Sunday, 24 April 2016

Radical Regenerations: Prime Rumble

I normally start a review when I have a spare moment, on a bus, or on lunch hour. Then when I get home, I put the toy to one side of my laptop while I do do internet stuff and play. It can take weeks from initial interest to final drafting, or I can be done in 24 hours because I don't have anything sensible to do with my time. The last thing I do is make my usual attempt at “photography”, where I take it to a good spot in my kitchen and.......

Conservative. Party. CONFERENCE.

Well, I've written a load on on this toy, and I'd rather not ditch all of it. So, I rewrote the introduction, and here it is. I must report however, this did have a small effect on my opinion of the toy. Enjoy.

Vehicle Mode
 Rather than being a little dude whom fits into Soundwave's chest, this Rumble is a small blue car, and a fairly uninteresting one at that. This isn't too much of a departure for Rumble, as he did appear in the Alternators line as a Honda, but the execution here is bad. While there is some attention paid to the front end, some tiny Decepticon badges, and tinted windows, the vehicle appears otherwise unpainted. This isn't actually true, Rumble has loads of paint on him, but its being used to conceal the fact that the entire roof is translucent plastic. Clearly the tightening of toy budgets hit here, but I think we'd would have been better off with ratio reversed, painted windows instead(1). There's also a lot of exposed robot bits on the underside, but you'll forgive me if I put off talking about that just now. Functionally, there's a bit more going on, with two 5mm ports worked in as petrol caps. These allow for the accessories to be mounted on the side, accessories that also needed paint. These do triple duty as pile drivers, guns, and for this mode rocket boosters although a certain degree of imagination is needed here, as they just look like black blocks. That said, 5mm ports do give plenty of options for some Road Warrior action. 

Beyond that, there's not much to say. Switching to robot mode is however very interesting, and while carformers are not my preferred tipple, I'm not aware of one which follows a similar pattern. The front end transforms into the legs, but the back end and roof form the arms, with the flanks and back wheels forming back kibble. There's also a dramatic head reveal. Its a shell-based transformation, and inelegant given how much of the car ends up around the arms and torso, but that strikes me as deliberate intent, rather than incompetence or laziness. They wanted a particular style of robot mode, which I will now talk about. And looking at the image below, you'll easily see how this toy made into my Radical Regenerations format. When his thumbs weren't breaking off.

Robot Mode
Now, the review actually starts. When you get this toy into robot mode, you notice only one thing. Rumble is invoking a very particular design aesthetic, one so distinctive its impossible to see this toy as anything other than a deliberate homage. Yes, this is inspired by the classic 2007 anime Gurren Lagann, and its characteristic “chest face” motif. And its light-piped too. Rumble has two sets of glowing eyes in a good light, though the upper set work best, with both a mouth and a mouth plate at the same time. You can leave the head folded in the chest, and still look him in eye. Here's some art from the series for comparative purposes. Note the attached thumbs.

Copyright: Studio Gainax

See what I mean? Its not necessarily unique to either Gurren Lagann or Rumble, of course. ROTF Bludgeon had a skull chest for example, while Beast Hunters Bludgeon had monster pecs. Nor did Gurren Lagann invent the design element in Super Robot cartoons, that honour probably goes to Gaiking. But the timing and shoulder kibble makes me think Gurren Lagann, and I think its extremely cool looking as a result. At least it balances out the very bland car mode, where the broken thumb doesn't matter.


His chest face is so distinctive and overpowering, you forget the other design elements, some callbacks to the original. The back kibble for example has guns sculpted in, regrettably unpainted, but similar to the G1 toy. He has the pile drivers, and the articulation to make make a fine ground-pounding pose. His overall build is quite short for a deluxe, but wide with the arm kibble balancing out the pile drivers. He's not a chest minion anymore, but he's still a short dude. I'm not entirely sure where the head sculpt came from though. There's nothing very Rumble about it, and to muddy the waters further, there was an alternative with an actual mouth(2), but that's not very Rumble either. Neither immediately say Gurren Lagann either, although you could claim the mouthed version is closer to the style than the one we have here. One wonders if designers had something very different in mind for this toy only for it to be re-purposed as a legacy character, or if the designers got a bit of leeway as the character wasn't actually appearing in the cartoon. All I know is, if they'd swapped out that chest face for something closer to a magnetic tape cassette, we wouldn't be here right now. Complaints can however be made about the lower legs, with the calves being a bit ramshackle, preventing a straight stance, and the actual knees being below a set of decorative knees. There's also some questionable colour and material choices; the neck joint is a balljoint in translucent plastic, while the hands are also painted, making chipping a problem. And, I forget if I've mentioned this, his thumb broke off.

Also, if I didn't know better, I'd think his feet were on backwards.

Regardless of what this actually looks like(3), the robot mode has a lot going on. The aforementioned pile drivers have quad gun barrels sculpted in, with a 5mm port on the underside for no obvious reason. This allows Rumble to do some gun fighting poses, and make combi-weapons of a sort. He's also got a total of four 5mm ports, two on the back of his shoulders for storage, and the two petrol caps on his flanks. Articulation is decent, with eighteen points. This is allows for the aforementioned ground-pounding, and I'd like to single out the shoulders as being far more mobile than they have any right being. Its a generously cut balljoint on top of hinge, with rotation at the bicep, so he has great inward motion even if outward motion is blocked by kibble. He can cross his arms, but not demonstrate how big the fish he caught was. The lower body also has a lot in the way of balljoints, but ends up being limited by the sculpt. There is a balljointed waist, but the crotch piece makes it all but useless. There's balljoints in the ankles too, but as mentioned, a perfectly straight stance is impossible. Plus his thumb broke off.

Rumble is a weird toy when you get right down it, and not just for the visual choices. The Prime toyline suffered from budget cuts and misapplied gimmicks, and while there are far worse offenders, Rumble is rough around the edges. I'm no toy accountant, and thus speak from a position of ignorance, but I do feel that ditching the translucent plastic would have been to the toy's net benefit. G1 purist are also not going to be overly keen on this interpretation of the character, even if they go Japanese, because he's some distance from the 80's. That's why he's in this review format, of course, but let's acknowledge some may that downside. But then, that's also a plus, and I'll happily stand up for a transformer that reminds me of one of my favourite animes. The designers clearly wanted to do something different here, and in robot mode it works very well. He's got the pile drivers, he's got the joints to use them, but now he's also a gunfighter with a monster face on his chest. Given how repetitive Prime was after a while, at least until Beast Hunters kicked off, this is a good thing. Its just shame that the car mode is so meh. All things considered, he's worth having, and is very inexpensive on the secondary market. If you want a rough diamond, Rumble is your guy. Assuming his thumbs stay on.

Foot Notes
  1. The Japanese versions of the mould sidestep this with stickers as well as paint. Although, they omit the pile drivers for a singular Arms Micron, so some loss of play value there.
  2. This was used for both of the Japanese versions.
  3. i.e. quite badass.

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