Non-affiliated, Non-lengthy, Non-articles about Transformers

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Fans Hobby MasterBuilder MB-05 Flypro

Third Party Transformers manufacturer Fans Hobby are not wasting any time. A mere six months after the release of their first MasterBuilder figure, they are now onto their fifth release. MB-05 Flypro rounds out their team of Masterpiece-style Monsterbots, so all can now display this not-Grotusque alongside Megatooth (Repugnus) and Feilong (Doublecross). They have not exactly compromised on quality, either. Flypro is a terrific product, much as their previous four releases have been. Similar to FansToys and their Iron Dibots, Fans Hobby have refined the product to the point where Flypro outshines Feilong, despite being a retool of him. Now, thanks to Icelandic customs, I have received Flypro after most reviewers and photographers, so the usual routine of review photography was just not going to garner any interest for this review as most poses and group shots have already done the rounds. As a result, the photos for this review are, with Fans Hobby's blessing, a bit more creative. I hope you enjoy viewing and reading it as much as I did producing it!

As previously mentioned, Flypro is an unofficial Masterpiece scale version of the 1987 Autobot "Grotusque", one of three Monsterbots. It was a very bold move for Fans Hobby to go down the Monsterbot route for their earliest series of toys because they weren't available to everyone in the vintage era, and they remain a relatively under-documented and under-represented set of characters in media and the collecting community. Of the three MasterBuilder monsters, Flypro was the one I was looking forward to the most because G1 Grotusque is an absolute diamond.

Grotusque was described by his Hasbro Generation 1 Transformers box as being a "Flying Tiger Monster", and Flypro recreates his beast mode looks excellently, even to the point of allowing the double-barreled gun to be mounted between his shoulder blades. Flypro is based heavily on the Feilong (Doublecross) release that preceded it, but with some key differences beyond the obvious aesthetic ones. The orientation of the lower body is reversed and he can - and should - be displayed with two tails! The legs are the same as Feilong, and apart from the waist spin, the transformation of the lower half is similar too, again with a few tiny refinements. There are times where I believe the mould was actually more intended for Flypro, with Feilong being the available re-tool

While Feilong's robot arms became the twin dragon heads, Flypro's robot arms remain in place as the monster's arms too. This allows him much more posability in the beast arms than Feilong's relatively static beast arms. Flypro's beast head hangs down as kibble behind his back in robot mode, and the neck is ball-jointed for a decent - but certainly not exhaustive - range of motion in flying tiger monster mode. This can provide slightly less expression and display options than Feilong, whose beast head posability is sublime. Flypro's chromed (not die-cast) tusks look ace on that wide-opening jaw, as do those gaze-drawing teal eyes of his. The three claws on each paw are independently articulated, but have a short range of travel.

You can 'unplug' the waist tabs on Flypro that go vertically down from the abdomen in beast mode in order to free up waist rotation, allowing further posability and expressive stances to be achieved. The picture above gives you a good sense of scale alongside the tiny Diaclone Powered Suits and shows you just how monstrous he looks in beast mode. It's always a surprise to me that they were greenlighted as Autobots. 

The legs can be unplugged from the main body (a necessary transformation step) in order to give him a wider stance and more display options. He's stable enough this way and you can make better use of the rather unconventional 'ankle' tilt that Fans Hobby have given him (and Feilong) which actually starts at the knee. You can also rotate the forearms so that the claws can face upwards to reproduce poses like the above.

I believe where Flypro really excels in posability as a beast is his majestic wings. There is now one more point of articulation on the wings than just three folding hinges; they can also rotate at the point of connection to the body. This makes an absolute world of difference to his appearance, enjoyment, posability and just his presence as a winged beast. They actually make Feilong's wings feel extremely limited and awkward by comparison. In the above image, besides the Decepticon kidnapping, you can see the flame accessories that Flypro comes with. They feature tabs that allow you to - reasonably securely - plug them into the Monsterbot mouths of the Fans Hobby figures. I've always wanted more accessories like this since I first experienced them on Gigapower Guttur, and Fans Hobby deliver nicely. There are three of the flames seen above, each being a two-piece assembly. I will admit to it not being the easiest thing in the world to get the flames plugged into Flypro's beast maw, though.

Flypro truly has a lovely beast mode. It's weighty because of the die-cast and has a lovely matte-like finish to the paint. How about those gorgeous colours, eh? Colours that always made the delightful G1 Grotusque stand out so much have been faithfully reproduced on Flypro, and original sticker detail has been translated to tampos on Flypro in a number of places. His repulsive majesty is fantastic, with the posability just making it something you won't be able to put down. You can surely see that I've had no shortage of fun with him.

Transformation to robot mode does require the same care for the lower half as Feilong did. The legs don't just fold down in as straightforward a manner as they did on the G1 Grotusque; you have to open the flaps on the legs, fold them up and then manoeuvre the legs off to the side to gain enough clearance for all the kibbly bits. Remember to unplug the beast legs and fold them inside, and watch out for those sharp die-cast claws on his feet when handling that section! As I said before, there is now an added waist rotation for the conversion process compared to Feilong. Upper body transformation is easy and does not involve the same chest-half splitting faff that Feilong did. Instead, you just fold back the beast head to reveal the grumpy robot mode headsculpt. Arms and hands are very straightforward too, although you may have to slide the claws back along the length of the forearm once or twice as they have a tendency to slip back down.

