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REVIEW:
KAIYODO REVOLTECH OPTIMUS PRIME and MEGATRON
By Thomas Wheeler


Anybody remember Transformers Action Masters? I'm probably one of a regretably small number of people that actually thought this line was exceptionally cool. Action Masters featured 3-3/4" tall versions of popular Transformers characters, mixed in with a number of interesting new faces. This was around 1990, so of course, this was Generation 1.

Those that were based on established characters tended to use the animated series designs for inspiration. The line lasted for about a year in the United States, and continued for another year in Europe.

And always the clarion call about them was -- "They don't transform!" To which my response was always, "So what!? Their vehicles and accessories do, and they're nicely done versions of popular characters, and most of the new faces are pretty impressive as well!"

The line has garnered some additional respect in recent years, but even I will acknowledge that in this day and age of super-articulated, hyper-detailed everything, if Hasbro were to attempt to bring back the Action Masters as they were originally produced, it'd be a pretty tough sell. I'd likely buy them, at least any new faces in the crowd, but still, let's be honest about it.

And, in fairness, Transformers has undergone a lot of changes since that time. The toys are more articulated in their robot forms. We've been through Beast Wars, a host of other concepts, and it took the recent Classics line to bring back some of the all-time favorite characters in reasonably recognizable forms. And now the movie toys have supplanted those.

Now, let's consider another action figure line from recent years. Gundam. Although no longer available through typical means in the United States, this line of action figures, produced by Bandai, based on the various series of the mega-popular Japanese anime "Mobile Suit Gundam", were easily the most detailed and highly articulated robot toys I had ever seen, and they pretty much remain unsurpassed. That's why I try to add new ones to my collection when I can. Most of them don't transform, but they're not supposed to.

So, imagine for a moment, taking the concept of Transformers Action Masters, that being nicely done if non-transforming editions of popular Autobots and Decepticons, and giving them the detail and something close to the articulation of a Gundam figure?

It finally happened. And surprisingly, it didn't come from Hasbro, or Takara/Tomy. And, unfortunately, they're not all that readily available in the United States, although they can be had through certain online outlets. They actually come from a company called Kaiyodo.

For a while now, Kaiyodo has been turning out popular Japanese robot anime characters -- and a couple of humans here and there -- under the concept name REVOLTECH. While that's not the most pleasant-sounding name to American ears -- it's meant to represent the articulation construction of the figures, which is described by Kaiyodo as "Revolver Joint". Technically, there's nothing really all that new about it. Applying it to the characters and concepts that Kaiyodo has -- THAT's new.

I admit, I don't recognize most of the toys they've produced in this line. If memory serves, a lot of them come from a concept called Neon Genesis Evangelion, which has a certain popularity in the United States. But it sincerely surprised me when OPTIMUS PRIME and MEGATRON turned up in this series! For one toy company, in this case Takara/Tomy, to tell another toy company, Kaiyodo, that they would give them license to produce two of their most popular characters in this Revoltech line -- that's pretty remarkable.

Fortunately -- so are the toys. Let's start with OPTIMUS PRIME.

For those who don't know who Optimus Prime is -- and I sort of wonder why as such you'd be reading this review -- Optimus Prime is the leader of the Autobots, which represent one side of a massive conflict of robotic beings from the planet Cybertron. This war has raged for millions of years, and found its way to Earth when a transport ship called the Ark was attacked by a Decepticon vessel near Earth. The ship crashed to Earth. It and its occupants, Autobots and Decepticons alike, lay dormant for the next four million years -- until Mt. St. Helens erupted, which was extremely close to where the Ark had crashed. The Transformers revived, and resumed their war, this time -- on Earth.

Optimus Prime is easily one of the most recognizable pop culture characters of the last quarter century or so. People who don't recognize He-Man or (whether I like it or not) G.I. Joe are likely to recognize Optimus Prime. The noble robotic hero with the deep voice and the endless compassion for humanity despite the considerable size, technology, and structural differences has become a pop culture icon at a level that most such fictional characters, especially those based on toys, simply don't usually get very close to.

