Translation of Masterpiece Guidebook Interview with Hironori Kobsyashi

The Masterpiece Guidebook we’ve been reporting on has just recently been released in Japan.  A couple of enterprising board members from TFW2005 got together to bring us a translation of some of the book’s contents.  Specifically, an interview with returning designer Hironori Kobsyashi.  See the translation after the jump.

Hironori Kobsyashi
Joined Takara in 1999 and was in charge of MP series from MP-1 to MP-9, and MP-11. Though as for MP-5 Megatron, he only worked on the colour scheme and packaging.

“I want the MP series to continue to make the fans’ dream come true”

– tell us about how the Masterpiece project started
K: “MP-1 Convoy” was originally planned by the manager at that time as the 20th anniversary Optimus Prime, I had took over and completed it. The size had already been decided to be similar to 12-inch figures.

– The 20th anniversary product eventually became the beginning of MP series?
K: “Alternators” (Binaltech series in Japan) project was developing at the same time, and we came up with the plan of marketing those two series as one brand domestically. It (MP-1) was initially no more than an anniversary product, but TakaraTomy made it a part of a brand by naming it Masterpiece and Hasbro ended up calling the series MP as well. From the very beginning, we didn’t want it to appear as if it was a stand alone product. Though the reason why it was “MP-1” and not “MP-01” is because I feared the series may not last beyond 9 figures (laughs). But once it was released there was very strong reaction and it was decided that the high-end Transformers were to be continuously developed alongside Binaltechs. I believe it was thanks to the market that was very appreciative (of a new high-end product).

– I appreciated MP-1 ‘s heaviness, too.
K: I was determined to use diecast, though there might be a bit too much of it (
laughs). There was a long line of Transformers toys without any diecast and it was the first TF using diecast for a long time. However, I might have miscalculated the diecast amount….the first testshot couldn’t stand because of its weight (laughs)

– The impression I get from MP-1 is that it represents something quite different from earlier transformable Convoy figures. 
K: There was a PVC Convoy figure from “Metalforce Collection” (released by Time House in 1999), and the accompanying booklet provided lots of interesting read. For example, it said (Convoy’s) vehicle interior was rearranged to form the chest when transforming and I was very impressed with it. It was simply written up in the text, but I wondered how the actual mechanism would be like – maybe the seats would fold down to give room for the Matrix chamber to move?…it stimulated my imagination. The cartoons often show a scene in which the transformation is done after the humans inside get off, and I interpreted it as the indication of the disappearance of the passenger space and the shift of the inner matters. What came to my mind then is suggested in MP-1. 
Actually, when I was in university I drew a sketch of Convoy I would want to create. I thought of the shifting tires in the stomach at that time. (note by Sydney; if you have the book, the sketch of Convoy in page #91 is the drawing he refers to here)

– It is amazing that you realised your long time wish.
K: Surprisingly, there weren’t many remake of transformable Convoy back then. Designers even prided themselves on making (the toys) different from the cartoon. It was considered not creative as a designer to follow old examples, and the change was preferred.
My initial image (of MP-1) was more like the CG Convoy that appeared very briefly in “Beast Wars Metals” rather than G1 cartoon Convoy. I imagined he was the same Convoy character but altered and not exactly the same as his old self. However, I was hoping to remake him close to the cartoon setting as much as possible.

– Who drew the design sketch shown in the MP-1 booklet?
K: Our team leader at that time requested Dreamwave to provide us with a sketch. We hoped Dreamwave would give it prestige. I can see now that it means before Mr.Shoji Kawamori, we had already used a designer (from outside TakaraTomy).
After MP-2 Ultra Magnus, Starscream was chosen to be the next. But then we began to doubt if Starscream had as much appeal as Convoy did. To create a new attraction at the design stage, it was suggested that we invited a designer who was very much talked about. As a result, Mr.Kawamori was brought in.

– Tell us how Mr.Kawamori came to take on the role of the supervisor.
K: When it came to plane robots, Mr.Kawamori was the obvious choice back then. Once we actually discussed it in person, he was quite eager to be largely involved and we were keen to have him on board.

