Toy Review: Takara-Tomy AM-12 Breakdown (with Zamu)

Whether you collect plates, plants, plushies or, uh, plastic robots, if you’re a collector, the chances are you have a wishlist. Maybe it’s a mental list, something scrawled on the back of an envelope, or perhaps – like us here at AddAltMode – you have a spreadsheet on the go. But whatever the format, I’m willing to bet that most such lists contain a few  “dream on” items: the things you’d dearly love to own but doubt you ever will due to rarity, cost, age or a combination of all these factors.  Top of my Transformer wishlist for some time has been the Takara-Tomy Arms Micron Breakdown figure. But to be honest I never thought I’d really get him. The only times I’d ever seen him for sale at all here in the UK he’d been going for ridiculous prices as a double import (from Japan via the USA) and though I probably spend more than I should on Transformers overall, I couldn’t begin to justify (or afford) splurging so much on a single figure.

My Arms-Micron Knock Out had pretty much resigned himself to being partnerless too:

Breakdown really does cost that much :(

But sometimes love stories do have a happy ending:

Arms Micron Knock Out and Arms Micron Breakdown, united at last!

Arms Micron Knock Out and Arms Micron Breakdown, united at last!

Yes! Breakdown recently popped up on Ebay here in the UK, pre-owned but in superb condition and for a price that was not insane. My heart was thundering in my chest to an embarrassing extent as the final seconds of the auction ticked to a close, but I’m happy to say I got him and my wallet wasn’t crying afterwards.

Although he’s not a new toy I’m going to do a full review, because he’s not a figure that gets seen very often. It’s such a shame he’s not more readily available because Breakdown really is superb, both in terms of his design and his show accuracy.

Cybertron’s Most Wanted

So just why was this guy on the top of my wishlist? There are several reasons. As you may have noticed from previous reviews, we at AddAltMode are extremely fond of the Japanese Arms Micron line, which includes characters from the Transformers Prime series (or at least with the Prime aesthetic) packaged with a small buddy – usually a tiny humanoid robot for Autobots and some kind of beast for Decepticons – who transforms into a weapon that can be wielded by the larger companion.  It’s kind of daft, but it’s a fun gimmick and the micron weapon modes are often better than some of the larger weapons that Hasbro’s Voyager sized Prime figures come with (I’m thinking especially of Starscream’s awful flip out and light up null-ray which he can barely wield without toppling over and which was relegated to our spares/scraps pile as soon as I unboxed it).  We’re amassing quite a collection of little Micron figures, so I always hoped to add Breakdown’s Rhino/hammer buddy Zamu ( ザム) to the shelf eventually.

But the main appeal is obviously Breakdown himself. I’m a huge fan of the Prime characters, and the Prime Decepticons most of all so it’s always been the aim to collect them all (bar the very substandard Airachnid figure). In several cases I opted for the Takara releases of characters over the Hasbro ones, because the colours are better: AM Knock Out, for instance, is properly red and doesn’t have the weird show-inaccurate maroon chest of American counterpart. But with Breakdown there’s no choice, if you want the character in anything other than Cyberverse scale, Takara’s is the only figure out there. Why? I’ve no idea. Hasbro certainly make some odd merchandising choices. Take Cliffjumper: he only appears in a few episodes of the show and has more presence in Arcee’s flashback memories or as a shuffling Terrorcon than he does as a real life Autobot, yet he gets Deluxe toys in several waves, in both regular and zombie incarnations. Although Breakdown meets a nasty end too that isn’t until episode 33, so he’s a major player for most of the first and second seasons, with a prominent role as Bulkhead’s nemesis. Poor old Breakdown: SPOILERS – not only is he hen-pecked by Knock Out, he loses his eye to Airachnid, he gets captured and tortured by MECH, then murdered by Airachnid, made into a mech-suit for Silas, then Silas/Breakdown gets subjected to dark energon experiments by Knock Out and becomes a zombie, only to be killed a second time (by Airachnid again). Come on! The poor guy at least deserves a decent toy after suffering all that!

"This is for all those toys you got that I didn't" Breakdown gets his revenge on Cliffjumper

“This is for all those toys you got that I didn’t”
Breakdown gets his revenge on Cliffjumper

Takara’s Breakdown mold apparently is available to Hasbro but the company chose not use it due to pricing issues. The mold falls in to what Aaron Archer, the Vice President of Hasbro Design, called “no mans land” in terms of cost, meaning that it wouldn’t fit neatly within any Habro’s pre-defined retail price points. So, reluctance to deviate from a standard pricing model has us digging deep to buy this awesome figure on import instead, go figure.

Robot Mode

Takara have done three versions of this Voyager-class figure: “War Breakdown” which is the one I have, based on his early appearance in the TV show, “Silas Breakdown” which shows him after he lost his eye and was made into a mech suit by Silas, and there’s also a version of the mold retooled as Arms Micron Swerve. From what I’ve seen online, the Silas version is very detailed, with a chest panel that actually opens to reveal Silas inside. The mech suit and Swerve versions seem to be slightly more readily available but, as a Prime Decepticon fangirl I wanted to enjoy Breakdown in his full original glory so I’m glad I held out to get the War version in the end.

