Thanks again to 2005 Board member opoptimus who has posted in our forums the second part of the English translation of an interview with Takara Tomy designer Shogo Hasui.
This interview was originally published in the Japanese Transformers Generations Book 2020. The source of the first translation (in Chinese) comes from ‘Cybertron 600″ on Weixin. On this second part of the interview Mr. Hasui focuses on the design process an early ideas of the Earthrise line and other products like Studio Series Devastator. A very interesting reading for sure.
If you missed part 1 you can find it here. Alternatively, you can read the 2 parts of the interview after the break. After that click on the discussion link below and share your impressions on the 2005 Board!
We interviewed Mr. Hasui Shogo, who as a key figure on (Takaratomy’s) overseas product team collaborates with Hasbro, and asked about the latest development on the WfC trilogy, and several other designs by Mr.Hasui.
–Please tell us your relationship with Hasbro during development of the Generations line.
H: Generations is a product line co-developed by Hasbro and TakaraTomy. TT sell the products in Japan and Hasbro in all the other countries and regions.
–Practically, how do the two companies collaborate? What’s the process like?
H: Firstly Hasbro work out budget and sell price, molding investment and other budgets. We (TT design team) calculate the amount of plastic and number of molds allowed(within budget). Within this budget limitation, how we can design more interesting products and the compromises we make, is decided between the two companies. What TT want, what Hasbro want, we try our best to lay it all out on the table, and decide on the general design direction and what compromises to be made. This type of design collaboration is quite unusual, but it had been in place before I joined Takara 20 years ago. We all have Yoke san to thank for his effort on making this unique collaboration possible.
–Back in Yoke san’s time, this (type of collaboration)must’ve been confusing?
H: Yeah, the common practice back then was “I designed this product, let’s discuss how much we can sell it for”. He elevated the mindset from “let’s design a product at this price point” to “let’s see what fun ideas we can put in within this budget”. It took a lot of effort for this change in mindset to happen.
–Every year there’s a design concept (gimmick) for Generations, how do you decide on that?
H: The previous Prime Wars trilogy started from a rough concept by Hasbro, and we decide what characters can be made from this concept. But it’s different for the WfC trilogy. Hasbro design manager John Warden came to me direct, asking for input from the very beginning. We started from a topic along the lines of “we’ve done pretty much all of these characters in the classics format in the past”, what are we doing from this point on? Then we talked about further plans into the future. We considered making less known characters, but in the end decided on creating a world and play pattern that includes all the characters, where fans can immerse themselves into. Countering popular play patterns like “combining” or “city bot”, we suggested developing a “mix-matching weapon and armor” play pattern, which will be across the board in the new line.
–Cog or Six-gun being add-on pieces to combine with other figures is a very creative idea.
H: Within the parts count limitation, if we put too much focus on individual figure’s weapons or armor, the quality of the figure itself would be negatively effected. To avoid this we considered producing “weapon packs”. We looked at the fiction in the past when researching, and imagined Six-gun being part of “a Transformers race that can come apart as individual parts to enhance other transformers”; then we kinda expanded on this idea which ultimately evolved into “selling Cog and Six-gun as weapon packs”. We actually had made the suggestion to include weapons across several figures which combine into a Cog like mini character; although the idea wasn’t taken on board at the time, this concept eventually gets realized in the WfC line.
— Do you share your ideas with Hasbro on the actual design of products?
H: The Siege line-up began as Hasbro’s proposal to include all the well-known big names, then TT would adjust and distribute into each wave and price point. And (TT) proposed adding ankle pivot and waist rotation across the line to better pose out with weapons. Being mindful of the scale was Hasbro’s proposal. I’d suggested this to them in the past, the idea of so called “chain marketing”, where after buying one figure collectors would want to buy the others in the line; for example UW Devastator and PotP Predaking are close in size, then collectors would want to display them together. Hasbro took up my idea, so for this new line we would keep bot mode scale and a unifying aesthetics in mind (when designing).
