“Hotly anticipated” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Before this review goes any further I really ought to raise my hand and confess to every kind of bias and vested interest there is going. Since I started planning my Slipstream cosplay project back in January 2015 I dread to think how many hours I’ve spent thinking about this particular Transformers character. I’ve watched those few episodes of Transformers Animated in which she appears, scrutinised screenshots, fanart, over-thought her colour-scheme, her composition and behaviour, and I’ve cosplayed as her 5 times now for various events and had the time of my life doing so. A bit part player in the TF canon she may be, but this Decepticon femme has become a firm favourite and a weirdly huge part of my life. I don’t know whether these factors will predispose me to write a ridiculously positive review (because OMG guys it’s Slipstream, right here in plastic) or whether I’m more likely to be overtly critical (because she is my main woman and I need this figure to do her justice). I guess we’ll find out, but either way be aware I’m hardly coming at this from a neutral perspective…
So, this is the first time since her inception (as female clone of Starscream in the 2008 episode of Transformers Animated “A Bridge Too Close, Part I”) that Slipstream has had a toy, and even then only in Japan. Yes, she is from Takara’s Legends line, released along with two more female characters – hooray – Blackarachnia and Nightbird, none of whom are slated for an official Western Hasbro release – boo! Pre-orders and imports and never things I commit to lightly but in this case it was an absolute no-brainer. My inbox started filling with people sending me links to the news pretty much as soon as this lovely lady was announced (I guess I have a reputation) and I ordered her right away.
Box and artwork
Slipstream arrived boxed in jet mode. It’s a nice packet with the old-school grid design and the English Transformers logo and name text as well as the Japanese product information and lots of art of the character.
The box art of Slipstream is new and clearly inspired by the toy within, unmistakably Slipstream, and unmistakably a female Seeker, but also significantly different from her appearance in TFA. They’ve kind of sexed her up a bit with the angle and focusing on her ro-boobs, uh, I mean her cockpit and jet engine intakes, but at least her pose ensures that she still definitely gets to be more ‘beware my null-ray” than “paint me like one of your French girls.”
The main difference between toy Slipstream and her previous incarnation is immediately apparent both in the box art and what can be glimpsed of her jet mode: it’s those VTOL fans. In TFA Slipstream turns into the same kind of jet as her clone-father Starscream does: a science-fictionalised fighter reminiscent of the Su-47 (S-37), and there are no fans in sight (except fangirls like me). The practical reason for the change is the fact that this mold is a retool of last year’s Generations Windblade, a character very much defined by fans of all types: she was the first fan-built Transformer, a point that is hammered home (though in an aesthetically pleasing way) by her design and accessories.
But Takara also attempt to provide a more in-universe explanation for Slipstream’s alteration, in the single A4 sheet comic strip with which she’s packed. This is in Japanese, which I can’t read, but the story seems clear enough: Slipstream initially appears in her TFA form (looking, if I may say, even more like my cosplay of her than usual -I think it’s the slightly curvier style of the Japanese art) – but then she acquires some upgrades courtesy of Swindle, giving her a new look and a new found (if ill-advised) confidence to go head to head with a massive roster of Autobots including Rattrap, Arcee, Ultra Magnus and even goddamn Metroplex! Over-confident much? As you’d imagine, it does not end well for Slipstream and in the final panel she seems to be embracing a new career (and skimpy outfit) as a waitress for Megatron. It’s a little on the sexist side but I do like the way efforts have been made to explain the changes and there’s a nice thread of humour running through. I particularly love Windblade’s confusion at encountering a Decepticon who looks so oddly familiar!
When I first saw preview shots of this figure the prominence of the fans did have me worried that she was going to feel just like a purple and teal Windblade. In the plastic, however, this turns out not to be the case. I didn’t really need the comic strip to convince me that this is still Slipstream, the mold is a reasonably extensive retool with a brand new head, chest and accessories that do a good job capturing the spirit of the character. Also, I always felt that Windblade’s spiky shoulders were suspiciously Decepticon-looking and the way these suit Slipstream so perfectly just confirms it. Indeed I have found myself wondering a few times if the Slipstream mold was actually already in the pipeline when “female jet” topped the votes in the fan-created Transformer poll. Is Windblade actually partly a Slipstream retool?
The head is a particularly nice sculpt, capturing the iconic shape of her Seeker helmet without losing the impression of her femininity, and I love that smirking smile! Her eyes are painted red which seems a bit of an odd choice when there’s so much light-enabling clear plastic on the back of her head. This pipes down to give her cockpit a subtle glow but – minor quibble though it is – I would have liked to see her with brighter red eyes too.
Sadly, my figure had a bit of an imperfection on her facial paintwork with a smudge of silver on the left-hand side of her helmet. This shouldn’t really have got through quality control but luckily it was easy enough for me to remedy with a dab of black nail polish: the fine line nail art pens by Model’s Own are great for touch up work like this!
My other fear with Slippy being a Windblade makeover was that she would replicate the not inconsiderable failings of the mold, particularly Windblade’s stability issues. Slipstream has the same teetering heels and top heavy design so she’s not a character you just can plonk down and expect to stand in any position, but the main issue with Windblade wasn’t so much her shape as the looseness of her joints. Before I modified my Cityspeaker I found her heel struts were so loosely attached that they kept swivelling back underneath and causing her to topple. I’m glad to report that the Slipstream remold largely corrects this failing and is much more firmly jointed all round. You’d never expect a skinny Seeker to pass the “one leg test” and she doesn’t but Slipstream can hold a decent variety of grounded poses even with her wings tilted backwards.
