Why should collectors of modern – or even vintage – Transformers buy and collect the new TakaraTomy Diaclone line of figures that started in 2016? I believe there are a number of features and qualities of the new Diaclone line that would appeal to Transformers fans and would bring a different kind of enjoyment and fulfilment to their hobby, especially now since the line has moved beyond solely releasing Dia-Battles and Powered Suit repaints. TakaraTomy took the new Diaclone line up a gear with the release of DA-14 Big Powered GV in November 2017, and with it, expanded upon the already powerful appeal of the concept. I’m going to list some things that Diaclone and the best aspects of popular Transformers toys have in common, so you’re going to need your synth music soundtrack handy.
May I recommend some Droid Bishop, Carpenter Brut, Crockett, Robert Parker, Sellorekt/LA Dreams, Kalax, Waveshaper, FM-84, The Midnight, Obsidion, Gaia and September 87 to keep you company throughout this read?
Going back to just before the release of Big Powered GV, TakaraTomy’s Diaclone line, while enormously impressive and having had an impact, consisted of four versions of the Dia-Battles V2 figure, an add-on for it, nine variants of Powered Suit and two sets of armaments as well as 2 packs of Dia-nauts. Dia-nauts are of course what we also sometimes refer to as “Diaclone pilots” or “Diaclone drivers”. While for those who had already bought into the play pattern and superb quality of the line this was not a big deal (knowing Big Powered was on the way), for others it represented too slow a development of the line with many highly-priced repaints filling out the ranks. Enthusiasm can easily wane under those circumstances, and sure enough my own was fading by late 2017.
It meant that I had a stack of unopened new Diaclone toys that I had pre-ordered and did not feel compelled to open. This actually included Big Powered GV himself when he came out. I received it in November and opened it in late February, that should tell you all you need to know about my relative enthusiasm for Diaclone at that stage. I even skipped the Alpha Plus version of Dia-Battles and the Cosmo Marines repaints of the Type C & D Powered Suits. When I finally found time and energy to crack Big Powered open, it was the most revitalising and inspiring thing I could have done with regards to my Diaclone collecting. Add that to an astonishingly good promotional video TakaraTomy put out in time for Winter Wonderfest 2018, and the pieces were all back in place for me to kick on with my Diaclone enjoyment.
So if, as one of its most vocal exponents, I started to lose the love there for a while myself, how can I recommend it to Transformers collectors who aren’t yet emotionally invested? It’s completely down to the qualities of Big Powered GV and how he ties the whole line together for the time being. He embodies the qualities of the concept and execution of TakaraTomy Diaclone perfectly right now.
Collectors and lovers of Transformers have always had a relationship with the pilot-robot mechanic. Many of the original Diaclone toys that became Transformers had Dia-nauts, so the Generation 1 figures had seats and interiors just begging for drivers or pilots. By the time Transformers had made it to 1987, Headmasters and Targetmasters were a lovely throwback to the origins of the concept, using Binary Bonded Nebulans as an integral part of the play pattern. This was developed further with Powermasters, and to some degree the base bots that came with smaller vehicles, and then Micromasters. Just the whole inter-connectivity scene – the smaller figures populating larger bots and connecting of bases that are so memorable from that era of vintage Transformers – is integral to the new Diaclone play pattern, aesthetic and philosophy. So the first point is, there is an enormous amount of fun to be had.
With Big Powered GV, there is a superb feature where the accompanying Powered Suit goes into his chest and the main robot head is revealed, not at all unlike the Brainmaster gimmick from Transformers Victory. You can see the incredible base mode above which, thanks to 5mm pegs everywhere, allows for a myriad of combinations. A good number of Transformers collectors have recently enjoyed this sort of inter-connectivity, versatility and opportunity for creative play with Titans Return. The abundance of 5mm pegs, weapons, vehicles and base modes – not to mention small Titan Master figures – were superbly received and enjoyed by Transformers fans. TakaraTomy’s Diaclone line has that precise play pattern at its heart, with a higher quality of finish and engineering that is not constrained by having to re-create Generation 1 aesthetics to any degree of accuracy.
Transfans love a figure with more modes, and not just token ones that don’t look like anything, but properly convincing and functional modes. Each major Diaclone release, including the Powered Suits and their Armament sets, have this in abundance. Every one of the main 5 pieces that come off Big Powered makes a vehicle which in itself has an array of functions. The amount of pegs and combinations available to the figure by itself are such that the 24 page instruction book does not even cover all possibilities. That freedom to create something of your own is a real treasure of the Diaclone line. Dia-Battles was a similar story, and when you added a second Dia-Battles figure, it really amplified and justified the design decisions made with regards to parts-forming, simple transformations and looseness of mech construction.