Although the Transformers toys have gone through a wide range of concept changes over the past several years, some version of Optimus Prime has generally been a part of it, and usually, that Optimus Prime isn't too far removed from the original in appearance. But it's also fair to say that for the longtime Transformers fans, there's really only one, true Optimus Prime, and that's the one from the first Transformers concept, Generation One.

Now since this toy is of Japanese origin, a certain amount of additional explanation is called for here. In Japan, the character was not known as Optimus Prime. He was called Convoy, and indeed, that's the name on the box. And the war between the Transformers was actually spread across two robotic worlds -- Cybertron, home to the Autobots, and Destron, home to the Decepticons. What brought them to Earth and how they got here, and how close that story may match the American version, I have to say that I am honestly not certain. But based on a handful of toy commercials I've seen of the Japanese product over the years, I think it's fair to say that Convoy was just as well-regarded in Japan as Optimus Prime has been here in the United States and elsewhere.

So, what have we got here with regard to the toy? We have an action figure that clearly takes the best elements of the animated incarnation of Optimus Prime in his robotic form, and translates that over to a truly amazing, well-detailed, and highly articulated action figure.

The anime influence is undeniable. Optimus Prime has a relatively small head, and absolutely immense lower legs. That's pretty much in keeping with this style of animation. I'm not saying that it's at all inappropriate. In fact, it works quite well.

The upper body almost looks as though its sections are rounded off, but they're really not. The upper arms are installed at a slight upward angle which tends to give this impression, but if you look at the parts on an individual basis, they're just as they should be. In a way, Optimus almost looks like he was designed with a little bit of built-in "forced perspective", as if whoever designed him was looking up at the real thing and overcompensated just a bit. Again, this is not a complaint. The toy looks superb.

The color scheme is perfect. The figure is molded in plastic, but, depending on the parts, of course, have either been molded or painted in colors that have a slight metallic finish to them, especially the blue of Optimus' head, hands, and lower legs. The silver areas are perhaps a touch darker than they need to be, but not overly so. Optimus has a perfect Autobot logo on each upper arm. One cool painted feature are the windows on Optimus' chest, which correspond to his truck cab windows. They've been painted light blue, which is appropriate, but it's a sort of graded light blue that almost turns to white at the bottom of the windows. That can't have been all that easy, and it's a cool feature in the look of the character.

Overall paint detailing is excellent, and further proof of a connection to the animated series is the fact that Optimus' eyes have been painted light blue. One thing of note: longtime Transformers fans have bemoaned the fact that certain modern editions of Optimus Prime, especially the colossal Anniversary Edition, have trimmed down Prime's truck-mode smokestacks, which appear on his upper arms when he's in robot mode, for safety reasons. Obviously the safety rules are a little different in Japan, because his smokestacks are definitely present and accounted for here.

Articulation is amazing. Kaiyodo's "revolving joint" technology results in a rather tightly articulated figure, and some of the points have a "click joint", which I'm honestly not all that fond of, but if it means a tighter figure that will hold a pose better, I can live with it. No complaints there at all. And Optimus is certainly VERY poseable. A few of the articulation points are a little odd. Optimus has this upper arm swivel that is almost set at a diagonal, and the way it's designed it sort of "breaks the lines" of the upper arm design, but it's nothing I'd consider seriously wrong -- just a bit peculiar.

Beyond that, Optimus is poseable at the head, neck, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows (also just a little odd how they're designed), wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. Most of these areas have swivel rotation as well as the usual back and forth movement. Curiously, there is no waist articulation, and I have to admit that sometimes, the mid-torso articulation looks a little strange.

