Monday, 9 January 2017

Transformers Legends LG-35 Super Ginrai review


Transformers Legends LG-35 Super Ginrai review

As a self confessed Powermaster Optimus Prime fanboy as soon as Takara announced Legends LG-35 Super Ginrai was coming, it instantly became my most wanted toy ever in history this month.

I've obsessed over every picture, every snippet of information and every bit of speculation and rumour no matter how bonkers. I needed it. And now, away from the death dealing, society crushing year that was 2016 - I actually have the toy in my hands. I feel drunk without having drunk the faintest tipple.

So now I have it in my sweaty palms, is it everything I hoped it would be? At import prices does it live it to all of the hopes and dreams I placed on it? Are the feet really that weird?

Find out the answers to all those questions and more in the review!

Continue after the jump to see the review


takara legends ginrai box

You are probably wondering why he's talking about a box, he's talking about a cardboard box...

Takara have used the same layout regularly throughout the Legends line but it seems especially fitting with Powermaster Optimus Prime..I mean Ginrai. Red blending into black is one the most classic of G1 motif's and Takara restoring it adds that hint of luxurious nostalgia that I could roll around in for days.

Clearly in love with their drawing of Ginrai deep lunging - it features 3 times on the box. It's lovely art but I am a little offended that Takara feel a need to tell me to exercise via the magic of giant robots with guns.  Little do they know,  I've got an exercise bike I use when I want to watch episodes of Samurai Pizza Cats.

legends super ginrai truck mode

Rip that toy out of the box and a modern take on an old classic presents itself. A retool of Hasbro's Powermaster Optimus Prime, who in turn was a retool of Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus, Legends Super Ginrai takes plenty of liberties with the design but it's unmistakably G1.

It captures that beefy vibe that set Powermaster Prime apart from the original 1984 Optimus Prime. It wasn't designed to be a freight truck rolling across the country, listening to Journey, delivering Amazon parcels to those of us too lazy to buy our shampoo from physical shops anymore (don't judge me) this was built for heavy duty work at the spearhead of the Cybertronian war machine.

He's even covered in guns to ward off ponderous hijackers with a casual -  "I've seen Beverley Hills Cop and you are not jacking my cargo or dangling out of the back on a chain listening to the Pointer Sisters whilst everyone else misremembers it as "The Heat is On", which actually opened the movie prior to this scene"

takara lg 35 legends super ginrai alt mode

Takara have made a few changes to the Hasbro version of this mould in an attempt to align it more closely with the vintage toy, whilst Hasbro were trying to forge a new path and save pennies. It's a conflicted approach which leads to a couple of small compromises.

Firstly, it's impossible to shake the feeling that Takara are working around Hasbro's figure rather than designing it from the beginning to accommodate their alterations. The new cab front is beautifully vintage styled from a front facing perspective but from any other angle it looks slightly awkward. As part of an effort to pull the robot chest back inwards, the front of the cab sits further back than it does on the Hasbro one. Not a problem in itself but allied with Takara's decision to retain the original cab sides it can be jarring at first to see it recessed.

It still looks great and is more my speed than Hasbro's "don't get up in my massive grill" effort, but it doesn't feel as natural in it's skin as Hasbro's does. This design choice is where you begin to wonder if Takara aren't solely pursuing slavish G1 looks, but just updating the character in their own more restrained way.

transformers legends super ginrai vs powermaster optimus

Other changes further emphasise the connection to Ginrai in a way that benefits the toy that is wearing them. The front portion of the trailer is converted from grey to red and parts of the frame are painted blue to homage details from G1 Ginrai/Powermaster Prime. The bulk of the trailer adopts a much lighter grey tone than the beige of it's Hasbro counterpart and the stripes have been redone to feature thicker blues and thinner white pin stripe running through the centre of a shrunken Autobot badge.

Everything is wrapped in a delicious saturated colour pallet than Hasbro favoured and it's intended to evoke a warm animation feeling. Which it achieves,  but with the side effect of giving the more expensive, import, collector focused Takara figure a much stronger toy like feel.

takara legends super ginrai back

Takara know exactly what they are doing because the colours alone tug heavily at sentiments and  resurrect childhood bonds. This is why I sometimes prefer Takara over Hasbro and is something I frequently struggle to convey limited to 140 characters on Twitter when someone is asking me why I am waiting to see what Takara do.

