Friday, May 02, 2008

Weekly Transformers Feature: Beast Wars 2 Dirge

Now that I'm no longer doing reviews in chronological order, the temptation is to only review the "big" or "special" toys. While I certainly have a few of these to review (such as last week's entry), there are some pretty cool Transformers that would get missed if I wasn't intentional about reviewing them. Dirge is one example.

At first glance, Dirge really isn't anything too special. The toy itself is a simple repaint of the Machine Wars Thundercracker/Skywarp mold. It's been used at least a half-dozen times by now over a span of about a decade. Dirge wasn't available in the United States, of course, but was released as part of Japan's "Beast Wars 2" line (sometimes called "Beast Wars Second"). Basically, while we were getting the original Beast Wars cartoon here in the United States in CGI (which was such a slow and expensive process that only 13 episodes were made for each of the 2nd and 3rd seasons), Takara commissioned a new traditionally-animated series, and filled the corresponding toy line with toys that were almost (but not quite) entirely repaints of toys from previous lines.

But rather than use exclusively "beast-type" toys, Takara felt free to borrow a few molds from the "Generation Two" and "Machine Wars" eras. Unlike the later "Robots in Disguise" line (called "Car Robots" in the original Japanese version), the "vehicle-type" characters weren't put in a different faction than the "beast-type" characters, so characters like Dirge proudly display the Predacon symbol despite being a fighter jet. This phenomenon did not occur in toys released here in the states until the BotCon 2006 exclusives.

As BotCon 2006 canonized the idea that the American Beast Wars characters had vehicular modes before landing on prehistoric Earth, a few fans were putting together a homemade CGI video that detailed a pivotal pre-series plot point. While they had to rework a few character models when the BotCon 2006 exclusives were revealed, this project was a natural opportunity to take the vehicular Beast Wars 2 Dirge character out of obscurity once again, and he has since become more popular among American Transformers fans. Perhaps it's natural that "pre-Beast" Waspinator (pictured here with Dirge) would share Dirge's body type. In the original Beast Wars 2 cartoon, Dirge "evolved" midway through the series to become "Dirgegun," whose toy was remolded from Waspinator's original toy.

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