Ocular Max - The Masterpiece Transformers-mimicking arm of Mastermind Creations - have followed the example of BadCube and released a toy intended to help fill a very special and specific gap in your Masterpiece Diaclone-coloured ranks, Perfection Series 02 "Liger". This red repaint of PS-01 Sphinx (MP Mirage) is an homage to the 1985 Takara Diaclone Car Robot No.16 Ligier JS11 F1 in red, a toy only available in the spectacularly rare and sought after Powered Convoy DX set. Ocular Max offered this in May initially as a show exclusive, but it is now widely available from the usual 3rd party dealers and retailers.
As mentioned in the intro, the red version of 'Diaclone Mirage' was exclusive to the Japanese Takara Powered Convoy DX (PCDX) set, something that haunts the dreams of virtually every Diaclone collector I know, so rare is it to find one in any condition. Sure there are more PCDX sets (and therefore red Ligiers) than Finnish Diaclone Black Tracks around, but we are still talking about a toy that may take a collector 10 to 15 years to find, afford and add to their collection barring a wild stroke of luck. The red Ligier came packaged with a chrome-trailered Diaclone Powered Convoy (pre-Ultra Magnus) and a black/blue Diaclone New Countach (pre-Deepcover). It was never released by itself in regular Diaclone Ligier packaging, the last two pictures above being a 'what if' scenario created by my friend Ben Munn back in 2003, before the bootleg G1 red Mirages you now find about the place were even a thing yet.
Following on from PS-01 Sphinx, PS-01A Sphinx Alternative and PS-03 Backdraft, PS-02 Liger maintains Ocular Max's reputation for beautifully presented figures. Liger comes in a quite lovely Diaclone-style box, but still retains the vintage Transformers-style techspec and decoder that the other Perfection Series figures come with. Ocular Max seemingly have no issue encroaching on multiple intellectual properties! The collector's card and instruction book are as classy as you have come to expect from this company, utilising the talents of fandom members Chogoking, UNEM Studios and Hardreturn. The name "Liger" seems to stem directly from "Ligier", the original name for the Diaclone vintage figure. Ligier was of course the name of the French Formula 1 team (Equipe Gitanes Ligier to be exact) from which the 1979 JS11 F1 vehicle originated. We know this car in blue, made famous by French race winners Jacques Laffite and Patrick Depailler, and also by Transformers Autobot Spy Mirage.
Quite a lot to give credit to here, including myself! I have submitted numerous images to the team responsible for this figure in order for them to create packaging that pays appropriate artistic tribute to the original while maintaining strong Ocular Max brand story. Liger's packaging is obviously based on the normal TF-style Perfection Series box of Sphinx Alternative, but the colours are hugely influenced by the original Diaclone Ligier packaging as you can see in my comparison shots above. It would have been better for me to compare Liger's box with a Japanese Diaclone Ligier, but I now only own the much rarer Finnish Diaclone Ligier so that's going to have to suffice! Liger's "Perfection Series" logo is done in the colour and style of the vintage Diaclone Car Robot logo, and the box top mimics the transformation sequence seen on the Diaclone's box top too. OK, sometimes art is used instead of photography and vice versa, but they've properly recreated the style of the vintage Ligier packaging - ironic as the red Diaclone Ligier never saw release in the single box being recreated here by Liger. The other nods and winks to the original packaging are clearly visible in the above comparison shots (box side flap colour and layout, back of box street scene etc).
The many strengths of the original Sphinx figure are evident here too, starting with the very accurate and stunning Formula 1 vehicle mode and continuing through rubber tyres, excellent paint work, die cast sections, chromed wheel hubs, engine and divine proportions. Like Sphinx, Liger dodges potential litigation by mis-spelling French cigarette brand Gitanes as Citanes, oil company Elf as Ell and tyre behemoth Goodyear as Goooyear. I still have not been able to determine if Equipe Gitanes Ligier actually ran their 1979 JS11 F1 in a red livery at any promotional or iconic Grand Prix event that year.