– What was your involvement with MP series after that?
K: I did MP-5 Megatron’s colour and packaging. I was especially particular about the processing of the hairline on his chest. I even bought a model pistol for a reference. 
As for MP-6 Thundercracker, how to distribute the colours was a big problem. The recent, Asian edition Sunstorm uses fire patterns in slightly different warm colours and I feared Skywarp and Thundercracker might become too dull-looking without such arrangement. By applying clear coating, I gave them luxurious appearance. I considered applying large markings on their wings, but it didn’t happen (

– Grimlock’s transformation is very true to the cartoon.
K: Beast Machines Rattle (Rattrap) figure has a drive shaft mechanism that connects the tail and the neck so that they move in unison, and I attempted something similar. Even though those parts had to transform, I wanted to sneak in the dino neck and tail connection in the transforming mechanism.

– There is also MP-8X King Grimlock. Which is more satisfying for you personally?
K: To think of it now, Grimlock’s silver isn’t pure silver colour but closer to grey. Taking that into consideration I suppose the regular version is closer to my image of Grimlock. On the other hand, I enjoyed colouring King Grimlock according to the comic version – his delicate colours, such as the blue in place of the black or the pale blue chrome on the tail. I was also happy that the American comic style package by Mr. Hidetsugu Yoshioka was well received many people.

– MP-9 Rodimus Convoy has very intricate transforming process. Did you have the 4 different modes in mind from the start?
K: Yes. It started with a discussion to determine if either of Rodimus Convoy and Hot Rodmius was more popular than the other. If you have seen “Transformers The Movie”, you naturally like Hot Rodmius since he is the main character, while Rodimus Convoy is one of the succession of commanders. We concluded that we couldn’t decide which was better, and the project was more concentrated on figuring out the way to represent both characters. 
Turing the upper body over when transforming was already planned at the early stage. I ran into difficulties when I had to come up with a good colour distribution to represent different colour schemes between Hot Rod’s vehicle mode, which is almost flat and his humanoid form. I repeated trial and error many times.

– I have the impression that MP-9 was the most challenging product to develop.
K: Rodimus Convoy is a very popular character who always ranks as the number two in the popularity contest among the successive commanders. Although I think he doesn’t have many opportunities to get a remake in spite of his popularity. At that time I feared if he didn’t get the update then he might never receive such treatment for a long while.

– What were your involvements with MP-1L Convoy, MP-1B and MP-4S?
K: I designed the font of “LASTSHOT” on (MP-1L’s) back. Some of MP-1’s diecast moulds were not serviceable any longer and “LASTSHOT” was added to a newly created part. MP-1B is a black Convoy, which I feel made the “black and green” format conventional for the later releases. With MP-4L, I used the sepia colour to express the moment Convoy lost his colours as he passed away.

– MP-11 is Starscream, who has become the Emperor of Destruction.
K: By then, “MP = the re-creation of the cartoon” direction was set. I got the idea that Starscream should be re-done as the anime version since MP-3 did not represent the cartoon setting. In fact, I had also created a crown and a cape for MP-3. After the time passed I gave it another thought, and considering the trend in the hobby industry toward creating capes not from cloth but from plastic with articulations, I decided to introduce it to create a changeable cape fit for a Transformer.

– You must have a strong personal attachment to Ultra Magnus like you did to MP-8.
K: I observed how Hasui was envisioning Magnus project while working on (MP) real car series. While I thought (Magnus) was his, I also kept on thinking of the way as to how Magnus could be made into an actual form. I ended up taking it over from Hasui when the development of overseas “Lost Age (Age of Extinction)” products wrapped up.

– What did you find challenging in MP-22 development?
K: The problem was to conceive the way to allocate the mass of the truck. I settled with splitting it into the front and the back sections, putting the head between the chest parts and placed the remaining parts on the back. He is slightly taller and fits in quite well.
As a factor to express his character, the Matrix can be fitted in his chest. Additional face part like action figures have is included so that his expression can be changed as well. 

– What direction will the MP series take in the future?
K: Thanks to the (fans’) support, the current MP series is very popular right now. I hope the addition of Ultra Magnus as the centric character to the real car series will make the whole lineup more enjoyable.
The factors of the current popularity are the re-creation of the cartoon characters and the use of real cars, of course, and I’d like to explore the next step up while keeping those important factors intact. I am not the developer of Star Saber, who was chosen to become a MP figure by the MP Fans’ Choice votes, but I suspect (MP Star Saber) may initiate the next step. I want the MP series to continue to make the fans’ dream come true. I hope (the fans) will look forward to future developments.
Thanks again to the great work by TFW board members SydneyY & RedTrucK