Nevermore's review of: The Transformers Binaltech & TF Collection Complete GuideTitle: The Transformers Binaltech & TF Collection Complete Guide
Release date: March 2005
Size: 160 pages
Price: ¥2,800 (without tax; ¥2,940 including tax)
Okay, just in order to avoid some basic misunderstanding: I don't speak Japanese, and aside from interpreting Katakana, I can't read it either.
Therefore, I can only judge his book by its pictures, and by what other people who do understand Japanese told me about the written content.
Special thanks to SydneyY for all the names of the people interviewed and to Hirofumi Ichikawa (and to Doug Dlin for forwarding the question) for identifying the Japanese artists of the Binaltech toys' and the reissues' artwork!
The book is divided into three sections: "The World of BINALTECH", "Development sketchs & Pictures" (spelled exactly that way) and "TF COLLECTION & more Items".
Section 1: The World of BINALTECH
Section 1 begins with a double-page spread (pages 4-5) that features the Japanese artwork (which was featured on the bio cards and in the booklets that came with the Japanese toys) for the first twelve Binaltech toys from BT-01 (Smokescreen) through BT-12 (Overdrive). Okay, truth to be told, the artwork for the original version of Smokescreen is actually the same Pat Lee artwork that was also used as the box artwork for the Hasbro release of Alternators Smokescreen, and aside from the typical overblown Pat Lee proportions, you can also tell that the coloring is not the same as for the rest of the characters, all of which have been drawn by Japanese artist Hidetsugu Yoshioka.
Pages 6-7 feature a double-page spread intro for BT-01 Smokescreen (the "#7" version), consisting of a large photograph of the robot mode, two smaller photos that depict him in mid-transformation and another large picture of the vehicle mode, an info box about G1 Smokescreen and a data file about the real-life Subaru Impreza WRC 2003, including photograps of drivers Tommi Mäkinen (#8, retired) and Petter Solberg (#7; the latter holding Smokescreen #7 in his hand).
Pages 8-9 feature an extensive showcase of the Smokescreen toy. He's shown from all sides, both in robot and in vehicle mode, and additionally, the "#7" and "#8" versions are compared as well. Detail close-ups and concept designs (the same ones also depicted in the "system description" from the Japanese toy's booklet) round off the showcase. Note: The photographs feature his feet slightly mistransformed, giving him somewhat extremely high heels.
Pages 10-11 repeat the double-page "intro" for BT-07 Smokescreen GT. Again, large photographs of both the robot and the vehicle mode are connected by two smaller pics of the toy in mid-transformation. Instead of a "Generation 1" data file, the first page features an info box about the "Binaltech story", while the second page features the obligatory data file about the real-life Subaru Impreza WRC 2004, including photographs of drivers Petter Solberg (#1) and Mikko Hirvonen (#2).
Pages 12-13 again showcase the toy in all its glory, with comparison pics of the "#1" and "#2" versions, concept designs and detail close-ups that point out the changes from the original release of Smokescreen. The feet are mistransformed again (high heels), but probably the worst insult in the face of the fans is the fact that all photos of the robot mode depict Smokescreen GT with two shoulder launchers!
Next up is a double-page (pages 14-15) photographic guide on how to transform Smokescreen (using Smokescreen GT #1). Info boxes entitled "POINT" point out important steps one might overlook if not paying attention.
Pages 16-21 feature the obligatory double-page intro for BT-03 Streak (including a "Generation 1" info box and a data file about the real-life Subaru Impreza WRX), a double-page showcase of the toy itself (with "high heels" again), complete with concept designs (some of which can again be found in the "system description" from the Japanese toy's booklet) and detail close-ups, and a (somewhat redundant) double-page photographic transformation guide.
Following this, the book offers four pages (22-25) of "Subaru meets Transformers Binaltech". The section features an interview with Hitoshi Tsuboi, vice counselor of Fuji Heavy Industries' intellectual properties department, who's also depicted at the beginning of this section, another photo of some mistransformed and oddly posed Streaks and Smokescreens in a case filled with Subaru merchandise, some more pics of the real-life Imprea WRC 2003, and finally some photos of Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg holding Smokescreen.
Next up, BT-02 Lambor (known as "Side Swipe" to Hasbro buyers) gets the standard six-page (26-31) treatment (double-page spread intro with "Generation 1" info box and data file on the real-life Dodge Viper SRT-10, double-page toy showcase with concept designs and double-page transformation guide). The same is then repeated with BT-05 Dead End (pages 32-37). Needless to say, the photo of the real-life Dodge Viper Competition Coupe doesn't depict the car in black but in red (the same car that can be seen here). What's even more interesting is the fact that the concept design for the rear view of the robot mode is using an older, abandoned transformation scheme where the doors would be attached to the car's rear section/robot mode backpack, the front grille halves folding up behind the legs in robot mode, and the rear window would have also been transformed differently than on the actual toy. Those early designs are covered in detail in section 2 of the book.
