Takara’s Henshin Cyborg was a line of action figures that revolutionized the toy industry in Japan and influenced many other toy lines around the world. Henshin Cyborg was based on Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, which Takara had licensed to sell as Combat Joe in Japan since 1970. However, due to the negative impact of the Vietnam War on the sales of military-themed toys, Takara decided to transform Combat Joe into a futuristic cyborg hero.
Henshin Cyborg was launched in 1972 as a 12-inch-tall figure with a transparent body that revealed cybernetic implants inside. The figure had removable limbs and head that could be replaced with different accessories such as weapons, armor and vehicles. The figure also had a battery-operated light-up feature that made its eyes and chest glow. Henshin Cyborg was marketed as a superhero who fought against evil aliens called Death Cross.
Henshin Cyborg was very popular among Japanese children who were fascinated by its sci-fi concept and customization options. However, Takara faced some challenges in producing and distributing the figure due to its high cost and fragile material. To overcome these problems, Takara decided to create a smaller version of Henshin Cyborg called Microman in 1974. Microman was a 3.75-inch-tall figure that retained the transparent body and light-up feature of Henshin Cyborg but had more articulation and compatibility with various playsets and vehicles. Microman also had a more elaborate backstory that involved an intergalactic war between Micro Earth and Acroyear Empire.
Henshin Cyborg and Microman were not only successful in Japan but also inspired many other toy lines around the world. For example, Hasbro bought the rights to some of Microman’s figures and rebranded them as Transformers for the American market in 1984. Transformers became one of the most iconic toy franchises of all time with its transforming robot concept. Another example is Mego Corporation, an American toy company that produced its own version of Henshin Cyborg called Micronauts in 1976. Micronauts also had a loyal fan base and spawned comic books, video games and movies.
Takara continued to produce new versions of Henshin Cyborg throughout the decades with different designs and features. For instance, Neo Henshin Cyborg was released in 1998 as a tribute to the original line with updated accessories and packaging. Takara also collaborated with other toy companies such as Medicom Toy and Kaiyodo to create limited edition figures based on Henshin Cyborg’s design.
Takara’s Henshin Cyborg was a groundbreaking toy line that introduced innovative ideas and technologies to the toy industry. It also influenced many other toy lines that followed its footsteps. Henshin Cyborg is an important part of Japanese pop culture history and deserves recognition for its legacy.
In conclusion, Henshin Cyborg was Japan’s answer to Ideal Toy’s 1966 Captain Action from a certain point of view. It took the concept of a modular toy that you could purchase other items and costumes to make something unique from multiple character families and cranked that concept up to Eleven.