One of the many parts of vintage Transformers collecting that never ceases to be fascinating is Generation 2.
A large part of that is undoubtedly the sheer volume of prototype and mock-up stuff hanging around unproduced, just teasing us with what could have been. Yet the toys that made it to retail also continue to have their surprises, especially when you factor in the Takara releases.
True, most of the Takara stuff is nigh-on identical to what we received from Hasbro bar the packaging, but the so-called ‘G-2’ line did reserve a bit of a quirk for its take on the Go-Bots. There may have only been three of them released in total, but that’s not so bad when you consider the entirety of G-2 was just nineteen toys over one year. Hardly the most auspicious outing for Takara.
I’d long been aware of the Optimus Prime and Megatron, but if anything, the recent revelation that the Soundwave release varied to its Hasbro counterpart finally motivated me to give these little overseas lads a look. I’m glad I did.
The packaging is essentially the same as their original USA release as it transpires, albeit with a prominent red sticker just above the main franchise logo. It’s strange to think of these cards as suitable for the Japanese market, although at least the reverse side was altered to include a generic set of instructions in the appropriate language.
Not that Go-Bots are known for causing much confusion with how they transform, mind. Another quirk of the English cards being shipped overseas in this format is that the G-2 Go-Bot is the first toy with the name ‘Optimus Prime’ to be released in Japan, as opposed to ‘Convoy’, so that’s fun.
Anyway, all three of these specimens have changes to their American counterparts, although it’s more evident on some than others. The first thing to note is that they all look superbly uniform in their car modes because of the rather tasteful ‘T’ logo adorning their bonnets. This tampo is a big part of the intrigue in the case of two of these toys.
You see, whilst the G-2 Go-Bots may be similar at first glance, the logo is the main difference between the two versions of Optimus Prime and Megatron, as it is entirely absent on the originals. It makes this set feel more cohesive, but it’s also a delightful variation on the plain finish Western collectors will be more familiar with.
In Optimus’ case, it sets him quite apart from the uninterrupted red of the original Lamborghini Diablo alternate form and plays up those distinct early ’90s vibes as a result. There’s something almost entirely synthwave about it, and I’m here for it.
That’s far from the only difference in Optimus’ case, though. A quick conversion to robot mode will show you that some of the colours have also been changed, with the Takara take most noticeably sporting a much more vibrant yellow. To my eye, the white is also a lot more stark versus the original’s slightly warmer finish.
Moving onto Megatron, it’s a similar story in the vehicle form. The bonnet logo provides a welcome splash of colour on that silver Porsche 959 design, standing out as arguably the more visually appealing of the two as far as the car mode goes.
The changes to the robot mode are not quite so prominent elsewhere, but those with an eagle eye will spot a fairly distinct variance in the blue plastic. The Takara take looks much more saturated by comparison, almost to the point where I might think my Hasbro copy was slightly discoloured (except I am very sure it’s not).
Finally, Soundwave is the least changed in his vehicle form, which I’m sure has allowed him to fly under my radar for so long. These two Ford Thunderbird stock car specimens might look identical for now, but their robot modes will reveal some of the most significant changes of all…
Yes, in robot mode, these two have entirely different colour schemes! The Takara version is now red and grey in place of the original’s blue and purple, which seems like a very unusual palette swap indeed. Some might argue it’s not bad in that it most certainly allows you to make out the detail of the moulded face that much easier, but either way, it’s quite fascinating. How did it come to be?
Well, it becomes immediately apparent that this small run of toys will have been gang-moulded together, meaning the same plastic mould was used to simultaneously produce different pieces on the various toys. In this case, it seems reasonably likely that Optimus’ yellow parts were made alongside the bulk of Soundwave’s body, for instance, whilst his head was presumably part of the same mould as Megatron’s lower legs.
Similarly, Soundwave’s legs look like they were moulded along with Optimus’ body, given how the two are essentially now the opposite colours of one another. As for the inner body, upper legs and head, this seems like a definite colour match to the grey found on Megatron, so I suspect that answers that.
Megatron is arguably the one of the three that raises more questions, if only because he shares so much less in common with the other two. However, one theory has been previously posited that, if true, might go some way to explain how this all came to pass.
The Botcon-exclusive Go-Bot known as Nightracer was released in 1995 at the same time as these three Japanese releases. They ended up going to very different audiences, but even a cursory look at Nightracer’s colours will show you the main body is predominantly black, which may have been gang-moulded alongside G-2 Megatron, given how the opposite parts are the same colour on that figure. Equally, the yellow on Nightracer does appear to be a solid match to the same colour found on both G-2 Optimus and Soundwave. We may never know if it’s true, but it’s a fun point to speculate either way!
In any case, it’s another part of the overall Go-Bots adventure that makes these little toys so intriguing to collect. It’s become a bit of a mission to amass the various recolours (and their subsequent Spychanger repaints) from over the years, so adding the Japanese G-2 variants to my collection feels like a definite step forward in that direction.