Japanese exclusive Transformers are old news aren’t they? Big time collectors have long since moved onto areas like Euro variants, AFA graded museum pieces and pre-Transformers. If that was true, then 1988 Destrons such as Overlord, Darkwings and Black Zarak would not be commanding 4 figure sums. Still an extremely hot area of collecting, Japanese exclusives from the Masterforce series are not only popular because of their hyped status and unique moulding or colour schemes, they are also backed up by arguably the best Japanese Transformers anime of them all, Chōjin Masterforce (Super God Masterforce).
Continuing from last week’s look at some of the Japanese exclusive Masterforce Cybertron figures, this week we take a look at some of the more interesting Destrons from the same series. The prices for some of these Destrons have continued to rise over the years to the point where the best moment to buy any of them was 10 minutes ago. Also, as yet there has been no indication that Takara Tomy plan to revisit Masterforce having reissued God Ginrai a number of years ago. So for the time being, let’s continue to enjoy this line of precious (and sometimes delicate) plastic through the collections of our contributors…
In my opinion, Overlord is the poster boy for Masterforce. He represents the main villain in the series, although he is technically the sum of Godmasters Lady Mega and Lord Giga. If you remember from last week, most of the robot characters in Masterforce are in fact lifeless ‘Transtector’ mecha who combine with Headmasters or Godmasters. There are a few exceptions we’ll gloss over a bit later. Taking the God/Powermaster concept a little further, this huge double Godmaster was, apparently, originally intended to be sold as an Autobot/Cybertron, which some collectors feel explains his somewhat benevolent looking robot face. As it turned out, he made for a quite fantastic and eventually honourable villain, even though his true form was not revealed until nearly halfway into the anime.
Ironically, despite being a $1000 item in such unused shape and arguably one of the top 5 most desirable and sought-after Japanese Transformers around, the D-307 Overlord is not actually a Japanese exclusive! Overlord was available in gold classic-style G1 packaging throughout European countries such as Germany, Italy and the UK. There is never a day where an eBay search for “Transformers Overlord” does not turn up a boxed example, yet its value has continued to rise and he remains on many collector wishlists, including my own. I’ve never owned one, but his character in the anime and his exquisite appearance and size have fascinated me for some time now.
Even though Overlord was the most prominent Godmaster from Masterforce, he was not the first. German brothers Hydra and Buster were the first characters in the anime to exhibit Godmaster powers, subsequently terrorising the Cybertron heroes until Super Ginrai showed up, and even the lower ranked Destron Pretenders and Headmaster Juniors. This exceptionally presented repaint of G1 Transformers Darkwing and Dreadwind, collectively referred to in Masterforce as “Darkwings”, was available in the D-306 giftset. What I am noticing more and more is the developing gulf between the price of MIB Transformers and the price of pristine examples. According to our contributors, finding certain Masterforce Destrons in perfect MIB unused condition (or sealed) is a highly expensive and deceptively difficult endeavour.
Interestingly, as the Masterforce story unfolded, the brothers Hydra and Buster became increasingly downhearted at their constant defeats at the hands of God Ginrai and his Cybertron Godmasters. This led to the Destron deity “Devil Z” offering them the opportunity to become more powerful by permanently bonding themselves to their transtectors, effectively sacrificing their organic human nature. The Darkwings jets were also available individually packaged as D-304 Hydra and D-305 Buster.
Anyway, how about an intermission?
No, I haven’t made a horrible error, this is indeed a Cybertron C-308 Doubleclouder infiltrating our Destron party, but that is very much in keeping with the character given to Doubleclouder by the Masterforce anime writers. Originally the last Destron Godmaster to be found and recruited, this very powerful character eventually switched sides to the Cybertrons after acting as a spy among the good guys for the Destrons. Having seen the error of his ways, Doubleclouder then defected to the Cybertrons, but not without costing them their base of operations. While the toy did come with two Godmasters (Powermasters), they were never portrayed as two different humans, rather different sides of the same coin.
