There’s something incredibly Japanese about a small team of intricate and tiny transforming robots that combine to form a larger more powerful being, packaged in an attractive giftset depicting a soaring mechanical beast of battle. That is exactly what Takara started to market in Japan at the end of Battlestars: Return of Convoy with the above C-370 Sixliner, and then throughout 1992′s “Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformer Operation Combination”.
Officially the final G1 Transformers line in Japan, Operation Combination’s story was told in the pages of Telebi (TV) magazine, and consisted of four sets of combining Micromaster teams, or ‘Sixcombiners’, as well as repaints of Bruticus (“Battle Gaia”) and Defensor (“Guard City”) amongst others. The Sixcombiners were “Sixwing”, “Sixbuilder”, “Sixturbo” and “Sixtrain”, the nature of their respective team members easily derived from the name of the combined robot.
Designated TF-01, the construction Sixcombiner team “Sixbuilder” was available only in this gloriously presented giftset, never as individual Micromasters until the Takara Micromaster reissues. There are of course parallels to be drawn with Devastator and the Constructicons, especially with two members of the team being green and purple, one a dead ringer for Mixmaster. As with all these Sixcombiners and very typical for any Transformers gestalt, the essential anatomical parts of the bigger robot (waist, head, chest, thighs, feet, fists etc) are separate nexus points for attaching the team members to.
This rainbow combiner was slightly recoloured for his 2002 reissue, so the vintage release is exclusive in colour and the fact that it has a stickersheet compared to the more recent version having tampographs separates it even further. As with all the other Operation Combination Micromaster combiners, Sixbuilder’s gestalt parts and weapon combine to form a vehicle, this one is called the “Beat Jet” which is pictured on the box back:
The un-stickered robot does look decidedly plain, but it’s still nice to have the choice. Reissues with tampographs remove that choice, although the lack of sticker wear affecting their displayability is preferred by some collectors. The box back graphics are pretty similar for all the Operation Combination Sixcombiners, showing a nice action diorama in the top left corner.
TF-02 was Sixwing, a gorgeous combination of aircraft that made for a beautifully-proportioned robot. I managed to track down every single variation of this toy for a little while, that’s how much I liked it. Boasting a space shuttle, Air France-style liveried Concorde, helicopter and fighter jets, I can imagine this was one of the more popular releases in this line.
Sixwing’s combined form has the lovely jet-fighter wingspan as its chest and a healthy mix of Autobot colours. He was of course released in 2002 as a Decepticon in more sinister dark colours. The accessory vehicle was called “Sky Sweeper” this time, and in my opinion was not worth photographing for this piece as I imagine almost no one displays their Sixcombiners that way. Of all the teams, I feel Sixwing has the most attractive head sculpt and overall design, the helicopter blades on his back providing a classy final touch. This figure definitely benefits visually from applied stickers.
This lovely set of vehicles, designated TF-03 “Sixturbo”, has some nice touches and nods to popular Japanese automobiles of the time. The Honda NSX police car is based on a truly iconic Japanese sports car which was developed by the late great F1 legend Ayrton Senna while he was driving for McLaren Honda in the early 90s. Coincidentally (or not), there is also an F1 car member of Sixturbo who is obviously modeled on Senna’s Marlboro-liveried McLaren Honda, a combination that was massively popular in Japan at the time due to Honda’s involvement, golden era of F1 success and ownership of Japanese Grand Prix circuit Suzuka. The set also includes a fetching yellow Lamborghini Diablo and what looks like a mini blue Groove! There are a couple of emergency vehicles thrown in for good measure.
Just as Inferno and Ratchet get little love, the two larger emergency vehicles are lumbered with the responsibility of making up Sixturbo’s legs while the NSX-like Road Police takes centre stage. The proportions on Sixturbo are not quite as satisfying as they are on, say, Sixwing or Sixtrain, but the individual figures and head sculpt are a success. The accessory-vehicle is called “Falcon Wing”.
Skipping team leader TF-04 Guard City, we arrive at the last of the Sixcmbiners, a re-tooled and repainted version of the Battlestars “Sixliner”, TF-05 Sixtrain. As far as box artwork goes, Sixtrain stands above the rest in the series. Sporting a repainted TGV locomotive, Japanese style bullet trains, a steam locomotive and even a double-decker, the diversity-challenged train theme is well-exploited. And goodness knows I love my Train Transformers.
Not only do we have trains, but three coneheads as well, how could this team not be the winner? The eye-catching red and orange parts were replaced with more conservative blue and grey for the reissue…that was until the whole thing was doused in bright red for the 2003 reissue chase figure release! Interestingly, Sixtrain is the only one of the 4 Operation Combination Micromaster teams whose accessories and body parts do not combine into a single special vehicle, instead they act as booster parts for individual trains, a possible leftover trait from the pre-Operation Combination moulding and design of parent figure C-370 Sixliner.
Everywhere you look with these figures, you see thoughtful presentation, carefully considered design and effort. They are, as mentioned before, attractively and neatly packaged. The displayability of these toys is undeniable in either mode, combined and of course in their stunning giftset boxes. Even the sides and top of the boxes contain points of interest worth a second look.
It’s very hard to pick a favourite out of the four, Sixtrain has tremendous boxart and great proportions (not to mention trains), Sixbuilder has his distinct construction parts, stripy pants and Constructicon defectors, while Sixturbo has meaningful vehicle choices and great individual figures. For me, though, there’s only Sixwing. However, if you look at how many repaints and releases these moulds have inspired in the Transformers extended universe throughout the years, be it the Constructicon-themed Sixbuilder, oversized KOs featuring Gobots or the Universe Superion, you’d have no choice but to call them all winners.
Many kind thanks to Paul Hitchens and Eric Hall for essential photography, and to TFWiki and TFU.info for essential information.
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All the best