Just as with Sphinx and Sphinx Alternative before him, Liger comes with the handgun and non-launching missile and launcher and holographic half-driver (now smokey clear instead of translucent blue). Also, like the real world accurate Sphinx Alternative, Ocular Max have coloured Liger's silver sections in the more cartoon-style flat metallic grey as opposed to PS-01 Sphinx's properly shiny and glossy metallic silver. Liger also exhibits Sphinx Alternative's structural improvements such as less front suspension sag in vehicle mode and tighter joints overall. He's ridiculously dreamy in vehicle mode, a proper eye-catcher.
For a full run down of this mould's excellent transformation, posability, durability and quality - as well as drawbacks - you can check out my original PS-01 Sphinx review and the follow up PS-01A Sphinx Alternative review. Besides being red, the main exciting thing you need to know here is that beyond paying homage to a Diaclone rarity, Ocular Max have given Liger a brand new head sculpt which is now accurate to the original Ligier/Mirage toy as opposed to the cartoon accurate head of Sphinx.
Hugely memorable and specifically crafted, the original Mirage and Ligier head sculpt was something a number of Sphinx owners were crying out for but in blue. The fact that Ocular Max have gone to the trouble of remoulding the head for what will undoubtedly be a less popular repaint bodes well for an eventual toy accurate blue-headed Sphinx release. They're pushing their luck though, we have had four versions of this mould including the latest TFCon exclusive half-translucent Sphinx, a fifth completely toy accurate blue one will test everyone's budgetary limits. As it stands, Liger has the half-red face, the yellow eyes, the side vents and that proper mouth and chin. It's really a fantastic job they have done with this head. The connection and interference of the shoulder launcher still irritates me, though.
Liger, the "assassinator" (surely "assassin" would do?) is pitched as a character without particular ties to either main faction and a possible threat to the leadership of both sides given his special abilities. Abilities recognisable for their similarity to that of Mirage. The mould was already one of fine quality, second only to MakeToys Cupola in all the 3rd party figures I have ever owned, but in red a new dimension is brought to the toy. All the poses are available to him, expressive features and tremendously good-looking proportions make him a dream display piece. Anyone looking to add a Masterpiece quality red Diaclone Ligier to their collection will find PS-02 Liger to be precisely what the doctor ordered. Little things like gun grip, tolerances and thumb articulation add so much to superb visuals. They make you want to constantly interact with the figure as they did with Sphinx. Did I mention this figure has one of the loveliest transformations of any 3rd party figure out there? So very much in line with TakaraTomy's own Masterpiece engineering.
Quite apart from looking exceptionally good by himself and with the other Sphinx mould-mates he has, Liger just slots seamlessly into a Diaclone Masterpiece display with the likes of BadCube Sentinel Blaze, Masterpiece Tigertrack, Bluestreak, Exhaust, Road Rage, Clampdown and Loudpedal. You can have a look at my Masterpiece MP-25L Loudpedal article for group Diaclone MP shots featuring PS-02 Liger.
With Loudpedal covered by Takara alongside the other Diaclone MPs I never imagined we'd see, and Masterpiece Delta Magnus (Powered Convoy) on the way next month, Liger fills yet another highly obscure gap in the MP-scale Diaclone line up. It fills a gap for collectors like me who have sought the vintage figure for a lifetime and come to accept that owning it will never happen beyond a miracle. It scratches that itch for me where a toy that deserves recognition, a toy steeped in history, mystique and rarity is done justice by a company that cares greatly about its output, how it's perceived and by showing the appropriate level of respect to the vintage inspiration. The Sphinx mould was already an instant classic and everything I wanted in an MP style Mirage, so whatever TakaraTomy do in future with Mirage and an eventual red Diaclone release will just add to the happiness that PS-02 Liger brings me. What a wonderfully privileged situation to be in as a Diaclone fan, a Formula 1 fan and a Transformers toy fan.
Ocular Max and PS-02 Liger deliver comprehensively. Now, where's my G2 colours Sphinx?
All the best