Masterpiece Transformers MP-1 Convoy Toy Review

in 2012, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Generation One, Masterpiece

Masterpiece

General Information
Release Date: December 2003
Retailer: Japanese Exclusive (in this packaging)
Price: $100.00 (Average price at Japanese import shops)
Accessories: Rifle, Energy Axe, Matrix, Megatron gun, Cardboard trailer

Masterpiece Convoy is the Takara/Japanese version of the 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime figure due in the states January of 2004. This version was released in December 2003, slightly ahead of its American counterpart. The goal of this toy was to create a large, detailed, accurate representation of the Convoy character that was able to transform and incorporate a wide array of toy features that have been developed over the past twenty years. This piece also ties into an extreme piece of nostalgia as it represents one of the most iconic characters associated with Transformers.

For the purpose of this review, I have taken over fifty pictures of Masterpiece Convoy. This prevents me from using my usual format of listing text links to each picture (since it would take up a lot of space, and quite frankly, look silly). Instead, I have set up a gallery of Masterpiece Convoy images here.

Masterpiece Convoy is packaged in robot mode, so that is the mode I will review first.

Packaging
Masterpiece Convoy's packaging is a solid, windowless cardboard box. Its design is conservative, not overwhelming with splashy details. Rather, it lets a huge picture of the toy inside on the front of the box speak for itself. The classic Transformers logo is used, and on the corner there is a nice, muted "20th Anniversary" logo. Taking a cue from classic Transformers packaging design, Convoy is designated as "Cybertron Commander Convoy" with yellow and black boxes behind the words. He is also numbered "MP-1", a nod to the classic Takara scheme of giving Transformers numerical designations (such as C-001). This presentation almost looks like there is some heavy model kit inside, no doubt intending to appeal to a much older crowd such as those who build more complicated Gundam models. In this case, it's a Transformer with no assembly required. Very nice, simple packaging that gets its message across easily: This isn't your father's Convoy.

Robot Mode
Convoy's robot mode is designed to bring in elements from both the original Generation One toy as well as the cartoon show. A healthy dose of stylized design was added in, and the result is probably one of the most impressive toy representations of the original Convoy ever seen in the Transformers toy line.

With a toy this massive in both size and detail, it is important to be detailed in one's review. So similar in nature to my Unicron review, I will be reviewing this toy from top to bottom.

Head
The face/head of Convoy has long been used as the basis for almost any toy with the name "Convoy" in it. Almost every "Convoy" from Beast Wars to Energon has used elements of this basic head design. The basic design has always been a outer (usually blue) helmet around a silver face and mouthplate. The helmet section would usually have one crest with two antennae. Though some forms have been stylized such as Super Fire Convoy, their basic influence from G1 Convoy was never in doubt.

Convoy's helmet section is molded in a dark, metallic flake blue. The central crest's interior is painted silver. The eyes are made from a metallic, light blue plastic, which gives them a brilliant look without having to resort to lights or light piping plastic. The mouthplate is silver. Some added details include vent lines on the edges of the helmet near his mouth piece, as well as a small rectangular piece near the base of each antenna. These small details have been seen in stylized artwork of Convoy going back over ten years, so it is no surprise they were worked into this figure.

Convoy's head rests on a ball joint, allowing his head to turn around completely, as well as looking up. He also has a feature that was tried on Armada Optimus Prime: the ability to move the mouthplate. However, with a larger scale toy, the designers had more success with this figure. Press a (very well disguised) button on the back of his head, and the mouthplate moves up and down as if Convoy were talking. Since the mouthplate needs some clearance, you have to have his head moved slightly upwards to get this feature to work properly. If his head is positioned looking straight ahead, the effect is not as visible.

While I have not done this myself (it's an expensive toy), many fans have confirmed that if you take the mouthplate off, you'll actually find a mouth under there which resembles gritted teeth!

Arms
Convoy's arms look almost exactly the same, but each is a unique design. This asymmetry shows how the designers really wanted to put care into each part of this toy, literally.

While each arm has unique details, they share a lot in common.

