Height: 13cm to top of head
Articulation: 15 total points - Swivel neck plus neck hinge; 3 points each arm: Ball joint shoulder, hinge elbow, swivel wrist; Waist swivel; 3 points each leg: ball joint thigh, thigh swivel, hinge knee. Plus additional joints for wing positioning.
Colors: Molded black, red, colorless clear; Painted black, red, gold, clear yellow, clear purple, pearlescent white, metallic blue, silver.
Accessories: Tessen war fan, Stromfall Sword plus scabbard
Release Data: Released in the United States in September of 2014 at a retail price of US$14.99
Using input gained over a one month period starting April 18th, 2013, Windblade is the first Transformer designed by allowing the fandom to vote on basic character and design elements. The coloration, alternate form, weapon, name and even the character's gender were all picked by the fans who participated in the polling held on Hasbro's website. While more specific design details remained the call of the toy design team, including styling the character as a Japanese warrior, it's fair to say that by majority voice, Windblade is the toy that we as a fandom wanted to have. Having been greatly anticipated since being revealed at San Diego Comic Con in 2013, and even more anticipated thanks to the popular self-titled four part mini series earlier this year, it's time to finally see the result of this amazing experiment!
When given the opportunity to join the Autobot cause, Windblade jumped at the chance. The Autobots were more than happy to welcome her to their ranks. Her near-telepathic link to the Titan Metroplex is a remarkable power that holds untold potential.
(you know, I think when people were scared about Windblade getting her own comic book, it was writing like this they were worried about. Yikes!)
Most people are likely to have their idea of what Windblade looks like from the Windblade miniseries and the way artist Sarah Stone depicted the character. The toy does not look like that. The head was simplified a fair bit - fewer decorative elements in the "hair", not as many facial lines, different "make up" patterns, and a silver face versus looking white in most all art in and out of the miniseries. Being among the people who became attached to the character through the miniseries, I have to say the situation is not nearly as bad as I was worried about. Promotional photography gave me the impression the face was very angular and at least somewhat harsh, but it's actually more rounded than it seems and the expression is more neutral when you can look at it and distinguish between what are actual facial features and what are decorative paint applications. While I would still like to have a head more similar to Sarah Stone's interpretation, I'm feeling pretty good about what the figure has. Good thing, too, as the head is glued together around a mushroom peg, which would make replacement difficult at best. That does mean the neck articulation is a swivel, but the lower transformation joint can give a reasonable looking degree of up or down tilt to compensate. The side to side movement ends up rather limited by the high collar, and there's not anything you can do to get around that.
Articulation in general is average. There's not any double joints, and the elbows and knees only do around 90 degrees with their single hinges. The wrists swivel, there are bicep swivels high on the arm, and the legs have the typical ball joint and swivel thigh set up. A decent waist swivel is present, partly for use in transformation, but it works fine for posing, especially when having a sword. Windblade won't be winning any awards for articulation design, but it gets by decently. The smaller body shape helps make up for some of it since there isn't as much there to get in its own way and exaggerate any issues with the range of movement. Worth noting here, the hinged shoulderpads have a distinct tendency to stay closed down against the arms. The hinge movement is on the stiff side, and when the arm is raised, the shoulder covers go with. It doesn't actually look bad with them folded down, and for some it may be easier to just leave them that way rather than having to keep moving them back up frequently.
Now, Windblade has no ankle articulation, as a result of how the transformation works. Windblade also has spike heels, which I'm not a fan of. And even less so when they're hinged to collapse toward the toe. Meaning that it's remarkably easy to push the heel in to the foot and have no support to stand on. The hinges are not very stiff, and there's no means to secure the heel at the open state despite that there could easily have been a notch in the heel piece to help it catch without actually needed any additional parts or assembly complexity. The figure will stand in general, but the footprint is tiny, so you have a limited range of poses that can be supported without external assistance. This is complicated additionally by some things causing the robot to be a bit back heavy.
Windblade's wings are worn like a seeker, more or less. They hang from the shoulders on swivel joints along the same axis as the shoulder joint. They're also further articulated with another swivel at a right angle and a hinge. So you have a little freedom in how you want the wings to be arranged, which is nice. But in general whatever you do is going to leave the toy back heavy since you have a not-insignificant mass mostly behind the back line of the figure. To its credit, it will usually stand and resist the backward weight even with the kind of terrible way the feet are made, but this trait further limits what kind of posing can be done without the use of a stand to compensate. Some may also object to the way the wings stick off the body, which due to the slimmer build seem far more prominent than traditional designs doing essentially the same trick. Once I figure out how to get them mostly out of the way of the arms and reading more like backpack elements rather than jet parts trying to crowd the robot, I felt a lot better about their presence. To note, the package shows the wings folded straight back, and this will not work without a stand or a really awkward forward-leaning pose to rebalance the weight.