One almost gets the impression that Kaiyodo might have had a little bit of trouble fitting Optimus into their basic Revoltech structure. If you look at the other robots they offer in this line, most are a fairly slender lot, although there's at least one that's far more massive than Optimus or anybody else on the page. So this is purely speculation. The range of motion along the articulation points is considerable. The package illustrations showcase this, With Optimus stiriking several heroic poses, as well as kneeling down at one point, and displaying martial arts kick in another shot that makes me wonder if he can actually hold that pose on his own or if some sentence in Japanese on this package would translate as "Some poses require hand support."

Optimus comes with a nice assortment of accessories. This includes his blaster rifle, several spare hands that can be switched back and forth, and the Autobot Matrix!

Optimus stands just a little under 5" in height. A good size for almost any display area, and of course he looks good with the Revoltech MEGATRON. Let's review him at this time.

For those who need an introduction to the character, Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons, an army of evil robots bent on conquering the universe. Their war with the Autobots has left their homeworld of Cybertron a ravaged mess, and so the Decepticons have traveled out into space to find new sources of their vital fuel, energon. This war has raged for millions of years, and was brought to Earth when a contingent of Decepticons, including Megatron, attacked an Autobot ship close to Earth. The Decepticons boarded the ship, and it crashed, throwing all of its occupants into suspension for millions of years.

As noble and heroic as Optimus Prime is, Megatron is just that evil. He won a contest some time ago in ToyFare or Wizard -- I forget which -- as the #1 villain in pop culture of all time, beating out the likes of Doctor Doom, Cobra Commander, and others. Megatron believes all other life to be inferior and barely worth his notice, only valuable insofar as it can be used to serve him and then extinguished once its usefulness is ended. He has no mercy, no pity, and about the only thing that's kept him from being victorious is Optimus Prime.

Toywise, Megatron has had some difficulties in recent years. The original Megatron from Generation One transformed into a gun, and a fairly realistic one at that. That's not the sort of toy that can be easily marketed these days. To that end, over the course of the various Transformers concepts that have come and gone in the past several years, Megatron has tended to be significantly different in appearance than Optimus Prime, who despite a fair bit of variance has tended to be somewhat recognizable. The various Megatrons from the past concepts haven't really had that much resemblance to their original ancestor. Even the Classics Megatron, from a line ostensibly based on the original Transformers, was a fair departure, easily the most "removed" from his original counterpart in the entire series.

Now, I should make one clarification here -- this is a Japanese toy. And although, unlike Optimus Prime, who is best known by the name of "Convoy" in Japan, Megatron is still Megatron, there are some conceptual differences, and in this case, they relate to planet of origin. In the Japanese Transformers concept, there were two robotic planets at war, not just one war taking place on Cybertron. In Japan, Cybertron was the home of the heroic Autobots. The Decepticons inhabited a world called Destron. That didn't make it over into the American concept. To what degree this was because of the character Destro in G.I. Joe I don't know, but honestly, I tend to think that keeping the war to one world makes a bit more sense anyway.

So, what have we got here with regard to the toy? We have an action figure that clearly takes the best elements of the animated incarnation of Megatron in his robotic form, and translates that over to a truly amazing, well-detailed, and highly articulated action figure.

The anime influence is undeniable. Megatron has a relatively small head, and rather large lower legs. That's pretty much in keeping with this style of animation. I'm not saying that it's at all inappropriate. In fact, it works quite well.

The color scheme is perfect, but here is where we have one departure from the animated version of the character. In the cartoon, Megatron appeared to be a sort of off-white. This was because the Generation One Megatron was a chrome-silver pistol -- impossible to reproduce in the cartoon. The "off white" became a fairly standard color for Megatron from that point forward. The Action Masters Megatron is off-white. The Classics Megatron, even as far removed as it may be from the Generation One Megatron, still has of-white as its predominant color scheme. Even the tank-like Classics Megatron which came in a two-pack with an Optimus Prime, this Megatron essentially combining a Classic look with Megatron's Generation Two alt mode of a tank, compendated for the Generation 2's odd color scheme of green and purple, by being predominently off-white.