  • Each arm has fine line details etched into almost every part. Some of the nicest are on the back of each shoulder, featuring nice triangular patterns that you really have to look at closely to see clearly.
  • On the underside of each arm you'll find a panel with some really nicely sculpted wire and machinery details. These panels are used in the transformation process to draw the hands into the lower arm.
  • Near the elbow joints on each arm are four working pistons. Three in the back, one in the front. Each has a gray outer chamber with a vaccum metallized silver rod. When you move the shoulder joint, each piston moves with it!
  • Each arm features yellow lines and an arrow, a detail which dates back to the original animated model used in the Generation One show. The yellow color helps bring out the detail nicely.
  • The smokestacks on each arm are longer than those on the 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime by Hasbro. For safety concerns, Hasbro shortened the stacks on the top and bottom.
  • The hands on each arm feature individual finger articulation. The thumbs move on ball joints, while each of the other four fingers move on hinges. Each digit is individually sculpted, resulting in a very nice looking set of hands.
  • In total, each arm features eleven points of articulation, five of which are in the hands.

So what's different? A few things:

  • There is an Autobot logo sculpted onto the left shoulder, but not the right. While not consistant with the original Optimus Prime toy, it is consistant with the G1 television show where Optimus Prime was featured with an Autobot symbol on the left shoulder only. What's really nice is that it is a raised, sculpted symbol with a white background and red filling in the symbol's parts rather than being a white line art decal or something.
  • While each arm has a communicator that you can reveal by flipping up a panel on the lower arm, the left arm has a picture of Bumblebee on it while the right has a picture of Starscream on it.
  • The left arm features some sculpted battle damage. None of it is so obvious that it spoils the look of the toy. Most of it are nicks and indentations at the edges of the lower arm and the shoulder.

Upper body
One of the most difficult parts of recreating the look of the G1 Optimus Prime animated model is the main upper body area. In essence, the designers had to go backwards in engineering. Whereas the original animated model was a stylized version of the G1 toy, the designers had to take the G1 toy, stylize it then figure out how to get the hyper stylized form into a toy.

The biggest difficulty is creating an upper body where it did not look like the entire front of a truck (wheels and all) with arms and legs attached to it. The animation design clearly has a larger upper body "chest", which then angles downward into the "abdominal" area. To do this, the designers had to alter Convoy's transformation scheme to the point where the lower portion of the main body no longer acted as a place for the arms to rest with wheels hanging off of it. They designed it so that it is a true representation of the cartoon form. Indeed, even the vacuum metallized grill in the middle of his upper body is not the same grill you see in vehicle mode. The result you have a beautifully constructed upper body that matches the animated model almost exactly.

The wider, chest section retains classic features of both the animation model and the G1 toy. At the very top of the chest are two (non working) lights. In a rather interesting color choice, they are dark silver with copper at the ends. All around this part of the chest you'll find small raised circles representing rivets holding his plating in place. These are really nice details thrown in, not just because of the realism, but also because they were present in the original G1 Optimus Prime as well.

The windows on Convoy's chest are clear plastic. Another really nice detail molded into the chest section are windshield wipers that start at the portion below the windows, and then come to an end at the edges of the windows themselves. This portion of the body is die cast metal, part of the toy that gives it its heft.

The detail doesn't end on the front. A look at Convoy's back reveals a compartment in the middle designed to resemble the "back pack" that the animation model had. At the middle of this side are panels (from the vehicle mode) that fit together to form some nice details that are colored in metallic gray and silver colors. These designs are a bit of an embelishment, but they look nice and look cool.

The big feature here is the ability for Convoy's chest to open up. Each chest panel swings out to the side to reveal a panel underneath. This gray panel is based off the one seen in Transformers: The Movie and later seen in Beast Wars. I stress "based off" since it is not the exact right shape. Whereas the one portrayed in the animated programs was a more "T" shaped one, this one is a panel that runs straight across (part of which is due to its role in the vehicle mode).

However, this panel does have quite a bit of detail on it, and it does serve the same function as the "T" shaped panel from the cartoon. Flip the panel up and you'll see that the panel protects the Matrix underneath! The Matrix chamber is not an exact replica of what has been seen on cartoons, but rather is inspired by those portrayals. It has some nice detail, holds the Matrix in the center and allows for a neat feature to be used here. Push the blue switch to the left of Convoy's head back and a bright light shines through the chest and the Matrix. "Light our darkest hour" indeed, this light is seriously bright to the point where I do not recommend staring directly at it too long. To give you an idea of brightness, this picture was taken with the Matrix removed.

So what about the Matrix itself? In short, it's absolutely awesome. While this is not the first Matrix to be created by Takara/Hasbro, it is probably the nicest (with Big Convoy's being the second nicest. Not only is it sculpted like the one from the animated shows, but it can open. The "shell" of the Matrix are actually connected to the crystal in the center. Slide each half out to the sides and the crystal appears to "float" between the shell halves. This is a wonderful piece of design work that deserves praise for even being thought of.

