Interview(s): Yuya Onishi

Translated & Interpreted by Jeremy Barlow © Soundwaves Oblivion 2021. With thanks to Delvon for sending me the scans.

Interview from Hero X Transformers Generations 2021 (May 2021)

Yuya Onishi
Design Team Leader

Yuya Onishi was born in 1984 in Osaka. He majored in mechanical engineering at university and was in charge of the development of white goods in a consumer electronics research and development group. He studied car design at a vocational college and joined Takara Tomy in 2011. With an understanding of the entire product line he is currently the team leader as well as a designer himself.

“I want to give our customers an “unforgettable experience” that only toys can offer.”


From consumer electronics to the toy industry.

-Onishi-san, how did you end up in the Transformers team?
I joined TakaraTomy in 2011 and then the Transformers team in 2012. Back then my time was split between overseas and domestic products. I worked on “Beast Hunters” for Hasbro; domestically I worked on “Triple Combination Transformers Go!” and a bit on “BeCool” (our version of Bot Shots). That was the start of my Transformers career.

-We see that your name was everywhere in 2016. You were in charge of the Transformers collaboration with KDDI as well as a collaboration with the milk drink manufacturer Megmilk Snow Brand.
You’ve done your research (laughs).

-You came into the toy industry from a completely different industry didn’t you?
Yes, I worked in a consumer electronics research department where there are between 40 or 80 people who oversee a single product. It isn’t possible for an individual to have responsibility for everything. I’ve always wanted to make things in my career and I happened upon Takara Tomy. In my first year I helped out at store demonstrations and toy shows. I learnt so much from Shirai-san (who is currently in charge of publicity) and I told him Transformers are really fun (laughs). That's how I ended up in the team.

-What drew you in specifically?
I came into this industry as I wanted the opportunity to be able to design a product from start to finish by myself. You can do this with Transformers. Moreover you can do anything with cars, planes and robots (laughs). I felt my dream had come true, I had the autonomy to do what I wanted with a Transformer that other teams weren’t particularly focussing on. I love watching science fiction and mecha and I think it was “Darkside Moon” which really made me think about what I could do if I joined the Transformers team.

-What did you think when you finally joined the team?
I felt a bit out of my depth, the other team members had been making Transformers for years. I had only researched toys but really only started designing when I joined the team. I didn’t want to end up in a complicated situation where I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the team.

-You’ll soon be working on Drift from the 2014 “Lost Age”?
Since “Lost Age” the robots have had very human proportions and I’ve been thinking about how to give them more impressive transformations.

-You were also involved with the 2016 MP-28 Hot Rodimus?
The vehicle mode design sketch was drawn using car design techniques and it ended up really impressive. I majored in mechanical engineering at university and also studied car design. This leads to a complicated story. As I can draw, I thought it would be my strength (even if I had little knowledge of toys) so I drew designs whenever I had the opportunity. I drew the concept of Kenzan’s car mode from “Transformers Go!” when I had just started in the team.

-I’ve heard there are a few teams who develop their own designs rather than outsourcing.
I think it's one of my strengths that when designing I can effectively take into account all possible details and include them into the design.

Studio Series Hot Rod

-Moving back to the present, the Studio Series Hot Rod seems to be the definitive version.
I was delighted to be in charge of Hot Rod and it really was a challenge. This is the thrill of developing a Transformers toy. Since I joined the team I’ve watched “The Movie” and it soon became one of my favourites as it’s so memorable. Of all the characters, Hot Rod is my favourite. When I helped with the Masterpiece version I kept looking back to The Movie for reference. The G1 version is an exceptional toy and I had it with me throughout the development of the 86 Hot Rod. When fans talk about Hot Rod they all have the G1 version in mind. For years I’ve always wanted to make a product which is of the same standard as the original Hot Rod. When I showed the 86 version to Kunihiro-san he said “It’s wonderful.” which made me really happy.

-With a toy like Hot Rod is it difficult to fit all the robot parts, with all their different dimensions, inside the vehicle mode?

Very difficult. With regards to the proportions I always hand draw the outline before I use CAD and with this I drew a number of designs which were all different from each other. After drawing all night I thought “this is the perfect Hot Rod”. After leaving it for a day I reassessed the width of the shoulders and copied the design I had in my dreams.

