Welcome to the scene, Voodoo Robots Potion Series PS-01 Salus - a Masterpiece-style and scaled interpretation of the Autobot Medic Ratchet. Salus is based on the animation model of Ratchet used in the Transformers cartoon series, as opposed to the other popular incarnations of Ratchet from the Marvel comics or the current IDW comics. With an undeniable level of disappointment visible in the fandom over the Takara Tomy official Masterpiece Ratchet, there is an opportunity for a 3rd party product to slip in there and become a very popular alternative. Is Salus that figure?
Having captured everyone's attention with their pre-production imagery of an MP-styled Ironhide called "Animus" as well as this figure, Voodoo Robots are a very real alternative for many collectors where MP Ironhide and Ratchet are concerned, such is the divided opinion on Takara Tomy's efforts. Animus has already seen limited release as a TFCon exclusive in Diaclone black colours (and Diaclone style packaging). Salus here is part of the same "Potion Series" and will be the first wide release from Voodoo Robots. You can see above he comes packaged in vehicle mode, accompanied by a G1 toy Ratchet style weapon and a handgun, a "Filler kit" for plugging what look like a mass of bullet holes with small white plastic cubes on sprues, instructions on where to put the fillers, a collector's card and a truly woeful set of transformation instructions that strained my eyes enormously.
Voodoo have chosen to only picture the specific parts and sections that need transforming per step, effectively removing the surrounding figure from the diagrams and really making it difficult to understand the parts they are referring to in the context of the figure around them. The small size of the print made it difficult too.
Straight out of the box I was struck by the relative lightness of the figure for its size, although you cannot say it's hollow in vehicle mode. The wheels are plastic and quite thin, the holes are quite an eye sore due to Salus's white plastic and paint but he sure does recreate the look of G1 Ratchet extremely well, based on a Nissan Onebox Cherry Vanette. From the side there's a huge amount of undercarriage as the panels that form a major part of the lower legs reside there. On a flat hard surface there is no obstruction to rolling. Of course, once you apply the filler kit, Salus's appearance is drastically improved.
Initially I found the application of the filler kit to be most laborious, but armed with tweezers and nail cutters it was suddenly quite easy and finally, therapeutic. Salus has a few nice little painted details like the brake and indicator lights, exhaust pipes, hub caps and certain panels. There's admirable levels of vehicular detail too like windscreen wipers, mirrors, door handles etc. Certainly there hasn't been any noticeable skimping on vehicle detail. The windows are tinted to hide the disguised robot parts that have folded up within the vehicle. This is an attractive Ratchet vehicle mode, there's nothing more I would need it to do visually as far as a 3rd party company is concerned.
In terms of size and scale, one cannot argue too much with how he looks next to Masterpiece cars like Bumblebee and Tracks, mainly because there's no inherent accurate scale going on there in vehicle mode. With that in mind, Salus can't upset the apple cart too much in vehicle mode because he's noticeably bigger than cars like Tracks and Bumblebee. Voodoo have gone for a cartoon appearance here, so the painted silver sections work well with official Masterpiece colour palettes and aesthetics, whereas the chrome on other 3rd party Masterpiece-like cars such as MakeToys Gundog 2Y stands out.
You might have noticed that not all of the panels are sitting flush, there are gaps. The tabs that should secure the front bumper to the front of the vehicle are visible. There is definitely a lot of pushing, pulling and trying to align tabs and panels for a flush vehicle mode fit. I've not managed to get it all 100% settled to be honest, the pictures showing the best of what I have achieved on return to vehicle mode.
The first transformation using the instructions was quite precarious and laborious. I honestly did think I was going to break something. Panels felt thin, I thought the front wheels were going to snap right off at the joints when I folded them back on themselves, and some of the pinned joints flexed and bent, but I have since transformed Salus over 10 times and no damage has been caused. In fact, after a few tries I decided to stop being careful and just gave it some beans, treating it as if it was an official Masterpiece or Generations figure, and Salus took it all well and no problems arose.
Once you learn the steps, there are some quite enjoyable parts to the whole transformation. While the backpack, frustratingly, has no defined final resting position and can give the impression that it floats, the folding of the windows, bumper halves and front wheels is the most enjoyable sequence of the transformation for me. The formation of the legs using the main panels of the middle and rear of the vehicle involves some clever and enjoyable ratcheted extending and rotating of the feet/ankles together with the sliding of windows. This part of the bot has some panels that can really feel as though they are flexing when trying to clear them past obstructions.