While the Matrix is about the right size for Convoy, he cannot hold it with all his fingers. Rather, you use a combination of his thumb and two fingers on each hand to hold it. This still looks incredibly cool.

This portion of the body can turn at the waist, allowing Convoy full motion in a 180 degree circle.

Lower Body
Convoy's lower body/waist area looks simple enough at first. It is silver with yellow details on it. The yellow details are taken directly from the television show. However, instead of having the waist as one big piece, it has been divided so the center piece bevels out a bit from the hip sections.

What's also nice about this section is that the panels on the hip sections (three on each side) can each swing out to allow the legs a free range of movement. This is also utilized in the transformation, but it is great to see such a feature becoming useful in the playability of the toy as well.

On the back, the shapes that are yellow on the front are dark gray here. The center section sticks out a bit, as it did in the animation. That section is colored dark blue.

Legs
Like Convoy's arms, there's a lot happening with the legs. Here's a list:

  • Each leg is made of die cast metal, with a metallic flake blue color. Dark silver is used for most of the detail work.
  • On the lower legs, each ankle joint has a dual piston attached to it. Like the arms, these pistons actually work. As you move the feet, you will see the pistons move up and down. Amazing stuff.
  • At the knees in the front, there are two pistons on each knee. You can't see them until you bend the knee, then they become visible. Brilliant.
  • Towards the top of the lower legs, you'll find sections with some large detailing including what look like tubes. These are painted with a mix of dark and light silver and look fantastic.
  • Each leg has "battle damage" details sculpted into the mold. They blend right into the blue of the lower legs, so they are not visually intrusive at all. The patterns on the legs differ from right to left, but both feet share the same cracked patterns. This really helps give you the sense that Convoy has seen a lot of wear and tear in battle.
  • The tip of each foot has a set of details with red and yellow rectangles next to a green square. These are carry over details from the original Convoy toy, who had a similar sticker. In a nice touch, a sculpted piece of clear glass sits in front of the colors, giving it a nice, layered look.
  • Each leg has six points of articulation. This includes the feet which each can move at the ankle and the front "toes" portion.
  • In a move to give a totally cool, but unnecessary detail (which are often the best kind), if you press the feet up, the vents on Convoy's legs actually open up.

Accessories
Convoy comes with several accessories, each holding a significance noted in the relevant section here.

Rifle
The most basic accessory for almost any Convoy/Prime toy is the rifle. All through the history of the line, Primes have held some type of rifle, sometimes based on the original one that came with G1 Optimus Prime. This one is styled after the one shown o the television show. The sculpt is quite accurate, but for some unknown reason, in this virtual whirlwind of television show accuracy, its colors are completely off. Most of the rifle is dark silver with light blue used for details at the end and forward part of the gun. However, in his television show appearances, Convoy's rifle was always black.

The rifle can be held in either hand, but you have to manipulate the fingers and thumb into the right positions to do it. While the rifle is held firmly enough, it is not as firm as a simple peg and hole system would be. This is not to say I would prefer a peg/hole system, but if you have him hold the rifle and shake him a bit, it will rattle a tiny bit.

Energy Axe
Long before the current Energon toy line, Convoy used energy to create a wrist mounted axe weapon. While the axe weapon has been created before such as with the Convoy PVC figure. This axe is a bit different however. Along with the axe handle and blade, the designers added in a rounded base with spikes on it, adding to the fierce appearance of the weapon. It is cast in flexible orange plastic, and has a lot of line detail etched into it.

To attach the axe to the wrist, you have to first slide the hand into the lower arm. To do this, you must position all the fingers properly. The thumb folds down and the four other fingers are kept in a fist position. Then you swing down the panel on the underside of the lower arm and pull it back, and then swing it back into place. The axe is flexible enough to fit into the slots on the opening at the end of the lower arms. The axe stays in firm and you can move the arm around with it attached.

Megatron Gun
In a couple episodes of the classic Transformers series, Convoy and Megatron were forced to work together. As part of this alliance, Convoy was known to use Megatron's power while the Destron leader was in gun form. Now fans can reenact this alliance with Masterpiece Convoy. The design of this gun is clever, and in some ways mirrors the G1 Megatron toy. The Megatron gun has all the attachments hooked up to it: silencer, scope and shoulder rest. The paint job mirrors the original very well, down to a Decepticon symbol on the main gun itself.