–Omega Supreme is not only in size, but also in aesthetics and transformation, very faithful to the G1 cartoon. We fans are really touched.
H: Because I was involved with establishing a new (Commander class) price point, I had to entrust this design task with Kunihiro san. But I really wanted to be part of this project, so I drew up some “Omega Supreme size and appearance” sketches, and gave suggestions like “Omega’s face better not show any emotion”. Of course I didn’t do this just for Omega Supreme; I always slip our Generations team members files like “this character’s trait is this”, it’s indeed a strange behavior (laugh).
–The Commander class in question, is Jetfire right?
H: Jetfire had been done a couple of times already, but I was never involved. Firstly I really like this character, so the design process was such a joy. The sticking point for me personally, is I really wanted a Jetfire that transforms from “that jet” to “that robot design”. I imagine a lot of fans are like me, (would want to) take no hints from “that particular toy” back in the day(laugh), but to focus 100% on recreating the cartoon look. Actually when we first started on the project, Jetfire had a different Cybertronian alt mode, but I insisted on “‘bot mode is already so faithful to the cartoon, fans will be thrilled if the alt mode is too”, so we eventually settled on the current look.
–Compared with other products, (Jetfire) feels a bit different; there’s a lot details that use linked mechanism. A luxury feel to it overall.
H: Really? Maybe my love for Jetfire was too strong (laugh). Because of the the new Commander price point, we could experiment on some new ideas. I explained that we could work out parts count based on price point, but the details of these parts, or their weight hadn’t been set. So here’s how we designed this new Commander class: starting from Titans class Devastator, we took off head and body, worked out the weight limit for Jetsfire backwards from the parts count of what’s left on Devastator – Scrapper, Long Haul and Mixmaster. We then throw in all the details and gimmicks into we could within this limit, and there was Jetfire.
–A 5mm port flips out when the fist is closed, what a mechanism!
H: Originally it was a Hasbro proposal to add an arm mechanism that rotates between 5mm fist and splayed out hand. But there’s not enough space left in the arm, so I came up with this mechanism. It wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Hasbro’s participation.
–The handle bars underneath the jet fuselage is also interesting
H: It was intended for Ironhide or Thundercracker to grab onto. Jetfire’s alt mode is actually a cargo jet, so in order to hold other characters firepower 5mm ports were put under the wings too, and the bottom of the jet was design to interact with Six-gun.
Foreword: The latter part of the interview with Mr. Hasui focuses on the design process of the Earthrise line and products like Studio Series Devastator.
–Please share with us a bit about the upcoming 2020 product line WfC Earthrise.
H: Siege is about the war on Cybertron and the Transformers escaping Cybertron. Earthrise follows it and talks about after the Cybertronians landed on earth. Basically all the characters would scan an earth mode and re-format; it also talks about how they encounter new characters such as the Heasmasters on their way to earth.
–If the plot followed G1 (Japanese G1) history, the Micromasters would also be a critical part?
H: Yeah of course we added the Micromaster element. On top of that, Ironworks has a base alt mode; the crane hook can turn into a weapon, and certain parts can become sole platforms for other characters. The weapon and armor element would also continue.
–We can tell from Ironworks’ base mode, he can be combined in several different configurations.
H: Originally I only designed him as mini base; then I kept adding new elements (into the design), in the end it turned into a more versatile figure than planned. The concept of the original Micromaster toys was to connect mini bases together into a small town. We continued on with this idea here, and made an individual mini base like building blocks that can be configured in multiple ways. Collectors can build their base with their own creativity, and it can connect with other figures too. It’s also worth noting that the clips on the tracks are the same design as the parts on Omega Supreme (so they can interconnect too).
–Able to convert into those classic earth alt modes so beloved by older TF fans, the Earthrise figures feel like serious remakes of the G1 toys.
