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REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS ENERGON KICKER
By Thomas Wheeler

This is something that I've wanted to see for a very long time -- far longer than the Energon concept has been around in the world of Transformers.

Anybody remember the Pretenders? Some early artwork of these characters showed what looked like humans in space-suits. A thought passed through my head at the time that maybe Hasbro was planning to incorporate G.I.Joe-style figures into the Transformers line. As most of us know, the Pretenders turned out to be a bunch of big, frequently ugly, and generally not very articulated shells worn by Transformers. Not one of their more inspired ideas.

That's not to say humans have not been involved in the Transformers concept. Sparkplug and Spike Witwicky had an extensive role in the Generation One Transformers, and later on, an adult Spike and his young son Daniel were hanging around with the Autobots a lot. While there were no humans to be seen in Beast Wars, which took place in Earth's prehistoric past, humans were a part of Robots in Disguise, and have also turned up in both Armada and its ten-years-later sequel, Energon.

Which brings us to Kicker. Kicker is a teenage boy with the mysterious ability to detect energon, the raw energy which powers, or boosts the powers of, the Transformers. Although initially not especially fond of hanging around with giant robots, he gradually becomes accustommed to them. They, in turn, grant him a very sharp-looking protective suit, so that it's at least moderately safer for him to accompany them on various missions.

For the first time ever, there's an official action figure of a human from the Transformers concept. And there's a lot about this figure that is very, very cool.

For starters, it's made by Takara. Currently it's only available in Japan or through online stores that import Japanese products, although that may change. There's a product code for a Kicker figure in Wal-Mart's Transformers inventory listings.

Now, along with the Transformers, Takara also makes the MicroMan figures. And as we know, in 2003, they completely overhauled the basic MicroMan form to create one of the most impressive, well-designed, highly-articulated 3-3/4" scale action figures in the business. With close to 30 points of articulation, including double-jointed elbows and knees and a full range of motion in the arms, legs, head, ankles, and more, this figure was capable of moving almost as well as a human -- and probably better than some. It was certainly heads above the current American crop of 3-3/4" action figures, bar none.

So it's not terribly surprising that when Takara decided to do an actual Kicker figure, they used the basic MicroMan body format, with specialized head, chestplate, backplate, and assorted painted on or molded details.

The end result is nothing short of phenomenal. The very small box that Kicker comes in, which notably bears the Japanese Transformers logo but also the English-language MicroMan logo, has an illustration of the animated Kicker. A quick visual comparison shows how accurately Takara got the costume details. Since Kicker is a teenager, he's somewhat slimmer than the average "adult-aged" action figure in this scale, and the MicroMan molds are somewhat more slender than we've come to expect from G.I.Joe or Star Wars. Of course, some people have said that MicroMan's proportions are more realistic, and that could well be a valid comment.

(It's also worth noting that the box also commemorates both the 20th Anniversary of Transformers as well as the 30th Anniversary of MicroMan.)

The figure looks very cool. Kicker's uniform is predominantly black, with white armor and red and blue trim. The Autobot logo is prominently stamped on his chestplate. A human character bearing a Transformers logo! How cool is that? Clearly, Takara was going for accuracy here, as even the finest details from the lines on the helmet to the fact that his belt buckle is orange, a color not found anywhere else on the figure, is maintained.

The figure comes with one accessory, an absolutely huge chrome silver sword that's as big as the figure. One might assume the auit allows Kicker enhanced strength. He has been seen in the show waving around a very large sword at least once. One notable alteration from the MicroMan figures is that Kicker's hands have been made from a more rubbery plastic, so they can grip the sword. Just don't expect him to stand up very well carrying the thing.

Despite the figure's very light weight and seeming fragility, Kicker moves easily and holds poses well. I'm not sure how much really rigorous play he would stand up to, but he seems surprisingly sturdy for his seemingly light frame. One friend of mine, when we were discussing the MicroMan figures, said that Takara has designed these figures to be durable despite their fragile appearance. I'm not sure what sort of toy safety regulations Japan has compared to the States, but given that there's a chance this figure might be brought over here, I'd have to assume that Kicker is capable of passing safety tests.

Ultimately? Kicker is a very cool figure. The TRANSFORMERS ENERGON show is the most intelligent Transformers program in some years, and Kicker manages to be a productive member of the group. I am delighted that a figure of him has been released, and that it's based on one of the most impressive basic figure designs to come along in some time, the MICROMAN figure. I can think of several toy companies that could learn a lot from studying this figure. However you choose to go about getting one, I most definitely recommend KICKER!