Masterpiece Guidebook Interview – Shogo Hasui

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASydneyY and RedTruck from the TFW2005 boards are at it again with another translation from the recently released Masterpiece Guidebook.  This time it is with Masterpiece Designer Shogo Hasui, who oversaw the development of MP-10, and MP12 through MP21.
Grab the interview after the jump.

Shogo Hasui
Joined Takara in 1999 and was in charge of MP series MP-10, MP-12 to MP-21. He was also responsible for Movie MP figures.
“I envisioned MP-10 to set a standard for the new MP series”
– Tell us about the time when you began working on the MP series.
H: MP-10 Convoy was the first Masterpiece I was involved in developing.
When the project was conceived I was mainly working on the products for the overseas Hasbro market, but was given a chance to develop a Masterpiece for the domestic market irregularly.
– What prompted the reboot of MP Convoy?
H: During the development of MP-9 Rodimus Convoy, it was agreed that there should be a MP Convoy that could be displayed side by side with it. That was the beginning. Then MP-10 development started with the release date set to be 2 months after MP-9 as a part of the “2010” project. Another reason as to why MP-10 project went ahead was that 7 years had passed since the release of MP-1 – we thought a new MP Convoy was needed to bridge the technical gaps well as the size.
By the time I took the project on, it was already decided that (MP-10 was) to be in scale with MP-9 in robot mode. And when I digested the directive, I came to the conclusion that if I was to create a new Convoy, I should make it to be a standard for the new MP series, not merely making a product in scale with another.
I realised making it in scale with MP-9 also meant the following MP figures could be made in the same scale as well, which would add another value (to the series).
Previous MP figures were not very mindful of the scale as the focus was on making each individual figure as good as possible. I thought introducing the concept of a scale would help the items complement each other and the connection would enhance the world view (of the Transformers) and the enjoyment in Transformers altogether. In short, what I wanted was the direction for creating items worthy of Masterpiece name including the world view.
I often hear the comments that since MP-10, the series has a stronger selling point as character toys. I believe it is because as the series go on the concept that started with MP-10 has been emphasised more and more.
– You took on MP-12 Lambor next.
H: When I was working on MP-10, MP-12 was yet to be definite. I myself was very eager, however Lambor was not a character that was ranked high in TF popularity contests and some doubted if it would be marketable. I spent lots of time and effort to rid of such doubts.
Though it was not like there were only negative factors – Lamborghini Countach, which is his vehicle mode is based on, is a legendary car and hugely popular and well-known even now. I armed myself with that fact and had many discussions about the price and the way it should be done.
Even when the project was very close to get a go-ahead, it was pushed back to the point of having it questioned if it had to be a Masterpiece product, if it had to be Lambor. If Countach was so popular, why not simply creating another robot with a Countach alternate mode? Maybe the price point could be around 1,000 yen in that case? – I was asked for the reason of making MP Lambor until the very last minute.
– Why did MP Lambor have to be priced so low?
H: I can list various reasons, but the biggest one was the need to change the mindset about the vehicle theme and the price point. It was necessary when releasing a product on which the future of the MP series was depending.
All the hardships were worthwhile in the end as (MP-12 was) close to the sold out on the first release day. I was happy to know that my intention was accepted by the others.
– When Lambor is talked about, we can’t go without thinking of another Countach, Alert.
H: I believe MP-14 Alert’s good sales figure after MP-12 expanded the potential of the MP series.
MP-17 Prowl, which was the second real car model, was the character I coveted from Diaclone series. So I had a very strong feeling for Prowl and knew he would be a definitive choice if only I could make the MP real cars happen because of the possibility of various repaints. It gave me a motivation to work harder even when I was developing MP-10.
– I think compared to MP-12, MP-17 is easier to play with.
H: I didn’t intentionally make it that way as the developer, it is possible that my experience with MP-12 influenced the degree of precision during the development. Also, the original toy has a quite perfect transforming process and that contributed as well. The type of vehicle, the quality of the original toy and how close the original toy is to the cartoon; they all affect the perfectness of the end result.
– The pre-order incentive from amazon( was appealing.
H: For MP-18 Streak, (the mould) already had cannons stored inside the body, but they weren’t enough to evoke the memory of the impressive cannons the original toy had. I chose to release (the missile launchers) as amazon exclusive like MP-12’s pile driver.
– Speaking of MP-18, what is the difference from MP-17?
H: I changed the face and the hip. They are often considered to be almost identical, but you notice quite a few differences when you watch the cartoon again and again. As for his colour scheme, that is the only colouring true to the actual car and I found the way to incorporate the cartoon colours and the realism of the actual car.
Real Car series started with MP-12, and by the time the fifth (of the real car MP) MP-19 Smokescreen was planned, good sales figure was expected considering the past sales and some new parts could be added. Not only that, I was also allowed to re-create the paint applications even though it resulted in a slight rise of the price. It made me very happy because keeping the product price the same would have become impossible as various features were being added.
