The Tranquilizer - a review by Nathan Cobb
The Tranquilizer, by M3 Metal Creations
Strap in, this is a long one, and I haven't written something of this length in a while, so prepare yourself for mistakes here and there. Hopefully this helps illuminate how I feel about the Tranquilizer line of spinners, and the zany character of a man behind them.
The Tranquilizer line of spinners are designs that focuses on simple geometry over trying to be the "next best thing". In terms of design, the basics of the design really don't get any simpler. The idea was to create a design in a pill shape, so he took that idea, made it 2D/blocky, and added chamfers. That's all there is to it. From the beginning, it was intended to be simple because it was to be Mike's first design that he machined himself. As it turns out, the humbleness and simplicity work very well. Looking at some of the most successful designs on the scene, their focus is on a similar amount of simplicity that's deceptively complex. The tranquilizer at its core I wouldn't consider complex by any means of the word, but it doesn't need to be. That said, similar to the designs that come to mind, this thing is an instant classic. I knew this from the first time I handled the prototype of the OG, which I reviewed before. I wasn't kind, but Mike was still right there with his pen and paper ready to take notes and start improving upon it. He craved knowledge and feedback, and his transparent eagerness to keep improving is what sets him apart from your average machinist. He knows what he puts out there probably isn't going to be perfect (setting aside the pieces machined by Nick), but it seems people are very happy to support a guy that's putting himself out there and making what he can, constantly improving his process and quality as he goes.
Bare with me a little longer through the cringey harkening back to high school english (or skip ahead now), but I see the tranquilizer as a personification of everything Mike stands for. He's a simple, humble dude making stuff in a shack he's outfitted with machinery and wackiness, bursting at the seams with character that only really shines through if you really get to know him. He's not all "in your face" about it, and he doesn't mean to be. Join his group and you'll be treated to a slew of art and music that can almost make you feel like you're on a good trip. The tranquilizer is similar in that despite appearing very simple, there's a whole crazy process that went into each and every one he machined, and no two are the same. It's the fine, fine details that makes the Tranquilizer such a cool line of spinners, and the story it tells of Mike's journey to become a great machinist makes it even better. It's awesome to have been given the opportunity to witness the whole process (albeit behind a computer screen), from his humble beginnings with Ol' Blue to where he is now. He Frankenstein'd a machine from pieces and made the prototype I originally reviewed, as well as the custom-made Tranquilizer that he made for me that took that design to a 10/10, all things considered.
Now, he's machining the Tranquilizer Nano on a new machine, and that brings us to why I'm back, to review that and the rest of the line, each of which I've also fallen in love with along the way. I knew I would love the design from the moment I called dibs on the first one he machined. I didn't get to own that one, but I do own one of each iteration and I'm very happy with that. What I like most about the ones I have is that I own each in copper, which is really the metal that this design was meant to be in. Zirconium is great, but copper is where the design really shines in my opinion. It's the metal that Mike started with, and that's what makes it so special to me.
Enough intro, let's get to it, shall we?
Being the one that started it all, the original was the design that had the most openness to it. Mike tried a bunch of different variations, and he was pretty much willing to make you the Tranquilizer you wanted. I didn't hold back when I received the prototype I originally reviewed. I was going to buy that one, which was an 8/10 for me. Recognizing it wasn't the Tranquilizer I truly wanted, Mike offered to make me my own. I liked the variation he created with grooves on the arms, and that's the one I had him make for me. That was the one I thought I wanted, with a polished finish, until I saw a picture of another that I liked more (with his signature zirblasted finish), and he made me another.
That second version is what defined the Tranquilizer for me. It made me a firm believer in what Mike was capable of, and I was along for the ride, bumps and all. It improved upon all of the cons I pointed out in my initial review, and the one I'll have forever in my collection.
The next version of the Tranquilizer was the ER (extended release). I don't know if it was growing up with a terrible sleeping schedule and access to cable TV in a room of my own, but the name immediately made me think of some type of viagra or "male enhancement" commercial. It wasn't until I considered the origins of the Tranquilizer that I realized it was actually a play on the pill concept, extended release dose, if you will. It sought to be the bigger brother over the original, but really I think Mike just needed a canvas for the buttons he created for the design, which play on the coliseum buttons on his other designs, with a new twist. It did everything that the original did, but in a larger package to appeal to a different (but overlapping) set of customers. Larger chamfers, the same thickness (which feels thinner, given the size), and enough room to showcase the large, unique buttons that it flaunts so well. Just as fidgetable as the OG.
I don't believe this variant was actually machined by Mike though, I think he outsourced it to another shop, so it had a polish that the original didn't, and imperfection that I strangely found myself missing. I also preferred the size of the OG, but to each their own.
The mini is the one that took me by surprise, because I didn't actually think he was going to do a run of them until I had my wallet out and was paying him for one of my own, without any idea of when exactly it became a thing. That said, it's basically a mini-fied version of the ER, with yet another variety of buttons that it was released with, the Sonic Boom buttons which are basically concave nipples. They work, albeit not as well as some other buttons. I had to have one, but I bought it more to complete the collection rather than for anything else that it had to offer. Very fidgetable, and a much more manageable size compared to the ER. After seeing his "Milk Choco" finish, that's the one I went with. Basically it's Mike's take on an antiqued copper finish that we've seen before. I really like the feel and color of it.
