Interview(s): Kojin Ono

Translated & Interpreted by Jeremy Barlow © Soundwaves Oblivion 2021

Interview from Figure King 278 (March 2021)


Here is a message from Mr Ono, the legendary toy designer who worked on the latest Masterpiece Skids.

The recent Masterpiece figures are complicated to transform, I feel it's much better to focus on a more straightforward and mechanical transformation…. For Skids, the starting point was to create a Masterpiece figure which took a different direction and this is very different from the current trend of figures. Another aim was to keep the costs down without affecting the quality. After all the iconic "Transformers" started with the Car Robots, vehicles which turn into robots. When thinking of characters yet to receive the MP treatment, Skids the Honda City immediately came to mind. It's true he only appeared twice in the cartoon but the overall look of the City is so attractive and the 80’s is currently enjoying a resurgence. That's why I decided to take the challenge with Skids, not only to bring out more characters from the cartoon but also to bring back the appeal of this car. Back in the day, the City was very popular, sporty and cool. It was fascinating. I used to own a red City R so I’m personally attached to it.

Having designed the Car Robots I’d never have expected to be handed this project however I was determined to do something we couldn't do in the past. The development is being handled by Yuya Onishi’s team. Due to the schedule the design has not been outsourced and has been drawn up completely by Onishi.

The colours chosen respect the animation and the weapons have been designed in a similar fashion. We wanted to follow the original Car Robot play aspect to allow us to seat the small figures, sold previously in the Masterpiece series, in the driver's seat. Unfortunately the Motocompo is not included. When you talk about the City, you immediately think about the Motocompo but when Skids was released in the Transformers series the Motocompo was omitted. That's the reason I didn’t include it with this version of Skids. I thought about including it when we would release a Diaclone version. As development progressed there was a feeling in the team that if we wanted to recreate the City it would have to be “red”. This year is the 40th Anniversary of the City so my boss simply said “Don’t you think we should release two colours simultaneously?”. I thought that was a great idea for car fans to pick up two Masterpieces at the same time; Skids the Transformer and a brand new character who transforms from City to robot, Reboost! As Reboost is a brand new character we had to release it with a little extra which is why the Motocompo is included. Several Masterpieces are simultaneously being developed, these include the Trainbots and a brand new Skyfire. Raiden’s combined form will be of a similar size to the recent Unite Warriors. I know everyone has been anticipating this release so please stay tuned.



Hero X Transformers Generations 2021 (May 2021) Kojin Ono Interview

Kojin Ono
Masterpiece Team
● Profile:
Kojin Ono was born on the 11th May 1959 in Tokyo and joined Takara in 1980. A legendary member of the team (as well as being the oldest active member) who has been integral in the Transformers development since Microman and Diaclone. He is currently a member of the Masterpiece team.

"Have fun with the direction of the new Masterpiece toys."


Masterpiece Skids / Reboost


- Do you feel the Masterpiece series has entered a new stage with Skids?
The overall series has been changing with the likes of War for Cybertron and I felt it was time to go in a new direction. I discussed this approach at length with the whole Transformers team. I took the lead with Onishi (Yuya) and considered several directions. I considered previous products such as MP-12 Lambor and MP-17 Prowl as a good starting point.

- Mr Ono, speaking of Skids, isn’t that an item that you worked on in the Diaclone series?
I had a lot of fun working on it. Skids is a Honda City which was a popular car at that time, I even owned one. The decisive factor for Skids development was that the car had recently celebrated its 40th anniversary which attracted a lot of attention, especially with the current 80’s boom. Technologies have improved dramatically since the Car Robot series and we have more options at the development stage. As this is a high-target product we also have a different budget. There are plenty of movable parts to achieve a range of articulation and in vehicle mode we were very particular over the detailing. Another focus was the cost. We wanted to achieve a high quality product with a relatively inexpensive price tag. Maintaining  the play value without including unnecessary accessories was a difficult balance.

- You are demonstrating your commitment to real cars with the opening and closing doors and bonnet.
The Car Robots had similar gimmicks and it was something I wanted to revisit. It’s the same reason that a figure can be placed in the driver's seat. It's also why I included the Motocompo, but since it was not included with the original Skids, it's instead being included with the new character, Reboost.

-It’s unique to release two colour variations simultaneously.
The simultaneous release of multi-coloured products for general retail is a first for the Masterpiece series. Our marketing department is also considering new ways for promoting products; they are currently making a special website and PR videos for our Transformer products. I hope this effort will generate great results.


Masterpiece Starscream Ver 2.0

- Can you please tell us about Starscream Ver 2.0?
This is another product that I have history with. This product is based on the cartoon, a completely different approach from Skids. Now we are exploring a new direction with the Masterpiece series and we will continue to take on challenges according to the character and how the final product will look.

- Was the tail section most particular for this version update?
This time round the challenge was to fold all surplus parts within the robot form. From the design sketch drawn by Oshima (Yuki), we wanted to work out how to hide the horizontal and vertical stabilisers which the robots in the cartoon don’t have. I eventually came up with the idea that we should fold the “vertical stabilisers” in the main wings. Another new feature was the recreation of the “alternate transformation” or hovering form. As this was frequently used in the cartoon I definitely wanted to be able to recreate the look.


What's the future for the Masterpiece series?

- Could you please tell us about your future line-up?
I wanted to release a Transformer unique to Japan so I chose to focus on Raiden who was “born” in Japan. The rights to the vehicle designs are split amongst several Japanese Rail companies so I was overjoyed when we received permission. We are currently in the process of development and have considered various options in order to release Raiden. As a start we are focusing on Shouki. We hope you can't wait to see the completed Heavy Union Warrior Raiden.

- You mentioned that Skyfire was under development in the Masterpiece series.
It’s been in the works for a while now, it began when Convoy Ver 3.0 was in development and we have now inherited the project. With the release of the Siege version I pushed back the schedule. During its development we set up 3 goals. First, it has to be a big Transformer, it has to be cartoon accurate and it has a transformation mechanism to switch to the alternate transformation mode. I had the idea of a “giant flying base”. In the cartoon he was portrayed as a transport plane so we plan to include miniature figures of Convoy, Meister and Wheeljack in order to recreate these scenes.


Memories of Transformers The Movie

- As “Transformers the Movie” is heavily featured in this book, is there anything you can tell us?
The 1986 products that appeared in the movie were the first actual Transformers we developed. It was at this point that toy development completely changed. I was given the design in robot mode and vehicle mode and was told to “make it like this”, so at first I was a little resistant (laughs). Since we didn't have the internet back then it was difficult to develop a three dimensional product from limited sources. When I saw the final movie I did feel a little regret. The ‘86 series is currently undergoing a resurgence. I’m sure Kunihiro shares my opinion.

- Speaking of the Movie, the unreleased Unicron looked rather impressive.
That was most regrettable. At that time the US market accepted high priced products so we were enthusiastic about making the largest Transformer yet. I’m a movie buff so when I received the prototype voice tape I was surprised it was actually Orson Wells’ voice! This was the first time we had the actual voice cast on tape. WFC Unicron is the ultimate item that could only be released now. It’s fitting that Kunihiro, who was a rookie back then, was able to finish it now as a veteran.
Translated Tech Specs
The Transformers
Other Interviews:-

- Kojin Ono

- Takashi Kunihiro

- Yuya Onishi

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