It's not that they use paint and more accurate colours - it's how they use them. Forget about it being slavishly G1, it kindles memories and expresses the character the toy is intended to represent. A deeper connection to the character is felt with every extra recognisable detail. I don't care about the motives, or G1 accuracy - I care about that feeling more as it's why I am still tied to collecting Robots in Disguise in my mid 30's.

When Takara can do this, which they do with alarming regularity they  ensnare my wallet and coax money out of it that would probably be best spent on rum. Sometimes for me it's worth paying the extra money to feel a warmth from a childhood I was lucky enough to have loved so much.

Can't put a price on that.

takara legends super ginrai base mode

If you were wondering where the floating heavenly space base mode from the Masterforce intro was - wonder no more. Each of the leader class Titans Returns figures have featured them with varying degrees of success, whilst Takara have even found ways to shoehorn the deluxes into miniature scrunched up weapons platforms.

Two small changes alter the base made from how it is on Hasbro Prime. Having rotating wrists means his fists can now hold his guns on either side of the towers and the new chest piece sits flat with those the side pieces now able to rotate.

If you ever watched Gladiators in the 90's there was an event called Danger Zone in which the plucky contestants zipped around behind little shields and fired rubber arrows whilst the Gladiator shaped target rained tennis ball apocalypse down up their heads. Hasbro Prime's base modes use of the chest plate reminds me of that which of course makes it 100 times more brilliant. Just the thought of HI-Q and his Nebulan pals battling Wolf, Shadow and pals fills me with joy.

Not as much joy as I'm filled with when thinking of Hang Tough specialist and super flexible back flipping gymnast - Jet.

Fun fact - I once sat next to Nightshade from Gladiators on a roller coaster at the American Adventure theme park. It was just as surreal as sounds.

takara legends ginrai headmaster

Ginrai shares the same body as Apex  (not in a cohabitation sense) even though that requires a double take. Takara went far above Hasbro and put a staggering amount of thought and effort into ensuring even something as tiny as the Titan Master (or Headmaster in Legends lingo) is completely on point. Hasbro's use of flat grey and red leaves it functional but without much life. Dude is just a grey faced egg carton headed zombie. In contrast, Takara give him a full blown Battle of the Planets visor (with actual face) and even went to such lengths as painting the thighs red and leaving the knees white - just like the animation model.

As you can see on the pic above, Ginrai has small circles on his knees to homage his Powermaster origins (that was where you contorted them beyond what was anatomically comfortable) whereas Apex doesn't. Amusingly, Apex DOES have those same circles but his thighs are reversed compared to Ginrai's so you can only see them if you flip Apex around. Factory assembly error? Or deliberate choice? Who knows.

takara super ginrai vs hi-q headmaster

Moving away from Apex, side by side with the original Hi-Q (I don't have the original Takara Ginrai) you can see how well the sculpt matches up. Helmet and chest detail are squished down to fit on the much smaller Titan Master body but many of the specifics carry over from the original. His boots even have the lines on the outer edges if you look very carefully.

Non of the Titan Master's have left an impression on me so far, but Apex/Ginrai is one Hasbro and Takara made an obvious effort to get right and it's amazing. Powermaster Prime is such a touchstone figure for many people my age and Hi-Q almost single handedly defines the Powermaster gimmick. That may be missing here but it's nice to see that natty inverted Arsenal kit jumpsuit survive the jump forward in time.

transformers legends super ginrai heads

Ginrai converts to Headmaster mode in the traditional way of being crunched up and folded in ways human anatomy was never meant to. Still amazes me in the cartoon when they just rip the suits off like cheap pyjamas and run it off. Does the Headmaster process give them new knees? Can I get them on the NHS?

Instead of omega chin gurning faced Orion Pax, we get a more traditional face plated Optimus Prime head which is rocking an awesome Wrath of Khan style turtleneck. Has he taken the Kobayasi Maru test?
Takara even managed to resist their peculiar obsession with giving Prime dead eyes and instead gave him glistening turquoise pearlers. As an extra touch of class, the semi circle sculpted onto Ginrai's tiny arms to complete Primes signature side of head disc thingymabob has been painted blue so it's a complete circle.

