Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Masterpiece Disasterpiece

 - Dorian MacQuarrie

Cartoon accuracy, a phrase that sends shivers down my spine. 

The current incarnation of Takara's Masterpiece line flies the flag of cartoon accuracy and I would say that flag flies in the face of what has gone before. 

Toy vs Cartoon.......Round 1, FIGHT

There was a time, around 2012-2014 when we first saw the release of some Autobot cars that I could safely say the line would round off said Autobot cars whilst sprinkling in some big name Decepticons. The aesthetic was stable, a bit of cartoon, a dash of original toy, all through the lens of a well balanced design ethos to use modern technology in pursuit of interesting and iconic representations of the chosen characters. 

I was immensely pleased with the line and waited with baited breath until the day Takara announced their release of one of my favourite Autobot cars, that shining beacon of blue and hood-flames; Tracks. When the day finally came conflict was name of the game. It was Tracks, finally! But he looked sort of odd, a bit skinny and without his trademark black beam gun, not to mention his piddlesome overhead launchers. What was this odd figure Takara had released? 

The answer to that question can be summed up with two words. Cartoon accuracy. 

That paint though, ooft

Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful toy and has steadily climbed the ranks to sit near the top of my favourite Masterpiece toys (before being knocked back down by his glossy black counterpart) but this figure marks the small step into cartoon accuracy and away from the balanced designs seen from the Hasui era cars. There was a missing "real" feel to the alt mode, gorgeous as it was and this definitely didn't feel like a Masterpiece Corvette Stingray but unequivocally a toy of that character from that 80s cartoon. 

And I get it, I really do, for a lot of people this is what they wanted all along, representations of the characters they watched growing up and had the line started off this way I would most likely feel very differently but it didn't. The relaunch of the Masterpiece Transformers line was not set up to faithfully recreate poorly drawn character models from thirty years ago. Granted I can't say what Takara had intended but from my point of view it was to give us iconic representations of G1 characters which would require the blending together of toy, cartoon and maybe some other more recent, better realised sources. 

I love the Masterpiece line but I feel it's going in a direction that leaves me cautious about future releases versus the halcyon days where every release would have me hitting that pre-order button like a maniac. My last article detailed the conflict I felt over MP Inferno, objectively amazing but subjectively unappealing and I blame cartoon accuracy. Simple and plain animation models were an exercise in cost cutting, not a well thought out aesthetic. To base a collector aimed toyline on these sort of images without some effort to refine or mature the designs is frankly, madness. 

Truly a Masterpiece......

Praise the detail 

Along with the eradication of fine details, another aspect of this adherence to the cartoon is the awkward proportions seen in some recent MP releases. Starting with the super-robo length legs of Inferno and Grapple then moving onto the emerging "big head syndrome" with the coneheads and Megatron, we are seeing an odd and in my opinion damaging effect of cartoon accuracy. But of course "it's just what I remember watching" so it's applauded and accepted gleefully. It's not like those character models had slightly larger heads to allow for easier detailing by the artists right? 

There was a time where I desperately wanted Takara to release MP Skids (another favourite of mine) but these days I'd rather see a few Third Party companies take a crack at the character so I can pick and choose what suits my tastes best. I can't knowingly say a toy that doesn't even exist won't be to my liking but unless the pendulum swings back to a balanced aesthetic it's likely I won't be too fond of any possible release of Masterpiece Skids from Takara. Which leads me on to one last grievance point concerning the Masterpiece line, will we even see MP Skids? Or Hound? Or Jazz!?

Can we hope to see the few final Autobot cars still missing from the roster and if we do, will they be so cartoon focused that they'll look out of place next to earlier releases as Inferno does next to the Hasui cars? This used to be a line I had faith in, that it would deliver winner after winner but now I feel alienated and divorced from what it's trying to do. Yes, this is all very melodramatic but it's disappointing and frustrating to see a line I once cherished turn away from the light and into the pit of horrors known as cartoon accuracy. There's a certain finality in knowing that I'll probably never have a perfect collection of Autobot Cars that strike right at the heart of both the characters they represent but also their Diaclone roots as transforming car-robots. 

More of this, less silly accessories

Before writing this article I wasn't sure what direction I wanted to take things, I thought through examination I could be very critical of the changes or maybe I could just add a personal touch and talk about my own experiences. I looked to my RRCo. colleagues for some input and when the position of Toy > Cartoon arose Dan was very forthright with his opinion......

"Those people are dumb and wrong"  - Dan

Oh well, until next time, keep it #Refined

Follow Dorian on Twitter @Vigadeath

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