Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mutatin' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Back in the early 90's I was one of those kids that watched the old TMNT cartoon on TV. I never was a rabid fan of the Turtles, neither the show or the toys, but I had enough of an interest to give the property some attention. One of the questions I always had as a kid was how did some of the other characters get to be the way they looked in the show. I mean, I knew the turtles were exposed to the ooze that changed them, but what about the others? I had heard the same ooze that changed the turtles and Splinter had also changed several of the Foot's henchmen like Bebop and Rocksteady. I had those toys as a kid, but I always wondered if there were ever toys of these characters in their pre-exposed to the ooze selves.

Mutatin' Splinter & Shredder photo 100_6880_zps1a4d6f59.jpg

Mutatin' Bebop & Rocksteady photo 100_6875_zps03530ce8.jpg

In the past months I've been working my way through a huge collection of toys I bought locally. Anything that wasn't Transformers was immediately placed off to the side. Now that I've got most of the TF items sorted and at least pictured, I've started to go back through the other items. At the bottom of one of the boxes I saw figures of Splinter and Shredder that I didn't recognize. Granted I only had a few of the original figures from the first wave, but these figures seemed odd. They were "chunkier" that what I was accustomed to. After a little research on the world wide web, I discovered these were part of a series called Mutatin'.

The premise of these Mutatin' toys was to show some of the characters in their pre-exposed selves. I probably would have loved the crap out of these as a kid. Look at them as a 37 year old man now, they seem a bit silly however I can still respect the idea and the mechanics used.

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Splinter looks as good as a rat can look wearing a Japanese kimono. Good head sculpt - buck teeth and all. He retains all trademark look, from the red kimono to the bandage wrapped feet and ankles. One may think a action figure his size (around 5 inches) would sport some sort of articulation, but alas he is pretty much a brick. His arms do turn a full 360 degrees as does his head, but that is about it.

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To get Splinter back to his human self, you simply open his kimono (come 'on, no jokes guys - this is a family friendly blog!) and you simply rotate the rat head in and the human head out. The legs also rotate in giving you room to rotate the human legs out. The sleeves on each arm open up revealing a cavity inside concealing the human hands. Simply rotate these around and snap the sleeves back into place.  Decent looking figure, but he doesn't look too Japanese to me.

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Shredder was never exposed to the ooze (was he?), so his Mutatin' toy is more or less converting him from his armored self to his regular self. Kind of boring if you ask me, but Playmates did a good job here.  I will point out that his spikey armor bits are all soft plastic of course. His helmet is also made of the same soft plastic.

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Shredder's non-armored self has him wearing what appears to be traditional Japanese clothing. If you look carefully you can see how the sides of the blue garb are slightly discolored. This came from the toy being stored outside in a storage shed for many many years. Transformation follows Splinter's in many ways. Even without instructions I was able to figure out in a matter of seconds. Shredder's figure makes a more convincing Japanese male that Splinter does.

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Bebop and Rocksteady also got the Mutatin' treatment. Starting here with Bebop the figure looks like his original figure. You may notice he has a sai and a drill sticking out from the tips of his shoes. I'm not sure in which mode these are supposed to be exposed. Just as with Splinter and Shredder before, articulation is almost non-existent. Arms, head and the legs all move to some extent.

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I remember the old cartoon showing both Bebop and Rocksteady in their human forms, after all they were both in a street gang that Shredder had employed. However I remember Bebop being African American and not white. Can anyone confirm that, or am I just wrong? Whatever the case may be, this guy had to be a tough guy to walk around New York wearing a pink shirt! It seems most of these Mutatin' toys share the same construction and conversion process. The whole upper chest of Bebop folds forward, allowing you to rotate the heads. Again, the arms open up to allow you to rotate the hands around.

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Rocksteady was always my favorite of the two, but I hated his original toy. He seemed to skinny and his head was way oversized. This version gets the look down better, but I don't care for the Army style jacket he's wearing. While none of the toys I had came with accessories, you may have noticed Rocksteady has two brightly colored neon orange grenades attached to the sides of this thighs. These are removable so he can hold them in his hands if you wish, however they can stay on his legs, even during transformation.

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Boy did Rocksteady look pretty dumb before! He oughta forever be grateful to Shredder for improving his appearance! Converting Rocksteady to his human form is basically the same as Bebop, however those grenades on his thighs have their own panel that flips around. Nice to see that they worked in some small differences such as this.

