When you say Transformers, the first names that pop into the general public’s heads are Optimus Prime and Bumblebee (as well as the big three on the Con side of the street), if you push a bit harder they might be familiar with the name Cliffjumper too.  Ask them who Bumper is, and you’ll likely get a blank face.



Used with permission, thanks to the Diaclone Genome Project. Check it out!

That’s because back in 1984 Bumper – or Bumblejumper as he is sometimes known (both portmanteaus of Bumblebee and Cliffjumper) was never officially a Transformer with his own name and identity from Hasbro or Takara, although he was packaging and sold as one.  He did officially appear as a Transformer in South America, as part of Brazil’s licensed Estrela toyline, where he was available in four different colour-schemes (white, blue, green, and yellow), where he was known simply as Sedan.


The general consensus is that unsold stock from the various Diaclone and Micro-Change lines was repackaged as official Transformers (hence the rare but existing Red Tracks in MB packaging), but this left poor Bumper with no place to go and he was repackaged on either Bumblebee or Cliffjumper cards (although the former is hearsay, with no carded ones known to have been discovered).

In today’s article, we’ll look at two fairly recent additions to my collection, and explore the history of the character that elbowed his way into the TF fandom.

Bumper (Transformers, yellow) and Sedan (Estrela, Blue)




The robot mode is pretty much what you expect if you have ever experienced the vintage Bumblebee or Cliffjumper toys… charming and fun, and every bit the cheap end of the 80s toy spectrum.  Back then, there was a toy for every price point, and this is what made the line so inclusive and expansive.  Nowadays, there is a toy for every price point, but they’re usually the same character in different scales.




The transformation is text-book G1, easy, fun and intuitive.  Why they even felt the need to print instructions on the card back seems off to me, but I guess it covers the toy companies from any broken toy complaints.




The alt. modes to these Mini Autobots seems to confuse a lot of fans, especially the ones who abide to the “holy scale chart”, Bumblebee  never transformed into a VW Beetle, and Cliffjumper was never a Porsche 924, rather they were super deformed penny racer versions of these alt. modes, otherwise G1 Cliffjumper would be the same size as the G1 Jazz toy, and MP collectors need to realise that Bumblebee is only in scale with our childhood memories of the vehicles as the Beetle has a larger wheelbase and overall length than a Lancia Stratos.




To that end, this guy transforms into a Super Deform Penny Racer version of a Mazda Familia.


Bumblebee, Bumper, Cliffjumper



Yellow Cliffjumper, Hubcap, Bumblebee, Bumper.

Originally I wanted this guy in blue, because there are quite a lot of yellow bots already in the minibot line with Yellow Cliffjumper and Hubcap, however, once I got the blue version (which I promptly faction logo’d up much to the chagrin of Estrela collectors), I really wanted the yellow one too.




Overall, I’m very happy with these guys, and the conditions I got them in and the prices I paid make them seem especially good.  There are apparently KOs of the yellow one now doing the rounds, so buyer beware on that front!  If the price is too good to be true and the condition way too clean, have a real think about your purchase.



Dear Takara, please make this in yellow with a new head as Bumper please, k, thanks.


As technology advances and toys get more and more real world in alt. mode and more and more anime accurate in robot mode, it might seem there is little place left for the concept of Transformers converting into super-cute deform versions of vehicles.  Some might argue that modern day licensing might even back it harder to do, as brands get super protective of their IP and likenesses.  That’s probably why I’m so happy with the current QTF line from Takara, licensed deforms which harken back to the original Mini-Autobots from 1984.  Masterpiece Bumblebee is great, and for a lot of people is the definitive Bumblebee we all wanted as a kid, but for me, the QTF line takes me back to the earlier, more innocent days of the TF line, where various toylines were shunted together to create a loosely-fitting range.  If you’re interested in seeing more of the QTFs, comment on this article and we’ll see about making them a future focus.


What makes Bumper very intriguing, is his absolute lack of any further product.  He was fully embraced as an all new character in his own right during the Dreamwave run of comics, but he’s been used very little since then.  We’ve had no new official updates, and no reissues / Encores, and we live in a world with 60+ Bumblebee repaints between 2007-2011 when a new head sculpt could have meant another character, and this in a time when even Scrounge is getting an official toy!

Impossible Toys Bump 6

Does what it says on the box


True, we have had a few offerings.  Impossible Toys had one last shot of glory with their attempted minicar range which featured a very true to the original but with articulation Bump that somehow didn’t quite work.


Small, inconsequential, yellow.

iGear had a Bumper scheduled called Fender, which was cancelled before we was even announced (click here for more about the fate of iGears minibots), and making use of all those Bumblebee repaints, Renderform released an add-on ki;t RF-009 Bump Scout, which gave Bumper his first ever update back in 2011, during the halcyon days of CHUG.

RF009_004 (1)

RF007 Bump Scout


So what do you say Hasbro / Takara?  About time we get an official Bumper or what?

Thanks for reading as always, and while we’re waiting for Takara to do something with Bumper, you can console yourself with a plethora of Bees over at the Kapow main page.

