What? Wait – these aren’t Transformers! Well, you could kind of call them… uncles, or at least second cousins to TFs. The Microman Microchange line gave us some of the heaviest hitters from our beloved G1 lineup: (pre-) Megatron, Soundwave and his cassettes, the minicars, Reflector, Blaster, and Perceptor, along with a few others. The Microman line was already a big deal when I was born, starting as far back as 1974(!) but in the States some were licensed by Mego and released under the name Micronauts, mostly focusing on the bigger magnetic-joint figures like Baron Karza. It got popular enough that Marvel released a comic in 1979 that ran for over five years and has been rebooted a few times since. Back in Japan, Takara’s Microman figures were the real star of the show – that is until Hasbro came along and bought some of the bots into slavery, along with some more bots from Takara’s Diaclone line, and the rest is TF history! (Haha j/k, I love Hasbro® products and am open to testing any Transformers™ product thank you, hehe…) But I’m assuming if you’ve stumbled across this blog, you already know all of this. Let’s just get to the real issue: why am I posting action figures on a Transformers blog?!
These Microman dudes were meant to ride some of the Microchange robots in their alt form, like Perceptor’s artillery mode and Megatron’s tripod cannon, so I consider them an integral part of pre-TF history. There are also at least two Microchange cassette tape toys they could ride – one that turns into a helicopter and one that turns into a motorcycle.
With the Takara reboot of the Microman line in the early 2000’s, we got a super futuristic revamp of already futuristic designs. With the translucent plastic, the Microman guys were always super cool looking, with great poseability, and the newer releases are even more highly articulated. The figures come with so many weapons and add-ons to create endless configurations, many of which require a child’s imagination to figure out what they could possibly be used for.
Honestly I have no idea what the Microman story is about, other than super cyborg-looking futuristic action figures in similar size to G.I. Joe’s. As far as there being an actual plot, I do know there’s a villain named Acroyear, and some of the “good guys” are specialized by skillset, such as scuba, but there were even magicians and some references to Egyptian pharoahs, incorporating a mystical element into the storyline – assuming there is one.
I remember some of them came in little coffin-looking capsules that did double duty as storage for the plethora of hands that you’d lose as soon as you opened the package. The design was super appealing in a retro glam sci-fi style that epitomized the 70’s. From the gelled back parted hairdos to the white gloved hands and shiny chrome touches, Microman was as iconic to Japan as The Bionic Man was to the US.
The most amazing thing about the reboot of these figures has got to be their enhanced poseability – with swivel and ball joints it allows for 30 advertised points of articulation that you don’t see on most action figures, even to this day. If you can do decent ninja / yoga poses with an action figure, I’d say that’s pretty good, wouldn’t you agree?
I’m just a sucker for translucent plastic, as I’ve been drawn to all of the TF’s that are labeled “clear”, “crystal”, “ghost“, “shining“, or other synonyms for the magical glowing stuff, as you can probably gather from my previous posts. There’s something very futuristic about see-through toys that beckons to me like a moth to a flame. The whole Microman empire relied on translucent plastic as its main aesthetic, its primary gimmick. And it works – for me at least.
Beyond the retro futuristic aesthetic, the most impressive innovation behind these figures has to be the versatility in its design to be used for other non-Microman characters. Microman essentially became a platform for endless licensing collaborations between Takara and established character franchises, from Batman to Street Fighter, Evangelion, and even this cute little guy:
Fortunately for us archivists, the legacy between Microman and Transformers was officially sealed with the introduction of Microman figures into two official releases – Kicker from the Transformers Energon series and Ga’mede, a very Cobra-esque soldier that came packed with the e-Hobby exclusive reissue of Perceptor in his pre-TF Microman Microchange black colorway. Thanks to releases like these and other pre-TF themed reissues, we have access to newer releases with newly imagined storylines that extend Takara’s Diaclone and Microman roots for generations to come. I just really hope they continue the lineage of pre-TF figures and homage so that everyone can enjoy and appreciate the history and genius of these amazing toys. Leave me a comment if you agree!