The most significant flaw with the toy falls in how little locks together in robot mode. You'll find this the most in the shoulders, where they seem meant to snap in somewhere in the upper body, but just don't. The hinges so far are stiff enough for this not to be a major issue, but sometimes you'll encounter them pulling down in the process of posing, and since it's all on one assembly together, the wing for that side as well. It's not like it's difficult to pop it back up in place, but it's one symptom of a recurring problem. The torso has almost no means of securing closed, and seems to actually rely on hinge friction and maybe the base of the wing jointing to pin things closed. It doesn't typically pop itself open, but there's basically nothing really keeping it closed either. Much like the heels, there seems like there could have easily been small tabs or notches in the hinges or something simple to add structural reinforcement without complicating the figure's design.
Windblade has a decent amount of paint, but is still dominated by red and
black which mostly takes up the plastic colors. Small amounts of blue serve as
accents here and there, and tiny bits of gold, but I feel like there needs to
be more to it. Clearly a number of paint operations went to the head, with gold
and blue decoration in the "hair", silver face with black and red makeup, and
the eyes also being painted metallic blue. A lot got sunk in that, so I can see
there being limited amounts for elsewhere. I just wish some of what was left
had been something other than black or red.
Windblade's transformation is more involved than average for a toy of this
size today, but still relatively simple. There's a few twists to the lower body
to line parts up to form the back of the jet, but that's about the end to
complexity. Remember to pull the shoulders out before flipping the head in to
the body, and I'd suggest straightening out the cockpit section before folding
the back closed to help prevent any possible rubbing against the painted
surfaces of the face.
The main thing you might have noticed during transformation would be how things made to lock in place just don't. You'll probably notice it most where the wings are supposed to join the fuselage, as the tabs just fall out of the spaces they're made for. The wings do lock successfully back at the stabilizers and are thus kept under control adequately. I found the fit of that tab and slot pair to be worryingly tight initially, but the fit relaxed and has not been a problem after the first few uses. The cockpit looks like it should lock in place, and has tabs to fit around the inside of the chest. But that's far less of a locking point and is more of a suggestion; it helps align the parts correctly, but makes no effort to stop them from getting moved out of place accidentally. At the engines, a tab holds left and right sides together, including a split down the middle vertical stabilizer. But between the fit not being great and the tail fin being a slightly softer plastic, it never closes flush, and in my case an annoyingly visible gap is always left. In this case it would probably have been better to design this with two uprights instead of trying to bring two halves together as a single piece.
The best securing element ends up being the robot's arms, which simply grip a tab on the bottom of the wing surface between the flight wings and the stabilizers. This does of course mean the arms are not integrated in to the jet structure at all, but thanks to being so small, they're low profile enough to not stand out obviously. The robot shins do a better job of making themselves a part of the jet, but only to a point. The point of the toes, in fact. By themselves, the shins almost look like reasonable, or at least passable elements of a slightly sci-fi aircraft design. They're lined up with the jet nozzles such that you'd totally buy them as air intakes. It's just the toes pointing up that brings you back to how they're chunks of leg. I've been wondering if this wasn't the victim of a little bit of cost savings. See, the channels that the shins move along to go between modes looks to be correctly lined up and just the right size for the toes to fold down in to that space, and were that done it would totally smooth these parts in to the line of the jet mode. Seeing this, I'm really curious if that was part of some "non-essential" moving parts that got cut at some stage of revision to meet budget. If so it's a shame, since that would have done a lot for the looks here, clearing up one of the main aesthetic issues I find with this jet mode.
The other visual issue is in the same neighborhood. There's a big empty space in the back end of the jet. It's the space between the robot's legs, and there's nothing you can really do about that. Storing the sword and scabbard in jet mode fills a little of that space, but doesn't do enough to be able to pretend it isn't there. But I guess if we can pretend this is an alien aircraft design that just happens to have a degree of similarity to familiar real jets, maybe having some air space in the engine structure is okay? I can't help thinking that a gap right there would seriously screw with the aerodynamics, but ultimately I'm just not-fun like that. If someone wanted to make after market add ons for Windblade, a cover piece for that gap has a ready to go mounting point in the upward facing stress relief slot for the robot's waist joint.
