Dungeon Reviews: Jazz (1984)

Special Operations Agent

“Do it with style or don’t bother doing it.”

Jazz was originally released in 1984 as part of the first assortment of Autobot cars, and has long been one of the most beloved characters from the lineup. Today we’ll look at the early 2000s Takara reissue of the figure.

Packaging

Packaging front

Jazz was the first figure to be reissued in the Takara Collection series. This was the mold’s fourth reissue within Transformers, having reappeared first in the 1990 European “Classics” range and then in the Generation 2 toyline after that.

The box front features Dreamwave artwork of Jazz (it appears to be Pat Lee‘s work, but you never know what that guy did or didn’t draw) with a classy gold border and embossed text for the logo. Jazz’s Japanese name (“Meister”) is rendered on the bottom along with his allegiance and function (“Cybertron Adjutant”).

Box back

The back details what’s included in the box. Beyond the figure itself, the Collection series featured a punch-out booklet with information about the Transformers franchise, a bio for the included character, a bio for a not-included character (Optimus Prime, in this case, who would later go on to have his own release in the Collection line), and part of an episode guide for the G1 cartoon. You can find example photos of one of these booklets over in Skids’ review.

Display stand

Something I didn’t photograph in Skids’ review is how the cardboard insert from the package can invert to become this janky display base thing. It’s neat how it calls out all of Jazz’s individual accessories, but I can’t imagine any collector actually using these things for their intended purpose.

Wheeljack should know it’s not possible to make Jazz any cooler.

Vehicle Mode

Front view
Rear view

Jazz’s alternate mode is a Porsche 935 turbo. Like a few G1 Autobots, this design is based on a very specific, one-of-a-kind vehicle. The real-world version of this car won a 1976 world championship race for Porsche and was sponsored by Martini & Rossi, an Italian distillery. The toy features details authentic to that car, such as the “Porsche” logo on the hood, the #4 marking, and several “Martini” sponsor logos (the latter purposefully misspelled to avoid trademark issues).

It may not be a great disguise for a spacefaring alien robot, but it’s a fantastic choice for a toy. The beautiful racing stripes and dramatic “whale tail” spoiler make Jazz stand out among the other Autobot cars.

Side view

Jazz features large die-cast parts. The whole front of the car, as well as the back, are all metal. He has chrome rims. All of the windows are part of several moving translucent pieces which are quite thin, so it’s common to find vintage Jazz figures with the roof and rear windshields broken off.

Jazz has no side windows on the front – the user has to fill them in with their imagination. This is a detail shared with several other Autobot cars.

Front view

Nearly every color detail on the car mode is provided by a sticker. On the original toy, this includes the front grill, the headlights, and all of the stripes and sponsor logos. So a loose G1 Jazz with none of its stickers is a pretty sad toy indeed.

The Collection-series version replaced a few of these stickers – such as the headlights and some of the stripes – with paint applications or tampos. Also, this re-release attempts to further avoid trademark problems by replacing all of the brand logos with some variant of “Agent Meister.”

I thought this looked silly – and when I got it, the toy’s sticker sheet was unusable due to age anyway – so I used a ToyHax reproduction of the figure’s original sticker sheet.

Unfortunately for this release, some of the panels don’t seem to fit together entirely flush, which I think is indicative of mold degradation.

Underside view

I really like the way Jazz’s forearms fold up under his hood. There are small pegs on what become his shoulders that fit into his fist holes and keep the configuration solid.

By the way, like all of the Autobot cars from 1984, Jazz comes from the Takara Diaclone toyline. The windshield can hinge up to reveal a small cockpit area for one Dianaut to sit inside. I neglected to take a photo of this and I may come back and add it in later.

With other G1 figures

Shown: 1984 Optimus Prime (2019 reissue); 1984 Bumblebee (2019 reissue).

Jazz is roughly the same size as most of the other Autobot cars, though his big spoiler gives him extra length compared to the smaller ones.

With modern Jazz

Shown: SS86-01 Jazz.

Jazz’s animation model toned down the sponsor logo details and removed some color detail from the stripes, which is represented in the Studio Series 86 version of the character. Modern versions of Jazz also typically use a different numeral on the side of the car, presumably to avoid any possible legal issues with Porsche or Martini.

As of this writing, Jazz has still not yet appeared in the Takara Tomy Masterpiece line, despite being one of the most well-known characters in Transformers. Scuttlebutt says this is because Porsche has a disdain for the juxtaposition of warrior robots and their brand, and all MP items are officially licensed these days if they turn into real-life vehicles.

