TakaraTomy's Masterpiece MP-21R Bumble - Red Body is a fascinating release, probably for all the wrong reasons. I know I personally pre-ordered it out of a sense of obligation and completion, trying to make up for never having properly completed the vintage Diaclone and MC Car Robots & minibots I so desired. Masterpiece MP-21 Bumble was in itself one of the toys of the decade and a comprehensive success, but I found the G2 repaint MP-21G massively underwhelming, so my hopes of being impressed by the red version were not high. I've seen a lot of disparaging comments about this release because it is supposedly a poor man's Cliffjumper and the origin of the colour scheme confused a number of collectors.
Let's clear that up immediately, a red Bumblebee is enormously relevant and quite a legitimate variant. In 1983 the Japanese Takara Micro Change Series MC-04 Car 03 Volkswagen was released in yellow, red and even blue. A second wave of smaller boxes dropped the blue release with red and yellow still offered. The Transformers also had Bumblebee packaged on TF cards in red (some with actual red Bumblebee artwork) in 1984 and 1985 in the US, Canada, Europe and even Japan. A red Bumblebee is as widely released and relevant, if not moreso, than most of the Masterpiece repaints we've had thus far who weren't new characters. For anyone wondering what "Bumble" is all about, that was his original name as a Takara release. Can't wait until "Gong" and "Drag" get the MP treatment...
TakaraTomy are not dressing this up as Cliffjumper by any means, no more than Tigertrack was supposed to satisfy us as a Sunstreaker. This is clearly marked out as Bumblebee on the packaging, just in red as a tribute to the many occasions and locations that saw this figure appear in red. The collector's coin, hilariously, refers to this as "Bumble - Red Boby", so he shall forever be known as Red Boby. I obtained this through Hasbro Asia channels, so it has the aforementioned collector's coin, but the other Bumblebee Masterpiece trimmings are absent. No exo-suited 'human', no battle mask inexplicably, this is after all supposed to be an homage to the red Bumblebee toy. As a G1 toy, there was no humanoid face for this figure, and MP-21G had them included as stock, I really cannot fathom why they left it out. You do get a slightly smiley extra humanoid face with Red Boby, the licence plate and spare tyre, but that and the handgun are your lot. The one wing mirror (and a spare) is sprued, accurately recreating the look of the Volkswagen Beetle Type I.
MP-21R was also not a mainline release, so the usual Japanese online retailers like Anime Export didn't stock him. In Japan it was a Cybertron Satellite exclusive, and that is evidenced on the front of the box with a silver sticker. What most of us didn't realise at the time of first announcement was just how gorgeous the paint finish on Red Boby would be, together with freshly silver chromed front and rear bumpers. I think it's not unfair to call it the nicest of all three Masterpiece Bumble release so far, I was so completely taken aback by how nice it was in hand. Most unexpected for him to outshine MP-14C Clampdown as they arrived together!
As with any pre-Transformers homage in the Masterpiece line, I would have preferred it if the Autobot symbols were optional stickers instead of (large) tampos, but at least the one on the roof/chest can remain hidden. That is a little myopic of me, though, as red Bumblebee would have gained most of its recognition in the vintage era through the carded Transformers variant, so maybe it is indeed appropriate for him to primarily be an easily identifiable Autobot Transformer.
The transformation on this mould - should you not have experienced it before - is among the finest in the history of the Transformers brand. For a toy this size, I struggle to think of anything that has a more enjoyable conversion with a moment of Masterpiece magic like the diagonal belly storage of the hood section. There may be a semi-false rear window in robot mode and perma-fists, but the posability, expression and character you can extract from this micro-masterpiece make up for it a hundred fold. I even got to the point where he was so delicious to me in red, that I didn't want the battle mask accessory, such was the better fit of red on Bumblebee with humanoid face than the standard and iconic yellow one. The handgun is not the same metallic blue as seen on yellow MP-21, it's a bit more sparkly if anything and definitely lighter in colour.
If you decide that you can't live with a humanoid face on a figure that primarily pays tribute to a toy-based Bumblebee variant, you will notice the face does not come off anywhere near as easily as with previous MP-21 releases. In fact I had to unscrew the head and carefully pop the face off, knowing that other collectors had permanently damaged sections of the head by just trying to pull it off forcefully. The result, using an unpainted MP-21 Amazon exclusive battle mask, is lovely too. He appears to have a very well-suited yellow crest/quiff that does not disrupt the gorgeous overall appearance of the toy at all.
I still adore how both the spare tyre cover and the handgun can be stored away under the vehicle in car mode, and the fit of panels is actually better on my MP-21R than my original MP-21. It's inexplicable to me how much I am drawn to the red on this figure, accentuated successfully by the chrome bumpers, and how totally indifferent I was to the battle-masked, rocket-pack wearing MP-21G. Maybe the other was just too close to MP-21 Bumble yellow version (Yellow Boby?).
|Accessory storage under front of car|
|Sporting the spare tyre|
|Spare tyre replaced with licence plate|
Both modes on Red Boby are stunning, and of course being such a terrific mould, the robot mode like MP-21 Bumble has amazing weight distribution, low centre of gravity and poise. It can pull off 'The Run' and all kinds of dynamic action stances. In car mode with the different display options, again you find there's more to this tiny little masterpiece than you could have imagined. Of course if you already have the other releases, you know what to expect. Like the others, the chrome rear bumper comes off quite easily on Bumble Red Body. You can also see some sloppy silver paint application on the rear wheel there, which is slightly disappointing. Can you believe I hadn't noticed it, though, until editing these pictures?
|What? WHAT? They won't mind, they're ME! Anyway, shut up, look what you're wearing.|
|Look, he was in the cartoon!|
So, it's not a pointless and soulless money-grab, this colour scheme on the Volkswagen Beetle known as Bumblebee has history and significance. I have heard a lot of collectors tell me over the last few months how their first ever Transformer was the red version of Bumblebee. It's also not supposed to be Cliffjumper, so let's not get all up in arms about things when the eventual Masterpiece Cliffjumper gets repainted into yellow because the exact same situation exists there, a yellow pre-TF Cliffjumper as well as a Transformers yellow Cliffjumper alongside the common red.
MP-21R Bumble Red Body is as impressive as any other Masterpiece Autobot car in its finish, albeit with the odd paint botch. It also has the honour of being the first Micro Change Series themed repaint of the entire Masterpiece line! MP Megatron never had a black repaint (let's not count the gun that comes with MP-2!), MP Soundwave doesn't have a Cassette Man version (kinda pointless anyway), none of the Masterpiece cassettes have been released in MC exclusive colours (blue Ravage and Laserbeak, Enemy colours Frenzy etc), so this is the first. Enormously high recommendation from me, what could have been the most dull of MP repaints has emerged as one of my favourites.
Thanks to Colin Pringle, Adam Strang and Gordon Yip for vintage MC Volkswagen access and images, and to Ambitron and Dan Ghile for the screen cap.
All the best