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numbat's Review: Takara Supreme Class Unicron

Name: Unicron
Function: Universal Dominator
Subgroup: Takara Transformers 2010

Unicron is one of the most iconic Transformers characters next to Optimus Prime and G1 Megatron (and, now, live-action Bumblebee probably joins the ranks...). Anyone who grew up with Transformers in the ‘80s will no doubt remember the first time they saw him appear on the big screen (or TV if you didn’t catch the original movie in the cinema!). To this day, his scenes still give me a thrill, and his transformation at the movie’s finale gives me shivers! Sad, I know, but hey, Unicron is awesome. A giant monster planet that eats other planets, transforms into a robot resembling the Angel of Death with the booming voice of Orson Welles (and Leonard Nimoy)? Nothing can be cooler than that!

The design draws upon retro, manga/anime, Christian and feudal Japan for its cues, and the result is as epic as the concept deserves.

Neither Autobot nor Decepticon, Unicron is a universal force (Universal Dominator according to the new packaging!) that all planets and races must reckon with (much like Marvel’s Galactus – and the argument for which of the two is more awesome shall rage online at geek forums for eternity – but, frankly, giant man in a purple pullover VS planet-scale robotic Angel of Death? I know which I’d vote for!).

While the 1986 movie spawned an abundance of new toys, notable in his absence was the lead antagonist – Unicron. While there were attempts to design Unicron figures over the years (such as this G1 figure designed for the original 1986 movie line, or this figure designed for Beast Wars Neo), all failed quite spectacularly, and in an unusual display of wisdom over greed, Hasbro did not produce any of these prototypes as a mainline toy (or maybe they just figured that the consumer market wasn’t quite ready for that price tag...). Roll on 2003, and Unicron was revived for the Armada TV series, and a toy finally produced – with much hype! This was one of the most exciting releases in my Transformers collecting days, and I snatched the figure up – on massive clearance sale price. As it happens, despite the anticipation by collectors, the mass market consumers (parents) were not yet ready for a figure with a 100 shelf price, and so the ultimate Transformer figure ever produced by HasTak to date was destined to become a shelf warmer!

The Armada figure was very cool though. While a lot more child friendly in colour than the G1 version, flashing lilac, bright yellow and clear purple planet surface, this figure was immense. It resembled the G1 design very well, and the colours were close enough to satisfy G1 fans.

After a monumental disaster of a repaint for the Energon line in 2004, the mould seemed to slip into history. Subsequent Supreme Class figures gradually became either simpler in design (Supreme Cybertron Starscream which is, let’s face it, just a scaled up version of a design that works at Legends Class!) or smaller in size (Supreme Cybertron Primus – a very cool figure nonetheless), and perhaps Unicron just seemed too expensive and too niche to re-release in any form – other than the original Armada one as part of the Universe 2.0 line (perhaps they unearthed a warehouse full of Armada ones and repackaged them...), which at least gave fans drawn in by the 2007 live action movie the opportunity to relive their ‘80s youth as well!

Actually, when I list it like that, for a Supreme Class mould, Unicron has seen quite a few outings over the years, and so it came as a surprise to me when Takara released images of a new remould of the Supreme Unicron mould as part of their 2010 line. Not only did it sport a fantastic G1 paint job, but also a brand new G1 faithful head! I knew straight away that this was a must-have, despite not normally ‘upgrading’ to new versions of moulds I already posses. The price tag for preorder was not nearly as damaging as I had expected, and so, without hesitation (although there was a brief discussion with my wife...), I placed the order.

I eagerly awaited the delivery – would the figure live up to my expectations? Would the paint job look as good as I hoped (some online photos looked horribly Halloween orange...)? Would I feel that it was worth paying out for a new version of one of the most expensive Transformers I own?

Well, if I say I wasn’t even upset by the 60 customs fee slapped on the package, would that give you a clue?


Alternate Mode:

In case you missed the masterpiece 1986 Transformers film, and decided to skip my intro, Unicron is an planet sized robot that transformers in to a monster planet that devours all other planets in his path. Pretty apocalyptic. And also a very difficult thing to deliver in a toy. While the animators could cheat, the physical toy needs to be able to transform from a round planet into a very angular robot. However, it is quite apparent that the animation model gave no thought to this whatsoever, making the challenge even greater!

