Thursday, 23 November 2017

Masterpiece Minimalism

- Ben Watson

For most of my collecting life, the Masterpiece line has been above my pay grade. Occupying a legendary higher plane of top quality and an associated dimension of  exclusivity. But is this still true today? Many collectors take Masterpieces as their bread and butter and fill their boots in the way the rest of us CHUG-scrubs would with regular figures. Since the rebirth of the line ushered in by MP-10 and the first Autobot cars, releases have been frequent, bringing down some prices and opening up the line to many more collectors, but has some sheen rubbed off the Masterpiece name along the way?

After consecutive years of multiple MP releases now pushing the total number of figures in the line towards the half-century mark it's now perfectly possible to have a sizeable collection composed of just those figures. Masterpiece now occupies a space reserved not only for a handful of iconic characters in their own incongruous scale as it once did, but strives to be a premium assortment of updates in a similar format to Generations. As a (for the most part) spectator to it, I can't help but feel this proliferation of goodness has watered-down the top drawer punch of the MP line. 

Of course, don't get me wrong, the quality of the figures themselves seems to have gone from strength to strength with each new mold being a new masterclass in plastic wizardry. To those with the resources to keep up with every release this must be an unending conveyance of delights. But to those people I ask, "Is it still special?" The obtainment of a new Masterpiece should be an event, an infrequent joyous occasion, like Christmas or TFN. I still remember how huge it felt to get my hands on my first MP figure even if it was the less-than-iconic Year of the Horse Optimus Prime. I'd never thrown that amount of pennies at a toy. I'd never had such an experience of high-end design and construction. I'd never had a figure prove itself to be a masterpiece to me. Can this level of awe be sustained for so many sequential pieces?

We're now entering a phase of the line where costs seem to be beginning to rise to a point that cuts people off from the figures on offer again. To those biting their fists as they hit the pre-order button for MP Dinobot, a much larger commitment is made and hopefully will lead to a much larger payoff. You can't deny any £200~ figure is an event purchase. But are the £40~ Hasui cars or their litany of obscure repaints? Takara have certainly realised how they can maximise their gains from the MP line but you can't tell me Tigertrack was the highlight of anyone's collection so far... (Shoutout to you if it was)

In light of this saturation I've chosen to be particularly selective with my Masterpiece purchases now that I'm in a position to afford more of them. I still want each one to be a Big Deal and a memorable piece in my ever-expanding hoard for more than just inherent physical qualities. Just over half of my MP figures were picked up at conventions as a kind of core of that particular haul. My first was to mark my 21st birthday and my own way of marking Transformers' 30th. Each one is a significant and special part of my collection and I feel like if I let myself go and snap up many more, that very subtle and particular feeling would be lost and I'd receive them in the same semi-numb state as I do when bringing home mass retail figures from Tesco. 

Masterpiece Transformers deserve reverence and a space upon some metaphorical plinth in your collection. With the current subtle trend towards making the line more like other high-end collector toys on offer in Japan with the incorporation of alternate faces and effect parts, the line lowers itself down just slightly from the lofty realm it once sat above in. I don't object to this paradigm shift, in fact I embrace it but it is changing what the words "Masterpiece Transformers" mean to many.

For the moment I'll continue to keep Masterpieces in my house at a minimum. The collection I do have is eclectic and not really representative of my tastes in Transformers at all but I recognise each one as their own self-contained hit of true excellence. Of course, if we were living in a time of Unicron Trilogy Masterpieces, I would be singing a completely different tune. While I see the MP line for the crowning achievement it is, it's only just starting to dabble in the character designs that really matter to me. It's very possible this is what allows me to show restraint when presented with the smorgasbord of delicacies on offer from the MP menu, but buddy if MP Armada happened tomorrow, I'd still want to take it steady and savour every dish. 

Follow Ben on Twitter @Waspshot23

1 comment:

  1. I've been noticing more and more people buying Masterpieces more regularly as of late, especially since arrival of the Beast Wars line came out with some figures.

    Seeing as how people are getting them a little easier it kind of kills the excitement abit. These are figures that really do have a special kind of place for either a convention or as a reward you've been given from completing a task or you've been saving up for. As expensive as these things are I'm not really in any hurry to rush out and buy them.

    Great article.