The Masterpiece Autobot cars are, I’d say (and I’m always right so that’s a fact), one of the best and most consistent series Takara has produced. The Lamborghini and Nissan molds are both top-tier stuff, and even the molds that don’t reach quite those heights – Tracks, Wheeljack (arguably), Hot Rod – are all big, big winners.
But the line has always lacked something. Specifically, a Porsche-shaped something. Jazz, possibly the most popular Autobot car of them all, is STILL missing in action from Takara’s line-up. Popular myth will have you believe that it’s due to Porsche’s unwillingness to license the 935 for a “war toy”, a category which an armed robot sort of falls into. These theories are lessened somewhat by the fact that Porsche owner Volkswagen licensed out its Beetle for Bumblebee, but it’s still a compelling narrative.
(DISCLAIMER – I realised at the point of publication that J4zz has each forearm transformed differently in some of my pictures. This is because I was playing about with reversing them as it arguably leads to better elbow articulation. Note that J4zz’s left arm is positioned in the ‘official’ configuration. Sorry)
Could this be why third parties have also, until now, steered clear? For fear of the risk of irking two rights holders instead of just the historically passive Hastak? I don’t buy that idea myself, which does make Jazz’s ongoing absence all the more baffling.
But now it’s over. As is the way with 3P, when it rains it pours and we have more Jazz’s on the way, but Generation Toy are first out of the blocks – and the attention on them for this release is huge. Can J4zz plug your Jazz gap? Despite that really fucking stupid name?
This is the first time I’ve handled a Generation Toy bot. I do love getting hands on with a company for the first time. Each one has its own ‘thing’ and I love discovering it. DX9 has that delicious bastard thick soapy plastic, Fanstoys has its squeaky joints and funny faces, Maketoys is just fucking boss, BadCube has transformations from hell, MMC has a pleasing delicacy, X-Transbots has THOSE transformation steps, Fansproject has that secret sauce and KFC is either top dog or dog shit depending on who you speak to. So what is Generation Toy’s thing, then? If Jazz is anything to go by, it’s thing is really solid bots, willingness to add its own take to established designs and a great transformation balance.
My expectations for J4zz had been tempered somewhat by the mixed reaction online. I’d read gripes about the plastic and about the transformation, and had felt a sense of mild disappointment even among those whose pre-release enthusiasm is normally infallible.
All of which made it a quite pleasant surprise when I found myself quickly falling in love with him. Right from the off you get a proper swish box that feels like it should be housing a smartphone or £500 graphics card. Opening the thing was a fucking nightmare but once in, I delighted in prising the car (yes, in comes in alt mode) from the foam. Purists may take exception to finding only a bot and weapon in the box. There’s no extra faces, no additional weapons or attachments or plastic fruit or assorted other luxuries and/or oddities. And I’m fine with that. I’ve said before that I’ll always happily take a bot and a gun and drop all the other stuff and shave £10 or £20 off the price.
Let’s just cut to the chase shall we and address the non-white elephant in the room? Jazz is white. J4zz is not. He’s silver, or at least a very silvery pearlescent white. It’s an odd decision, certainly, especially as right from the off the entire fanbase was overtly vocal about the decision. And GT did change some aspects of the colouring in response, ditching the blue of the waist, shoulders and hands for a far better black. So why stick so doggedly with the silver? I suspect for the same reason it went with the addition of the odd little shoulder guns and the IDW shoulder wheels. J4zz is not Jazz. He’s J4zz. He’s his own thing, his own take on the character. And providing you can get past your own expectations and accept the creation for what it is, it really works.
That’s not to say I like the shoulder guns. They’re daft and they complicate what is already the weakest part of the design. The entire shoulder assembly is overly fussy, although it does allow for some pretty configurable posing opportunities – even if you have you reposition it all every time you move him. You can do away with the guns if you like, either by popping them off the ball joint or by unscrewing them entirely, although the latter option does rob the wheels of their housing joint and leaves the front of the car a little floppy.
And that would be a shame as the car mode is great. Yes, it’s a 911 Carrera and not a 935 Turbo. But, come on, how much have Porsche’s changed over the years? Not much. So while it’s definitely not pure G1 Jazz, it’s close enough that it still evokes the character to me. And he fits in just nicely with the other MP cars.
I’ll tell you what I like with a transformation, too. I like to follow the instructions the first time, then be able to transform it back without them. Then I like to come back the next day and be able to do both again from memory. Takara normally nails this. Third parties often don’t. J4zz certainly does. It’s a transformation that makes sense. It’s not fiddly, it’s not overly complicated and the tolerances are spot on – it does the job as simply as it possibly can, and I love it.
Both modes tab together brilliantly and feel solid. There’s some panel filling of empty space, both in the torso and the feet, but I’m fine with that. It works. I don’t understand criticisms of the plastic, either. This is MP quality stuff. Oh, and the face sculpt is cracking and boasts some of the best lightpiping I’ve seen. He even holds his gun well, and there’s a nice gimmick where hidden magnets on his hip panels allow him to holster his weapon. There are rubber tyres, too. And that silver paint is actually really nice, despite the silveryness.
Of course there are criticisms. The doors would have been great with a hinge for upward tilt in both mode. The foot articulation could be a little better, and the fact that there’s no solid base at the rear of the foot is a little limiting (I do like the rubbery grips at the front, though). I really do wish those shoulders secured to something. And dear god why not just make him white?
“It doesn’t feel like a Masterpiece.” I’d heard that said of J4zz before I finally got my hands on him, and I couldn’t disagree more. J4zz may not quite be the Jazz we’ve been waiting for from a pure G1 perspective, but he’s a fantastic toy and a welcome addition to my Masterpiece Autobot car shelf. With two great modes and a great transformation, I’m more than willing to embrace the liberties Generation Toy has taken with the design. J4zz is a winner.