Interview: Motoki Takaya

Translated & Interpreted by Jeremy Barlow © Soundwave's Oblivion 2019.

Interview from Dengeki Hobby website, June 2019 (Link)

“Diaclone”, the updated series of adult collectables! “Triverse” begins! Interview with toy designer Motoki Takaya (Takara Tomy).

The main action figures (Diaclone pilots) are only 3cm in height but interact with powered suits, robots, bases, etc. The Diaclone world is jam packed with diverse attractive items which stimulate the imagination of adult boys!

Relaunched in 2016 as high end collectables, the original Diaclone science fiction series began in 1980 and was the predecessor of transforming / combining toy robots; this groundbreaking concept paved the way for The Transformers.

This time, one of Takara Tomy’s toy designers has taken the helm to develop the current Diaclone series, “Triverse”, utilising the latest available technologies. We talk with Motoki Takaya.

Motoki Takaya

Currently responsible for the planning and development of the Diaclone line. Involved in the development of Computer Police Cybercop, Transformers Zone, Armoured Police Metal Jack, Iron Man No.28 FX, Lightning Superman Gridman, B’T (Beat) X, Small Giant Microman (2000 edition), CoolGirl, Beast Saga etc.

Q: Firstly I’d like to ask you about the relaunch of Diaclone, how did you, Takaya-san, get involved in the product development?

: I launched the concept and product direction for the current Diaclone series in response to the company's aim to make a full on entry in the high end collectors market. Although Diaclone had been aimed at children in the past, the current Diaclone is not simply a revival of the old series or a series of reissues but is a toy line aimed at adults. In essence it is a product to reaffirm that playing is fun. There are many enjoyable adult hobbies such as making and decorating things which are released by companies such as our own; yet adults also enjoy toys aimed at children yet there are not many toys aimed solely at adults so I wanted to challenge this. I wanted to dispel the idea that toys are only for children, I wanted to create them as a hobby equivalent to watching a movie or reading a book.

Q: What is the meaning of the keyword “adult boys toys”?

Takaya: The keyword came from our concept of building a toy line with a play value for adults to appreciate. “Boys Toys” is a commercial term for toys aimed at boys and when Diaclone began in 1980 it can be regarded as boys toys with products such as robots, bases and vehicles. It was the perfect line to embody a boys toy. The 1/60 scale was an important factor as the product line up can be flexible enough to range from low cost smaller items up to larger items with a higher price point.

Q: Dai Battles V2 was a fantastic first installment with an automated raising head, a “light piping gimmick” for the eyes and not to mention the actual seating of the Diaclone members. The combination and transformation is full of the charm of Diaclone. I’d say the designer took a lot of care and attention in developing this product.

Takaya: It would take a considerable amount of time to talk about Battles in full so I’ll skip that part for now, however the area we concentrated on the most were the Diaclone figures, not the Battles itself. They are action figures that incorporate movable joints in a small 3cm figure; there were many things which couldn’t be done for the final product so during the trial production we did a lot of trial and error but as a result we were able to get the figure ready with the current specifications for mass production. The cool “mobile suit mechanics” is the essence of Diaclone, if we were unable to produce a Diaclone figure which worked well, we may have scrapped the series. If you haven’t had a go of the Diaclone figures, give them a go and try their joint mechanisms. The recent releases of the Power Suits “Manoeuvre Alpha Spartan” and “Sky Jacket” are easy to come across so you can see how compatible the figures are with the machines.

The latest female Diaclone figure has been upgraded to include head movement. When they are released you’ll be surprised by the expressiveness of the figures. The figure is expensive due to the elaborate production process and the large quantity of small magnets. I want to aim to evolve this product, if we don’t the series would finish up.

Q: Fans have various ways of playing different from what the designers intended; some only display their figures and others are into customisation. Strong sales have been recorded even with the higher priced items. Maybe this is due to Takaya-san being close in age to the intended audience and has an idea on what would go down well, I also think it’s also largely down to the fans opinions being actively incorporated.

Takaya: The toys incorporate systems with many different configurations, when we introduced the products we purposely did not advertise all the features so as not to suppress the imagination of the end user. The story and mecha setting on the Diaclone homepage are based off such an idea. We want you to enjoy playing without feeling constrained.

Q: How do you determine commercialisation?

Takaya: It sounds good to say as a matter of commercialisation “we incorporate everyone’s ideas and commercialise” however products would overrun and the end user would not be satisfied with the product. I am the one who creates toys from start to finish and we constantly explore new features to include in the products to please the end user; our stance is to make a product which is thoroughly enjoyed by the end user. Speaking of which, some ideas are not used as each product is scrutinised so in the end we have a product that feels fresh and enjoyable to play with. Within the limited development time, how many times are your expectations exceeded? It’s difficult to think this through but all the same it’s very enjoyable.

