1986, Part III: Scramble City

Scramble City is the subtitle for Japan´s 1986 edition of the Transformers toy line. While in the West, Hasbro´s focus was on The Transformers: The Movie (see last post), Takara put more weight on the other major theme of 1986 toys: combining teams! Now, while there had been a combining team before, forming Devastator, as well as new one forming Predaking, the new teams (dubbed “Special Teams” in the West) had some new features thrown into the mix.

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Above: The Special Teams, Aerialbots, Stunticons, Protectobots and Combaticons, respectively

With Devastator and Predaking, each member had a set position within the larger, combined robot, and a variation of connectors for achieving the feature. With the new combining teams, however, there was a whole lot of flexibility: while each team had a large “core” member, the team leader, forming the head and torso of the Gestalt, the four, smaller members forming the limbs connected to the core bot with standardized connectors, which meant that they could switch position in the combined robot. What was more, members could switch places in-between teams, as all had the same standard connectors/ports. What was MORE, each team leader had, except for robot, vehicle and torso mode, also a base mode, which could in turn connect to the base modes of the two giant base bots introduced the same year, Metroplex and Trypticon. In a direct-to-video cartoon accompanying the toyline, the name of Metroplex´s base, or rather, city mode, was “Scramble City”, hence the subtitle for the toyline. As it turns out, these toys were originally planned as a sub-line for Diaclone, but upon the success of Transformers in the US, Takara opted for importing that instead and the planned “Jizai Gattai” (free combination) line was temporarily shelved. In 1986 they however debuted as Transformers in both countries.

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Above: The Special Teams in their combined forms: Superion, Menasor, Defensor and Bruticus, respectively

Thematically, the Special Teams introduced were quite interesting. The first team, the Aerialbots, were four jet fighter planes with a Concorde, Silverbot, for their leader, with all of them combining into Superion. The novelty here was that up to this point, Autobots typically transformed into cars whereas Decepticons turned into planes. To drive the point home further, the Aerialbots´ rivals were the Decepticon team the Stunticons, four sports cars led by a trailer truck, Motormaster, with whom they combined to form Menasor. Next we had the Protectobots, all turning into emergency vehicles, forming Defensor, and their rivals the Combaticons, all military vehicles (save the inexplicable inclusion of Blast Off, transforming into a military green… space shuttle!), combining into Bruticus. As with the earlier Gestalts, the combined forms of the Scramble City teams are the most iconic as characters, but some, especially Swindle (forming one leg of Bruticus) has, with a personality that of a ruthless businessman, become especially beloved by the fandom, and he appeared as a solo character in the cartoon Transformers Animated. Not bad for someone´s right leg, so to speak 😉

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Above: Swindle, his boxy toy, as seen in the original cartoon and his appearance in Transformers Animated

In hindsight, I think the Scramble City teams started a trend that would intensify during the years to come, one where gimmicks and set play patterns would be prioritized over compelling design and well-defined characters, but more on that in a later post…

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Above: Iconic box art, featuring the 1986 Autobots and Decepticons facing off around their respective cities, Metroplex (left) and Trypticon (right)

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We are now firmly in the peak of the original 80´s run of the Transformers toy line, stay tuned for more…

Thanks to TFW2005, Seibertron, Botchthecrab, Brr-Icy and Unicron Nemesis for pictures!

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