Review by VF5SS
Transformers Victory is the TV show that more or less capped off the G1 animated universe, aside from brief specials, manga and and magazine features. It also continued the hand-off to Takara's next transforming robot franchise, the Brave Series. With the last vestigial traits of the American fiction falling away in the preceding show, Super God Masterforce, Japanese Transformers fully embraced the traditions of their homeland, with new characters who were chock full of gimmicks and stoic heroism. Leading the Cybertrons was the coolest toy of all them all, Star Saber!
"Let's say, GO!"
This popular Japanese original character joined the ranks of Masterpiece Transformers toys as the direct result of a fan poll. Star Saber stands out among his peers, thanks to his connection to world-famous mechanical designer, Kunio Okawara! That's right, the man who created such iconic giant robots like the original RX-78 Gundam, the Scopedog, and Gaogaigar was also responsible for the dynamic new leader in Transformers Victory. Because of this, Star Saber is probably the most well-realized entry in the Masterpiece line, as he was designed to be both a toy and a character from the get-go.
Please check out my video review!
Like many great things, Star Saber starts small, with his littlest component: the Brainmaster!
From front to back, the Brain of Courage (勇気のブレイン "Yuuki no Brain") looks like a miniature version of Star Saber without his battle helmet. This is essentially the main part of Star Saber, while the rest of him is a non-sentient vessel that is sometimes called a "Transtector."
To give you an idea of just how small the figure is, here is the Brainmaster next to a can of soda. At around an inch tall, the Brain of Courage is roughly the same size as a Diaclone driver. In fact, the toy's designer, Hisashi Yuki ,even tweeted a picture comparing the two.
Conceptually, a Brainmaster is similar to a Headmaster, but only contains the face of the robot and not the full head. The G1 toy had an empty helmet with an opening chest compartment underneath. You would insert the Brainmaster into the chest cavity and close the door. This would engage a little sliding mechanism that pushed the larger robot's face out of the Brain's body and into the waiting helmet.
On the Masterpiece figure, the Brainmaster was shrunk down for show-accuracy and, as such, does not actually have a piece of the robot's head within. Fret not, though, the gimmick is still there, but is accomplished a bit differently. On the bright side, the Brainmaster still features some articulation, much like the G1 version.
The main component of Star Saber is simply called "Saber" and starts off as a futuristic jet fighter. The Cybertron commander is very solid in this mode, and looks spot-on to the show.
Saber has a full set of fold-out landing gear with small rolling plastic wheels. Since the ones in the rear are actually connected to his feet, you may have to hold Saber's toes in place while swinging down the wheels.
While not trying to be any specific airplane, it looks like Kunio Okawara took some design cues from the F/A-18 Hornet when coming up with this toyetic space vehicle. The missile rails on the end of the wings are the biggest clue.
The main gimmick of Saber's jet mode is an opening cockpit that the Brainmaster can sit inside.
There's even a small control console, which again is accurate to the cartoon.
While the toy does not come with a separate display stand for just Saber, it seems to work alright with a Bandai Tamashii stage. This airplane looks about as majestic in flight as most of Kunio Okawara's jet fighter designs from Gundam. That is to say, it's a charming flying block with wings.
Alongside Saber is the huge booster unit called the V-Star. While usually docked with the Cybertron commander during space flight, it can also function as a separate weapons platform. The V-Star makes up the majority of the fully combined Star Saber, in a way that is similar to Super Ginrai (Powermaster Optimus Prime).
Despite being mostly plastic, the V-Star is still quite heavy. The most visible use of diecast on this part of the toy are the numerous rocket engines mounted on what will become Star Saber's legs and backpack.
The V-Star has its own landing gear, which consists of two front and two rear assemblies. The latter pair is cleverly hidden inside Star Saber's feet, with a panel on top of the foot hinging forward so that the tiny movable wheels can flip out.
The forward set is stored under the large symbol-bearing red shoulder blocks. Unfortunately, the front wheels don't seem to lock in place, which means the sheer weight of the V-Star can make them collapse back inward.
The V-Star has two storage slots for both the large and small Saber Blade. Each blade is coated with a mirror-like chrome finish.
Star Saber also comes with a firearm called the "Saber Laser". When not being held by either robot form, the weapon can be plugged into the back of the V-Star.
One last gimmick for the V-Star is a pair of missile launchers hidden under the diecast laser guns. You have to pull the red section surrounding the guns out a bit before hinging them upward. The result is a rather underwhelming bank of yellow missiles molded in place. If this all seems rather unremarkable, even the manual neglects to mention this feature.
To attach Saber to the V-Star, the gray panels underneath flip down to allow the jet to plug in. Saber's rear tail fins are angled downward, and the back of the jet will clip onto a spring-loaded tab. A gray button on the back of the V-Star will disengage the tab in either combined form.
