Headmaster Brainwave/Brainstorm (Ultra Class, Toyworld)

Name: Brainwave (Brainstorm)

Line: 3rd Party Transformers

Series: 3rd Party Headmasters

Size Class: Ultra (-ish)

Producer: Toyworld

Year of release: 2013

Let me start with sharing an experience from my life. It took place waay back, when I attended the primary school, by the very end of the 80s, when the original Transformers toys started very shyly and randomly appearing around here and other companies smelled blood and flooded the market with all kinds of knock-offs of various quality. I was already happily and hungrily munching on half of the fishing rod, with the hook, line and sinker long digested after seeing and totally loving few episodes of the G1 cartoon. My figure collection was only beginning to exist and, apart from the original G1 Skullgrin that I luckily managed to find at retail, comprised mainly of cheap knock-offs. My desire for more was regularly fueled by repeated viewing of a large leaflet that came with Skullgrin, which contained a number of photographs depicting other Hasbro’s Transformers. And then I stumbled upon this guy, a kid that actually attended the same classes as I did, but one that I didn’t know too well. Or, to be more exact, I caught a glimpse of a toy that he brought to school one day. It was a tiny robot that upon closer inspection turned out to be able to transform into a head. A head missing a body, as the kid didn’t seem to own the whole Transformer. I questioned him about the rest, of course, but his story concerning the origins of the figure and the way it came into his possession was so unclear that I soon realized that the little Headmaster was going to remain the only opportunity at hand. But what a prize it was! It so happened that the whole -masters line, especially the Headmasters, was the one I admired with the most awe in the leaflet. The sheer concept of a Transformer accompanied by a little partner (I had yet to learn the whole story of Nebulans by that time) that could be either a driver or a part of the giant robot, appealed to me to the point of overheating my filled with childhood fantasies mind. I just had to have the little guy, regardless of him being only a piece of the whole set. And I did manage to acquire him as a result of a friendly trade, giving away some knock-off transforming figures to get this one. The seemingly useless alt mode didn’t bother me one bit. I was happy to get the very first piece of a Headmaster toy in my hands. Little did I know how long I was going to wait for the next one…

For some reasons for years Hasbro denied the collectors another line of Headmasters. And, just as with many other business decisions by the big H, it is beyond me to try to comprehend why. What matters is I never managed to find more than the one lonely Headmaster head in the 20th century. Hell, even the first decade of the 21st century, which finally brought us a Targetmaster in the great Classics line, turned out empty in terms of robots with transformable heads. The fantastic Cyclonus with Nightsick set was only a cruel tease, apparently.

No wonder that the moment I gained access to 3rd Party Transformers and learned there are Headmasters among them, I was on board, with the leaflet-obsessed kid cheering inside me. And the figure that I got as my very first complete Headmaster is Brainwave, an unlicensed Brainstorm released by the company Toyworld.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The alt mode is a cybertronian jet, as it should be – regardless of the continuity, Brainstorm never adapted any Earth form. The jet looks similar to the G1 version of the character, however it is not a perfect recreation of the look – the front is less slender in shape and a large part of it is white instead of sea-green all over.

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This is a good place to address the 3rd Party elephant in the room. Yes, there is another unofficial version of Brainstorm available as well, the one produced by FansProject. And he indeed resembles the G1 toy closer. I did consider getting him instead, but I chose Brainwave in the end. I will eventually explain my reasons throughout the review, but let me make this clear now: I did have a hard time choosing, as both figures seem to be of good quality and design. I don’t regret my choice, but I also do believe FansProject’s product to be worth looking into. That said, let’s focus on the thing at hand.

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First, a comparison to give you a feel of the size of this mode. I chose Generations Scourge aiming at some aircraft that looks alien, despite it actually being designed after an actual unmanned plane. This is what happens when you do your research after the photo shoot. I should’ve gone with Cyclonus instead. Oh well. Scourge still works as a means of showing how big Brainwave is. And he is big. Check the data at the beginning, I classified him as an Ultra class for a reason.

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A bit smarter was comparing him to an actual cybertronian jet: FoC Starscream. A no-brainer, really, with the line called Fall of Cybertron, but the effort’s gotta count for something. Again you can see that Toyworld’s Transformer is significantly larger than Hasbro’s Deluxe-sized one. And, if you know Brainstorm as a character, you already see the problem concerning him fitting in with these figures. We’ll get to that later. Now let’s look closer at some details.

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The rear has a set of nicely sculpted boosters and contains a little feature that is minor and caused more by the transformation process than the actual function, but I still dig it.

