REVIEW:TRANSFORMERS DECEPTICON BANZAITRON
The Transformers line, as it presently stands, seems to be broken down into two major factions. There is the GENERATIONS line, which has brought back the Transformers Classics concept as well as added some other, fairly traditional-looking robots to its line-up, and there is a line just calling itself "TRANSFORMERS", although the package has a sticker on it advertising "HUNT FOR THE DECEPTICONS", which has become something of an unofficial suffix for this particular branch of the Transformers.
This line, it could be stated, is something of an outgrowth of the live-action-movie-based Transformers, and yet in more than a few instances, the robots are not quite as alien-looking as their movie counterparts who have actually appeared on the silver screen.
I'll be honest here -- I'm glad we've finally got live-action Transformers movies. I'm pleased that the technology exists to produce them as effectively as they have been. Certainly they are visually stunning spectacles. However, while acknowledging first of all that Transformers based precisely on, let us say, their 1980's animated likenesses, would not have been particularly effective in the movie, I do tend to feel that many of the designs looked both too alien, and too over-mechanized. This was, of course, reflected in the toys, and I've only picked up a limited number of them myself.
But some of the Transformers in this extended line are not quite as odd. Arguably, they could work well alongside most conventional Transformers. And a couple of them have definitely caught my attention. One of them is a Decepticon named BANZAITRON. Now, there's a name I haven't heard for a while...!
Travel back in time to the year 1990, towards the end of Transformers Generation One, and a rather controversial set of Transformers known as ACTION MASTERS. This was a series of straightforward action figures based on both popular characters from the series over the years, and a number of newcomers. According to their collective backstory, the Action Masters had discovered a new and more powerful power source than energon. It was called nucleon, and while it made the Transformers more powerful than ever before, it also froze them in robot form. They could no longer transform into whatever alternate mode they might once have had.
The figures were about 3-3/4" in height, and to some degree constructed along similar lines to G.I. Joe, although they were not as extensively articulated. They were nevertheless well-designed, nicely-detailed, and I, for one, got a huge kick out of them. I'd always liked the Transformers, but space forbade me from acquiring many of them. Here was a new group of Transformers that were all of a size, and a very reasonable size it was, and many of them represented the most popular characters in the concept, such as Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Grimlock, Soundwave, Shockwave, and others. I learned a few years later that those Action Masters that were based on established characters used the actual animation model sheets for their likenesses.
The line was, as I said, controversial. Some fans complained that a Transformer that couldn't transform was no Transformer at all, setting aside the fact that their accessories and vehicles could indeed transform. Some even claimed they were the reason that the Transformers came to an abrupt end, at least in the United States, an accusation I've always felt was an overstatement.
Over the years, the Action Masters have regained some measure of respect. There was a group of European exclusives, which even included a group called Action Master Elites, which did transform. For myself -- I still think they're cool. Always did.
One of the entirely new characters in the Action Masters concept was a Decepticon named BANZAITRON. As much as anything, he looked like a robotic samurai warrior. It was impossible to determine what his alternate mode might have been. Granted, he never had one, but there weren't even any visual clues, unlike some of the other newcomers in the line. BanzaiTron was mostly dark gray in color, with heavy overtones of bright green, purple, and some orange. His face looked like a sinister mechanized samurai warrior's face, and he was reportedly an expert in a number of forms of Cybertronian martial arts.
And now, he's back, and in a fully transformable mode! The new toy is actually a recoloration of another relatively recent Decepticon, by the name of Bludgeon, and that's a rather interesting, and perhaps even inevitable, choice, given that the two characters do have certain similar traits.
Bludgeon also hails from Generation One. However, he was not an Action Master. He was a Pretender, one of a group of Transformers from both sides that wore disguises to make themselves resemble -- well, anything except a robot. Humanoids, animals, monsters, you name it. In Bludgeon's case, he looked like Skeletor had taken a Japanese holiday. He had a skull-like face, and was dressed in samurai armor. He even led the Decepticons for a time, late on during the run of the original Marvel Comic.
Bludgeon was also a martial artist, who according to his tech spec was skilled in an ancient Cybertronian martial art known as Metallikato. According to some details, which if memory serves were produced as part of the excellent encyclopedic series "More Than Meets The Eye" by Dreamwave Productions, Bludgeon and Banzai-Tron, although they never met in the comics, or anywhere else officially, did not get along, since Metallikato was considered a forbidden martial art, one which Banzai-Tron had avoided, and he considered Bludgeon a disgrace for taking it up. Bludgeon, in turn, likely thought Banzai-Tron a coward. And now there's toys of them based on the same set of molds. Who says there's no irony in the toy world?
I don't have the Bludgeon form of this toy, and indeed I don't offhand recall seeing it. So, let's consider it strictly from the Banzaitron standpoint. How's the figure in that regard?
Not too bad. Now, admittedly, it doesn't look that much like the original Banzaitron. Granted it doesn't look that much like the original Bludgeon, either. If I'm going to skew this toy in either direction, I'm going to sat that honestly, it looks a little bit more like Banzaitron, and not just because of the colors.
