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Optimus Prime Black Version

by yo go re

When the first Transformers movie came out, I ended up buying both the Voyager Class Optimus Prime and the Leader Class repaint, which is why I never bothered getting any of the Primes from Transformers 2. For a while, at least.

With the destruction of Megatron, Optimus Prime thought he was finally, after millions of years, at peace. Little did he know that the escape of Starscream would draw dozens of new Decepticons to Earth. The desire that burns brightest in his spark is that the war will soon end. He is determined to see that end come, and so he works with his human comrades and the other Autobots to hunt the Decepticons that have come to Earth, and destroy them, one by one.

That's the bio for the standard release of the Revenge of the Fallen Leader Class Optimus Prime, by the way - this is a Japanese release, so we've got no clue what (if anything) his box says. Nor do we care. It's Optimus Prime, it's black, make up your own story from there.

Blackimus Prime stands an even 10" tall (or taller, depending on how you pose his smokestacks), and is a ton more movie-accurate than the first movie's toys. Either version. He's significantly less of a blocky cube than the previous Leader. He actually has a waist now, for instance, and his window-boobs are set at an angle rather than being straight across. The various bits of kibble that show up on the robot mode are more accurate to the movie renders, as are the comparative proportions of his chest and legs. There are a few things meant to improve the movie-accuracy - the visors on the chest are balljointed, the knees hinge outward and the plates on the back of the calves pull out slightly - but the instructions don't mention them. That'll be a bit of a theme as we go along.

There are two versions of the ROTF Leader Prime mold - two versions of the head, anyway. The standard release had a faceplate, while the remolded Japanese-exclusive "Buster" Optimus Prime has the exposed mouth. Thankfully, this version uses the first head, so he looks the way he should. Though the mouth version is creepy, so maybe that would have worked as well.

If you press the buttons on Optimus's arms, his swords pop out. Actually, they pop out even if you don't press the button: the things are kind of on a hair trigger. While the normal version has orange swords, to match the movie, this one's blades are blue. There's plenty of articulation to allow him to take advantage of his weaponry. Prime moves with a swivel neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel wrists (which is more than the first movie's toy got, though this one doesn't have articulated fingers), swivel/hinge hips, hinged knees and balljointed ankles.

Leader Class Optimus Prime has a reputation as one of the most difficult-to-convert Transformers ever, and it's not at all undeserved. I've got Masterpiece Megatron, two Masterpiece Seekers, Alternators Wheeljack and even the god-awful mess that is Straxus, and this is right up there with them.

The main problem is the arms. The instructions are fundamentally unclear on what you're supposed to do and when. You may have noticed that the instructions we linked above were actually for the second version, the one with big hooks instead of swords: we picked that one because they'd been updated to make things clearer, and it's still a total mess! I'm lucky, because I have the Japanese instructions, which have more detailed drawings to begin with, and yet they included a separate second sheet of brightly lit photographic diagrams to help clear things up.

Optimus Prime's truck mode didn't change between the movies, but the toys are not identical. Again, efforts have been made to make the newer toy screen-accurate, and again that means it's not as squared-off. This is a fully licensed version of the Peterbilt 379, and it's much closer to the real thing than the last attempt was. The toy is 11" long, 5" tall and 3¾" wide. All six wheels roll, though they're cast from hard ABS instead of being rubber this time. Aww, so sad!

There's significantly less kibble on the truck this time, though. For one thing, there's no giant gun riding on the back, and no gap in the construction allowing his shoulders to peek though. We're used to seeing sculpted seams and rivets, but this thing has the latches for the tool boxes and door handles that look like they'd work. And the trailer hitch in the back seems like it would be functional, but of course there's no actual trailer to connect. Shame, that.

Although this is going into my collection as Nemesis Prime, that's not actually what his colorscheme is homaging. Rather, his colors have been chosen to complement RotF Jetfire. He's mostly black, but the glass in the windows is clear and the flames flowing back from the front are golden (except for the ones actually on the front, which are black against a field of gold). It's a striking design, and we really wish it had been released in the States somehow.

Optimus Prime Black Version was an Amazon exclusive - that's Amazon.co.jp, not Amazon.com - and he was only available in a set with the Japanese Revenge of the Fallen dvd. Which is sort of like being told you can have a PS3, but only if you buy and consume a Papa John's pizza: yeah, you end up with something awesome, but it's bundled with something designed to punish you for even attempting to take it in. The toy itself is a very nice mold, regardless of what color it is. It looks great as a truck, it looks (and plays) great as a robot, but the actual conversion process is maddening.

I passed on this mold for a long time - like the beginning of the review said, there are already two movie Optimus Primes in my collection, and there didn't seem to be any need for another. Sadly, because I was ignoring Prime, I also passed repeatedly on a discounted Jetfire: the two toys combine, and I figured it wasn't worth only getting half the pair; the main reason being that I didn't think I'd ever be able to afford this black repaint.

-- 10/04/11

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