The handle of the gun slides down at an angle. This allows Convoy's hands to grasp the gun and hold it firmly. The shoulder rest can be removed to facilitate getting Convoy's hands to properly hold the gun.

Transformation to Vehicle Mode

  • Slide each hand into the lower arm by properly positioning the fingers (thumb pointing down, four remaining fingers curled in) and swinging the panel on the underside of the arm down, then pulling it to bring the hand in, then locking the panel back into place.
  • Turn the upper body around so it is facing the opposite direction.
  • Press the lower portion of each fuel tank on the sides of the legs and slide the lower legs up.
  • Swing up the middle portion of each foot and then swing the heels up.
  • Rotate each foot around and point the toes back, then swing down the middle portion of the foot to flatten the area out.
  • Here you have two options. You connect the two legs together, but you can either swing up the silver hole (for the trailer) in the center, or leave it down.
  • On Convoy's back, separate the two panels linked at the center.
  • On the front of the upper body, open up the chest panels and flip up the grill.
  • Swing the lower body back.
  • On each side of Convoy's upper body are silver sections that run through the middle of the body. Fold them down to the sides.
  • Rotate these sections so the headlights of the truck mode are facing front.
  • Flip up the panel that guards the Matrix and rotate it around.
  • Pull that panel out and the Matrix chamber will come loose.
  • Rotate the rectangular section that the Matrix is held in down, turning the left side (facing you) down.
  • Swing the entire Matrix chamber section down and you'll see the panel that protected the Matrix is the front bumper and grill section of the truck. Attach it to the lower part of the headlight panels.
  • Open up the "back pack" panel.
  • Swing Convoy's antennae back, and then flip the entire head section so the head winds up inside the chest.
  • Inside the chest, flip the seat for the driver up.
  • Swing the lower arms up, then swing the shoulder/upper arm sections back. Then swing the lower arms forward.
  • On top of each front tire is a panel, swing that back.
  • Close the chest compartment doors.

Vehicle Mode
Some of the unintiated may be asking "What?! No Trailer?!" Well, in a manner of speaking, Convoy does come with a trailer. Albeit, a cardboard one. This is tucked in as part of the packaging. This trailer is a cardboard mock up of the trailer fans are familiar with. It comes with cardboard cut outs of the wheels and stabilizers that the original G1 trailer had, but it cannot transform. Rather, it can attach to the hitch on the cab that Convoy forms, and it does look nice as a display piece. For those curious, the Hasbro 20th Anniversary piece will come with the trailer but in its base form.

Convoy's vehicle mode is one awesome piece of work. First, thinking about the transformation behind it is mind boggling. While the robot mode was show accurate for the most part, so is this vehicle mode. It has the familiar red front section with the silver stripe running down the sides. It has the long smokestacks (which, as inaccurate to reality as they might be, they are accurate to the television show). The rivet marks that go from the front to the sides on Convoy are reminscent of the original G1 toy. The front grille and bumper are both vacuum metallized, another detail reminscent of the original toy.

However, a lot of new details, may small but important, have been added. On the top of the vehicle are vents on either side painted metallic dark gray. The headlights are dual headlights molded in clear plastic, giving them a more realistic appearance. All the wheels on Convoy are thick rubber with the words "Desert Dog Formula" etched into them. "Desert Dog" is a real life brand of tires, so it's neat to see that type of authenticity thrown in. What really blows me away about the tires is the working suspension they all have. This was not a detail that needed to be thrown in, but it adds so much more to the toy that it's most welcome.

If you open up the window/chest panels, you'll see that there is a seat inside, with Convoy's antennae serving as the arm rests on the chair. While it would have been neat to see two chairs inside instead, the trade off of having such a neat transformation (antennae to arm rests) is both fun and amazing at the same time.

The only shame is that the side windows could not have been executed differently, but the designers tried to make up for it in detail. The parts that become the side mirrors are the joints the arms use to connect to the main body. In vehicle mode, you can see a silver line at the center of this joint piece, which lines up with a silver line on the red portion of Convoy. This shows that while the designers couldn't get everything perfect, they tried to apply as much detail as possible to make up for it.

Another nice sculpted and painted detail are the areas around the tires. Each has a trim of silver, and within the slot where the tires are, you will find sculpted details painted silver that look like machinery. A really nice touch since it's not super-obvious.

So, if you've been paying attention during this review, you'll know what my feelings on this toy are. It's a marvel of Transformers engineering. It shows a dedication and interest in detail and design that is matched by few of its predecessors. Highly recommended.