ZOOM ZOOM

Robot Mode

Front/back

Jazz transforms in the classic car robot fashion: hood becomes chest, doors become wings, rear becomes legs. He’s very close in design to the Datsun 280ZX Autobots (Prowl, Bluestreak, and Smokescreen), with the chief difference being that his torso doesn’t rotate, so his legs are formed by the bottom of the car rather than the top.

Straight on

Many new robot-mode details become visible after transformation, mostly from foil stickers. I especially like the chrome midriff block with its asymmetrical sticker, which kinda looks like a speaker – maybe it’s his “180 decibel stereo speaker” that he uses as part of his disorienting sound and light show. The whole midsection part is on a double hinge that compresses the torso and hides it from view in car mode.

I also like the warning labels on Jazz’s knees – these feel like a holdover from the toy’s old identity as a piloted mech rather than an autonomous robotic lifeform.

Head close-up

Jazz’s head sculpt is very distinct among the Autobots. The single eye visor resembles shades, which helps sell the idea that Jazz is too cool for words. In the cartoon, his visor is blue, which led to some reissues of the toy adding a blue paint application to it.

One unfortunate flaw of the Collection series version of Jazz is that something’s gone wrong with the figure’s mouth – it’s askance, like he’s grimacing or half-grinning. Honestly, given the character’s personality, I don’t mind this flaw too much – but it was certainly not intentional, and was corrected for later issues of the mold.

Accessories

Jazz comes with a chrome “photon rifle,” a multi-piece rocket launcher, and three chrome rockets.

Armed up

The rifle fits into a hole in Jazz’s fist, and the rocket launcher attaches to his back. The launcher can fire a missile by pressing the white button on top. Like nearly every G1 toy, the springs in the launcher were weakened or removed for the US release, but this Japanese reissue retains the original launch power.

Articulation

Jazz features highly articulated arms, with movement at the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. He can angle his arms outward thanks to the transformation. His head can also tilt up and down slightly.

Rear view

The rocket launcher adds a cool chunk of chromed-out detail to Jazz’s back, almost like part of his vehicle-mode engine is incorporated.

“Eat photons, Decepticreeps!”

Jazz’s animation model omits the rocket launcher and the door wings. Because of how the toy is constructed, you can fold the door wings all the way back to give him a little bit more of an animation look, if that’s your thing.

G1 comparison

Shown: 1984 Wheeljack (knock-off); 1984 Bumblebee (2019 reissue)

Jazz is about four inches tall in robot mode, standing shoulder to shoulder with most of the other early Autobot cars.

With other Jazzes

Shown: Studio Series 86-01 Jazz; Super 7 ReAction Figures Jazz.

Jazz has had plenty of updates since Generation 1. The recent SS86 figure hews more closely to the animation model than most other official transforming Jazz toys have done. The cartoon model, as mentioned, abstracts out some of the toy details, including the wheels on the shoulders, although the wheels were present in Shouhei Kohara’s early versions of the models before Floro Dery got to them.

The G1 toy ended up looking very close to how Jazz was presented in media, but the lack of doors, launcher, and shoulder wheels leaves two distinct camps of G1 Jazz fans who prefer one over the other. (It doesn’t make much difference to me personally. I like it all!)

Conclusion

“As long as it’s not Cold Slither again.”

Jazz is simultaneously one of the best and one of the most frustrating of the early G1 Autobots. In good shape, the toy exemplifies what makes G1 great – a classic car that turns into a cool robot with fun accessories. But many vintage Jazz figures are now floppy junkers with broken windshields, scuffed chrome, yellowed plastic, and missing stickers. It’s extremely difficult to find an original Jazz in decent shape.

And that may mean settling for one of the reissues, which can have problems with plastic clearance or mold flaws, like the weird grin and misaligned panels on this example. I used to have a vintage Jazz with a broken windshield and loose arms, and I eventually decided it was worthwhile to have a couple of minor QC issues if I could handle a Jazz that was like-new. And I’m glad I did. The character immediately moved from “forgotten at the back of the shelf” to “front and center of the 1984 display.”

Jazz was never a top five character for me, but he was important. He often serves the role of Prime’s second-in-command. As a kid I had the G2 version of the figure with its giant blue music note and fluorescent rocket launcher (I was big mad that it couldn’t mount on his shoulder), and he was always an important ranking member of my Autobot team.

I wish it was easier to track down good samples of this toy. It’s a true classic of the era.

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