When Saber combines with the V-Star in jet mode, he becomes a massive flying dreadnought of a space fighter that is a little over a foot in length. The overall design echos the Core Booster from Gundam, while also mimicking the idea of a leader with his trailer.
The MP figure's colors are spot-on again, which means Star Saber looks like an unabashedly toyetic space plane.
From below, Star Saber bares all about how his transformation works. While it may look a bit basic, this is still true to both the show and the original G1 figure. There is something rather endearing about how unapologetic the character is about him just being a toy.
If you want to display Star Saber in flight, the large shield he comes with can be easily converted into a small pedestal. Simply slide out the blue middle of the shield, and replace it with a clear plastic arm that clips onto the V-Star's groin area. I appreciate that Star Saber can utilize most of his accessories in either mode, but there are still chunks left over that have nowhere to go other than someplace you provide.
For some reason, the sight of Star Saber like this fills me with childlike joy for something I could never have watched as a kid.
Transforming just Saber into robot mode is very straightforward. The nosecone separates to form a shield, while the rest of the jet simply stands up and extends some arms and legs. While some call this "basic," this is just what Saber does to transform, and any further embellishment would be pointless.
Please note, Saber's legs need to be in this particular position when you slide his shins back up for jet mode. And oddly enough, a lot of Okawara's artwork poses his robot designs' thighs in this peculiar forward tilt.
When it's time to BRAIN SET, the Brainmaster pegs into the sliding platform within the Transtector's chest.
This clever bit of engineering is accomplished by having the face be a separate block that is held in the upper chest by a spring.
With the Brainmaster in place, the act of closing the door makes Saber's face rise into the helmet.
Saber stands roughly six and a half inches tall, and is nearly a full-fledged Masterpiece figure in and of himself. His colors and overall design are right in line with the anime, and the toy exudes a aura of righteousness as befits the king of knights.
While not as clean on the back as his cartoon counterpart, Saber is still a streamlined Cybertron warrior. Note that the canopy subtly slides downward in order to compact his rear silhouette ever so slightly.
His head sculpt is especially nice, with the late G1 design sense flowing through Saber's heroic visage. He rocks a pair of clear blue shades over faintly visible eyes.
As I mentioned before, Saber feels very much like he is a complete figure on his own and not just a component of Star Saber. He has a wide range of articulation and even features sturdy ratcheting joints in his shoulders, hips, and knees. Most surprising of all, Saber's head can still turn left and right despite the presence of the Brainmaster gimmick. Hisashi Yuki could have stopped there, but he made sure to add extra touches like movable skirt armor, hips that can splay out to the side, and even working wrist joints. Admittedly, the way his upper legs swivel from side to side can make Saber look a bit weird in some poses. For me, that's the only place where the figure's function as the core of Star Saber impacts its design.
"Ah... Wheeljack, it's good to see you again."
Saber once met the famous engineer in a time of dire need.
Saber can can hold the Saber Laser in either hand. The handle of the gun nestles in between his thumb and palm, while also tabbing into the hand. Saber's fingers are on a hinge and close around the handle to secure the laser.
Messing around with Saber is a lot of fun! He comes across as one of the most genuinely toy-like entries in what is normally a collector-focused line.
It's that kind of tactile charisma that helps me overlook Saber's minor aesthetic flaws, such as his hollow forearms. There's a lot going on with this figure in terms of gimmicks and transformation, so not every blemish could be smoothed over.
Saber can also be armed with a shrunken down version of the Saber Blade, which has a hilt designed to look like a cartoonified version of his nosecone shield. The small sword's blade is removable and can be stored in the V-Star.
The chromed blade is gorgeously shiny, as befitting a hero's weapon.
The nosecone hilt has a small bit of transformation to facilitate its use in the Saber Blade. You simply flip out the top and bottom to allow the built-in handle to swing out into place. After that, both panels close back up for sword mode.
To complete the weapon, the tip of the nosecone opens up on a double-hinge to expose a set of tabs that plug into the sword's shiny blade. The two tabs are specifically sized so there is only one way to attach the blade.
And so, if mass-shifting isn't your thing, Saber can now wield the full-sized Saber Blade.
Although, it is kind of big for the smaller robot, so maybe just stick with the scaled down version...
And now, I promised myself that if I was going to review Star Saber, that I would do justice to his iconic stock footage conversion sequence. So let's get ready to...
Kono chikyuu! Chikyuu! Nerau no wa dare da?
Yurushi wa shinai...
Yurushi wa shinai... DESTRON!
Ima ga sono toki...
Oh! Oh! Oh!
Seigi no yuusha Staaaaaaaar Saaaaaber
POWER UUUUP ooooooooo...
Chikara no BRAINMASTER!!
V!! V!! VICTORY!!
And if you want a more thorough demonstration of how this all works, please check out my video review at the top of this page.