When you line up the three figures with FairladyZ motif, I think a certain theme becomes more apparent; in MP, even the slightest difference of characters are re-created.
– MP-13 Soundwave is not a part of Real Car themed series.
H: Indeed, Soundwave was already being considered as a MP product before the real car project began. MP-11 was to be Soundwave originally, not Starscream. There are many reasons why it didn’t happen, but I think it’s mostly because his cassette tape recorder alternate mode may not be acceptable nowadays. I felt it was a shame such a popular character could not be made into a product because of his alternate mode motif.
So I developed him with a precondition of chest storage space for up to three Cassettrons, and taking advantage of the new lower-priced MP series foothold established by MP Lambor, it was decided to release two pairs of MP Cassettrons around the same time as MP Soundwave.
My intention was for Soundwave and the Cassettrons that support him to enhance the product value of each other. This concept is similar to how MP-10 Convoy and the car robots make each other more collectible. Thankfully, MP-13 sold very well, too. Though I don’t think it was not because of Soundwave alone but MP-15 Rumble & Jaguar and MP-16 Frenzy & Buzzsaw were essential.
– I was amazed how (Soundwave) could transform without detaching the missile pod on his shoulder.
H: When designing his transformation process, I had to consider the precondition that three Cassettrons were to fit inside his chest. Which meant certain part of his torso had to be non-transformable and the missile pod transformation was designed to accommodate it – the missile pod could not be stored in his backpack like the original toy as it would make the backpack so large it would have disproportioned the robot mode. If so, I thought I might as well make the transformation more like the cartoon.
– Despite their small size, the Cassettrons also have Masterpiece quality.
H: Frenzy is especially my favourite and I believe he is so well made he could be a main character in a cartoon show. Unlike Condor or Jaguar, there needed to be enough axes in him to have a swivelled neck and articulated arms and legs so that he could be a posable robot. With that size the axes for the transformation and the ones for the articulations had to be mutual for the mechanism to work, and it was very challenging.
– Now, tell us about MP-20 Wheeljack due out in August (note by Sydney; MP-20 release has been pushed back to September) and other later releases.
H: Lancia Stratos – I really had a difficult time trying to come up with a way to accommodate the head and the arms. As a result, his mechanism consists of a fascinating pivot unlike anything in MP-12 or MP-17 and I am confident his structure is quite interesting with many highlights.
With MP-21 Bumble due to be released after, I had difficulty in suggesting that I wanted the vehicle to be done in a deformed style because when signing a contract with a car manufacturer, the car on which we model (the vehicle mode) has to be specifically named; what model, what year and what scale. While a Volkswagen (Beetle) isn’t much shorter than Prowl (FairladyZ) or Lambor (Countach) in real life, it is deformed in the cartoon and the robot mode is even smaller. His scale was a cause of a very lively discussion among the team members.
Ultra Magnus, who was selected to be MP-22, was a character I was dreaming of making into a product since the time of MP-10 development. I was happy to be finally able to work on him. As there had already been several real car MP figures and Ultra Magnus is a car carrier that can carry them, I considered Magnus as a certain milestone in the new MP series.
I wanted the car carrier to have a capacity of at least 4 real car MPs while in robot mode his height needed to be as close as seen in the cartoon. The transformation process was expected to require lots of folding of the parts to achieve it, and solving that problem became a very important task. Upon agreeing on that point, Kobayashi took over to work on the transformation mechanism and (Ultra Magnus is) finished as he is now.
– How do you feel about MPs now?
H: I created them in the hope that they would supplement the memories. The toys in the 80s are not even close to the modern toys in terms of refinement, but I think the fans who followed Transformers back then used information obtained through various media such as magazines or the cartoon to supplement the image in their mind.
I believe MPs are meant to be the embodiment of that image. Neither making the cartoon version into a three dimensional form nor making it as realistic as possible is a good idea. The important thing for me has been to create a MP product through which you can meet yourself from the past, in which you can find a toy you have been dreaming of. It was certainly a difficult and harsh challenge.
I made a list of candidates (to be made into a MP figure) and I thoroughly checked what they did in which episodes and with whom. I referred to the list when planning the MP lineup. I also studied the impressive parts of the original toy’s transformation process to see if they could be incorporated into the new toy, and extensively collected cartoon reference materials and comic book illustrations. The MP series was always highly anticipated by the fans and I myself desired to create a better product – I suppose those factors worked out positively in me.
– What kind of future development are you hoping for?
H: The series has grown based on the concept established in MP-10, so I expect they will continue with the in-scale Robot modes and licensed real cars. On top of that, I hope the series moves onto the next, higher step.
I was introduced to the world of Transformers by combiner warriors, so personally I hope to see such characters in the MP series. Also I would like to see Megatron in scale with MP-10 soon or the characters who weren’t given many opportunities to have their toys made such as Ironhide.
More than anything I hope it continues on as a series that realises the fans’ wishes.