A month ago if you had asked any Transformers collector to name one major player in the season 1 Autobot cast who hasn’t had a Masterpiece representation you’d likely hear one name repeated over and over again; Jazz. Optimus Primes smooth talking second in command is an iconic figure from the 80s franchise and fans have been clamouring for a representation since the first MP car bot (MP 12 Lambor) hit shelves. Between his iconic Porsche alternate mode, and his visor clad Special Forces bot mode, Jazz is a fan favourite to many in the Transformers ecosystem. Maketoys attempts to fill the hole that Takara Tomy has left in our collections with MTRM-09 Downbeat, part of their Maketoys RE:Mastered line up of converting robot toys. I want to thank Blast Off Toys for getting me set up with this figure, check them out for Third Party and Official Transformers figures! Is Downbeat a centre shelf super star or simply a placeholder until something official comes along? Let’s take a look and find out for ourselves!
I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I’m not much of a car buff, but I know a gorgeous sports car when I see one. Downbeat’s curvy and sleek Porsche inspired alt mode is absolute money on wheels. Research into the original inspiration for the Diaclone toy has informed me that this particular vehicle mode is meant to homage the Martini Racing Porsche 935/76. The vehicle mode is clean and contained, with very little obvious robot mode parts visible from the bottom.
Maketoys has left off the Martini branding to homage the plain white TV version of Jazz, and also likely to avoid any sort of legal troubles with Martini. The vehicle is sleek and sporty with a humongous rear spoiler, and gorgeous red trimmed front bumper. The rims have an absolutely beautiful gold paint applied to the sculpted magnesium spoke design. I personally feel like the painted rims and rubber racing slicks really add an incredible look and feel to this toy in vehicle mode. It would have been nice if the spoke pattern was real rather than sculpted on top of a solid piece but I feel like I might be getting greedy with thoughts like that.
Angry Robot Grill. You can't un-see it.
The cartoon accurate solid thick blue racing stripe, with a red centre stripe is applied to the hood with a similar 2 tone design applied to the rear fender flares. The toy/real world accurate #4 is applied on the hood and both doors. It’s interesting to see this blend of Cartoon, Real world, and G1 toy influences all applied to this toy, with each in limited measure so as to not overpower the toy in any one direction. Some black paint in the rear fender cooling vents would have gone a long way in making the stripe application look more finished as it is slightly off putting to see it stop dead in its tracks.
A slight bit oversized but at this point I think we've all given up on alt mode scaling right?
Vehicle mode is not without its flaws, though in my honest opinion none of them are worth passing on this toy over. The two most major issues are caused by Maketoys, in my opinion justified, insistence on an accurate bot mode. There is a fake fender flare piece that is used to complete the ankle in robot mode that is visible underneath the vehicle. If there had been an option to fold this piece away somehow it would go a long way to improve the vehicle mode.
The other sacrifice being made for bot mode is the rear bumper. Two white sections that are used to complete the same robot mode ankle as the false fender flares are set far too low down and cause a serious break in the rear of the vehicle mode. I feel like these could have been made to slide up and fill in the empty bumper section above if they had taken more time to engineer this mode. For hardcore car buffs this could be cause for alarm but for someone who displays in bot mode, and never with the toy facing the back of my shelf, neither of these are a deal breaker for me.
Seriously... I just want to shove those pieces up to the bumper. It is so close but so far!
The final nitpick, and this is 100% just something that bugs me about a lot of transformers not just Downbeat, is that I wish the windows had been blacked out from the inside. The side windows are translucent with white plastic directly behind them, and the front windshield reveals Downbeat’s head quite clearly if you take a good look. I think black paint applied to the rear of the windows, or some sort of chrome vinyl adhesive maybe for a more reflective look, would allow for the depth of the translucent plastic to come through without spoiling the illusion. This is just something that I have to deal with on almost all of my Transformers figures but the side door windows on Downbeat particularly bother me with that bright white plastic right behind them.
Maketoys Downbeat cuts an incredible silhouette that absolutely nails the character of Jazz in my honest opinion. The transformation is smooth and intuitive with a couple impressive transformation tricks that rival official products. I’m particularly fond of how the car hood compresses to form the robot mode chest and reveals a perfectly sized badge placement for a Reprolabels insignia. (The middle size on the multi size sheet fits perfectly btw).
"What's crackin' little bitches?"
Yeah... that doesn't feel right. R.I.P. Movie Jazz
The lower body is a bit tricky the first time you transform the legs, and it can be troublesome trying to peg in the black panels on the sides of his legs (only one on mine has an issue, the other tabs in perfectly) but after a couple transformations the process is absolutely seamless and I feel it is on par with similar offerings from Takara Tomy. It’s no small feat to achieve a transformation that is comparable to the official products as this is usually where a lot of third party companies stumble especially in the Masterpiece-alike market. I tip my hat to you Maketoys for an enjoyable and engaging conversion process.
