Monday, 1 January 2018

YEAR IN REVIEW: 2017


I feel like every year just gets better and better. I said the same thing in my Review of 2016, but it really feels like there were some new boundaries pushed in the wonderful world of Transformers collecting in 2017. Just consider that the Masterpiece line continued at quite a pace, not only expanding its roster of Beast Wars figures with Cheetor, but now also branching out into more 2007 movie characters too, with both Optimus Prime and Bumblebee being released this year. That's to say nothing of some of the wonderful G1 releases that we received in the last twelve months, the most talked-about of which was definitely a new (and very much long-awaited) version of Megatron, which arrived to much fanfare.

TakaraTomy Masterpiece MPM-4 Optimus Prime

Then there have been big developments on the third party front too - literally! If you want to see the scale of ambition from 2017 then look no further than massive releases like FansToys Terminus Giganticus or Phoenix, both great examples of how confident the unofficial scene has become in their approach. Additionally, we had some fantastic new figures from both established outfits like Maketoys, and brand new companies like Fans Hobby popping up to make a sizeable impact. It's all going on.

Fans Hobby Power Baser

On a personal level too, 2017 has been an incredible year in many respects. In terms of my hobby, things have really never been busier! I've continued running the blog and have been lucky enough to review quite a few pre-release samples over the last twelve months, also seeing the audience and readership grow significantly in that time as well. I've also had some major successes with my own collection, and have very nearly reached the end of my goal to have a complete TakaraTomy Masterpiece line-up (with a smattering of interesting Hasbro versions to boot) after picking up a couple of longer-term desired figures such as TF Expo Lambor and MP-1L Last Stand Convoy. Additionally, I've put some energy into sourcing a couple of more vintage releases, adding to a small but growing collection of reissue G1, amongst other things.

TakaraTomy C-310E Fire Guts God Ginrai (Ehobby exclusive)

However, by far the most significant development for me this year on a personal level has been the birth of my son (already nicknamed "Seveno" on-line!), who has brought my family a lot of joy. I can't wait to see him hopefully becoming a Transformers fan himself, if that's what he chooses to do, but all in good time.

Perfect Effect PE-DX06 Beast Gorira

Anyway, all of that aside, let's get on with the ceremony! After all, the year has come to a close so it's about time we made a "best of" list, right? This is actually my third such list in a row this year, and I've found it harder than ever to weigh up with figures have brought me the most excitement and joy, it's been that good. But away we go!

The three categories I will discuss are as follows:
- Best retrospective purchase (the best figure from pre-2017 that I picked up this year)
- Best 2017 repaint (the best repainted figure released this year)
- Top 10 figures 2017 (this list will be all original moulds released this year)

Maketoys MTRM-11 Meteor

Before I begin, I should specify that this list is purely based on the figures that I have received in the twelve months of 2017. As many of you will know, I only collect specific lines from across Transformers and therefore won't be including figures such as Titans Returns or what have you. That's not to say that I don't admire those toys (far from it), it's just my personal preference of where my collecting boundaries lie. Equally, the choices I have made here are my own based on my personal likes (and dislikes, I guess!). I don't expect anyone to agree with my choices - in fact, I absolutely anticipate that most will disagree, and that's fine! These are my own picks of which figures have delighted me the most in the last twelve months or so. In anything, I've tried to think less about which figures are objectively "the best", and more about which ones I that simply enjoy myself.

FansToys FT-22 Koot

Inevitably, I also had to leave out a lot of releases just because of the sheer volume of great product this year. There are no doubt figures that I have loved over the last twelve months that you won't see represented here just because they were bumped by something else - such is the nature of these lists, I guess. Equally you won't see some figures represented simply because I don't have them in hand! I would imagine that Masterpiece MP-39 Sunstreaker could have been a contender for inclusion here, but sadly he hasn't arrived so will have to rollover for consideration next year! I also decided to leave off TakaraTomy's Diaclone reboot line, which continues to be incredible, in order to keep things simple and focus on Transformers.

TakaraTomy Diaclone reboot

All that said, let's get to it!


