I don’t know when it dawned on me. I think it was when I was bigging up Maketoys AGAIN in one of my reviews. I’m kinda desperate to award my first 5 Star review, and I found myself trying to remember what score I’d given my Maketoys figures. Then the cold truth struck me – I’ve not reviewed any of them! And in the one semi-review I did, a Spotter vs Visualizers write-up, I ruled in favour of Fanstoys!
The cause of this startling omission in my review history? Well, some of the figures were about long before I started reviewing and one came out during my early 2017 downtime. And it feels terrible, as I’ve been completely open in stating that I think Maketoys are without doubt the best 3P manufacturer in the business right now. Fanstoys are the only ones who even come close. Would I go as far as to say Maketoys are better than Takara? That’s such a tough call, and one that I hope this exercise may help to address.
So what I’m going to do now is five mini reviews of five very fine bots, after which we’ll compare notes and see where we stand.
MTRM-06 Contact Shot
The most recent release of the bunch, he nearly got a standalone review from me but I just HAD to get Spaceracer in the lightbox. Oh look, another poor excuse for the omission of a Maketoys review!
Make no mistake about it, though, Contactshot is an absolute masterclass and the very pinnacle of Masterpiece design. What are we looking for, really, when we buy a Transformer? A great looking, highly posable bot? Contactshot nails this brilliantly. A stylish, solid and characterful alt? Again, another very easy yes. A fluid transformation that flows nicely and can be done without tools and instructions? Yep, Contactshot smashes all three.
Even the Targetmaster is a hit, bettering the mini-companion efforts of X-Transbots, DX9 and most recently Fanstoys. Honestly, I really don’t think I can think of a single criticism of Contactshot. He’s every bit a 5 Star figure.
MTRM-04 Iron Will
Iron Will may have just missed out on the top spot in my 2016 Top 10, but he was the highest ranking Masterpiece, and with good reason. He is just about as solid an MP bot as you’ll ever encounter, and I would argue one of the best Transformers ever made.
Everything just works. The bot is very nicely articulated and just screams ‘double ‘ard bastard’. The colours are fantastic, which splashes of orange – especially in the translucent crotch panels – that just pop.
Maketoys manages another top-class transformation here, with a satisfying selection of perfectly fitting pieces. This has got to be one of my favourite alt modes, too. Again, it’s solid, chunky and delights as much to handle as it does to look at. The headmaster? Yep, that’s a triumph too. In fact, the only criticism I can muster is that it would be nice if the chest panel clicked into place. But that’s nitpicking of the highest degree.
I’m constantly looking for ways to try and downsize my collection and quite frequently I find myself thinking “well, if you just did ‘toon series one and two and the movie?” but then I realise that would mean parting with Iron Will and, let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen. Takara has not often reached these heights, and that’s the highest praise I can think of.
Speaking of Takara, tomorrow may well be the day when finally I get my hands on the new Masterpiece Megatron, but it will have to be an absolutely corker to top Despotron. I would have said the same about MP Shockwave and Quakewave, however, and Takara surprised me then, so we’ll have to wait and see.
After the horrendous disappointment of Apollyon, both Despotron and DX9 Mightron arrived with me on the same day. Now, DX9’s bot is a top figure who really does look the part, but undoubtedly it suffered by releasing alongside Despotron. Whereas Mightron required the owner to ignore the hands and the legs and the articulation, Despotron requires no compromise – he is Masterpiece Megatron. He’s spectacular.
“Oh, the knees! The knees” they all cried, moaning about Despotron’s tendency to sag at the right knee. But it’s such as easy fix and such a minor quibble, and to rob yourself of Despotron’s joys because of it is a crime.
Can I find criticism? Yes. The gun mode is a bit big. Maybe at a push I’d say the head is a might too stylised. That’s about it. I like the transformation, which is a real achievement, but in reality it’s the glorious bot mode that wins the day here. He just looks so completely wonderful. One of the very, very best, and most definitely the third 5 Star review in this roundup.
