How do you spice up a Transformers niche sub-line that is struggling to garner attention and respect at a time when Takara Tomy, Hasbro and various 3rd Party companies are churning out all sorts of varied and quality product? Simple, add a villain. Not just any villain either, but that most iconic of Transformers despots, the Decepticon leader Megatron. In addition, make sure you promote the toys and series as widely as is appropriate, certainly to the most willing demographic; children and Japanese race fans.
Transformers GT has a lot of work to do if it’s to win over the initial doubters and general disinterest from the community. Masterpiece, Transformers Go!, Generations and 3rd Party Transformers have swallowed up many a collector’s available funds. A series of re-tooled Alternity GT-Rs with a hefty price tag, albeit with significantly improved paint jobs and heavy sponsorship from Japan’s Super GT championship, are having to work hard to compete. The 3rd release in the series, Megatron, has done as much as any addition to the line could have. We look at GT-03 Megatron this week as well as Takara Tomy’s other promotional activities under the Transformers GT banner. You can revisit a more thorough look at the series inception and philosophy in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series of articles.
With the packaging looking every bit as spectacular, busy and colourful as GT-01 Prime and GT-02 Saber’s, GT-03 Megatron fits seamlessly into the series. Arguably the most hotly anticipated figure in the admittedly short run of figures planned for Transformers GT, Takara Tomy have selected the record-breaking double championship winning S-Road Reito Mola #1 GT500 Nissan GT-R as Megatron’s vehicle form, piloted in real life by Ronnie Quintarelli and Masataka Yanagida. The S-Road Reito Mola team’s silver, black and red livery seems almost tailor-made for the Decepticon leader, making him easily believable and recognisable in his new shape.
Takara Tomy (and historically Takara) have an uncanny knack of designing series packaging in such a way that compels a collector to complete any sub-series or run of releases because they just look fabulous and ‘right’ when placed together. GT-03 Megatron is no exception, slotting alongside his GT counterparts effortlessly, Decepticon or not. The accompanying GT Sister (modeled as a Super GT Race Queen) is called “Noa”, a snappy career woman (thank you Google) who apparently shares a mysterious special relationship and understanding with GT Megatron unique within the story of TFGT.
GT-03 Megatron comes with the same style of instruction sheet fold-out, hand-weapon, aforementioned GT Sister + extra hands as the previous releases, as well as the 10 robot “GT points” on the inner flap which can be used to vote in the Masterpiece Fans’ Poll.
GT Megatron’s packaging features the following blurb: “Megatron is the leader of the Destron (Decepticons) from ‘Takatae! Cho Robot Seimei Tai Transformer (Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers), the TV animation series broadcasted in 1985. His alternate mode is an existing semi-automatic pistol. Various characters with the name “Megatron” appears in the Transformers animation series, such as Beast Wars, Micron Densetsu (Armada), Animated, Prime and the movies etc. There also was a character called ‘Gigatron’…with a bigger unit (I kid you not) , maybe he was stronger than Megatron, but you can never tell, and that’s why the Transformers world is so galvanizing!”.
We all saw what they did there.
This is where these toys excel. With Megatron in vehicle mode, everything collectors have come to expect from Transformers GT shines brightly, from the breathtaking, painstaking and faithful reproduction of the official S-Road GT-R livery to the rubber tyres, stunning gunmetal shades and opening doors & hood. Panel alignment for the most part is superb, with only the front grill being a usual spot of bother in that respect.
If the price tag and diligent supervision of Super GT did not mark these toys out as premium high-end product, then maybe the best paint jobs any Transformers toys have ever received did the job? The level of detail is staggering, one has to spend the appropriate amount of time poring over every inch of these toys to fully appreciate the effort that has gone into their presentation. That gorgeous aroma of fresh model spray paint is ever present too. It’s a shame that some specimens have been received with two of the same hand, or missing GT Sister hands, so quality control could be better at the factory.
It’s so easy to forget that Takara Tomy have not used a 100% accurate chassis mould for the Super GT GT-R, just a heavily modified road car shell, thanks to the existing Alternity GT-R mould. I dread to think what each figure would have cost if TT had actually made a new sculpt to correctly represent the lower and more aerodynamic GT500 Nissan race cars.
Collectors may have picked up Prime out of obligation, or maybe Saber due to the novelty and good looks, but it’s only when one puts all the Transformers GT cars together that the full effect and purpose of the line makes sense. These are racing cars, and every racing car needs rivals to race against. With three releases on the shelf now, a collector can produce a damn fine display and a solid attempt at a Super GT starting grid. Yes, they are all GT-Rs, but the liveries are so very distinct (with Prime and Megatron immediately recognisable) that a diorama will be anything but monotonous.
At the end of the day, though, we are talking about Transformers. Transformers have timeless alternate modes that non-collectors can relate to and remember, but it’s the robot mode that boasts the real character, and GT-03 Megatron has that in abundance. Colours? Proportions? Posability? Head sculpt? Weapon? Presence? Hell yes to all.
This utterly majestic creation stands well above Prime and Saber in robot mode, and I truly adore GT-02 Saber, but I just cannot deny the sublime execution on GT-03 Megatron’s figure mode. I would even go so far as to say that it is my favourite iteration of the Decepticon Megatron character since G1. Takara Tomy have done a terrific job of selecting an appropriate vehicle base for Megatron together with making such a relatively small robot so intimidating and true to form.
