Hero X Generations 2022 Interviews

Translated & Interpreted by Jeremy Barlow © Soundwave's Oblivion 2022. Many thanks to Paco_Grande for providing me with photographs from the book, without which I would have been unable to translate the below.

For Kojin Ono's full interview from the Generations 2022 Book, please click HERE.

Hisashi Yuki Transformers Legacy Metroplex / Victory Saber

● A Titan Class figure with fantastic articulation.

-How was Metroplex selected for this year's Titan Class?
Hasbro made the decision. When I heard Metroplex was next, my first thought was “You’re going to make another Titan Class Metroplex?”. I was surprised but it turned out to be the “Transformers Cybertron Metroplex”. In Japan it's called “Transformers Galaxy Force Megalo Convoy”. In the end it made perfect sense (laughs).

-What direction did the development take?
As you may have guessed the Titan Cass has a very strict budget for its size. Even with existing moulds the budget is very limited and manufacturing costs are rising year on year. For instance it’s been about 10 years since I worked on the previous Titan Class Metroplex but it’s impossible for us to offer a similar product at the same price point. However the instructions I received from Hasbro did state “same size as the previous Metroplex” (laughs). To make sure the price point wouldn’t be affected we made some adjustments to the size, left out Horibull and so on.

-So you honourably omitted the old Micron and Force Chip elements.
We didn’t really consider it necessary to include the gimmicks of the original toy. Each brand and product has its own concept and in this case it's a product from Transformers Legacy which represents the Cybertron universe. It is different from the original which used Force Chip gimmicks. Instead of the Force Chip gimmick, you can now spin the large excavation wheel. Personally I didn’t want to leave out Horibull, but as it's a Titan Class figure, Horibull would end up being the size of a regular Transformer.

-When it was announced, the first thing people talked about was the intermediate mode.
Our instruction from the outset was “We want you to include an intermediate mode”. We really wanted to include this element but with the original toy it really was in mid transformation so we proposed to alter it slightly for the Titan Class.

-At the time the explanation for the intermediate mode was omitted from the domestic version of Megalo Convoy.
As we couldn’t include it in the cartoon, we decided to omit it from the Japanese release. During its transformation though it would have been in its intermediate mode (laughs). This time around the intermediate mode is now the “work mode”. It has a humanoid form but also that of a semi-construction machine. That’s why it has a robot form without a face.

-With the wheels and buckets attached to the arms, its shape changes dramatically.
This was actually my chance to redeem myself (laughs). An idea was floated that Megalo Convoy’s weapon would attach to Galaxy Convoy’s shoulder just like Ligerjack. I’ve always remembered that idea so I took my opportunity and separated the weapon in two and attached them to the arms for work mode.

-Metroplex is a mass of joints, much like the original design.
For the original Mr Ejima (Takio) designed the structure to fold up and then extended to increase the overall length. The initial goal was to make a “giant robot” but it ended up looking stretched didn’t it. Therefore I adjusted the proportions such as giving the shoulders more volume to give it a more heroic look. A result of this meant it has more joints but this also improved articulation. This time I kept track of all the movable parts. I also added ankle tilts to help him stand better and I made the wrists, fingers and neck moveable as well. The head can also move back and forth so you can display it in cool poses. The neck and mouth movements were planned from the beginning. When I thought about how to make a giant robot fun to play with, I thought about adding more flexibility to the head as well as adding a movable mouth for facial expressions, even when the robot was in standing position. I’d say these tick the “playing” box.

-It certainly does have the appearance of an articulated robot which can stand in the “S” shape.
Our overall goal was to create a Titan Class figure with sturdy joints, yet could be put in cool poses.

-Hisashi-san, you were in the Transformers team during the Galaxy Force series in 2005 right?
I had been away from the boys toys for around 2 years, about half way through “Micron Legend”. When I came back, “Galaxy Force” was about to kick off. I was not involved in product development but localising products for Japan, managing schedules and creating packaging for domestic products. For the first half, Hasbro gave us detailed specifications but for the second half of the series we were preparing proposals for the colour schemes. I was the one who decided on the colour scheme for Megalo Convoy. This is a funny story; as Hasbro didn’t actually name him in the materials they sent us, no one knew during the development stage that he was supposed to be a homage to G1 Metroplex. It is difficult to make a large white toy so I don’t know if we would have chosen that colour if we did know it was supposed to be Metroplex. If anything, I specified the colour to be Fortress-like based on the large size. If it does look like Metroplex, it's only the result of us taking the shapes from the rough design Hasbro sent us. We weren’t aware we were paying homage to Metroplex (laughs).