As much as we all love Transformers, it wasn’t the only show on in the eighties.  In fact, for me Thundercats definitely takes the price for best opening sequence of an eighties cartoon.  If only the rest of the 20 minutes could have kept up that pace and animation quality.

I’m not a huge collector of Thundercats by any means, I enjoyed the Marvel UK comics, and the more recent Wildstorm comics at the time, but I think I’m one of those people that liked the concept and designs more than the actual show itself.  As such, I’ve never collected the original toys, but I’ve been holding out for some excellent renditions of the classic characters.

Enter Mezco.  Or should I say; MEZCO… HO!!!!!!

Standing 14″ tall, these mega-figures are, for me, the perfect rendition of the on-screen character models.  Let’s take a look:






The leader of the Thundercats, as a juvenile trapped in the body of a man, Lion-O took the burden of leadership in what should have been the ultimate coming-of-age story.  I’ll be honest, as a kid I never picked up on the fact he was a kid, but I don’t think I ever saw the pilot.


-- TC (17)

“Last night we were in… Shelbyville, and they didn’t rock as hard as here in… Springfield.”


The Mezco figure is stunning, and comes with his claw hand and Sword of Thundera.  If he raises the sword above his head, the entire piece is nearly 20 inches tall!  All the Lion-O you’ll ever need (unless you’re re-flooring your kitchen).


-- TC (8)


Now in stock and available here.



Ah, the obligatory annoying 80s mascot.  Alongside Slimer, Orko, Snarf was one of the more annoying, second only to Scrappy Doo perhaps.  It makes us realise that Bumblebee really wasn’t so bad (although I always considered Spike the annoying mascot of the team).


-- TC (30)

“Meesa gonna mascot?”


Snarf has zero points of articulation, but does exactly what you need him to; he sits there looking all slappable and like he’ll get into trouble any moment now.  Snarf has been available in this range twice.  Originally, he was packaging with SDCC Cheetara, however he is also included with the recent reissue off Lion-O.




Mezco Cheets



Pictured above is the standard release of Cheetara, I have the SDCC version mentioned above, so you’ll have to excuse the lack of pupils (insert forced joke about the schooling system here).

-- TC (18)

If this was by Fun Publishing you’d have to put the spots on yourself.


This version of Cheetara is ready to do business, with her eyes glazed over like when she’s doing her Quicksilver thing.  The detailing throughout is absolutely perfect to the show design, and she comes with her trusty bo-staff, and 10 points of articulation.


-- TC (27)

It’s your turn in the relay race.



To me, the most competent member of the team.  Sort of the entire TMNT in one when you think about it; the engineering savvy of Donatello and the temperament of Leonardo, rolled with the raw fighting skill of  Raphael, using Michaelangelo’s weapons!


-- TC (32)

Their deadly mission: to crack the forbidden island of Han!

I think this is my favourite figure of the set so far.  I love Panthro.  His nunchucks are amazing, and with a little bit of ingenuity you can get them into some amazing poses.  And just look at that face sculpt!!!


-- TC (44)

Is that Homer Simpson’s mouth?




Mumm-Ra did something unique to 80’s kids cartoons, in showing a highly credible villain.  Whilst Megatron was always let down by his sub-ordinates and willingness to turn and run at the first sign of things not going to plan, and Skeletor spending way too much time relying on others rather than dealing with He-Man himself; Mumm-Ra was surrounded by idiots, but could get it done himself when it was needed.

-- TC (49)

“I once caught a Sword of Thundera this big.”


Pictured at the top is the original, and hard to find, SDCC release, which included Mumm-Ra in his withered old mummy form.  Sort of fitting that it is an exclusive offer, as the original was a mail-away back in the day.

By no means my favourite character choice, but certainly a very impressive and imposing figure.  This guy stands over 16″ tall, and you actually have to attach his feet once you open the package, otherwise they would have had to change the packaging.  If he wasn’t over-bearing enough, his real cloth cape (with frayed edging and strands to recreate foreboding transformation poses) adds to his majesty.  Oozing creepy evil, this guy threatens to steal the show even when displayed behind the goodies.


-- TC (55)

“Want to buy a watch mate?”





I haven’t received my Tygra yet so console yourself with this excellent promo material, and the fact you can get yours here, right now.

Watch this space for a Tygra review coming soon, and group shots too!


In the interest of fairness, I should point out that the placement of articulation on all of these toys makes for a really clean full bodied animation look, but at the expense of ease of posing.  They’ve hidden the articulation in such a way that Panthro in particular is unstable, and while you can always make him look damn cool, it can limit the poses (hence me unwittingly recreating the promo photo pose above).

They’re intended as display pieces, as opposed to toys, and as long as you’re cool with that going in, these are gravy.

You’re essentially getting a semi-posable vinyl statue for about 1/6th of the price of your average (and very breakable) resin statue.  To me, that makes these a bargain.

For a full selection of Mezco products, be sure to check out Kapow Toy’s website.