Screen accuracy is one of the things I appreciate most in a Transformer toy, and this figure really nails it in that respect. The head sculpt is particularly impressive: not only does it capture Breakdown’s distinctive facial features and colours from the show but its ball-joint also allows a good degree of movement, sideways and especially up and down. His yellow eyes are painted rather light-piped, so they don’t glow like in the show but the yellow paint is richly applied and in this case seems a sensible design choice.  Breakdown has a large backpack that holds his spare truck tyre which would block the light and make the glow effect rather underwhelming anyway.

Screenshot from TF Prime ep. 10 Deus ex machina

Screenshot from TF Prime ep. 10 “Deus ex Machina”

Head shot! Not the kind Airachnid delivers later on

Head shot! Not the kind Airachnid delivers later on.

The slightly downturned mouth captures his tough, brawn-over-brain stoicism really well.

Breakdown is a wonderfully chunky figure who looks tough and powerful. He certainly stands up as a worthy rival to Bulkhead. Very bulky figures often have limited articulation as heavy shoulder and chestplates and impede movement, but Breakdown largely avoids this. His shoulder spikes occasionally catch, but generally the articulation on this figure is excellent. His waist swivels a whole 360 degrees (a necessary feature of his Transformation sequence, but one which also allows for a rich variety of dynamic poses). I’ve found a few of my Takara figures have had very loose joints that easily pop off (I’m not sure if that’s a regular problem with the molds or if I’m just unlucky) but Breakdown’s joints are pretty much perfect. He has ball-jointed hips and shoulders with hinged knees and elbows, all of which are manipulable without undue force while still being strong enough to hold any pose.

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Breakdown passes the one leg test with ease and can also stay firm when posed on one knee.  This really is a figure who does justice to the character.

Shake that thang! For a bruiser he is surprisingly dextrous

Shake that thang! For a bruiser he is surprisingly dexterous

Colourwise, Breakdown is predominantly blue and grey, just like in the show. It was standard in the 2010-2014 period for detailing on Japanese Transformers to come by way of stickering, rather than paint applications, and Breakdown is no exception. Although my figure was secondhand, his stickers had not been applied so I had the privilege of doing that myself. The rationale behind stickering is that it fosters increased feelings of individual ownership as each purchaser can finish off the final details for themselves. I couldn’t feel any more possessive of this figure than I already do. I’m like Rodimus with his Rodpod, no touching, and you should be grateful I’m even letting you look at this toy!

Don't mess with the Rodpod, or you'll feel the ire of Rodimus! (Panel from Dark Cybertron #4, from IDW)

Don’t mess with the Rodpod, or you’ll feel the ire of Rodimus!
(Panel from Dark Cybertron #4, from IDW)

Generally I’m a fan of stickering: this approach lets you choose which details to add or omit and can give a level of shininess that looks much less tacky than the metallised plastic does.There can be downsides, however. For intricate areas, the tiny stickers can be tricky to apply (a good pair of tweezers is a must) but they usually adhere well; by contrast, larger stickers are easier to put on but can have issues with peeling. Most of Breakdown’s adhesive details are fairly big: silver plating for his knees and rear bumper and a few shiny flourishes that predominately show in truck mode. I like the final effect but I’m not sure how sustainable they are. Even after just a few transformations I’m having issues with peeling on Breakdown’s kneepads and on Zamu. Solid as he is, Breakdown does feel like a figure to be displayed as part of a Prime collection rather than to be played with. But he’s come to the right home.

Breakdown is seriously covered with Arms Micron ports: shoulders, back, arms, knees. You can bury him beneath a plastic blanket of mini-bots should you wish to. With so many ports he could easily resemble a Swiss cheese so the impressive thing here is how unobtrusive the ports are – Perhaps this is a result of his dark colouring but – with the exception perhaps of the port to the left of his head, which is a little more prominent –  the holes really don’t show or spoil the overall effect at all. Not all the figures in this line are a sensitively done:  AM Knock Out, for instance, has a port right in his chest that it’s hard to miss. But Breakdown is a great example of a toy with a gimmick that is integrated in a very subtle and well-designed way.

Spinning him around shows that Takara haven’t neglected the rear view when it comes to screen accuracy. The back of his truck does make for a fairly large backpack in robot mode but this is something that comes from the show. I like the detailing of his spare wheel and the wheels on his shoulders too. And while the joints of his hips are a little more visible than would be ideal they don’t draw the eye – this is of course the trade off for such much maneuverability.

Bootylicious.

Bootylicious.