-Please tell us about your recent work with Victory Saber.
As I touched upon earlier, Victory Saber was intended to be another “old Transformer assembled in the Legacy world”. Hasbro’s initial sketches were very detailed. I thought we needed to differentiate it from the Masterpiece version by taking the design even further away from the original.

-It is interesting to see how different it is from the Masterpiece version.
To be honest, it was far more difficult to calculate its cost than a Titan Class figure but I aimed to create a toy which was a Star Saber in the Legacy world. I’ve included gimmicks so it can be enjoyed as a toy. Weapons like the V-Lock Cannon can be attached to various ports so there are no excess parts. Being able to attach the Saber Blade to his waist is a treat to the overseas fans who love samurai (laughs). Although this is my interpretation, I was happy to be able to produce a Brain Set in this size class. It's a special product and I hope you enjoy playing with it.

Hisashi Yuki joined the company in 1992. After working on the Brave series he became involved with the development of Transformers during “Beast Wars II”. He is a core member of the Transformers team, not only in development but also planning and localisation.


Transformers Junior Development Team Interviews

Within the Transformers Team at Takara Tomy, the next generation of developers are being trained under the guidance of the Design Team Leader, Yuya Onishi. As a special feature, we speak to developers who have been in the team between 2 to 3 years.

Ittoku Kuwazu

-Please tell us how you joined the Transformers Team.
Originally I was in the production management department for around a year. There, I was in charge of checking product quality and managing production schedules. Here I was able to get hands on with the upcoming Transformer products and was able to study the structures and transformations of the toys. I took the opportunity to get to know some of the team members and discussed my interest in being part of the team with Mr Onishi (Yuya). When there was a vacancy in the team, I requested a transfer.

-What was the first product you worked on?
I was still in the production management department when I sketched out a transformation mechanism for my research. My design was eventually used for Earthrise Runamuck, so in terms of “first design”, I’d say it was Runamuck. My first assignment in the team was Studio Series 86 Jazz. Up until then the majority of Jazz toys had wings on their backs so I tried to create a Jazz more faithful to the cartoon. I was also in charge of the Studio Series Autobot Dino. Compared with Jazz there were more challenges as the vehicle parts had to be hidden. The slim robots from the live action films are completely different from the cartoons.

-So you were in charge of the Deluxe Class from the start?
Well, after Jazz I was in charge of the Core Class Kingdom Optimus Prime which had a restricted cost and number of parts. Despite the small size, the transformation was designed around the proportion and articulation for robot mode. I made sure all the wheels could spin and even though there is no trailer, I added joints to make sure it looked like Optimus. Many Optimus products have been released in the past but we added new elements to make it different enough for fans to pick up who may already own an Optimus. I also wanted to add new parts to give it my mark.

-Can you name any memorable products?
I’d say Kingdom Huffer. You don’t get many opportunities to redesign the Minibots so I took on the challenge to make the definitive version. I first measured Optimus’ trailer and adjusted the dimensions of Huffer’s vehicle mode with the assumption it would tow the trailer (laughs). For Pipes I made sure the cab was rotated so it was not just a simple colour change.

-Do you have any characters in mind that you’d like to work on in future?
I like gadgets like Soundwave which allow you to feel the presence of Transformers in everyday objects. This really embodies the “Robots in Disguise” theme. I worked on the Bumblebee version of Soundwave. I love the styling of the root mode and storage for Ravage as well as the G1 styled weapons but it's a pity it doesn’t turn into a cassette player (laughs). Speaking of gadgets……Reflector, Perceptor and Blaster have recently been remade for the Generations series (laughs). Whenever these make it into the Masterpiece line, I’d love to be in charge.

Ittoku Kuwazu joined the company in 2015 and has spent 3 years in the team. He has overseen SS-59 Autobot Jazz, SS-66 Autobot Dino, SS-78 Ravage, SS-81 Soundwave and Kingdom KD EX-03 Optimus Prime.


