Clay's review of: Megatron
Function: Leader of the Decepticons
What’s now a relic of yesteryear, the original Megatron still ranks highly for many fans. This is mostly because of the cool animation model used in the cartoon, but the toy has its positives as well. Being a realistic handgun has become somewhat of a liability, though…
Back in the days before the Columbine High School shootings, and even the much-closer-to-home-for-me school shootings of Paducah, Kentucky (roughly a 25 minute drive from my home), toy guns weren’t so ominous.
Even though the world would eventually change into a place that realistic toy guns are no longer appropriate, the attention to detail in the old design is still quite amazing. A complete version (really only available as the Takara #6 reissue) includes a scope, stock, silencer, and the spring mechanism required to fire tiny pellets*. That combination of real-item traits carried over to the toy is what really makes Megatron a good representative sample of the early Diaclone and Microman: Microchange lines of toys. Transforming wasn’t enough: they had to do as much as they could to pass for authentic scale model cars and household items.
*The original Takara Transformers release of Megatron only included the scope and the spring mechanism for the pellets. The Hasbro release had the scope, stock, and silencer, but not the internal spring for firing pellets. The Takara #6 reissue Megatron includes everything.
In Megatron’s case, however, the item chosen to be made into a toy robot was a very dangerous instrument. I can’t profess to be entirely knowledgeable, but I believe Takara’s decision to make transforming handguns was made easier with the fact that civilians aren’t permitted ownership of firearms in Japan.
The U.S., however, is a completely different matter. Hasbro only managed to market the original Megatron toy for a short while. While it would be safe to assume that the decision to kill off the character and replace him with the much more kid-friendly Galvatron was purely economical and only to market new toys, the fact is that no realistic handgun Transformers have been designed for the international market since 1983 (as of the time of this review, a Masterpiece edition Megatron, an oversized Walther-P38, is being planned for a Japan-only release in the spring of 2007).
Of course, my mother would never let me have toy guns of any kind (except water pistols), so I never owned a Megatron in my childhood. It’s probably just as well – given the overall fragility of the toy, even in gun mode, it would have never have lasted.
Megatron’s robot mode is infamous for being… well, lame. The proportions are bad, the trigger is suggestively placed for what one would hope to be an otherwise asexual robot, it bears little to no resemblance to the model that appeared in the cartoon, and it’s notoriously fragile. All are valid reasons as to why the original Megatron is sometimes slightly, sometimes very, maligned.
However, regardless of the implications of the alternate mode, the engineering involved in turning something so non-humanoid as a handgun into a robot is quite phenomenal. This is really what persuaded me to pursue a Megatron as an adult collector. Sure, the robot is a terrible toy to hand to a child because of the fragility issues alone, but for the careful collector, it’s really a gem of design. While all of the early vehicle Transformers could still be identified as analogous to living creatures – four wheels / four legs, headlights / eyes, engine / heart – a handgun is radically different from a biological frame.
That’s what makes Megatron so fascinating to me now – he’s truly, absolutely, a robot in disguise.
As to why the leader of the Decepticons turns into something so… submissive… as a hand weapon, the answer is probably that, combined with all of his accessories, Megatron could be sold at the same price point as his counterpart, Optimus Prime. This of course led to horrendous problems of scale and free-form mass shifting in the cartoon, but that’s not really the fault of the toy itself.
As to the dissentions of future versions of Megatron being tanks, one must remember that a tank is, essentially, a giant gun. In general, I prefer the idea of Megatron, character and toy alike, being a tank purely because of the independence factor, but the original has the charm of nostalgia, not just of my own childhood, but also of a friendlier world when children weren’t suspect.
9. Even as daft as the robot mode seems now, it really is wonder of engineering.
3. Some vintage Megatrons survive to this day to be resold on eBay, but this toy is renowned for snapping at the waist with as little provocation as an off-look.
X. Highly debatable. The differences between the two modes and the mechanism to alternate between them is intellectually stimulating, but I’d never give a child a toy gun that looks this convincing.
X. Really variable. A Takara reissue Megatron will give you everything in brand-new condition, but cost you between $125 and $250. An original, like mine, can have an even wider spread – I purchased mine loose and unbroken (with tech specs, instructions, and a partial fusion cannon) for a mere $25, whereas a boxed version in excellent condition could be $400 or more.
X. Too many variables to come up with single number. I like him, and I don’t like him. I think Megatron is a marvel of mechanics, and at the same time I really don’t like having something that looks this much like a real gun in the apartment.
Megatron definitely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and he definitely does not need to be re-released in any country that allows private ownership of firearms (like the U.S.), but he is an overall remarkable Transformer, and the greatest saboteur the Autobots ever had working for them…