Transformation

Breakdown’s transformation is interesting and fairly intuitive (which is lucky because the Japanese instructions are confusing to say the least).  I’ll admit it took me a while to pluck up the courage to investigate his alt-mode. Feeling so lucky to have this unusual figure at all has made me super wary of damaging him but I’m not one for MISB. I’m a strong believer that in order to fully appreciate a Transformer, you ought to Transform the thing at least once. And I’m glad I did because bar one wobbly joint around his ankle which gave me a bit of grief this is a satisfying sequence. Probably the highlight of his transformation is the way his chest piece opens and flips right back around his over his head. It’s also impressive just how neatly his chunky legs fold away on the underside of his truck. Midway through the change I found myself thinking that his legs would surely never be hidden as it looks as if they’re going to hang out the bottom for quite a while, but then when Breakdown’s all firmly pegged together they do vanish, and there are no impediments to him rolling forward nicely as an armoured truck.

Vehicle Mode

Breakdown pegs together very solidly into an armoured truck that once again is very show accurate. In a khaki or sand colour rather than blue, this really looks like the kind of vehicle you could imagine being used by the military. We don’t see Breakdown pick or scan his alt-mode in the cartoon, but – unlike some – it’s a believable option and the toy captures that sense of utility well. There’s some really nice sculpting here, especially on the details of his grill and wing mirrors. Plus it’s in this mode that most of the sticker applications really come to the fore, with stripes above his wheels and headlamp details on the the front and rear.

Decepticons brake for noone

Decepticons brake for no one!

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The huge Decepticon logo looks fantastic, even if it does somewhat negate the “robots in disguise” thing

Rear view

Rear view

The truck is slightly smaller than I was expecting from such a chunky bot – he really does roll up tight. But it actually scales well with other deluxe and voyager vehicles in the Prime line (except Arcee, who really should much smaller than she is to scale with anyone, but that’s a perennial issue with bike bots.)  Bulkhead’s alt-mode is just a little larger than that of Prime Bulkhead – I’m no expert on trucks either monster or armoured, but that doesn’t feel too far wrong.

Size comparison with voyager Bulkhead

Size comparison with Hasbro’s voyager Bulkhead

The above picture also highlights the desirability of tinted/chromed windscreens. It’s always a shame when robots parts are too clearly visible folded up inside as they are here on Bulkhead. Breakdown wins this bout, sorry Bulk!

As you’d expect, there are plenty of Arms Micron ports available in vehicle mode too, so again he can be fully loaded up if desired. The port on his bonnet is a bit daft. I know Transfomers don’t need a clear windscreen view to see, but an accessory that completely blocks the window view just isn’t aesthetically pleasing. However, Zamu in hammer mode does make a nice addition to Bulkhead’s roof.

Bulkhead with Zamu

Bulkhead with Zamu

Speaking of whom, let’s have a closer look at the little guy…

Zamu

AM Decepticons come packaged with little beast buddies: for example, the Vehicon figure has Noji the pig, and Knock Out has Gra the crab. Continuing the theme, Breakdown comes with Zamu the rhinoceros, a choice of creature who satisfyingly mirrors the toughness and solidity of the bigger bot. Zamu is grey plastic augmented with a number of purple stickers. The stickers don’t work terribly well here as they need to bend right round his shape and are prone to peeling. Like all Arms Microns, Zamu also has an Energon Crystal detail, which apparently determines his element and the manner in which he powers up his wielder (it’s all a bit Pokémon!) Zamu has a clear crystal which is apparently Natural (ナチュラル nachuraru), and boosts his attack points.

Zamu the rhino

Zamu the rhino

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Top down view of Zamu showing his energon crystal. You can see some of the problems with peeling stickers here.

He’s a cute little guy who can be transformed into a hammer for Breakdown to wield via very simple operation: basically tucking his head and legs underneath and pulling down his tail to form a handle. He makes for a bit of an idiosyncratic hammer, sure, but – unlike the stupid oversized light up weapons that come with the Hasbro voyager figures in the Prime line – he is at least nicely sized for Breakdown to wield. As a hammer, Zamu fits firmly in Breakdown’s hand or can be plugged into any of his myriad 5mm ports, including the one on his wrist that makes it look like the hammer is an extension of his arm, as below:

Just like Thor and Mjølnir

Just like Thor and Mjølnir

Overall

In summary, Arms Micron War Breakdown is a superb figure: cleverly designed, nicely coloured and pleasingly show accurate. It’s a crying shame that he’s not more readily available as he really is a lovely Bot who deserves a place on any Prime Decepticon-lover’s shelf. I don’t think he’s worth the stupid money for which I’ve seen him listed on double import; not because he isn’t great but because I don’t think any hunk of plastic is worth quite that much. But if, like me, you get lucky and get the chance to pick him up for a price that isn’t completely insane then seriously do not hesitate. This wonderful chunky Con has moved from the top of my wish list straight into a prime position on another list, that of my favourite figures. Definitely worth the wait!

Knock Out is happy too

Knock Out is happy too. Breakdown’s a maestro with the rotary buffer

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3 thoughts on “Toy Review: Takara-Tomy AM-12 Breakdown (with Zamu)

  1. Such a lovely toy, looked it up recenly on ebay and it was $300++, and I’m like… hmmm them’s overlord prices thank you don’t come again.
    Some of his redecos are cheaper, but this dude looks like the best use of the mold to my eyes.

    Like

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