Cliffbee.com: Transmetal II Blackarachnia Toy Review

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Name: Blackarachnia
Series: Beast Wars
Allegiance: Maximal
Function: Saboteur
Alternate Mode: Spider



SPIDER MODE
Height: 22cm Length: 22cm Width: 11cm

   A chromed pink spider with brownish maroon legs, dark crimson mouthparts and extensive purple highlights. Blackarachnia has some yellow on her mouthparts and abdomen, but not enough to get in the way of the pinks and purples. The pink is deepest on top, there's a gradient to silver from top to bottom. She has a green Maximal spark crystal at the front of her abdomen which spins over to reveal a green Predacon spark crystal (allow you to switch her allegiance during play - mimicking the cartoon). The colour scheme is much lighter than her previous incarnation, no doubt because she's a goodie now. The pink and crimson are dark enough that Blackarachnia isn't "girly" despite having a distinctly feminine feel.

   As with a lot of arthropod Beast Wars toys, Blackarachnia has some trouble standing on her legs. She's better than many mind you - by this stage in the line the designers were getting the general idea. All eight legs have ball joints at the base and knees, allowing you to find that right pose which will allow them to support her weight. I find that she still has a tendency to collapse from time to time, but she's much better than a lot of earlier toys in this respect. The mouthparts - well there are two sets really - are also poseable, with the longer pair ball jointed at the base and hinged in the middle. The other set open out to the sides like pliers. The eyes are moulded (but unpainted) behind these mouthparts, and this entire head can detach to reveal that it's actually the grappling hook on the end of a cord. Give Blackarachnia something wide enough and she'll happily suspend - I hung her from a phone line cord and she stayed there for years, never looking like falling.

   If you're wondering, Blackarachnia shouldn't have two sets of mouthparts. Both are anatomically correct, but for different kinds of spiders. Basically there are two broad groups of spiders, defined by the pliers-like or hooked mouthparts - and BA has both kinds here. Other than the spare mouthparts, this is a pretty good spider. The head, thorax and abdomen are all here and the legs are in the right places. Other than the spare mouthparts at the front (which are the robot arms) this is a pretty good spider and to the untrained eye it's the best spider shape BW gave us. Of course as a Transmetal II her sculpt is an asymmetric mix of organic and mechanical aspects, but the parts that are organic are generally pretty good. The highlights of the mechanical sculpt include a set of crimson wheels on either side of the abdomen (they spin, too) and some hoses and buttons on the thorax.

   While there's not too much to this beast mode considering the pricepoint, the fact is everything here works - and that's not always the case for BW megas. The sculpt and colours are good, she's able to actually stand on her own legs (mostly) and the grappling mouthparts are actually quite useful. The extra set of mouthparts bother me, but far less than the shoddy beast modes of toys like Optimus Minor.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Fold out the cannons stowed underneath the abdomen, swing the sides of the abdomen out to the back, unfurl the legs. Swing the entire hip and legs section around, plugging the waist into her chest. Pull out the head and rotate to reveal her face, slide the chest down to lock the torso together. Detach the grappling hook, fold out her shoulders, bring the shell of the thorax in to form her back, which will bring the arms into place. You can attach the grappling hook on her back (there's a second slot, different to that used in beast mode) or on either hand.

ROBOT MODE
Height: 21cm Width: 17cm

   Blackarachnia has a lot more black now, especially on her robot only parts. The thighs are purple while there's crimson and yellow paint on her boots. The chest is chrome silver with a detachable purple "bra" over the top. Her groin is yellow along with a masked face. The pink plates from her abdomen are now large shoulderpads, sticking up behind there are two purple brackets sporting crimson cannons (which are just for show). The spider legs can hang off the back or sides. The colour scheme is darker now, since the robot mode is designed to match the previous robot mode better - well that seen on the cartoon. It's a little muddled but comes off okay.

   I'm not sure I like the bra. Even without it she has a respectable chest and narrow waist (not quite Barbie proportions, but close), and there's something mildly disturbing about a boys' toy where you can fiddle with that part of a female anatomy. She has heels, which I guess anchors the whole female thing (not that you can miss it!), but I would have preferred proper heelspurs for such a top-heavy robot mode. I find I have to lean her forward slightly to get BA to stand up.

   The poseability is pretty good as you'd expect. Her ankles are hinged, knees have two hinges and a rotator, hips, shoulders and elbows are all ball joints. The wrists are hinged and the head turns. The ankles are limited by stability issues and the wrists don't bring much since all the do is wiggle the hooks that she has in place of true hands. There's a swivel in the waist linked to a silly martial-arts kick gimmick - the idea being that you winder her up and when you release BA does a flying ninja kick (well, flying in your hand). It's not so impressive, and frankly I would have preferred proper waist motion. Still, it's something different which I do appreciate. The grappling hook is still quite useful, although in her hand it's for show since the sculpting of her arms gets in the way of it staying attached. if you want her to dangle as she can in beast mode, plugging the hook into her back works.

   As with the beast mode, the sculpt is detailed and asymmetrical. The head is the focus here - partly because the mask is yellow which helps it stand out and partly since so much of her body is black. The shoulderpads and cannons are visually appealing, the bra is well sculpted if perhaps unnecessary. The paint job on her head, groin and boots is quite detailed, proving that the designer put some real effort into this girl.

   Almost. The idea is good but some minor aspects bring this robot mode down. I can deal with the emphasis on making her feminine - the narrow waist and breasts are fine, even if the bra is a little much. The heels look okay but don't really provide the stability this top heavy toy needs. She's by no means a disaster, but when you combine the silly kicking gimmick and stilettos, Blackarachnia waists her leg poseability - without heelspurs she's only stable standing in narrow band of poses. The detail and paint job are what you'd expect of a TMII and the grappling claw is good, even if her hands can't use it properly.

VARIATIONS

   None that I know of, although this mould was used for Arcee, a BotCon 2001 exclusive.

OVERALL

   A nice spider mode and a decent if flawed robot mode are enough to make this a worthwhile toy, if not a fantastic one. The sculpt and colour scheme are good, and there's the asymmetry you'd expect of a TMII. The spider mode isn't totally accurate but is close enough for all intents and purposes. The robot mode suffers thanks to some avoidable design elements - high heels and a silly kicking gimmick, but the grappling claw available in both modes provides some play value. Had the designer focused more on the Transformer and less on gimmicks and the overt femininity of the robot mode, this could have been a great toy. Still, a good toy and probably the best version of the character (other than the hard to find Japanese original) - 7/10

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