat for a figure that was released nearly 30 years ago.  Shockwave has featured prominently in the comics, and was even the main antagonist in the crossover from IDW comics.  The time is right for TakarTomy to strike.  Throw in the relatively recent release of Quakewave from FanToys, and all of the ingredients are there.  It's well known that both Hasbro and TakaraTomy are eager to steal focus back from the 3rd party companies after several high profile releases.  While Hasbro has nothing to do with concept, design, or release strategy with Masterpiece, designers from TakaraTomy must be under some pressure to out-do the unlicensed stuff out there.  Let's face it, Quakewave was universally praised.  So much so that I almost bought one.  Can TakaraTomy out-do FanToys?  I believe they can.
This is still a bit of a no-brainier, but less so that Shockwave.  Megatron has already been released in the line, albeit in a much-maligned incarnation.  Reports of tarnishing on the feet, instability, difficulty of transformation, and easy breakage have all contributed to Megatron being one of the most reviled figures in the Masterpiece line.  A do-over is certainly in order.  There's also the fact that Megatron is no longer in scale with the rest of the line.  Well, certainly with the Autobots.  He is in scale with the Decepticon releases, oddly enough; but he's still out of scale with MP-10.  It's...a conundrum. At any rate, ToyWorld pretty much destroyed the TakaraTomy Megatron with their release of the Hegemon figure.  By all accounts, it stands head and shoulders above Masterpiece Megatron.  TakaraTomy certainly needs to go back to the drawing board with this figure.
The Insecticons are a curious choice.  They are no doubt awesome.  Due to the size they'd have to be, I can almost certainly see these being released as a three pack.  Let's not forget that, according to the official scale guide from the series, the Insecticons pretty much stand at Megatron's knees.  Now that I think about it, Bumblebee is being released as a stand-alone with a ton of accessories including a new Spike in exo suit.  But what accessories could the Insecticons come with?  Energon cubes?  That is what came with the Takara Collection release.  Still, seeing the Insecticons release would be interesting just to see how many people buy.  The inclination, on my end at least, would be to buy at least two of each for the clone effect.  Would I be willing to shell out $79.99 each for multiples?  Maybe?  Only time will.
Hey, if you're going to go all 1986, there is no better 'bot to go with than Galvatron.  Who else is Rodimus Prime going to go toe-to-toe with?  Soundblaster?  Please.  Besides, everyone needs a Galavtron to menace Ultra Magnus with.  I actually think the odds of getting this guy within the next year are pretty great.  My only hope is that the gun mode is completely abandoned.
I nearly forgot about the Triple Changers!  Astrotrain is a definite must-have here.  More importantly, I want to see if the designers at TakaraTomy are up to the task of creating a highly detailed and articulated triple changing transformer without a bunch of kibble.  In my gut, I think that they are.  Besides, who wouldn't kill for a purple Astrotrain with that head sculpt?  Scale is of course going to be a huge concern with Astrotrain, but less so with Blitzwing.  After all, Astrotrain routinely transported all of his brethren in his shuttle mode but was routinely shown to be about the size of the Autobot cars while in robot mode.  I don't think TakaraTomy has the ability to make toys mass-shift.  If they do, they're in the wrong business and are losing a ton of money just from government contracts.  Maybe a bunch of sliding panels to make the space shuttle larger?  That has the potential to make for a very brittle figure.  I'm sure they'll find a happy medium.
The biggest want for me would have to be Masterpiece Devastator.  Do I think it will happen?  I don't really know.  I do know that it has to happen if TakaraTomy is really serious about putting a dent into all of the money flowing into 3rd party pockets.  There have been at least two 3rd party Devastators that I can think of: Hercules and Green Giant.  I believe that they've also been released in various colors (colours for my European readers) as well.  Designing the individual Constructicons should be easy.  The only problem that I can see is all of the extra parts for the figures.  It seems, and I could be wrong here, that a mandate of the Masterpiece line is to have as much as possible integrated into the figure.  Weapons are one thing, but necessary parts have always been built in and included in the transformation.  Partsforming is a thing of the past with this line.  So what to do with all of the pieces needed for combining into Devastator?  In the series, whenever the Constructicons merge, the parts are already there.  Take Scrapper as an example.  Whenever he forms Devastator's leg, the thigh is already there as part of the transformation.  I can see Hook having a built in head for Devastator, but I'm not sure about Bonecrusher having a built in forearm and fist.  Could this be why we haven't already been blessed with a TakaraTomy version?  The only other reason that I can think of would be problems with scale.  Robot scale shouldn't be much of a problem as I believe that they're roughly the size of the Autobot cars.  Vehicle mode could pose a bit of a problem, as construction vehicles are a fair bit larger than a car.  Who knows, maybe TakaraTomy will just surprise us.

I never really questioned why TakaraTomy went so Autobot heavy during this span of rapid releases.  There are just a ton of Autobots compared to Decepticons.  Besides, it makes sense from a business standpoint to go with the Autobots simply due to the number of repaints.  For all of the Autobot releases from 2011 though May of 2014, there have only been four new molds.  With two of those getting retooled into a total of seven releases with the eighth set to release this summer.  It just makes sense for TakaraTomy to get the most bang for their buck since tooling a new toy is expensive.  While figures for creating a mold are hard to come by, I can imagine it easily costing around $10,000 or more.  By going with what can be retooled and repainted, TakaraTomy can actually make a bit of profit.  Let's face it, with the exception of the Seekers, once a mold is made for a Decepticon, that's pretty much it.  Maybe a repaint of Astrotrain as the white Japanese version is possible, but I can't see other versions of Blitzwing or Shockwave, and certainly not Galvatron or Megatron.  Whichever way TakaraTomy decides to go with their Decepticon releases, I can't wait.  Bring it on, Takara, bring it on.


  1. I have to wholeheartedly disagree with you on the MP Magnus being a heavy retool. That thing is a completely new figure top to bottom, it just looks similar to MP-10. But that aside, I would hope Megatron is coming up soon, but I just don't see how they're going to do it justice. Virtually every release since MP-10 has been perfect, I would hate to see them screw it up. Who knows, Megatron may just not be possible realistically. Personally I'd like to see Reflector or the Insecticons as well, I think their small size could make for a pretty reasonable return on investment. I also predict TT will release a new Skywarp and Thundercracker in a two-pack based off the MP-11 remold. That way they can maximize sales for all those people who already bought Thundercracker in the U.S. No matter what, more MP's equals a good thing in my book!

    1. Well, the cab for Magnus is a retool. And yes, Reflector would be great. I can't believe I forgot about him.

    2. I think they created the Magnus cab based on the original dimensions of MP-10, but it is an entirely different animal, at least from the scans we've seen so far. I believe it is mostly hollow so it can fold down into the trailer and I think it also contains Magnus's head. Check out the scans if you get a chance, the differences really are striking!

    3. Really? I was under the impression, for some reason, that the cab was a heavy retool on MP-10. I've seen the scans and the cabs look identical. I could be wrong, it wouldn't be the first time.

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  3. I believe they were engineered to look identical on the surface, but completely different underneath. Check out this image: