REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS CLASSICS UNITED - RUMBLE and FRENZY
I've been a longtime fan of the Transformers, and I think that it's abundantly fair to say that the Transformers have proven to be one of the most popular and enduring pop culture concepts around. From their debut in the mid-1980's, they have undergone a considerable variety of different versions, enjoyed numerous toy lines, comic books, television series, and both animated and live-action movies.
Certainly the most popular of the Transformers concepts is what is now known as Generation One, the original Transformers as they were presented in the mid-1980's. Optimus Prime's heroic Autobots battling Megatron's evil Decepticons on Earth for control of Earth's supply of Energon, which fueled the Transformers, even as they sought to regain contact with their homeworld of Cybertron.
I enjoyed the comic book, and was a huge fan of the animated series. The action figures, however, had one complication to them as far as I was concerned. Although they certainly looked cool in both robotic and "alt" modes, whether that was a car, plane, other vehicle, weapon, or whatever else they could turn into, in their robotic modes, they simply weren't all that articulated. Most of them could move their arms, maybe their heads, and that was about it. Few could move their legs all that much.
Such were the limitations of toy technology of the time period. Limitations which were eventually overcome, first with the popular Beast Wars line, and then carried over into every successive Transformers concept since. All very fine and well, but there were those longtime Transformers fans who sincerely wished to see the original Generation One Transformers with these more articulated formats.
Eventually, this dream became a reality. Hasbro produced the TRANSFORMERS CLASSICS series, later known as TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS. Here, finally, were the most iconic of the Transformers, fully recognizable in their robotic modes, and generally speaking in their alt versions as well (Megatron being a notable exception given contemporary views towards realistic weapons as toys). And this time around, they were very fully poseable in their robot forms!
Sadly, the Classics/Generations line has become rather sporadic in recent years, having to make way for Transformers based on the trilogy of live-action movies, as well as for toys based on more recent animated series. The most recent offering of Generations-style figures is based on a new video-game, "The Fall of Cybertron".
While I can certainly find it understandable that Hasbro wishes to market Transformers based on the most recent media presentations of these popular characters, there's part of me that wishes that the Classics/Generations line would turn once again to Generation One. There's still a lot of potential there.
Some of which can still be found -- if you know where to look. Which in this case, is Japan.
The Transformers actually got their start in Japan, with a toy company called Takara, now owned by Tomy. It was a partnership between Hasbro and Takara that first brought the Transformers to the United States, and that partnership continues to this day. As such, Japan has marketed their own version of the Classics/Generations line, which most recently has been known as TRANSFORMERS UNITED. And as it turns out, there's some familiar faces there, that haven't put in an appearance on this side of the Pacific. Among these are two notable Decepticons by the names of RUMBLE and FRENZY.
Rumble and Frenzy, along with Ravage, are probably the best-known "cassette" Transformers, associates of Soundwave, a high-ranking and popular Decepticon who transformed into a cassette music player. Need it be said that Soundwave and his cohorts have had a tough time of it lately. Soundwave and the others essentially represent outmoded technology, a staggering irony for a race of advanced robots. You don't go into an electronics shop and ask for a cassette player anymore. And just try to find audio cassettes at any standard retailer.
I'd wager that if you handed a Soundwave toy to a child and told him that it transformed into a cassette player, and he had robot associates that transformed into cassettes, he wouldn't know what you were talking about -- assuming you could yank the earbuds out from either side of his head and get him to turn off his iPod long enough to listen to you. And I wonder how long it'll be before THAT sentence is outmoded.
It's a shame for these Decepticons, because Soundwave was an interesting character, and many of his cassette cohorts were also well known and frequently presented, especially in the animated series. The likelihood of a truly recognizable Soundwave turning up in the Classics line isn't very great.
Finding myself somewhat starved for new Classics-type Transformers, however -- and finding a very reasonable price for Rumble and Frenzy -- I decided to bring these two into my collection. Let's have a look at their characters, and then study their Classics-style toy incarnations.
Rumble and Frenzy are identified as brothers, however that might work for Cybertronians. Because of the coloration on the original cartoon, the two are sometimes misidentified, as the color schemes for Frenzy and Rumble were actually transposed.
Throughout the animated series Rumble was perceived as tough and full of firepower, but his fellow Decepticons, being much larger, were significantly more powerful. He gave the weaker Autobots, such as Hound, Mirage and Bumblebee hard times on the battlefield, due to their lack of warrior-like capabilities, although in one episode, Hound soundly defeated Rumble during a huge Autobots/Decepticons battle. Due to his small size and average intelligence, he displayed a Napoleon complex and often tried to prove his loyalty to Soundwave and Megatron through tough talk and destructive tendencies.
Rumble debuted in the series opener "More Than Meets the Eye part 1", being used by Soundwave and Starscream to destroy a power station with his piledriver arms, and later to cause a large wave that would allow the Decepticons to create energon cubes at a nearby dam. He battled and defeated Hound underwater, although the Autobot would get his revenge later on. Rumble appeared regularly throughout the series, although he rarely had major roles, and was usually called on to create tremors with his piledriver arms.
He was defeated by Sludge in "S.O.S. Dinobots" when his attempt at generating an earthquake was thwarted by Sludge's own.
One of Rumble's missiles damaged Red Alert in "Auto-Berserk", plunging the Autobot into a paranoid stupor.
In the episode "Sea Change", Rumble was humiliatingly turned into a tree through magic.
He was sent by Megatron to steal the cars that would become the Stunticons in "The Key to Vector Sigma part 1".
One of Rumble's most prominent appearances was in the episode "A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur's Court". Warpath, Hoist and Spike were battling Starscream, Ramjet, Rumble and Ravage in England. Low on power, the Autobots and Decepticons discovered a magical stone formation called the Dragon Mound and were transported back to the year 543 AD. Although Starscream attempted to take over a castle and build a new empire with himself as lord, the help of local knights and a wizard refueled the Autobots, who defeated the Decepticons. After defeating a dragon who nested in the Dragon Mound the Autobots and Decepticons and returned to their own time where they rejoined the fight in modern day England. Here, Rumble ended up in a jousting contest atop his "steed" Ramjet.
Rumble appeared in The Transformers: The Movie, cutting off the Autobot communications alongside Frenzy, Ravage and Ratbat, before battling their Autobot counterparts. During the leadership debate aboard Astrotrain, after a severely damaged Megatron had been unceremoniously set adrift in space, Rumble and Frenzy were deployed when the Constructicons insulted Soundwave's leadership ability, with Rumble declaring: "Hey! Nobody calls Soundwave un-crasamatic!" (uncharismatic). When they tried to form into Devastator, Rumble and Frenzy used their piledriver arms to shake the giant into his component pieces.
Rumble also appeared during the beginning of the third season in "Five Faces of Darkness," but disappeared shortly thereafter.
For whatever reason, Frenzy was not as prominent a character as Rumble, first appearing in the episode "Countdown To Extinction" and made few appearances after that, usually appearing alongside Rumble. He did appear in the movie being punched out the city and fighting Ramhorn. He then appeared on Astrotrain and helped Rumble take down Devastator when they all fought for leadership of the Decepticons.
Frenzy did have a prominent, if fatal, moment in the short-lived Generation 2 comic published by Marvel Comics. Frenzy made an appearance in the Decepticon forces under the command of Megatron in issue #7 of the series, in a story called "New Dawn." Megatron lead his Decepticons against Jhiaxus' second generation Cybertronians near the moon of Tykos. The Decepticons were defeated and Megatron left injured, presumed dead, but swearing revenge.
Frenzy would meet his end in the final issue of the Generation 2 series. After battling against Jhiaxus' Generation 2 Transformers the combined Autobot/Decepticon alliance were attacked by The Swarm. In an attempt to slow it Frenzy had Wheeljack patch him into a massive source of sonic energy. Although he succeeded in temporarily halting the swarm, the sonics proved too much for his system and he was literally shaken apart.
"Oh. Oh, man! I'm gone! Solid gone..." These were Frenzy's last words in that particular continuity.
Both Rumble and Frenzy had similar personalities, more or less that of bad-tempered, tough-talking street punks with an overabundance of attitude despite their diminutive size relative to other Transformers. It's sometimes been pictured that they're not that much bigger than humans in their robot forms. One hilarious illustration of the Transformers shows Soundwave and Blaster competing as DJ's in a human disco, with Rumble and Frenzy dancing in the crowd.
Both characters appeared in the Dreamwave Transformers comics. When the Ark fell to Earth in 1984, Rumble and Frenzy were among the Decepticons on board. Battling the Autobots repeatedly, they were eventually defeated by a combined human-Autobot alliance. They were to be taken back to Cybertron, but were sabotaged by rogue elements of the U.S. military, who wanted to build weapons using Transformers technology (unaware they were being indirectly manipulated by Shockwave). Unable to do this, they began to control the Transformers themselves.
They would not appear again until the following year, when both sides were lured to the wilderness in Alaska by a mysterious beacon. Both sides battled until the arrival of a force led by Shockwave and Ultra Magnus, who defeated Megatron and arrested all present as war criminals.
Desperate to save their own necks, Frenzy and Rumble both joined up with Shockwave and were assigned by him to guard the badly damaged Megatron. They failed, as Starscream was able to dump Megatron's body in space. They were then sent by Shockwave on a critical mission - reviving the Stunticons.
They were subsequently co-opted by Starscream and headed to Earth with him, Soundwave, Skywarp, Thundercracker and the Combaticons. They defeated most of the Autobots still on Earth, but are themselves attacked by Sunstorm. After Starscream defeated him, with aid from the Autobots, he returned to his base to find Soundwave, Rumble and Frenzy acting oddly. The reason why would soon become clear - Megatron had returned, backed by the Predacons, and Soundwave had been taking orders from him all along.
Rumble and Frenzy made their first appearance in the main IDW continuity in issue 1 of The Transformers: Megatron Origin miniseries. Captured by the guard of the Senator after Megatron's riot at the energon mine, Rumble and Frenzy convinced the unwilling Megatron to help them escape. Breaking free and incapacitating the guards, the three fugitives took the ship underground, unaware they had attracted the attention of Sentinel Prime. After getting involved in underground bloodsports in Kaon, Rumble and Frenzy have become awed by Megatron's violence and charisma, and have been shown as loyal acolytes staying by his side. After Soundwave offered Megatron the use of advanced weaponry, Frenzy and Rumble were modified to be able to work with him.
Interestingly, although the original Generation One Decepticon cassettes were packaged as two-packs, Rumble and Frenzy were not packaged together. Rumble was packaged with Ravage, whereas Frenzy was packaged with Laserbeak . Frenzy also holds the distinction of being the only one of the original Transformers toys produced by Hasbro for four concurrent years, as he was available with Ratbat as late as 1987.
So, how are the toys? Extremely impressive. And, for that matter, so is the box they come in. Admittedly, Japanese toy packaging tends to be extremely colorful and varied, almost to the point of causing eyestrain. Although significant parts of the package are in Japanese, there's no small amount of English, as well, including the traditional Transformers logo, with the word "United" beneath it, the names of the characters, and more.
Their specialty is described as "Decepticon Demolitions", and as far as their respective color schemes are concerned, whatever the confusion over the years, as far as this set is concerned, Rumble is the red-and-black one, and Frenzy is the blue one, so that's what I'm going with.
In robot mode, which is how the toys come packaged, they're relatively short, by Classics standards, which is not inappropriate for the characters. They stand about 3-3/4" to the tops of their heads. What was I saying about them being human-sized? You could work them into G.I. Joe, Star Wars, or just about any of Hasbro's 3-3/4" - 4" scaled lines like this if you wanted to. Now, they both have a pair of long silver gun barrels on their backs, which point upwards and raise their total height to 5", but I think that's being a little unfair.
In robot mode, they're entirely recognizable, which is a remarkable achievement when you consider how relatively simplistic their original versions were. In fairness, the cassettes were actually some of the better articulated Transformers of the original line, but I'm sure it will come as no great surprise to learn that these modern versions of Rumble and Frenzy do not transform into cassettes. I'll get to that shortly.
They are exceptionally well-detailed, and their chestplates have metallic gold detailing on them that is very reminiscent of the cassette detailing of their original incarnations. Their headsculpts are excellent likenesses of the characters. Both have silver faces and red, visor-like eyes, just as they should have. Rumble has a black head, torso, shoulders, lower arms, and lower legs and feet, with red upper arms, knees, and legs, whereas Frenzy has a dark blue head, torso, shoulders, lower arms, and lower legs and feet, with lighter blue upper arms and legs. Interestingly enough, Frenzy also has red knees. Must be picking up spare parts from his brother. Both have additional silver and gold detailing.
The two Decepticons have an action feature, actually called a "gimmick" in English on the box, which I find rather amusing, whereby they can swing their arms around, and lower these secondary arm sections which have spring-loaded pile drivers in them, thus duplicating the best-known capability of these two Transformers.
And, need it be said, their articulation level is considerable. That's one of the high points of these modern Transformers. Both Rumble and Frenzy are fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles!
So, if they don't transform into cassettes, what do they transform into? Mini-tanks. I'd call that a serious upgrade, myself. Now, I have no idea how big they might be in "real life" with this capacity. In the animated series especially, many of the Transformers showed a distinct capacity for altering their size as well as their forms. Megatron could change from a robot the same size as most of the Decepticons, to a gun that could be held in the hand of one of his fellow robots. Soundwave could transform from an immense robot to a tape player no larger than a human might use, which was certainly useful for infiltration missions. One assumes that his cassette cohorts had similar capability, so it might be assumed here that when changing into tanks, Rumble and Frenzy would be able to expand their size somewhat so as to not end up as tanks smaller than the average VW Beetle.