Transformers Legends LG-35 Super Ginrai takara

Legends Super Ginrai's transformation is broadly the same as his Hasbro counterpart but many of the physical changes Takara have had small impacts in the way it transforms.

As the roof of the trailer now has a bonus hinge to allow an extra chunk of it to fold out of the way of the hands - it requires extra support to avoid the pitfalls of gravity. As a way of solving this Takara squeezed a grey column into the new forearm which allows the wrist to extend as a brace. Going from truck to robot mode you just push it back as you would a Pez dispenser.

Ginrai's new chest piece folds up as the Hasbro one does but there's an element of the unfamiliar, as the two extended pieces on the sides now rotate on mushroom pegs. Took me a while wracking my brain to figure why it was and after some investigation (opening the shins and looking) it's to accommodate the new feet in truck mode. Inside is a flat blue truck bed that the cars can roll in on, and on Ginrai it extends further up towards the knee joint in order to give extra room for the feet to be full y concealed. It's also why if you look at the rear of Ginrai's truck mode there's no feet poking out.

transformers legends ginrai new feet
Close my flap, man!
Once you've got Legends Super Ginrai into robot mode baby, you're ready to go.

Instantly recognisable as Powermaster Prime/Ginrai all of the signature details are present and correct. Giant smokestack replacing cannons sit on his shoulders as trailer panels wrap round his legs and a Powermaster shaped block sits upon his stomach to indicate he's been on a good old fashioned liquid diet. Am I the only one seeing a bleeding nappy crotch too?

Ginrai's anime proportions were lanky and this really isn't that. In fact his shoulder pads are so wide, completely eschewing the originals slender arms, that they'd make the Dallas cast pause.  Imposing, stocky, extraordinarily wide shouldered - this is a new Ginrai.

Still, so many things here are working hard to evoke the original. A beautiful use of glistening red's and blues captures everything your childhood jumps to at the thought of Prime and Takara have even reintroduced white into the mix - which was criminally missing from the Hasbro release. Having such bright colours does drown out a lot of the detail but that's one of the trade offs they make in the pursuit of being as cartoon like as possible. For better or for worse.

I know panels have not been lined, Takara don't do it every time, they want cartoon accurate robots in disguise.
"Yeah, yeah but he's drop dead gorgeous "

transformers legends super ginrai vs powermaster prime

Here in robot mode more than anywhere else Legends Super Ginrai deviates most from Titans Return Prime. A new cab front was the only moulding difference on the alt mode, but the robot mode sees a slew of new parts enter the mix.

A new chest piece adds a sculpted Powermaster/Godmaster engine block to the font and has a bonus effect of making him look less obese than Hasbro's Prime. The entire front section is designed with the intention of eliciting the Masterforce cartoon as much as possible including the addition of details like the cut white striping. Sitting behind that,  the new cab front makes a mark here too as details like the lights and bumper are visible in an effort to add spot on detailing from the animation model and vintage toy.

Ginrai also gets new thighs which is actually great as anything that further distinguishes him from the original Ultra Magnus mould is welcome.

takara legends super ginrai review masterforce

New forearms have awesomely looking sculpted pistons and include moulded ports to connect to the forthcoming GodBomber armour. Unlike Hasbro's they aren't hollowed out and you get the luxury of a full looking forearm. Whoop. On top of this Takara also give Ginrai new hands, which replace the opening hands of the Hasbro release with standard 5mm peg hole fists. The fists are painted blue with a red guard on the hands to mimic the original which had the colours the other way round - it's a beautifully subtle inversion.

I love things like this, playing with accuracy to leave tiny devious reminders that it's something new and not G1. Almost a self acknowledgement of their own drive towards G1 familiarity and this is an act of defiance.

This is Super Ginrai - but it's Super Ginrai through the looking glass.

takara titans return powermaster optimus prime

The most controversial change sees new, severely flat feet added . Designed to more closely reflect the G1 character, whilst giving Ginrai the articulation PM Prime so badly needed, and facilitate an eventual connection the GodBomber armour upgrade -  they end up a sort of plastic Marmite. People either love or hate them.