Galaxy Shuttle is one of the most well known and popular of the latter day “Victory”-era Japanese Transformers, even gaining popularity and traction in the West where he has had zero fiction appearances.  As such, he tends to be a very expensive and hard to acquire item, with even average condition loose versions of the toy selling out within minutes of the doors opening at even the biggest Transformers conventions like Botcon.



Stupid flap creases!

Why is this?

Maybe it’s because he is really, really good!  A very solid latter-day Transformer which relies on very few gimmicks, other than his ability to transform from a really cool robot into a really nice Space Shuttle mode.  No Pretender shell, no Micro-Master companion or launcher, no third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh mode, no head / breast / target / power mastery, no Action Mastering,; just a solid toy.  Such a solid toy that he was also snapped up by Gig for the Trasformers line a year later, and then retooled and re-released as a Brave toy six years later in 1996 as part of the Brave Command Dagwon line.



Galaxy Shuttle


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Shuttle Robo as is sometimes known (as he was called in his first appearance), was released in Japan in 1989 under the designation C-326.




The robot mode, as mentioned before, is big, bulky and stunning.  It’s no wonder he was later used for Brave as he in many ways looks more like a Brave figure rather than a Transformer, except for that awesome face that screams Heroic Autobot.  He is a big toy compared to others of the time, whilst obviously not being as big as a city-bot, but that’s because his character is a big robot in the show as well.  Unlike Blast Off or Astrotrain, this guy is a space shuttle capable of carrying huge robots inside him which doesn’t shrink down to insane sizes in robot mode.




His transformation is a joy, everything moves instinctively, but annoyingly his wings do get in the way sometimes.  You can pop them off to make the transformation easier, but repeated popping on and off of the wings tends to cause stress marks to the softer plastic material holding the wings in place, and it has been known to perish and crack on a few unfortunate cases.



That’s not paint scratching… it’s from re-entry.

Once in vehicle mode, he really shines.  You can interact with the Micro-Masters play pattern in a couple of different ways, and you can even open up his cockpit to pop a Micro-Master pilot in there, which does make me wonder why they didn’t include one with him to increase the value of the package and bulk out an already close to bloated line.
There have also been rumours that Galaxy Shuttle was originally supposed to come with a launcher of some type, but I’ve never been able to confirm that, as it’s very hard to search for that without getting assaulted by Richard Branson propaganda.



I can’t decide which I prefer, so have both.


You can also pop open his cargo bay doors (his arms basically) to add a further bit of play value, and his weapon stores nicely, becoming his tail-fin in shuttle mode.





He also interacts nicely with the Countdown base playset, as seen above and below, with his rear blasters molded to fit in place of Countdown’s booster rocket.






Thunder Dagwon





I’ve always loved this dual packaging design that you can find on some Brave, with a solid package art piece on one side, and a window showing you the toy on the other.  This is something Joustra Diaclone toys did very well and I’d like to see it more often in today’s toys.



Technically, Thunder Dagwon is actually the combined form of DagThunder and Thunder Shuttle, but most people refer to this guy on his own as Thunder Dagwon.




And all new mold DagThunder is included in the package, comprised of Thunder Rai and his Thunder Bike, but they are in a completely different scale to Thunder Shuttle.  While they’re a cool addition to the package, they just store on the back of the figure and don’t really affect the look of the figure like other combining Braves, so I rarely combine them and keep them separate.  I should also mention that T’Dawg here comes with another spear weapon, not pictured, as I removed it from the figure when i took it to a nerd meet-up for safe-keeping, and I’ve promptly lost it.








Thunder Rai on his Thunder Bike


The figure has some extensive retooling, in robot mode this is most noticeable with his new head sculpt.  Not everyone likes his head-crest, and it’s very removed from the Transformers aesthetic, I’ve even heard it described as a curled up gold poop sat on his fore-head, which I think is a tad unfair.  However, it’s no argument that Thunder Dagwon does look a lot more angry and threatening than his Autobot counterpart.




His new chest required that Takara change the entire cockpit canopy, introducing a swivel joint so the flashy chest is contained within the cockpit in alt. mode, but this obviously gives him a very different look in alt. mode as well.  Other than that simple twist of the cockpit, and the folding of his ears away, he transforms exactly the same as Galaxy Shuttle.  Only easier.




Why easier?

Well, they have completely changed his wing attachments, almost making them a fixed double joint which allows for slightly better rotation and clearance, meaning they’re never in the way during the transformation.  Which is great as they can’t be removed.  I also prefer the wings on Thunder Dagwon, as they are more space-shuttley, with Galaxy Shuttle having molded gun detailing on his wing-tips, seemingly just to make it harder to find good condition examples in the future.




Some say the additional front wings do detract from the space shuttle mode a bit though, meaning you’d need to do a hybrid of the G1 and Brave toys to get a perfect Space Shuttle look for the real nerds out there.  You know, the sort of nerds who’d appreciate this designation on the tail-fin.



Nerds like me.


Overall, I actually prefer Thunder Dagwon, I love the head, the over-the-top chest, the more stable wing transformation and wing accuracy, and I think the flash of colour and ostentatious chest makes him really stand out.  Hard to do against a wall of other over-the-top Brave toys.





