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Inverview - Shogo Hasui TakaraTomy Masterpiece Toys Designer Talks Making of Soundwave More

Thanks to 2005 forums member SydneyY who posted a translation of Dime.JP Interview with Takara-Tomy Masterpiece Designer, Shogo Hasui. Learn why Masterpiece Soundwave and the Cassettes Transformers were hard to make with details about the design and research that went into them. We hear Shogo takj about the other characters like Jazz, Bruticus and Ultra Magnus that we would like to see made in the Masterpiece series. Read the full interview below.

Shogo Hasui on Masterpiece

- Why did it take so long until Masterpiece Soundwave became reality? He is a such popular character.

Hasui: Basically, MP characters are from the first Transformers series (G1). There are several reasons why MP Soundwave took this long. For example, his alternate mode - he appears in later series with different alternate modes such as a plane or a car as he is a very popular character, but G1 Soundwave is a cassette player. We were not sure how appropriate it might be to release a toy that transforms into a cassette player in this age. (*laughs)

- About MP Cassettes.

Hasui: MP Cassettes like Condor (Laserbeak), Jaguar (Ravage) and Frenzy were set to be developed as well to emphasizes Soundwave's playability.
Cassetterons gave me more trouble than Soundwave. The restriction was strict because 3 cassettes were to be stored in Soundwave's chest. Their size was so small, yet the plastic had to be of certain thickness, the axes had to be functional and they had to be transformable. On top of that, I made Condor without any excess parts unlike his G1 toy while recreating the camera on his head as well as his posture in the cartoon. Jaguar was more three dimensional compared to the original, and it really was testing the size limit. Although Frenzy and Ramble still required excess parts because the gun on their back were also to be hand-held.

I usually come up with two or three transformation ideas (for a product) and one of them becomes the actual product. As for Condor, I thought of 10 variations and none of them was finalised. I even doubted if it could ever be done, but those obstacles had to be cleared if I was to create Masterpiece figures. There always is a conflict between the ideal and the reality.

- Last year (2012) saw lower priced MP figures such as Lambor (Sideswipe) and Alert (Red Alert).

Hasui: MP is the most prestigious series and it is often seen as the series for the main characters, but we released those sub-characters last year. They did not appear in the cartoon very often and may not make the top 10 popular character list, but their vehicle mode is Lamborghini Countach and I thought it might appeal to the generations that Super Cars were the craze in their childhood. For MPs, the most important precondition is the faithful re-creation of cartoon robot and alternate modes, and we obtained the official license from Lamborghini and went ahead with the development.

Personally, rather than concentrating on one character, I'd like to have variety of characters lined up so that the world view of Transformers could be more enjoyable. If I concentrated on the ideals on Lambor, he would have been a 10.000 yen class product. There may be fans who would purchase him for that price, but considering the (relatively minor) position of the character, more people may not purchase him. Taking that into consideration, rather than concentrating on each character and releasing them at high price range, it was decided to have a fuller lineup including sub-characters and the 5,800 yen price was set. I pursued Masterpiece level figures within the restriction and Lambor and Alert are the results. Due to the cost restriction, initially I wasn't even sure if the shoulder cannons could be included. (*laughs) Thanks to the support from the fans Lambor was sold out. The nicely proportioned robot mode and the appeal of Lamborghini contributed a lot, of course, but I think his transformation is well done and the playability is also appreciated.

- About scales.

Hasui: It began with Microman (1974) and Diaclone (1980), and Transformers consist of toys of various sizes including the ones from those old series. As a result each toy is in their own scale unlike seen in the cartoon.

To clear the issue for MP series, the scale is made consistent in robot mode according to the cartoon. The aim is to make the collecting more purposeful - the more you have, the better your Transformers World becomes. At the same time, I incorporated the essence of the original Lambor toy into the Masterpiece version to hopefully evoke the same excitement from the fans as the G1 toy did back then from them. MP Soundwave is designed to be able to store the G1 cassettes. I always feel (the MP series) needs to connect the cartoon and the toys.

- Your own experience with Transformers toys?

Hasui: I belong to Diaclone generation. I played with Diaclone toys, so when Transformers cartoon came out it was confusing. But everyone around me was quite into it and when the combiner toys were released I liked them and started collecting them a bit. My collection didn't grow as I was in the 5th grade at that time and had already started to feel awkward about buying children's toys. When I was a university student, I remembered how I had wanted certain toys and collected some out of nostalgia. Somehow it became a job. (*laughs)

- From a fan's point of view, it is like a miracle that you are able to come up with a toy design that has both robot and alternate modes very faithful to the cartoon and still transformable.

Hasui: The trouble I had with Lambor and Alert was they had to fit inside Convoy(Optimus Prime)'s trailer in vehicle mode while ensuring they were of certain heights in robot mode. Lately, the trend is a thinner and taller proportion - the older toys had larger chest/bonnet(hood) area, but if I followed that method the bonnet would have reached the robot waist. By making the robot mode taller, I made the chest area appear smaller by comparison. Transformation, scale, cartoon design and toy design must be all taken into consideration, and the overall proportion needs to be nicely modern. For that matter, I face mountain of difficult problems every time.

- Masterpiece figures seem to have complicated transformation.

Hasui: The newer MP figures do have many transformation steps, however the process is designed so that the next step is plainly indicated. They might be easier in a way than (Transformers) products for children. MP Soundwave is especially easy to see the transforming process as his arms and legs are visible in alternate mode. Although from the developer's point of view, coming up with a transformation for such a figure is the most difficult - it is quite hard to work out the structure in which a robot with angles and lines fits inside (a device) with flat surfaces.

- The (G1) cartoon you are basing the MP designs on is not exactly strict with details. Was it difficult to decide on the definitive look?

Hasui: I have to watch all the episodes every time I work on a new product, and I feel I am watching them endlessly. (*laughs) As for the animation.... (*laughs) A character design can differ depending on which episode you watch, also there are characters such as Starscream, Thundercracker and Skywarp who share the design but with different colour scheme and sometimes you see two Starscreams in the same frame. (*laughs) Lambor and Soundwave designs can be similar, and you see Lambor standing right next to Megatron. There are mistakes that mixing up allies and enemies like that as well.

But from the (toy) creator's point of view, it is amazing to see the difference between the (G1) cartoon and the toys and I always find something new. They are robot life forms from outer space, and in the cartoon they have even more gimmicks than they toys - sometimes equipments just pop out of their arms or chests. I try to re-create such details within the budget limit as well.
For example, a feature to enjoy the chest display is included in MP Soundwave. It was drawn rather roughly (*laughs) in the cartoon so I drew it up myself. This is the first time a plan I drew has actually become a product. The effect parts for Alert's head is the best re-creation of the cartoon I found possible within the budget. I hear many fans mention that episode (#24 in Japan) as memorable.

- The future of MP series.

Hasui: We hope to release 2 larger and 2 smaller MPs this year as well. There are some characters already named as possibilities, but my personal favourites are Meister (Jazz) and combiner Bruticus. I recall saying the same thing 2 years ago at a toy show. (*laughs) I do want to make them come true, but it is hard to accomplish.... Although I am working with the intention of releasing all characters eventually.

- Now that Soundwave is out, how about Laserwave (Shockwave)?

Hasui: To be honest, what I'd love to release most is Ultra Magnus

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