We love a good, solid, rolling vehicle mode as Transformers fans. The chunkier the better, and should it be covered in gorgeously sculpted detail and thoughtful, uniform paint application and colouring, all the better. Diaclone toys have this in spades. Pretty much everything you see in that picture is detachable and attachable somewhere else on Dia-Battles or Big Powered. The Road Viper bikes that came with Dia-Battles and even the Big Powered Booster Pack can clip into those main trailer vehicles above. The big engines which double up as Big Powered’s arms can attach to Dia-Battles too. The Powered Suit containers – or “Raid Chambers” – have an attachment point on top that Dia-Battles and Big Powered’s “Bullet Fighter” shuttles can snap onto. Loads of pretty opening canopies and cockpits to fill with Dia-nauts, and extra Dia-naut packs mean that there will always be life and populated sections of the toys and any Diaclone display.
It’s not all about bases and vehicles and mini-figures, though. These toys pay an enormous amount of attention to the visuals, functionality and posability of the robots. There’s no established Transformers brand personality here for Western audiences, but there is still life and character in the faces of the robots and figures of Diaclone. Dia-Battles has a spectacular headsculpt, as does Big Powered. There is a story to Diaclone, and this range of toys do not actually represent a reboot, rather a continuation of the vintage Diaclone story. I spent over 2 years now imagining what a Diaclone TV series produced to the highest quality and set to a synth soundtrack would look like, then TakTom went ahead and produced it for me with their gorgeous Wonderfest video. Believe me, there’s plenty to fire the imagination and help you build head canon real fast.
Transformers Masterpiece collectors love to talk about posability and accessories, and this line of toys by TakaraTomy excels here also. The amount of dynamism that figures of every scale in this range are imbued with continues to amaze me. The feeling of all the joints, ratchets and swivels – as well as the firm connections between sections – truly makes one stand up and take notice of what TakaraTomy can do at a higher price point for toys of this size.
Everything about this line oozes premium. So whether it’s filling and connecting bases with figures, accessories and inter-connecting, changeable parts and configurations or simple transformations, you’re good. Posability or stunning looks, convincing modes and fine detail down to clip-on Powered Suit knife sheaths, or just plain beautiful robots and vehicles, this line has it covered. There are no shortage of gimmicks and functional aspects to the toys, ensuring that another collector will always discover something you have missed. Yes, they are supremely expensive, considerably so when compared to Transformers of the same size with similar aspects, and you will find collectors who have had QC issues with the odd figure. I have a Dia-Battles with a cracked wing joint and the ankles on my Cosmo Maneuver Type Dia-Battles simply can’t support its weight when all the parts are loaded on and positioned a certain way.
It’s not easy to convince people that $30 is worth it for a small kit that you have to build yourself, containing no paint application and that is basically just added weapons to be attached in a ton of combinations to a tiny Powered Suit figure (also $30). However, pound for pound, I have found TakaraTomy’s Diaclone line to be better value for money than high-end Transformers have been when it comes to hours of play and discovery, not to mention durability and playability. Titans Return and Legends rival them when it comes to value for money, but once you’ve delved into the Mission For the Future Frontiers with Diaclone, you’ll understand completely why they cost what they do and why I’ve sacrificed so much Transformers buying in order to army build virtually every figure in this toy line.
Now, bring on the bad guys.
For the sake of completeness, below is the full TakaraTomy line-up thus far (DA-19 and 20 not yet released). Keep in mind that some names are not precise translations, and those in bold are full, large figure releases:
DA-01 Dia-Battles V2
DA-01EX Dia-Battles V2 Prototype
DA-02 Powered System Set A
DA-03 Powered System Set B
DA-04 Dia-Naut Pack
DA-04-02 Dia-Naut Pack
DA-04-03 Dia-Naut Pack
DA-05 Powered System Set A and B -Cosmo Marines
DA-06 Dia-Battles V2 Cosmo Maneuver Type
DA-07 Cosmo Battles 02
DA-08 Powered System Set C
DA-09 Powered System Set D
DA-10 Powered System Set C and D – Cosmo Marines
DA-11 Dia-Battles V2 Alpha Plus
DA-12 Powered System Gyroceptor
DA-13 Powered System Dartloader
DA-14 Big Powered GV
DA-15 Big Powered Booster Set
DA-16 Powered System Cosmo Marines Armament set
DA-17 Big Powered Independent Mobile Squad Version
DA-18 Big Powered IMS Booster Set
DA-19 Big Powered GV Land Battle Cruiser
DA-20 Powered System Set E
Exclusive Powered System Set C Solid Scan Version
Exclusive Dia-Battles V2 Cosmo Maneuver head (Hero colours)
All the best