Friday, April 23, 2021

The Best Of 2021: First Quarter Part 2

As if making up for lost time, the first Quarter of 2021 has been pretty busy. There are a lot of cool new additions on the toy shelf to talk about. So let's get started on finishing up the quarter.

8) Black Series Kit Fisto

Ever since I saw Genndy Tartakovsky’s portrayal of the Jedi Kit Fisto in his now non-canon Clone Wars micro series way back in 2003, I have been a huge fan of the Nautolan Jedi Master. So I was quite excited when Hasbro announced that they would be releasing him and his fellow Jedi Plo Koon in 6” Black Series form. Sure he’s made mostly of reused body parts, but the most important detail, his head, is beautifully sculpted and painted. While I do prefer the more stoic expression, it would’ve been awesome if they included an extra head flashing his silly grin.

Great character aside, what really excites me about Kit Fisto’s release is that it now opens the door to even more secondary Jedi Masters that are sorely lacking in my display. Hopefully we’ll get a Ki-Adi-Mundi, Aayla Secura and Shaak Ti in the very near future.

7) Studio Series 86 Grimlock

I know you’ve heard this spiel before but like most of the excellent Studio Series 86 line, this Grimlock gets both robot and dinosaur modes right. It's pretty spot on for his cartoon/movie appearance. Most importantly though is they finally got his size right. Over the years, we’ve got a number of seriously undersized versions and it has been very frustrating to say the least. And as an added bonus, he even comes with his little buddy Wheelie. Unfortunately he’s more of an accessory. He can’t transform and has VERY limited articulation. Still you can easily plug him on top of Grimlock in both modes and have him wield his trademark energon slingshot making for a cool display option.

6) Studio Series 86 Hotrod

For many collectors, this guy has been the highlight for the first wave of releases in the new Studio Series 86 line, and for good reason. I know that the term “mini masterpiece” has been loosely thrown around a lot to describe some pretty good retail Transformers toys in the past. But this time around, I think that this guy comes closest to it. He’s got a little more involved transformation between both cartoon accurate modes and he comes with a boatload of accessories …..just like a Masterpiece. Even next to his fellow wave mates, he just “feels” like he’s a bit of a step up. And on a personal note, I’m just happy that I finally have a decent “gimmick-less” Hotrod that doesn’t hide his iconic yellow back fin in robot mode….I’m looking at you Titans Return Hotrod.

5) Studio Series 86 Jazz

OK so what can I say, I am a HUGE fan of the Studio Series 86 line. And despite basically being a background character in the actual movie, Jazz was my most anticipated in the bunch. For all intents and purposes, he’s made to go along with all the more recent Siege & Earthrise updated G1 cars that we’ve been getting. But compared to most of them, it seems obvious that a little bit more effort was put into this toy’s design and construction. And I get it, he’s not my personal favorite, but he is one of the most popular Autobots (my wife’s favorite). And after a pretty terrible version of Jazz from Power of the Primes (which I thankfully skipped) this was like the perfect apology and make up toy from Hasbro.

4) Custom Blurrg

Is this the future of toy collecting? First it was a 3D printed Salacious Crumb and Baby Yoda, but this time around I went for something bigger. As far as Star Wars creatures go, Blurrgs are actually quite old. Their first appearance I believe was all the way back in 1985 in the Ewok TV movie “The Battle for Endor”. But it was only a couple years ago that they got more recognition as the steed of choice of the Ugnaught Kuiil, in The Mandalorian TV series. Since then, it seemed inevitable that we would be getting a Kuiil + Blurrg set for the Black Series, But as of now, all we have is the lone Ugnaught. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. Just like my previous Grogu and Crumb, I had this Blurrg 3D printed and painted up by two very talented local artists here in Manila, and I couldn’t be more happy with the results!

Now I’m almost certain we will get an official Blurrg from Hasbro eventually. But if their previously released Dewback is any indication, I doubt that it will match my custom Blurrg in terms of painting and detail. And besides, I wouldn’t mind another Blurgg anyway, that way my Mando can ride off together with Kuiil.

