Transformers R.E.D. Series Review

So, obviously, I’m a Transformers fan. And I’m old enough that I was around for the very first Transformers cartoon that debuted in 1984. And that’s been the foundation for my Transformers fandom. I appreciate all the re-imaginings that the franchise has been able to have, but something approximating the original cartoon will always be the “correct” version of Transformers in my mind — Your mileage may vary, and that is 100% valid!

But one thing about Transformers TOYS is that it’s very hard for them to resemble the cartoon’s animation models, because there’s always extra bits necessary for the characters’ alt modes — Extra tires, triggers, headlights, what have you.

So Hasbro has recently released the R.E.D. Series (R.E.D. an acronym for “Robot Enhanced Design”), along the lines of their Star Wars Black Series and Marvel Legends action figure line. I pre-ordered these things back on July 4th weekend, and they showed up the weekend before Thanksgiving. And while I haven’t been leaving the house due to the COVID-19 pandemic, others have reported that this Wal-Mart exclusive series has been available on store shelves since September. So thanks for getting my pre-orders to me nice and quick, Wal-Mart (Please note: Heavy sarcasm).

Anyways, the figures themselves are pretty great! They do not convert into alt modes, as they’re intended to be playable toys that match the animation models. Hasbro is still releasing Transformers that change from one mode to another, this is a secondary line that, I assume, is for people like me who just want the robot modes that will be able to be put in cool poses on their shelves. Because, quite honestly, I don’t transform my Transformers very often. Usually they get put in bot mode and stay that way, and then all the extra folding joints and kibble get in the way of their pose-ability.

But the R.E.D. Series figures, or, at lease, these first three, all pose pretty decently! Here’s a small gallery of the three released so far; Optimus Prime, Megatron, and Soundwave (with Laserbeak in cassette mode):

All three characters have double ball-jointed necks, shoulder swivel and hinge joints, ball-jointed wrists (and each comes with several interchangeable hands), waist swivel, hip swivel and hinge joints, mid-thigh swivels, double-jointed knees, and ball jointed ankles. Optimus and Soundwave also have mid-bicep swivel joints (Megatron’s swivel is moved to the elbow area, because putting it mid-bicep would break his upper arm model too harshly), and Soundwave even has double-jointed elbows so he can press the (somewhat) functioning eject button on his shoulder. And Megatron’s hip panels hinge up and down to help put him in some more dynamic poses.

As pictured, Optimus’s chest panels open up to insert or remove the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, which can also fit in his open hands. And Megatron has an ab-hinge that’s actually hidden really well within his sculpt. Megs has some very unique shoulders, due to the way that he’s designed. Also, Soundwave’s shoulder cannon and backpack are removable, for those times you want to replicate animation errors.

One of Megatron’s hands comes with a translucent Energon Cube attached to it, and he’s also got an alternate Energon Mace to re-create the scenes atop Sherman Bridge from the original pilot mini-series. Similarly, Optimus has his Energon Axe accessory. Both Soundwave and Prime come with their respective laser blasters. Megatron’s fusion cannon, as far as I can tell, is not removable from his right forearm.

The paint applications are actually pretty minimal, with most of the pieces of each figure just being molded in the appropriate color plastic. But what paint IS there seems to be correct on all of my figures. I would have liked if Optimus’ lower biceps had the white stripe painted on, and his forearm details were painted yellow like most of the toys, but in the spirit of cartoon-accuracy, having them colored red is actually “correct.” The lack of red stripes and dots on Soundwave’s shoulder cannon sticks out to me like a sore thumb, though. Of all the paint applications, that’s the only thing that I think is actually WRONG, the others are just me being nitpicky.

I don’t think the figures are perfect. I would have preferred if those mid-thigh swivels were positioned closer to the knee joints so that the thighs weren’t broken up where there isn’t a natural cut. And I would have liked if the colors chosen were a bit brighter. While I understand that the attempt was to try and match the smooth, flat colors of the cartoon, I feel like the color choices may have gone a bit overboard.

But, overall, as a first attempt at making playable, non-converting action figures out of animation models from a nearly 35-year-old cartoon, I think all three figures all really solid. I’m looking forward to more G1 characters from this line.

Two future figures from other interpretations of Transformers have been announced for the R.E.D. series, due out in spring 20201, including the Beast Wars version of Cheetor (link goes to TFWiki.net), and the Prime version of Arcee. I’m not super keen on the TF Prime character designs, but Cheetor intrigues me for future possibilities, as I wouldn’t mind having a shelf of non-converting Beast Wars robots.

Also, I bought two of each of OP, Megs, and Soundwave for future customization projects. All three designs have had a few color variations over the decades, so stay tuned for those!