But technically speaking, silver would be more correct. And so what we have here is a Megatron action figure that looks far more like the character from the animated series than, honestly, the Generation One toy did, but it has the color scheme of that toy! Megatron is mostly a very bright silver. It's actually a brighter silver than some parts of the Revoltech Optimus Prime. Add to this some black and red trim and you have a particularly menacing Megatron. Some Megatron toys in the past have used a fair amount of purple trim. Not this one. The only purple on this Megatron is the very nicely done Decepticon insignia on his chest.

Overall paint detailing is excellent, and further proof of a connection to the animated series is the fact that Megatron's eyes have been painted red. The painte detailing on the whole is excellent, and so is the molding. I'd especially like to cite that, since there have been instances in American toys of mold creases in recent years, and it's always something that concerns me. There's none of that here whatsoever

Articulation is amazing. As I said with Optimus, Kaiyodo's "revolving joint" technology results in a rather tightly articulated figure, and some of the points have a "click joint", which I'm honestly not all that fond of, but if it means a tighter figure that will hold a pose better, I can live with it. No complaints there at all. And Megatron is certainly VERY poseable. A little bit of the design is almost but not quite pre-posed. The lower sections of his upper arms are pointed outward slightly, but it really doesn't have an adverse effect on the overall poseability of the figure because of how well articulated the entire figure is, including the arms.

Beyond that, Megatron is poseable at the head, neck, arms, elbows (also just a little odd how they're designed, and they include a swivel), wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. Most of these areas have swivel rotation as well as the usual back and forth movement. Curiously, there is no waist articulation, but the mid-torso articulation works well, and honestly doesn't look quite as peculiar as it does on the Revoltech Optimus Prime.

Megatron has his cannon attached to his right arm, as one would expect. One other carryover from the Generation One toy that I honestly could have done without is that the gun barrel of Megatron's alt mode is attached to his back. I don't recall this being a perpetual part of Megatron in his robot mode as he has been portrayed in the animated series and in the comics. It's not that big of a deal, and I understand that the Japanese tend to be greater sticklers for detail when it comes to their toys than we Americans. Normally, I approve. This is one time when I'm a little ambivalent about it. However, it doesn't really hinder the look or articulation of the figure, so -- no big deal, I suppose.

My one and only very slight complaint with this figure is that the helmet part of the head seems to have a little curved chunk trimmed out from the bottom, along the right side, I think where the point of molding was trimmed off. But it's not that severe, and they might all be like this, anyway.

Megatron comes with a nice assortment of accessories. This includes several extra hands in different poses, as well as a spare head with a different expression on its face, a sort of half-snarl half-grin. Bizarre, but not inappropiate.

Megatron stands just a little under 5" in height.

Takara/Tomy gets its due credit, as its name does appear on the side of the package, in fairly small type, but it is there, in the form of a small sticker. Some sort of "Seal of Approval", I assume, along with a full description from how Kaiyodo's Revoltech design works.

Kaiyodo plans to continue their Revoltech figures, although the next ones will enter a new stage called "2G", which stands for Revoltech Second Generation. What differences may exist in the toys I honestly can't imagine, but if they happen to continue to add some more G1 Transformers to the line, I hope I'll be able to bring them in to my collection. I've been very pleased to being Optimus Prime and Megatron in. These are really superb figures of the two most prominent Transformers of all time!

Let me conclude with this. The Transformers universe has, over its lengthy history, become an amazing place of multiple concepts and hundreds and hundreds of toys. But I think there's a special place among the longtime fans for the classic, Generation One characters that, sadly, don't turn up all that often anymore. I realize that not everyone would appreciate a non-transforming Transformer, but if you would like a really, REALLY nice, superbly-designed, highly-articulated, very well detailed, very neatly painted incarnation of the classic, legendary leader of the Autobots -- here it is. Period.

Kaiyodo's Revoltech OPTIMUS PRIME (or Convoy if you want to be nit-picky) and MEGATRON both have my definite, highest, and most enthusiastic recommendation!