While it's not white like the original, Flypro's handgun is pretty serious and reasonably accurate in looks. It also has all the functionality of the vintage version when it comes to where it can be attached. When he holds it in his hands, though, the bulk of his forearm stops the gun from sitting flush against his wrist. Those wings of his really are something, aren't they?

Obviously, Flypro's wings are just as potent a posing tool in robot mode as they were in beast mode, and his ability to grip it with his hands lends itself to some great poses. There is so much one can do with a figure when given ample waist and head rotation, as well as free shoulder movement. Flypro's shoulder rocker is an added plus that boosts the articulation available. I also like how for Flypro, compared to Feilong, the waist flaps are now independent of each other, and somehow they seem to get in the way much less too - helped by the fact that they are not as floppy due to being plastic instead of die-cast. Another gentle refinement. 

What I found most tricky when it came to posing Flypro in robot mode was the knee bend. Because of the calf flaps and the size/shape of the lower legs, it's really hard to get a convincing knee bend on Flypro. As a result, I often had to un-tab the calf flaps and just move them out of the way, leading to pictures where it was sometimes not entirely obvious what I was trying to convey with the legs. Up to 90 degrees, though, I reckon it's absolutely fine. He certainly has no shortage of dynamism in robot mode, as you can see.

Another excellent addition to the accessory set that accompanies Flypro is the variety of faces he comes with. Not just for himself either, there are alternate faces for Megatooth and Feilong (as well as extra helmet/eye pieces where necessary for the older figures). Each Monster now has a stoic face (well...grumpy), a smiling face and a gritted-teeth serious angry face. You need a screwdriver to swap between them, and I must say Megatooth's head has not really gone back together as tightly since the transition..but then my Megatooth was a test shot, so yours may be fine. The result is added enjoyment, added expressiveness and more options for display and photography. Above all, they are convincing. I've made good use of them, certainly!

Familiar or not, when you put the Monsterbots together, magic sparks fly...figuratively as opposed to literally, since the 3PMP variety no longer have the sparking mechanisms. This amazing collection of beefy beasts exist in a grotesque harmony, somehow pulling together to exude this fantastically brutish sensation of being an elite warrior team. They had every ounce of the same horrific charisma as Generation 1 Monsterbots, too. Each one's distinct appearance and features, remoulding aside, helps achieve that. Flypro's stunning colours provide the perfect foil to Feilong's more standard mechanical colours, just as Grotusque did for Doublecross in 1987.

I personally feel that even though Fans Hobby opted for such bulky and relatively exaggerated proportions for Masterpiece scale, as a team they slip into a 1987-themed MP/3PMP display extremely successfully. Seen above with the MakeToys 'Masters, they take on the role of Autobot thugs beautifully. Could you really accept them as proper monstrous beings if their robot modes were of the same standard proportions as Chromedome or Pointblank? I don't think so, which totally justifies Fans Hobby's decision to go the route they did. There's a lot to be said for personality and distinct character, even among a uniform series of figures.

With the team now complete, and considering the speed and quality with which Fans Hobby carried out the task, we can genuinely look on the MasterBuilder Monsterbots as a great success. They are totally in the same vein as the originals, and despite missing the spark gimmick, they make up for it in playability and posability. They have a presence among their peers and scalemates in robot mode that the originals actually cannot boast. And speaking of added stuff in lieu of a gimmick, Flypro also comes with standard humanoid hands for Feilong that can hold his weapon, should you wish to display and enjoy him that way. You can see some of the pictures above have Feilong gripping one of his guns in a black fist as opposed to a dragon maw.

To conclude, I hope that what my words - and maybe more importantly, my photos - have communicated is that Fans Hobby MasterBuilder MB-05 Flypro is quite comprehensively a Masterpiece and fun version of Grotusque. People have said that Fans Hobby products are not complex enough, but really I see absolutely no need for them to introduce complexity and intricacy where simple parts and quick transformations add to the enjoyment and accessibility of the product. Nothing about Monsterbots strikes me as intricate and delicate, so I don't see why they need a panel-tastic design instead of the perfectly serviceable philosophy of moving large chunky sections during transformation.

Flypro has his minor niggles, like the gun not sitting flush in the hand, a need for just a bit more articulation in the beast neck and Feilong's ever-so-slightly awkward clearance issues with the leg transformation, but all throughout my handling and photography of him I've been having a ton of fun. I adore G1 Grotusque, so I really needed them to get Flypro absolutely right. They absolutely have, he's gorgeous and expressive in both modes and I love the in-hand experience of the figure because of how he's constructed and finished. I actually think the beast mode is more enjoyable than the robot mode, but that's kind of the point of Monsterbots. Luckily, should you be a collector who insists on displaying their Transformers as robots, I would assure you that there are very few circumstances under which Flypro and his Monsterbot mates would not amuse and thrill.

All the best