Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Best Of 2021: Second Quarter Part 2

Despite staying home about 99% of the time for over a year now, I’ve sort of returned to my pre-pandemic toy collecting ways. While weekly toy hunts in Greenhills and other malls have been replaced by a steady stream of deliveries to my front door, new toys have still managed to find their way to my hands on a regular basis. And so here we are at the midpoint of the year and it’s time for another update to my running list of top ten toys for 2021

As always with just ten slots to fill, new toys coming in, means old toys going out. So let’s have a little send off picture for the previous entries that will be moving back to the honorable mentions section of the year.

10) Blurrg (3D Print)

Blurrgs have come a long way from their rather unremarkable debut in the 80’s Ewoks: Battle for Endor. Thanks to The Mandalorian, these two legged fish/frog steeds have become somewhat of a household name...well at least to Star Wars households that is. At this point, I'm quite surprised that Hasbro has yet to release or even announce their own official version. So until then, I will be quite satisfied with this great 3D printed custom.

9) Siege Seekers

In my opinion, the Siege version is the best Seeker toy that Hasbro has released to date, even surpassing the newer and more classic Earthrise version. I just love this mold and how I was able to complete the main seeker trio of Starscream, Thundercracker and especially Skywarp still remains one of my favorite feel good collecting stories of 2021.

8) Earthrise Coneheads

And speaking of feel good stories, I present to you the coneheads. Dirge and Ramjet were released as an Amazon exclusive 2 pack while Thrust was a single release. Of the two items, everyone expected Thrust to be the harder one to come by but instead he turned out to be quite easy to find. Unfortunately, the Dirge/Ramjet 2 pack was one of the many Amazon Transformers exclusives that were inexplicably in extremely short supply in 2020. I preordered the pair from a local seller and unfortunately his stock was cancelled. So all of a sudden, Dirge and Ramjet become 2 of the most hard to find Transformers of the year, with secondary market prices still currently going for 3-4 times more than the original cost! The fact that you couldn't complete the classic G1 coneheads trio was a major sore spot for many collectors including myself.

Fast forward a few months later, after attempting...and failing to negotiate a fairly complicated deal with a seller, I decided to continue to join the worldwide Transformers collectors prayer brigade for a Hasbro re-release. To my surprise, not even 24 hours after my initial failed attempt, another seller popped up selling the same duo at a very reasonable price (I know I always say this but it REALLY was a good price given the scarcity). The catch was that he had painted some minor detailing on them which in his eyes I guess lowered their value? In my opinion, if he didn’t point them out I would have never noticed the extra detailing he did since it was very subtle yet complimentary. Who knows? What mattered was that he was selling the pair at just slightly over the original selling price. It was a no brainer and I jumped on it and I finally got my complete trio of Coneheads. So yeah! Earthrise Coneheads COMPLETE!

7) Dance of Death (KO Masterpiece Dino)

OK so follow me here, this is a 4th party oversized knock off, of a 3rd party release of the Autobot Dino aka Mirage, from the 3rd live action Transformers movie, Dark of the Moon. (whew!)

So from my recollection, the original release by 3rd Party company Alien Attack, barely made a blip in my collecting radar since it was a rather obscure “one and done” character by a company I had never heard of. This KO oversized version cooly named “Dance of Death” did get my attention though. Call it perfect timing but at this point I was knee deep in my MPM rabbit hole and this KO was being sold at a rather cheap price. So after doing my research (eg. checking out some YouTube reviews) and being satisfied with what I saw, I joined in on the dance of death.

Long story short, I was quite impressed by this guy. Yes he’s an obscure character but what’s important to me is that he looks cool on the shelf. He’s a bit finicky, but that’s more because his design is full of sharp edges. But he doesn’t feel fragile at all (I mean I’m not going to be throwing him against the wall any time soon). And most notable as far as MPM engineering goes, he’s not bad at all. It’s not a nightmare at all to transform him into his alt mode. And speaking of his alt mode….it’s beautiful. I have always been a fan of the Ferrari race car and I was always rather upset that none of the original G1 Autobots transformed into one (and before anyone brings up the Omnibot Overdrive, I don’t include him in my original 1984 carbot count). So Dino’s fire red Ferrari 458 alt mode is an extreme plus for me.

6) Max Rebo Band (3D Print)

Getting a custom 3D printed Blurrg really opened up a new realm of possibilities when it came to key characters I needed for a specific display. So it was only a matter of time before I started adding even more 3D prints to my most ambitious display to date, Jabba’s throne room. Getting the Max Rebo band has always been a pipe dream for me since aside from the handful of diehards, no one was really clamoring for toys of an alien band led by a blue elephant looking keyboard player. Count me in as one of those diehards.