H: The original intent of the “Classics” series was to pass the “classic of the past” onto the “fans of now”, and it also had the mission as the main TF toy line to pursue the awesome designs that rooted in the original Transformers. The TF mythos not only have animation, but also multi faceted character portrayal from years of multi media content such as comics and games. If you looks closely the Earthrise toys not only inherited the old G1 toy look, but also elements from the original artworks, American comics, new reboots (of the same character) from other series. We would intentionally combine elements from both Japanese and US side of things if there are differences into the new design; amalgamating the history of a character to design the toy, this is what I call “Generations”.
–But it feels like this trend of respecting the past, has been accelerating in the past couple of years.
H: Yeah, because Hasbro had started to be more aware of this, and more focused on the consistency and unification of characters. For example (they) started to propose “Starscream should have traits like this and that”, and acknowledge more and more what makes a certain character recognizable. I think this has to do with the more G1 accurate toys we(TT) had been producing in CHUG form over the years, like UW Devastator, which won over collectors, which in turn started to influence Hasbro, and made them respect these characters’ original design and portrayal more and more.
–Can you please talk a bit about the SS Devastator that’s currently in the works？
H: The majority of combiners so far were designed by multiple people, however this time the 8 figures that form SS Devastator have been done by myself only.
–Because it’s Studio Series, it’ll be faithful to the movie?
H: Precisely. In order to recreate the movie design, I abandoned the “building block” type of of combination that’d been used for combiner designs so far. Instead (I) borrowed from “Yose-e”(寄せ絵, a form of Ukiyo-e, usually a composite form made up by smaller individual forms; see example below), whereby the individual components’ limbs are used as intertwining muscle lines, forming a very special structure as the end result. However, different to UW Devastator where the 6 components were designed all at once, this time the 8 individual components were designed in sequence according to the planned release. schedule.
–This approach is unheard of!
H: We did it this way because SS Devastator isn’t like the previous combiners being released all at once, but like the other SS toys, released as individual figures scattered cross the product line, and with different gaps between the release dates. (We focused on)them being fun figures as individual releases; combining is only one of the selling points. Therefore, the development requirement was to focus on quality of individual components while integrating engineering required for combining. But! the development time allocated for each component was not much different to other non-combining figures! Different to non-combining toys, for a combiner I needed to produce the combining drawing on top of individual drawings. It was immensely difficult to meet the deadlines~
–We thought the combined form was worked out before designing the individual components
H: Yeah, a rough combing concept had been decided on at the beginning, but it the details weren’t worked out; so when designing one component, I’d consider “the connection point with the next component will roughly be here, so I’ll leave a slot here”; basically plan forward into the next component. However the completed form was only in my head, so no one could share my workload. It’s kinda like the work of the mangaka of a weekly published manga, dropping all kinds of foreshadowing in the story(laugh).
–This must be a first for you as well?
H: Yeah, and this was also the first time designing toys of the same group spanning across two years. Crossing into a new year, budget would have been adjusted; parts count allowed for the same price point would be different in the new year. Making adjustment on design for this took a lot of effort too.
–Please share with us anything else you can on the 2020 line please.
H: Aside from Ironworks, Earthrise will have other base bots can be added into your base combination. Also the figure will keep the 5mm port system, so you can still armor up/customize your favorite character. I designed 4 figures in Wave 1: Cliffjumper, Ironworks, Wheeljack and Starscream. Because of the focus on scale, mini bot Cliffjumper is a small dude just like the old cartoon. But I designed him with lots of features, which I put a lot of time and thoughts into; the skis and a customizable large weapon were also included in the alt mode.
–You are nicknamed ‘Mr.Starscream”, it’s been a while since you did a Starscream hasn’t it?
H: Yeah it has been a while and I was thrilled. However due to scheduling, the time given to me for this figure was only half of that of other Voyagers. But in this limited time frame, I reused part of previously used engineering, and also allowed for future small remolds and repaints. There are some characters from Siege that continue to be active in Earthrise, but the alt modes changed from Cybertronian to earthen; so we decided to reuse some parts from Siege on the same figure, to showcase that it’s the same character. We hope collectors can compare them side by side, and experience the difference and discover more fun in playing.