CST-01J Rhinohorn/Ramhorn (Cassette, KFC)

Name: Rhinohorn (Ramhorn)

Line: 3rd Party Transformers

Series: Cassettes

Size Class: Masterpiece/G1 Cassettes

Producer: KFC

Year of release: 2013

Usually the sole purpose of a review is to, well, review the subject. And I usually follow this traditional trend. However, this particular review will serve two goals and the critical presentation of the figure is going to be the secondary one. The thing is, I wanted to test a new setup of lights and background, so I decided to go with a, let’s call it, less significant figure than most of the 3rd Party Transformers depicted in my blog. This is the review of Rhinohorn released by the company KFC.

Ok, let me start with a short explanation. Why do I perceive the figure as a less significant one than others? Well, due to two reasons, actually. First, I bought it as a kind of curiosity, which cost me less than it normally would. You see, the online store where I usually purchase my 3rd Party Transformers, has this shipping policy of charging a rather high flat fee for shipment to my country, unless the total amount for a particular order exceeds a certain threshold. And in such a case the shipping is free. Which naturally leads to me always attempting to get enough figures to make it to the threshold. Don’t get me wrong, it is really easy to stuff my virtual shopping cart with enough toys to reach practically any quota, but there is this tingling sensation involved, a voice of reason if you will. And if this voice sounds very similar to the angry tone of one collector’s Wife, then it’s best to shop with care. So there I was one time, with all the pre-planned items already in my cart and the threshold almost reached. I didn’t want to add another expensive figure (voice of reason was awfully clear on that matter), so I decided to throw in something small and not too pricy, something that wasn’t exactly at the top of my must-have list, but nonetheless did catch my eye. And thus I got me a free shipping on my order and my very first product by KFC.

Ah yes, the company itself is the second reason why this figure can be viewed as something inferior. And no, the producer has nothing to do with the famous poultry-themed fast food franchise. The abbreviation is actually for Keith’s Fantasy Club, but the connotation is definitely not a coincidence, which becomes obvious once you look at the toy-maker’s logo. I guess there’s a joke there somewhere, but I personally don’t find it too funny, especially considering the looming shadow of a lawsuit if the company were to become really big and successful one day. Anyway, it’s a very small firm, that decided to dive into the 3rd Party ocean in 2013 with the idea of occupying the niche of G1-styled transforming cassettes. They quickly acquired the reputation of an underdog, yet I really liked the designs of some of their figures, so I decided to give one a go. So let’s finally get to KFC’s Rhinohorn.

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What convinced me to buy this guy in spite of the negative vibe surrounding the producer, and what hits me whenever I look at him in person or in photos, is how accurate he looks. If you know anything about the G1 era of Transformers, be it the cartoon or any of the comics continuities, you immediately recognize him as one of Blaster’s cassettes: Ramhorn. Yeah, it’s again the case of little to no effort given to actually modify the name of the character that the figure is the homage to. Lemmie also add that the box presents a short story of how Rhinohorn befriended a transforming robot called Blast. Mister Keith either has a kick-ass lawyer at his Fantasy Club or a whole bucket of self-confidence. See, I can make Kentucky Fried Chicken-related jokes too!

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Based on the history of their cassette-themed releases, I expected Rhinohorn to be poorly designed or of questionable quality. Or both. I expected it to become a display-only piece, handled carefully and never fiddled with, good only for its looks. And the figure surely wins in that department, conveying the look of the character perfectly.

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All the familiar details are in place, from the horned head with the angry-ish stare to the golden missile packs in the back.

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I gotta admit the figure looks really solid both from the top and from the sides. The front is also fine, providing you lower the head. The massive number of details molded all over the body and the smart placements of parts nicely add up to enhance the illusion of the toy not being hollow inside. Remember that this fellow has to transform into a cassette – an extremely flat object deprived of the mass needed to actually form a bulky mechanical rhino. Of course you can immediately see the emptiness of his inside when you view him from behind or underneath, but, given the nature of the character and the size of the figure, I can’t really see a way to tackle this better than KFC did. I am actually impressed with how well their mold looks and feels. If you are not convinced, think back to the pancake-flat G1 version.

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Apart from the delicious detailing and the cartoon/comic-accurate color scheme (what’s with the silver missile pods on the G1 toy anyway??), Rhinohorn features a wide range of articulation points. His legs enable him to achieve any pose a rhino needs: from resting, through running, to standing straight. Thanks to the transformation you can also move his sides further apart at the bottom, which (if done without exaggeration and viewed from a certain angle) adds to the look of an animal resting firmly on its feet.

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The leg articulation is satisfyingly functional, but it’s the head that shines. Not only does the mouth open and the neck moves up and down, but the head itself is on a separate ball joint. All this makes Rhinohorn very emotive – which is quite an achievement for a non-humanoid Transformer.

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To show you how beneficial this level of articulation is, let me compare KFC’s Ramhorn to a Masterpiece cassette-beast: Ravage.

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Both figures share a similar level of leg poseability, but the pose you see here is all that Ravage can achieve in terms of neck, head or mouth articulation. Kinda lame, huh? I remember I was a bit disappointed with this when I opened my Masterpiece Soundwave set, but the overall epicness of the other figures in the set cloaked the Decepticon panther’s flaws from me. I even wrote in my review that Ravage is not too impressive but you can’t really expect much more. And I actually felt that way – until I got to play with Rhinohorn. Let me tell you something: if I were to call one of these guys a masterpiece, it wouldn’t be the one licensed to bear that name. As a final proof of articulation-wise awesomeness of the Autobot rhino, I present a comparison with the Universe version of Ravage. I believe no further commentary is required on that matter.