BEST RETROSPECTIVE PURCHASE
So, we begin with the best purchases that I made in 2017 of figures from previous years. This is more about my personal collecting than anything, but hopefully it's interesting!

RUNNER UP - TakaraTomy 2010 Universal Dominator Unicron


"I have summoned you here for a purpose..." Few characters can claim to be as iconic as the legendary planet-eater Unicron, and in my mind no interpretation beats the one seen in the classic 1986 Transformers movie. Having never seen a toy actually released during the years of Generation 1, many collectors were excited when a modern version was released under the Armada toyline years later. I picked up the black Energon version myself in 2004, but as cool as it was it never quite scratched the itch... so the 2010 version had long caught my eye, and this year I finally saw fit to pick it up. And boy, I couldn't be happier with this guy! With a reworked face sculpt and stunning new colour scheme, this feels so much like the classic Unicron we all loved and feared. This figure also sports an absolutely beautiful paint job that needs to be seen in hand to be fully appreciated. It's not the usual sort of thing I collect, but I'm certainly glad to have made it part of my line-up.



#1 - TakaraTomy Encore #23 Fortress Maximus / Car Robots C-027 Brave Maximus


Talk about your collecting goals. G1 Fortress Maximus has pretty much been a staple of my wishlist since I was a small boy, although I never actually saw a whole one in person until I was much older. I loved the character in the Marvel comics growing up, but always thought of the toy itself as something of a myth, until one day a classmate brought in his copy of Cerebros to school and I knew it to be true! At the time I was blown away by the sheer size of the thing, although to be fair I'm not sure that sense of childlike awe has dissipated much over the years. Well, 2017 was finally time for me to pick up the Encore release from four years prior, fulfilling a thirty year ambition to own this amazing figure. And it certainly hasn't disappointed! There's so much fun to be had with this toy that I would honestly say it's a must-have for any collector. In many ways, this purchase was made all the better by friends of mine also picking him up for the first time, and sharing the experience. Wonderful.

Oh, and as if that wasn't enough, I also picked up a mint copy of Car Robots/ RID Brave Maximus from 2000 - another figure I have admired for some time. I love it equally as much as "classic" Max - that funky colour scheme is just too good. And the best thing? I managed to find both figures for an absolute bargain, paying less for each than you would for some modern Masterpiece releases at retail. Score.



BEST 2017 REPAINT
Now onto the best repainted figures released in 2017.

RUNNER UP - TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-38 Convoy (Beast Wars) Legendary Leader Ver.


The original MP-32 release of Masterpiece Optimus Primal made my 2016 list of best new moulds, and for good reason - it's an incredible figure, with absolutely tons of play value, wonderful accessories and gimmicks (pop-up arm cannons!), not to mention a beautiful (and screen accurate) look. Well, guess what? Despite the fact that MP-32 is a spot-on representation of the on-screen character model, I'd almost be tempted to tell you that MP-38 is my preferred version, which I certainly wasn't expecting to say before I had him in hand! So what gives? Well, there's just something about this new paint job that is truly captivating. The blacks and greys are so pure and beautifully finished, and the other colours pop so vividly against them; it's all really rather gorgeous in hand. Oh, and as if that wasn't enough, this guy actually comes with more accessories than the original version, with a nifty double-bladed sword being included on top of the regular versions, as well as a freaky but cool battle mask in a homage to the original Optimus Primal toy from 1996. Amazing stuff, and a thoroughly recommended release for Beast Wars fans.



#1 - TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-10K Convoy (BAPE Black Camo Ver.)


