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2006 Takara: MP-03 Starscream

In April of 2006, Takara announced that they would be releasing Starscream in September of that year as part of their popular Masterpiece (MP) Series. Designated MP-03, Starscream would have the honour of being the first Decepticon produced for the series. Designed by artist Shoji Kawamori, this figure would represent a whole new level of detail for the character.

The first images of MP Starscream that were released came in the form of a teaser sketch that was packaged with MP-02 Ultra Magnus*. The drawing featured the character with a crown, two faces, and a few other gimmicks that the designers were considering. A little over a month later, Takara released images of the initial prototype to the online community. These were met with a high level of excitement, as MP Starscream appeared to bear a strong resemblance to his incarnation in the popular Dreamwave comics. His alternate form was remarkably accurate to the real life F-15 Eagle he was based on, though not perfect. The most notable imperfection lay in his new transformation process: instead of folding up from his back and to his sides, as had been the case with the original toy, his arms folded out from the sides, and thus were fairly exposed in vehicle mode.

While fans ogled over the initial photos, a second prototype was developed and later made public. A number of changes had been made to the figure, not all of which were well received. The first, and perhaps most shocking to fans, was the placement of the tail stabilisers. The first prototype had these parts on his calves, as the original toy had, though they apparently could be folded up neatly against his leg. On the second, the tail had been moved from his calves to his hips, where they hung like samurai swords or, as some referred to it, parts of a utility belt. Parts were also added to his arms in order to help streamline his vehicle mode to closer resemble the F-15. The location of his rear landing gear also had to be compromised due to the nature of his transformation. Strangely enough, it was Takara and Mr. Kawamori's attempts to create a more realistic looking F-15 that was criticised the Transformers community.

Takara later released images Masterpiece Starscream with their intended paint scheme, and if the new prototype had upset fans, the new colours really infuriated them. Most had expected that Starscream would be painted in G1 accurate colours, as had been the case for Masterpiece Optimus Prime. Instead, the images showed that he would be coloured a shade of dark grey, which under certain light conditions made him appear as either blue or sea green. The shade of red was so light that it appeared pink, there was blue on only half his arms, and his feet had been painted silver instead of blue. While this allowed for a closer resemblance to his intended alternate mode, making him a true "robot in disguise", some fans could not help comparing him to his fellow aerial Decepticon Thundercracker.

Several questions continued to be raised as the release date neared. Would Takara release the figure in his animated series colours? Would it be exclusive to Japan and thus only available to the general market through importers? Where was his crown; was he even going to get one? Some hoped that a Megatron gun, which he had been shown carrying on several occasions, would be included. Perhaps the biggest concern was whether or not he would contain any diecast parts, as had been the case with MP-01 Prime. The answers came two days before his Sept. 28 release; he would not come with a Megatron gun or a crown. He was going to possess a plastic shell with a diecast inner frame and his coloration would be the one that had been showcased on the second prototype. Despite the disappointments, it became apparent that Masterpiece Starscream was a figure worth the wait.

MP-03 Starscream is 13 inches tall by 8 inches wide; 3 tall from ground to the top of his vertical stabiliser in jet form+. He comes packaged with missiles and null rays, which can be swapped out depending on preference. His F-15 mode possesses several realistic gimmicks, including a movable airbrake on his back, engine cover panels that can be lifted to reveal the inner workings, and a nose cone that could be opened to expose the radar system. He also bore a pair of thrust-vectoring nozzles, a trait that is not featured on the actual aircraft. His face could be swapped from a rather unhappy frown to his infamous smug smirk. The ailerons and wing flaps could move and his cockpit canopy could be opened, revealing a single seat. The panels on his chest could also open to reveal missile pods, a trait that was featured on his animated counterpart. Starscream also came with a pilot figure - or, more accurately, passenger - in the form of Dr. Archeville, a character who played a strong role in four episodes of the original Transformers. Archeville has been reputed to be in scale with some of the original G1 Autobots; it's been reported that he can fit in their driver or passenger seats quite comfortably.

The reason MP Starscream lacked diecast parts becomes obvious upon closer inspection. The joints and connections on the figure fit very tightly together, so much so that's its not clear how he transforms at a mere glance. He has a very complex transformation process, one that required a close look at his instructions in order to perform properly. Had he been constructed with diecast parts, he would have been unnecessarily heavy; with obvious gaps that would spoil the intended illusion, and his paint would quickly chip off after a few transformations.

MP Starscream came packaged with a special plastic display stand, which had small slots to store his missiles when not in use along with a clip on which to attach the Megatron gun from MP-01. The stand post could be positioned in two ways: one to display Starscream's jet mode as if in flight and one to give him the appearance that he is "hovering" in robot mode. The stand is a near-necessity to display him in his robot form; he's so top heavy that standing him up on his own feet usually results in him toppling over. Some fans believed that he might have been able to stand better had his legs been constructed of diecast parts or if his tail parts had been located on his ankles, as it had apparently been originally intended.

MP Starscream not only possessed incredible sculpted detail, but also had remarkable features that had either been painted or "heat stamped" on him. The leading edges of his wings bore a set of stripes on them, similar to those on his G1 incarnation. His familiar motto, "Conquest is made from the ashes of one's enemies," had been stamped on either side of his fuselage, just under the cockpit. He had a number of "No Step" and "Fuselage Lift" warnings printed on his wings and body, a feature commonly found on a real fighter. Perhaps the most interesting and creative detail found on him concerned the Decepticon insignias, which had been set inside an USAF-style circle-rectangle pattern. He also came with a sticker sheet with additional decals that could be added to his superstructure, if one so wished. The additional decals included his name, which could be added to the plastic base, numbers and letters for his tail, additional stripes to pay further homage to his G1 incarnation, a host of different insignias, and more warning labels.

Strangely, there is a hinge located on Starscream's shoulders, the function of which is unknown at this point. Speculation suggests that this is to attach the shoulder pads for his "coronation outfit," apparently featured on a "Coronation" variant that is rumoured to be in the works. This should be considered conjecture at best; nothing concrete has been stated by the manufacturer as of this writing.

Despite early misgivings, Masterpiece Starscream lives up to his name and could be considered one of the best figures to be produced for the character. As of this writing, there is currently no word if anime-coloured figure will be released or if Takara's partner Hasbro intends to sell the MP-03 sculpt in the general market. There is hope that such will be the case, and some even anticipate that the figure will be repainted as Thundercracker, Skywarp, Sunstorm or all of the above.

* This is speculation by the author. More information on this subject would be appreciated.
+ Any information regarding the scale of this figure would be appreciated.

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Photos and Images
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MP-03 alternate
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MP-03 alternate
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MP-03 alternate
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Motto: Conquest is made of
the ashes of one's enemies
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MP-03 Robot Mode
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MP-03 Missile Mode
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MP-03 Face
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MP-03 Face
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MP-03 Face
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MP-03 Wing details
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MP-03 Nose Details
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MP-03 Air Breaks
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MP-03 Engine details
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MP-03 Dr. Archeville
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MP-03 Dr. Archeville
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MP-03 Dr. Archeville
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MP-03 and his Megatron Gun
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Cleaning Guns
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Megatron Gun under Starscream
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Starscream and Megatron Gun
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MP-03, Classics and G1