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Bluster & Trench

Techno Toon Titans
by yo go re

It took fans a little while to warm to Transformers Animated, but they did eventually, and were almost universally disappointed when it ended. There were more stories to be told, and more toys to be made (not that Hasbro even got all the toys out). Third party to the rescue!

There have never been two more underappreciated 'bots than these brothers. It's probably a good thing they never made it to Earth, as they are wary of organics, especially Trench, who made his name in the Great Germfare wars of Galleon. However, this exchange program should bring them greater understanding of the human condition; even the usually stubborn shorter brother will rethink his usual blustery ways.

Sure, there are other 'bots maybe more deserving of recognition, but these two have always done their jobs with pride, and only a little backtalk. This is why I nominate them for First Release in the Steelian to Earth exchange program.

That's from the top of the box. And now:

My older brother, he loves his Cybertron. I think he must-a be the happiest bot I know. Every solar cycle he say to me, "Pipes, Cybertron is the greatest planet in the universe!" I don't want to think about what he'd be like if he ever had to go off-world. His job, it's-a all about keeping the, how you say, sewers working. You see, Cybertron, she an old world. The oil and sludge pipes, they wear out. Huffer makes sure that it all keeps-a working. Sure, he likes to, what you say, complain, but I know in his spark he's-a loves what he's-a doing. Like he, he has special arms. His have sensors that test for tensile strength, heat resistance, elasticity, and so on.

That bio comes from The Allspark Almanac II entry for Huffer, because this two-pack of Field Engineers Bluster and Trench are based on Animated Huffer and Pipes. And as seen in the art that introduced them, Animated Huffer and Pipes are based on Mario and Luigi as much as they are on the G1 characters.

Bluster is the shorter, more portly brother. Like in the official character art, his body is sculpted to create the suggestion of blue overalls, complete with straps over the shoulders and a large pocket on the front. Since this is a third-party item, it doesn't have any copyright-infringing elements like faction symbols, but there's definitely a properly shaped indentation on the belly if you want to "Reprolabels" that bastich! He's got treads on his arms and legs, and little yellow feet. His shoulders are even the same color as his torso, so it looks like he's wearing a shirt with short sleeves!

It really seems lazy that there's such a huge piece of kibble sticking up over the robot's head, but that's true to both the design that inspired this toy, and to the design that inspired that design. G1 Huffer had a massive hollow shell over his head, so Bluster does, too. It doesn't look great, but it's not wrong - if the art had looked different, the toy would have been designed differently, too.

Bluster comes with two accessories, both befitting his role as a plumber: a plunger and a wrench. Perfect! The tools can be held in either hand, or clipped onto the bar behind his back. He's as highly articulated as any real TF Animated toys, with balljointed toes, hips, elbows and head, a swivel waist, swivel/hinge shoulders, and hinged elbows and wrists. There's a little bit of knee movement, but not really enough to add to the list.

My brother, he needs a hobby. He works with me on the, a, the infrastructure of Cybertron. He's, a, he's very good at keeping the coolant pipes maintained. But you go back to his quarters and it's empty. He's got niente. Maybe if he got out in the Commonwealth more he'd, a, he'd find something to occupy his free time. His name comes from both his job and his special arms; they can spew out corrosive gasses to, a, to eat through stubborn grime.

G1 Pipes loved to collect things made of Earth, so since this one has never left home, his room is empty. Similarly, G1 Huffer was a huge grump, and the Animated version is super happy, specifically because he's never left the planet. Of course, that's Huffer and Pipes; these toys are Bluster and Trench.

Trench has a taller, thinner head than his brother - Bluster barely even had a neck, while Trench's head definitely tips in above the shoulders. He's got a (metal) mustache, though not as big and bushy as his bro's, and he appears to be wearing a cap. Three horizontal lines wrapping around the back of the head create the suggestion of hair.

Although his body design is the same as Huffer's Bluster's, with the overalls and the snaps and the "put Autobot sticker here" indentation, it's not the same mold. In keeping with the Mario/Luigi split, Trench's torso is skinnier and longer, so even though the arms and legs are identical, he ends up quite a bit taller than his partner. Of course, part of that is due to the way the legs are converted: Trench's have an extra step to unfold them that Bluster's didn't, meaning he has separate shins and thighs, rather than just a solid area between ankle and hip. He also gets the same "hood" kibble that Bluster had, but without the pipe on the back, it's easier to move around.

Trench has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, balljointed and hinged elbows, hinged wrists, a swivel waist, balljointed hips, hinged knees (because of the extra length), and balljointed toes. His weapons are not designed to be held in his hands, which confused me at first: they're a pair of pipes that plug into the outside of his arms, like Deadshot's guns. The fact that the head is balljointed and not just a swivel is really neat, though, because it allows more expressiveness in the poses.

Despite their different bodies, Bluster and Trench both turn into the same kind of outer-space truck. The first people to get these molds complained that the altmodes didn't hold together well, but we'd be willing to be that those people were trying to convert them without reading the directions. If you do, they're surprisingly sturdy. Specifically, there's a step that has you raise the arms: you need to raise them to the sides, like he's trying to flap them, not to the front, like he's trying to reach something on a high shelf; it's easier to move them forward, but it's wrong; if you do it that way, the tabs that hold them in place in vehicle mode won't line up with the slots properly, and you'll have a floppy toy.

We do use the term "truck" rather loosely, and then mainly because that's what G1 Huffer and Pipes turned into. There's a very blocky cab with a rounded front, oval headlights, and scoops on the top where more lights can be found. The "glass" is solid black, and there's a jagged line running along the sides. In Derrick J. Wyatt's designs for the characters, Huffer's grill was recessed, while Pipes' stuck out slightly, but here they're both the same.

Whatever type of vehicle they turn into, it has four small tank treads instead of wheels. You do have to fiddle with the alignment a little bit, because the robot's hands are kibble in this mode, and they stick down almost as far as the treads - you'll need to fine-tune the positioning to make sure they're not touching the ground and making the truck wobbly. Both bots' accessories can be stored in truck mode: Bluster's tools hang off the bar behind the cab, and Trench's guns become exhaust pipes.

We almost didn't get these figures. Mech Ideas, the party behind the Techno Toon Titans, announced them one day and cancelled them the next. There was an understandable wave of shock, so eventually online retailer Planet Steel Express agreed to carry them as an exclusive. Hopefully they sell well, because there are plenty of other Animated characters we'd love to see become toys. Scrapper, Mixmaster, Omega Supreme... if somebody made those and they turned out as well as Bluster and Trench, a lot of fans would be very happy.

-- 08/19/14

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