Cal's Review: Jazz (United)
Special Operations Agent
“Do it with style or don’t bother doing it.”
Autobot Jazz falls in love with every world he visits. The tiniest hint of alien culture is enough to fascinate him for hours. His ability to immerse himself in a new civilization makes him an ideal undercover agent - he blends in with the environment, absorbing every bit of data he can, and looks for the anomaly that tells him Decepticons are present.
Jazz is one of those characters who is long overdue for an addition to Classics line and arguably the one who has received the most demand. Most fans couldn’t bear the wait and started kitbashing Prowl, which has led to a lot of people debating whether Jazz would be a straight retool or an entirely new mold. I’m glad that Hasbro chose the latter option not only due to Jazz’s importance, but to help distinguish him from his similar Autobot homies. When it came to the Takara release, they broke out paint shop and filled out all the sculpted details that were left bare due to Hasbro’s budget, but at the cost of a higher retail price. Let’s see if he’s worth the investment...
A lot of fans have noted that Jazz’s alt mode is based on the Pontiac Solstice like his Movie counterpart, but I find it resembles his original Porsche 935 mode more closely, albeit with a less ostentatious spoiler. It’s sleek and has more balanced proportions compared to the front-heavy Animated Jazz (erroneously featured on the character card). The car is a little over 12cm long and rides pretty low to the ground, but rolls reasonably well if the arms are tucked away neatly. Jazz’s weapon pegs under the hood like Prowl, although it faces sideways and can point in either direction. I’m impressed how well the design manages to evoke Jazz’s G1 look, yet still possess the streamlined appearance of a modern sports car.
The detailing is just as appealing. Jazz sports a criss-cross grille, sculpted windshield wipers, and circular blue headlights like the G1 toy. The wheels are almost identical to Prowl’s, although I’ve kind of gotten used to the spoked rims on the Animated version. One cute little touch is that a gas cap is visible on the left side of the car. The transformation means that the doors can open - a feature I always love on toy cars - and the side windows come with built-in speakers that can flip around and pound out some groovy beats, baby! The articulation on the speakers is excellent. They can face forward whether the doors are open or closed, point straight up to disrupt Decepticon Seekers, or face backwards and blast any pursuing Stunticons. First seen in the episode Attack of the Autobots
, this signature feature is a testament to Hasbro’s recent efforts in making their toys as accurate to the characters as possible. Whether it’s Tracks’ flight mode and missiles or Wreck-Gar’s ability to ride himself, it’s a far cry from when the line began and Hasbro could get away with repainting Bumblebee as Cliffjumper and keep the same head.
paint job is one of the most iconic in Transformersdom, and Takara have gone to great lengths to do it justice. For starters, all of the paint apps on the Hasbro release are present, from the blue and red racing stripes to the black and white numbers 4 on the hood and doors. But Takara have taken it a step further and also painted the back windows and tail lights. The blue used here is light enough to match the plastic windows (even better than Ironhide and Ratchet), yet dark enough to extend the stripes along the roof. The red tail lights complement the rest of the deco and they help deliver the feel of a uniform palette when you see matching colours on all sides of the vehicle. The grille has been given a shiny coat of silver paint and an Autobot insignia is present between the headlights. I know some fans prefer to keep the insignia concealed in alt mode to uphold the “robots in disguise” motto, but it pays off when it displays proudly on Jazz’s chest in robot mode, compared to the rub sign hidden on the back of Hasbro’s release.
One of the most celebrated aspects of this toy is the brighter white plastic used for a crisper overall appearance, but I should point out that the white paint used for the roof looks slightly yellow in broad daylight, although it’s still a better match than Universe Prowl. For me, however, the biggest hook is those gorgeous silver rims. It’s something Takara seem to value more than Hasbro, notably with figures like Hound, Blurr and Kup. Given Jazz’s stylish personality, he benefits most from the embellishment and would probably have attracted a few fans if it was the only difference. But Takara have made sure that every aspect of the paint job is carefully applied. The result is a flashy, sporty, intricately decorated car that adheres faithfully to the character’s origins and sense of style. Jazz is one slick set of wheels.