Unable to achieve this in the ‘80s, no Unicron figure was released alongside the film, much to every child of the decade’s disappointment, and to the relief of every parent. When the character was dusted off and reused in 2003’s Armada series, the toy designers came up with a figure that delivered a fantastic robot mode, but made compromises with the planet mode. While the Armada cartoon was then able to incorporate these compromises in the animation model, fans buying the figure for its G1 resemblance were disappointed by the squashed basketball planet mode, and perhaps by the garish colours...

As the Takara 2010 G1 Unicron is a remould of the Armada toy, it shares the planet mode compromises, but at least does away with the garish purple and bright yellow. Instead, the designers have done their utmost to give a G1 veneer to the figure. Predominantly a dull grey, complimented by orange (which, thankfully, is not the neon Halloween shade that appears on many online photos, but a more solid, duller colour), with the intricate moulded detailing (lost in horrendous transparent purple plastic on the Armada version) picked out in dull metallic grey wash on both the grey and orange parts of the planet proper. The small orange lights dotting the planet surface are a nice touch, as is the darker grey picking out the asteroid impact craters. The planet’s rings are also orange (as in the original film), but the metallic wash has not been applied to these parts.

Being as it is a remould of the Armada design, Unicron retains the jagged mouth of the Armada design, which can be opened and closed by squeezing the planet’s grasping spikes. While not G1 accurate, I find this feature quite good fun!

Amazingly, the only concession to the robot mode in this version (other than the slightly squashed shape) is the pale grey used for the folded feet. Given the constraints to begin with, such a coherent planet mode is highly commendable, and compared with the patchwork mess of the Armada version, this new paint job is positively perfect.

Of course, the fun factor is also important, and not to be forgotten. How much fun can a planet mode possible be? Well, lots, quite frankly – especially when it’s as huge as this (13 ” [34cm] in diameter)! You can re-enact those fantastic scenes in the film, with the epic monster planet flying through space, or, if you have a version of Supreme Cybertron Primus (also re-released as a repaint as part of the Takara 2010 line, although I personally prefer the original colour scheme in his case), you can have Unicron eat another planet!

If you’re in to your gimmicks (which I’m not, unless they serve a purpose), then Unicron has plenty holdovers from Armada. As well as the opening and closing jaws mentioned earlier, he has loads of Mini-Con ports, can fire three missiles from either side (activated by Mini-Con ports), and comes with his own Mini-Con moon – Dead-End / Bug (which can slot on to the planet mode and provide an additional gun). Dead-End / Bug himself turns in to a moon, 1 ” (4cm) in diameter, cast in dark grey and orange plastic with a gold gun – I imagine the design is a holdover from a Takara G1 Unicron prototype that had a weaponised moon. While not particularly a fan of these gimmicks (with the exception of the jaws), at least they don’t get in the way of the figure much.

Overall, the planet mode is great fun, and while a little oddly shaped, the designers have done a fantastic job of provide a G1-esque coherent repaint. This is almost certainly as close to a perfect Unicron planet mode that we’re going to get in a transforming figure.


Robot Mode:

Unicron’s transformation is remarkably straightforward, while also quite novel – half shellformer, half transfomer. The important thing, for me, is that the hands transform in the same way as depicted in the epic transformation sequent in the 1986 movie. A note on the planet halves – you can transform him with these attached, although it is easier if you remove the halves and rings. That said, don’t take the hole sections off! Remove the ring section and planet halves individually, and leave the end of the stalk attached – it’s a total bugger to reattach. During this review, though, I just transformed him all parts attached quite happily. So it’s up to you.

While the planet mode is unarguably big, the robot mode is huge. Standing 16 ” (41cm) tall, Unicron towers over almost all other Transformers figures. That, in itself, is quite exciting! Although, as demonstrated by Revenge of the Fallen Supreme Class Devastator, a bit of articulation, detail, and something resembling a transformation doesn’t go amiss either – thankfully, Supreme Unicron delivers on all of these areas where the larger ROTF Devastator fails.