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Air brakes!

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Ok, probably not, especially considering the cybertronian nature of this alt mode – I am no aircraft engineer, but I suspect air brakes need air to, well, brake, and there is a general lack of atmosphere on Cybertron. Yet, those still remind me of the similar feature of the Masterpiece seeker mold and I do like how they look so I am willing to stretch my imagination a bit further with this one.

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Even though the body of the jet seems heavy and a bit awkward, it actually doesn’t touch the ground with its belly and instead rests on four deployable gear elements. And let me tell you something, when I look at this wing segment with twin engines next to double wings and the gear shaped like that underneath, I have a strong déjà vu feeling and one involving a completely different franchise than Transformers. If you don’t see it, then maybe take another look from the rear, this time with the wings outspread like that:

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Do you see it yet? Or do I have to add ‘Lock S-foils in attack position!’?

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Ok, I’ve seen the Star Wars movies for far too many times to miss it: the rear of this jet is definitely inspired by the X-wing starfighter!

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Once you put something StarWarsy next to it, like this X-wing pilot figure, it becomes clear. I just don’t believe that this might be a coincidence. I am certain the designer of Brainwave meant this form to be an homage to Star Wars, either due to being a fan himself or aiming at making his own creation more appealing to the numerous followers of the popular franchise out there.

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And you know what? It works. Well, it surely did work on me, at least. One of the reasons I chose Toyworld’s version of Brainstorm was how it calls back to the other fantastic universe that I love. It’s not an ideal X-wing, as the shape of the whole front part is too wide and the twin guns don’t match the Star Wars design, but the rear is almost spot-on. It could only use four laser cannons on the wings, but I guess Braiwave is already armed sufficiently as he is. Besides, no reason to give Lucasfilm lawyers (or would it be a case for Disney lawyers now?) any more reasons to act.

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Since the X-wing’s pilot is too large to fit into the cockpit and he sure as hell does not transform into a robot’s head, we need another guy.

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And there he is, Brainstorm’s Headmaster partner, Arcana.

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The cockpit is nothing special, just an empty space without any details apart from the crudely sculpted shape of a seat. It fits Arcana nicely though, serving its purpose. Nothing more to it, but what else could there be, really? Let’s rather inspect the pilot himself.

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In case you were wondering (and I was for years, until I finally found a reliable online source of information about Transformers), the Headmaster that I got as kid was Stylor, the partner of G1 Chromedome. As you can see, I still have the lil’ guy. Toyworld’s Headmaster is a bit smaller than the G1 one. They both have a comparable level of detailing, but the new guy features a better paint job, which improves his look.

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As for articulation, it’s definitely better than it used to be, but I believe they could’ve also added elbow joints. However, a look at the picture above clearly shows almost three decades of improvement in the sector of toy technology. On the negative side, the G1 guy, being larger, manages to hide his face-bearing backpack better.

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A view from the rear and we see another problem of the 3rd Party’s creation: the big robot’s face is visible the whole time. Ironically, this is an issue that the G1 Headmasters tackled quite skillfully so many years ago and I have no idea why Toyworld didn’t follow Hasbro’s suit on this. The solution was introducing a simple joint that allowed to swivel the forehead piece up, so it covered the rest of the face. Sadly, my ancient Stylor had this joint so loose that I had to glue this segment in place. But originally the G1 Headnmaster looked really good, wearing a backpack that didn’t resemble a face. No such opportunity for Arcana here, he is stuck with his partner’s image on his back.

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A comparison of the heads reveals them to be of the same scale, despite Toyworld’s Headmaster being smaller in robot form. Unfortunately the connection joint used is completely different, so there’s no option of putting the G1 head onto Brainwave. I must admit I was a bit disappointed when I learned about it, I really hoped to finally give my grandpa Headmaster a body to hop on.

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The new head is really fine. It’s not a work of art, but it contains enough details to give a Transformer with a faceplate enough personality. In my opinion it works very well as Brainstorm. By the way, one of the things that made me decide against FansProject’s version was the lack of a faceplate. I know it’s a minor nitpick, but this is something that I always saw as one of the defining features for that character. You know, it’s like with the Orion Pax figure – I realize it’s supposed to be an old form of a much younger Optimus Prime, but his face still bugs me. And coming back to Brainwave: it’s hard to clearly show in a photo, but his eyes are made of semi-clear plastic, which makes them look like honey-colored crystals. Very nice touch and a fitting look for a smart and good-hearted Autobot scientist. Also, the tiny arrow pointing to the direction where you are supposed to stick the head in just cracks me up.

