Review: Transformers MP-21 Bumblebee

Eeeeeerrrrybody loves Bumblebee. The original yellow kid-appeal character himself, Bumblebee started out as a humble secondary character and friend to Spike Witwicky in the original cartoon, but from 2007 onward became a one-man franchise thanks to the movies. While the modern, movie-like incarnations of Bumblebee saturated the market thanks to the movies themselves, Prime, and IDW, the original character concept of the small, plucky little scout has somewhat fallen to the wayside. Most Bumblebees of today are either muscle car warriors or taking up leadership roles (or both). Because of this, MP-21 Masterpiece Bumblebee barely feels like “another Bumblebee toy” at all, instead feeling like a toy of a character we haven’t seen since 2006’s Classics Bumblebee… and just about the same size, too.

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Vehicle Mode

If there’s one thing the Masterpiece line is good at, it’s nailing alternate modes, and Bumblebee is no exception, near-perfectly assuming the form of a Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle. This is a pretty big deal given Volkswagen’s well-documented reluctance to be associated with “war toys,” but somehow Takara managed to score the license, so collectors score this fully-licensed toy. It looks great, sculpt-wise, and even accurately has only one side mirror (which is separate in-box, much like Wheeljack). You also have the option of a spare tire cover, which can be pegged in the back by replacing the license plate. If you don’t like it there, you can just as easily store it under the front of the car with his gun.

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Two of this toy’s biggest problems are highlighted in this mode: the colors and the size. MP Bumble eschews the common bright, yellow-y yellow we’re used to on Bumblebees, instead opting for a richer, more golden-yellow color. A lot of people are bugged by this, but… why? It’s not like he’s orange, and honestly it looks quite a bit better than the usual detail-drowning hue. The problem is that, much like Masterpiece Sideswipe, the paintwork tends to be very uneven. It’s most evident on the hood on my Bumblebee, and… it looks pretty bad. This sort of thing doesn’t really bother me, admittedly, but I can understand how it knocks the altmode down a notch for some people.

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The size of Bumblebee is another point of contention, one that Takara attempted to rectify with the inclusion of the Exosuit (more on that later). In altmode, Bumblebee is very small, about the size of a Scout Class figure. He’s practically dwarfed by his fellow MP Autobots, but I guess that’s sort of accurate to the cartoon model? As to whether or not it’s accurate to the real-life vehicles… I’m honestly not sure. He looks too small compared to the Datsuns, but I’m no expert on this. This doesn’t bother me too much, either, but he might stand out a bit if you display your MPs in vehicle mode.

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Transformation

Let me just say that I absolutely adore MP Bumblebee’s conversion. It’s clever, it’s quick, it’s intuitive, and it’s fun. Nothing seems too difficult, nothing feels like it’s stressing or in danger of breaking, no paint feels like it’s being scratched, and everything locks in perfectly in both modes. This little guy is a joy to transform, more so than any other Masterpieces I’ve handled.

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Robot Mode

Bumblebee stands not-so-tall and ready for action, matching up near-perfectly to his cartoon model. His proportions look spot-on to me. I’m particularly impressed with how well his feet and legs turned out, especially with all the articulation they managed to pack into them. The body is a big block of folded-up Volkswagen and the backpack pegs in quite tidily. The arms are maybe a bit small and the bit of rear headlight kibble is a bit distracting, but neither are too bothersome.

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‘Bee has a surprising amount of articulation for such a little guy. His head is on the lovely MP universal joint, giving him full rotation and the ability to look up nicely (which is good because he’s so short). His shoulders are on ball joints connected via hinge on the torso, and his arms have basic bicep and elbow swivels. His wrists are immobile, but considering his size and weapon, it’s not a big deal (do you really need Bumblebee to gangsta-style his pistol?) He has a waist joint, his hips are universal, and his legs are complete with thigh swivel, double-jointed knees, and very nice ankle-tilts.

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The spare tire cover can be pegged into its place on Bumblebee’s back, which apparently is entirely meant to represent that circle on the back of Bee’s animation model. A very worthy inclusion. Bumblebee also has a cool blue handgun that fits securely into his fist and looks great.

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The final accessory for Bumble is an alternate face. The default face has a very neutral expression, and mine has a weird paint error that makes it look like half of his mouth is open. Because of that, I use the alternate, more characterful face plastered with a big grin. It’s still not perfect on the paint, but it looks okay and pretty cartoon-accurate. The faces are really damn hard to unpeg from the head, so be careful not to break anything. Unfortunately, due to the face-swapping gimmick, we also get the nightmarish image of the two giant holes in Bee’s faceless skull. Sweet dreams.

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Also, yeah, Bumblebee is really small in robot mode, too. This is kind of the point, though, as he was super small in the cartoon, which is the scale that the Masterpiece line usually strictly follows. Again, it’s not a huge issue, and it’s helped by the inclusion of…

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Exosuit

That’s right, we finally get a toy of… somebody in an exosuit. It’s apparently supposed to be Daniel (a claim supposedly supported by the poofiness of his hair), but Spike would make the most sense (they shared a scene in the ’86 movie with Spike in the exosuit), and the instructions themselves only identify him as “Exosuit.” Who is this mysterious, faceless man? The world may never know. Regardless, the suit itself is pretty cool. It’s not very articulate, with only up-down swiveling shoulders, very limited ball-jointed elbows and hips, and equally-limited knees.

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The suit also transforms into a folded-up exosuit with wheels. Yay! It looks appropriately silly, but I actually really like it. It helps if you think of it more as a glorified accessory than a separate figure, though I do share the sentiment that putting more engineering into the exosuit might have been worth a slight price increase. I think it’s a great addition, though.

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Overall

Bumblebee is a bit of a controversial Masterpiece release. At most domestic retailers, he’s listed at the full usual price of around $80, but he’s much cheaper at Japanese retail. I paid full BBTS price for mine, and honestly, I don’t feel ripped off at all. The engineering and quality of Bumblebee is worth at least $50 for me, and the exosuit is a nice enough addition that I feel like the price can be mostly justified. If you think it’s too much, however, that’s completely understandable. If you don’t agree with the full price, see if you can track this guy down for cheaper. If not, just be aware of what you’re getting and what you’re paying for. Regardless, he’s a fantastic addition to the Masterpiece Autobot lineup, and really one that you can’t pass up on. After all, it’s Bumblebee.

Where to Buy

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