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Shadow Panther

Transformers Generations
by yo go re

Yibambe!

There's no character information anywhere on the Transformers: War for Cybertron: Kingdom packaging, but most of the time that's fine: the line is leaning so heavily on re-dos and updates that existing fans will already know who most everybody is. If you're a new fan, well, "screw you" I guess? But you have to be super into Transformers to already know who this one is.

In 1997, Takara released a black repaint of Cheetor called "Shadow Panther." He was his own character - sort of - but when Ravage appeared on the Beast Wars cartoon, Hasbro opted to repurpose the Shadow Panther toy as BW Ravage for US sales. Despite them looking pretty much nothing alike. By the time Cheetor got an updated "Transmetal" toy, it wasn't repainted as Shadow Panther at all, and only as Ravage. So is this a new character? An old character? An old Japananese-exclusive character who's new to North America? The website just lists his Core Traits ("stealthy, fast, devious") and a Message from the Future ("Stick to the shadows"), which could really apply to either of them. It's up to you!

Back in the day, all the Beast Wars toys had a second "mutant head" that was basically just a weird-looking mask that flipped over their normal head. While Shadow Panther is mostly a repaint of Kingdom Cheetor, the head is new: this silver monstrosity, with large black eye sockets, small fangs, and pointy ears, is an update of the mutant head from the vintage figures - basically, Hasbro has decided that the normal head is Cheetor's, and mutant head is Shadow Panther's. You've got to admit, that's a nice way to differentiate them.

SP's body is a bit hampered by the need to homage a Beast-era character: face it, none of those were very well designed toys. Putting car or plane parts on a robot makes it look like a robot made out of cars or planes; putting chunks of animal on a robot makes it look like it just committed atrocities at the zoo. He's got a panther head on his chest, full front legs hanging off his back, etc. The rear legs do blend in pretty well, thanks to the darkness of the fur and the neat silver spikes that end up on the robot's shins. The silver is matched by the forearms and a crotchplate, and his shoulder assemblies are yellow. Bright, bright yellow. That's how it was back in the day, so that's how it is now.

The figure moves at the ankles, knees, lower thighs, hips, waist, wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders, chest, and neck. There are some other joints, of course, but for converting, not for posing. The website bio we briefly mentioned above lists his "Powers & Weapons" as Shadow Mist and Panther Shot - not sure which one of those is the odd little axe thing the figure is armed with.

If you already have Cheetor, then you already know how to convert Shadow Panther. If you don't, it's still easy to figure out. Swivel the head to face backwards, raise the cat head over it and close the mouth, rotate the arms and hands around, fold in the chest, close the rib-flaps, flip the feet over to expose the rest of the beast mode legs, then plug the axe in to the base of his spine to form the tail. Beast mode!

Cheetor was a cheetah, Shadow Panther is a panther. Yes, we know there's no such thing as a pantehr - it's just a melanistic black leopard, but nobody's that pedantic. In all honesty, it's a rather nice animal mode. The only evidence of a robot within are a few flashes of yellow around the shoulders, and some silver on the back of the legs. The robot's crotchplate is articulated with a hinge, but you never need to move it for anything, so... why? Why waste the time and resources doing that? The panther's legs and jaw are articulated, so he's not just stuck in one pose forever.

Shadow Panther doesn't really look like Ravage did in Beast Wars, which is disappointing: Hasbro sold an actual Ravage this year through their website, but the damn thing cost upwards of $50. Why, because it included a re-release of the cassette version? Not even the Masterpiece one, the vintage one! How is that little lump of plastic worth the 30 extra dollars Hasbro was squeezing us for? Yes, the bigger figure had some newly molded parts, but it's still a Deluxe sized toy, and that's not worth that much in today's money.

So, how to judge Shadow Panther? Harshly, because he's not what I wanted him to be, or gently, because he succeeds at updating the so-so toy he was supposed to? It's nice that they've actually done a "new" character in this line, but there are lots of Beast-era oddities who never felt the love back in the day and could have had their first US toys in this line if Hasbro really wanted to bring them to modern standards.

-- 12/14/21


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