Next up is BT-04 Hound, with the standard six-page (38-43) feature (the data file for the real-life Jeep Wrangler depicts the vehicle in a color that's called "Light Khaki Metallic", while color the Hound toy comes in is called "Deep Beryl Green", according to Jeep's official website), followed by BT-09 Swindle (pages 44-49). Again, the real-life vehicle is depicted in Light Khaki Metallic (the Swindle toy's color, though existing in real life, is not featured on Jeep's official website), and with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.
Following the Jeeps, we get to see BT-08 Meister (pages 50-55). The red and the white version are depicted side by side, with the white version being the focus (although the real-life Mazda RX-8 is depicted in "Velocity Red Mica", which is the official name of the red version's color according to the Japanese toy's packaging). Similar to the "Subaru meets Transformers Binaltech" interview, we're then treated to four pages (56-59) of "Mazda meets Transformers Binaltech". The section features an interview with Ikuo Maeda, the chief designer of the Mazda RX-8 (A Japanese with a beard! A rare view), and we're also shown some Mazda in-house designing stuff (unfortunately, there are no pics of the original Mazda Flash animation for the "RX-8 Transformer" which would eventually end up as Meister).
After the Mazda section, BT-06 Tracks is next (pages 60-65). Again, we're shown both the yellow and the blue version (with the flame sticker attached), with the focus being on the blue version, and the real-life Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is also depicted in blue. Tracks is followed by BT-11 Ravage (pages 66-71), including a really nice comparison pic of yellow Tracks, Ravage and blue Tracks.
Next we come to BT-10 Grimlock (pages 72-77). It should be noteworthy that the double-page showcase not only features the obligatory concept drawings (which differ vastly from the finished toy - see page 104 for more), some of which can also be found inside the Japanese toy's booklet, but also a Hasbro color guide (Finally! English text!) for the (at that point still unnamed) Ford Mustang Alternator. Interestingly enough, the color guide dates from March 10, 2003 (!), giving an indication on how long at least some of these toys have actually been in the works. The photographic transformation guide, meanwhile, is cheating a little by actually suggesting to detach (!) both the wrists and the doors while transforming Grimlock.
The last toy to get (more or less) properly covered by the book is BT-12 Overdrive (released as "Windcharger" by Hasbro). Unfortunately, it appears he was a last-minute addition, hence he only gets a really brief two-page (78-79) feature. The real-life Honda S2000 is depicted in a color that's known as "Suzuka Blue Metallic" according to Honda's website (which had previously been rumored by another site to be the color of the Overdrive/Windcharger remold, which eventually ended up as Decepticharge).
The last page (80) of the "World of Binaltech" section introduces the reader to the "Alternators series", offering the US version of Decepticharge (whose Japanese counterpart, Binaltech Wildrider, had not yet been officially announced at the time the book came out and has just recenty been indefinitely postponed ater having been renamed into "Black Widow") as a contest prize. The prizes have recently shipped in late October 2005 and came in standard Hasbro packaging, but are not considered "USA Editions" by Japanese fans regardless.
Section 2: Development sketchs & Pictures
Unlike the first and third sections, which are printed in full color on glossy high-quality paper, section 2 is printed in dark blue & white only and on much rougher paper (hence the name "blueprints"). The introductory page (81) depicts a silhouette of Smokescreen GT's robot mode, once again with two shoulder launchers attached.
Pages 82-83 feature early concept designs of Smokescreen's transformation mechanisms, with varying levels of detailing in the drawings. Page 84 features a really rough draft of Smokescreen's Japanese step-by-step instructions, also with a huge variation in terms of detailing (some sketches depict the vehicle mode simply as an oval with wheels!). Page 85 features a more detailed concept design of both Smokescreen's robot mode (front and side view) and vehicle mode (front, top, bottom and rear view), with multiple levels of details drawn in as if the body parts were translucent. The lower half of the page features early drafts of the Japanese artwork for Streak, Tracks and Swindle (see pages 4-5 for the finished versions), with Swindle's head still being based a lot more on G1 Trailbreaker's toy head design (see pages 88, 100 and 101 for more on the story behind Swindle and Trailbreaker).
Pages 86-87 feature an early version of Lambor's transformation mechanism. The abandoned mechanism concept with the doors attached to the backpack in robot mode (first seen on page 34) is depicted in detail, as is the steering mechanism. What's particularly interesting is the fact that the head appears to be meant to represent Tracks rather than Sideswipe (it's drawn as a circle with eyes, a mouth and a crest on the forehead). The story behind Tracks and Lambor is going to be covered on page 98. Also depicted on page 87 is a rough sketch of Lambor/Sideswipe with his classic G1 transformation scheme, but a Dodge Viper hood as his chest.
Page 88 then treats us to the Jeeps, depicting rough sketches of Hound's and Swindle's vehicle modes, furthermore the concept artwork for Hound's robot mode that was already featured on page 40, however, this time the front view appears to be colored (due to the lack of colors in this section, it only shows up as various shades of black, though), while the rear view appears to be sporting colored highlights on the back of the legs (might be an unfinished color model; again, it's hard to tell due to the lack of actual colors on the page), and finally, in the lower half of the page, rough designs of Hound's and Swindle's head sculps. However, the Katakana (Japanese letters) next to "Swindle's" head says "Trailbreaker", thus being the first evidence that Swindle was indeed originally designed to be Trailbreaker (David Willis originally pointed out the similarities between Alternator Swindle's and G1 Trailbreaker's head designs way back in June 2004, right after the first pics of a test shot had surfaced).