Yeah, yeah, I know what some people will say. "He's banging on about another MP-10 repaint again!" Well, yes I am, but honestly this one is something really special. Anyone who has dismissed MP-10K as "another Black Convoy" or thinks this is some kind of interpretation of Optimus Prime's last moments in the 1986 movie has missed the mark here. This is of course the third and final figure released as part of a tie-in with Japanese clothing manufacturer, A Bathing Ape (or BAPE!), and features a rather stunning camouflage pattern across much of the body, and the BAPE logo proudly represented on the robot mode's left shoulder. Bit weird? Well, perhaps, but then there's some precedent there. After all, it was inevitable that we would see the black version eventually after both the green and red variants were released, following suit from the three colour schemes having already been realised with the G1 Optimus Prime mould. All of the Masterpiece versions have been incredibly finished thus far, with a gloriously thick helping of paint coating the entire of the body, comparatively putting one or two other MP-10 variants to shame in terms of their fit and finish. And guess what? This one is the best of all, looking absolutely sublime with a muted grey body accenting with subtle yellow and muted teal tones. Sure, he's a bit *cough* on the pricey side, but to my eye he's worth every penny. In fact this might be my very favourite MP-10 deco' of all, and that's saying something.



TOP TEN FIGURES 2017
So, onto the main event! What were my top ten new moulds from the last year...

#10 - FansToys FT-20 Terminus Giganticus


Holy moly, they don't come much more ambitious than this. As I mentioned previously, if you wanted any better example of the growing confidence and scale of ambition of the third party scene these days, it's this guy. Photos alone cannot do justice to the sheer sense of presence that this figure creates. It's absolutely gargantuan in every respect, and makes figures that previously seemed huge in their own right appear rather insignificant by comparison. And yes, for those wondering, he is bigger than both G1 and Titans Return/ Legends Fortress Maximus at head height (just), but feels even bigger because of the extra size of the wings and what-have-you. And if you thought the robot mode was redonkulous enough, just transform this hulking beauty to base mode for a toy so big that it's actually inconceivable that anyone would have room in their house to display it in such a manner. Seriously. If anything, this guy almost deserves a point of recognition on this list for the sheer size alone, but the fact that it's a good toy to boot obviously makes his inclusion much more justifiable. Just wow.

My original review of this figure can be found here.



#9 - Fans Hobby Master Builder MB-04 Gunfighter II


Fans Hobby have had quite the year. Coming out of nowhere to make their presence felt with six releases over the twelve months of 2017, including three not-Monsterbots and culminating in the impressively ambitious Power Baser. But for many, including me, it was their first design in Archenemy and in particular this subsequent repainted version that created the most interest. Gunfighter II is of course a rendition of Generation 2 Laser Optimus Prime, which proves to be another interesting choice in Fans Hobby's burgeoning character roster, a world away from the likes of Carbots and Dinobots that are so much of a staple elsewhere. So why this guy, over the rest of the company's output this year? Pretty simple really, he's big, chunky, dynamic and fun, and brings a surprising amount of presence in both modes. Oh, and did I mention that he looks the absolute nuts? Especially when he's all armoured up with two massive guns and a freakishly large sword. Here's hoping that we see more G2 characters given similar upgrade treatment in the future.

My original review of this figure can be found here.



#8 - Unique Toys Ragnaros M-01 Archimonde


I've almost no doubt that some folks will be surprised to see this figure included on my "best of" list for the year. After all, what's so remarkable about a simple combiner limb? Whilst it's true that the individual Scramble City 'bots are often not given a lot of focus on their own, there's just something about this rendition of G1 Brawl that has really caught my eye this year. It no doubt helps that I am a huge Combaticon fan anyway, having fallen for the characters whilst watching original series cartoon episodes such as The Revenge of Bruticus. Then there's the fact that Brawl's design has always been one I've admired, and this is certainly a decent approximation of it, even if it's not 100% spot on to the animation model. Oh, and then consider than this is a remarkably fun figure, that in my mind rises above being a simple combiner limb to being a great representation of a character in its own right. I'm very excited to see the entire Ragnaros set, sure, but as it is I'm also pretty happy just to have a great Masterpiece-styled Brawl.

My original review of this figure can be found here.