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The figure that really stood out in the box was this horrendous looking April O'Neil. I immediately snapped a picture on my phone and sent it to a few friends who are much bigger TMNT fans than I. This figure too was from the same Mutatin' line, but no one could give me a back story on the figure.

Where do I start here? I can't believe someone thought this would make a good action figure. I mean, come on. It looks like April is ready to step onto the football field! Just look at those broad shoulders she is sportin'. I'm pretty sure that she isn't wearing shoulder pads underneath her trademark yellow jump suit either. Maybe boys don't like to play with female action figures not because they are girls, but because a lot of the female action figure suck. This here is a prime example of how NOT to make a female action figure. Granted the transformation adds a lot of bulk to the figure, this still wouldn't look very good as a stand alone figure.

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If you thought the April human figure looked horrible, check this out! Somehow she managed to mutate herself from her annoying human self to a cheetah hybrid. I'm not even sure if April in this form would turn on the Cheetos mascot, Chester Cheetah! The feet, arms and head all rotate out from their concealed cavities like the other figures. However she also has thigh panels that flip open, allowing you to fold out cheetah skin. How sexy!

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Rrrrrrearrrr!

In addition to the Mutatin' toys, there was another series of transforming TMNT toys called Road Ready. These toys featured a vehicle transformation integrated into the humanoid figure. Interesting idea, but how well executed could these really be? Let's find out.

Road Ready Splinter photo 100_6894_zpsb80062e8.jpg   Road Ready Splinter photo 100_6895_zps2644248e.jpg

If I told you that Splinter here would transform into the Turtles van would you believe me? Playmates did a great job concealing the vehicle parts here. Outside of the dark green "spine" on the back of Splinter, you can't see any of the van. Yes Splinter is a bit bloated looking and I'm not sure what's going on with the gray hair around his neck and chest, but this is Splinter alright.

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The whole figure basically opens up to reveal all sorts of flat panels. I didn't have the instructions, but it was a  fairly straight forward transformation procedure. The van is small and compact, but I've very impressed. Playmates managed to capture the look and feel of the Turtles van. The wheels are free rolling and glides across a hard, smooth surface with ease. Very cool toy. If you peer inside you can even see Splinter appears to be driving the van! This is the same rat head that the figure uses.

There are a few other characters in this Road Ready series, but I've never seen any of them in person. I'm not about to start collecting TMNT toys, but I almost kept this toy for myself as I had a lot of fun messing around with it. This toy here makes up for all of the short comings I give Playmates for the horrible, horrible Mutatin' April figure.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

My newest Transformers related venture

First off, did you realize that 5 years ago this month, I started this blog?  Wow, I can't believe it's been 5 years.  I'm even more surprised at the growth of the blog and how many people stop by my space on the internet to read my thoughts about toys.  So thanks to everyone for your continued support and here's to another 5 years!

By now most of you know that I love Transformers and sports cards.  It should come to you as no surprise that anytime I get to mix match the two hobbies I'm first in line.  I've had a thought for many many years of sharing the various tech spec cards that accompany many of the Japanese Transformer toy releases.  There are plenty of tech spec archives floating around the 'net, but the cards themselves often get neglected.  I want to try and rectify that.  My new blog is simply called the Transformers Bio Card Database and it is here that I plan to catalog as many of these trading card style cards as possible.  While I have a lot of material to get the blog off the ground, I still need your help!  If you have any bio cards from Japanese TFs or even 3rd party stuff, please shoot me an e-mail.  I'd love to buy the card(s) for my own collection, but what I'm really needing help with is with scans.  I'll take your high quality, unedited scan, and use it in the archive.  Of course proper credit will be given.

I know this new blog won't excite everyone, but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time and I'm glad it's starting to finally see the light of day!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Transformers: EZ Collection "Mystery of Convoy" Convoy (Anniversary Clear Version)

In celebration of the launch of the Transformers 4: Age of Extinction movie toys in Japan, Takara Tomy had yet another free promo toy they made exclusively available at the Sunshine City Toys R Us store.  Given away on the night of May 16th with the purchase LA-01 Battle Command Optimus Prime, you received a translucent EZ Convoy. Click HERE for the official Takara Tomy page.

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Convoy comes sealed in a little bag along with a set of instructions.  At first I was a taken back by the overall look, but thankfully he looks much better in hand.


