Japanese Transformers News


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Retail Price: ¥3,630 / $24.18 USD
Release Date: June 20, 2024

Transformers'' 40th anniversary!

Covers items such as Missing Link, Karakuri Statue, and other commemorative developments.
There are also plenty of 40th anniversary projects unique to this book, such as interviews with people involved. Not only does it contain the latest informationon the current developments
such as "Transformers Earth Spark", "Transformers Legacy United", Studio Series, MPG, Masterpiece, and crowdfunding "Godfire Convoy", but it also includes plenty of overseas items. We also have a lot of insert posters, newly drawn cover illustrations, and comics!

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Takeshobo Hero-X

Language ‏ : ‎ Japanese

JP Oversized ‏ : ‎ 96 pages

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 4801940250

ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-4801940253

Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 8.27 x 0.39 x 11.65 inches
You can (pre)order this via Amazon Japan or the publisher.
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LBD "Nytetrayn"

Broke the Matrix
Staff member
Council of Elders
Just tell me where to move the conversation... ;P

Assuming there's any more conversation to be had, that is.

Also: "Samuraiclonus"


Staff member
Council of Elders
Thanks for moving that. We started talking about it and I got busy with work.


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Figure King Magazine Interview With Takara Tomy Designer Kojin Ono - Part 1




Interviews: Kojin Ono

Translated & Interpreted by Jeremy Barlow © Soundwave’s Oblivion 2024

Interview from Figure King 316 May 2024

Talking to a Legend: 40 Years in Toy Development

Transformers 40th Anniversary Interview Number 2 with the man who created the Transformers toys.

Kojin Ono
Takara Tomy Transformers Development Team

We spoke with Kojin Ono, a legendary developer at Takara Tomy, who has been involved in toy development since the days of Diaclone and Microman, and has been an integral part of the Transformers family. With over 40 years of experience, Ono san has worked on numerous toy developments and has overseen entire projects as a team leader. He is truly a hall of fame figure in the Transformers world.

The Early Days

-What was Takara (now Takara Tomy) like during the introduction of Transformers?
I joined the company in 1980, right when the Diaclone and Microman development departments were being integrated. As a result, I became involved in both projects. We shifted from the standard 1/60 scale of the Diaclone series and introduced the Car Robots. This move was a success, with strong sales that extended even into Europe. They were also rolled out by Takara USA. Around this time the US market was a very attractive prospect. Then, at a trade show in the US, Hasbro approached me with a proposal to collaborate. I thought this was a very good opportunity. It was our move into the US market that caught Hasbro’s attention.

-What was the development team’s initial reaction when they heard about “Transformers”?
A contract was signed between Takara and Hasbro in 1983. I felt uneasy about it (laughs). We had been diligently working as a team, each division focusing on “Diaclone” and “Microman,” striving to compete with other companies. Then, unexpectedly, without a 1/60 or 1/1 scale model, we were forced to reconsider all our concepts. Everyone was utterly bewildered. I believe some senior members of the team were discontented, questioning, “Why must we collaborate on this?” However, as I gradually learned more about the character settings, such as their division into allies and enemies, and their extraterrestrial origin, the sentiment shifted towards, “perhaps this direction is acceptable too?”

-Was there initially a plan to introduce the series in Japan from the outset?
The product was first introduced in Japan in 1985, though I don’t believe that was the initial intention. It started as an imported product, adapted and sold overseas. However, its remarkable success prompted the decision to also offer it in Japan.

-That’s a surprising development.
During that period, “Diaclone” and “Microman” were in need of fresh ideas. It was truly opportune timing, almost a perfect moment. Since we were essentially selling something that had already been developed, merely by changing the packaging, it incurred minimal expenses and didn’t require any major investment. This allowed us to allocate funds towards marketing efforts instead.
-The focal point among the early Cybertron members was the car robot created by Ono-san.
My boss presented various concepts, and one of them was the Countach. The first project I was assigned to was the “Countach LP500S Super Tuning,” which later evolved into Sunstreaker. When I took over, the wooden mould had already been created, featuring a sci-fi design. It was a moment of deliberation for me, pondering whether to create a real car or a sci-fi machine that maintained the essence of Diaclone’s universe. It sparked discussion within the department.