In robot mode, Banzaitron stands about 6-3/4" in eight. The face definitely looks like Banzaitron, although it has enough of a skull-like appearance to it so I can see how it could also pass as Bludgeon. Banzaitron is mostly dark grey, with some bright green detailing. Not as much as his original incarnation, and the orange trim has been replaced with copper. I don't see any purple on him to speak of, but that was pretty much limited to Banzaitron's upper legs on the original, anyway.
Banzaitron's torso is definitely more reflective of the original. The original Banzaitron had these two ridged areas on either side of his chest, and they are present here, as well, albeit in a slightly different form.
Beyond this, however, Banzaitron's appearance takes on a more bizarre appearance, definitely more samurai-like than the original, and strange enough to perhaps be more reflective of Bludgeon. The arms are almost skeletal in appearance, and the upper legs are also very narrow. The feet are peculiar, as well, with two long clawed toes emerging from the front. One almost gets the impression of looking at a robot that isn't quite finished somehow. In this, as much as anything, Banzaitron shows off the extreme mechanical detailing common to movie-related Transformers.
He also has very strong samurai tendencies, with the sort of ridged armor common to ancient samurai warriors being present on his lower torso, as well as on his arms and legs. The arm pieces are extremely odd, appearing to hang down loosely along the sides of his arms, attached only at the extended shoulders. These will come into greater play during the transformation, and I have to give a lot of credit to the designers for cleverness of design here.
Banzaitron has a turret on his back, which splits open in the center, revealing a sheathe for the energy sword that Banzaitron comes equipped with.
The paint detailing is superbly rendered. Banzaitron is one of a fairly small number of current Transformers that does not have a feature that allows his eyes to appear to be glowing. The only thing that surprises me is that he only has one Decepticon emblem on him, and it's on the side of the turret, which, when in robot mode, is on Banzaitron's back, so it's barely visible. Not that you're likely to mistake someone this freaky-looking for one of the good guys.
Of course, in robot mode, Banzaitron is superbly articulated, something I sincerely appreciate about modern Transformers. He is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, double-jointed elbows (about the only line that can get away with this and look good in the process), legs, knees, and feet.
Let's consider Banzaitron's transformation. Interestingly enough, Banzaitron comes packaged in his robot form. This is slightly unusual. And I almost hate to transform him into vehicle mode, since I tend to prefer to display my Transformers in their robotic mode. But, for the sake of the review, I'll just have to transform him into his vehicle mode, and then back.
The Action Master form of Banzaitron didn't have a vehicle mode, obviously, and it was pretty hard to figure out what he might have been able to turn into had he possessed an alt form. Some of the Action Masters that were exclusive to the line were a little easter to figure out. You could see some headlights here, an airplane cockpit there, treads on this one, big tires on that one. Even if they couldn't actually transform, a certain amount of deductive reasoning could bring about an educated guess.
But there were some that were a mystery. You couldn't really quite figure out what his non-robotic form might be. Banzaitron fit into this category. Now, admittedly, the new Banzaitron bears not much more than a fairly basic resemblance and certain color similarities to his Action Master counterpart, enough to say, "Yeah, that could be Banzaitron -- in a more advanced form." Even so, if it wasn't for the turret on his back, I'd never guess I was supposed to be turning him into a tank...!
It makes sense from the previous use, though, since the robotic internal toy from the original Generation One Bludgeon also transformed into a tank.
The first thing you do is snap the turret together. This isn't too hard, except there's a little gun on it that wants to get in the way of full closure. This is fairly easily remedied.
Next, raise the upper body so that it conceals the head, and raise the front flap over the chest. Rotate the arms 90 degrees so that the hands are facing outward, and then fold the hands up into the lower arms. Then raise the fronts of the shoulders outward 90 degrees. (You know, what you have to do with some of these Transformers does lead to some interesting anatomical terminology. The fronts of the shoulders!? But I don't know how else to explain it.)
Then, swing the arms inwards at the shoulder rotation, and then bend the arms below this point so that they seem to tuck up. Then rotate them upwards until they snap into the raised shoulder fronts. This latter step is NOT as easy as it looks, and one of the arms definitely didn't want to cooperate from an alignment standpoint.
Now rotate the entire reassembled arms up 90 degrees. The illustration is somewhat deceptive, as it looks like the rubbery treads are pointing outwards. They won't be. It's possible for them to be, but they won't be like the illustration.
Next, swing the arms upwards towards each other, and snap them in place, You've just created the front of the tank.
Now it's time to go to work n the legs. Swing the panel on the back of the lower legs open, and rotate the feet around until you hear them snap into place against the lower leg. Then move the panel back down. Then rotate the lower legs 90 degrees outward, and then pivot the entire legs outward at 90 degrees. They'll snap out of their holding spot at the hip.