3) Siege Seekers

Ok I’ve written about acquiring this set quite recently. But for the benefit of those not willing to backtrack on my blog, the short of it was that I originally passed on getting these guys when they were relatively easier to find...particularly Skywarp, which was an Amazon Exclusive. When they were first released I was still “in denial” about collecting yet another retail Transformers line. And when I finally decided to go for it, Skywarp had become one of the most elusive and most expensive Siege Transformer in the secondary market.

I basically chalked this one up as a lost cause. Then one random early morning at around 4am, my toddler who normally sleeps straight throughout the night, woke up crying. And so while my wife tried to calm her down, I decided to surf the web a little since I was already awake. It wasn’t long before I came across a sales post on the Facebook marketplace, just a few minutes old. There were all three Siege Seekers, including Skywarp selling for a very reasonable price. I hesitated a bit since I was half asleep but in the end It really was a no brainer. And the next day I finally got my Siege Seekers. And just to add a little to this great score for me, the next day I was DMed by another fellow collector saying how lucky I was as I had just beat him to the set. Wow! Talk about perfect timing!

2) Black Series Beskar Armor Mandalorian

Once The Mandalorian Din Djarin donned his newly forged Beskar armor in the show, it was pretty much a given that a new slew of Beskar Armor Mando toys would follow. And despite already having the original Mandalorian released by Hasbro, being the committed collector that I am, I knew it was only a matter of time until I upgraded my Mando on the shelf as well.

The three main contenders were the usual suspects, Hasbro, Mafex and Sh Figuarts. Unfortunately all three had their significant drawbacks. Despite having tons of extra accessories included, the Sh Figuarts one just seemed a little undersized (especially the head). The next two options were sized better but came with their own problems. The Black Series had a plastic cape that was not compatible with his jetpack. It was basically an either.or display choice. And the Mafex version, while sporting a soft goods cape, didn’t have a jetpack!

So in the end I decided to go with the Black Series and pre-ordered mine online. But between a delay of the actual release of the toy and me waiting for other pre orders to arrive in order to save on shipping, it took over 10 months for me to finally get my Beskar Mando in hand. In that time, Hasbro actually released a deluxe version with a removable helmet and Grogu included. But I was good with my standard version.

In any case, I came across a couple more local customizers. One made expertly constructed soft good items. From him I got a nice cloth wired cape that allowed me to keep on his back alongside the jetpack and pose, as well as a nice shoulder bag that Grogu could chill inside. The other customizer I got a nice chromed out 3D printed Beskar Spear to complete the look. The end result was definitely worth the wait.

I’ll take my version over any Japanese import or deluxe release.

1) Siege Jetfire

Once again this was one of those purchases that I figured I would get around to “next time”. In fact, I had the opportunity to get him at least three separate times at retail prices but decided to put off for another time. In fact, on one occasion I played the “Good Samaritan” and even helped a friend get one for her son’s birthday during the lockdown last year. It wasn’t long after that though that this guy got scarce...and expensive. And once again I started to regret passing on him all those previous times.

Eventually, I did get him, although I didn’t pay an insane amount, I did get him at a slightly higher price that I “could” have gotten him at in the past. But I snoozed, lost….and now had to pay the late tax.

Having him in hand though, it’s pretty obvious why this guy got so popular. Aside from being one of the central characters in the Netflix Siege series, this is probably one of the best Transformer toys that Hasbro has made in the past few years. Some have even used him in their Masterpiece displays. While I wouldn’t go that far, this doesn’t take anything away from this toy. He’s got size, like he should have, and a lot of presence.

Oddly enough, one thing I was originally not wild about were the extra armor and weapon bits he came with. I just felt that they were unnecessary and I thought that his armored up version looked too over the top and unwieldy. But my opinion changed having him in hand, in fact now this is my preferred display mode.

And so that pretty much sums up the first quarter of 2021. Unlike last year where the pickings were slim, this year has been jam packed from the starting gate, with no signs of letting up. So let's see where the rest of the year takes us. Til the next installment!