Other than the massive size, you’ll no doubt notice straight away how amazingly G1 accurate Takara 2010 Unicron’s paint job is. Coupled with the new head, the figure is such a beautiful G1 homage, your eyes just might bleed.

Unicron is coloured as you would dream a G1 Unicron figure would be – the upper body is largely orange and light grey, with detail again picked out in dark grey, metallic grey and with that perfectly applied dark metallic grey wash. The different plastics and paints used have been colour-matched carefully (although the textures do give themselves away – particularly the shiny plastic used for the main body). The abdomen has those red glowing sections (just painted red mind!) which are such a trademark of Unicron era robots (Unicron, Galvatron, Cyclonus...). The legs are orange and dark grey, as in the film, while the feet and left hand are both light grey – again, G1 accurate. Finally, the skeletal wings are orange – again, as with the 1986 film design.

The big new addition here, though, is the head. TakaraTomy went back to the drawing board here, and designed a G1 movie accurate head sculpt for the mould! It is perfectly sculpted, and painted orange, light grey and dark grey. If you’d asked me before if I thought this was necessary, or would make much of a difference compared with the Armada version, I’d probably have said ‘no’, but the reality is that this totally transforms the figure! The eyes are cast in clear plastic tinted green (as in the film, again), and light up red at the tough of the button on top of his head. (However, the electrics in mine are temperamental, and this does not always work, while at other times he just sets off flashing with no end! A bit of a quality control issue there TakaraTomy...)

The figure is very well articulated – especially given the size. I count 18 points of meaningful articulation, excluding the very poseable wings (which are stiff in this version, and do not droop as readily as the Armada release) and other random parts (such as the fingers, which each have two points of articulation quite separate to each other, while the thumbs have a single point). Major load-bearing joints are ratcheted, which means Unicron keeps his poses perfectly, but has limited degrees of movement at the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows. Other joints are all stiff enough to keep their poses perfectly quite indefinitely. You’re set for hours of fun, and continuous display (if you have somewhere to put the big guy permanently!) with Unicron. Plus, get ready for the ultimate stellar slugfest between Unicron and Primus if you own one! (Of course, Unicron towers over Primus, but Primus does bring heavy weapons to the party...)

Right – we’ve praised the amazing G1 accuracy of the figure. It’s time to address inaccuracies, to balance the review...

One of the great challenges the designers faced, other than form (i.e. round planet to angular devil robot), is the question of how to change a planet which is predominantly dark grey into a robot that is predominantly orange and light grey? Well, the shells do help – but they fold nicely away in robot mode so as to be all-but-invisible from the front (if you get it right – ignore those stock photos!). If they peeve you too much, you can always remove them as well. At least the solid grey plastic is a lot less intrusive than the bright transparent purple of the Armada version!

That clear right hand has found its way through from the Armada and Energon versions! While this means we get the light-up red-right-hand gimmick, I personally would have paid the same money and preferred a version with two solid grey hands.

Due to the transformation, Unicron has two massive spikes on his shoulders. At the end of the day, it just wasn’t possible to produce a figure where the head horns become the planet’s mandibles – but it really doesn’t detract much from the design, frankly.

Pedantically, Unicron’s wings have just two fingers each, as opposed to the three seen in the animation model. Personally, I’m amazed they managed to incorporate the ring-to-wing transformation at all, let alone so well, so this does not at all bother me.

Gimmick-wise, the robot mode has the flashing red eyes and hand already mentioned. As well as this, you can store Mini-Cons in compartments in his legs and abdomen. Those Mini-Con activated missiles from the planet mode carry forward into robot mode, and can be launched from either leg, while a new Mini-Con activated gimmick is found within the chest, which snaps open to launch a massive missile. While these gimmicks are important in a child’s toy, they are not necessarily important to collectors. As holdovers from the original mould they are understandable, but I would have preferred the hand gimmick to be dropped so as not to interfere with the overall look of the robot mode. In addition, the chest missile could have been dropped in favour of a single piece chest which would look a little better. I can take or leave Dead-End / Bug, but understand the mould has quite a following of collectors (which I can appreciate, given my collection of Legends of Cybertron Seeker figures...). Dead-End / Bug transforms into a robot standing 2 ” (5.5cm) tall, is predominantly grey with orange parts and a gold gun and face. He looks very stylised for a Mini-Con – almost as if he’s walked straight out of the surrealist movement. Not the best Mini-Con ever, nor the worst.

