We’re back for the second and final part of our walkthrough of the wonderful Takara black keychain Minibots from 2003.
This set was all released as 7-Eleven exclusives in Japan. Although they were primarily seen in their traditional G1 colours, the same as the vintage toys they’re modelled after, these blind-boxed chase variants were given a very different makeover instead! It’s quite unusual to see such familiar designs represented in such a fashion, making these four toys stand out from the crowd.
The next to look at in detail is Brawn. Like his comrades in part 1, he is an entirely new mould, although one that replicates the vintage equivalent down to a tee. Whilst the differences were more evident on Cliffjumper than Bumblebee before, here they are virtually indistinguishable, to the point where I could have honestly been convinced the two toys hailed from the same mould, even on close inspection.
What ultimately gave it away was the subtlety of detailing on the chest, with the keychain figure having slightly deeper ridges and the recessed section towards the shoulders being ever-so-slightly more significant, too. It’s still hard to spot, but the evidence is there. Oh, and of course, Brawn now also has the noticeable hook section moulded atop his head on the car mode’s front bumper!
Speaking of the car mode, it looks fantastic in black, feeling at once a world away from the same design in its traditional greens and burnt yellows. Of all the toys on show here, this might be the one that seems the most distinct and the one that most makes me wish we’d seen the rest of the 1984 Minibot crew done in this same style. I’m sure Gears and Huffer would have looked just as fabulous.
Still, I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially as I’m just happy to have finally tracked down this black kechain Brawn at long last. Like Cliffjumper in part 1, he proved elusive for the longest time, eventually turning up nearer to home than expected in the possession of another UK collector who offered him for sale.
Rounding off the set is WIndcharger, a toy design I will never tire of, even if it has been remoulded for this release. This is arguably the toy with the most evidence of it being distinct from the vintage tooling, with noticeably softer edges and lines in places, particularly on the head and chest. The angled corners on the silver faceplate are certainly not as distinct as the 1984 design. The visor doesn’t look as angular either, which makes him look a little less ‘angry’ than he traditionally does!
There are more telltale signs elsewhere, though, with those three notches below the head looking more shallow than before. This one has the most obvious keychain hook, too, positioned directly on Windcharger’s head, so it’s hard to miss. However, none of it detracts from this design or this particular release, as it’s still a remarkably stunning toy overall.
Windcharger’s Pontiac Firebird Trans Am alternate form has always been a beauty, but in black? Oh, mama, this is working for me! And yes, despite the oversized tyres and chibi proportions, there’s a distinct KITT from Knight Rider vibe at play here, which I’m sure won’t be lost on anyone who grew up as a fan of that show.
Of course, remoulding has some advantages; in this case, the keychain toy is easier to stand up stably when compared to its vintage counterpart. Ultimately Windcharger will still take a tumble if you’re not careful, but every little helps! The keychain mould was also used to the 2002 Botcon exclusive Rook.
So there we have it! Four classic toys brought back to life in replicated form and with entirely new sultry colour schemes. Whether you’re into the idea of odd collectable curios, black repaints, or you simply love seeing classic Generation 1 designs done in weird formats, there’s quite a lot to love about these releases. Perhaps the only minefield to navigate is their pricing, as they pop up so infrequently that no one ever seems sure what value they should retain. However, in my experience, they still go for surprisingly less than you might think, making them a potential cheap niche to carve out in your own collection.
Again, it all makes me wish there’d be more of these along the way, but I’m also happy that these four exist to begin with. Well, and that I was able to track them down at long last. Job done.