It's an attempt to capture the animation model which goes awry because somethings work in animation where they aren't bound by physics or three dimensions. One of the earliest prototype images featured in a Japanese magazine,  I am too lazy to look up what it was called, even featured different, more normal looking feet. So even Takara's designers at one time weren't keen on this look. Takara shot for something and failed, it happens. Yes you get great articulation as an apologetic trade off but even that's a faff with Ginrai often trying to backdrop himself.

I will say they look much worse in pictures than they do in hand (I've actually grown to quite like them) and I personally think the big problem is that as they add height it means the truck panels sit higher up and give him the impression of someone whose rolled up their trouser legs and is tiptoeing through a puddle to avoid getting his feet wet.

takara legends super ginrai head

In an effort to ensure the Titan Masters work universally across the line, Hasbro and Takara kept the size of each Titan Master the same regardless of the scale of the bot they bolt on to. A solution they formed was to give the leader class, and some voyagers,  helmets that flip out and the Titan Masters simply fill. However an unfortunate few of them (GALVATRON!!) suffer from faces that sit too deep behind the mask for you to see them. In Super Ginrai's case the Titan Master is supposed to provide the eyes but you can't really see them so they look dead. Takara are probably happy because they are always giving Prime dead eyes but it's a change that doesn't also solve problem posed by the original.

takara legends ginrai guns

 An annoying hallmark of the leader class figures that have spun out of Titans Returns has been that in spite of having all the joints you could want - they aren't as poseable as the deluxes or voyagers. LG-35 Super Ginrai suffers that same problem. You can pose him well but his sheer bulk limits how much dynamism he'll give you.

His awkward new feet do offer a greatly improved range of posing but I found I had to pull mine forward further than I think they are intended to sit in order to get him to stand. Otherwise he is in love with toppling backwards and the flip out heels don't really help. He does now feature swiveling wrist to replace the opening hands so you can get some decent Victor Meldrew shaking his fist out of the window at kids near his bins poses.

Ginrai does get two new guns which combine, and they are nicely modelled with a slender look patterned after the Masterforce cartoon rather than the bulky rifles supplied with his vintage toy. Unfortunately each gun is hollowed out on one side, which regular readers will know is a pet hate of mine. I don't want half a gun - I want the full thing I've paid for please.

This is the hill I have chosen to plant my flag on and die on. Toy guns look crap when they are only half a toy gun. Stop ruining my illusion guys.

transformers takara legends super ginrai review

You are definitely getting your money's worth with Legends Super Ginrai even with the Death Star like obliteration of the pound recently. Takara have built upon an already mould and added some phenomenal upgrades and changes that will do improve the figure.

If you are looking for a definitive answer to the question: "is it better than Hasbro's?" - it's a tough call.

Takara's use of colour, new forearms, chest, thighs and cab are all significant improvements over Powermaster Prime in my opinion and appeal to my personal tastes. Ginrai is stunning to look at and you can see that the toy has clearly been a labour of love for Takara's designers. They've created a beautiful figure that connects in so many ways to the original Ginrai and carries on it's legacy of adding extra touches to Powermaster Prime that elevate it.

But one thing the Hasbro figure does is capture the original Powermaster Prime box art with it's shape and proportions in a way that Legends Super Ginrai throws away for the sake of new feet. Increased height leads to a lankier profile which is at odds with the incredibly wide shoulders both figures have. Powermaster Prime wears those better as it matches his squat, chubby, proportions. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and subconsciously for many of us it's that image and that original toy we connect to as a result.

Transformers Legends LG35 Super Ginrai is a staggeringly beautiful figure with a few quirks that will always divide opinion, but whichever you pick - you can't lose.



Please check out and like the Toybox Soapbox page on Facebook where you will find extended photo galleries of all the toys on this blog. Plus I will love you forever.


You can also follow us on Twitter @ToyboxSoapbox  and there's even an Instagram that you really need to be following.

Currently listening to: Britpop and even I don't know why

No comments:

Post a Comment