Let's discuss their actual transformations. The instruction sheet is interesting. I have tended to lament the fact that American Transformers have strictly graphic instructions with no written instructions -- which I have tried to provide when I have reviewed these Transformers. The Japanese Transformers still provide written instructions as well as graphic instructions. This, unfortunately, I find just a little distracting, since I don't read Japanese. So please consider the following my interpretation of the graphic instructions, and most definitely not a literal translation of the written instructions. Obviously, the instructions are good for both robots.
To transform either Rumble or Frenzy into tank mode, flip the chestplate up and swing it behind the head. The first time I did this, the head popped off. Not to worry, it pops right back on again.
Next, fold the arms up at the elbows and wrists. Then swing the piledriver back arms up and over the shoulders until they snap into place. Make sure the piledriver sections are recessed.
Now, swing the waist forward -- not just the legs, but the entire waist, and then have the legs pointing down. Then swing the feet forward, and tuck the backs of the feet up into the fronts.
Then, swing the two long guns around 180 degrees so they're facing the same way as what is now the small turret on the tank. I found this to not be especially easy. Those guns are fitted in rather tightly, but they will turn. Following this, snap the legs together and swing them up and under what is now the main tank body.
Finally, tuck the arms, now the tread sections, of the tank close into the side of the tank, and rotate the front sections around so the treads are aligned, and snap them together at the front. This is relatively straightforward, although I can pretty much guarantee you will face the rather annoying side effect of setting off the "piledriver" effect multiple times, as the activation buttons are on the sides of the treads, and they're definitely on a hair trigger.
And -- you have successfully converted Rumble and/or Frenzy into mini-tank mode! So, how do they look as tanks? Very impressive, if maintaining a rather small size.
In tank mode, Rumble and Frenzy are about 3-1/2" in length. Rumble is mostly black with a few visible red details, while Frenzy is mostly dark blue with a few visible light blue details. Both have the Decepticon logo on the tops of their turrets.
Despite their small size, they appear to be quite formidable as tanks. Their turrets have the two long silver cannons to either side, and a smaller cannon in the center. The painted detail is impressive enough so that the ends of the two large gun barrels have been painted with little black dots. You don't often see that sort of thing in American toys.
Rumble and Frenzy have four little wheels in tank mode, tucked along the undersides of their treads. The wheels actually roll, but these Decepticons aren't going to be winning any races against Hot Wheels cars anytime soon. Still, it's a good bit of attention to functional detail, and the sculpted detail is just as impressive. They really do look like tanks, albeit slightly fanciful ones, but the basic configuration is definitely there.
To change them back to robots, just reverse the procedure. Fortunately, the instructions provide for both robot-to-tank, and tank-to-robot.
Now we come to their character profiles, and here I have a problem -- because the character profiles are definitely in Japanese. As such, thanks to a little research, I hereby present their original, Generation One, character profiles:
"Destroy what's below and what's above will follow."
Rumble is your basic street punk. Small but always acting tough. Quick temper and mean disposition. Follows Megatron's orders eagerly. Transmits immense low frequency groundwaves to create powerful earthquakes. His small size limits his physical strength, but his ability to shatter the ground makes him difficult to approach in a fight.
"Sow panic and surrender will bloom."
If Frenzy needed to breathe, war would be his oxygen. He knows no cause, only craves to spread fear and destruction. His efforts are appreciated by other Decepticons. His devotion to warfare makes him hard to deal with on a personal level. Can roll his drums to produce high-pitch, grating sound of 200 db. Disorients and disrupts electrical flow in opponent's circuitry which makes them malfunction. Physically weak. His manic attack can be countered with cool logic.
Now, although their various power rankings are also in Japanese, these have English subtitles, and since the rankings are numerical, I CAN provide their current power rankings based on these modern figures.
Rumble gets a "9" in Endurance and Fireblast, a "7" in Courage, a "5" in Intelligence, Rank, and Skill, and "2" in Strength and Speed.
Frenzy gets a full "10" in Courage, "9" in Fireblast, "6" in Endurance and Skill, "5" in Intelligence and Rank, and "3" in Strength and Speed.
So, what's my final word? For those of us Generation One Transformers fans who were really enjoying the Classics/Generations series, modern -- and fully-articulated -- versions of our favorite legendary Transformers, these two are a most welcome addition to the collection. They fit right in perfectly, and certainly add two iconic characters to the overall collection. Obviously, being more or less exclusive to Japan, they're not that easily found for American collectors, but they're not impossible, and decent prices can sometimes be found online.
I sincerely believe that any longtime Transformers fan will truly enjoy these two great Decepticons.
The TRANSFORMERS UNITED "CLASSICS"-style figures of DECEPTICONS RUMBLE AND FRENZY definitely have my highest recommendation!