Wednesday, November 27, 2013

And Sat Down Beside Her

Meet Elita-1, Autobot Academy cadet. She had the unique ability to borrow powers from fellow Transformers and enjoyed going on adventures exploring other planets. During one adventure on the planet Archa Seven she and her teammates were attacked by giant spiders (you’d think the planet’s name would’ve tipped them off) and unfortunately believing she was a lost cause, was abandoned by her teammates.

Unbeknownst to her team, Elita-1 did not die but instead was transformed…ok mutated into something else. It turned out that her attempt to borrow the giant spiders’ powers to defend herself and being injected by their venom allowed her to survive her ordeal although in a different form. After that experience she was no longer Elita-1 but was forever changed into Black Arachnia.  

new and improved?
Transformers Animated, a series that ran from 2007-2009 was rather unique from most Transformer cartoons before it. The main glaring difference was the character designs, which looked less robotic and more organic, less realistic and more cartoony. When initial character designs first surfaced online, a majority of Transformers fans went crazy…and not in a good way. I for one was shocked but hopeful. It didn’t take very long for most people to warm up to the designs simply because the show itself was well written. But from the start, the one question that was on everyone’s mind was….what would the toys look like?

yup..that's the same dude...
Ever since their first cartoon, Transformers had the reputation of having toys that looked NOTHING like their animated counterparts. But over time, thanks to technology and more innovative and dedicated toy designers, the gap between cartoon and toy Transformers was slowly getting smaller. The Transformers animated style seemed to throw a wrench into this progress as no one could seem to imagine how this new cartoony style would translate into toy form.

close enough...
Then Hasbro pulled off a homerun, with toys that looked *practically* like they stepped out of the TV screen. Their designs were so amazing it made us wonder how we could doubt them. Up until now, I still hold the Transformers Animated line as one of the BEST Transformers toylines ever made. And Elit…I mean, Black Arachnia’s toy is probably one of the best ones in the line.

Sure a robot that transforms to a spider isn’t anything new. A female robot that transforms into a spider? Yes still nothing new. But a STYLIZED cartoony female robot that transforms into a spider that looks good in BOTH modes? Now that’s something I had never seen before. And the beauty of these animated toys was that most of them hit the sweet spot in terms of transformation difficulty. See I firmly believe that if you make a Transformer TOO difficult or complicated to Transform, it loses its fun factor (my Masterpiece Megatron has not been transformed for years) and overall value. Like most of the animated line, Black Arachnia’s transformation is just right, not too easy and not too hard, very intuitive and just very creative. I mean really, who ever thought of using the spider’s mandibles to form the robot’s waist curves is a GENIUS, plain and simple.

An added feature of the toy is that she comes with a removable retractable claw and rope device that can be neatly stored underneath the spider’s abdomen (which in turn becomes the robot’s back skirt). And the toy is neatly balanced that if you hold it from the claw, the toy hangs perfectly from the rope, ready to strike at any unlucky Autobot.

One of the Transformers franchise’s strengths is its strong characters. Since the original 80’s cartoon, there have been many more cartoon series and all of them have had some sort of version of Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Bumblebee etc in them. Although, not a part of the original series, Black Arachnia is slowly becoming a Transformers character staple. The original one was a character in the Beast Wars series in the 90’s and quickly became a character favourite. She was a major villain in the animated series, and was also a major character in the series after Animated, Transformers Prime. And although she was named Airachnid there, there is no mistaking just who the inspiration for that character was.

Unfortunately, as great as the Animated toy of Black Arachnia was, the toy of Airachnid that came out about 5 years later turned out to be one of the WORST Transformer toys ever done…….ever. But I’ll save that debacle for another post….