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

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Fans Hobby MasterBuilder MB-03 Feilong

Fans Hobby are a new company releasing 3rd Party versions of recognisable Transformers characters at Masterpiece scale. While the people behind the company are rumoured to be people who worked at other well know 3P companies, their MasterBuilder brand may as well - for all intents and purposes - be considered new. Here we have MB-03 "Feilong", their version of the G1 Autobot Monsterbot "Doublecross".

G1 Doublecross was originally released in 1987 as part of the Monsterbots (Grotusque and Repugnus being the other two) in North America, Japan and also Italy. We didn't get him in the UK or most other European countries. He was barely ever in fiction, getting some spotlight only in IDW's Maximum Dynobots. He also saw release as a Hasbro Titans Return figure in late 2016 as "Twinferno".

But for those who wanted a larger, more articulated and Masterpiece-level series of Monsterbots, Fans Hobby obliged. Their first two figures were excellent with some acceptable room for improvement, they were MB-01 Archenemy (RID Scourge/CR Black Convoy) and MB-02 Megatooth (Repugnus). So how well have Fans Hobby done in following up those two hits with another?

Feilong here, complete with Super Street Fighter II name, is an extremely faithful representation of Doublecross, complete with his enveloping black wings and double dragon heads as hands. Unlike the original, he comes not just with a single white handgun, but with two grey ones. No other accessories are included, but the final monster in the set (MB-05 Flypro) will come with switchable faces for him, flame accessories and actual humanoid hands.

I should stress that even though mine came boxed and complete with paperwork, it is still a slightly earlier production sample, although final retail versions are already with retailers and collectors. Feilong looks fantastic, as absolutely monstrous in beast mode as you'd want from the character, and beefy as hell in robot mode. He sits alongside Megatooth perfectly with the same aesthetic, and although some have called these figures too stocky and big, I just can't see them as lithe Masterpiece-style figures with the same old proportions while still being any sort of seriously intimidating monster band.

Feilong has great arms and hands for posability, laden with ratchets and good friction joints. There are two spots in each hand/maw for attaching the guns with a secure hold. The spot further into the mouth does leave the gun pointing at a strange angle, so I expect everyone will use the first spot. The forearm can be retracted a bit with the two halves of the head then folded back to reveal an in-built cannon. If you pull the waist up to reveal the tab that was plugged into the waist, you'll have full waist rotation. The head looks up, down and around, but lift it too much and the panel it sits on will come up too. I wish it clipped in securely.

The hips have good ratchets for the leg, and while on my test shot there was a great deal of give and looseness in the right leg (sometimes he would slip out of dynamic stances and do the splits), the production version has corrected this. I was actually pre-warned about it by Fans Hobby and they made good on their promise to correct it for production. There is an ankle tilt that goes both ways, meaning he can do...

...The Run! That's a seriously menacing and convincing run, too. There is a knee bend as you can see, and as long as you open up the calf flaps, he can do a kneel. The lower legs are so much more massive than the thighs, so it's a bit of work to make it look convincing for photos. There is even a flap on the shin in case you want to bend the legs in such a way that normally there would be some rubbing or obstruction of foot against said shin.

What I love about the robot mode is just how natural and effortless so many of the poses look. This was a huge strength of Archenemy and Megatooth, and it's been carried forward to Feilong too. There is a real aura of strength and power in his robot mode poses. Picking him up reminds you of the heft this company like to put into their products...and how sharp they make those die cast monster claws!

Overall, the robot mode is tremendous, packed with fun and oozing posability. Even the majestic wings have 3 points of articulation each, meaning you can have them wrapped around the shoulders, pointing all the way back or even folded up along his back with a the smallest of kibbly interference.

There are a few things to be aware of, though. The plugging in of the tab below his abdomen into the die cast red waist piece means there will be rubbing of plastic against painted die cast, and I have some scratches and paint transfer on that tab now. The waist itself has flaps to allow for more leg movement, but those flaps do flop a bit, being die cast. Should you get into a pickle and find yourself with panels in the wrong place, they can scratch up the plastic. That's happened to me once in many transformations, but honestly, I was not paying attention to the conversion at the time as I should have been. Finally, the tabs on the sides of the torso where the wing assembly clips on are kinda soft, and I can see them deforming slightly over time with repeated tabbing/untabbing, the way the Feralcons' did. There was also some paint transfer from the feet onto my photo background paper, but again this has been sorted for production release as far as I can see.

