Best Of Botcon: The Japanese Perspective

The Japanese Perspective was, for my money, one of the most informative panels of the entire Convention. It was run by Andrew Hall, Hayato Sakamoto and Jim Sorenson. The panel was broken down into three major areas and we’ll cover each below.
The first part was a look at different Japanese Transformers artists. The first one was Kei Zama. They had a very clean style that honestly reminded me a lot of Robby Musso. The characters they sampled were G2 Sideswipe in all his grimacing glory and Judge Death from 2000 AD.
Next one was “Usakom”. Her samples looked to be of Knockdown and Breakdown in the Prime style. She had a very flowery style that doesn’t follow the models exactly but still looks great. The panel added she is also doing the colorwork for the Japanese release of Combiner Wars.
After that we segued into the big one, Hirofumi Ichikawa! If you have any familiarity with the Japanese fiction, odds are this man needs no introduction. From “Linkage” to “Story of Binaltech” his contributions (in both art and fiction) are too numerous to list. Aside from trying to list some of that impressive catalog, the panel mentioned he would like to do a sequel to his celebrated “Linkage” comic.
Yamaishi is another Japanese colorist and she did work on the Windblade series. Her work matches that style pretty well.
A different kind of illustration was presented by Gufu Kandagawa. Hers is a very cute style with animals. She’s also a friend of Sakamotos. The panel hopes to see her work on an actual Beast Wars comic.
Next artist up for the panel is actual panelist Hayato Sakamoto. We see his promotional work for the Cloud Series with a picture of the breathtaking Cloud Rodimus figure. They also mentioned he worked on Shockwave as well. Next they take us through a guided look at some unreleased concepts.
The first one was a “Shattered Glass” take on the Transformers:Prime Universe.
Another idea was “Transformers: Part One” which would’ve showcased underused (in their opinion) molds. Part One is also the name of the Japanese company that usually collaborates with TakaraTomy for Japanese release stuff. Andrew Hall formerly worked for them as well. The name sharing was a cute little nod. Jim Sorenson also let drop that Part One contributed the majority of boxart for the excellent “Transformers Legacy” hardcover (which was also written by said panelist).
The final unreleased concept was for “Brave Masters” which was going to feature Off-screen movie molds. We actually got some genesis of the story for this one. Breacher (the 2010 figure) would’ve been left behind on Earth as a Carnival automaton and would have to fight to defend his new home.
After this we kept the spotlight on Sakamoto but pivoted to his work on “More than Meets the Eye #39” (THIS PORTION WILL CONTAIN SOME SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR THAT ISSUE)
The first section is on the genesis of DJD’s steward/medic Nickel! We get to see some of her original design concepts which were taken from notes given by James Roberts. Her altmode is canonically a “rocket car” but it went through quite a few permutations. The first one had a very 1950’s Cosmonaut vibe, wheeled feet, along with the aforementioned rocket car. The second design was more bulky in robot mode but the vehicle mode was made more sleek. She also had light bulb fingers. The third design kept the bulkiness of the second but the vehicle mode was changed to something akin to the Weinermobile. Albeit one that came decked out with weapons/tools. Sakamoto said the vehicle design was based on a “Science Ninja Team Gatchaman” vehicle. James Roberts decided he wanted the rocket boosters split but the face from the first design. The final version also borrowed the wheel feet from the first design and dual-rocket boosters on her back in robot mode. The final vehicle design was close to the third redesign and it’s mentioned she can fly and go undersea as well.
The panel let slip that full character turnarounds for the entire DJD also exist but those weren’t shown alas. What was shown was a reworked scene that didn’t make it (as illustrated) into the issue. This was the Blip interrogation scene from #39. It was originally MUCH more graphic (in a variety of ways). Helix went in and removed Blip’s brain module with his teeth and it kinda looked like they were making out. Roberts had to rework the scene after he saw this. Sakamoto’s reasoning was he wanted to give Helix more screen time.
Speaking of screen time, we learned about all the Japanese exclusive characters he worked into the issue itself. Deathsaurus had to be based on Milne’s cover illustration that was already solicited.
We then saw designs for the Liokaiser group and they were all very animal-based. Very cool work. We also saw Blue Bacchus and learned he was modeled after a “Lupin the 3rd” character. The previous characters were all requested by name but Sakamoto also worked in some characters he wanted to see. First was “Bikecross” which was a “mechanized” take ala Blue Bacchus and Black Shadow on the never released (in Japan) Double-Pretender Vroom but with Skygarry’s colors. Next was Greatsix, an early design concept for Greatshot but with Shadowmaru colors. “Strikesoldier” an early combined Liokaiser design. A prototype Deathcobra design with a Rhino breastforce partner. A robot with Skystalker‘s shuttle “Thunder Arrow” as an alt-mode. An early G1 Prowl concept with powerup parts meant for release in the Victory toyline. Sakamoto wanted to make him Barricade but unfortunately that wasn’t used. For the big group shot at the end of the issue Roberts wanted a “Secret Wars ’84” vibe but Sakamoto drew it with so much gusto that the illustration had to be dialed back.
The panel closed with a viewing of the current “Transformers: Legends” pack-in comic. The premise, which honestly I didn’t know beforehand, is that Transformers fans suddenly find themselves transformed into actual Transformers. The characters themselves, at least those that don’t have toys, are very IDW influenced. Sakamoto wanted to include James Roberts in a stealth cameo but Takaratomy put the kibosh on that idea. We also got to see some of the package illustrations of newer figures. Notably Tailgate/Swerve, the Autobot ladies Trio, Bloody Knockout and Greejeeber from Adventure. He added that Greejeeber was a guy re-confirming the character’s gender for those that missed the TF YUKI tweet. We also got to see some Rollbar and Junkion art.
Observant fans will remember Sakamoto’s work on last years “Hoist the Flag” Botcon comic. This was his first American Transformers work. The panel ended with a lot of promo art and unfortunately it went by too fast for an accurate summary. What did stick out was a “GoBots Leader-1” Combiner Wars limb and what looked to be a “Staks” using the Optimus Combiner Wars Voyager as a base.
As you can see it was a VERY informative panel and hopefully we’ll get to see more of the Japanese perspective of the fandom next year. The Allspark would like to thank Andrew Hall, Hayato Sakamoto and Jim Sorenson for hosting the panel and allowing us such a wonderful glimpse at so many treasures we otherwise wouldn’t get to take in.