Sunday, 4 February 2018

Fansproject Pinchar: The Changing Face of Lost Exo Realm

 - Dorian MacQuarrie


Four years. Four bloody years. In 2014 Fansproject released Lost Exo Realm Columpio and officially entered the Dinobot war. Now, in 2018 we finally, finally have the fifth and final Dinobot (talking about the classic line up here) in the form of Pinchar and well... some things have changed. Be it a change in the design team, inconsistent aesthetic guidelines or just the product of a line changing over the years of release, there are several distinctions and differences throughout the LER toys, some minor, others a little more jarring to those with the eye for such details. 









Before I get into detailing these differences in design, I'll throw down a few words about Pinchar and Lepida - late to the party and wondering if there's any drink left over. To be fair to Fansproject, we could have had this toy earlier but the release of the two Dinogals Echara and Comera plus the internal issues which saw Fansproject sit out most of 2017 delayed this toy further and further. Was the wait worth it? Sort of. Maybe. 








Pinchar and his Soleron meleemaster partner, Lepida are fine, they're just, fine. Maybe it's the extended wait but I feel this toy's value lies more in the completion of my Fansproject Dinobots than in the toy itself. Sure it's a good toy, well made, well designed and looks great with the rest of the LER crew and that's just, fine. It doesn't do anything special or new that we haven't seen in the line already and there's nothing particularly smart about the transformation. There could have been a really nifty trick or two with the tail and the backpack it creates but instead we have a strange overhanging piece and overly protruding tail sections which admittedly, I actually like but even a cursory glance shows how a few improvements could have been made.











The delay in this toy's release hasn't come with any improvements in comparison to the various renders and test shots seen over the years. Now, I realise Pinchar's delay wasn't due to a need to refine the design but it still stings a little to have waited so long and gotten a solid B grade toy. To be quite honest my favourite and I'd say the best part of the set is Lepida, easily the best of all the Soleron partners released within the LER line. 

So Pinchar, he's fine, he's a swell bot who sure looks like Snarl. He's definitely a bot which will require a fair amount of time spent in hand to fully appreciate as his arrival was heralded more with a sigh of relief that this long journey is finally over. Even now after spending a fair amount of time taking pictures I've grown to accept him as my long lost Dinobot son and would possibly move my "fine" up to a "good, maybe great" with a bit more play time. 




Let's move on to these differences I mentioned in the beginning. I think most collectors would overlook what I'm about to detail and not for lack of attention but because individually, many of them are minor but as a collective whole it leaves me with an uncertainty as to what journey the design of the LER line went on. Eyes, thighs, paint apps, and Soleron integration. The differences across the line are varied and seem to imply there wasn't a standard set of design guidelines. Lastly, I will also detail something which throws even more questions my way, the mysterious three little dots. 


Eyes

Starting with the eyes we have a veritable pick and mix of styles for both bot and dino modes. Clear red plastic for both modes? We got it. Oh you want the bot mode eyes painted? Sure we got that too, red or blue? Wait, you want painted eyes for the dino mode too? Sure, we can sort that for you! This might seem like nitpicking but honestly, it's a little maddening. And while we're on the subject of clear red plastic, Severo is covered in the stuff! Eyes, thighs, shoulders and more, it's everywhere! But here's the thing, outside of some dino heads, it never appears on any other LER release. What's the deal Fansproject!? 




Eyes are such a focal point for toys and if the aesthetic of a group is somewhat varied, consistency in head sculpts and paint apps can tie a lot of loose ends together. I'd understand if there were some character specific differences, maybe Snarl traditionally had red eyes vs the blue of the other dinobots so Pinchar gets the same treatment, fair enough. But why does Severo burst onto the scene with clear red plastic eyes with terrible light piping to ensure they just look dead and dull, adding to an already ill-defined face due to a lack of finish or paint apps. It leaves me scratching my head and wondering how a line such as LER is managed to ensure a consistent aesthetic in what should really be basic details. 


Thighs

This might seem like an odd detail to point out but it was obvious as soon as pictures for Severo were released. The first three LER releases all have fairly rounded thighs with angular detailing. Severo on the other hand is sporting a pair of G1 special, blocky, squared off thighs, totally at odds with the already established aesthetic. Okay, maybe it was just a little detail to make Severo more akin to G1 Grimlock as he's the Dinobot poster boy. There were a few other incongruous details on Severo to back this up so it's an understandable shift in design. But wait, there's Pinchar sporting the same style of thighs as Severo. 