Page 89 is also interesting, as it shows us an older version of the concept designs for Hound (both front and rear view), which is not only using a slightly different transformation scheme (the entire back section in robot mode was originally supposed to fold together a lot more), but was also designed to be a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (identified by name in English on the page), which whould have been lacking rear seats. There's also some concept studies of the Rubicon in vehicle mode, also without the rear seats. Also featured on the same page is an early version of Hound's Japanese artwork (again, see page 5 for the finished version), with a horribly misproportioned right leg and some added suggestions for a corrected version.
Page 90 features some rough sketches for (Corvette) Tracks' individual parts as well as an explanation for the tires, which were originally designed to say "Goodyear Eagle F1", but just like the Viper's tires, the name of the tire company was changed to a fictional "Cybertronian Radial", probably for trademark/licensing reasons (see here for a test shot of Side Swipe with "Michelin" tires).
Page 91 holds yet another revalation, depicting the infamous "Sunstreaker" prototype (complete with molded Autobot symbol!) side by side with G1 Sunstreaker, thus confirming that he was originally intended to be Sunstreaker and not a Decepticon. Also featured on the same page are a side by side comparison between a Lambor/Side Swipe prototype and G1 Sideswipe as well as Hasbro color guides for Tracks (yellow Corvette) and "Sunstreaker" (still with the "doors attached to backpack" transformation scheme). Both of them are once again pretty much useless due to the lack of color on these pages, but it looks as if Sunstreaker (he still has an Autobot logo on the color guide) was at least at one point meant to be black and not yellow! The only other explanation would be that this might have been a transitional concept (black color, but still an Autobot), which would also explain an obscure store listing that listed him as "Blackstreaker" (!). However, due to the fact that Takara have recently released the "Binaltech Asterisk" version of Sunstreaker, and Hasbro are also going to release their own version of Sunstreaker within the next few months, all the speculation has now become somewhat moot.
Pages 92-93 not only feature some early designs for the remolded parts on Smokescreen GT, including a detailed concept of the shoulder laucher, as well as some head sculpt studies for Meister's head (one of them being fully colored, but again falling victim to the lack of colors on these pages; another one depicting the eyes without the visor) and some rough line art for the concept design of Meister (the one also printed in the "system description" from the Japanese toy's booklet), but also some photographs of one of the most interesting features of the entire book: An unused prototype of Jazz, based on a Porsche (fellow German fan Addl, who happens to be working for Porsche, tells me that it looks like it's based on a 986 Boxster), which was never approved by the car manufacturer. That very prototype was first hinted in December 2003 in an interview with Japanese Binaltech designer Hironori Kobayashi (English translation of said interview) as the first Binaltech/Alternators design ever. Later, in March 2005, former Hasbro designer Joseph Kyde also publicly confirmed having seen the toy in Hasbro's officies in 2002. For those wondering, the tiny human figure depicted next to the Jazz prototype appears to be Cyclops of the X-Men! What should also be noted is that this Jazz prototype remained completely unused. Not even the head sculpt, which was closely based on the G1 toy's head sculpt, was recycled for the Meister toy.
Pages 94-95 then feature detailed concepts of Smokescreen and Streak. I was confused at first because the WRX is depicted next to Smokescreen and the WRC next to Streak, but it appears the car models have simply been swapped by accident. Also included are some detail concepts for the individual parts and transformation mechanisms and a suggestion to replace Streak's head sculpt with Smokescreen's (as the Takara interview on pages 113-117 confirms, Streak, being the street version of the Impreza, was originally planned to be the first release of the mold, with the rally version being supposed to be the remold, just like Dead End, Laserwave/Shockblast, Wheeljack and Wildrider/Decepticharge are also the tuned up racing versions of the original releases of their respective molds). Another version of these designs explains which parts of the WRX/Streak would have to be changed in order to turn it into a WRC/Smokescreen.
Pages 96-97 then feature large versions of the concept designs for Lambor and Dead End (the same ones already featured on pages 28-29 and 34-35, respectively). Just like on page 34, the rear view of the robot mode again uses the original transformation design, with the doors attached to the backpack, the rear window folding back instead of forward and the front grille halves folding up behind the legs. Also, the rear view of the vehicle mode is identified as "GTS/Sunstreaker" in English, thereby once again confirming that he was originally supposed to be Sunstreaker, with "GTS" being the old name of what is now nown as the SRT-10. A funny addition on page 96 is a rough concept for Smokescreen's packaging, even including the booklet, the bio card and the little plastic bag that contains the weapon!