Then, swing the legs 90 degrees outward at the hip. Here's a spot where the illustration is a little deceptive again, and once again it's because of the treads, which are attached to a different part of the leg structure, and will not swing outward.
Now we come to the weirdest transformation step of all, at least for me to try to explain verbally. You rotate the entire leg assembly, lower torso included, and then rotate the treads downward. This is one instance where you really need to study the illustrated instructions more than read these words here. It does work, but rotating the treads down isn't as well displayed as it should be.
We're getting close to completion here. Swing the legs upward and snap them into the upper body of the underside of the tank. Then flip the former torso flap back down and snap it into place.
Finally, swivel down the rear armored sections of the tank, and snap the rubbery treads into the treads on the underside of the tank itself. These also have little wheels attached to them so that the tank can roll, although the treads themselves do not move.
Honestly, I was hugely impressed by this. I wondered the whole time what purpose the rubbery treads were going to serve, or how well they'd even work, and honestly, they work superbly well.
There have certainly been tanks in the Transformers line before. Megatron himself has been a tank from time to time, and honestly, that's always made a lot more sense to me than Megatron as a gun, going up against Optimus Prime the truck. But Megatron is hardly the only tank in the line.
According to the online information I acquired, Banzaitron's tank mode is based on an actual tank, a Japanese Type 90 Kyu-maru tank. Yeah, I know -- "Type 90 Kyu-Maru" sounds like something I'd expect out of some anime series like Gundam or Robotech. Maybe those shows are using more authentic-sounding terminology than we Americans ever realized.
I called up a reference on a Type 90, that included a picture, and -- yeah, okay, there's enough similarities, I suppose. Honestly, despite being a G.I. Joe collector as well as a Transformers fan, I am no tank expert. They all look a fair bit alike to me -- large armored treaded vehicle with a turret and gun or guns on the top. Not something you want to be on the wrong end of on a battlefield.
The Type 90 was developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the late 1970's. With the exception of the 120mm smoothbore gun, which is made under license from Rheinmetall of Germany, the Type 90 is entirely designed and built in Japan. It boasts a Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet laser range-finder with a range of 300 to 5000 meters, a 32-bit ballistics analysis computer, a thermal imaging system and automated tracking system, which is capable of engaging moving or stationary targets while moving at day or night, and is capable of tracking soldiers, vehicles, and even helicopters.
The engine can attain a top output of 1500 horsepower, and it has hydropneumatic suspension units which are mounted on the front and rear pair of road wheels, which can be adjusted on-the-fly to deal with uneven terrain, such as Japan's rough mountainous regions. The acceleration of the tank is 0-200 m in 20 seconds.
And that's just the real world tank! Who knows what Banzaitron is capable of? Still, if we operate on the premise that the Transformers adopt the particulars of whatever Earth vehicle they base themselves on, I can think of worse choices.
In tank mode, Banzaitron is about 6-1/4" in length. Now granted, this makes him look pretty small relative to the car-based vehicle modes of Transformers in his size range. But since when has the Transformers toy line had any significant sense of relative scale?
He is dark gray in color, with limited light green and copper detailing showing. He has a silver Decepticon emblem on the left side of his turret. In tank mode, his turret turns and the cannon has a spring-loaded missile launcher feature. He also rolls along capable enough on four small wheels.
The sculpted detail on Banzaitron as tank is extremely intricate and impressive, and is certainly a testament to the designers -- and doubtless their computers -- that can turn out something this cool-looking, detailed, and realistic, and still let it turn into a dangerous-looking humanoid robot with a bad case of samurai envy.
The character profile on the side of Banzaitron's box reads as follows: Decepticon Banzaitron is a master of at least seven different martial arts for one reason, and one reason alone- his fighting skills allow him to easily defeat and dismantle his opponents. Then he gathers up the pieces and sells them to the highest bidder. No one's parts are worth more than the Autobot leader's. He looks forward to commanding the highest prices imaginable for even the smallest piece of Optimus Prime.
His various Power Levels give him a "10" in Skill, no great surprise there, a "9" in Courage, "8" in Strength, Speed, Endurance, and Rank, and "7" in Intelligence and Fireblast. In short, this guy doesn't really have much in the way of weak points.
Banzaitron has proven a little difficult to find, and there's a rumor out there that he may be an unannounced Walmart exclusive. There's nothing on his box to indicate this, but given his scarcity relative to the other two Transformers currently available in his size range -- Sea Spray and Night Ops Ratchet -- plus the fact that Banzaitron does not appear in the product catalog included in the package, that exclusivity may indeed be reality.
So, what's my final word here? Whatever difficulty there may be in tracking him down, he's definitely worth it. What we have here is a very cool if slightly quirky Transformers that transforms into an extremely impressively-rendered tank, and who is based on a character within the Transformers universe that, in my opinion, deserved more attention and respect than he got. And now he seems to be getting it.
DECEPTICON BANZAITRON from the TRANSFORMERS: HUNT FOR THE DECEPTICONS series definitely has my highest recommendation!