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The only flaw of the head is how it does not click together. The small robot’s legs are just folded into place without being locked there in any way. This sadly means that whenever you touch the back of the head, for example to turn it around while it’s installed on the shoulders, you have to be careful not to start transforming it. This could have been easily avoided by introducing some tabs or pegs or at least shaping the parts so they rest in one designated spot.

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I’d say that Toyworld’s Arcana is generally alright. Not perfect, but he serves the purpose of providing a good looking pilot/head for a Transformer.

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But no more waiting, let’s move on to the robot mode.

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A look at both bodies together reveal that (unlike the G1 toy) Arcana is designed to look like a tiny version of the big robot. It’s probably a reference to the Japanese cartoon about Headmasters, where each mini robot was the actual character and the large body was only an elaborate piece of equipment. I prefer the original take on the subject, with the bio-link created between a Cybertronian and a Nebulan, but this is still a nice touch on Toyworld’s part.

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‘Head on!’, as the Japanese Headmasters used to put it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABrainwave looks a bit bulkier than Brainstorm’s usual image, but I do remember a few drawings of the character presenting him not as slender as the G1 (or FansProject’s) version. And, being the fan of IDW continuity as I now am, I dig the idea of the crazy weapon specialist having the might to carry and shoot all those ultra-destructive guns that he invents. Besides, if you take a good look at it, this figure is not as stocky as it seems at first glance (or when compared to other toys depicting Brainstorm out there) – it’s mainly the stocky forearms that add to this feeling.

 

I absolutely love the mechanical-like detailing behind the transparent piece on the chest. The overall sculpting is really nicely done, with paint apps bringing out the details here and there, but this chest segments always catches my eye. It’s as if we could see a piece of Brainstorm’s inner machinery, how fitting for a semi-sane scientist.

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This is one of those little features that I considered when comparing Toyworld’s Brainwave to FansProject’s Smart Robin. And again: it’s not a deal-breaker itself, but yet another tick on this figure’s side.

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Brainwave’s wings do not lock in place, which is perceived as a flaw by some, but I actually like them this way. It enables for positioning them however you like, either completely hiding them out of sight or displaying them on the sides.

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My ‘perfect image’ of Brainstorm always shows him with visible wings and the tiny ones that FansProject’s Smart Robin has, looked not protruding enough for my taste.

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Let me stress one thing here, because it might seem as if I’m trying to criticize the other 3rd Party Brainstorm currently available. However, the reason why I keep on bringing the other figure is purely informative. I faced the problem of choosing between these two myself and I’d like to aid those of you who might be in the same situation. And by presenting my reasons for choosing Toyworld’s version, I am only trying to highlight the differences that mattered to me. You might actually see it the other way around and decide that all those things don’t matter to you and you prefer to go with FansProject’s product. And hey, why not! It seems to be a really good figure too. I just felt that as a reviewer I need to consider the wider perspective here, since there is more than one option available on the market. It’s the general theme that kinda has to be present whenever a 3rd Party Transformer is reviewed – Hasbro was the first one to occupy this territory, so comparisons with their toys seems obligatory. The real fun begins when more than one 3rd Party alternative exists and this becomes an increasingly common case lately. And, to be honest, I couldn’t be happier about it, as competition always ups the ante, right?

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Here’s another Brainwave’s neat lil’ feature: the panels on the back of his legs lift to reveal downward-facing boosters, ideal for short leaps in robot form. Again something fitting the image of an experiment-obsessed Autobot scientist.

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Time for the accessories department. If you expect the gun and explosives specialist to be packing some ranged weapons, you are… partially right.

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Noticed those blue segments on the sides of Brainwave’s legs? Their purpose isn’t purely decorative.

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Those are hidden knives! No idea what kind of earthy blade they resemble, if any at all, but they work just fine as some exotic cybertronian melee weapons. Let’s use this opportunity to show off Brainwave’s poseability.

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Not bad for a lab rat! Oh yeah, and as for this whole gun specialist thing…

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Brain comes packin’ too!

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He can either normally dual-wield or attach the guns to his forearms. I gotta admit I really like the latter look, it reminds me of a feisty Autobot called Dogfight, who wore his weapons like that. Old Brain looks tough an’ cool here and why not! No reason why the guy who creates all sorts of killer guns couldn’t be an expert in using them as well, nowamirite?

Time for comparisons.