Downbeat looks tough, cool, and ready to party all at the same time. He rides the line between complete bad ass and chill party dude with that chrome blue visor obscuring his optics. The compressed chest keeps him from having blocky proportions like MP-12 Lambor, and there is next to no extraneous kibble on bot mode. I like that Maketoys has given us the option of displaying Downbeat with toy accurate door wings, or cartoon accurate hidden doors in bot mode. I always like the look of door wings on Autobots but I kept most of the gallery toon accurate.
For all you Diaclone toy buffs. Still can't fly though...
Downbeat has every piece of articulation you could possibly ask for on a Masterpiece style figure. From the top down we have what I believe is a ball jointed neck, with an extending stem due to transformation. This can give Downbeat a bit of a giraffe neck look if you aren’t careful to make sure it is pushed all the way down. In the proper position however it is invisible to the naked eye. The bonus to this is that it can allow Downbeat to look down over his chest, or up further than the ball joint would typically allow. As long as you get the right angles for your shots this allows for a great versatility when it comes to photography.
Action Master Jazz!
Downbeats Shoulders are on a two way swivel allowing for full 360 degree rotation and well over 180 degrees outward movement. There is a bicep swivel, double jointed elbows and wrist swivels as well as a single pin joint for the fingers allowing the hand to open and close. Downbeat has a downright astounding ab crunch that is 100% engineered solely for robot mode, I didn’t see any reason for it when converting to alt mode. This is phenomenal articulation for this style of toy and seems like the kind of thing that Maketoys is trying to go out of their way to achieve with their current toy lines. They have had a serious focus on articulation with their Cross Dimension series and it’s nice to see some of that carry over to the RE:Master line.
Downbeat’s waist swivel is completely accessible with a full rotation without any sort of interference. Universal hip joints with ratcheted outward movement, this is a bit of a bummer as these are the only ratchets on the figure and in my opinion do the toy no favours. The tooth distance of the ratchet isn’t awful, and admittedly they didn’t stop me from achieving any of the poses I was trying for but I would have much preferred a standard friction universal joint. I feel like ratchets have no place in hips when it comes to outward movement and I know I’m not alone as it’s a major sticking point with some of my other collector friends. There is a thigh swivel hidden below the hip joint, double jointed knees, and a very generous ankle tilt with some toy tilt forward and back depending on how you manipulate the heel spurs.
*Generic Rock Disco Track Plays*
I had no issues getting Downbeat in to any important or iconic pose that I could think of. Thanks to a plethora of joints Downbeat can pull off some dance moves, execute combat maneuvers, or just plain chill with his Auto-bros. The only thing I wasn’t able to achieve is a 2 handed posture with his included blaster rifle. To this day I’m still impressed that MP Prowl is able to 2 hand his weapon even with that massive car hood chest. Unfortunately no such luck with Downbeat, even with that awesome chest compression gimmick.
Aside from the ratcheted hip joints being a bit of a pet peeve my only other gripe with Downbeat’s bot mode is the swirly grey plastic used on his shins and feet. It looks cheap, and feels the same. I could understand if all the grey/silver on the figure was left unpainted but Downbeat’s thighs and abdomen are covered in a metallic silver paint. It makes absolutely no sense to me why they left these pieces bare and I’ll be painting mine with some Tamiya silver leaf as soon as the weather allows. It would have been particularly exceptional if these pieces had been die-cast to match the thighs as this would have given a good centre of gravity to the figure and also allowed the lower body to look more cohesive.
1x Blaster Rifle – A rifle styled after Jazz’s cartoon model firearm. This piece is moulded in the same grey plastic as the feet and shin covers and left unpainted. The gun itself looks quite nice with some moulded in details and it fits very well into Downbeat’s hands without risk of falling out. The cheap plastic finish is again a real bummer and I will be repainting this piece when I can.
1x Shoulder Launcher – The shoulder launcher is able to be mounted to Downbeat’s right shoulder and slides on quite simply to the bare edge at the back of his chest. The mounting slot has a piece of plastic on the right side that prevents it from being mounted on the opposite shoulder. The launcher itself is moulded in a glossy black plastic with the projectile moulded in the same dull grey plastic of the rifle, feet, and shins. The projectile is a bit of an odd shape as the top of the missile is larger than the bottom, making it asymmetrical however upon inspection of the G1 toy it seems to be faithful to the source material despite looking very strange to me.
1x Grappling Hook w/ Winch – Possibly the single greatest accessory ever included with a Masterpiece toy, official or third party. This is one of the included pieces that made me commit to adding Downbeat to my collection. The winch can be tabbed into Downbeats palm which is an incredibly secure connection, almost too secure as it is a bit scary to remove once it’s in there. The winch spool has about 12” of thread wound around a functioning rotating barrel with a glossy white three pronged grappling hook tied to the other end. There are some small rivet details on the winch and the barrel has teeth to allow easy winding and unwinding of the cable. The hook could have been painted but that’s a minor thing that I can remedy myself. Now, I was a bit disappointed that the winch didn’t replace Downbeat’s hand but given that the fists don’t do any sort of fold in action to the forearms during transformation, and that the forearms are mostly solid, I can understand why this accessory mounts the way it does.