Astonishingly, Downbeat appears to have been divisive among fans. I’ve seen otherwise sane minded people dismiss him for all sorts of banal reasons. Hell, I even know of people who reckon they prefer the look of TnR Hova. That’s the sort of thinking I just can’t fathom. There really is no accounting for taste.
Saying that, Downbeat is not a clear cut 5 Stars in the same way as Despotron, Iron Will and Contactshot. There are issues here. Yes, the rear of the alt is not quite right. And yes, the leg transformation is fiddly and yes, it perhaps doesn’t all clip together in the way that you’d like.
Both the robot and the alt are absolutely terrific. The alt is as solid as fuck and an absolutely perfect fit in the MP Autobot car lineup. And the robot? How something can look that good and pose that well is plain and simply a miracle. When something looks so sweet in both modes, AND has a transformation that CAN be quite easily mastered, it demands to be forgiven for what, really, are minor shortcomings. And I promise you that rear end looks nowhere near as bad in hand. Honest.
Are the rumours that Hasui designed Downbeat as Takara can’t get the license true? I have no idea, but the evidence in hand makes it sound incredibly plausible. This IS a 5 Star figure.
So, four reviews, four sets of 5 Stars. Can Maketoys really make it five out of five?
Cupola is fantastic. I know good, learned people who rate him as the best 3P ever made, and with decent reasons. The robot is superb and the alt is a load of fun. And yes, the headmaster is another winner. It sounds like everything is perfectly on track.
And I wish I could say that was the case. I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t like Cupola – I do. I’m not lying when I say he’s fantastic and he is so very nearly a 5 star figure but, if I’m being honest, I think he falls just short.
For one, the transformation is probably the most complex of the five bots here. Certainly it’s the least enjoyable. It’s not a process I look forward to. There are limitations, too, in bot mode posability. Prior to the release of the Maketoys fix kit, those sodding foot panels that popped off drove me absolutely spare (the new feet do sort that, though). There also seems to be widespread problems with the wheels popping off but that’s not something mine suffers with. Indeed, I was unable to remove them for the ‘fix’, suggesting they were indeed not in need of fixing. There’s no escaping the limited shoulder articulation, either.
Remember though, these niggles only mean that I can’t rate Cupola among the very very best of Maketoys’ work. This in no way means he isn’t a top class figure. He is, and he deserves the love he gets from the fandom. I’m only being harsh here as I’m judging by the highest possible standards, and even then, Cupola emerges as another fantastic win for the company.
Soooo close. I’ve been gagging to dish out 5 Stars and the knowledge that I’ve been sitting on a treasure trove of top-class 5-Star figures has been eating away at me. Was I tempted to give Cupola a 5 just for the sheer delight of the clean numerical sweep? Yeah, I really was, but in truth as magnificent as he is, he’s compromised just enough to keep him off the very top. Some would argue that the same could be said for Downbeat, but I believe that his faults are definitely outweighed by the sheer brilliance of his two modes and his transformation which, once mastered, is fantastic. I even left out Striker Manus, and while I’m not sure what I’d give him, it’s a 4 Star rating at the lowest, and possibly higher.
The question, then, is could I name five Takara Masterpieces who I’d give 5 Stars to? MP-10 Optimus Prime, certainly. I’d probably add Sideswipe and Prowl to the list. And Shockwave. Is there a fifth? It’s tough. I love probably every Masterpiece but hand on heart I couldn’t give the seekers 5 Stars. Grapple is brilliant (and better than Inferno, I think) but I still couldn’t give him 5. I’d say the same of Ironhide and Ratchet. Bumblebee is a contender, for sure, but maybe not quite. Ultra Magnus? Soundwave? Again, it’s possible. Of course, Takara’s output is more numerous and overall I think they’re probably as consistent as Maketoys, and achieving that at a greater frequency is something to be very proud of.
Could I pick a winner between Maketoys and Takara? Probably not. And why should we? Let’s just say that both companies are at the absolute top of their game. Fanstoys does sometimes reach those same heights, but not with the same level of consistency. I don’t think the same can be said for any other 3P, as good as the likes of DX9 and MMC can sometimes be.