That’s not to take anything away from Galaxy Shuttle, as both are great toys.  I’ve actually wanted Galaxy Shuttle for years before I eventually got him this year at Botcon, whereas Thunder Dagwon just… sort of happened, I guess.  The scarcity and value of Galaxy Shuttle (not to mention the difficulty in finding an un-yellowed one) means that acquiring one is an event, even for the most jaded of burnt out toy collectors, and this too-many-a-grail piece would be a stand-out choice in any collection.  I can definitely see why it is so popular.




But I’m not done yet… that’s not all the secrets that Thunder Dagwon contains.  The sharp eyed amoung you might have noticed a difference in Thunder Dagwon’s gun in the pictures above.  The grey cover on his weapon does more than just make his gun look different, it enables another one of those lovely over-the-top Brave combinations I enjoy talking about.


Shuttle wears his branding proudly!


Yes, while Galaxy Shuttle contains the ability to port onto Countdown for a shuttle launch aesthetic (don’t ask where the solid fuel boosters are), Thunder Dagwon contains the ability to re-create another slice of real-world awesomeness from the Space Shuttle era.  Rather than the usual Brave robot combination, this is a vehicle combination, one that’s too big for me to photograph in my light box or more traditional brick-work setting.



Yep, Thunder Dagwon uses his weapon clip to “combine” with big bad Fire Dagwon, a huge cargo plane.  This is very cool, and the connection is so strong that you can hold the plane upside-down and Thunder Dagwon isn’t going anywhere!  Fire Dagwon is himself a massive beast of a robot, one who follows the traditional mecha formula of combining with another robot, Power Dagwon, to make an EVEN BIGGER robot; Super Fire Dagwon.


I’m in a Dagwon sort of mood.  Maybe we’ll take a look at that next week…

Thanks for reading!


17 May 2016

Fans Toys Stomp!!!


No, wait, that’s not right!



I received this bad-boy over the weekend courtesy of the great guys at Kapow Toys, the fourth release from the Fans Toys Iron Dibots line; Stomp, an obvious homage to Dinobot Sludge.  For many people this completes the set as a lot of people are happy with MP08 Grimlock in dinosaur mode (lets ignore the stupid New Rock boots that came with Scoria), or they may have invested in the Reximus Prime over-sized KO of MP08, for me – given the quality of this piece – I already have my pre-order in for their unfortunately app-named Grindr.





As many of you know, I am something of a line-whore.  As such, when I received Scoria (Slag), as impressed as I was with the sheer size of him, I didn’t fall in love with him.  It didn’t help that mine was partially damaged preventing the back-pack folding away properly in robot mode.  Their Swoop analogue Soar was well received by most, but I felt the neck joint for dinosaur mode prevented it from being all it could be, but I loved the fact you could chose between TV accurate blue or comic and toy accurate unified red.  Snarl was my first Dinobot as a kid, so as such Sever was eagerly anticipated, but scary hip joints in mine limit how often I pick him up and fiddle with him.

Enter Stomp; a Sludge homage who is very, very impressive.  The team is really coming together now!




Stylistically, he fits right in with his team mates (I’m saving the group shot for all five of them together), and he looks great.  Out of the box, you notice instantly how heavy he feels, often seen as a mark of quality.  Coupled with great joints, it’s nice to see the quality backs up the heft.




He comes with his sword which fits nicely into his hands, and a hang-gun that looks more like his old missile launcher than his G1 hand-gun.  This is a bit of a disappointment, as the rest of the DiBots have come with their hand guns (obvious exception being Soar), and the missile launcher doesn’t launch, or clip-on to the dinosaur mode – I’m not sure if that’s an option that people want, but to me that would make it more complete.  The one major change over the original toy that I’m sure 99% of people will be very happy with, is the new animation model style head, which of course was also used in the comic.




He comes packaged with some new parts for Sever which shows Fans Toys commitment to aftercare too, as well as swap-able cartoon eyes to re-create the controversial scene in the movie (some people hate that scene), and a little screw-driver to help replace it.  It’s a great add-on, but one I will never use as I don’t want to risk ruining the lovely chrome on his head.




If you’ve ever held the G1 toy, you know pretty much what to expect from the transformation.  I know I’m normally one to complain about toys packaged in robot mode, as the first transformation should be the reveal (stop me if you’ve heard this), but Stomp’s transformation is very intuitive and he was no problem to get into dinosaur mode WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS, which to me is the mark of a fun transformation.




The legs can be tricky, and because I was relying too much on the G1 to guide me, I missed the thigh extender for a while, but everything comes together very nicely.  Like his DiBots counterparts, great efforts have been made to eliminate or minimise the amount of animal leg kibble visible on robot mode to stay faithful to his animation model, and they do this by once again following the path laid out by the excellent MP08 by utilising inner leg space, leg space which also contains his tail.  They fit a lot in, but again, everything works very intuitive and I guess it’s sad that we take this innovation for granted, but at least the figure does what we want it to.  For me, the greatest “eureka!” moment with this figure was the rear dinosaur legs, with the lower leg very neatly storing away inside the upper leg.  Genius!  Genuinely brilliant.  The way the “toes” splay on the front legs to assist the robot hand storage is also very neat.