-What led to the decision to pursue the direction of real cars?
Personally, I leaned towards a more realistic approach, aiming to emulate the authenticity of real vehicles rather than incorporating a sci-fi twist. However, upon surveying children’s preferences, it became evident that a realistic depiction was preferred. The sales department echoed this sentiment, advising, “We should stick with realism.” Additionally, there was an idea to have the train robots transform and connect to resemble dragons, yet again the sales department asserted, “We’d prefer real trains.”

-It seems that you were doing a lot of research with children at that time.
The park was conveniently located right in front of our company, allowing us to conduct surveys of children there. Of course, nowadays, such practices would be an absolute no-no from a compliance standpoint (laughs). But, as I mentioned earlier, there’s a certain persuasiveness in directly hearing from children through these surveys. Their enthusiastic support played a pivotal role in propelling us forward in our development efforts. When we initially released the Countach and Cherry Vanette within Diaclone, we were unsure whether a toy that could transform into a real car would find success. I vividly remember feeling nervous as I visited the sales floor to offer my support. However, to our delight, the products were met with a positive reception, prompting me to confidently proclaim, “Let’s pursue this approach! Let’s turn Car Robot into a series!” From the encouraging response, we forged ahead with our plan and began creating a series of Car Robot products.

Memories of the City Concept

-I believe the first major original development for Transformers was “Scramble City.” This was initially being developed for “Diaclone,” correct?
That’s right. I was mindful of ensuring that the individual components of the combined warriors were easily accessible for purchase. Our strategy was to offer them at a price point below 1000 yen each, allowing collectors to gradually accumulate them for combination. Additionally, I incorporated a base element into the design. Base play has been a significant aspect cultivated in both “Microman” and “Diaclone,” and I was keen on incorporating this element into “Scramble City.”

– I was so excited to buy Metroflex.
Metroplex sold exceptionally well. It was considered the central base of the “City Concept,” which comprised a large base, a medium base, and a small base. The large base later evolved into Fortress Maximus. The entire town transformed into a robot, and it features an airport, a fire station, and a police station, with Metroplex and Fortress Maximus forming integral parts of this concept. It was like the town was transforming before “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (laughs). When I presented the idea to then-president Yasuta Sato, expressing, “This time, the town will transform!” he responded enthusiastically, “The town will become a robot. That’s fantastic!” He was typically stern and often reprimanded me, so receiving praise from him was truly gratifying. It’s a memory that still stands out vividly in my mind.

Is Headmasters Steel Jeeg?!

– The next significant conceptual shift occurred with the introduction of the Headmasters.
When Hasbro asked me, “What’s next?”, “Steel Jeeg” suddenly came to mind. I presented them with a sketch of a robot featuring a small head like Jeeg, and they immediately recognized its potential. In my approach to product development, I always prioritise the gimmick. I’m constantly mindful of enhancing the play value of the gimmick and how children interact with it, rather than focusing solely on transformation. A solid product concept serves as a strong foundation for creating compelling stories or animations. The Headmasters series stands as a prime example of this approach.

(Source: - https://www.soundwavesoblivion.com/techspecs/interviewkojinono5.html )


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Figure King Magazine Interview With Takara Tomy Designer Kojin Ono - Part 2

– When I saw the giveaway campaign for Fortress Maximus, I couldn’t help but think like a child, “Oh, this isn’t sold in Japan…” (laughs).
That campaign garnered impressive numbers, so we thought, “We can do this!” (laughs). Despite its initial high cost, we decided to include the Master Sword, pushing our goal to maximise sales. How could we boost its appeal? We made sure it played a central role in the anime, added the sword, and flooded the market with commercials (laughs). The strategy paid off handsomely. Priced at 12,800 yen, it was a shock even for us as the creators. Thanks to this approach, The Headmasters sold remarkably well, likely becoming one of our best-selling products of all time.

– “Super God Masterforce” truly embodies a unique Japanese essence.
“Super God Masterforce” seamlessly weaves together elements of Japanese heroes, with a narrative centred around human intervention. The introduction of the God Master setting further enriches the storyline.

