And now, Scary-Crayon and SWAFT review...
Unlicensed Kabaya Transformer Metroplex with Bonus Mini-Comic!
by: Tresob Yr

Hello, Scary-Crayon readers! My name is Tresob Yr, and it is my pleasure to review some unlicensed Kabaya Transformers. If you aren't familiar with it, Kabaya is a candy company that occasionally produces Transformers merchandise officially sanctioned by Takara, including snap-together mini models that are near perfect replicas of the larger scale toys. Genuine unassembled models often fetch over a hundred dollars a pop on The Autobots' last line of defense.the secondary market, but why give reputable toy dealers all of that money for licensed toys when you can get a cheap Chinese knockoff for under five bucks from some shady guy selling them out of his apartment?

I could spend plenty of time debating the questionable morality of bootlegged commodities, but, for the moment, I'll skip the philosophy... although I will say that assembling a toy myself absolved quite a bit of capitalist guilt. When you spend an hour piecing together your own toys, you don't have to imagine Chinese slave labor doing it for you. It also gives you a greater appreciation for what goes into building the real thing.

It pays to be skeptical when dealing with sellers of unlicensed products, but the chance to own three-inch tall versions of Metroplex and Trypticon was well worth the ten-dollar gamble. And, let me say, they are pretty darn awesome. If you don't recall (or were born after 1985), Metroplex and Trypticon were rival Transformer cities. This meant they were really big, really expensive toys back in the day. See, after milking the Transformers cash cow for a number of years, Hasbro started to run out of ideas for having Transformers turn into vehicles that actually looked like anything. Eventually, the company decided to just have robots split in half and call the alternate mode a "city." It also meant that every time you saw a picture of Metroplex or Trypticon, the image included scads of other figures crawling all over them and multiplying the advertising power. In any event, Metroplex and Trypticon were Transformers for fans to lust over, and the novelty of having something really big and expensive reduced to something that I can fit in the palm of my hand for a few bucks is simply too much for me to resist as a collector. It's like offering a shrinking-ray gun to the evil villain. The sense of power alone is overwhelming.

No mudpuddle face for this knockoff!The detail on Metroplex is impressive; the bootleggers used top-notch molds for this guy. You can see all of the features of Metroplex's face and buildings, and he even has swiveling panels to conceal laser cannons and missile racks. The articulation pays so much attention to detail that the cannon towers on his shoulders even retract in robot mode.

Still, several features (or lack thereof) might disappoint the kind of hardcore TF fan that would send Michael Bay death threats. First, the colors are not accurate. I've seen one example on the Internet of someone who repainted his in the original colors, right down to the foil on his face. That is a man who is to be applauded... and who must have a very forgiving wife (real or imaginary). If you're thinking of following in his footsteps, I can only wish you luck on your epic endeavor. (Try not to inhale too many paint fumes, because you probably need whatever's left of your already mad brain.)

Second, Metroplex is missing all of his sidekicks. It would have been a nice touch to have a mini Six-Gun, mini Scamper, and mini Slammer, but no dice. I suppose there are enough little parts as it is without having to keep track of even more. I'm fairly certain that a mini Scamper would have been capable of being inhaled.

Rent is killer in Metroplex City.Third, Metroplex doesn't seem too eager to transform into his city mode. The model is pretty darn close to the original mold, but not close enough to produce a convincing city. I'm not sure it's that much of a loss in the end, though, considering that Metroplex's city mode always looked like someone just dropped him off the top of a building. He does convert to his battlestation mode fairly well.

The transformation process has some problems. Unless you've glued the parts together (which, in all likelihood, would also result in a visit to the hospital to remove a well-adhered particle beam cannon from your nose), they will easily unsnap during the conversion. An effective vehicle mode also assumes that you've been patient enough to remove all of the excess plastic from each part (and "patient" enough to undergo stitches from also slicing open your thumb). In all honesty, you might be better off disassembling the model and reassembling it in the mode you want whenever you want it to transform (or just buy two of them and keep one in each mode permanently... these models are that cheap).

Whether we are talking about robot models or Victoria's Secret models, a good presentation depends greatly on removing excess matter and a close shave (also like a Victoria's Secret model, you might find that Metroplex requires additional support). You have to work hard with a knife to remove the little bit of the tree that inevitably remains attached (to robots, not Victoria's Secret women), and you often find yourself fighting plastic globs that oozed through the mold seams (known as flare). Fortunately, the plastics used on these molds are so cheap that the flare slices off easily. The plastic is only slightly more solid than a crayon... even a scary crayon. In certain cases, I actually ripped off the plastic with my bare hands. Grrraaawr!

Unfortunately, I can only imagine that soft, cheap plastic comes from factories with little oversight and is only purchased by shifty-eyed bootleggers who aren't very interested in toy safety standards. Besides, these are "models," not "toys," so who knows what regulations apply, if any. I harp on this point with particular emphasis. Slicing a lot of this excess dross means that you end up with a fine layer of potentially toxic plastic waste material all over your table. I recommend a generous use of Lysol wipes and a good thorough hand-washing before eating.

This is also perhaps a good opportunity to mention that my particular Metroplex was missing a very important piece: #47, the back of his head. Serendipitously, I happened to take a photo of the model trees still in their bag for this review, and it was evident that the piece was missing before I even finished opening the set. (I am happy to inform readers that the seller was perfectly willing to mail me a replacement part free of charge... which makes this seller awesome. A++++++.)

E. Honda's got 'nothin on Sumo-Plex.Metroplex was a particularly complicated model to build with over sixty parts, but I managed to assemble the entire model (sans absentee piece #47) in about an hour (including snapping pictures of the process). I probably could have taken more time to trim some of the flare, and I never bothered to put his stickers on. I have pipe dreams that I might want to throw some paint on there, although I'm not sure how it would chemically interact with the plastic. The more basic sets, like Laserbeak or Ravage, can be snapped together in under fifteen minutes. In other words, you can treat yourself to building a model in one sitting before you go to bed... just make sure you're fully alert before you whip out your trusty utility knife.

In the end, the unlicensed Kabaya Transformer is more of a building experience than a collecting one. The collector revels in the acquisition and possession of a sought after piece. With these models, the greatest jouissance comes from actually putting it together. When you've completed the piece, you'll be less impressed with what it looks like than the fact that you managed to pull it off without losing anything (be it a part of the model or a fingertip).

Right now, one of the top resources for acquiring unlicensed Kabaya products is an eBay seller going by the foreboding name of BlackGaine. He's a good guy to deal with. I recommend him. I don't know where he is getting these things from, and I didn't bother to ask. I don't want to get tied up in some kind of international black market scandal. So, if you have a few hours to spare, have little fear of lead poisoning, and dig transforming robots, pick up a few models... and tell him Tresob Yr and Scary-Crayon sent you!

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