So when I came across a YouTube video of someone working out some 3D printed customs of the Max Rebo band, I knew that this was what I had to do. The process was fairly effortless on my end as I wasn’t actually printing or painting these guys myself. But I did invest time and effort in creating a suitable performance space for the trio. I’m quite proud of the end result as it evens out my entire throne room display.

Now I wonder if it’s worth the trouble to 3D print out a Joh Yowza?

5) Black Series Bo Kattan and Asajj Ventress

The Black Series may not be as prolific as Marvel Legends but when they release a much sought after character and fan favorite, it seems like quite the event. Such is the case with both Bo Kattan and Asajj Ventress. Yes I know this is a bit of a cop out to lump both of them together but seeing as they are wave mates and I did get them at the same time….well actually, my list, so my rules.

Seriously though, both these figures are exceptionally done. And I have been waiting for plastic representations of these for my shelf for quite some time being a fan of the Clone Wars series. While we finally got to see Bo Kattan “in the flesh” when she made her live action debut on The Mandalorian, it was nice to see what a “real world” Ventress would theoretically look like. Plus seeing Ventress posed next to her Sith Master Count Dooku on my shelf is just icing on the cake.

4) Black Series Beskar Mandalorian

For the longest time, I went back and forth on exactly which version of the Beskar Mandalorian to get. In the end I went with the Black Series version. Despite being the cheapest option I still feel it holds its own against the more expensive offerings from Sh Figuarts or Mafex. But adding some custom accessories (beska spear, soft goods cape and shoulder bag for Grogu) just pushes this guy over the top. There’s something really satisfying with having a unique version of a key character in your display.

3) Siege Jetfire

I still stand by my opinion that this is one of the best Transformers toys that Hasbro has ever produced. Period.

2) Skybreaker (KO “The Last Knight” Masterpiece Megatron)

Early last year, 3rd party company Unique Toys released their version of a “masterpiece” Megatron from The Last Knight named Dragoon. I was really tempted to get it but ultimately passed because it was quite pricey, and at the time, I wasn’t really into seriously collecting MPM Transformers beyond the 2007 movie.

Fast forward a year later, and “4th party” company Black Mamba releases a KO of Dragoon called Skybreaker. Despite sporting some minor design modifications, specifically a slight size reduction and added paint detailing , it was basically the same toy as Dragoon. And the best part of it was that it was being sold at HALF of Dragoon’s original price. But even at such a great price I still initially resisted. Then the Lakers got knocked out of the first round of the NBA playoffs and I needed something to cheer me up (yes we toy collectors will cook up whatever excuse is needed to get a new toy) so I caved on Skybreaker.

And I’m glad I did. This toy is amazing. If someone who didn’t know better saw this highly detailed Megatron on display, there would be no way they would guess that it actually transformed into a jet. There is close to ZERO alt mode kibble anywhere on this guy. It’s quite a feat of engineering with a long nose cone and wings that neatly fold up inside the chest and legs respectively. You’d think that this would be a nightmare to transform...but surprisingly it isn’t. It’s definitely involved but once you’ve done it once, you’re pretty much good to go. And the end result in either mode is quite solid, with everything locking into place.

While this guy is definitely good enough to be displayed as a stand alone piece, I was so inspired by his presence that I felt the need to add in some complimentary pieces...his “crew”. Yes...another damn rabbit hole. SMH.

1) Rancor (3D Print)

Getting myself a 3D printed Rancor was always a joke between myself and my friend who did all my 3D printing. Everytime I would see someone online making one, I would tag my friend asking him when he would make me one. This went on for some time until finally he actually called my bluff and printed one out. So yeah I had to put my money where my mouth was. And that’s how I got myself a 19” tall Rancor in my living room.

While he may not be the biggest toy in my collection, he is definitely one of the most visually impressive pieces that I currently have. Thanks to the amazingly detailed and lifelike paint job done by a highly talented local customizer.

My Jabba’s Palace display is possibly the most ambitious project that I’ve done for my collection and this Rancor is the crowning jewel of that display.

Now as of writing this, it seems to be confirmed via a Hasbro “slip up” that they indeed will be doing their own Black Series Rancor as a Haslab fundcrowded project!

I’m willing to bet though that it will probably cost 3 or 4 times more than what I spent for this guy AND not look as good. Knowing me though I’ll probably end up getting that too. But that will probably give me at least a year to enjoy my current Rancor. Then I can eventually repaint it into a Felucian Battle Rancor. In other words….no regrets here :)