– In contrast to Power Master Optimus Prime, what motivated you to make alterations to Super Ginrai?
Given that I intended to position it as the primary character, I aimed to imbue Super Ginrai with a sense of luxury. Building upon the success of the previous year, I was granted the opportunity to enhance its features. I ensured that the wrists could be stored and increased the amount of die-cast material used in its construction.

– It was surprising to find that it wasn’t a matter of cost-cutting; instead, it led to the creation of a truly magnificent product.
I also had the chance to develop Metalhawk. Honestly, I had envisioned creating a Pretender in the Masterpiece series. Given its nature as a transforming hero, I aimed to design a figure that could seamlessly transform on its own, rather than simply removing its shell. If given the green light, I envisioned crafting something that could genuinely “transform,” such as having Metalhawk’s Pretender suit seamlessly shift into robot mode.

– What do you remember about “V(Victory)” the final Japanese G1 Transformers TV series?
The concept was to return to the essence of classic TV robot anime. At its core, the series revolved around the main character, Star Saber. Our primary goal was to maximise the sales of the main character. This led to numerous meetings to determine details such as the packaging format—whether it should be vertical or horizontal. The existence of two types of boxes for Star Saber reflects the deliberations we had in this regard. While there were also sub-robots, the overarching concept of prioritising the main character’s sales aligns with the approach seen in the Brave Series introduced the following year.

– Star Saber is such a great toy.
That product was initially conceived with the idea of combining with a second robot, inspired by our experience with God Ginrai. I was genuinely taken aback when Bandai also released a similar combining robot at the same time (laughs). It seemed like they were on the same wavelength. The concept of the smaller robot becoming the chest of the larger one is a direct continuation of what we did with Super Ginrai. Additionally, there’s the Brainmaster concept. In “V (Victory),” the focus is on the face and chest. Recognizing that these are the most prominent parts of a robot, we decided to incorporate a gimmick here. Thus, the Cybertrons feature a figure as their face, while the Decepticons have their chest gimmick. Although I’ve enlisted Okawara-san’s expertise for key elements in the past, I could sense his enthusiasm when I asked him to refine the design of the main character.

– At this point the television series ended.
It was a challenging decision to temporarily halt the cartoon. From a sales perspective, it was performing well, with Star Saber proving to be quite popular. However, the viewership ratings didn’t match our expectations. While it was satisfactory in terms of business, it fell short in terms of broadcast ratings. Okude (Nobuyuki) san had ties with Sunrise, prompting the decision to produce “Transformers” at Sunrise. Consequently, Kunihiro (Takashi) san, myself, and another newcomer collaborated on “Brave Exkaiser.” While we continued with the toy line “Z (Zone),” those of us who spearheaded the main Transformers products, like Kunihiro (Takashi) and myself, transitioned to the Brave series, making way for fresh talent to take over. Dai Atlas emerged as a standout, offering a toy that prioritised engaging play. I was the one who coined the name “Big Powered,” reflecting its combative nature (laughs). For a while, the Brave series and domestic Transformers ran concurrently, but eventually, the Transformers franchise concluded, with resources shifting towards the Brave series.

The Impact of Beast Wars

– What were your thoughts on “Beast Wars” from within the company?
It came as quite a shock. The development of products for overseas markets was overseen by Ejima (Takio) san and his team, while we were focused on developing Brave. So, it was quite unexpected to suddenly hear about animals being introduced! The “Beast Wars” items resembled figurines closely. While it proved to be a lifesaver for the Transformers brand in the United States, there was more scepticism in Japan. Initially, there were doubts about its potential sales and reception. We conducted another survey among children, and fortunately, the feedback was positive, which brought us a sense of relief.

– I had the impression that they were actively promoting the “Transformers” brand in Japan.
It was then-president Hirohisa Sato who suggested adding “Transformers” to the name. I also proposed various name ideas, such as “Convoy vs. Megatron,” envisioning two items being sold together as a set. While there were individual items available, they were also marketed as a set. “Beast Wars” capitalised on the figurine craze of the time. In essence, it leaned more towards being a figurine collection than a traditional robot toy. As a result, it appealed more to elementary school children rather than younger ones. Many of the transformations were intricate, and might have been too complex for younger children to fully grasp.