There's a lot to talk about in robot mode with Salus. First and foremost, I think he looks brilliant and superbly proportioned. The head sculpt seems very accurate to the animation model. There are aspects to Salus's robot silhouette and proportions that most would die to see on the official Masterpiece Ratchet. There are no unsightly side skirts on the hip and the chest proportions seem much more natural. It's true that some might find the rear windows on his feet jarring, but it's amazing how quickly I just accepted that and moved on. I'm disappointed that the inner legs don't tab as tightly and neatly as the design intends them to. A number of my pictures will show the leg panels starting to separate. This is not improving with repeated transformations.
The hands are nicely articulated with a mostly independent index finger containing two points of articulation. there are panels that slide up under the forearms, and the left one has gotten quite loose on my Salus. The flaps which hide the hands in the wrists are solid and nice. One thing more about the hands, though, they are on a swivel but cannot go the whole 360 degrees because of an obstruction created by the surrounding moulding. This can be countered by rotating the arm at the elbow for whatever your imagination wants to achieve there. Elbows are double jointed and shoulders offer a good range of movement. Overall, good arms and hands, more than enough for my liking! The head, while afforded a good amount of freedom due to the ball joint, exhibits an amount of resistance on rotation that alarms me. The almighty squeaks and creaks it lets out really worry me and inspire no confidence there.
Starting at the waist, I have some issues with the lower half of Salus. Firstly, those hip skirts are made of thin plastic with a fragile and brittle feeling joint. However, the ankle ratchets and knee ratchets are strong and feel quality. The thighs are a good length, but when you bend the knee it does not look natural (see last pic above). Stability in robot mode is strong, and he can do wide-angled action poses very very well. Unfortunately, wide-angled stances are about all Salus can do. The legs are ratcheted at the hip joint meaning they clunk in and out on pre-determined steps. This allows for no middle ground between unnatural brick-straight G1 standing and immediate wide-legged action pose. Any photo you see in this review where he looks to be holding a regular and natural idle standing pose was achieved with luck, great effort and the perfect amount of friction from the surface Salus was standing on at the time. This is without a doubt my biggest gripe with Salus. He would have benefitted enormously from friction joints at the hip instead of ratchets. Having said that, he can do my favourite running pose, hold his weapons well, and double-handed. Dynamic expression is very possible with Salus.
I am torn regarding Salus's robot mode scale. There's little doubt he fits in well with the official Masterpiece Autobots. He scales beautifully with Prime and Bumblebee, but with the Autobot cars like Tracks, Sideswipe and co, he seems a head too tall...maybe more, actually. Even Takara's effort stands above the other Autobot cars, so whatever you choose, Wheeljack and Ratchet will not be at eye level.
So what we have with Voodoo Salus is a figure that absolutely nails the aesthetic in both modes, on a display shelf he's going to give you everything you wanted from a Masterpiece Autobot Ratchet, but only if you can live with his height and his wide-legged poses. As far as the feel and quality go, like I say I have not broken anything or damaged the figure while transforming it multiple times. I do take issue with the flex and bend required to transform him in certain sections, and the lack of flush tabbing on a toy that is panel-driven for the most part can actually affect what should be a seamless vehicle mode. This seems to be deteriorating ever so slightly with every transform, too. I wish the tolerances in the plastic were better, Salus feels a bit like an old school 3rd party product, not quite the solidity and finishing quality of an MMC Leo Dux, MakeToys Gundog or Cupola, but not as weak as a Cubex Huff or KFC Micro Robo. I'd place it at about the same level as KFC Dai Stack, if not a tad better. Some panels remind me of the thin plastic used in places on FansToys Tesla.
One thing I was not expecting was just how much the addition of a clear-backed Autobot symbol would do for his appearance...
Suddenly, Salus is more Ratchet than anything else, a really essential addition that truly makes this as a display option among Masterpiece Transformers. As soon as I added that sticker, my willingness to let Salus go decreased markedly. I really like how this toy looks in both modes, and he has some wonderful poses in him for dioramas, battles or action shots. The transformation is something I mostly enjoy, too. This conflicts maddeningly with those ratcheted hips, the bits that un-tab themselves in robot mode or won't sit flush in vehicle mode. If any collector can't be bothered with the filler kit, then they're going to have a considerable number of display-affecting holes in their Salus. Voodoo Robots also need to work on their instructional paperwork.
Ultimately, if you are not fussed about a few tolerances, flexing panels and weakly-tabbed sections in vehicle mode because you plan to pose him as a robot with Masterpiece Transformers (and are not bothered by a wide-legged stance) then Vodoo Salus is absolutely the right figure for you. He does look great in a Masterpiece Transformers line-up and he has superb robot proportions. His ability to be your Masterpiece Ratchet in lieu of a perfect TakaraTomy Masterpiece depends on how much you intend to mess with him as a fully functional Transformer and how excited the following images make you feel.
All the bestMaz