Page 98 then shows the older designs for the Dodge Viper, which was at that point still sporting Tracks' head sculpt (as was originally hinted on page 87). The transformation scheme once again is the original version, with the doors attached to the backpack and the front grille halves folding up behind the legs. The reason for this can once again be found in the aforementioned interview with Hironori Kobayashi (English translation) as well as in the Takara interview on pages 113-117 of this book: Not only did a "certain well-known German sports car" manufacturer (i.e. Porsche) deny Hasbro/Takara the license, but a "certain well-known American sports car" manufacturer initially did the same. Apparently, Chevrolet originally didn't sanction the use of Tracks as a Corvette, which is why Hasbro and Takara redesigned him as a Dodge Viper instead. When Chevrolet had a change of mind, they put the head sculpt on the Corvette body, while a new Sideswipe/Lambor head sculpt was created for the now headless Viper. Page 99 then features the proper designs for Tracks in his Corvette body, as well as the designs for his remold, Ravage (sporting an Autobot symbol, oddly enough), including some head sculpt design studies.
It's hard to tell, but the early designs for Tracks sported a different, spring-loaded mechanism for the arm cannons. In fact, that design even made it onto early prototypes (as seen in an old advert printed in Dengeki Hobby Magazine), including the hand-painted one depicted in the Takara version's booklet. However, that idea was probably scrapped for safety reasons on Hasbro's side, seeing as the earliest Hasbro test shots we saw were already missing that feature. However, the spring mechanism was also depicted inside Hasbro's instructions of the toy, oddly enough.
Page 100 revisits the Jeeps, this time depicting the finalized robot mode designs for Hound and Trailbreaker, complete with rear seats on the back of Hound's legs (unlike the early designs from page 89). Did I say Trailbreaker? Yes, as previously hinted on page 88, Swindle's head sculpt was based on Trailbreaker, and on this page, the designs are even clearly identified as "Trailbreaker" in English. Subsequently, page 101 features concept designs for Hound's and Swindle/Trailbreaker's vehicle modes, including an explanation for the suspension mechanism of the front wheels and a detailed illustration of how the weapon is hidden inside the spare tire. On the bottom of this page, we are treated to color schemes for both Trailbreaker and Swindle (names spelled in Katakana again). Unfortunately, since the page is once again lacking color, Trailbreaker's color scheme can only be guessed. Looks like he would have indeed been black, though.
Pages 102-103 then feature the finished concept designs for Meister, some of which we aleady saw on page 93. The design illustration of the RX-8's vehicle mode also features some additions that explain which parts of the street version of the RX-8 (Meister) would have to be changed in order to turn it into a Mazdaspeed (Laserwave/Shockblast), similar to the Streak/Smokescreen remold suggestions on page 95. The head sculpt design studies from page 93 are depicted again, this time in higher resolution, and additionally, the individual parts are once again shown in detail, including an unused early design for the weapon.
Page 104 features concept designs for Grimlock (some of which can once again also be found inside the "system description" from the Japanese toy's booklet) as well as detailed designs for the individual parts. It's noteworthy that the original designs look somewhat different from the final toy: The rear window halves are missing from the legs, the trunk would have folded differently, the skidplate would have split up into three parts and thus would have looked less bulky, and most importantly, the chest (which is formed by the front of the car) is based on a totally different Ford Mustang model with a different bumper, a different hood and only two instead of four headlights.
Page 105, in turn, not only features some more Grimlock parts and some concepts for the weapons (sword and gun, with the gun sporting a third barrel that does not show up on the actual toy), but also some head design studies of both Grimlock (some of which can again be found inside the "system description" from the Japanese toy's booklet) and the originally planned remold, which was not going to be Wheeljack but… Windcharger. And this is not Overdrive who was released as "Windcharger" by Hasbro, but the head sculpt that ended up on the body of Wildrider aka "Decepticharge". Frankly, it doesn't really look like G1 Windcharger (even less so than Swindle looks like G1 Trailbreaker), but the English text next to the head clearly identifies it as "Windcharger head". Page 111 is going to expand on this revelation.
Page 106 features blueprints for Smokescreen, shown from the front and the side in robot mode with the head sculpt and the weapon also depicted separately, and the vehicle mode from the front, rear, side and top. According to the data file, this blueprint dates from December 18, 2002. Page 107 does the same for Smokescreen GT, with the launcher being depicted both attached to the robot and vehicle mode, and separately from all sides. This blueprint dates from April 9, 2004, which pretty much indicates that Smokescreen GT was indeed a last-minute addition to the line, which was previously confirmed by Hirofumi Ichikawa, the writer of the official "Binaltech story". Oddly enough, the data file states the design's name as "Streak" in Katakana, not "Smokescreen GT".
Pages 108 and 109 feature blueprints for Tracks and Sunstreaker, the two Dodge Vipers, although the English text identifies them as "Lambor" and "Dead End" ("Lambor" clearly sports a Tracks head). The transformation scheme is the early version again, with the doors attached to the backpack, the front grille halves folding up behind the legs and the rear window folding back behind Sunstreaker's backpack. Unfortunately, there are no data files included, therefore it's not possible to tell when these blueprints date from. Even worse, instead of depicting blueprints of Tracks/Lambor's vehicle mode, Sunstreaker/Dead End's robot mode blueprints are shown twice.