The campaign is called, Mystery of Convoy...but what is this mystery they speak of?  Well I still have no idea.  There is a metal pin inserted into the bottom of his foot, but I don't know it's purpose.  I've heard it was to interact with LA-01 Battle Command Optimus Prime while others have said it is supposed to work with a Grimlock toy.  I've also heard the pin is to be used somehow with an upcoming mobile app.  That aside let's look at the actual toy.

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If you are familiar with the Legends Optimus Prime mold, then you pretty much know what you are getting here.  Great mold and the translucent plastic looks great in person.  As you can see there aren't any paint apps minus the silver used for this eyes and mouth plate.

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I have to admit the vehicle mode looks a little strange with the translucent black plastic out front and center on the truck's grill.  Doesn't bother too much as this guy will be displayed in robot mode alongside other Convoys and Primes.

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Comparison pics with Transformers Generations Optimus Prime legends scale.  When I snapped these pictures is when I noticed a mold change to the top of the cab, where the head flips out.

EZ Prime photo 100_6965_zps33000f71.jpg

On the Hasbro version (top), the back of the head panel on top of the cab is somewhat smooth.  However on the Takara Tomy version (bottom) I noticed a raised peg hole.  I don't recall seeing this before, however I don't own any other versions of this mold.  Perhaps all of the Japanese EZ Collection versions of this toy have this peg hole.  Can anyone confirm?

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Here you can see this mysterious peg that was inserted into Convoy's foot.  I spent a good time with Google today trying to find out what the purpose of the peg is, but it appears it is still just speculation.  Perhaps Takara Tomy has other events or promotions planned this year that will shed some light on this mystery pin.

EZ Prime photo 100_6961_zpsf2b2bd0e.jpg

If you are a Convoy/Optimus fan or just like translucent toys or the smaller scaled Transformers, then you may find this to be a worthy purchase.  I grabbed mine for $10 shipped from an overseas seller and for that price I'm satisfied.  Here lately though I'm seeing people wanting $25-$35 which seems a little steep to me.  I'll let you make the call on whether he is worthy to be in your collection or not.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Transformers Micron Densetsu: Micron Wheel (Under Groove)

We have pre-established already that the little Transformers Mini-Cons / Microns are highly collectible, and today's topic is one of the reasons why.  Takara re-painted a lot of the first wave of Microns and some of them were released in small numbers at certain stores in Japan in the early 2000's.

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Wheel, originally from the Destruction Micron group, the Under Groove version was limited to Ito Yokado stores in Japan.  He was originally only available with the purchase of Micron Densetsu Convoy Super Mode aka "Super Pants Prime" as many called him in Armada.  I don't know what the original print run was for this toy, but the Under Groove editions aren't that easy to come across today on the secondary market.  In fact, I was never able to acquire the other two.

Wheel photo Microns060_zpsfb779ea4.jpg

Wheel photo Microns061_zpsd21dabe2.jpg

Not one of my favorite Micron molds, but at I like the Under Groove color scheme.  The "Energon" blue looks great mixed in with the darker colors.  I can only recommend this toy to the Micron completions.  If you are a casual fan then you'll want to stay away from the Under Groove Microns for the price they'll command alone and just stick with the Destruction Microns.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Transformers Micron Densetsu: Destruction Micron X-Dimension MM-09

Transformers Armada (or Micron Densetsu in Japan) ushered in a new faction of Transformers, Mini-Cons / Microns.  These became highly collectible for many collectors, such as myself.  Takara really capitalized on this by releasing Microns in an assortment of colors.  Some of the first repaints came in the form of X-Dimension teams.

X-Dimension Destruction Team photo Microns050_zps21111335.jpg

The Destruction Team was never one of my favorite teams, but at least the new color scheme Takara gave the X-Dimension team was huge upgrade over their Armada versions.  The Micron teams came packaged on blister cards, however I tossed the bubble in an effort to conserve space.  The entire packaging was re-used from the stand Destruction Team.  I'm assuming this was a cost cutting measure used by Takara as the toy images on the back of the card are of the original team.

X-Dimension Destruction Team photo Microns051_zps32892cbc.jpg
From Left to Right: Wheel, Duster, Crush


Of these three, I only ever cared for Crush.  In vehicle form the trio isn't too bad.  Each of them have gears with a rubber banded wheel that when rolled, activates an action feature of sorts.  Wheel's bladed wheel spins, Duster's cannons alternate back and forth moving forward; while Crush's drill spins.

These features can also be activated when attached to certain larger Unicron Trilogy era Transformers.

X-Dimension Destruction Team photo Microns052_zpse797cf91.jpg

Wheel leaves a lot to be desired in robot mode.  I don't know if it's his big bulky arms, or his wide square shaped crotch, but I just don't care for Wheel in general.