Given the likeness Jazz shares with Prowl, the transformation is not too dissimilar either. You could probably manage it without instructions and you won’t have to struggle to get things in place like with Perceptor or WFC Bumblebee. There's an automorph to flip the head up into place, and the lack of ball joints on the doors means you won't need to carefully adjust them into position like Prowl's. In robot mode, this figure is a glorious representation of Jazz. The designers kept the colour layout as accurate to the G1 character as anyone could manage, and the alternating black and white plastic is pure class - just the way Jazz likes it. When he was first announced at BotCon, I started to wonder if he would be based on his cartoon appearance or feature the door-wings and missile launcher from his G1 toy. Hasbro appears to have struck the middle ground by keeping only the door-wings for this release, which improves Jazz’s silhouette and avoids cumbersome kibble. Jazz’s proportions are perfect. Just perfect. Even among the best toys of the line, one might argue that Sunstreaker has thin arms or Wheeljack is too short. No such complaints can be lobbied at Jazz. At 15cm, he’s about average height for a Deluxe figure and in scale with his buddies. He sports the same chest design as Prowl, but the centre is recessed to allow more clearance for the ball-jointed head. It’s nice to see a Transformer who can look up and down more than two degrees for a change.
One thing that really pleases me about this figure is the distribution of the car parts in robot mode. The rear windows on Jazz’s legs face backwards like the G1 toy, and Hasbro managed to maintain the correct orientation for the wheels on his shoulders. Prowl’s wheels faced backwards, Track’s forwards, Wheeljack’s to the side, and Jazz’s are placed firmly on top. The downside is that it means Jazz has some trouble lifting his arms straight up, but that’s the price you pay for G1 accuracy. The rest of the arms have good articulation with double-jointed elbows and ball-jointed wrists and shoulders. The forearms have two deep grooves cut into them - just like the G1 toy - which reinforces their chunky feel.
Jazz has got great legs. *wolf whistle* His knees are double-jointed and his feet come with heel struts that feel sturdier than Prowl’s, so you won’t have to worry about him toppling backwards due to the weight of his doors. There’s a novel use of springs to hold Jazz’s ruffled shins in place, but they can give way to allow the feet to bend up at an acute angle when attempting dynamic poses. They’ve been given an extra coat of silver paint like the torso, as opposed to the flat grey used on Hasbro’s release. The feet themselves are lacking ball joints, which is a bit surprising for a recent figure. At the top, Jazz has got a good head sculpt with his trademark visor and cat ears. His grim expression might not convey the levity of the character, but I’m more worried about the poor light-piping. I swear there’s something inside his head that’s obstructing the light. See for yourself.
Jazz’s weapon folds out to form his blaster and, unlike Prowl, can store under his chest when not in use. It bears some similarity to the small gun on his Pretender release and fits snugly in either of Jazz’s open hands. The speakers can also be deployed in this mode for more ear-popping action, and they can even combine with the weapon to form some kind of double-barreled beat blaster! The sides of the speakers have been sculpted for just such a purpose, but I think it looks like overkill and it’s not something I fool around with often. Still, it’s nice that the designers have left this option open to us, and the C-joint clip means that accessories from other Transformers can combine to form your own custom boomstick!
Overall, this is the Jazz everyone’s been waiting for. It fills the void in the Autobot ranks that fans have tried to replace with Target-exclusive Movie Jazz or their own customization. While Hasbro have created a truly awesome design, credit goes to Takara for really nailing the paint job and perfecting the figure. You’d think that demand for the United release would be lower when characters like Megatron and Astrotrain have received a more unique deco and are easier to obtain. I guess I can liken the subtle paint additions to ingredients of fine cooking: You don’t know it’s there, but you know it tastes good.
Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 7/10
- Relatively straightforward and true to his G1 roots, which results in some working doors too.
- Pretty solid. Mind that those C-joint speakers don’t pop off and get lost when you’re not looking.
- Who doesn’t love this cool cat? Jazz is a looker in both modes, and the flip-out speakers are a bonus that puts this figure over the top.
- Like having molten gold poured over your eyeballs, Jazz is a triumph in terms of design and colours. The extra paint apps put Hasbro’s version to shame.
- Shoulder and heel articulation could be a tad better, but he’s pretty flexible all around. Glad to see the ball joint on the head actually serves a purpose.
Thanks to the sheer incompetence of Epicheroes botching my pre-order, I ended up being scalped on eBay due to the ludicrous demand for this figure. Jazz sold out months
before release and sellers are charging two to three times the RRP as a result. If Takara end up doing a second run, I’m going to kill something.
- I’m tempted to dock a point or two out of spite for the price I paid, but I have no doubt that United Jazz is superior to Hasbro’s release, which is still an excellent figure in its own right. You might argue that this is the best-looking Classics figure ever
, but it will leave a crater in your wallet if you haven’t bought one already. I’d feel irresponsible to encourage you being scalped on eBay like I did, so I think it’s best if you look at the comparison photos and decide for yourself if he’s worth paying three to five times the cost of a Deluxe. If United Jazz doesn’t get a second run, I guarantee his price will only go up.