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Figure King Magazine Interview With Takara Tomy Designer Kojin Ono - Part 3
– Following that, we returned to basics with “Car Robots.” I was truly impressed by the realistic finish and transformation of the three Car Robot Brothers.
In 2000, I took on the role of development lead for “Car Robots.” It was a position that granted me a lot of freedom (laughs). When I proposed the name “Car Robots,” everyone readily agreed, so we went with it. It was a deliberate return to the essence of “Transformers.” We aimed to create realistic vehicles, a departure from the animal-based designs of “Beast Wars.” There was a growing desire to produce figures, so our concept was to create vehicles that were not only realistic but also poseable, functioning vehicles that children would genuinely enjoy.

Movie Series

– Do you feel like the movie was a huge turning point for Transformers?
“Transformers” has truly evolved into a massive franchise, stirring deep emotions among fans. When I first heard about the Hollywood movie adaptation, I couldn’t believe it—I’m a huge movie buff myself, so it came as a delightful surprise (laughs). Learning that Steven Spielberg was involved left me in disbelief, thinking, “No way!?” The decision to have Michael Bay as the director only added to the anticipation. I eagerly awaited the completion of the movie. In terms of product development, the main products were overseen by Kunihiro san and Ejima san, but I felt like I played a small part in it. For instance, I was responsible for the easy transformation (basic series) featured in the first movie line. Additionally, I worked on the protoform Optimus and Starscream figures. I particularly enjoyed the intricate designs—they were unlike anything I had seen before.

– In regards to the first movie, the Leader Class Optimus was truly a remarkable toy.
This was Kunihiro san’s first Optimus, and it featured rubber tires, adding to its quality. However, movie toys often have to be produced without finalised designs, which posed a challenge. Despite this, Kunihiro was determined to recreate the design as faithfully as possible, drawing inspiration from “Revenge” (laughs).

– The Revenge version of Optimus Prime is truly a masterpiece, leaving me in awe of the designer’s skill and creativity.
It truly was an amazing recreation.

Looking back over the past 40 years

– In recent years, you’ve been involved in the development of Masterpiece and MPG. How does this differ from your previous experiences?
The advancements in technology and changes in pricing have been significant. When I look at products from other companies, I often marvel at how far they can push the boundaries. While the development process itself may not have changed much, the environment has certainly evolved. Prototype makers have also progressed tremendously. While CAD is now commonplace, in the past, everything was done by hand. Prototypes were crafted, wooden moulds and wax moulds were created, and then they were meticulously examined before metal moulds were carved and turned into products. Adjusting wooden moulds was a cumbersome process back then, once they were made. In the past, you had to create a prototype to gauge its quality, but nowadays, you can easily assess the data in 3D. This allows for the creation of curved parts with ease, and any necessary corrections can be made immediately. As a result, the need for physical prototypes has diminished significantly.
Another significant aspect is the price. There are limitations to how much we can allocate to production costs, and we must adhere to a certain budget. Additionally, catering to an adult audience allows for more flexibility in design. Unlike toys for children, which must be devoid of sharp parts and built to withstand rough handling, products for adults can include more intricate details and features. This expanded scope allows for greater creativity and innovation in design. Furthermore, the complexity and number of parts involved in adult-oriented products are vastly different from those of children’s toys.

– Reflecting over the past 40 years, what are your thoughts?
Over the course of 40 years, the dynamics within the overall team have shifted. However, the Transformers team has remained relatively consistent. It feels like we’ve been following the same path for quite some time now. While we’ve recently welcomed new team members, there was a significant period where we didn’t bring in any new talent. One aspect I consider particularly beneficial is the opportunity to work on “Mutant Turtles” alongside projects like “Transformers” and “X-Men.” This allowed me to engage with the entire range of figures and contribute to the introduction of “Beast Wars” to the domestic market. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to not only participate in development but also gain experience in marketing.