#7 - Fans Toys FT-10 - Phoenix


It's a sign of how crazy things have been this year that a figure as supremely and ludicrously gigantic as Phoenix was itself overshadowed by the subsequent release of Terminus Giganticus, but that's not to forget what an impact this guy made when he first landed. I shall forever recall the excitement of unboxing him for the first time and just being awestruck by such a gigantic 'bot! I'd previously reviewed Grinder earlier in the year and thought he was big at the time, but he pales in comparison to Phoenix. Fortunately it's not just size that this chap has to offer, which is always a plus! He's handsome as anything, and does a fantastic job at recalling the character from animation in a way that I don't believe any other Skyfire toy has done previously, in my opinion. Oh, and then there's the small matter of an smooth and enjoyable transformation into that stunning jet mode... well. Plus points also for this guy being the most memorable figure to take to the pub to show off to friends. I can still picture everyone's faces when he was put on the table.

My original review of this figure can be found here.



#6 - TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-34 Cheetor (Beast Wars)


I'm going to come right out and say it - if this list was decided on strength of robot mode alone, then this figure would very likely be a contender for the top spot. I absolutely adore that 'bot mode beyond belief. It's just perfect in every respect, and genuinely looks like the character from every angle. The phrase "jumped off the screen" is oft overused, but in Masterpiece Cheetor it's never been better applied. I can actually hear the character's voice in my head every time I look at this figure. So, why only #6? Well, the transformation can be a bit of a faff, and it's fair to say that whilst the beast mode is no doubt incredibly pretty (like, really pretty!), it's also a bit fiddly and perhaps not quite as much fun as one would hope. It's by no means bad, just not quite as "pick-up-and-play" as one might like. Still, there's plenty of other exciting things going on here, such as multiple heads and "moving" eyes, all of which makes this an incredible figure overall. Especially that 'bot mode.

My original review of this figure can be found here.



#5 - Maketoys MTRM-06 Contact Shot


Maketoys put out some fantastic figures, in case you weren't aware. I've already banged on about how amazing their Headmasters Cupola and Iron Will are until I'm pretty much blue in the face, so it was with quite a healthy dose of excitement that I anticipated their first Targetmaster... and he certainly hasn't disappointed! Perhaps it helps that I loved my G1 Pointblack as a lad, but there's something about this design that is just really fun and engaging. It helps that he's super attractive (he even manages to pull off that CHIN!), and also incredibly fun to pose! Of all the figures I have reviewed this year, this is the one that sticks in my mind as being super enjoyable to mess around with and take photos of. Oh, and now I can't even tell you how excited I am that Maketoys have finally announced that they're definitely finishing off those Headmasters! They can't come soon enough.

My original review of this figure can be found here.



#4 - Maketoys MRTM-09 Downbeat


Oh man, has there been any character more debated in Masterpiece circles than Jazz? Well, actually, yes there has... but we'll come to that shortly! Even so, there's something about the Scatman Crothers-voiced dude that seems to really stick with fans of the original cartoon. Maybe it's his easy-going and loveable personality, maybe it's the rather sublime vehicular mode, or maybe it's just that he's one of the more memorable and iconic elements of the original Transformers series... either way, the problem in official circles is that there is no Masterpiece Jazz, and if rumours of behind-the-scenes conversations with car manufacturers are to be believed, there possibly never will be. Who knows, to be honest? Either way, until that day comes we now have a wonderful solution in Downbeat, who so ably captures the character and brings him to life with a bang. I mean, honestly, just look at this thing. I actually don't think I can recall another third party figure who does such a wonderful job at gelling with the official line in this way. Absolutely top drawer.

My original review of this figure can be found here.


I'll also throw in a special mention to the repainted Bounceback, who only arrived very recently but is really rather lovely all by himself. It's such a great mould that it's definitely worth appreciating all over again, and it's fantastic to finally have a rendition of Stepper to go along with Masterpiece Artfire.