Returning to the positive, how about that monster mode? A two-headed fire-breathing dragon of quite demonic presence. He is stunning in this mode, wrestling attention away from many surrounding figures. But, let's talk transformation. Is it as straightforward as that of Archenemy and Megatooth? For the most part, yes, it is. The only fiddly bit is the folding out of the legs, as they require you to fold them up and out to the side in order to achieve clearance for the calf flaps, tail halves, waist flaps and monster legs. Everything is chunky and strong, so you don't have to be delicate about it, just watch yourself on those die cast claws.

Going back to robot mode, another section you'll need to perfect is splitting the chest halves and getting the central panel aligned with the tabs on each chest half. They clip right onto the central panel, but aligning them takes work, and there are some minor scuffs on the tabs now from repeated transformation. That's really all there is to it. Split chest, fold in/out the robot head and central chest panel. Tab/untab wings, fold up/down the legs and fold in/fold out the monster legs from inside the legs. The ratcheting down and up of the dragon heads that become arms is my favourite part because it's so satisfying!

Well, they've done it again. Two excellent modes, lots of character and personality in the figure, simple transformation that's highly repeatable and a serious looker. Check out those fearsome dragon heads. They bend in every which way you could wish for, all the rotations necessary are there in the joints. The guns mount on his back a la TR Twinferno. There is a tilt in the beast legs at the knees as well as some swivel and good forward/backward motion in the beast feet, but to achieve a wider stance you'll have to unclip the leg from the torso, and that may not have enough friction to support anything too dynamic. The beast hands also don't rotate outwards, just up and down with articulation at the elbow too. As you can see, though, there's no shortage of poses available.

Immensely expressive and true to the source material, Feilong is probably the best Masterpiece-scale Doublecross we are going to have for the foreseeable future, and what a fine figure to 'make do' with. Looking fantastic with Megatooth and even MakeToys Re:Master figures, not to mention Takara Masterpiece Transformers, I think Fans Hobby are doing a wonderful thing here with the Monsterbots. Who else was in danger of touching them?

Of course, they are stylised to the max, they have exaggerated robot mode features. There is consistency in their appearance, though, and those stylised features give them a personality beyond what the G1 toys had. They really and truly stand out as a monstrous pair of beasts that give the good guys some much needed teeth. Literally.

1987 in Masterpiece scale is gently filling out, and I adore the fact that these guys and the MakeToys offerings all scale with the delightful (to me) MP-9 Rodimus Convoy. I fear these Monsterbots would totally overshadow MP-28 Hot Rodimus and his scale-mates. Even FansToys Galvatron (Sovereign) and Weirdwolf (Lupus) fit right in. I dream of a 1987 Headmaster, Targetmaster and Monsterbot line up. Even KFC have unveiled MP scale Horrorcons, so the dream is becoming a reality. For their part as a 'new' company, Fans Hobby are ensuring that Doublecross, Repugnus and Grotusque hold up their end of the bargain.

With Feilong, you get a very solid toy that's great fun to play with, looks phenomenal and is even attracting people to a purchase when they have zero interest in the character, the original toy or Monsterbots generally. That's the mark of a job well done. 

I'm more than happy to announce that in my mind, even with the wear points on this figure that appeared almost straight away, this represents 3 out of 3 for the fledgling Fans Hobby project. They're definitely beginning to refine their science already, evidenced in the weapon grip of the figure compared to the previous two, but they've got to keep an eye on things like paint transfer and interaction between plastic and die cast materials. I also have to say that in all my communications with them, they have been totally transparent, immensely pleasant and forthcoming, helpful and fast to replace anything I needed (Archenemy's sword, and an eventual new leg for my Feilong). A complete breath of fresh air to the scene. I love them, I love Monsterbots, and I love Feilong.

All the best

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