– You were also inducted into the BotCon Hall of Fame in 2010.
Over time, there’s been a strong sense of mutual understanding between the developers and the company. Hasbro has consistently shown respect towards us, acknowledging our contributions by prominently featuring the Takara Tomy logo on the product packaging and integrating it into their marketing efforts. It’s truly gratifying to see the developers receiving the recognition they deserve.

(23rd April 2024 at Takara Tomy Headquarters)

Kojin Ono
Born on 11th May 1959, in Tokyo, he joined Takara (now Takara Tomy) in 1980, initially working on the development of Diaclone and Microman. His first projects included the Walk Insector for Diaclone and Acro Satan for Microman. Notably, he was responsible for creating the first car robot, the Countach LP500S Super Tuning. Over the years, he has been at the forefront of developing numerous transforming toys, including those in the Transformers and Brave Series. He also led the marketing for Brave Commander Dagwon and, after leaving the Transformers team, developed new toys like Kamiwaza Wanda in the Origwaru series.
In recent years, his work has extended to Masterpiece and MPG lines, as well as hobby items such as collaborations with Casio G-SHOCK and Canon. He frequently revisits and remakes products he originally worked on in the 1980s. In 2010, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his significant contributions to the Transformers franchise. His involvement spans from the inception of Transformers to the present day, solidifying his reputation as a Hall of Fame inductee.
His notable Transformers creations include Sunstreaker, Ironhide, Meister, Hound, Inferno, Streak, Rije, Prowl, Lambor, Skids, Trailbreaker, the Dinobots, Camshaft, Overdrive, Downshift, Metroflex, the Airbots, Fortress Maximus, the Trainbots, Metalhawk, Super Ginrai, Galaxy Shuttle, Landcross, Jackshot, Protoform Optimus Prime, Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp, Blitzwing, Astrotrain, Octone, Devastator, Galvatron, Apeface, Darkwing, Deathsaurus, Dinoking, Crossformer, Metro Titan, Protoform Starscream, Master Optimus Prime, Master Nemesis Prime, Canon/Transformers, Ultimate Optimus Prime, Masterpiece (MP-52 and later), MPG, and many more. His latest endeavour is the God Ginrai Project, part of the 40th-anniversary celebration.

LBD "Nytetrayn"

Broke the Matrix
Staff member
Council of Elders
Kinda weird to see the Beast Wars stuff referred to more as figurines than actual action figures, given the increased articulation that was more common with that line from the jump than before.


Staff member
Council of Elders
As a result, it appealed more to elementary school children rather than younger ones. Many of the transformations were intricate, and might have been too complex for younger children to fully grasp.

And they still chose to do what they did with the show. Good job.


Collecter of Gobots and Godzilla
Kinda weird to see the Beast Wars stuff referred to more as figurines than actual action figures, given the increased articulation that was more common with that line from the jump than before.
I wonder if that is kind of a translation issue? Or just differing terminology; as in "figurine" is a more posable figure in his mind, while he seems to consider the typical Transformers up to that time as simply "toys"?


Continuity Nutcase
And they still chose to do what they did with the show. Good job.
From what I've heard, Japanese kids who grew up with the BW dub actually loved it and thought it was hilarious back then. When the later War For Cybertron Trilogy cartoon was released on Netflix, the Japanese dub of that show brought back the original Japanese voices of Primal and Megatron, (Takehito Koyasu and Shigeru Chiba, respectively) and Japanese fans who grew up with the Japanese dub of Beast Wars as kids were actually saddened that Primal and Megatron didn't adlib and make jokey dialogue like they did in the BW dub.

Apparently, the whole reason that the Japanese dub of BW was made so wacky in the first place was because of its director, Yoshikazu Iwanami, having gained experience in making wacky dubs after having previously done so for the Japanese dubs of the 1987 TMNT cartoon and the 90's X-Men cartoon. And yet, the success of those dubs led Iwanami to do the same for the Japanese dubs of Beast Wars, Beast Machines, Animated, Prime, and Cyberverse. And for the Japanese dub of the 2003 TMNT cartoon as well.
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