The fully formed Star Saber is a massive figure, that stands about a foot tall. His design is extremely show-accurate, while also incorporating details found in the original line art and box art. Masterpiece Star Saber exudes the powerful heroism of the character from just about every angle.
From the rear, Star Saber is still pretty spot-on to the character design. Also, I should note that there appear to be a few unused holes on various parts of the toy, which is a good indication that this figure was designed to merge with a possible MP Victory Leo.
Almost all of Star Saber's weapons can be attached to his back. Even the Saber Blade's hilt has a little slot for attaching (weakly) to a tab near the blade storage slot. Unfortunately, the chromed sword parts do not suddenly get shorter, so they do stick out on the toy's back if you decide to do this.
Star Saber's head is masterfully rendered on the MP figure, and perfectly combines the look of the famous face-plated leader with Okawara's own Gundam-derived touches. Since this is essentially Saber's head with a large helmet on top, it still retains the ability to turn left and right. In addition, Star Saber can look up and down a bit thanks to how the helmet is jointed at the white neck piece. That in itself is quite remarkable given how much gets sandwiched together in this form.
When it's time to BATTLE UP, this little blue armature can actually place Star Saber's helmet over Saber's head. The arm then detaches using its spring-loaded clip, and then can be folded away into the backpack. It's a really cool gimmick, even though going back the other way doesn't work as smoothly due to how snugly the helmet fits on Saber's head. When going back, it's easier to just pop the helmet off and then connect it to the little blue arm again.
All of this means you can totally have Star Saber chilling out between missions with his helmet off, just like in the show! Although, Saber's head can't suddenly get larger to make this look less silly...
When Saber becomes part of Star Saber's chest, the little red vents on his legs are supposed to get covered with moving shutters. The toy accomplishes this by having both details on opposite sides of the same piece. Simply flip them around to get the desired look.
Also, I want to apologize for not remember to flip around them around for most of this review. As this only affects Saber when going back to jet mode, it's very easy to overlook this step.
Star Saber has an excellent range of motion for such a large, blocky figure. His shoulders, elbows, hips, biceps, knees, and ankles all have strong clicky ratchets. Also, Star Saber can get a little extra motion out of his waist with a simple swivel joint.
His arms are especially amazing, with double-jointed elbows that work in conjunction with a forearm swivel to allow all kinds of poses.
In addition to that, Star Saber's arms can be unlocked from his body to reveal a swing-out hinge. With this extra clearance, even his gigantic shoulder pads can maneuver around when the chief needs to take everyone to the cyber gun show.
I have heard a few reports of Star Sabers showing cracks in their elbow joints, so please check your copy carefully. Mine appears to be fine, although the lower elbow joints are a bit loose. They feel a bit more buttery than the other points of articulation.
The Saber Blade's built-in hilt lets Star Saber hold the weapon in a rigid manner, with the sword parallel to his wrist cuffs. His movable fingers have a small slot on the inside, which help grip the handles of his weapons. While the default way is exactly how the G1 Star Saber held his blade, it's not the most dynamic sword-fighting stance...
To rectify this, TakaraTomy included an extra long handle that plugs into the nosecone hilt.
Attaching the long handle is easy. Simply leave the nosecone's own grip folded up, and the larger one clips into where the nosecone connects to Saber's jet mode.
While Star Saber can't grip the long handle quite as tightly as the small one, he looks so much better with a sword he can hold in a natural manner.
And, he can even hold the Saber Blade with two hands! Star Saber truly is a Brave warrior.
Star Saber can still use the Saber Laser, even if the gun looks more like a pistol in his hands than it does in Saber's.
The shield can be held by either of Star Saber's hands, and the grip is designed to tab into his fingers much like with his other weapons. This is a neat bit of anime-original equipment that strengthens the Transformer's Gundam-y roots.
Truly, they are brothers...
"Deathsaurus! I won't forgive you for the evils you have wrought against the Earth!!"
Masterpiece Star Saber is the kind of figure whose release felt like a real event for Transformers fans. While not having quite as wide-ranging appeal as say, Ultra Magnus, both the character and the toy have an undeniable charisma that crosses cultural boundaries. Out of all the Masterpieces, Star Saber feels the most true to his roots as a child's toy. Again, much of this is thanks to his origins with veteran designer Kunio Okawara, who created a mechanical design that was suitable for both the animated and physical world. The only reason not to get this toy would be if you have some kind of strong aversion to Star Saber's design, as this toy is every aspect of that design realized at a high degree of accuracy. You can definitely feel Hisashi Yuki's passion for this project, and that made for a fantastic Transformer.
Star Saber was extremely popular upon release, with the toy topping Amazon listings for a period of time. I think this is a good indication that Victory Leo, or other Japanese original characters, have a good chance of getting Masterpiece toys. For me, that is a wonderful prospect, as Masterpiece is meant to celebrate all of Transformers, and not just the ones that made it to western shores.
|Posted 1 July, 2015 - 15:39 by VF5SS|