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As for the quality… I have a hard time identifying the reasons for such a negative opinion among Transformers collectors concerning KFC’s products. Sure, the company had some misses in the cassette department, but I would call this guy a definite hit. His plastic feels perfectly fine, I haven’t noticed any stress marks and I never felt like I was handling a cheap knock-off, which is the case for some low quality 3rd Party stuff. The mold has a few imperfections here and there, but those are tiny and just look at all those sculpted details!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI even went ahead and put Rhinohorn next to Perfect Effect’s not-Frenzy, and you know how high I value this little guy.

 

 

Most of the joints are safely stiff and I goofed around with the figure for quite some time now. The ankles are a tad more loose than the hips, but they are nowhere near uncomfortable floppiness. The only issue that I experienced is the horn. As you can see, it’s mounted on a simple swivel due to the transformation and the irregular shape of the revolving piece makes the joint loose whenever it’s not in one of two ‘preferred’ positions: the one in the picture above or fully folded. This leads to the horn swiveling around if moved from the designated spot. It for example ends up pointing straight outwards, which can be seen in a few photos throughout the review. But it’s really a minor thing and did nothing to ruin the fun I had while posing Rhinohorn.

 

 

On to the alt mode.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It’s a cassette, alright. The details match the theme of G1 (and Masterpiece) cassettes having traditional features of these mystical items unknown to those born in the 21st century. I appreciate how instead of the copyright-forbidden Autobot logo, the tape bears the writing ‘Fantasy Club’, which could easily be a name of some band or an album. ‘CST-01’ is the designation number of the figure in KFC’s batch and it’s also non-descriptive enough to fit here. I’m glad they didn’t put their ridiculous logo or some other poor fast food-related pun anywhere. Both sides of the cassette feature the same markings, apart from the A and B side designation.

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As for the overall look, I’d say the tape mode does a decent job. The rhino compacted nicely into the desired shape, with a few visible lines and gaps (and the ever-staring eye!), which hint to its true nature. But hey, which transforming cassette is any different?

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Rhinohorn is of the same size as G1/Masterpiece tapes, but it doesn’t have the twin openings running the whole way through. This means it won’t fit into the Masterpiece cassette cases (which I strongly suspect are regular mini-cassette cases, popular in the 90s when voice recorders and answering machines used tapes of that size). It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, because…

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Soundwave’s chest compartment has no such protruding bolts inside, which means…

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Rhinohorn fits comfortably inside. If you are troubled by the idea of the Autobot cassette being used by the Decepticon tape-deck, then you may always consider getting the evil recolor of the figure. I guess it beats waiting for a Masterpiece Blaster, if Takara/Hasbro ever decide to release one. Well, there’s always hope for a 3rd Party version…

This leads me to the conclusion section. In my opinion, Rhinohorn is a really good product, for what it’s supposed to be. The purpose here is not a perfect, scaled-down representation of a mechanical rhino. It has to sacrifice its bulkiness in beast form to be able to transform into a cassette of the right size and shape. Maybe it could have been achieved in a more sophisticated way, without the rhino being empty inside, but keep in mind it’s not intended as a very expensive toy. And yet it still features a very satisfying level of mold detailing, enough to make it fit among official Masterpiece cassettes. And in terms of articulation it even significantly surpasses some of them. You know how the idea of the Masterpiece line is to feature Transformers that look like they stepped out of the G1 cartoon or comics and are fun to be posed and/or played with? Well, for me this here is the embodiment of that idea.

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The overall quality and design of this figure seem so good that I presumed it was one of later KFC’s releases, following some failures and lessons learned. But nope, that’s not the case, as Rhinohorn is… their very first product! It’s confusing and makes me wonder what happened. What lead Keith’s Fantasy Club to lower their efforts after such a nice start and in result earned them this negative opinion, which they now work hard to revert from by releasing larger figures, like their not-Perceptor and not-Ultra Magnus? I guess maybe they started on a high note to make a good first impression and then got more sloppy? Or they didn’t have enough creativity to pull off the same level of quality with their other cassettes? I dunno and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is: this figure is definitely worth checking, regardless of what you think about KFC in light of their less successful releases. I had a lot of fun handling Rhinohorn for the review and when posing him for my Masterpiece shelf display, where he fits just fine. To be honest, I am even tempted to check KFC’s homage to Steeljaw, who seems to be sharing some construction solutions with the red rhino. I might consider this option when again in need of something to fill my order’s quota…

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Summary

Strong points:

+ highly detailed mold

+ very good poseability, especially in the head area

+ instantly recognizable representation of the G1 character

+ simple yet smart transformation balancing between low cost and good look

+ tape mode compatible with G1/Masterpiece Soundwave

+ pretty good plastic and joint quality

Weak points:

– hollowness of the beast form visible from certain angles

– some joints are more loose than the others (horn swivel suffering the most)

– minor mold imperfections

– visible eye in the cassette form

Who will like it:

those wanting a Masterpiece Ramhorn, simple as that

Who won’t like it:

those expecting a more perfect beast form

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