World's Smallest Transformers
Their latest idea: take the original Generation 1 Transformers, scale them right down to 2 and a half inch or less, and put them in boxes so you can't see what you're buying (Apparently a pretty standard practice in Japan, but North Americans like to know what they're spending their money on). The result is definitely a hot item to importers and Transformers collectors who just have to have everything.
Packaging - ***1/2
These are very colorful boxes, no doubt very eye catching on the counter when you're buying a refreshing Pokari Sweat or some sort of Anime nudie comic (that's the extent of my Japanese culture knowledge). As I said above, you don't know what you're getting when you buy them, so you have to open the box (making them impossible to keep MIB), but it's pretty exciting to open them to find the last figure you're missing (Of course, it can be pretty frustrating to get your 6th Optimus Prime). The box shows the 6 figures in the main set, and on the back it shows a silhouette of the 2 chase figures, Silverstreak and "White Optimus" (some refer to him as Ultra Magnus), which are only available in 1 of every 4 cases (or 1 in each Master Case of 48).
Sculpting - ***
Ok, here's where this gets a little tricky... the sculpting is three stars if we're comparing them to their full size toy counterparts, which I am. If you're comparing them to the cartoon, well Takara isn't attempting to correct the mistakes of the past (like Megatron looking nothing like his cartoon version), they're just taking the 80's toy line and scaling it down, and they've done that perfectly. If you own the originals or re-issues, you'll want to display these right beside them.
For the size of these things, the paint application is extremely good. Optimus Prime's windows are light blue, lined with silver, but there's no paint slopped on either. Jazz's "Meister" decals on the door and number 4 on the hood are there. All of them have their respective logo somewhere on them at least once. Some minor details have been left off, as they can only do so much on 2 inches of plastic, but what's there is great, and it's all paint, no stickers. For those that have Series 1 Optimus, this is a repaint with different color windows, legs, eyes, and hands.
The articulation on most 80's Transformers was poor at best, sacrificing joints that move properly for the transforming feature, which is kind of important to the gimmick. Thrust, Megatron, and to an extent, Jazz, Silverstreak, and Prowl have shoulder joints, and Prime's legs move independantly in robot form, but he won't stand on his own unless his legs are together. In Vehicle modes, none of their wheels spin, and Megatron's highly controversial (in modern North America) gun mode doesn't do anything. Thrust's front landing gear (an accessory on the original Seeker jets) is permanently attached, and can flip up in Jet mode, which is much better than being a very small accessory that could easily be lost.
Accessories - Jazz, Silverstreak, Prowl - N/A. Optimus, Megatron - *
Thrust - *1/2
All of these transformers came with weapons in their original scale, but Jazz, Silverstreak, and Prowl are ill equipped to deal with Decepticons in their small scale. Optimus and Megatron have their Robot mode guns (with Megatron's being a bit large for him), and Thrust comes with his removable fists, and two missiles that can attach to his arms in Robot Mode, or under his wings in Plane mode. It would have been nice if Megatron came with the rest of his extensions for his gun mode, but I'm sure they'd probably be easily lost while in Robot mode.
These things feel flimsy. I have yet to permanently break one, but when transforming Megatron to Robot Mode, I accidentally took two pieces off him, and also took Jazz's arm off. Most of the pieces snap right back on, so there's no worry as long as you don't drop them into some thick carpet and lose them, but the first time something falls off you'll probably freak out before realizing it can be put back on (unless of course it can't, then feel free to continue freaking out). You'll probably want to transform it once or twice, then just leave each figure in your favorite mode, instead of taking the chance of permanently damaging them.
Transforming Feature - ***
All these figures are fully transformable, and transform very similarly to the originals. Be warned though, some of them are a bit tough to transform if you have large hands... or average sized hands for that matter. They can also be a bit tricky to transform if you've never done them before. The Japanese instructions are vague (unless of course you can read Japanese, then I'm sure they're quite clear), but it's amazing that they can be transformed at all at this scale.
Value - ***
I purchased a case, which ended up costing me about $7.50 a figure Canadian ($6 a figure American) after shipping and insurance. For an import, this is pretty reasonable, but keep in mind you aren't guaranteed a full set (you'll notice that I have no pictures or mention of Red Alert, who I didn't get in my case, but I got the chase figure Silverstreak). Many ebayers are selling the set of 6 (no chase figures) for approximately $40 - $50, and the set of 8 (both chase figures included) for $80 - $100 (plus shipping). This may sound expensive for 2 and a half inches of plastic, but keep in mind that if you were to buy each one at an import store in blind packages, you could end up spending MUCH more to get a set of 6, never mind the chase figures. Of course, you can always sell your extras on Ebay, or trade with someone else.
Overall - Optimus - **1/2, the Rest - ***
I'm giving Optimus two and a half stars because I already own Series 1 Optimus, and to already have a repaint this early in the line is a bit annoying (especially when he's a common figure in both Series 1 and Series 2). The rest are entirely new sculpts, and the Silverstreak chase figure, though a repaint of Prowl, has enough minor sculpt changes to make him not look entirely like JUST a repaint (unlike White Optimus, or the two chase figures from Series 1, which are nothing more than repaints of figures in their respective series). The lack of accessories and the poor durability should mean these figures are two, maybe two and a half stars at best all around, but transformers that actually transform in this scale are just too cool to not give three stars to.
a big argument amongst collectors over the years is being able to easily get every figure you want vs the thrill of the hunt and knowing you have figures others might not be able to get. This is a perfect series for fans of the latter, as it's not easy to get every figure (unless you just go buy a full set with chase figures on ebay), but it will deter people who want just a certain character or two (unless... again...
Where to Buy:
The only online store I've seen these at is Action-HQ, they're selling a case of 12 for $49.95 (on sale, regularly $54.95) or you can take your chances on a random one for $4.95. Keep in mind these are coming from Hong Kong, so shipping can be a bit pricy (considering they're less than 2 pounds). A note to Canadians though: I chose 7 - 10 day Airmail shipping, and had them in less than a week, with no customs charges or taxes. There's also a lot of Ebayers selling these, just try not to pay too much ($50 for a chase figure is too much when you can buy a whole set for $100). Also, if you have any comic/toy/anime stores around you that import, you might find these on the counter (I found my Series 1 figures in a mall while visiting Mississauga).
Figures from the collection of