In alt. mode, oodles of chrome which is mostly lost on the robot mode make this guy pop.  A lot.  His tail, upper torso and claws look great, as do his gold parts.  He has three points of articulation in his head and a working jaw, one which hides an almost-standard-by-now-gun-hidden-in-dinosaur-mouth.  His front legs are very poseable – a huge improvement on the G1 – with a thigh swivel and the toe movement helping to make Stomp a bit more stompy.  His rear legs are a bit disappointing, as they only have lateral movement, albeit two points of it.  His tail has two points of articulation, and is held nicely in place for plenty of tail-wagging.





I like this guy a lot, definitely my favourite of the set.  Both modes look great and he’s fun!  His rear robot mode torso maybe feels a bit hollow, but then that’s done to help his dinosaur head fold away to minimise kibble and it works well, but I will miss storing old chewing gum in his chest as I did with the G1 toys as a kid (what?!?).



30 years later… REVENGE!


If I had to nitpick one problem with this entire line, it would be that there is zero weapon storage.  That seems VERY, VERY odd in 2016.  I get that in some ways they are limited by the G1 inspired-transformation, but many other 3P companies still find a way to store weapons, and at the least Takara have figured out a way of sticking the weapons on car mode for an attack mode, and let’s face it, that DOES have a precedent with G1 Dinobots and their missile launchers being able to weaponise the dinosaurs, something that the Gigapower figure actually utilised (which you can read about here on the always excellent Square One blog by Maz.



Missile launcher in use!


I’ve often had this thing where I like Sludge to be MASSIVE, as in, bigger than Grimlock.  As such, for a while there I was considering waiting for the Gigapower Sludge.  Well, given that Fans Toys are 4/5 and Gigapower are still only 1/5 with what I felt was a way too big Snarl with Guttur, I think my choice to stick with Fans Toys is a wise one.



Nothing to do with this review, I just love this image.


Stomp and many other Fans Toys products are available from Kapow here.

TFC are a very hit and miss company for me.  I LOVED Hercules (the first 3rd party Devastator back from 2012) when it was released, and I’m the controversial one who slightly prefers it over Maketoys Giant.  Although Giant looks amazing in combined form (and I love that particular designer’s aesthetic), I prefer Hercules as toys to fiddle with, as I feel they look great in vehicle mode, great in robot mode (they’re starting to date now, mostly in the leg area) and are fun to transform.TFCHerc


TFC’s second combiner was Uranos (Superion), and while I absolutely adore the limb-bots for their ultra Earth-world realistic alt. modes and full of character robot-modes, there were a few odd choices along the way.  Their Silverbolt analogue was changed from the Concorde-style we all know and love into a Lockheed M-21 (incorrectly known by most as a Blackbird (probably because of X-Men), but from the same family as the A12 which evolved into the SR-71 later used as Jetfire in Revenge of the Fallen), and included a sixth bot – a D-21 drone – as a chest shield option way before Combiner Wars was even a glint in Hasbro’s eyes.  3rd Party really has been influential in a host of different ways.  Uranos left a bad taste in a lot of fans mouth’s by the inclusion of the “Wing’s of Uranos” add-on set (yes, it’s a astronomical pun, there’s a grammar one coming later too!), containing weapons, missiles and a more accurate chest-shield that many felt should have been included from the start – unlike the “Rage of Hercules” set which genuinely felt like an optional extra.


History lesson over?  Almost (and yes, I’m aware I use brackets too much, so much so I just got called in for a Parenthesis / Teacher meeting, ho-ho).


TFC released two more combiners with little fanfare.  Ares (Predaking) alongside War-Lord almost objectively lost the Predaking wars of 2014/15 to MMC’s mighty Feral Rex, but was still a well built and highly competent combiner which has it’s fans to this day – although with it’s ultra re-designed character design, I still argue it feels like an updated Beast Wars type of combiner rather than Predacons.  Almost simultaneously, they started work on their Defensor homage; Prometheus, a piece you don’t see all to often or hear about much, and you very rarely see for sale, perhaps because it sold in extremely low numbers, or because the people who do own it, love it?



Either way, TFC went from having THE must have toy of the year in 2012, to barely registering in the last few years of Best 3P toys as voted for by the fans, coupled with a single figure Reflector release that barely anyone liked and ended up being massively clearanced everywhere, and it’s not been a good few years for TFC.  With the rise of other combiners from more popular companies, and newcomers like Warbotron, is there still a place for TFC?


Enter Hades.  An extremely ambitious 6-bot combiner, as an homage to Takara’s Japanese exclusive Liokaiser, as seen here on the Kapow blog previously.

Let’s take a look at the first four releases so far.

H-01 Minos / Hellbat

A great first release, and what a joyful experience in hand.  The robot mode is very sleek and sexy, almost feeling like a femme-bot in the shoulders and waist (there I go body shaming – femme-bots can be ANY body shape, natch!).  His robot mode is almost too sleek, as I fear he’s a slash meme waiting to happen.  Like all of these guys, his head sculpt is fantastic.  I never understood why their robot heads of the G1 originals are so animalistic given their vehicle alt. modes, but I love it as it gives the entire team a unique look and shared identity.