"Time for some shut eye, Decepticon Turkey!"
2x High Frequency Audio Transmitters – Two gorgeous purple loudspeakers that can be mounted on the rear of Downbeat’s vehicle mode via 3mm (?) peg holes where the tail signal lights are. These can also be mounted in peg holes on the back of Downbeat’s shoulders for use in robot mode. These are yet another awesome accessory referencing key moments in the animated television show. The touch of silver paint on the centre portions is a nice touch.
“Kids! That’s how they do, you know—just drive around listening to raps and shooting all the jobs.”
2x Low Frequency Audio Transmitters – These two black speaker pieces clip onto Downbeat’s side hip skirts to bulk out his lower body, and let Downbeat drop the bass when needed. I like the more armoured up look that this adds to Downbeat and they look especially nice in conjunction with the purple loud speakers. Some silver paint would definitely have helped these pieces along though, as the fine details get lost in the glossy black plastic. I realize now that I didn’t attempt the transformation with these attached so I’m not sure if you can leave them on during conversion. I’ll update this once I give it a try.
G2 Aft Kickers Club
3x Face Plates – Downbeat ships with a total of 3 interchangeable face plates all moulded in a gloss grey with the mirrored visor attached. Swapping the faces is as simple as lifting the helmet straight up off of his head, and un-clipping the currently installed face.
***IMPORTANT NOTE*** Don’t separate his helmet front and back like I did the first time as it is not built to be constantly disassembled like that. Just pull firmly straight up and the helmet will slide off to reveal the face plate gimmick.
The first face that comes pre-installed is your typical serious/neutral face. The face looks excellent and captures the look of Jazz when he is in deep thought or thinking seriously about his next move. While this wasn’t a common look for him in the cartoon, I feel like this face represents the comic book version of Jazz, particularly in the IDW publications, perfectly. I will be leaving this face on my copy as it works for almost every situation.
The other 2 faces are a shouting face and a cocky smile. The shouting face looks very good, but would benefit from some black paint in the open mouth area. The smile is… just off. I don’t like the look of it at all. The general mouth shape, and positioning is all wrong and it looks very awkward. This one will be staying in the parts bin. I would have really liked a head sculpt with just a slight smirk instead of the weird grin that we ended up with. All in all 2/3 isn’t bad but the faces definitely fall short of the general quality presented in the rest of the package.
I am absolutely in love with Maketoys Downbeat. I haven’t had this much fun with a toy in a while, and I couldn’t stop shooting more and more photos with this guy. Even with FansToys Sovereign sitting on my desk (and he is absolutely no slouch let me tell you) I find myself drawn to picking up Downbeat and messing with him constantly. The transformation is intuitive and fun, His accessory pack is fantastic, the grappling hook is especially brilliant to mess with for combat scenes and just general Spiderman style action. The articulation on this guy is second to none on my MP shelf especially with that killer ab crunch. I wish Maketoys had done away with the ratcheted hips and painted the grey plastic on his feet, shins, and weapons but ultimately they don’t sour the experience for me. If I had to rate him compared to the other Masterpiece car bots I’d put him firmly ahead of MP-12 Lambor and MP-25 Tracks, but not quite up to the standard set by MP-17 Prowl. Prowl is still king of the car bots in my opinion.
"Aww yeah Bee, get into the groove little bot!"
I think Takara Tomy has a tough road ahead of them if they decide to give us an official representation of Jazz. I have no doubts that Takara will nail the head sculpt and transformation as that is where they absolutely shine but I don’t think we are going to see this kind of articulation on the official product. Of course if they manage to get Porsche to sign off on a licensed vehicle mode we might see a cleaner, more accurate vehicle mode but will that potentially lead to sacrifices when it comes to robot mode? I put Downbeat right up there with figures like Ocular Max Sphinx, as one of the best third party Masterpiece style products that I have handled and I’m very happy to have him in my collection. Will he get replaced when a official product comes down the pipeline? I suppose it’s a possibility but much like Sphinx, Takara will have to bring out the big guns if they want to topple this figure off of my shelf.
"Nice job kicking those 'cons in the tail pipe Bee! Engex is on me."
What do you guys think? Does Maketoys Downbeat check your boxes? Are you a car fanatic and prefer the more accurate alt mode of Toyworld’s Coolsville? Maybe more into the IDW style of Generation Toys J4zz? Waiting on an official Masterpiece release of Jazz? Check out the full gallery below for some more awesome pictures of Downbeat, including comparisons with other official and third party masterpiece figures and a full fight sequence between Downbeat and MP-29 Shockwave!
Let me know your thoughts, comments, critiques and concerns in the comments below! If you have any requests for toys you would like to see me review, or specific photos, comparisons etc. please don’t hesitate to comment or email me at PlasticSparkPhotography@gmail.com
Until next time, thanks so much for checking out my photo review of Maketoys RE:Master MTRM-09 Downbeat!