-Personally I was pleased to see the wheel placement behind the shoulders and the fact you spin the arms around switching left to right.
I wanted it to give it a dynamic transformation for the end user to experience. For me, the tyres always have to be at the back. When a black tyre is on the front of the arm it makes the arms look short.

-In the Movie, each time Hot Rod transforms it’s animated differently isn’t it?
My main reference was when Hot Rod transformed for the first time when he caught Daniel. When I think back on it I cherish the inspiration I had from it. Rather than focus on the transformation scenes I focused on the scenes where he fought the squid underwater. I wanted to achieve that level of articulation rather than a static pose like the usual robots. This Hot Rod was meant to lead the way for the Studio Series and I thought being able to achieve that level of movement seen in the Movie was an important factor.

-The response overseas was very favourable.
Yes, I saw the responses earlier, I’m pleased you’ve seen them too.

Kingdom Series Rodimus Prime

-Was it ever considered that Kingdom Rodimus Prime would transform as a whole rather than split in two sections?
On this occasion I didn’t have a choice. Hasbro wanted this version to be heavily based upon the original G1 toy. As it was going to be a Commander Class figure I had to think about what I could do to add value.

-The trailer is very luxurious. The rear hatch even has working pistons right?
That's the commitment from the Hasbro designers. Right at the beginning I wanted to make a trailer worthy of a Prime.

-I’m surprised with the pull out draw underneath the trailer.
That was my commitment as product designer (laughs). Personally I don't like excess parts, I’m driven by what I can offer. So here is somewhere you can store Rodimus’ accessories with space for other parts as well.

-Rodimus also has a separate vehicle mode.
After discussions with the Hasbro designer, I had a good idea about the shape of Rodimus’ vehicle mode. In contrast to Hot Rod’s supercar style, the clearance between the underside of the car and the ground make Rodimus look like an SUV. I wanted to see a considerable contrast when you compared the two. When you transform him into robot mode the tyres on the arms open up and lock back into the arm to create a sense of unity. It was an idea I came up with to achieve both the SUV style Hasbro wanted and a guarantee of articulation in robot mode.

-I’m pleased he scales well with Galvatron.
This was a coordinated effort with each designer. I think the scale of the lineup as a whole will give a sense of realism as we head towards the final battle of the War for Cybertron Trilogy.

Working as a Team Leader

-Onishi-san, I hear it is now your responsibility to supervise the entire team.
I act like a team leader or design director. As I touched upon with the height comparison, I ensure we keep on track with such details so the products reach the end user as they were initially intended. Sometimes a team member has their own idea which can cause everything to fall apart (laughs). The role is to provide a balance as a whole. For example, when you step back and look at War for Cybertron Siege, the story is based on Planet Cybertron and you have lots of very fine detailing included all over the toys. With Earthrise everything has a much simpler look. It gives you that sense of unity for the trilogy.
Speaking of the Transformer toys as a whole, the line up has a wide range of target demographics and concepts. Guidelines are clarified and discussed with each designer for the difficulty of the transformation and how you transform them.

-Onishi-san, what is your involvement with Masterpiece Skids?
I was conscious of wanting to return to the origin of “What is a Transformer?” The whole team was brought together to discuss the direction of a “Masterpiece which would please Transformer fans”. We hope you are looking forward to it.

-I think your stance on toy design, Onishi-san, is to ensure the end users are always happy.
Around the time of “Lost Age”, I saw the story on SNS of a child who was finally able to buy Drift after saving his pocket money. I thought that toys which leave that impression on children are wonderful. I’m glad I came to work at a toy company. It made me want to give users that “impressive experience” that only toys can give. Toys are usually found strewn on the floor and sometimes people get bored of them and throw them away. As each designer is responsible for a huge number of products each year, the time to work on them is limited. But by making each one as carefully as possible you may be able to create a product which will be kept forever. Unlike art, this job isn’t about self expression but about what you can make that others will want. With this strong desire I want to work with my team to create Transformers which are loved all over the world. Thank you for your continued support.
Translated Tech Specs
The Transformers
Other Interviews:-

- Kojin Ono

- Takashi Kunihiro

- Yuya Onishi

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