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Jet mode is almost flawless, what can I say.  Landing gear is great, and although robot pieces are visible underneath the jet, that’s something that even the biggest MP jets suffer from, although I can’t help feeling some of the Uranos guys stored the arms more compact than this guy manages to.


His transformation isn’t perfect, as I often felt I was shaving that 1 mil of plastic off for extra clearance, but never in a way that is painful or detracts from the toy, it’s just that everything is very tight, solid, and has a place to go with not much wasted motion.  Overly designed?  Thankfully, no, and once you figure out how to rotate the cockpit down and around, using the clearance provided by the landing gear bay doors, you’re done with the tricky bit!


Five out of six of these Hades guys have very Combiner wars feeling legs, with them opening and rotating and locking the knee joints into place rather than the older slide and click joints we’ve seen loads of in the past. Now I’m unsure of the chronology, but looking at the lead-time for 3rd party toys I’m doubtful they had any Combiner Wars toys in hand by the time they were designing these, unless these are VERY fast-tracked.  If they’re rushed, they do not feel it at all, every inch of this guy feels very well designed and executed with zero corner cutting.  Unlike Combiner Wars, these guys have hands and feet too, not just solid molded blocks, so that’s a bonus!

H-02 Thanatos / Killbison

Because H-01 and H-02 were released together and Kapow were sold out of Minos, this guy was my first experience with any part of Hades.  Named after the Greek daemonic personification of death, Thanatos has a lot to live up to, and he delivers!  Not only is there a highly competent real-world looking tank, but what an amazing robot!  This is a huge character update, much needed compared to the original toy, and includes a few updates over the original character art too whilst staying VERY close, with an option of displaying his robot mode with tank treads folded down, or up the leg like his original design.  Great stuff.20160514_173508[1]



The transformation is fun, but fiddly at times as there is a lot packed in there, mostly due to his legs also storing his combined mode foot; it’s a great storage solution, but as the foot stores differently in robot and alt. mode, in can make it tricky and overly complicated until you get it down.  As the first transformation has to be into alt. mode (all toys should be packaged in alt. mode to make the robot reveal more fun and revealing than opening a box), panel-lining on the tank can be a little tricky and times, but no worse than the fun movie toys.  It’s definitely a huge leap in transformation over the original, which were great fun but very simple.



H-03 Cerberus / Jaruga

Time for the Marmite filling on this otherwise awesome sandwich.

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Jaruga is the weakest of the bunch by far.  His robot mode is great, if not particularly accurate with his massive child-bearing hips, and I’m sure they could have come up with any solution to improve those bloody floating wheels on his arms and hips, it is 2016 after all.  There is nothing wrong with the robot, it’s a solid build, full of personality, and in some ways his chunky nature gives him extra identity in a team of varied body-types; Minos the gymnast, Thanatos the fighter, Cerberus the power-lifter / sumo, and Rhadamanthus the all-round athlete Captain America leader type.  I’m reaching, won’t you reach with me?  His head sculpt is FLAWLESS at least.

In vehicle mode, he is even more disappointing.  I don’t get what that alternate mode is at all.  A buggy of some sort, I guess? But I only guess that because I know the original.  I was going to compare it to Energon Beachcomber as an insult, but actually, Energon Beachcomber has a better front end.  In it’s defense, I never really understood what the alt. mode of the original toy was supposed to be, but while that was built in a vacuum, this had a clear guideline to follow.  Am I being too harsh?  Agree / disagree, leave a comment.



So why the change?  Is this TFC slipping into Uranos territory again?  I don’t know, but my educated guess would be that every change is one of necessity, and they’ve put the stability and functionality of the combined mode ahead of the individual’s figures needs.  It’s not the worst reason in the world to do this, and the robot mode and combined mode are sure to be how the majority of people display these, but I can’t help feeling there was a better solution that would make this guy feel more like Jaruga, and less like a placeholder until something better comes along.

Until I build the combiner (as some people have done with 2 x Minos and 2 x Thanatos, but I like to preserve the combination as an occasion once all pieces are in), I won’t know for sure if these changes were valid.

H-04 Rhadamanthus / Leozack

The star of the line so far, make no mistake.  This figure should launch a thousand Botcon Leozack’s onto eBay, as they’re not needed anymore (and goes for a similar price to this, so I’m not sure why some people complain about the cost of 3rd party when this is infinitely better than an Energon Starscream repaint).


This guy is oozing with smarm; just look at him.


The only complaint I have about robot mode is that my preferred hands-on-hips arrogant pose does exacerbate his combiner clips on his triceps.  These are easy enough to hide in any of the other hundred poses I’ve displayed him in.

As great as his robot mode looks, his alt. mode looks equally great.  Undeniably an F-14, he invokes the best part of his original figure and Classics Jetfire, with a little bit of Brave Jet Sabre thrown in for good measure.  His colours absolute pop, and the attention the figure gives to making sure everything pops into place is brilliant.


