Altered States Magazine - June 2002

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    The History of Online TransFandom

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  • Takara: On the Ball?

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    Takara: On the Ball?

    By Anthony Brucale

    Repaints: The Good

    Since Beast Wars' release in Asia, Takara has made a steady stream of touch-ups of American products and repaints as new characters. Some of these repaints were desperately warranted, such as show accurate versions of Tigatron, Dinobot, Rampage, and Silverbolt. These touch-ups are a good example of Takara taking care of the fandom by giving interesting and apt physical personifications of fictional entities.

    Japanese Dinobot (top) and American Dinobot (bottom)

    In its height of popularity, Beast Wars received some of the best and most innovative repaints by Takara. Beast Wars Second improved the American molds of Bonecrusher, Transquito, Jetstorm, Drill Bit, and Spittor with stellar new paintjobs in the Japanese counterparts of Big Horn, Big Mos, Tonbot, Drillnuts, and Diver, respectively. Even the Japanese exclusive mold of Lio Convoy was given a spiffy new look with the Toys 'R' Us Japan exclusive, Flash Lio Convoy.

    Further down the Beast Wars Second line are the Cyborg Beasts, beautiful remolds and redecos of four classic Beast Wars molds (Dinobot, Waspinator, Wolfang, and Cybershark). There are rumors that the Cyborg Beast molds were the inspiration for the severely disappointing, yet underrated at times, Transmetal 2 sub-line in the American Beast Wars toys.

    Though mired in the many mistakes that were committed while marketing Car Robots, Takara was capable of releasing beautiful, translucent -- if a little too rare -- store exclusives through the Daiei and Jusco chains. Despite the frustration fans felt in trying to obtain them, these clear recolors make for some of the aesthetically nicest looking Transformers of all time. (Well, most of them are.)

    Repaints: The Bad (a.k.a - I see a red door.)

    However, for all the good, interesting repaints Takara has put onto the market, the company has shelled out a number of boring, uninspired repaints as well. This stems from Takara's formulaic approach to designing repaints.

    As often is the case, Takara will likely create a black repaint of any given figure. It began with Black Lio Convoy from "Beast Wars Second", then Black Big Convoy in "Beast Wars Neo", JAFCon Convoy (a black version of the original Optimus Prime toy), Black Megatron, Black Starscream, Nucleon Quest Convoy (a black version of "Transformers: Masterforce" Ginrai, a/k/a Powermaster Optimus Prime), Black Lio Junior, and Black Rodimus (Hot Rod). If you add these in with the black repaints that were original characters for Takara's own lines, like Black Convoy ("Transformers: Robots In Disguise" Scourge), Starscream and BB (repaints of "Transformers: Generation 2" Dreadwing and Smokescreen), and Shadow Panther (later sold online by Hasbro as Tripredicus Agent), you can see the gross lack of creativity on the part of a company whose main product should inspire creativity in children.

    The most bizarre retcon of all time

    Many TransFans were delighted to see Ravage appear in the "Beast Wars" storyline entitled "The Agenda". Ravage, apparently, had been granted amnesty, was allowed to live as a Predacon, and was currently working as an agent of the Tripredicus Council.

    One-year prior to his appearance, Takara had released a toy in Japan named Shadow Panther, which had no characterization other than its tech-spec. A short time later, Hasbro sold the Shadow Panther toy domestically via its online Collectors Website, until they lost the copyright for the name. Afterwards, Shadow Pantherís name was changed to Tripredicus Agent.

    Shortly thereafter, Wal*Mart released their own exclusive figure named Tripredicus Agent, featuring tech spec wording practically lifted verbatim from the Shadow Panther tech-spec . In 2002, the BotCon comic showed this character as new body of Ravage, following the events of his appearance in "Beast Wars".

    Thus, years later, Shadow Panther became Ravage.

    What a retcon.

    The same goes for the continual glut of clear repaints Takara has produced. At first, when Takara released Clear Convoy (a clear version of the Ultra Optimus Primal toy) it was something special. It was even a nice promotion for the "Beast Wars Second: movie when they released Burning Convoy (again, the Ultra Optimus Primal toy, this time in translucent red) and Flash Lio Convoy. But when the Car Robots line was completed, the Takara clear repaints had clearly gotten out of hand. Every single Autobot, save for Brave Maximus, Team Bullet Train and Build Team had a clear repaint at some point in time. Again, this lack of creativity on Takara's part -- investing time cheaply refurbishing old toys instead of creating a handful of new toys -- tarnishes the company's reputation. (And yes, I say this in light of the fact that some of these clears are very exquisite Transformers toys.)

    The Car Robots repaints and exclusives also present another downside to Takara's handling of Transformers, namely the mishandling of exclusives. Time and again, there seem to be few Takara "exclusives" that tend to be just what they should: exclusive. Takara, unlike its American counterpart, tends to very easily manufacture exclusive toys for whomever wishes to dole out the money. When an exclusive characteristic becomes widespread across many toys, it no longer is an exclusive characteristic.

    Takara also tends to make overly limited toys, such as magazine exclusives, that offer nothing more than something to gawk at in pictures and have no significance other than the fact that they exist in relative obscurity. One example of this is the PVC Skywarp figure, of which only a relative handful were produced.

    Repaints: The Ugly

    And some exclusives, whether canonical or not, are just plain ugly. I, for one, have a penchant for ugly toys, but I can understand where the average fan, when seeing a item that is intended to be marketed towards them (after all, exclusives are meant for collectors), want to see something aesthetically pleasing. For an example of this point, see Matrix-Glow Ultra Magnus (a translucent yellow Ultra Magnus), which is a toy that is something vaguely canonical, if incorrect, for all of 3 tenths of a second in Transformers 18 year history). You can also look at Fire Guts God Ginrai, a red/orange version of God Ginrai, which again is vaguely canonical in "Transformers: Masterforce" but still leaves something to be desired aesthetically.

    But I still like these toys. Sure, they're ugly, but even ugly toys need lovin'.

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      Copyright © 2002 Altered States Magazine
    A SkyJammer Enterprises Publication