The online Transformers fandom has been going loco this week after the tease of a new TakaraTomy Masterpiece toy, an event which is always sure to get keyboards chattering! However this particular reveal was also a bit of a curveball, as it was announced that the character selected for the treatment will be Raiden.
The fact that after years of clamouring by fans for an official Masterpiece combiner TakTom have decided to give us one in the form of a character a lot of people have no clue about is something I'm here for. https://t.co/7cGsi68Fuf
— Sixo (@SixoTF) December 2, 2019
TakaraTomy had teased an announcement of a new project involving the character, but I don’t think anyone expected that it was going to be in Masterpiece form. It’s also set to be the very first official Masterpiece combiner, which raises a lot of unknowns in itself! So without further ado we’re counting down the 10 major questions we have about this new toy.
#10: Who is Raiden?
Perhaps unsurprisingly this was the first question on a lot of people’s minds – Masterpiece who?! After all, the original Transformers toy was only ever released by Takara in Asian markets, first in 1987 under the Headmasters line as both six individual robots and as a single giftset, and then again in 1990 under Zone as individuals. Although the character would also feature fairly prominently in the Headmasters cartoon, anyone who grew up with the Hasbro toyline and Sunbow TV series might be completely unaware of the existence of the character at all!
The toy was originally designed as part of the pre-Transformers Diaclone line (along with Devastator), and was one of only a few toys to not initially be repurposed for release as part of Transformers in the first two years. The Trainbot team consists of six members – Shouki, Getsuei, Yukikaze, Suiken, Seizan and Kaen – all of whom form different types of trains and can also merge together to form the Raiden gestalt. Similar to Devastator the limbs are not interchangeable, unlike the Scramble City combiners such as Bruticus, Defensor, Menasor and Superion.
The original toys are now some of the most sought-after items from the whole of Generation 1, and will regularly command very high prices on today’s aftermarket. They can be exceptionally hard to find in mint condition, especially as the white plastic used can easily be prone to yellowing. It will be interesting (and very scary) to see what the new Masterpiece reveal does to their desirability!
#9: When will the new Masterpiece toy be released?
Photo credit: snakas.blog95.fc2.com
Short answer – we don’t know! The reveal only just happened this week as part of an exhibition called “A Railway Story in the Sky” in Japan, and all that we actually saw was a very large silhouette which doesn’t appear to even be of the toy itself. Also on display were some recent Masterpiece toys and the original G1 Raiden giftset, but the lack of a physical prototype being unveiled indicates that this could still be a little way off yet. We’d hope to maybe see a proper reveal within the next few months leading to a release before the end of 2020 if we’re being really optimistic, but it could well be a lot longer still. Hopefully TakTom can go full steam ahead and keep the project on track!
#8: How big will it be?
OK, this is the BIG one, and we don’t just mean the toy itself. Given that this is the very first official Masterpiece combiner it will set a lot of precedents for how these characters are going to be realised as part of the premium line. Up until now we’ve had a huge number of unofficial third party attempts at combiners, all of which have interpreted things their own way and delivered combined forms in varying heights, but it’s fair to say that moving forward Raiden will be the yardstick against which everything will be measured. Literally.
Given how slavishly cartoon accurate they are, a lot of fans look to the likes of toys such as Unite Warriors Devastator or Power of the Primes Predaking to fill out their Masterpiece-styled ranks, and both of those clock in at roughly the 18-inch mark at head height. It’s possible that TakaraTomy might be sensitive to cross-pollinating with other lines and design Masterpiece Raiden to work at a similar scale, but we suspect that might leave a number of collectors feeling a bit short-changed, too! Equally, there are a number of 3P combiners that all clock in around the 21-inch mark, including the likes of Zeta Armageddon and Kronos and Toyworld Constructor, and it would definitely be impressive to see Raiden measure up to their lofty standard. Or hey, maybe they’ll go even bigger and put every other attempt in the shade! Either way, it’s potentially going to present a conundrum for collectors who have a lot of unofficial combiners in their collection already should they end up feeling out of scale with whatever ends up being the established height of an official MP toy.
#7: How long will it take to transform?
Artwork credit: botchthecrab.com
Another pertinent question considering how complex a lot of recent Masterpiece toys have tended to be. MP-39 Sunstreaker redefined how intricate a Masterpiece Carbot can be and definitely felt on a different level to stuff like MP-12 Lambor, and since then both MP-44 Convoy and MP-45 Bumblebee have proven to be significantly more challenging to transform that their predecessors in the line. However the idea of six incredibly detailed robots all requiring lengthy transformation schemes between modes and then more time spent to build them into a combined form is one that not everyone is necessarily relishing, and so we wonder if TakaraTomy might scale the complexity back a bit for a project like this. After all, the animation model that will doubtless be the basis for this new toy isn’t a million miles off the original toy, so in theory TT should be able to deliver a relatively simple design and still have it be both cartoon-accurate and feeling worthy of the Masterpiece brand.
#6: Will it include partsforming?