Transformation wise, his legs deserve extra mention for the ingenious fold out panels which minimises and stabilises the storage of his arms in jet mode.  Sure, he still has a lot of robot kibble underneath, but at least it’s stored, not flapping about.  His hands can be a little fiddly to unstore once they’ve been folded away for alt. mode, so be careful there, these modern unposeable trigger hands can easily jam.  The storage of the combined mode head in his chest is fantastic, and the way his robot head stores inside that bigger head for alt. mode is also very cool.




Something to note on all these guys, is that their chests looks great, even without their Breastmaster partner.  This is great news, as the triple changing beasts looks great as a target master, or as an animal companion.  There are a lot of design liberties taken with all of the beast partners, but none of which detract from them, and not HAVING to display them as chest-plates like the G1 toys really opens things up.  Great stuff!


Another plus point; I transformed EVERY SINGLE ONE of these with NO INSTRUCTIONS.  Why am I shouting?  Because this feels like an accomplishment for a 3rd party combiner.  Not for me, but for them.  With something like Hellfire, the transformation is instinctive to anyone who has ever held a G1 Inferno, with these guys experience with the original toys counts for nothing, and the fact that out of the box you can transform these using only picture references, counts for a lot.  As mentioned early, I just wish they had been packaged in alt. mode first.


The colours are ever so slightly off, but with the rarity of the G1 toys and the cultural divide between G1 puritans and 3rd party fanboys or people bulking out their CHUG collection, how many people out their will own both?  And out of those people how many will be bothered by the colours?  30 years on, few toys are pantone matched to their original designs.  It doesn’t feel like the colour choice is an iGear fast-one, waiting for a “G1” re-release six months later, it feels like they picked the right colours for the toys they were making, rather than slavishly following the originals.


So here’s a question I will hear if I don’t answer it:  are these designed for MP or CHUG.  The answer as always is whatever YOU damn-well like.  Given how small the G1 toys are, and how big this is sizing up to be, these feel like Masterpieces, and I certainly can’t see anyone giving us a better Liokaiser anytime soon, and I’m not sure I’d ever want a bigger version.  Masterpiece is a brand or maybe a state-of-mind, rather than any specific scale or size, and let’s be honest; Transformers has NEVER had sensible scaling.  Ever.  Wrist rotation?  Check.  Ankle tilt?  Check.  Necks for full posing?  3 out of 4.  Individual fingers?  No.  Amazing toys?  ABSOLUTELY!  Why else would I spend 4 hours on a Saturday writing about them?

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I heartily recommend these to everyone, not just combiner fans, or Liokaiser fans, these are simply great figures for the adult collector who wants a little more from their combiners than what Hasbro offer.

With Aiakos and Hypnos still to come, things are looking good.  Very good.  I’m not merely saying that Hades is looking great, I’m saying that when  all is said and done, TFC and the fans might consider renaming Hades as TFC; Redemption.

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Hey, TFC, really want to really impress me?  How about H-07 DEATHCOBRA!!!

Kapow Toys have been supporting 3rd party toys and TFC since the very beginning, you can get all of Hades on their site and pre-order the rest, and the first parts of TFC’s forthcoming Poseidon adventure (Piranacon) right here.

First things first, if you missed the April blog about HyoRyu and EnRyu, click here, as it gives you a bit of background information on the Brave toyline, if you’ve been to that one article before, you might want to check it again as I’m about to update it a little.

The toys we’re looking at today are remolds of the HyoRyu / EnRyu molds, released by Takara at the same time in 1997.


These were two of the hardest Brave toys I’ve ever had to hunt down.  It took me ages to find the red and blue versions, and I was very pleased when I found MISB Takara examples in the US, despite the postage.  That’s what led me to hunt for the companion pieces to finish the set.
After months of scouring eBay, Yahoo Japan, various Facebook pages, conventions here and abroad and generally bugging people, a fellow collector and friend of mine asked me to identify a few figures he didn’t recognise which he’d gotten in a bulk Energon / Cybertron lot.  Boom!  There these were!
Thanks to the awesomeness of some people in this fandom, he gave them to me at a great price in an exchange.  Thanks Paul!



The first thing you might notice is the difference in packaging.  These enclosed cardboard boxes contain the figures in their robot modes, and were produced by Sonoking.  The quality is slightly poorer than the Takara equivalents, mostly in the quality of the joints which feel slightly looser, but in many ways make the toy easier to manage, and the plastic does feel slightly cheaper.  From a personal POV, I prefer having these in Sonoking as I have the best of both worlds with their brothers in Takara packaging, and a different language catalogue too!




FuRyu in green and – like the others – has been slightly retooled to make him unique.  In robot mode, his head sports a spiffy logo, identifying him as an “air” type, with each of the four robots having elemental powers.  I know literally nothing about Brave as a show, or the characters, I just LOVE the toys, because of their roots to Takara.  Below is a bit more information lifted from the Wiki page to give you as much background as possible, wiki info italicised.