Page 110 features blueprints for Meister (no name given in the data file yet, probably because Hasbro and Takara were still hoping for approval from Porsche for the unreleased Jazz prototype depicted on pages 92-93), dating from October 31, 2003. Page 111, in turn, though claiming the design is for "BT-10 Grimlock" on the top of the page in English, actually depicts the aforementioned remold with a "Decepticharge" head. The data file, dating from June 22, 2004, identifies the character as "Wind Charger", in English, thereby confirming that the head sculpt was designed to be Windcharger and not as "Megatron", as some people claim.
Finally, page 112 features the blueprints for Hound, dating from May 28, 2003, with some added design explanations for the feet and the Autobot flip symbol. No blueprints for Trailbreaker/Swindle, Tracks (as a Corvette), Streak, Ravage or Overdrive are to be found inside the book.
So, to sum it up, we have:
Back to the book, pages 113 to 117 feature a joint interview with Hironori Kobayashi and Keisuke Shirakami of Takara and Satoru Washizu of Part One Inc., for which a translation is is available here, hence I'm not going into any more detail.
- Smokescreen: Originally planned as the remold of Streak, not the other way round.
- Lambor/Side Swipe: Originally designed to be Tracks, with a slightly different transformation scheme that would have seen the doors attached to the backpack and the front grille halves folding up behind the legs.
- Streak/Silverstreak: Originally planned as the original release of the Subaru Impreza mold, with Smokescreen being the remold, not the other way round.
- Hound: Originally designed as a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, with no rear seats and a back compartment that would have folded together a lot more in robot mode.
- Dead End: Originally designed to be Sunstreaker, possibly planned to be black at one point, also with a slightly different transformation scheme that would have seen the doors attached to the backpack, the front grille halves folding up behind the legs and the rear window folding back instead of forward.
- Tracks: Originally (or at least temporarily) designed to be a Dodge Viper instead of a Chevrolet Corvette, later got his head sculpt moved back to the Corvette body. Corvette tires originally designed to sport the name "Goodyear Eagle F1" instead of "Cybertronian Radial". Also originally planned to come with spring-loaded arm cannons.
- Meister (Jazz): Originally designed to be a Porsche, but got completely restarted from scratch as a Mazda RX-8.
- Swindle: Originally designed to be Trailbreaker, with a G1 Trailbreaker toy/cartoon model hybrid head sculpt, then got a color change and became a Decepticon, just like Sunstreaker/Dead End.
- Grimlock: Based on a different Ford Mustang model, with a slightly different transformation scheme (trunk folding differently, skidplate splitting into three parts).
- Ford Mustang remold (Wheeljack): Originally planned to be Windcharger, head sculpt eventually ended up on Wildrider/Decepticharge's body.
Section 3: TF COLLECTION & more Items
This section screams "filler". Why does a book about the Binaltech line need a third section about Takara's G1 reissues? Guess they wanted to have a book with more pages, and hence shoved in the TFC section. Oh well. I hope the revised version of this book (hey, they did it with Generations, plus we already have Laserwave, Wheeljack, Prowl and the upcoming Skids plus the entire "Binaltech Asterisk" sub-line, so there should soon be more than enough material to justify an updated version) will be 100% pure Binaltech this time around.
Similar to the introduction of section 1, pages 118-119 feature the box artwork to all the TFC releases from No.0 Convoy through No.18 Soundblaster. While No.3 Skids, No.4 Tracks, No.5 Smokescreen, No.8 Inferno, No.9 Starscream, No.11 Astrotrain, No. 13 Hot Rodimus, No.14 Hound, No.17 Blitzwing and No.18 Soundblaster have all been done by Japanese artist Hirofumi Ichikawa, most of the others undoubtedly originate from Dreamwave's former owner Pat Lee: Both No.0 Convoy (Optimus Prime) and No.6 Megatron are taken from Pat Lee's old "movie" posters that served as teasers for DW's first "Generation 1" mini-series, No.1 Meister (Jazz) and No. 2 Prowl are both taken from the "Autobot" cover of Dreamwave's Generation 1 vol. 1 #2, No.7 Lambor (Sideswipe) is taken from the "Autobot" cover of Dreamwave's Generation 1 vol. 1 #4, No.10 Soundwave (including Laserbeak) is taken from the "Decepticon" cover of Dreamwave's Generation 1 vol. 1 #5, No.12 Minibot Team (Bumble/Bumblebee, Adams/Cosmos, Gears, Drag/Huffer, Powerglide and Warpath) are taken from the "Autobot" cover of Dreamwave's Generation 1 vol. 1 #3, and No.16 Insectrons (Bombshell, Kickback and Shrapnel) are taken from the "Decepticon" cover of Dreamwave's Generation 1 vol. 1 #3. Speaking of, the artwork for No.3 Skids is also used as the box art for the Hasbro version, Commemorative Series VIII Skids, and likewise, the artwork for No.4 Tracks double-serves for Commemorative Series V Autobot Tracks, while the artwork for No.5 Smokescreen double-serves for Commemorative Series VI Smokescreen, the artwork for No.15 Stepper (with Targetmaster Nebulon) is also used for Commemorative Series IX Ricochet with Nightstick, and the artwork for No.11 Astrotrain double-serves as the artwork for the upcoming Commemorative Series IX Astrotrain. Because of this, it's quite possible that Stepper/Ricochet's artwork, which is the only one whose artist is still unidentified, was commissioned from Hasbro to Dreamwave again and then also used for the Takara version. Not reused for the Hasbro counterparts of the respective reissues is the artwork for No.8 Inferno, No.9 Starscream and No.13 Hot Rodimus (with Targetmaster Firebolt), whereas the Minibots, No. 14 Hound, the Insectrons, No. 17 Blitzwing (erroneously identified as "Insectron" in English) and No.18 Soundblaster don't have a Hasbro reissue counterpart to begin with.