To quote Eddie Renzulli III “While Doubledealer is adorned with washed out silver decals and flat colored parts, C-308 Doubleclouder struts his stuff with gold decals, vacuum-metalized gold chest plate, moulded bright white plastic, and metallic silver accents on the missile and robot face”. It appears that even Doubleclouder has now entered the realm of the 4-figure exclusive, especially in unused condition. I do keep referring to toys in unused condition, but of course many of us would be satisfied with simple boxed complete specimens or even loose examples, but it’s sometimes a good idea for us to be aware of how high a figure can go and extrapolate the value of lower-grade examples from there.
Ahh Browning, a toy that inspires desire in a legion of fans and collectors, a prestigious relic from Takara’s Micro Change Series era of 1:1 scale everyday objects of interest that transformed into wondrous robots, yet another ancestor of the Transformers that finally made its way into the globally successful franchise, following in the hallowed footsteps of Megatron, Soundwave, Reflector, Laserbeak…so you would expect something grand for what many believe to be one of the very best toys from the pre-Transformers stable. That’s not quite how it worked out.
D-308 Browning made his Transformers debut quite late in the day, finally landing in The Transformers during the latter part of Masterforce. Considering he was a very classy looking firearm who had two not-insignificant firearms of his own, the fact that “Browning” ended up being a small correctly-scaled pet comedy gun/robot given to Destron Headmaster “Cancer” by Lady Mega was nothing short of genius. It was so far from what I imagined his appearances in Japanese Transformers anime would be, but ultimately highly entertaining and unforgettable. The Masterforce version of the toy had a unique combination very shiny silver chrome (free from the dark and gold tints of the Micro Change Series M1910 Brownings) and blue plastic innards. Even though it was not a new mould, Browning is one of the highlights of the Masterforce line.
As with last week, we end our tour of the Destron Masterforce squad by looking at its largest and most expensive figure, the Japanese Takara exclusive repaint and remould of Scorponok, the one and only Black Zarak. This utterly gorgeous masterpiece of villainy was the Destron secret weapon that caused destruction on an unimaginable scale in the closing stages of the Masterforce anime. Eventually being taken over by Destron deity Devil Z, Black Zarak was an almost invincible adversary. His and Devil Z’s ultimate demise heralded the end of Super God Masterforce.
The toy itself is tremendously striking, a wonderful combination of black, gold and red. Black Zarak has a remoulded helmet and a rocking great staff that Scorponok never had. I know that I keep bringing up the issue of price, but at nearly $4000, the going rate for a MIB unbroken specimen is unbelievable. A very significant contributing factor to that price is the inherent fragility of the gold plastic used on so many sections of Black Zarak. Beautiful as it may be, the horror stories of collectors finally plucking up the courage to transform this giant only to have it crumble in their hands are far too frequent. Some would cruelly say that’s a pretty show-accurate outcome for Black Zarak. Literally shattered dreams aside, its beauty is undeniable.
The characters and toys featured in this final part of our look at Chōjin Masterforce are not the full extent of the Destron army, more honourable mentions must go out to the Destron Headmaster Juniors Wilder (Fangry), Cancer (Squeezeplay) and Bullhorn (Horri-bull) who received a lot of airtime, as well as the non-human Seacon drones led by Turtler (Snaptrap) who formed King Poseidon (Piranacon). For the 1988 Takara Masterforce range, all six Seacons were available in the D-318 King Poseidon giftset as opposed to the 5 Seacons in the Hasbro Piranacon giftset.
Finally, I should mention the original Destron protagonists in the Masterforce anime who eventually became little more than comic relief in their endless quest to regain favour with their superiors, I am of course referring to the Destron Pretenders Blood (Bomb-burst), Dauros (Skullgrin) and Gilmer (Submarauder). These are just more examples of how previously uninspiring Transformers toys could be made interesting with an animated counterpart. And that’s the main theme running through most of the toys we’ve seen in the last two weeks, and the reason I bothered to write about them in the first place; a strong animated series with successful and meaningful characterisation, added to gorgeous exclusives and already-available toys presented beautifully. Kimi mo TRANSFORMER!
Massive thanks must again go to HighPrime, Brandon Yap and Eric Warren for the beautiful Masterforce collection pictures they have allowed me to use this week.
All the best