Indeed, the versatility of her design is one of the real selling points of this figure. I particularly like the way she can be posed with her wings up high à la Windblade or in a lower position for a more classically Seeker silhouette. As she’s never had a toy before it feels like there is a fair bit of freedom in the way she can be posed, and as you’ll see from these pictures, I’m still experimenting to find which I prefer.
Let’s have a good look at those wings shall we? The fans certainly dominate but there’s enough of her classic Slipstream detailing with the purple stripe and some lovely tampographed Decepticon logos to keep the purist in me happy. And I do like the way that they’ve used teal coloured translucent plastic for the blades. Like Windblade’s, the fans in Slipstream’s wings actually turn, although the joints are just a little too firm for this to happen simply by blowing on them, or maybe I’m just not sufficiently full of hot air!
The other standout feature of this toy is the colour scheme. Her paint is stunning. The purple and teal are not only vibrant, and beautifully show-accurate but they have a glittery lustre that really does evoke metal rather than plastic. I’ve used the flash in these shots to try to bring out her glitteriness. I think it gives the impression but, trust me, she looks even better in person. She’s definitely a looker!
The chest and cockpit are new sculpt, quite different from Windblade’s, and they look fantastic. I particularly like translucent plastic of the cockpit. It’s fake aeroplane kibble, of course, the real nose of her jet mode is her back-pack, which does look rather chunky side on, but from the front it’s pretty much invisible, and hey the fake cockpit looks so good I’ll let them off!
Slipstream’s shoulders are ball-jointed, and although her wings block full circular motion she has a good degree of arm articulation with a pin-joint at her elbow and a cylinder joint at her wrists. So she can fire her null-rays in a variety of directions, which is always what I look for in a Seeker.
Speaking of null-rays, Slipstream is light on pack-in accessories but she has the two that really count, her arm-mounted null-rays.
Part of me would have liked to see a bit of purple/black detailing on these too but I think that’s just the cosplayer who spent hours and hours painting my own versions of these weapons talking there. It’s pretty standard for Transformers’ weapons to be mono-coloured and these at least have a satisfying level of detail – the lines on the fins are a nice touch – and a lovely metallic sheen. The null-rays attach extremely firmly: rather than the standard 5mm peg they actually hook over the top of her gloves and the fin detail on her arm. The advantage of this is that there are no obviously visible posts or ports when her null-rays are removed. This really is quite a classy figure, or least as classy as a female clone of Starscream ever could ever hope to be!
Slipstream’s transformation is pretty much identical to Windblade’s, though she feels firmer and holds together a little better than her Autobot predecessor. I’m not a huge fan of Windblade’s transformation sequence, and the same is true here. Her head folds away beneath the nosecone and then it’s mostly a case of rotating and folding in those skinny limbs. It works, but it would be more satisfying if there was a clearer sense of the various parts actually clipping together. Even though I’ve transformed Windblade quite a bit she’s always a figure with a bit of a “is that it, have I done it right?” factor and the same was true here.
So thanks, apparently, to some upgrades from Swindle (which were probably robbed from some poor dead ‘bot, knowing Swindle) Slipstream now transforms into a VTOL jet, a fairly iconic vehicle that is decently represented here, albeit with some of the same failings that are evident in Windblade’s alt-mode.
So failing number one, and I just can’t ignore them, those feet! In both bots based on this mold, the feet don’t sufficiently hide or change in plane mode and just look, well, like robot feet on the back of the jet. But what a difference a paint job can make! Windblade’s red boots on a black jet really do stand out horribly and ruin the overall look of the plane; Slipstream has exactly the same design and I still wish it were otherwise but teal on teal does hide the worst of it at least, so she’s still bad but at least considerably better than her predecessor in that respect.
There’s nowhere easily to mount her null-rays here. I think they’re meant to fix under her wings but their clip and fin attachments just aren’t as user friendly in vehicle mode as they are on her robot arms, which is a bit of a shame, especially since Hasbro’s recent leader class Seekers have been so well armed in jet mode. But overall – and feet excluding – she is a fairly sleek looking jet. Her landing-gear flips out so she can be displayed nicely at ground level and there’s also a place to attach a stand which is a neat touch and not something all TF jets can boast. I also like the way that her fans can be angled for extra thrust like the real vehicle. Again, though, it’s the dazzling colours that really make this figure look special.
In summary: Takara’s Slipstream offers a pleasingly characterful robot sculpt, an adequate transformation and alt-mode and a superb colour-scheme. If you’re concerned about the imperfections of the mold on which she is based, well, I can’t assuage those concerns entirely but compared to Windblade she is considerably more sturdy and robust in robot mode and more cohesively coloured in jet mode. So, while not my ideal Slipstream toy by any means, she is unmistakably my girl and it is oh so good to have her. Thank you Takara! That brings my female Decepticon collection count to a grand total of…. oh, one (two counting the other Slipstream custom fig that B made me as birthday present) so we’ve got a way to go yet but this Legends Slipstream is a welcome start.
It’s a shame she’s an import figure because she deserves to be more widely seen but I don’t think you need to be a rabid Slipstream devotee to consider her worth the import cost (although not being a rabid Slipstream devotee isn’t something of which I have too much personal experience…)