A little over three years ago, I did “A post that’s missing its subject” in which I lamented my lack of a G1 Star Saber toy. This is a lament that not only do I still have, but one for which the condition has both worsened and lessened simultaneously.
Before I address this paradoxical conceit, I noticed I never said anything in the Robot Masters Star Saber post about just why amongst the many, many great G1 toys that were never released in the U.S. I coveted him specifically. This one is firmly rooted in another vaguely parodoxical idea: like a lot of toy-centric collectors I can still be moved to want a toy just based on a great appearance in fiction. Skipping the horrible rendition of him in the IDW universe (because, ugh) all of Star Saber’s appearances have been in fiction that didn’t make it to Hasbro’s side of the market. Over here, a lot of fans are better acquainted with Star Saber as the name of several swords. Of his appearance in fiction, the original is still the best. There were four animated titles exclusive to Takara’s markets that were happening during and after Hasbro’s Season 3 and the end of G1. I finally was able to watch them all back-to-back when I bought the Madman Entertainment sets around 2008. The last two of these are my favourites. Sadly Transformers: Zone only received a single OVA (that I had originally found an un-translated file of and had watched roughly a kajillion times). Even without subtitles at that time, I loved it immensely. It introduced us to my favourite Takara
Autobot,Cybertron; Dai Atlas. However, it starts with what appears to be the untimely demise of another, much loved Cybertron Supreme Commander.
(Spoilers!) Not to worry, he got better.
Unknown to me at the time, the year before Zone aired, Transformers: Victory received a full season’s worth of episodes. It starred “the greatest swordsman in the universe” and “a universal hero, who would carry through for good even if it meant exhausting his life force” (something that was sadly proven in those first few minutes of Transformers: Zone.) And Victory introduced him with an opening scene right out of a spaghetti western,
In other words, to get the full gist of the scene, listen to this first:
That is almost literally what is playing as bad guys descend on “Iron Town” and start blasting away.
As the smoke clears, only one other ‘bot still stands.
The bad guys are undeterred and throw down against our lone hero.
He pulls his mighty sword, absorbing blasts from their guns. They pull out vicious looking spiked scythes, but he disarms them before leaping high in the air and returning the energy stored in his sword with a rainbow-y, electric blast that rends their joints and throws them clear out of town.
The church bells ring as a dusty wind blows past our victorious hero. A leap into the air, a yell of “Tuh-ransuh-fooooorm!”, and our hero flies off into the sunset. From that scene on, I was hooked. Well, to tell the truth, the series kind of had me earlier from the great opening sequence and theme song (that the title of this very post is taken from) to the chibi-style break transitions the show used.
That scene was what sold me on Star Saber himself, catapulting him past the multitude of Cybertrons I had been introduced to in Headmasters and Super-God Masterforce to take his place as my second favourite. Throughout the rest of the series, he maintains this cowboy lawman austerity even through adopting a son and battling the silly Dinoforce and the Breastforce (*heehee*).
So much so, that I very much wanted a toy of him and eventually was quite happy with — albeit not entirely satisfied by — his Robot Masters release.
“So these guys will have to do until Takara decides to reissue the original. Small as they might be, they’re doing an admirable job.”
When I typed that sentence at the end of the Robot Masters Star Saber post, the last thing on my mind was that two years late TakaraTomy would hold a fan poll to determine the next Masterpiece release and that Star Saber would be the victor.
My one regret from the fan choice poll was that Masterpiece Dai Atlas was also in the running, but even in fourth place he was soundly beaten by God Ginrai, Armada Convoy, and Star Saber.
However, as Star Saber was pretty much tied with God Ginrai (more importantly: Powermaster Optimus Prime!) as my second most desired outcome of the poll, I was certainly not unhappy with the results. Then, what felt like a kajillion years later, I got my hands on him.
Very rarely does a good update diminish my need to also get the original toy, but this one does.This one not only provides a completely updated collector’s piece with phenomenal articulation, but does so while still being a fun toy to transform and to play with. I can’t actually recall any other Masterpiece release that is also a super fun toy. At the same time, I still wish I had the original to display next to him but that spark of hope still lingers that we will receive an Encore style reissue someday.
Meanwhile, oh darn, I’ll just have to make do with a toy that updates the articulation while retaining the look and feel and, most importantly, retaining the gimmicks of the original.
Star Saber is a Brainmaster, the only one of the -masters groups that never made it to Hasbro’s markets at all. [UPDATE: I totally forgot the three smallest Brainmasters were redecoed and released in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand as the Motorvators. Thanks to another Eric for reminding me!] Headmasters allowed smaller robots to control larger non-sentient bodies, called Transtectors. With Brainmasters, normal-sized Cybertronians were able to inhabit smaller robot forms called “Brains”. These brains formed the actual cerebral circuitry as well as the face of the larger robot. Within Star Saber, as seen above, is the Brain of Courage. In the cartoon the Brain of Courage looked basically like a miniature version of Saber wearing almost of his full armor only missing the final “Battle Up!” helmet. The G1 toy was basically this general design, but in only red and white for the body, missing any paint applications, so it’s hard to tell. One big difference is that, while the G1 toy had a face that was part of the Brain of Courage unit that slides up, the Masterpiece version has a face that is part of the bigger robot and only pushed into place by the Brain of Courage. This allows the Masterpiece version to have a turning head.
The faceless form of Saber is pretty disturbing.
There’s not much else to say about the Brain of Courage. The little guy is about the size of a Diaclone pilot. When TakaraTomy designer Hisashi Yuki was torturing us for months on end by showing prototypes of Masterpiece Star Saber through his twitter account, he showed an amusing image of the Brain of Courage prototype catching a ride on Fire Convoy’s ladder seat.
So, yelling “Brain Set!” (obviously ’cause that’s what he yells in the cartoon) you jam the Brain of Courage in and close his chest. Up slides the face and now you have Saber, the actual core Cybertronian at the heart of all this combination.
The Masterpiece release includes an appropriately smaller sized sword and hilt, because what would Saber be without his trusty saber? Also, he has his Saber Laser and the nosecone of his alt mode can be placed on his arm as a shield. Saber’s larger armor piece is called the V-Star. When he is not combined with it, it functions as a weapons platform with panels that open to reveal landing gear and missile launchers that he can then pilot remotely or ride atop.
Not that he needs help flying as his alt mode is a pretty cool looking space… fighter… jet… thing.
The Brain of Courage can even pilot the space… fighter… jet… thing.
Then the space… fighter… jet… thing can be combined with the weapons platform to make a much, much larger space… fighter… jet… thing.
The real fun comes when you transform it into the combined robot mode. Like in the cartoon and as depicted in the Brain of Courage sculpt, he can run around minus his helmet, though Saber’s head is a little small to really pull this look off.
The helmet piece is quite cleverly on an arm with a hinged clasp at the end.
The clasp can let go and retract, which means, unlike the G1 toy, the ability to turn his head also extends to this mode. You really must say “Battle Up!” as you slide the helmet piece over the top.
Both Saber and Star Saber have wonderful, very Japanese G1 headsculpts.
All the pieces can be stored while in robot mode, including both large and small sword blades.
Well, all of them except the one accessory that the Masterpiece comes with that the G1 toy didn’t, Star Saber’s shield that he used in the final episode of the series.
The shield changes into a stand for the V-Star.
Just an impossibly brilliant and unexpected addition that is definitely worthy of the title of “Masterpiece”.