Still, these are minor niggles that are likely to be particular to just a minority of Transformers fans – many of you probably enjoy the gimmicks!

Overall, TakaraTomy’s Transformers 2010 G1 version of Unicron is absolute perfection. This is the Transformers toy everyone who grew up in the ‘80s has always wanted. It’s a great improvement on the Armada version in terms of G1 accuracy and coherent modes. The only trouble is it’s a limited release and exclusive to Japan, which means the price tag is quite high – and getting higher. Fortunately, Hasbro are releasing an Amazon exclusive version of Supreme Unicron themselves, which uses the new head mould. This figure is also going for G1 homage, but is a little more garish than this Japanese version, but will almost certainly be more affordable out here in the West. You may also prefer this version (they eyes are a more solid green for example), so there’s the option there too now, which is good.

At the end of the day, this is almost certainly the most G1 accurate Unicron figure we’re ever going to see, and it is a must-have in any ‘80s Transformers fan’s collection – perfectly complementing other G1 updates from the Classics, Univserse 2.0, Generations and Reveal the Shield lines. As with these, the figure is not 100% G1 accurate, but a fitting update and as close to perfection as is likely to be possible.

I’d highly recommend this figure, if you can afford it.


Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 7 – The Armada Supreme Unicron mould has its flaws, and these are carried forward into this remould. Unicron is a shellformer, and not even a particularly good one – the planet mode is definitely deformed. However, designing a toy that looks like Unicron in robot mode while strongly resembling the monstrous mechanical planet he is in alternate mode is actually quite an achievement. And the transformation is not too challenging, and is quite novel and fun. That said, I don’t find myself transforming him often – and didn’t tend to transform the Armada version much over the past 6 years either.
Durability: 7 – Unicron is almost the definition of ‘brick’. Almost. Sadly, there are potential concerns – particularly the loose connection in the head electronics and the potential for a sagging chest. Plus those planet shell pieces have worried me on both of the versions of this figure I’ve owned – at least the solid grey plastic used in this latest version feels a little less brittle than the clear purple pieces on the Armada release.
Fun: 10 – Come on! This is Unicron! This is the Unicron every Transformers fan who grew up in the ‘80s has always dreamed of! There is not a Transformer figure out there that is more fun than this guy!
Aesthetics: 10 – Unicron looks great in both modes thanks to the fantastic G1 paint job. While the planet mode still suffers from sharing the shape of a damaged basketball, all the glorious moulded detail is picked out with a dark grey metallic wash, and small lights are dotted with orange. The robot mode needs no assistance to look great, but, frankly, the paint job knocks him up a few notches from the Armada version – he looks imposing as the monster planet from the ‘80s movie! Perfection!
Articulation: 9 – For a giant figure – and the first Supreme Class figure produced – it’s surprising how poseable Unicron is. While the heavy ratchet joints limit the degree of poses, they are a necessity given the weight. Only Supreme Cybertron Primus competes with Supreme Unicron in terms of articulation at this scale.
Value/Price: 5 – The Takara 2010 Supreme Unicron does not come cheaply. I paid 100 for him (including delivery), but then got hit by a big customs bill (60!). But, given I’ve never had to pay customs on other imports, I view this as not bad over my years of collecting... (But it does seem more than a little steep on the face of it!) He varies in price from 100 to 200 just now online, so he’s still not cheap, and you would do well to shop around. That said, he’s a massive figure, a limited release in Japan, and the most fun a Transformer can possibly be for a kid who grew up in the ‘80s. So, when you look at it that way, he scores a ‘10’.
Overall: 7 – This is the perfect Unicron. Or, at least, the most perfect we’ve had so far (including when compared with the images released so far of the upcoming Hasbro Amazon exclusive using the same new head – although that may turn out to be a cheaper way to get the new head and a more G1-esque paint scheme). However, he’s expensive, and difficult to display due to his size (a double-edged sword that one!). Objectively he’s a ‘7’ (testament to how much fun he is and his beautiful new paint job!). Subjectively, I’d give him a ‘10’ though...
 
 
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