Perceptor was perhaps the nerdiest figure from the G1 lineup as well as character in the original cartoon. While other figures transformed into supercars, jet fighters, construction vehicles, even a modified WWII-era gun from a spy show, Perceptor’s alt mode represented the kind of toy you’d expect to receive as an Xmas gift from your grandparents – e.g. a microscope, telescope, chemistry kit, rock tumbler, the kind of stuff that usually made its way to the clearance section of your toy store. But nerds could rejoice, as it was a “working” microscope with a (lackluster) magnification of 14x! Still, it was a nifty gimmick for a transforming robot toy, and you could convince unassuming adults that it was just an affordable microscope, since the G1’s were always displayed in alt mode. (That’s how I got mine. Hehe. Although I don’t think they actually bought my scam.)
But there was, of course, more than meets the eye… Ahem. One look at his robot form and you could imagine how overpowered this bot could be, with a rifle, a missile launcher, and a humongous cannon mounted on his shoulder. This guy wasn’t messing around, and one could imagine that firepower extending to his alt mode – of which I discovered, there was more than just a microscope. In the cartoon, Perceptor was definitely portrayed as the typical scientist – bookish, astute, and in the movie, even verbose. But I really like what IDW did with his character, taking him into a darker, more cynical direction and becoming a badass sniper as part of the Wreckers. It’s fitting to me that someone so logical and rational could become jaded and even coldhearted after dealing with so much of the insanity of life and war.
Perceptor’s alt tank mode was really an eye opener for me as a kid. Unlike Diaclone pre-TF car-robots with cockpits for their little drivers that I had discovered through a Diakron release of the Diaclone Gats Blocker as Multiforce14 that I received as a gift, this mode seemed like it was meant for larger scale figures to sit on and ride. Of course, I would later discover that Perceptor was one of the Takara Microchange figures that eventually got licensed to Hasbro for Transformers, but for a little while I used to display his tank mode with a G.I. Joe figure on top (I think I used one of the B.A.T. figs).
My first exposure to the Takara Microman line was through a bootleg Taiwanese Cassette Man, MC-10, aka pre-Soundwave. I got it before Transformers came out, which really confused me when Soundwave appeared in Hasbro’s G1 debut collection, but without any of the accessories that came with the Takara Microchange release: headphones and a dummy cassette. At that point I knew something was fishy about seeing double, but it wasn’t until decades later in the early 2000’s that I learned through the Yahoo Autocon Group about the history of Takara Diaclone, Microchange, and other pre-TFs that eventually became Transformers. Mystery solved!
Of course, none of my childhood friends believed me when I told them that some Transformers were re-releases of other Japanese toys. I was reduced to a fibber, one of those kids that make stuff up to get attention and appear cool. Had I only saved the box from my KO Cassette Man, it would have shown the photo of the blissful Japanese kid surrounded by Microchange robots and figures, including some riding the transforming cassette helicopters and motorcycle. But no, I had neither the evidence nor the powers of persuasion to convince other ten yr-olds that there was a whole world of Japanese toys out there and we were being duped into thinking these slick toys from a cartoon were totally new and original. And American! Nothing’s new under the sun, anyway.
Well, ha! I’m sure that not a single one of my former middle school playmates have any recollection of me making this point, or of me at all for that matter. But I’m happy to put the nail on that coffin. Perceptor was a major milestone for me, not only as a fond memory of my childhood, but it marked one of the key moments when I began my quest to unravel the mystery of the origins of the Transformers franchise.
For me, out of all the figures in the G1 lineup, Perceptor and Soundwave have the best looking robot modes. They’re similar in size and both have very square features, naturally being robots, but are well proportioned for humanoid robots, with broad shoulders and long sturdy legs, however not extra long or super skinny like Prime, Megs, or Shockwave. No wonder I came to this conclusion as they’re from the same Microman line. But unlike Soundwave, Perceptor is very poseable with articulation in both the hips and knees. The joints swivel smoothly and stay in place, unlike my poor Soundwave with scoliosis and many other figures that become floppy almost right out of the box.