Tomoki Tatsumi

-Please tell us how you joined the Transformers Team.
I remember playing with “Beast Wars” toys when I was younger and it was around then when I started thinking that I’d like a job making Transformers toys in the future. When I graduated, Takara Tomy weren’t hiring…..so I got a job at another toy company for the time being. I was later able to join the company as a mid-career hire. I was initially assigned to the Tomica and Plarail division but I kept telling everyone around me “I want to develop Transformers!” and eventually I was invited to join the team.

-How do you feel now you got your wish?
The team is a “group of people that I have the utmost respect for”. The first thing that surprised me was the developer of the Beast Wars toys which I played with when I was 4 years old, was still in the team. At the beginning I felt out of my depth but I was so grateful for the wonderful advice from the senior members of the team.

-What was the first product you worked on?
I worked on the Cyberverse Deluxe Class which has not been released in Japan. I also worked on Transformers Legacy Skids. Skids was announced right after the Masterpiece version was released so I was really enthusiastic. When I worked on the Studio Series New Emperor of Destruction Starscream Hasbro initially wanted a crown and a cloak but I suggested we also include a “throne”. The design was inspired from the main seat on the Destron spacecraft and I was happy to see many fans spotted that. I also made sure the fingers could move so you could pose him flipping his cloak up.

-What is your impression from working with Hasbro?
Whenever I send an idea or sketch to Hasbro, I receive an enthusiastic reply which doesn’t feel like a formal business communication, with phrases such as “Love it!” (laughs). It makes me happy to receive positive responses to my ideas.

-I heard you were in charge of a huge project, MPM Blackout.
I had literally been thinking about the Masterpiece line, “I wish I could be involved some day…..” and then my boss called me and said “I’d like you to work on MPM Blackout”. I was so shocked I thought he had the wrong number (laughs). I consulted with Mr Kunihiro (Takashi) who created the Studio Series Blackout to incorporate gimmicks which weren’t in the Studio Series version.

-Did it require a different amount of development effort than you had been used to?
The Deluxe Class figures are made up of around 40 parts whereas the Masterpiece is made of 200 to 300 parts. The scale is completely different. As it is so detailed, one small change can affect dozens of parts and it was very hard to get that balance just right. As Kunihiro was in charge of “Beast Wars” and “Brave Command Dagwon” which I watched as a child, I always felt nervous each time I asked his advice (laughs).

-Mr Tatsumi, now you have worked on MPM in a short period of being in the team, what are your future goals?
I’d like to work with gimmicks which I’ve never tried before such as multi-stage transformations and combiners. There are still so many things I’m not sure how to do so I'd like to continue to learn.

Tomoki Tatsumi joined the company in 2019 and has spent 3 years in the team. He has overseen Cyberverse Deluxe Class Cheetor, Deluxe Class Slug, SS-86 New Emperor of Destruction Starscream, Transformers Legacy LG-01 Skids and MPM Blackout.


Shuhei Umezu

-Please tell us how you joined the Transformers Team.
I was working sculpting figures before I decided to change careers and move to Takara Tomy. I initially joined the “Zoids” team but when the project finished I was transferred to the team. It was well known in the company I was a fan of Transformers so I think that was the reason for the transfer.

-What have you worked on so far?
I’ve worked on the Bumblebee version of Arcee which has also been announced for a domestic release. The vehicle mode is unique for the toy version and as its Arcee, I didn’t want to make it too “bulky”. Therefore, instead of storing the arms in the torso I chose to use them as exhaust pipes holding the gun.

- I was surprised to see the details of the eyes were sculpted but when I found out you used to be a sculptor, it made sense.
I felt that there are no products out there that reproduced the complexity of the eyes for the movie characters so I gave it a go. I’m pushing the limits with what can be achieved with a mould (laughs).

-What other products are you working on?
I was in charge of the Megatron H.I.S.S. tank “G.I. Joe” Crossover which is not being released domestically. The concept was to completely reproduce the Cobra H.I.S.S. tank from the 1980’s, including its size and turn it into Megatron. The driver's seat and turret needed to hold a 3.75 inch action figure and it was a challenge to find the room as well as accommodating the robot mode parts.

-What’s your impression of working with foreign companies?
I mainly communicate with Hasbro in English which I have no problem with as I used to live overseas. These days I find it more awkward writing in Japanese (laughs). There can be a lot of crazy requests from Hasbro’s development team but it's interesting to see how we work together to shape the final product.