Q: During the 1980’s, prominent mechanical designers were brought on board, how are the current Diaclones being designed?

Takaya: Who is in charge of the Diaclone design now? Now there’s a question. Many people think the person who drew the design of the toy also considers the transformation, product specification and commercialisation. This is not the case for the current Diaclone series.

Q: What kind of process does it follow?

Takaya: Talking about it briefly, you first consider the product’s specs, once that is decided you consider how it will be played with, you decide the transformation, the structural patterns, adjust the form and proportion and you organise it all using basic block shapes with 3DCG software. Up to this point it has just been me doing this. Going forward the next stage is CAD modeling where the design will be handed over to a 3D designer who will produce the final model with the prescribed specs. We will then incorporate the fine detail and the head design into the final model. Once the model has been finalised the process comes back to me where I decide the colouring of the mould. Once the above process has been completed the final Diaclone design has now been completed but only myself and a 3D designer are involved. So in answer to the question “Who is in charge of the design of the Diaclone line?”, I’m in charge of the play design, the rough form design, the rough mechanical detailing design and the colouring. The final mechanical design, final structure, final detailing (including head and weapons) is handled by the 3D modeller. I’d say the Diaclone designs are not only detailed but are also expressive. This is all down to the outstanding skills of the 3D modeller. The initial Diaclone designs are fluid, the design is gradually shaped during play and only finalised with the end design.

Q: When did you start this system?

Takaya: From Dai-Battles V2 and the early Powered Suits I was asking for detailed hand painted sketches but from the Powered Suit Type C, hand drawn sketches had been completely abolished in favour of the 3D model designs.

Q: The mechas for the invaders Waruder, the enemy of the Diaclone forces are due to be released enhancing the current lineup! Additionally the new “Triverse” series is due to be launched. The first of the line up, Tri-Dasher, was on display at the Tokyo Toy Show and was one of the main attractions.

Takaya: The Triverse series are mid-sized products similar to the previous Car Robo and Dasher series in terms of size and transformation from robot to vehicle. We are using a series of concepts which have been incorporated and released within the current line over the past 3 years but the ideas have been restructured and systematically expanded. This doesn’t mean the Diaclone line is changing, it is still the same toy line but we are aiming for a multipurpose battle system, a “VERS System” much like the “Powered System Series”.

Q: What is the “VERS System”?

Takaya: The “VERS System” centres on the small mecha module called the “Bullet Core” where Diaclone Pilots can board; it can be changed into a humanoid mecha capable of merging into function specific vehicles. It is a machine system capable of responding to any battle situation. At this early stage of development we are continuing the release of humanoid combat machines with various functionality but we are going to expand upon the variety of items available for the Bullet Core for greater variation.
Even if you don’t know the background to Diaclone but you are a science fiction or robot enthusiast, the content is so rich you’d be drawn to play with it. If you have any interest in Diaclone, why not pick this up for a start?

Q: Can you say anything about the selling point for this product?

Takaya: Firstly I’d like you to watch our promotional video on YouTube.

Takaya: The first edition of the Triverse Series, the Tri-Dasher is a battle machine specialising in melee attacks. It consists of three smaller mechas, the Bullet Core where Diaclone members board, a top machine which forms the upper body in robot mode and the bottom machine which forms the lower half of the body.
By combining these machines it becomes a six wheeled armoured vehicle. You can also transform it between robot mode, mech mode and battle mode without taking it apart.
Arm mounts are included on the fuselage section (located on the back of the robot mode) where you can plug in the supplied cannons or swords. As all the connection ports of the Bullet Core, top and bottom machines are uniform across the series you will be able to combine it with other future releases.

Q: Is there a plan in place to reissue past releases?

Takaya: It’s a possibility but the most requested items are not of the same standard as the current production. I do hear that Diaclone is not available in the stores or by mail order but the Diaclone line belongs to the hobby-type distribution as it has a lower production quota. This makes it difficult to give them a wider distribution and keep them on shelves longer. It's recommended that those who want the toy to reserve it for purchase on the day of release.

Q: The Tri-Verse Series is incoming and we also look forward to further releases. Can you give a final message to our Diaclone fans.

Takaya: It's been 3 years since the reboot and the fourth year has begun development. Most toy lines do have short breaks between planning and development but there are no signs of slowing down with the Diaclone series, we want our ideas released as soon as possible. Please look forward to the future development, play and have fun with Diaclone.
I’m not only talking here but I’ll be at our booth at Wonder Festival 2019 at the end of July where those “on the other side” will make an appearance.

-(On behalf of the readers…) We are very much looking forward to the next release! Thank you very much.
Translated Tech Specs
The Transformers
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- Kojin Ono

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- Yuya Onishi

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