Clay's Review: Sideways
He's a spy! And a herald of Unicron!
Sideways is a conscientious, ninja-like warrior who races to battle. Disguised as a sports bike he exceeds speeds of 250mph. Mysterious and silent, he reveals little about himself except a fierce drive to confront the enemy and quickly return to Cybertron. On Earth, he undergoes a personality change that gives him both a good and a bad side based on Mini-con influence. This split makes him highly unpredictable. It's hard to predict which half of his split personality will win in the end - the good side or the evil side!
I first started reading reviews on the Archive back in 2003. Armada was on the shelves, Alternators had yet to make an appearance, and I kept reading snippets about a live action film stuck in development hell. It was a simpler time. The Archive caught my attention because, back in those days, we were the first site to come up from an internet search. As I read everything I could about Transformers from the site, my appetite for new content grew insatiable. Emboldened, I joined the forum and began contributing reviews. I wrote reviews of toys as they came out through Energon, Cybertron, and the first kernel of the modern Generations line, Classics. Now after a decade of reading, posting, writing, and contributing, imagine the magnitude, the gravity, the force of my facepalm upon realizing this: I meant to write a review of Sideways ten years ago, and he's still sitting here, waiting. I am approaching Mark Twain levels of procrastination.
Much has happened in that frame of time. My collection has grown and changed focus, occasionally shedding figures in trade or sale. And, the brand itself has grown and changed focus, ballooning with the juggernaut Hollywood machine with two successful toy tie-in lines and whatever Dark of the Moon was. Transformers has sort of settled into a stable arrangement of sub-series that feature a rotating core of returning characters with only a sprinkling of new bots here and there. Sideways comes from a time of the Unicron trilogy that, for as slapdash and error-rific as the animated shows were, provided the last great secretion of new characters before the movie franchise recalled the brand to the safer territory of the familiar. It was mostly crap, of course. And aside from some familiar names like Optimus, Megatron, and Starscream, others like Sideways, Hot Shot, Demolisher, and more began as clean slates and non-entities. And sometimes, that's healthy. So with that in mind, let's reflect on Sideways then and now.
Sideways has persisted in my collection. His staying power does not stem from being an overwhelming figure, but rather from the thematic qualities he embodies. Like all Armada figures, Sideways interacts with Minicons. But Sideways' own little cohorts deviate from the typically included random-small-vehicle Minicons.
Sideways turns into a purple motorcycle with yellow highlights. Before him, Beast Machines Thrust looked like this, and after him Robot Masters Double Face looked like this. But in 2002, it was Sideways' turn. Sideways exemplifies the Armada look. Chunky and blocky, Sideways makes for a rather fat motorcycle. This has its advantages, though. For one thing, he stands upright without the need for delicate balancing on a kickstand. For another, he can actually roll on his own without falling over. But... he does look portly. The lack of molded detail compared to the likes of the new-mold Robots in Disguise toys before him or basically anything from Cybertron onward makes for a rather plain and simple look. But that's OK because Sideways isn't really about looks.
Sideways' Minicon duo combine together to make a rider named Mirror. Either Minicon can ride Sideways alone, but they look absolutely puny that way. However, the combined form makes a nice little complement: motorcycle and rider. Mirror himself is a quite articulate little humanoid thing, although the lack of molded detail and dark colors make him visually indistinct.
Sideways converts into a robot possessing better proportions than most motorcycle-based transformers. He owes this mostly to the chunky nature of the bike mode. It has enough mass to produce a decent robot instead of a spindly one. His has very basic articulation (shoulders, hips, etc.), which is basically representative of Armada figures. But what really excites the imagination is Sideways' interaction with his Minicons. While Sideways has his own neutral head, Rook (the black one) and Crosswise (the gray one) each covert to an alternate head for Sideways, the former revealing an Autobot insignia and the latter a Decepticon one. In retrospect, it seems like a such an obvious idea: faction-changing Headmasters. However, despite the original series producing both Headmasters and the robot spies Punch/Counterpunch and Doubledealer (who changed factions with different Powermasters), neither of the ideas intersected until Sideways came along in 2002. In the accompanying fiction of Armada, this side-switching is made a big deal as Sideways is revealed as a direct agent of Unicron. But it's an interesting and bigger idea than just that: Sideways literally wears his morals on his head, making him an interesting visual metaphor. The two Minicons can also be perched on his shoulders as the angel and the devil, creating a neat tension on sight.
That, coupled with the efficient use of the Headmasters as a rider for the motorcycle, has made Sideways remain in my collection for over a decade now.
Marks out of ten for the following:
7. You get a good, solid robot out of a bike, which is unfortunately atypical. They could have added more articulation without losing anything, but that wasn't the style at the time.
8. I would imagine, after this amount of time, that a fair amount of used Sideways would come with damaged or missing handlebars. In a collector's hands, he's fine though.
10. It's a bike that won't fall down and has a rider! And the bike turns into a man! And thematic elements are at play! As are missiles that shoot! It's wonderful!
5. As I described, I love the good/evil idea and how it manifests in the toy. But that only comes after lots of thought. To the untrained eye, Sideways is just a chunky Armada figure... he's not flashy, which is in itself a feat considering that he's a purple and yellow motorcycle.
3. It's really very limited, and only offers slightly more movement than an original Headmaster from the 1980s.
5 for the original price of $10. Considering the level of detail and engineering that went into a lot of movie and generations figures that were also sold for $10 standard right up until 2011, Sideways could have offered more.
5. Sideways is, by all metrics, an average Armada toy. But the ideas and themes that he presents make him something special and worth contemplating. He's a thinking man's crappy motorcycle robot, and I like that.