Artwork credit: seibertron.com
One thing that all 3PMP combiners do very differently is their approach to partsforming, and specifically how it’s used to make the combined form of the character in question. On the extreme end you have the likes of DX9 Attila, where the Menasor form is mostly made up of the bulk of the trailer section from their attempt at Motormaster, with the individual characters essentially just being add-ons, or toys such as Zeta Armageddon or Kronos where the entire main body and upper legs are a separate pieces with the main robot plugged in the back. However on the other end you have stuff like the upcoming Ocular Max Assaultus, which is an attempt to deliver an all-in-one combined form with zero partsforming, something that company have been proud to shout about.
In reality there is currently no “correct” approach to how these impressive combined forms are achieved, although it’s fair to say that everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter! There are some who hate the idea of partsforming in any shape or form, whereas many others welcome it even in the extreme sense in order to achieve a more stable or better proportioned robot. We have no idea what TakaraTomy’s approach will consist of but, similar to the question of size, whatever they end up doing will doubtless set a precedent for third parties looking to produce toys that can work alongside it. We’re feeling confident that whatever they do it will end up being pretty clever though!
#5: How will the combined mode be engineered?
Artwork credit: botchthecrab.com
A similar question to the above, but another thing that’s unique about each non-official attempt at a Masterpiece-style combiner is the engineering that’s employed in order to make the Big Man mode stable and solid whilst still being fun, articulated and poseable. 3P outfits have had a range of success on this front, with the major danger being that the combined form either ends up feeling like a precarious mess or ends up being a bit of a brick with little play value. We’re pretty confident that TakTom will have some clever and interesting solutions at play with their first MP combiner, and we can’t wait to see how they achieve it!
#4: Will the train modes fit a particular gauge?
Trains are a really popular thing in Japan, and so it’s perhaps little surprise that a project like Raiden was greenlit to begin with. What could be interesting though is if they decide to craft the new toy to work with a particular gauge of model train set, such that it could even roll on a set of tracks. Most people with even a passing knowledge of model trains will know that gauge denotes the size of track used (specifically it’s the distance between the rails if you want to be really nerdy about it), but how big would they go if they chose this option? Some projects of this kind use Tomy’s own Plarail system, but it may be that the size of the train mode requires them to go for something else, or it may be that this just isn’t a feature that TakTom plan on incorporating at all! Maybe they just need to gauge the amount of interest for such a feature. Ahem.
#3: Will this lead to more non-Hasbro characters?
So we know that Raiden was a non-Hasbro/ non-Sunbow character in G1, but let’s not forget that he’s not the first such toy to be giving the Masterpiece treatment. MP-24 Star Saber was released back in 2015 after winning a fan vote, but it’s perhaps a little surprising that since then we haven’t seen any sign of other characters from any of the G1 Japanese series such as Headmasters, Masterforce, Victory etc. Star Saber was a hard sell for a lot of fans in the West, and you’ll often see comments online saying that although they like the design people have no affinity with the character. Should Raiden prove popular then perhaps this might change things a bit and open the door to more such releases. Then who knows what will be rolling down the track next?
#2: How much will it cost?
Photo credit: snakas.blog95.fc2.com
It’s not unfair that people are already asking this question, especially given the recent uptick in price tags for Masterpiece toys. Most releases since MP-39 have caused some level of comment about how expensive they have been compared to MP toys from years gone by, but MP-44 is perhaps the most obvious case where the retail value had a fair few collectors turned off completely. So people are naturally a little concerned about the idea of a full-on Masterpiece combiner and just how much that’s going to set them back. As with the engineering, we’re kinda hoping that TakTom take this into account and manage to deliver the project on a budget that doesn’t have people running for the hills. Of course we’re all assuming that the six-member team will be released in one go, whereas perhaps they’ll see fit to release them individually – time will tell.
#1: What does this reveal mean for the 3P Raidens?
Ok reposting this as I’d initially assumed it was Zeta Raiden but now comparing it with their design it looks quite different. Any ideas? pic.twitter.com/00DBjM7Lga
— Sixo (@SixoTF) December 3, 2019
It’s always the way, isn’t it? You wait for one and then several come along at once. Well ok, that’s buses, not trains, but it’s still true in this case. Yes, not only do we have an official MP Raiden on the way, but there are at least two, maybe even three unofficial attempts in the works right now too. Zeta toys revealed a grey prototype of their first team member back at TFCon and there have also been some blurry photos of a Toyworld attempt at the character doing the rounds too. Then just this week another photo surfaced online showing a grey mock-up of a Raiden toy standing at the same height as Power of the Primes Predaking, which doesn’t appear to be either of the previous attempts. The speculation is that this is a custom of some kind, although interestingly it seems to be sporting the same pair of hands as Unique Toys Ragnaros, so perhaps there’s more to it than we know.
Either way, what will now happen to these unofficial attempts at the character? Will they get stuck in the station or will they carry on full steam ahead? It’ll be interesting to see how each of them plays out, and indeed how they shape up against the official attempt should any of them go the distance.
So, that’s our list! Did we miss anything about the new MP Raiden reveal?