X-Dimension Destruction Team photo Microns053_zpsf4a070e4.jpg

Duster looks a bit better in robot mode than Wheel.  On his chest you can see the aforementioned gear and wheel that activates his pomp pomp gun feature.  Duster looks more beefy and filled out.  I would think he would be more of a formidable foe in battle.

X-Dimension Destruction Team photo Microns054_zps0d86d127.jpg

Crush is one of my favorite Microns of all time.  At one time I had all but one of this mold's variants.  Personally I love the big drill on his arm.  I don't often like my Transformers to have something other than a hand attached, but in this case the drill works.  M only nitpick I have with this mold is the other arm.  It's tinier than a T-Rex's arm!  Crush also sports a cool rounded shape head...reminds me of G1 Cosmos a bit.

X-Dimension Destruction Team photo Microns055_zps217867fc.jpg

If you are a Mini-Con / Micron collector then I'm sure you have these guys already in your collection.  They aren't super rare or expensive, yet look great in any collection.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Transformers 3rd Party: Impossible Toys - Bump MC-03

Earlier this year the Transformers fandom said goodbye to one of the earliest companies in the 3rd party community, Impossible Toys.  I don't think many people however shed a tear when the announcement was made due to the quality and execution of some of their products.  In my experience with the company their products were hit or miss.  The Tetra Squadron jets they did were a miss (at least for me), but their Quintesson figures were really good.  Impossible Toys' swan song was a set of Mini-Bots.  The release of these seemed to fly underneath the radar and it wasn't long before I saw many of them sold out or on clearance at different online retailers.  I happened to pick up one on clearance myself just so I could experience it first hand.  So did Impossible Toys pull off a modern articulated G1 Minibot?  Read on.

Bumper photo 100_6832_zps1d2c64b2.jpg

My choices of which Minicar to purchase were limited, so I went with Bump.  He obviously is Bumper from G1, one of the few G1 toys I've yet to acquire.  The packaging has that G1 feel to it, from the red, grid line background and the iconic Transformers font from the 80's.  The quality of the box is on the cheap side, but then again all of their packaging is printed on flimsy, thin cardboard.  Look at the image below and you can see a crease in the top right corner of the box from shipping.

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Overall the packaging presentation is some of their best to date.  Product images on all sides and even a new bio of sorts on the back.  No awards are needed here, but a suitable job none the less.

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Impossible Toys molded plastic trays with removable lids to house each Minicar inside the box.  This is the only thing that really holds the outer box intact.  I was surprised when I slid out the tray to see a tiny gun packaged with the toy!  Bonus points for this addition.

Bumper photo 100_6837_zps2ff5bce9.jpg   Bumper photo 100_6839_zpsc0805500.jpg

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Out of the package the first thing I noticed was it's size.  These IT Minicars are much larger than what I had expected.  I'd say they are a chunky basic/scout size if I'm using modern toy terminology.  Bump retains his G1 look, from his blocky angles and rubber tires.  I will point out that gap you see in the front does disappear when you press in his legs.  My one complaint with vehicle mode is the exposed screw in the back.  He sorely needs a sticker to cover this up.  I may slap an Autobot symbol on there as I would be surprised if Reprolabels.com ever releases any sort of update set of stickers for these releases.

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Transformation is pretty much the exact same as the G1 toy.  Flip up the head, pull down the legs and flip out the feet.  When you go to pull out the arms however, you'll notice they lift up as they now use a ball and socket joint.  While the transformation is close to the same, articulation is not.  IT did a good job giving these guys a few extra points of articulation that their G1 selves lacked.

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Can your G1 Minibot pull off poses like this?

I found this to be a fun little toy to mess with.  Plastic quality seems to have been improved as it doesn't feel cheap or lightweight in hand.  You've got the look of a G1 toy with updated modern action figure articulation.  Throw in a great headsculpt a little hand gun and you've got a winning package.  I can't remember what these retailed for originally, but I only paid 15 bucks and at the price point it's pretty hard to pass up.  Check out BBTS to see what they still have left in stock if you are interested.

Now what kind of review would this be without comparison pics?  Now remember I don't own a G1 Bumper, so I grabbed my Takara TF Collection reissue of Bumblebee for the obligatory comparison shots.

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Please comment a I'd love to hear your experiences with Impossible Toys in general or just your comments about Bump or any of their other Minicars in the series.