For the fifth release in Takara’s Transformers Collection Series, Smokescreen got a welcome second outing. Originally released in 1985, the character managed a few starring episodes of the cartoon series, an issue or two of Marvel’s US comic series and a memorable turn during Marvel UK’s ‘Legacy Of Unicron’ in which he used an Autobot shuttle to ***** slap Unicron. To differentiate Smokescreen from his mould sharing brethren Prowl and Bluestreak, Smokescreen’s animation model borrowed more heavily from the actual toy and also made him a slightly portly and stout fellow whom looked like he was wearing Ugg boots.
The reissue comes in one of Takara’s glorious book-box style packages, with a great piece of character art, the usual encyclopaedia pull outs, character card, instructions and label sheet as well as a plinth that can be formed out of the inner tray, should you fancy setting up a toy museum type display in your own home. The effort Takara went to with this series of reissues is something I rather miss from the rather bog-standard re-releases that later programs, as there’s a feeling here of rolling out a product that demonstrates its context and history both in terms of the actual toy line and the fictional universe the character inhabits. It’s basically like having a special edition DVD jammed with extra features and something that made these figures well worth forking out the import prices for, despite my not being able to read a word of Japanese.
It’s difficult to bring some new superlatives to describe how great this mould is. Whilst Prowl is probably my favourite use of the mould, Smokescreen also adds his own unique spin on the same vehicle. It’s a great looking vehicle of its time and whilst the rally version seen here doesn’t pack quite the same impact as Prowl’s decal festooned alt mode, there’s enough interest and individuality here to make picking up what is the essentially the same toy again. The huge big bumper at the front really bulks out the front end making Smokescreen feel a more muscular take on the vehicle and it’s a shame the rest of the vehicle doesn’t add to this with a slightly feeble rear spoiler and none of the beefy skirting along the sides and rear bumper that you might expect. Still, coupled with that awesome blue/white/maroon livery this take on the Datsun Fairlady looks fantastic and is a nice colourful addition to the ranks of the Autobot cars. It rolls really nicely too and the opening doors are a nice touch which suggests this is one of the few moulds that hasn’t deteriorated or warped over time.
The transformation to robot mode is a winner and the robot mode is stunning, perhaps just nudging ahead of Prowl thanks to the use of some black plastics to compliment the dominant colours. This gives Smokescreen a very striking and eye catching appearance, as the sensible use of black for the forearms and waist stop the colourful racing car livery from becoming too forcecful. Likewise the silver paint used on the face and that lovely sparkly gold on his horns accent the figure perfectly. As do those lovely white missile launchers with their chromed missiles and that marvellous chrome rifle. As ever with Takara, there is a label sheet for the figure, but choose these carefully as sticking them all on makes the toy far too busy looking in robot mode and the mould does enough on its own without cluttering it up with a load of unwelcome stickers. Articulation is limited to the arms which is to be expected in a toy of this era, but the quality of mould and materials shine through making Smokescreen a real jewel in the early years of the Transformers line.