“Astrotrain! Transform and get us out of here!”
Poor Astrotrain. Always the Decepticons designated driver. Despite (presumably) having spacecraft and other means of Transport at their disposal, Astrotrain was frequently called upon to lump his comrades around. Issue eleven of Takara’s Transformers Collection paid homage by reissuing the guy, thus giving him a bit of recognition for his thankless role. And presumably because his mould was found to be in a serviceable state. Interestingly, Astrotrain was rereleased in his Japanese variant colour scheme. The original toy was released in purple, black and white. For their domestic market, Takara made a running change to the toy, casting him in a more realistic black and white. For a time, this was quite a rare variant of the figure. Not so much now, thanks to the prevalence of both this version and the later Hasbro reissue which both have him in the variant colours. An E-Hobby variant in ‘anime’ colours also crept out around this time. This not being one of the better early Transformers moulds out there, it’s not really worth the expense unless you absolutely cannot live without the toys matching up to what was seen on TV.
The concept of Triple-Changers is a nice one in theory, but in practise has generally led to some terrible compromise to get three workable modes out of the toy that look something like. Astrotrain, like Blitzwing, originated in Takara’s Diaclone line so comes from a time when a bit of thought was put into such things, in stark comparison to later disasters like Octane and Broadside. That said, he is pretty much an oblong that you turn upside down to switch between all three modes.
The white space shuttle mode is nice and crisp. The minimalist black and white should make him a decidedly dull piece, but he looks surprisingly good. There are the panels and parts you’d expect to see decorating a real space shuttle. The front end clearly gives the game away with some poorly hidden train panels, but I find these add to the charm. The join lines aren’t too bad in this mode, the gaps in the wings seem unavoidable given how they have to fold around the body to form the train. Only the poor plastic and paint matching lets the space shuttle mode down.
The locomotive mode is also charming. There’s a good level of detail and the glossy black paint is matched by some similarly glossy plastics. A few spots of white show through and only along the wheels are any join lines obvious. The main faults of this mode are the clumsy looking front wheels and the faux-train wheels which are reduced to a crude etched design along the sides.
After a barely noticeable transformation we get to the robot mode which is where Astrotrain falls down. He’s very flat, and quite bland. His arms are tiny stumps and some clever chap has given him a gun that’s as long as he is tall to hold. It looks silly. His only articulation is in the shoulders which means he can’t do much with that gun without looking silly. Best I could do was a sort of Dirty Harry pose, but without his head being able to turn, it just looks like he’s absently swinging his gun around.
The worst thing you can say about Astrotrain is that the box is more interesting than the toy. As with the later Pretenders, the artwork delivers promise that the toy simply cannot deliver. Perhaps if he’d been made at a larger scale, there would have been more room to make a workable robot mode (at least to give him some extending arms), as it is he’s pretty unremarkable and another example of the early Decepticon line up being quite poor. No wonder they were all so angry.
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