-What was your first experience with “Transformers”?
It was the Beast Wars for my generation. I love Lio Convoy. In fact the first toy I had as a child was a G-2 Cyberjet which my parents bought me when we were still in Japan. At the time I didn’t even know it was a Transformer but I loved the articulation. I still have it on my office desk.

-How do you feel working in the same team as Mr Takio Ejima who designed the Cyberjets?
It’s fate isn’t it. When I told him that story he had a puzzled look on his face (laughs). It is also humbling to be able to take advice from the same person who developed the toys for the “Brave” series that I used to watch as a child. The veteran developers have their own perspectives so when I talk with them, they give advice from a variety of viewpoints. From the junior members to the senior members of the team, we all love what we do, everyone is positive and it's a great team to be a part of.

-Do you have any characters in mind that you’d like to work on in future?
When I returned to Japan, the first thing I saw was “Galaxy Force” so I have a strong connection to Galaxy Convoy. If I had the opportunity I’d love to make a Masterpiece version of Galaxy Convoy. Back then the products were large so it would be great to make them affordable and easy to play with.

Shuhei Umezu joined the company in 2020 and has spent 2 years in the team. He has overseen SS-86 Arcee and Transformers X G.I. Joe Megatron H.I.S.S. Tank & Baroness.


Kouki Yamada

-Please tell us how you joined the Transformers Team.
When I was job hunting I went for Takara Tomy thinking “I want to bring Transformers which shocked and amazed me as a child to a new generation”. I worked in the marketing department for a year before I joined the team.

-So you were a fan from the beginning.
The first cartoon I ever saw as a child was “Transformers Car Robots”. The scenes when they transformed from cars was so incredible that I begged my parents to buy me a Fire Convoy. Mistakenly, they bought me the original Convoy which had just been reissued.

-Not what you were expecting then (laughs).
The original Convoy quickly became a favourite of mine. I carried it around in my backpack and took it everywhere with me. I still have it and occasionally fix the odd bit of damage. New employees have to give a speech at their induction ceremony and I had this Convoy with me as I spoke about how enthused I was.

-What was the first product you worked on?
It was Studio Series Core Class Shockwave. It was trial by error but I’m rather fond of it since it was the first Transformer I ever made. It was challenging but enjoyable to come up with a transformation that would satisfy the end user with such a limited size and budget. I’m a fan of small toys that children can carry around with them in their bags or pockets which goes back to my Convoy story I mentioned earlier.

-How did you feel when you were asked to develop it?
I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to develop a product which would match the history of the products released by the company over the decades. Mr Hisashi and the other senior developers helped support me. It was an amazing experience to be guided by Mr Hisashi who was in charge of “Car Robots” at the time, the series which made me a fan for life. He is like a “foster parent” for me.

-Were you in charge of the Core Class development?
Yes, I’d say so. I was given the opportunity to create the Kingdom version of Hot Rod and the Exo-Suit Spike Witwicky from Studio Series. I changed Hot Rods transformation up a bit so the bonnet now forms the legs.

-Are there any other Transformer products which stand out to you?
It was just before I joined Takara Tomy and I hadn't been assigned a department. I was blown away when I saw the MPM Movie 1 version of Bumblebee created by Mr Onishi (Yuya). I was so impressed with the design of the four wings which is just like the movie, a neatly arranged back and at first glance you couldn’t tell it transforms into a Camaro. At the same time I said “I want to make a product as good as this one!”.

-Do you have any characters in mind that you’d like to work on in future?
I’m still young and I’d love to learn more from the senior developers to become a full-fledged Transformers designer. Someday I’d hope to create a reimagined version of Super Fire Convoy with Mr Hisashi.

Kouki Yamada joined the company in 2019 and has spent 2 years in the team. He has overseen SS-79 Shockwave, SS-85 Exo-Suit Spike Witwicky and Kingdom KD EX-17 Hot Rod.

Translated Tech Specs
The Transformers
Other Interviews:-

- Kojin Ono

- Takashi Kunihiro

- Yuya Onishi

Back to Top
   SoundwavesOblivion.com; The Transformers and all its subsidiaries is a registered trademark of Hasbro and Takara Tomy