Windblade's VTOL fans have a nice pearlescent paint, which while visible in
robot mode are more striking here as a contrast to the almost entirely black
jet body. The fans can spin freely, at least if you can get enough leverage in
the small space to get them going. The fans are hinged, and not only can be
tilted forward, but can almost fully invert. ...for... those moments where you
want to descend really quickly? With a set of normal jet engines in
back, I question how much benefit there is from the VTOL fans being oriented
for forward flight, especially with part of the wing surface being behind the
flow of the turbines. Now I'm no expert, but something about that doesn't quite
read right to me. Anyway, there's landing gear, two in back permanently
deployed, and one that flips down from under the cockpit. Together they give
just barely enough clearance to keep any other parts off your shelf, desk, or
other smooth, flat surface. While the nosecone is a different color plastic, it
doesn't feel particularly softer than most of the rest of the toy. It also
includes a 3mm port for compatible figure display stands, and this port remains
accessible on the figure's back in robot mode. That placement is kind of not
ideal for a flight stand port in general, but the design tends to preclude
putting it anywhere else in vehicle mode. But if you're using Tamashii Stages
anyway, you ought not have much problem finding alternate spots to position the
stand that balance the weight a little better. Finally, Windblade's canopy is
quite large, but no interior cockpit details are presented within. Which seems
appropriate to me in the case of a character who has yet to meet a human.
Windblade's main accessory is a sword and scabbard. The sword is cast in clear plastic, and the hilt is mostly painted over in black, save for a small turbine at the base of the blade which is left clear. The blade has a quick gradient from transparent purple to colorless clear, giving a workable though not ideal energized appearance. In truth I think I'd have rather it been solid colored along the whole length. A translucent, rather than transparent purple effect would have worked better for me, since I find it more difficult to imagine as a charged physical blade like this. Translucency would make it glow when backlit but look solid otherwise and make more sense to have the scabbard to start with. I end up just seeing it as an energy blade the way it is, and then why have a sheath at all? I like the styling though. The blade has a nice looking curve with superfluous points low on the blade to make it look a little more fantasy while the turbine ties it back to the technological side. The fusion is simple but works well visually.
The scabbard is very well executed. The sword slides smoothly in to it and holds securely once inside. From that point you have an array of options, which is the best part. At the top are two angled tabs, one on either side. With these the scabbard can be attached at various points on the figure. Using the stress-relief cavities on the sides of the thighs might be the most obvious place to carry the sword, and that works well. The scabbard points back a bit far due to the angle of the tabs, but it doesn't look bad. Less immediately evident are slots underneath the jet's canopy, allowing sword and scabbard to be carried on the back at the shoulder. Now we get to much less obvious things. A 5mm port below the waist joint is intended for sword storage in vehicle mode using a peg at the end of the scabbard, but it can be used in robot mode. The sword's grip ends up sitting a little high over the shoulder, but this is a workable option. The side tabs can also be used by slotting in to the opening for the waist joint's mushroom peg. It stays solidly, but this is probably the least ideal way since the scabbard will stick out to the side considerably - although, not significantly farther than the wings already do. Last, another 5mm peg lets the figure hold the scabbard just below the opening, permitting it to be carried by hand in a way that looks pretty nice.
While many of these options let a hand be placed on the grip while the sword is carried on the body, the figure doesn't have the correct articulation to perform an actual draw. And being clear plastic, I'd recommend against trying to avoid the blade potentially snapping from the wrong bit of stress. The figure does have articulation enough to grip the sword with both hands, and the hands have come out sized correctly to use the sword without stressing and stretching the plastic. Better elbow joints and a hinge or even decently ball jointed wrist would have increased the possibilities for sword poses, but you can still do some neat things.
Windblade also has a "hidden" accessory. The instructions call it out, but it's pretty well concealed up to that point. The fan on the back of the head can be removed and held as a small blade weapon, based on Tessen war fans. The instructions don't make clear the right way to pull the fan out. It has a long, thick tab going straight in to the head, so be sure to only pull back, not up. The fan is made of clear plastic, so the wrong angle of stress can cause it to break. I found the movement uncomfortably stiff, and after carefully working it out the first time, I used a tiny amount of silicone based oil to help smooth it. This step may be unnecessary, but if you have a silicone oil (petroleum based oils can damage the plastic!) on hand it can help. But in truth, I think it looks better as part of the head ornamentation than it does as a hand held piece.
Windblade is not without flaws, and most of that comes back to parts not locking in place where they very much need to. But since friction can step in and take up for that, at least right now, the problem is more minor than it could have been. The only thing keeping Windblade from being a really great figure ends up being the high heeled foot design, and the unfortunate choice in designing how the heels work. Because apart from that, the robot design is pretty solid. And the jet mode pretty much shares in the same assessment, mostly good if not for one or two bad choices. The sword and scabbard accessory really grabs me in a certain way, and I appreciate how many different places there are for the toy to wear them, allowing some variation and personalization to the figure.
In the end, Windblade is Very Good on the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Rating Scale, but more than just the quality of the toy I think what will draw people is connections formed from reading Windblade's comic book. And it's going to fall to individual decisions on how much they care that the art and toy don't entirely match. All I can do is say that in person, the differences are not nearly so drastic as many existing photos might lead you to believe, and hopefully I've been able to show through my own photos that despite different styles of face deco, it's not so far removed from the Sarah Stone version that Mairghread Scott's writing made us all care about.
|Date||September 24th 2014|
|Score||(8 out of 10)|
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