That said, although it's a solid design in its own right, it didn't offer enough to keep me as interested in it as the other designs, but I can't really fault it too much for that.
The final iteration of the design (for now) is where things get really weird and I'm not really all that sure how I feel about it, even after having spent weeks with the design. It's truly an oddity both in terms of what defines a spinner and what's acceptable to fidget with. When I think of a spinner that I want to fidget with, I envision a bar around the size of the Tranquilizer OG or maybe slightly larger, with proportionate buttons. That isn't what we have here. What I think happened is Mike wanted to make some thick ass buttons, and designed to throw them on a Tranquilizer of some sort. So if you ask me, he designed the buttons and then created a variant of the Tranquilizer (which he's decided to call the Nano), that he felt complimented them both. He machined one, forgot it in his jacket pocket for a while, and after picking it up again decided that it worked. Whether or not it actually worked could be the subject of intense debate, for the true spinner nerds among us. For the sake of review, I won't get into that now, and I'll just take it for what it is.
I was surprised and honored when Mike asked me if I'd review this variant. I wasn't cruel with my first review, but I wasn't very kind (which is how reviews should be, as blunt and as objective as possible). I think he feels that this design is enough of an oddball to justify it being treated like it's a new design entirely. That's arguably true, but it does have the basic elements that makes a Tranquilizer a Tranquilizer (at least speaking in terms of commonality between all iterations).
Anyway, did I mention how massive these buttons are? They're as big as if not bigger than the ZeroFeud Big Ol' buttons. Did I mention that these are being showcased on a spinner that's being named the "Nano" of the family? Yeah, what the actual fuck is damn right, but this is 2021 and anything is fair game. Seriously though, one of my first comments to Mike was that the name didn't fit the spinner. Immediately following that came the comment that describes the way I still feel now: "I'm not sure how I feel about it".
Is it fidgetable? Yes
Is it unwieldy as far as a spinner goes? Yes
Will it fit in most people's hands? Yes
Is it ergonomic? Yes
Is it unique/memorable? Hell yes
Okay, I'll stop with the rhetorical questions. My point is that I find myself having to go back to the drawing board and ask myself questions like this to figure out how I really feel about this thing. It's THAT different. There's no person in their right mind who would put these buttons on this spinner body. That said, Mike did it and I think what he's created is a truly polarizing design. You either love it, or you love to hate it. Is it "XL"? Is it truly a "Nano"? I don't think it's either, but in order to say that definitively, we have to force ourselves to consider what constitutes an XL and what constitutes a mini/nano spinner. Okay, if it doesn't fit in a category, does it make it's own? If you're a believer broad categorization (like Rock, Pop, Rap, Country, Jazz, etc., but for spinners) then probably not. That said, if you listen to and believe in ultra-specific categorizations (like pirate metal, bubblegum dance, or cloud rap, which apparently all exist in some form or another), then the answer is yes, probably. I can't think of another spinner that would fit into such a category, but maybe that's just my brain haze.
Anyway, once again back to my point, a spinner that forces us to reconsider what we're feeling is potentially game-changing. Back in the early days, everyone loved what are now considered XL spinners. That was normal. Next came mini, then I believe came "thicc", and now we've sorta just been seeing spinners that fit into an existing broad category. There hasn't really been a real "new trend" in a while. Am I suggesting this might start a new trend? Probably not, but I would go as far as to say that it's a potential trendsetter. Whether or not it's successful in accomplishing that or not is yet to be seen, but it's at least different enough where it's polarizing, and that's what I think trendsetters boil down to. They challenge the norm and are just trying to be themselves without trying to be something else. Sometimes they succeed in swaying others, and sometimes they don't. Most trendsetters, in terms of spinners and outside of the community, don't really care about setting trends. They are original and seek to showcase that originality without intending to influence others. That influence just happens naturally.
If it's trying to forcefully set a trend, it's trying too hard. That isn't what's happening here. Mike liked it and ran with it. Only time will tell if it becomes a trend, a forgotten gem, or something in between. That said, the quality is there, and I'm absolutely in LOVE with the buttons alone. I'm inclined to say that the buttons don't belong on this spinner, but that's a matter of personal opinion. It's solid for what it is, and I appreciate the originality. I'm going to leave you with two ratings to consider. Subjectively, I don't want to like this spinner. I would give it a 6/10 in terms of the overall idea and the resulting spinner.
That said, I can't turn my head away from the thoughtfulness that went into it, the fact that it showcases how far Mike has come in terms of quality of machining, and I absolutely cannot put it down. It's so damn fidgetable despite being so clunky because of these ridiculous buttons. I tried putting another pair of buttons on it and it just felt wrong to me. Therefore, however reluctant I am, I have to force myself to rate the spinner objectively, because like I said, that's the way a spinner should be rated.
The Tranquilizer line has something for everyone, unless you're looking for some bleeding edge original designs like what we've been seeing come out of China. Simplicity is the focus, and in that respect it's easily become an instant classic at its core. For me, the most treasured aspect of these spinners is they showcase the evolution of Mike's ability as a machinist (though not all varieties were machined by him). They are not perfect by the standards of the titans of the scene, but what is perfection, really? The Nano is an oddity that you'll either hate to love or love to hate, but that's okay. Being normal was never part of Mike's vision, and the Tranquilizer is no different.