Clockwise from top right: Cubrar, Severo, Pinchar, Columpio

This is where I would wonder if there had indeed been some change in the design process, be it in the design team itself or just the aesthetic direction for the LER Dinobots. Basic elements which are not necessarily the focal point of a design have changed and while it could have been the lead designer changing things up, it's a frustrating change in details mid-way through a line. The changes put Severo and Pinchar at odds to the first three classic Dinobot homages on a detailing level and again, similar to the eyes, it might be nitpicking but it's something which is clear as day to me and all adds to a growing feeling of separation between the LER releases. 

Paint Apps

This one isn't as intrusive or visually disruptive as the previous two categories but once again it's Severo and Pinchar who are changing things up. From Severo's missing torso paint apps which feature on the rest of the line (yet were shown to be present in promo shots) to the random black detailing on Pinchar's Steggo-legs, there is again evidence of a lack of consistency in the LER line. This one is at least more easily sorted with the addition of a few paint apps on Severo if you're willing and if not, at least Pinchar's black detailing can be removed, bringing him more in line with previous releases. 

Solerons

This is possibly the only beneficial change seen throughout the LER line. The design of the Soleron partners has gotten better and better with every release and Lepida, Pinchar's partner is by far the best. A pity that it took the last release to really nail these little guys. The issue is more in the interaction between the Solerons and their partners. Once again there is a divide with the first three releases when compared to Severo and Pinchar. In the first instance there are dedicated slots/tabs/ports to allow the Solerons to ride their partners in dino mode but this isn't the case with Severo and Pinchar. While I'm sure you could find some way to balance the accompanying Solerons on the back of Severo or Pinchar, there hasn't been any design time given over to accommodating an intentional saddle or set or foot holds. 

The Three Dots

Finally, there also remains the most intriguing detail, one which would go some way to suggest there was in fact no change in the LER designer and that any aesthetic changes were possibly just the bleed effect of other projects affecting the dinobot releases. The three little dots... 

Across at least four of the main LER Dinobots (only four as I can't find any on Volar) and even on DNA Design's Susanoo and some of the Fanshobby Monsterbots (a company with previous ties to Fansproject in some capacity) there exists a very specific set of three little dots. 


Clockwise from top right: Cubrar, Severo, Columpio, Pinchar

Top to bottom: Susanoo, Flypro, Megatooth

Initially it looked like a design detail and nothing more but when you account for the addition of those on toys such as Fanshobby Flypro and Megatooth, again, a company with ties to Fansproject, not to mention the similar aesthetic their Monsterbots have to the LER Dinoking set, it's definitely something worth noting. If I had to guess I would say it's a designer's signature of sorts given how frequent these little dots occur and the fact that they're sometimes sculpted onto areas of minor importance and detail. It could be a signature or maybe there's some Third Party Illuminati sending little messages out through a mysterious set of three dots. 





None of these changes are really too disruptive in isolation, maybe the eyes have the most affect, by itself, just be an odd quirk. Putting them altogether however shows a clear shift in either designers themselves or just a change in aesthetic preference and honestly, I find that quite annoying. It could be the perfectionist in me or just the pedantic ass-hat collector but these differences, seemingly without reason, drive me up the wall. 

There will of course be changes and improvements made to a line of toys which has taken so long to be released. For example Columpio has fixed wrists but releases afterwards added a rotational joint. This is the sort of improvement I'd expect to see (although frankly I would have expected Columpio to have a wrist swivel from the get-go). As previously mentioned, the Soleron partners improved with every release. 

This very well may be the exact sort of territory where I find some collectors not being fussed, maybe noticing these differences and moving on but for me personally? It's maddening. I can't escape it, I can't ignore it and every time I see the LER team lined up I'm reminded of the subtle yet intrusive differences among them. Of course the easiest way for my to quiet my pedantic mind is just to assume there was a change in designer, hence the delay and the differences but why oh why then wouldn't the new designer take heed of previous details to at least keep the line consistent? And you know, those three little dots!

I may be looking too deeply into things (probably) and it's possible I'm making mountains out of molehills (most definitely). Seeing the LER Dinobots finally completed is a wonder to behold and while they all have some design issues, they're fun toys with a great, (if maybe changing) aesthetic and I'm happy with my decision to go with Fansproject for my Dinobot needs (even if my first step was more of a push out the door by another collector). 

This is the sort of neuroticism that, in a twisted way, I love to indulge in when it comes to transforming robot toys. It isn't really fun if it isn't stressing you out.........

As always, keep it #Refined. 

Thank you to Anton and Richard for providing pictures for this article. You can follow them @Antronusnexus and @Bistoyeti


Follow Dorian on Twitter @Vigadeath 



4 comments:

  1. Nice article! I didn't really notice the eyes or thighs until you mentioned it, but the 3 dots were always a point of interest. Seems likely to be a designer signature as you pointed out.
    Speaking of dots, ever looked at Perfect Effect figures? They're quite prevalent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh really? The plot thickens! I have a few PE toys so I should go give them a close look!

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