Thursday, 7 July 2011

Beast Wars Neo Longrack

As ambivalent as I was toward Beast Wars, the Japanese line did have some delightfully bonkers additions to the range, and Longrack is just such a character. Among all the lions, tigers, apes, dinosaurs and other such powerful, dangerous creatures, who would have thought that a Giraffe represented a viable alternate mode for one of the time-displaced Cybertronians? Evidently someone at Takara did...

Beast Mode:
So, yes, it's a Giraffe... and not only that, but it's a reasonably accurate and detailed representation of that animal. The size suggests a juvenile to me, but I'm no expert... it could just be that they scaled back on the neck for purely practical reasons (which become more obvious in robot mode).

It's molded with subtle - not very convincing - fur detail, which is then painted over with the traditional giraffe 'crazy paving' pattern. Like the best Beast Wars toys, this paint job is not symmetrical, and runs nicely across all of the panels that make up the beast shell. While it may seem odd that the Giraffe's tongue is sticking out (as if feeding, I guess?), this activates one of the model's gimmicks. Where some beasts came with panels to open, revealing a sort of 'playing dead/carcass' mode, Longrack's tongue is a button which causes the eyes to move. Not quite sure what that's supposed to signify, but it may be explained somewhere in the (Japanese) packaging.

Due in part to further gimmicks and in part to the necessities of transformation, Longrack's beast mode is almost articulated... that is to say, the back legs move freely, and the front legs bend at the knee. There's also a moderate amount of tilt on the head but, unsurprisingly, it can't turn. That said, I doubt it would have taken much redesigning to give him a fully poseable, ball-jointed neck joint. It was never going to be a fully poseable neck because of the necessities of robot mode and the supposed 'weapon platform' mode, but the ability to turn the giraffe's head would have been neat.

The tail also moves a little, but only on one joint, pinned at the bottom. It's molded mid-flick, but the tuft at the end looks rubbery rather than furry, due to the use of semi-matte paint.
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Robot Mode:
Well, what can one say other than "Huh?". Longrack's robot mode is a bit of a jumble. He basically has the full length of the giraffe's neck protruding from his right elbow (not his shoulder, as he does have an elbow joint below that red shoulder joint!) with a ginormous claw sticking out of the collar. This claw is spring loaded to fire out and, through the magic of inertia, close itself, as if clamping around some Predacon's neck. As gimmicks go, it's very strange... but then, Longrack appears to be made of strange. I suspect this claw is the reason Armada Hoist/Micron Legend Grap was given a new head and paint job, and released as Cybertron Longrack back in 2005.

Longrack's left arm is a more normal arm, albeit embedded within large panels of beast shell both at the shoulder and, most obstructively, on the forearm. This huge slab of beast flesh houses Longrack's weapon, however, so at least it serves a purpose.

The weapon is a particularly bizarre looking short sword, molded in red plastic, with a guard made out of the giraffe's mane. It can sit either in the left fist or, if you're feeling daring, can also be plugged into the inner claw on the right arm. It doesn't seem to be a particularly effective weapon either way.

The giraffe's forelegs, now sticking out of Longrack's back, become missile lauchers with what must be the most annoying hair-trigger on any TransFormer I've ever owned. Seriously, you only have to look at them and they launch. I've lost count of the number of times one or both have fired off, mid-transformation, though thankfully I've never lost track of the missiles.

The head mold is probably one of my favourites from the Japanese range, simply because it's one of the few Beast Wars robot heads that actually looks like a robot's head, albeit with a ridiculously large central crest. Longrack's spark crystal is concealed in his chest, 'Matrix of Leadership'-style, covered by a rotating panel of beast shell. The weirdest thing about this is that the shell has diagonal slits molded into it, so the spark crystal is almost visible when it's closed. The first time I saw it, I wondered if there was a speaker hidden behind.

Longrack in robot mode is, thankfully, far more poseable than in beast mode. The legs are particularly well-jointed, though the awkward feet don't put him among the most stable Maximals. It can take an awful lot of time and patience figuring out how best to pose the toes and heel-spurs to keep him upright, during which time those missiles on his back will probably launch several times over. The arms, naturally, are quite limited - one by its sheer size and spring-loaded gimmickery, the other by the large panels attached to it, but Longrack does have the unusual advantage of waist articulation, as a necessity of transformation, so he works out quite nicely.
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Weapon Platform Mode:
Many of the TransFormers in Longrack's particular line were described as triple-changers, in that they could adopt a kind of weapon/utility mode. Longrack, frankly, looks more like some kind of construction equipment, except for those two missile lauchers facing foreward. It's certainly not among the best alternate modes... but then, none of them looked like much more than an afterthought.
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I won't beat about the bush here: Longrack is a complete pain in the arse to transform. Even putting aside those missile-launcher knees (in fact, big tip #1: take those blasted missiles out before attempting to transform him!), the number of panels, and the fact that some of them seem to have to move through others, makes switching between modes a time-consuming and infuriating process. Either of the two main modes look good enough - though I would like to see a more detailed/natural repaint, like the other Beast Wars reissues - but that extra alternate mode is just plain weird.

There was a very short space of time between my first discovery of the adorable insanity that is Beast Wars Neo Longrack, and my discovery that he was out of stock everywhere. It is the very fact of his awkwardness and asymmetry that appealed to me, so I was thrilled when an online TransFormers specialist found one in their storeroom after a stocktaking weekend, and I ordered it without hesitation. Longrack defies all explanation - he is the toy that should never have been: A giraffe that transforms into a robot... and he, even more than Lio Convoy, is responsible for my increased interest in the Beast Wars/Machines toy ranges.

Despite its many shortcomings, Longrack is easily one of my favourite Beast Wars toys. I'm even quite keen to get the Cybertron version, despite that mold being a bit rubbish, because Longrack's look is both amusing and unique. If it's good enough for TFCC/Botcon Dinobot, it's easily good enough for Longrack.

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