Japan, the birthplace of the robots in disguise that would eventually get to be known worldwide as the Transformers. Ever since their creation, Transformers have been very popular in Japan. Some would say even more so than in the US where the toyline and cartoon sort of died off sometime in the early 90’s before making a comeback years later. So being primarily a Transformers collector, I felt I had a lot to look forward to on my first trip to the land of the rising sun.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to Japan. I was hoping to find a lot of the Japanese imported Transformers in abundance at more reasonable prices. Unfortunately that didn’t end up being the case.
I was surprised to discover that Transformers weren’t as easy to find as I had hoped. First of all, unlike Hasbro, it seems like the main focus of Japanese Transformers manufacturer Takara Tomy is geared more towards the adult collector than children. Which is why I found very sparse selections of Transformers toys in the mainstream stores and malls. And the ones I did manage to find where quite expensive. To find the Transformers that I wanted I would have to dig in deeper.
Anyway, when it comes to collector toy stores in Tokyo, Mandarake is probably the most popular one with multiple branches around the city. While they do carry a lot of new and current stuff, I found that their specialty is more on older second hand toys. And their selection is so vast and different from branch to branch that it made sense to visit as many as I could. Anyway I made my first major “Transformers” purchase here. I used quotation marks cuz what I got weren't officially licensed Transformers but 3rd party products made by a company called Fansproject.
Now Fansproject is one of the older and more established 3rd party companies. A few years back, they released their sub-line called Function-X, which was their own version of the Transformers Headmasters.
For those who don’t know, “headmasters” was a Transformers toyline gimmick wherein the robot’s head would transform into an even smaller humanoid/robot hybrid who would then become the driver of the robot's alt mode. Upon their release, the first few robots from the Function X line received a lot positive reviews from collectors for having very innovative transformations, arguably some of the best of any transforming toy. Unfortunately, their initial release price was a bit much for me so I never got any of them.
So there I was, going through all the different toy boxes and all of a sudden I find not one, but two of the Function X series characters! And better yet, they were both being sold at a really good price. As an aside, this year, Hasbro re-launched the whole Headmaster gimmick in their new toyline called Titans Return. I’m pretty sure this is the reason why I found these Function X Transformers at such a low price as their former owner probably opted to go for the official releases.
Regardless, I had always wanted to get my hands on two specific Function X characters, Smart Robin and Quadrouple U, which were their versions of the Autobot Brainstorm and Decepticon Weird Wolf respectively. And just as if fated in the stars, those were the exact two that I found! In case you’re wondering, in order to help avoid any legal action from Hasbro, Fansproject (and basically every other 3rd Party company) don’t use the official character names for their products and instead use alternatives. Case in point, “Smart Robin” is actually an anagram of “Brainstorm” and as for Quadruple U, well, 4 “U”s kinda look line two “W”s….”UUUU” which are the initials of “Weird Wolf”.
Anyway, aside from those two, I did manage to get some official Transformers product. Q Transformers was a Japanese only line of super deformed Transformers launched in 2014. They were called "Q" as a play on the word "cute". Admittedly, when I first saw them when they first debuted online I didn’t really care for them. But when I saw the chance to complete yet another Seeker trio of Starscream, Thundercracker and Skywarp, I caved.
As it turned out these guys were really fun and not too expensive and they were readily available in most toys stores. So I caved once again when I saw my favorite Transformer Sunstreaker. Having Sunstreaker naturally meant I had to have his twin brother Sideswipe which I also eventually found. I then came across a cool 3 pack of Soundwave, Shockwave and Megatron, giving me a convenient way to get all the major Decepticons in "Q" form so they were purchased as well…and finally, to even things out, I just got myself an Optimus Prime. And just like that, I had an instant mini “Q-llection”.
The good thing for this is that aside from Japan these Q Transformers aren’t readily available anywhere else unless you pay extra for imports. I’m pretty happy with the guys I got…but all bets are off when I go back to Japan.
I really went crazy on that last day, aside from Loud Pedal, I ended up getting 2 more impulse buys that I initially didn’t set out to get. They didn’t fit in any of my current collections, but in the moment, at such great prices, I just could resist.
to be concluded...