Pages 120-121 depict the No.0 Convoy (Optimus Prime) reissue, showcasing both the robot and vehicle mode, the combat deck and also spotlighting the orange energy axe (à la "More Than Meets the Eye, Part 2") that came exclusively with this particular reissue of Convoy. Unlike the Binaltech section, this section also features the packaging of the toys. As a special bonus, at the bottom of these two pages, there's also some brief information (including packaging photos) of the original 2000 Takara reissue of Convoy (with the packaging being in somewhat roughed up condition) as well as the 2002 "New Year Special" reissue of Convoy that came with a Matrix necklace and the previously Hasbro-exclusive Action Master Optimus Prime figure (repainted in show-accurate colors). Both accessories are depicted as well. Lastly, page 121 also depicts the binder that can hold the bio/data file cards which come with the Japanese reissues. Not depicted are the lucky draw prize version of Convoy with gold chromed smokestacks and hubcaps and gold Buggy (Roller) and the Jaf-Con exclusive black repaint of Convoy.
Page 122 then showcases the 2001 reissue of God Ginrai ("spelled "Jinrai" in English), which was not a TFC reissue, but is featured in the "Convoy" section nevertheless. Subsequently, page 123 features the e-Hobby exclusive "Fire Guts" God Ginrai/Jinrai repaint.
Page 124 features No.1 Meister (Jazz), including a side by side comparison with his (white) Binaltech counterpart as well as a close-up explanation of how the arms of G1 Meister/Jazz are stored in vehicle mode. The e-Hobby exclusive gold chromed repaint of Meister is not depicted. Page 125, in turn, depicts the 2000 Takara reissue of Ultra Magnus as well as the "Collector's Edition Series 2001" reissues of Ironhide and Ratchet (G1 Ironhide was never released in Japan before aside from the black Diaclone version, while G1 Ratchet was only available via mail order), none of which were TFC reissues. Both Ironhide and Ratchet are missing the "face" stickers behind their windows. Neither of these three toys is depicted in packaging. Not depicted are the 20th Century Toy Museum exclusive "shining" version of Ultra Magnus (also known as "Matrix Glow Ultra Magnus") and the Toy Festival 2001 exclusive "movie preview" version of Ultra Magnus (in his Diaclone color scheme, which was also featured in early trailers for Transformers: The Movie).
Being a remold of Meister, page 126 naturally continues with No.15 Stepper, with a detail feature of his Targetmaster companion Nebulon. And since we're already dealing with black toys, page 127 then briefly showcases the 2001 Toys'R'Us Japan exclusive "Nucleon Quest Super Convoy", which is basically a black repaint of Super Ginrai/Jinrai without the additional Godbomber trailer, and characterized as Convoy (Optimus Prime), not Ginrai. Also featured on the same page is what appears to be an info box about the TF Collection series.
Page 128 features No.2 Prowl, also including some pics of the e-Hobby exclusive companion Streak (in "show accurate" colors, which is also one of the two original Diaclone color schemes of the toy). For those who didn't know, the original G1 version of Streak (Bluestreak) was never reissued by Takara so far, unlike Hasbro, who released him as Commemorative Series III Silverstreak. Again, "Anime" Streak is not depicted in packaging. Page 129 then features No.5 Smokescreen, including a side by side comparison with his Binaltech counterpart, Smokescreen GT (#2 version). Not depicted is the e-Hobby exclusive companion piece, a silver chromed version of Streak.
Page 130 continues with No.3 Skids, with close-up details of the weapons and the open trunk, while page 131 depicts the e-Hobby exclusive companion piece, Crosscut, a silver version of Skids with a different head sculpt and a tiny city roller, which is based on one of the many Diaclone precedessors of the Skids toy. Also featured on page 131 are the "Collector's Edition Series 2001" reissues of Trailbreaker and Hoist (again without packaging), with a detail pic showing Hoist together with Crosscut (probably based on the "Hilux Wrecker/Honda City S" Diaclone set).
