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Series: TransArt
Allegiance: Maximal
Year: 2023

Prelude: More than a quarter century ago Beast Wars brought us the character who, to this very day, has the best character arc throughout the entire Transformers franchise: Cheetor. From wide-eyed kid to hardened battle veteran, we watched all stages of the little cat’s development. Now this masterpiece of a character gets his next Masterpiece-scaled figure in Transart’s Blade Leopard Shadow, a third party version of Cheetor’s Transmetal 2 incarnation. So strap a rocket to your back and let’s say go!

Robot Mode: Blade Leopard Shadow is a figure roughly the size of a large Voyager or slim Leader Class figure. He is a good head taller than his previous incarnation, Metal Panther, though he does look slimmer due to the lack of a backpack. His proportions are a bit misshapen, as his arms reach down to his knees, but that is intentional and fits with the character shown in the third season of Beast Wars. Overall the resemblance to the TV character is very strong, with Blade Leopard sporting a much darker orange for his fur than the original Transmetal 2 Cheetor toy, never mind a far more intricate detailing.

Look-wise Blade Leopard is fantastic, the amount of detailing is insane, and those few parts which feature shiny chrome will hopefully not start to shed in a decade or two (keep your fingers crossed). The head looks great and the mouth can open, though there are no extra faces/heads for different expressions like there were with other Transart figures. Also, while the head is on a balljoint, movement is still a bit restricted by both the sculpting on the back of the neck and that spike on his chin.

Speaking of articulation, Blade Leopard is practically a contortionist and can be put into all kinds of poses. I especially like his fully articulated claws, they look very cool. There are some limitations, though. That black plate on his right arm restricts how much his elbow can bend. It can be removed (probably to simulate the original toy’s rather pointless flip-open arm panel), but now you have an ugly gap in the forearm. The hip can bend forward a full 90 degrees, but maybe a tad too easily. Would have liked a stiffer joint here or a way to fix the upper body into place when you don’t want it to bend. Finally, there is the tail. It looks great and is theoretically fully poseable due to a wire inside the rubbery material, but for one it doesn’t fully plug into Leopard’s butt and there is only so much the rubber will bend. A tail more akin to the one sported by Metal Mouse would probably have worked better in my opinion, though it would probably not have fit the look.

In terms of weapons Blade Leopard has, of course, the blades on his elbows and his claws for close combat. His only ranged weapon is the missile launcher on his back. Removing it from the back is easy, placing it in his hand is a bit fiddly. Once the handle is securely his claws, though, it’s rock solid and Leopard can wave his (actually firing) missile launcher about. Nicely done. Additionally, all the Beast Wars Transmetal 2 figures had a spark crystal somewhere on their body and Blade Leopard replicates that. A panel on his left thigh flips open to reveal… a green M&M. Okay, I get that they couldn’t put the Maximal symbol there for trademark reasons, but a at least something vaguely crystal-like would have been welcome.

Overall I like this robot mode a lot, though I have to say it somehow feels lighter and more fragile than Transart’s previous figures. It isn’t actually fragile as far as I can tell, no stress marks or anything, but it simply doesn’t have that nice, heavy feeling that you kind of expect from a Masterpiece-scaled figure made for collectors. That is not a flaw, mind you, just an observation. So bottom line for the robot mode: very nice, though with a few limitations here and there.

Alternate Mode: Before we get to the beast mode of this toy, a few words on the transformation. Or more specifically a rant about the lack of an instruction sheet for said transformation. Yep, Blade Leopard Shadow does not come with an instruction sheet, just a QR code that leads you to a Youtube video. Now, Blade Leopard Shadow’s transformation isn’t difficult, mind you, but still: would it really have jacked the price so much to include a sheet of paper with the transformation steps? Does everything need to be a video these days? Please, Transart, give us an instruction sheet for your next figures. This fan here, at least, would greatly appreciate it. Rant over.

Blade Leopard Shadow has pretty much the most basic beast transformation imaginable. The robot goes down on all fours (though backwards instead of forwards) and exchanges the robot mode for a beast head, done. It’s pretty much the exact same transformation as the original figure, so if you can figure that one out, you can do it here, too, instructions or no instructions. The resulting feline looks just as grotesquely mutated as the robot mode with a very broad upper body and a slim lower one. The limbs retain their full articulation, naturally, and the beast’s head is also fully articulated and includes an opening jaw, too.

There isn’t much I can say about this mode that the pictures don’t do a better job of showing. One thing to note: according to the instruction video, you are to fold in Leopard’s thumbs so that the front paws only show three claws, just like the rear ones. It is also possible, though, to straighten out the thumbs so that Leopard sports four claws on the forelegs. Just a little detail really, which doesn’t make much of a difference, but leaves room for personal preference.

Bottom line for the beast mode: well done. While I will always prefer Cheetor’s first Transmetal incarnation for its flight mode, this one here doesn’t look bad, either.

Remarks: When Megatron used the technology of the Vok to create his Transmetal 2 Driver to bring his unholy creation Dinobot II to life, Cheetor was exposed to the same mutating energies. His Transmetal form mutated into a larger, grotesque amalgamation of technology and organics. Incidentally this was also the same time that Cheetor started looking at girls (well, a girl, as Blackarachnia was the only female around at the time), so I guess the Transmetal 2 mutation was an analogy for puberty.

Transart delivers another fine example of a Beast Wars Transmetal figure at Masterpiece scale. That said, this version of Transmetal 2 Cheetor is, to me, Transart’s weakest figure yet. It’s still pretty good, mind you, but Blade Leopard Shadow simply isn’t on the same level of excellence as previous figures from the line. Still, since I doubt Takara will start making official Transmetal Masterpieces anytime soon, Transart is still the number one choice for your Beast Wars Transmetal fix. And Blade Leopard Shadow is a good figure and well worth a look for the distinguishing Beast Wars fan.

Rating: B

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