Make Toys RM-09SP Bounceback


#3 - FansToys FT-08 Grinder


For me, the Iron Dibots have been an absolute wonderful part of my journey down the third party rabbit hole over the previous few years. Scoria, Soar, Sever, Stomp... I've loved them all, and seeing them as a complete set is one of those milestones that really just makes this hobby so worthwhile. And of course we all thought we were done at that point, until FansToys caved to a certain amount of fanbase pressure and announced that yes, they would design their own Grimlock after all. Admittedly, my hopes weren't high when those initial design drawings came out, showing an approach quite removed from the rest of the Dibot team, but fortunately he turned out pretty well... in fact I can honestly say that he's my favourite of the whole lot of them, which is quite an accolade in itself! He's also done what so few third party figures can, and toppled an official Masterpiece from being the definitive take an a character in my estimation - Grinder now is my Masterpiece Grimlock. Oh, and if I had one ever-so-slight quibble with the previous stock dinosaur head, the replacement (if you can get it...) just makes the whole thing pretty much perfect.

My original review of this figure can be found here.



#2 - TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-35 Grapple


I rated MP-33 Inferno very highly on last year's list, so it should come as no particular surprise to find that I absolutely adore Grapple too. But you know what? He's actually my favourite version of this mould, which is ably demonstrated by him taking an even higher slot on this year's list! But hey, shouldn't this guy be sitting in the repaints section of this list, anyway? Well, yes and no, as Grapple actually shares a mere 50% of parts with Inferno (an incredible fact that I loved to remind everyone of at any given opportunity!), so I saw fit to include him in the new moulds section. My list, my rules. And besides, just look at how absolutely gorgeous he is, and then tell me that he doesn't deserve a place here. I'll also add that the orange on this guy definitely needs to be seen in hand to be fully appreciated, as mere photos simply cannot do it proper justice. Additionally, he's an amazing amount of fun, with two impressive modes, a transformation that is about as clever as an Oxbridge-educated dolphin, and a plethora of accessories so large and varied that you just don't know where to begin. Sublime.

My original review of this figure can be found here.


I'm going to make a special mention of Masterpiece Artfire at this stage, as although he's a repaint of the Inferno mould (as opposed to Grapple), I would have felt remiss by not chucking in some reference to him somewhere! Besides, his Targetmaster partner, Nightstick, is so amazing that I genuinely considered giving him his own slot on this list anyway!

TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-37 Artfire


And so, we come to the absolute best figure of 2017, in my humble opinion...

#1 - TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-36 Megatron


I mean, are you surprised? I'm certainly not the only person who's seen fit to put MP-36 right up the top of their own personal leaderboard for this year, and with very good reason. I don't think I have known any other character create so much online debate and discussion over the years, and this was way before we even knew that a second Masterpiece version of Megatron was going to definitely be a thing, despite persistent rumours. I think it's all fuelled by the fact that the original MP-5 Megatron is, er, a bit pants (look, I kinda love him too, but let's be fair now), and so collectors have had a re-do at the top of their wishlist for the longest time. And then there were so many third party versions... Apollyon, Despotron, Mightron... but you know what? MP-36 just shows yet again that when TakaraTomy are on top form, the competition absolutely cannot touch them. And yes, I'm well aware that not absolutely everyone agrees with me that this guy is the best rendition of the character, but that's fine - for me, I couldn't be happier with him. I love the matt-but-ever-so-slightly-sparkly finish; I love the absolutely perfect face sculpt and the alternate versions that really help the character shine; I love the incredible amount of poseability on offer that makes him just a delight to photography; and I love all of the wonderful accessories that just bring so much play value. And yes, the transformation is involved, but it's still bloody clever and well worth a go if you have the time! Mostly though, I'm all about that robot mode, as for me it's just the perfect representation of the Decepticon leader made real. MP-36 is just too special a release to not be my absolute favourite figure of the year.









And so there you have my top figures from 2017! Thanks for reading, and here's to an absolutely cracking 2018! Happy new year!



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5 comments:

  1. A great read for sure and some good choices. I picked up mp36 as a one off but the fact he destroys his paint when transforming ruins him for me. Thanks for a year of great work Sixo.

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    1. Well, thanks for being so supportive with some lovely comments! It's really appreciated. :D

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  2. Great wrap up of 2017. Love the list and love your reviews! Keep them coming as you've helped inform my purchases on more than afew occasions!

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    1. Aw, thanks! That's always nice to hear! I shall certainly try.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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