With the exception of her bikini-clad first toy appearance, the only place Arcee has gotten a consistent break from the subject of sexuality is in her toys. I attribute this to the fact that there’s very little you can do to make a figure sexy when she has car or motorcycle parts hanging off her.
Two years after the Botcon exclusive, Arcee saw her first mass-release transforming toy in the Energon series.
This was not Japan’s worrying secretary; she was the willful, aggressive leader of an entire race of Autobots, the Omnicons. Smaller than most Transformers, but still larger than the Minicons, the Omnicons, number in the hundreds. They all share a set of common body types and the ability to manipulate raw energon; however, they are individual, sentient robots. They are even able to fashion tools, weaponry, and power-boosting “Energon Stars”. Arcee’s weapon of choice is an Energon Bow.
Arcee is depicted as having, with the intervention of energon, evolved into her current, feminine form when the Omnicons were isolated in the depths of space and in need of a leader. Everything is still not entirely rosy in Energon. You see, Arcee suffers from “Smurfette” syndrome. She is singular in the fact that she alone has her body type, therefore she alone is a “she”. Also, she has pronounced heel struts (known to humans as high-heels.)
A couple different things would hang over from Energon and make their way into the Movie franchise. Arcee’s motorcycle alt-mode would be one, her crossbow another, and, for as long as she had legs, her pronounced heel struts were another. First, we have the toy-only (i.e. no actual movie appearance) Arcee from Transformers. Let me preface this with the fact that I’m completely aware that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I am also amply aware of my previous post in which I lamented the sexualizing of Arcee within the franchise. That being said, I still don’t know how this lead to the Transformer’s equivalent of a parrot-faced Clara Bow impersonator.
All head sculpt oddities aside, the first Movie Arcee is a solid, dynamically coloured figure.
Her heel struts – ok, you know what? I’m just going to go ahead and call them high heels – her high heels fit in well with the movie aesthetic and are not so distracting, mostly because the pieces of her back wheel prominently and awkwardly positioned on her upper arms draw so much more attention. Fun fact, Arcee’s instructions do not point out that her wheel halves have slots that, when lined up with appropriate tabs, will actually hold the halves still, rather than allowing them to swivel freely.
And just for added fun, her name is displayed as part of her made-up Model and her license plate has the release date of Transformers on it.
Next came big news: Arcee’s going to play a part in the second movie! However, Arcee’s luck doesn’t hold. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen went like this for our beleaguered heroine: some cool, mostly ineffectual weapons fire is expended on Sideways in the first scene; she is parked in another scene; and then shows up just in time to get blown to smithereens in the colossal final battle. Few things in Revenge of the Fallen are as confusing as Arcee…s. TFWiki has a good summation of all the confusion that surrounds this character/these characters. Suffice it to say, despite being blown into a whole bunch of little bits, Arcee’s not finished! One of the three of her appears to have escaped the battle intact. See, the second movie did something very different with her. The novelization of the movie used the phrase “tripartite Cybertronian” to describe her condition; she is a Spark split between three separate bodies. There was even a point at which Arcee’s three bodies were going to join together in a combiner form in the movie, but this was cut.
The toyline eschews this viewpoint by providing distinct personalities for Arcee (Red), Chromia (Blue) and Elita-1 (Purple). However, the basic concept of the three being a combiner of some sort remains vestigially in the form of interlocking pieces that exist on both toy molds (“both” because Chromia and Elita-1 share the same mold).
Hasbro at one point stated that official “Combined Mode” instructions would be coming, but we’re still waiting. There is an official piece of concept art on the DVD extras as well as a try at the Combiner Arcee done in the comic books.
In the meantime, this has fueled a number of fan-made combiner attempts, most of which look like the worst three motorcycle pile-up you can imagine. The official stuff looks pretty good, but that’s easy to do when you’re dealing with an image rather than with three toys each having a good portion of immovable plastic pieces.
So, sticking with the toy-centric concept that the red one is Arcee and the other two are separate girlbots, let’s just deal with that one. A lot of people have a problem with Arcee’s robot mode, due to the fact that it doesn’t have legs and that her torso is attached to the wheel assembly by an articulated spine. I’d be more inclined to listen to this whining, were there not an excellent example provided of how this would work, and work well, in the opening scene of Revenge of the Fallen. All three bikes use their unicycle-esque bodies and articulation to great advantage when herding Sideways towards Sideswipe’s awaiting blade. Transformers are aliens first and foremost, and a vaguely inhuman robot mode only stands to reinforce that. The only complaint I have with the toy is that the articulated spine is rather awkwardly articulated in a series of rotating and pivoting joints, limiting the poses Arcee actually can be put it. In the movie, she is pink but her first toy is very clearly red. We recently got a pink repaint by way of the Target Exclusive Arcee included in the “Rotorwash Rumble” two-pack with the Decepticon helicopter Tailwhip.
Arcee is my wife’s favourite Autobot, though I’m sure she’s been somewhat disturbed to read what her girl has had to go through over the years. Despite what the fiction has done to her, or worse, what the fans have done to her1, she has provided some of the coolest pieces in my collection and for that she kicks tailpipe in my book. I’ll leave you with a group shot of ROTF Arcee in all her incarnations:
1 Anyone that has been to Botcon and can say “Arcee Guy” with a straight face is doing better than I am. *shudder*