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Missing Link Optimus Prime

Missing Link Optimus Prime

Written by Ross Locksley on 29 Feb 2024

• Manufacturer Takara • Price £59.99 - £ 129.99

Ah, Christmas 1984. Even now I remember getting up at 3am and finding Optimus Prime under my parents bed (before being thrown back into my own room). I was so excited, having Bluestreak, Thundercracker and a few mini bots already, to be getting the leader of the Autobots later that day. Even better, Megatron would follow on Boxing Day for my birthday, so as you can imagine, child-me was almost delirious. We didn't have a lot when I grew up, but I did have Prime, and how I loved him.

To this day, the figure stands proudly on my shelf, his robust construction ensuring that he survived four decades of play while his fellow Autobots (and enemy Decepticons) fell into disrepair or lost parts. 

Now it's 2024, and while years of reviewing toys means I'm slightly less excitable for new plastic crack, there's no denying I was following the tracking more closely than usual. 

I ordered both copies of the new bot - the toy version, with painted details (instead of stickers, though you still get a set of those) and trailer, as well as the "anime" version with more cartoon accurate colours but nothing to pull behind him. I pre-ordered at Anime Express, which bagged me both for £110 plus shipping.

Missing Link Optimus Prime
Old and new from left to right, Missing Link "Anime" Optimus, my 1984 original and the "Toy Colours" Missing Link version

The box for the anime version was tiny, but it was the first one I opened - can I just say that using styrofoam again is just incredibly nostalgic and fun. Yes, it's bad for the environment (as if it's even going near a bin...) but it's a one off, so that's fine.

Squeaking him out of styro-prison, the lovely die-cast heft is immediately evident - just a metal and plastic box with wheels. Transformation is almost as you remember it, arms out first to clear room to flip the head, but the fists are attached and folded inwards, the wheels flare out at the waist and you can spread the legs, sliding the connectors apart and then folding down before flipping the feet up. Simple, enjoyable and satisfying.

It's been pointed out that this is less a retool and instead a complete re-casting of the toy, using the original for inspiration. It's very, very close, though a tad taller thanks to the new leg joints, and a close look around the waist will show significant changes to engineering. It's subtle but substantial.

What we get then is a lot of new articulation. The head can swivel side-to-side, arms are attached by a new piece inside the shoulders that allows for outward movement, though elbows are still no more than 90 degrees. The legs are the biggest improvement with a thigh swivel, new connection for outward movement almost to 90 degrees if you move the wheel, ankle joints and hands with a pin connector in the knuckle, allowing for a relaxed grip. Taken together, these make OG Prime limber in a way previously unimaginable, while retaining the quick transformation, heft and charm of his vintage ancestor.

Missing Link Convoy Optimus Prime
Missing Link trailer (left) and the original 1984 trailer (right)

Changes to the trailer are less dramatic, though there's actually more missing than added. Yes, you can detach the command center, but the mechanism to push Roller, the little scout car, off his starting position is gone, arguably the most fun part of the trailer. As you can see, you'd be hard pressed to see a difference otherwise. If you have a classic trailer (as I do) and a limited budget, you can safely eschew the toy version of this release and pick up the anime version and have the same amount of fun.

Both versions come with updated rifles that can be held properly (the OG toy infamously had a handle sticking out behind the peg so it was hard to have him hold it straight), a Creation Matrix that sits in the chest, and the iconic Energon Axe that appeared once in the cartoon - to fit this, just open the base, slide the peg into the fist and close it up again. Simple and effective.

Were I to choose between the two options, I think I like the anime version a touch more just because it feels fresher with the more cartoon accurate paint, though the toy version looks great next to the original figure just to show what's changed in 40 years. I chose to have both, so the lack of a trailer with anime Prime doesn't irk me, but I can see why this would upset people wanting one and feeling short-changed.

These difficult purchasing decisions aside, the real marvel here is the engineering that's been applied to a 40-year old toy, showing just what's possible with some imagination and passion. I'm blown away to be opening an old toy and feeling like it's the first time we've met - learning all the tricks and subtleties all over again.

Bravo Takara, this is a worthy 40th Anniversary celebration and something we can all enjoy like it's 1984.

Missing Link Optimus Prime
Playing together on the office meeting table, as it should be!

Imaginative and ingenious, the care taken to bring a classic figure into the modern era is just incredible.

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time. You can read his more personal articles on UKA's sister site, The Anime Independent.


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