Page 132 then showcases No.4 Tracks, including a side by side comparison with his (blue) Binaltech counterpart, while page 133 features the black repaint of Tracks, with was only available as a lucky draw prize for buyers of the 2002 Transformers: The Manga collection release, as well as Road Rage, the red e-Hobby exclusive repaint of Tracks (based on yet another Diaclone color scheme, which was also released by Milton Bradley as the original European version of Tracks in 1985).
Page 134 features No.7 Lambor (Sideswipe), including the obligatory side by side comparison with his Binaltech counterpart, while page 135 depicts the three (!) exclusive redecos of Lambor: Deep Cover (black Sideswipe) and Clamp Down (police Sideswipe), both of them e-Hobby exclusives, are based on Diaclone color schemes (the black version was exclusively available as part of the "Powered Convoy DX" giftset which also included the Diaclone version of Ultra Magnus and a red version of Mirage), and so is Tigertrack (yellow Sideswipe), who was exclusively available via mail order for buyers of Figure King magazine.
Page 136 continues with No.8 Inferno, with a detail photo depicting the fully extracted ladder, as well as a photo of the previous "Collector's Edition Series 2001" reissue of Inferno in packaging, while page 137 features Grapple (another "Collector's Edition Series 2001" reissue), again without the packaging, but with a detail photo depicting the fully extracted crane hook. Also briefly covered are Road Hauler, the e-Hobby exclusive repaint of Grapple (companion piece to TFC Inferno, meant to represent the never-seen-again "Hauler" character from the cartoon's "More Than Meets the Eye" pilot who looked exactly like Grapple in vehicle mode) and Alert (Red Alert), another "Collector's Edition Series 2001" reissue.
Pages 138-139 are reserved for the No.12 Minibot Team, consisting of Bumble (Bumblebee, with a remolded "show-accurate" face), Powerglide, Adams (Cosmos), Drag (Huffer), Gears and Warpath. G1 Adams and Warpath were only available via mail order in Japan, and G1 Gears was a Hasbro-exclusive release outside of Microchange. Also depicted are the e-Hobby exclusive repaints, identifed as the "G1 Gobots" here, interestingly enough. Takara couldn't officially associate the repaints with the Tonka Gobots for legal reasons (hence the official name for the e-Hobby release is "Dimension Exploration Researchers"). Needless to say, Bug Bite (Bumblebee), Bad Boy (Powerglide), Pathfinder (Cosmos), Small Foot (Gears), Road Ranger (Huffer) and Treads (Warpath) are not identified by name in the book (and neither were the toys, for that matter).
Page 140 features No.13 Hot Rodimus (Hot Rod), with a close-up detail feature of his Targetmaster partner Firebolt, and also a photo of the original 2000 non-Targetmaster Takara reissue of Hot Rodimus in packaging. Meanwhile, page 141 showcases the two Toy Festival 2001 exclusive "Crystal Rodimus" and "Black Rodimus" repaints (neither of them depicted in packaging) as well as the 2001 non-TFC Takara reissue of Rodimus Convoy (Rodimus Prime), though not depicted in packaging either. Also not depicted is the 2004 Transformers Generations Deluxe lucky draw prize "Primus", a gold chromed version of Rodimus Prime, characterized to be the Transformers' god Primus himself (the character originally created by Simon Furman for the Marvel UK G1 comic).
Page 142 depicts No.14 Hound, again including a side by side comparison with his Binaltech counterpart. Page 143, in turn, depicts Hound's e-Hobby exclusive recolor, the Junkion mercenary named Detritus, including a packaging photo. Also featured on this page is an interview with Hiroyuki Azuma of Takara's marketing department, this time about the TF Collection series.
Pages 144-145 are eye candy for Western fans: No.6 Megatron, complete with a close-up detail feature of the purple energy mace (à la "More Than Meets the Eye, Part 2") that came exclusively with this particular reissue of Megatron, the counterpart to No.0 Convoy's energy axe. Aside from the obligatory robot, gun and rifle mode photos (including the sword that was exclusive to the various Japanese releases of Megatron), page 145 also depicts some addtional modes for Megatron's gun accessories, which can be used either to form a combat deck or some sort of targeting super-weapon for Megatron. Finally, page 145 also depicts the fully packaged BotCon Japan 2001 exclusive black version of the 16-S "Special" reissue of Megatron, which was based on an old Microman color scheme, as well as the e-Hobby exclusive companion piece to No.6 Megatron, named "Megaplex", which was based on yet another Microman color scheme that was also used for the Japanese 1985 VSX Convoy vs. Megatron giftset.
Page 146 features No.9 Starscream in a "show-accurate" color scheme and with remolded fists which now sport peg holes, which, in turn, can be used to hold a tiny Megatron rifle that comes exclusively with this version of Starscream and which is given its own close-up showcase feature. Also depicted is the original 2001 Takara reissue of Starscream in packaging. Not depicted are the e-Hobby exclusive recolors, Black Starscream and "Ghost" Starscream, and neither is the Transformers Generations exclusive lucky draw prize "Secret Color" Starscream, which is using even more clear parts than "Ghost" Starscream. Page 147 depicts the "Collector's Edition Series 2001" reissues of Thundercracker and Skywarp (no packaging pics) as well as the e-Hobby exclusive companion piece to TFC Starscream, Sunstorm, whose color scheme is based on an obscure background filler "character" from the cartoon's "More Than Meets the Eye" pilot and who also ended up playing a pivotal part in Dreamwave's short-lived "Generation 1 vol. 3" ongoing series. It should be pointed out that Starscream's jet mode is depicted without weapons on page 146, while both Thundercracker and Skywarp are depicted with the wrong missiles in robot mode on page 147, and one of Sunstorm's missiles is facing the wrong direction on top of that.