Staying true to the Transformers GT philosophy of a heavily-integrated motor racing theme, GT Megatron’s iconic fusion cannon that rests on his arm is in fact a fire extinguisher. That is just utter genius, and a remarkably well thought out accessory. Bravo. Its official name is “Cannon EX” and it can also be attached in vehicle mode between the rear wing halves. Megatron also has a clear visor above his face in reference to a race driver’s helmet, similar to that of Prime and Saber.
I will admit that I find these TFGT robots a little tricky to pose precisely how my imagination wants, but battle scene dioramas are an achievable reality, and they do look marvellous standing together. The short robot arms, coupled with Prime and Megatron’s relatively small hand weapons (compared to their G1 hand-weapons) almost reinforce the premise of the whole TFGT story where the characters are meant to do battle on the race track, primarily in vehicle mode.
Speaking of the story, here’s a translation and summary of a recent Takara Tomy website update regarding the Transformers GT toys by Allspark forum member Powered Convoy: “The story seems to be that the Autobots and Decepticons realized they need each other and that fighting at this point was useless. So to settle differences they began racing to see who was the best, with the races allowing for mid race fights – but if they remain in robot mode during the race for too long they’ll be penalized. The goal posts have energon that helps refuel the competitors as they pass each post. The winner of each race gets half the energon for the race and the overall winner has enough energon to be dubbed the “Strongest TF” for that year. The commanders come from different times and space and the matrix power is spread across them. The Decepticons also have a similar “Dark Matrix”. It’s hard to tell but it seems the GT Sisters are some kind of fabrication themselves; that they’re not real humans. Seems the GT Sisters some how provide (or is it suppress) the power of the matrix to their GTTF’s.“
Allspark member SwiftEagle adds further to the translation: “The GT Sisters are formed from the Matrix within each Autobot leader (same Matrix, different time periods), split off from the main body in order to limit their power for the races. Noa is derived from the Dark Matrix, which is passed down from each Emperor of Destruction to the next. When the GTTFs (TakTomy’s acronym for TFGT) need their full power, the GT Sisters go ‘Matrix In’ and return to their partners’ bodies.”
I must say, the GT Sisters have been quite neglected throughout this article so far, so without further ado…
As you can see, our “Dream Pit Stop Scene” has become even more elaborate with the release of a 3rd GT Sister and her fire extinguisher, intended for extinguishing fires in case Anna’s “Gas Fill Blade” causes external fuel ignition…as opposed to lamping Misaki over the head. The addition of GT-Maximus’s GT Sister “Hiiro” and the “Master Jack Sword” for elevating the car (instead of a Masterpiece cassette case) is something I am looking forward to massively. Imagine all 4 Sisters, all 4 TFGT cars and Masterpiece Prime’s trailer in one beautiful racing diorama, I cannot wait.
In addition to the bios and stories about Transformers GT on the Takara Tomy website and the one-shot manga seen in KeroKeroAce magazine, further promotion has been taking place in Japan:
This exclusive legends-class Transformers GT figure called “Safety Prime” is a free hand-out to children at Super GT race meetings, specifically on “Kid’s Walk” pre-race events where children and their parents, as well as other race enthusiasts, can wander through the pit lane and meet the drivers, getting autographs and taking photos. The promotion is called “Transformers x Kid’s Walk“. The “Safety Prime” toy is modeled after the series safety car (or pace car), officially designated “Character 5” and supposedly accompanied in the TFGT manga by another GT Sister “Ai”. The toy comes sealed in a baggie with fold-out instructions.
The character is clearly based on Prowl (and the toy’s base mould was previously seen as Legends class Reveal The Shield Prowl) with appropriate tampographs and Super GT decoration. This item has already proved incredibly tricky to secure, and the one Yahoo Japan seller who listed 6 of them sold out in less than 2 hours! Already a Transformers GT line completist has their work cut out for them.
Further confirming Takara Tomy and Super GT’s decision to promote this line of figures towards a particular demographic, Super GT outfit Team Mach who run a Ferrari 458 Italia in the GT-300 lower tier series had their Race Queens wear Transformers GT-themed outifts at certain race events in 2013, resembling Ai’s outfit as seen on the Safety prime paperwork above:
This is a reasonably significant cross-promotion for Takara Tomy as the Super GT Race Queens are quite public figures and models with their own followers and semi-celebrity status. It’s almost disappointing that those outfits can’t be purchased on the Team Mach webstore!
Aaaanyway, these novel and interesting off-shoots from the main Transformers GT line are what make the series so interesting in my opinion. Successfully melding the concept of racing cars as Transformers, fully-licensed partnerships and strong cross-brand promotion will hopefully bode well for future licensed Transformers products (*cough* Masterpiece) and ensure that the Transformers GT series goes beyond the 4 announced figures. Maybe we’ll get a full-scale Safety Prime figure? A black GT-R repaint “Black Convoy” as the Nismo GT500 Test Car would also lie well within the realms of possibility. For all the work Takara Tomy is putting into the project in Japan, I still feel as though Transformers GT is not making as much of a splash in the West as it deserves. If a figure as good as GT-03 Megatron doesn’t grab your attention, maybe nothing TFGT produces ever will. Kelal Yamamura aside.
All the best