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And already the first one brings us back to the aforementioned issue of scale. Regardless of whether he should be more slender or bulky, Brainstorm is not supposed to be so big compared to Scourge.

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Brainstorm and Wheeljack are a pair of creative Autobot scientists, often competing, always troublesome and witty, sometimes saving the day in the nick of time with a daring idea. That’s how it looks in the new IDW continuity, at least. And, while Brain is taller than his colleague, he is not that much taller.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Aand this, of course, is simply unacceptable. The image of Brainstorm towering over Optimus Prime clearly and finally shows that Toyworld’s figure does not fit the Classics line scale. Where does it fit then?

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For me this doesn’t look bad. Ratchet’s height and bulkiness differ depending on the continuity, but he usually tends to be significantly taller than the so called ‘Autobot cars’ like Prowl, Bluestreak, Sunstreaker etc. So seeing him a bit shorter than the usually rather tall Brainstorm seems fitting. By the way, this is another 3rd Party figure, produced by the company iGear and I can’t recommend him enough, as he finally filled the spot for a good representation of one of my favorite Transformers characters, a spot so far left empty by Hasbro (I deny to even consider their attempts at depicting Ratchet released until this day).

Anyway, following the thread of a larger scale…

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Yup, I decided to move up to the Masterpiece category. Toyworld’s Brainstorm is just that big. And I think it works. Sure, the Masterpiece Autobot cars are frowned upon for being a bit too small considering the overall Masterpiece scale, but I guess that’s the only route to take with Brainwave, being as large as he is. And to reinforce that belief…

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This is convincing enough for me and thus Brainwave found his place on my Masterpiece shelf. This also brings me to the end of the review, so some final thoughts should follow.

It seems that, due to the existence of two different unofficial versions of Brainstorm, both comparable in quality and design, the review of this figure became strongly influenced by the other one. So, which one do I recommend to get? The answer is not as simple as it would seem. This time it’s not a case of ‘I bought this one so I obviously find it superior’ or ‘I bought this one and it turned out to suck, so you be smarter and get the other one’. I own Toyworld’s Brainstorm and I do like him and am glad to have him, but I still recognize the merits of FansProject’s one. And hell, if I stumbled upon some great bargain, then I might get the other one too!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou see, Brainwave here is the bulkier and significantly larger bot. He offers a number of cool little features and details. Also, his prominent wings and faceplate bring about the nostalgic feel of the character for me, as I never had the G1 toy and knew him only from the comics. All this translates to him being a decent Masterpiece-ish version of Brainstorm. So, if you’d like your MP shelf to contain the Autobot weapon specialist, then this is a good choice for you, as it will probably take a long time before Takara or Hasbro releases an official figure like that. If it ever happens.

On the other hand, Smart Robin is slick and slender, just as the G1 toy used to be. He seems to be of the right size to fit among the Classics figures. So if that is the key to your collection, then you could go with FansProject’s Brainstorm. Of course as long as you don’t mind the missing faceplate and if you just don’t care for owing a Transformer that has a friggin’ X-wing as his alt mode. Well, almost. Kinda.

To make the choice harder, Hasbro lately announced that they are about to actually finally release a proper Headmaster Brainstorm of their own! He’s going to be very slender and very greenish and very G1-ish. And he might be worth looking into as well.

So there you go, you got the data, now the choice is up to you. I guess you’re in for a real brainstorm, ha!

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Summary

Strong and weak points:

+ good design and quality of the figure

+ a recognizable representation of the character

+ nice articulation

+ the Headmaster mini figure serves its purpose

+ diversified color scheme adds dynamic to both modes

+ rear of the jet strongly resembles the X-wing starfighter from the Star Wars franchise

+ twin guns and blades for both ranged and melee combat

+ all weapons can be placed or concealed in both modes

+ a number of cool little details and features, like hidden boosters or the machinery-revealing chest piece

+ the only Masterpiece-sized Brainstorm out there, probably for a long time

– the color scheme and bulkiness do not fully match the G1 image of the character

– palms are fist-shaped without the option to open them, which could’ve been done much better for a figure of that size

– the Headmaster mini figure could use more articulation points

– the Headmaster mini figure has a huge backpack with the blatantly showing face on the back

– this Brainstorm cannot fit in with the Classics line of Transformers

Who will like it:

those liking the aesthetics of the figure after seeing it in pictures; those wanting a quasi-Masterpiece Brainstorm

Who won’t like it:

those preferring a more faithful representation of the G1 version of the character; those wanting a Brainstorm of the Classics scale

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