As far as colors goes, Perceptor’s signature maroon and turquoise combination (sometimes referred to as “red and blue”) are a mixed bag of praise and criticism. Some people despise these colors, but I really like them together on this figure, even though I’m not a particular fan of either of these colors anywhere else. Perhaps I’m biased because I like Perceptor, but I think these colors really work for this release. However, the box art that shows a very different coloration for Perceptor that made a lot of us do a double take, and here’s where the real mystery began, for me at least.
Like many licensed toys and products in general, Transformers have always had many variants and inconsistencies between the version shown in the artwork, the toy photography, the cartoon, and the final release. Perceptor’s packaging is one of those cases that was all kinds of confusing for anyone with working eyes – both the art and the figure photo show Perceptor in a mostly red version that was never released.
While this colorway didn’t come from the original Microchange version, which only came in black (read on), there was an actual mockup that was created for the promotional photography, but the colors appear markedly different from the final version. The red is much more of a pure red, compared to maroon / burgundy, and the blue is almost sky blue or aqua, and less turquoise as in the final release. This could be just from photo retouching, but I think it’s a very different coloring that they decided to scrap. I actually like it, but still prefer the final colors. As far as I know, there aren’t any G1 color variants that were officially released, such as Red-faced Slag in Canada or Black-faced Prowl in Mexico. All the mould variants are up on Fred’s Workshop.
Now let’s take a look at the only other colorway – the original Microchange MC-20 in black and gray. Super badass, ain’t he? This one’s a KO from Taiwan, that was made of a super brittle cheap plastic, so his shoulder flaps broke off, in addition to his chest plate. Some KO’s are definitely much better than others. Just not this one. (See my KO Shockwave or KO Browning for good reproductions.) But this KO was probably made back in the 80’s around the same time as the Microchange release, complete with a KO box (that I lost unfortunately), so it’s a relatively rare find. My KO Cassette Man was also from Taiwan, so I wonder if they’re both from the same factory, although the Cassette Man is made of a much sturdier plastic more similar to the actual release, albeit inferior in quality such as paint apps and mould detail.
KO BLACK PERCEPTOR, 1984, Taiwan
Back to our official G1 release. I’m very happy to have re-collected this figure, as I lost or gave away all my original TF’s except for a few. Perceptor was always special to me, not only as a cool robot, but as a character. He represented and was portrayed as the nerd, within a storyline designed for mainstream audiences. I could relate to that, as I started doing so-called nerd-like behavior as early as I can remember. Collecting toys, comics, playing D&D and video games, drawing, playing instruments, reading books – all of these were considered nerdy and I fully embraced them and still proudly do to this day.
I’m not chasing after variants, rarities, or sealed figures at the moment, now that I’ve re-collected most if not all of my favorite childhood G1 figures (and then some, a lot of some). I’ll pick up a Masterpiece every now and then if it’s a standout, but I’m currently at a point where I don’t have the obsessive need to own everything I want. I guess I’m starting to learn in my later years that I don’t need to own something to appreciate it, as much as I’d like to add it to my collection. Plus, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis now in August 2020, so spare money is harder to find (as if it ever even existed before). But I’m still very happy to research the history and lore surrounding my favorite toys, which is why I started to capture my favorite figures and the nostalgia they invoke here on Plastic Missile through photos and writing. To collect and recollect memories.
I’d much rather appreciate what I already have in my collection than to try to own every single iteration of a character or whatever new and interesting that is put on the market. There’s nothing wrong in doing that if you can afford it, have the time, and aren’t ruining yours or anyone else’s life in the process – but I find that with any addiction, that’s pretty hard to resolve. Plus, there’s the whole plastic pollution issue and everything that comes with that. Overall, I think that collecting figures and being part of the TF community, albeit in a passive way mostly as a lurker, has been tremendously good for me and will hopefully continue to remain one of my favorite life experiences. I hope it’s the same for everyone else as well.
Oh and… Nerds rule. 😉
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