Page 148 depicts No.10 Soundwave, with Condor (Laserbeak) getting a close-up detail feature. While his remold, Soundblaster, is reserved for later in the book, page 149 depicts the "Collector's Edition Series 2001" reissues of Dirge, Thrust and Ramjet (Thrust apparently again with the wrong missiles in robot mode).
Page 150 showcases No. 11 Astrotrain in his original Japanese black & white glory, while page 151 features his e-Hobby exclusive counterpart, Astrotrain in a "prototype" color scheme (as depicted in the original 1985 Hasbro catalog) which was also used for the cartoon model, complete with a packaging photo.
Pages 152-153 depict the No.16 Insectron set, consisting of Bombshell, Kickback and Shrapnel, including a close-up detail showcase of the Energon cubes which came exclusively with this reissue set. Also featured on these pages are the e-Hobby exclusive companion pieces, the Insectron Clone Army, consisting of Salvo (Bombshell), Shot Hole (Kickback) and Zaptrap (Shrapnel), all of them in their original Diaclone/Waruder color schemes, complete with a photo of the packaging.
Pages 154-155 showcase No. 17 Blitzwing, as well as the obligatory e-Hobby exclusive repaint, Overcharge (again, an old Diaclone color scheme), complete with a packaging photo. Page 156 features No.18 Soundblaster, with detail close-up features of his Cassettrons, Buzzsaw and Jaguar (Ravage). Apparently, the packaging for Soundblaster wasn't available yet at the time the book was printed, hence we only get another look at the box art (the first time was on page 119). Also not depicted, probably again for deadline reasons, are the e-Hobby exclusive "Cobalt Sentry" repaints of the cassettes, Howlback and Garboil.
Wer're approaching the end of the book, as page 157 features the 2002 Takara reissue of Sixshot. Not depicted are the Hyper Hobby magazine exclusive lucky draw prize, a clear version of Sixshot, and the Figure King magazine exclusive lucky draw prize, a black version of Sixshot. Finally, pages 158-159 showcase the 2004 non-TFC reissue Predaking giftset, with spotlight on all five Animatrons (Predacons) as well as Predaking himself (for those wondering: Divebomb is spelled "Divebomb" in English, not "Dimebomb"). A packaging photo is included.
So, to sum it up: What's missing?
Page 160, the last page of the book, again points out the lucky draw campaign offering 100 pieces of Hasbro's Decepticharge (only called "Destron character" in Katakana) which was previously depicted on page 80. With Wildrider, the Japanese counterpart to Decepticharge, now being confirmed indefinitely postponed, the fate of the "regular" Japanese version of this remold is currently left hanging in the air.
- Convoy with gold chromed parts (lucky draw prize offered by various magazines and stores)
- Black version of Convoy (Jaf-Con exclusive)
- Gold chromed version of Meister (e-Hobby exclusive)
- "Shining" aka "Matrix Glow" Ultra Magnus (20th Century Toy Museum exclusive)
- "Movie Preview" Ultra Magnus (Toy Festival 2001 exclusive)
- Silver chromed version of Streak (e-Hobby exclusive)
- Primus (Transformers Generations Deluxe exclusive lucky draw prize)
- Black Starscream (e-Hobby exclusive)
- "Ghost" Starscream (e-Hobby exclusive)
- "Secret Color" Starscream (Transformers Generations exclusive lucky draw prize)
- "Cobalt Sentry" cassettes Howlback & Garboil (e-Hobby exclusives)
Hidden "easter eggs":
Hidden under the dust cover of the book, one of the best kept secrets of the Binaltech line is finally revealed: Detailed concept designs of Bumblebee as a Volkswagen New Beetle, and Cliffjumper as his remold, as briefly mentioned in the Takara interview. Unfortunately, these designs will probably never make it to production, since VW, just like Porsche, had denied Hasbro and Takara the license, as Hasbro designer Aaron Archer had confirmed backstage at OTFCC 2003. Still, it's nice to see at least the concept designs finally being made public.
The final verdict:
So, is this book any good? Hell, yeah. Even if you don't understand Japanese, just these beautiful pictures, including all the design artwork and blueprints, should be worth the money. I didn't count them myself, but the cover claims that the book contains more than 700 pictures! And if you do understand Japanese… I could still use translations of the Subaru and Mazda interviews!
For those who are still not convinced and want to see some sample pages, check out Remy's preview gallery.
Very special thanks to Fan to Fan for giving me the chance of buying the book at an extremely civil price!