Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Once and Future King

- mantis nine nines

Recently I purchased a Maketoys Cupola (the KO Data Clerk version to be accurate) and it got me thinking about what it is that defines a “Masterpiece” Transformer. Not because it is a 3P design, and not because it is a KO, but because it is 1:24 scale. Too big for most collectors to fit in with their MP Datsuns and the like, but perfect for my needs. 

For more years than many reading this have been alive, I have collected cars, models, and whatever else I can find in the 1:24 scale. And since 2003, this included Transformers. The original Masterpiece Prime may appear to be an outdated relic these days, but it’s impossible to overstate what a leap forward MP-01 represented for the TF fandom. Full of die-cast, packed with features and gimmicks, and designed to represent the ideal vision of the character, this was a new standard for what a Transformer toy could be. It was also an almost spot-on 1:24 COE truck. I loved it. It sold like hotcakes, and thus began the cycle of excellence that leads us back to the present day. And what a present! Transformers are getting the royal treatment, with loving care lavished upon us loyal Transfans.

The first attempt at a True collector-focused line began with MP-01 and the Binaltech/Alternators. These figures gave us what we were sure we wanted at the time: G1 characters with highly detailed car modes and a large degree of articulation. For years collectors kitbashed and customised figures to be as G1 accurate as possible, and represent as many characters as possible. I remember buying a red KO Hound Hummer with the intention of creating a “perfect” Ironhide. At the time I would have never thought a TF collector could do any better, and I was not alone. Little could I know that the 1:24 scale boom would be short-lived.

Classics was only intended to fill in for a year while Hasbro awaited the dawn of the Bayverse, but it ignited the fandom’s passion like no other. Trading accurate car modes and gimmicks for tighter engineering and more solid robot modes, the fandom seemed to suddenly realise that no, THIS was what they wanted all along.In fact I remember reading forum posts where people stated as much in almost those exact words. Fans wanted anything and everything they could get in this new style. Such was the hunger for Classics that Hasbro alone could not keep up. It was at this time that FansProject went from making gun and matrix upgrades for Alternators Prime and got the ball rolling full speed with City Commander. Hasbro continued to crank out molds as well, and fans were sure that collectors could not do any better.

When the announcement came that a new Masterpiece Prime was being created, much of the fandom were uncertain why. Others were upset that the “final” pressing of MP-01 had just been released, and here we were with a blatant cash grab. Little could we know just how correct this was. Since 2011 Transformers collectors have ridden an unprecedented wave of product aimed at making sure every character, no matter how obscure, is represented on their MP shelf. And yes, once again we are certain that what we have is EXACTLY what we want.

So where do we go from here? As you may have surmised, I believe that what was old is new again. Big bots are back baby, and 1:24 is the future. MPP-10 remains a curiosity for many, but as Wei-Jiang, Robot Hero, and KBB continue to upscale and enhance bots, and third parties like Toyworld continue with their larger than MP scale offerings we creep ever closer to full circle on What Fans Want.

It's not just size either. With Takara delivering all the cartoon accuracy we could ask for, a lane is left open for a shift back to vehicle accuracy. Not at the sake of good looking bots, but in spite of them. Given the brilliant engineering we see from all comers these days I'm sure there's someone capable of making both bot and car perfect. A perfect Prowl that also has a detailed interior? Yes please!

Perhaps one day this post will seem prophetic and perhaps not. Maybe the whole thing will collapse. All I can say for certain is that whatever the Absolute Ultimate Version is today will be obsolete tomorrow. Or not. Sometimes you just have to be patient for the future to catch up to the past.

Until next time, keep it #Refined

Follow Dan on Twitter @mantisninenines

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