In humanoid form, the mixing drum is back-mounted, but can be angled up over the shoulders. He attacks with Fēng Dào Dàn (風道彈) missiles and wind blasts fired from the mixer. Capable of flying with the mixer Jao Dan Ji (攪拌槽). FuRyu uses his chest dial far more often than any of the others (with RaiRyu a close second) – each level of power appears to have a totally different effect.

Has a similar personality to HyoRyu, and is considered the older brother.

Got all that?  Good.  The chest dials refer to both the show, and the toy, which can change their dials to reflect a story element.


Looking at his alt. mode, which the Wiki informs us is GGG Super-AI Vehicle Machine, model number GBR-6. FuRyu’s vehicle form is a cement mixer; we can see that he has the most unique alt. mode and to me the most visually interesting out of the set, it even does a good job hiding his head attachment.



Okay, some of the facts below from the wiki are quite cool, I quite like the idea of a robot on a hoverboard who can’t land.  RaiRyu also has a cool lightning logo on his head.


In robot form, he uses the dumptruck’s scoop as a shield. RaiRyu can also use the scoop as a hoverboard for flight. Unfortunately, he has the same unfortunate habit as EnRyu does: the inability to land correctly after aerial deployment. Unlike EnRyu, RaiRyu does not overcome this difficulty.  Has a similar personality to EnRyu, and is considered the younger brother.


As GGG Super-AI Vehicle Machine, model number GBR-7. RaiRyu’s vehicle form is a dumptruck, and he attacks with lightning. In vibrant yellow, you might think this guy would have been better in place of the blue crane type, but that’s just the Transformers fan in you!  The add-on for dump-truck is fairly boring, but it works, and helps give him his own identity.




The Symmetrical-Docked form of FuRyu and RaiRyu. More offensive in nature than ChoRyuJin. Its trademark attack is “Shuāng Tóu Lóng” (雙頭龍 Two-Headed Dragon), which fires two mobile beams of energy in the shape of dragons. This attack is powerful enough to penetrate Zonder defense fields with nearly no effort, but gentle enough to retrieve Zonder cores without damaging them. Can also use FuRyu’s powerful self-destruct bomb as an attack, as in FINAL. The only member of the Mobile Unit whose desperation attack (namely, the bomb) is usable in Symmetrical-Docked form, and the only one to remain Symmetrical-Docked during his last scene in FINAL.  

When in Symmetrical Docking form, the mixing drum takes the place of the forearm used by the other three Ryu brothers. [FuRyu] Carries a powerful (self-destruct?) bomb in the compartment in his leg that, in the other Ryu brothers, would house the “hand part” – though it is not revealed until FINAL.

Combined, I think these look great.  No question I prefer the combined colours of Choryujin, but I much prefer this combined form.  The working missile launcher cement barrel looks awesome, and even the “boring” dump-truck accessory makes a decent shield.  Much more integrated than the crane and fire-ladder, which I don’t even use when displaying the combined forms.  It’s also nice to see how much attention to detail is included in the Anime, referencing a left-over compartment in the toy used to store the combined hands for FuRyu.  Very obscure, but fun.

Other modes.


Just for fun, I pulled the two in half and mashed them together.  Because of the way they are designed, this is the only way to join the two and still have the heads attach.  A shame, as I would have enjoyed seeing a Yellow and Red Grapple / Inferno mash-up.  Because I’m a nerd.

Interestingly, the show recognises these as two distinct characters.  They really did pay attention to the toys when they put this TV show together.


Result of Symmetrical Docking between HyoRyu and RaiRyu when their SympaRate exceeded 200%. This level was made possible when one or both of the robots were charged by “THE POWER”, a mysterious energy taken from the planet Jupiter. His abilities include “Aurora Illusion” (which makes illusory ice copies as decoys) and “Thunder Blizzard” (which functions like Xiang Tou Long).


When GenRyuJin uses “Thunder Blizzard” in tandem with GouRyuJin’s “Burning Hurricane”, the result is called “Maximum Tou Long”.


Result of Symmetrical Docking between EnRyu and FuuRyu when their SympaRate exceeded 200%. This level was made possible when one or both of the robots were charged by “THE POWER”, a mysterious energy taken from the planet Jupiter. His main attack is “Burning Hurricane” (which works like Xiang Tou Long).


When GouRyuJin uses “Burning Hurricane” in tandem with GenRyuJin’s “Thunder Blizzard”, the result is called “Maximum Tou Long”.

More than anything, this attention to detail makes me really want to watch the show.

Seriously guys, check out some of the Brave toys, they are excellent!  Some of my favourite toys ever made, which spiritually feel closer to the origins of what I started collecting, than the modern toys I still enjoy collecting.


King of Brave Gaogaigar catalogue


King of Braves Gaogaigar reverse

Many thanks to Kapow Toys for giving me the opportunity to talk about and discuss such wonderful toys in a forum which can reach many people.  There are no links on this entire article for the site, they are merely helping to spread the word and inform people about the weird and wonderful niche corners of our fandom, so thanks guys!

-Ceno / CZH / Sid