Friday, July 31, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: Super Counter Arrow

As I mentioned when discussing Go-Bot Bumblebee, Hasbro released a number of small toys created to scale with Hot Wheels-style cars and racetracks during the tail end of the Generation Two line in 1995. As Bumblebee itself attests, Hasbro was determined even then to get the most out of these molds by releasing them in new color schemes as other characters. But that's only the beginning of the story for these molds!

When the Japanese company that handles Transformers, Takara, decided to create the Car Robots line in 2000, they took the opportunity to re-use a number of old molds, such as the Go-Bot molds. These toys were then re-used in America as part of the (nearly) all-repaint Robots in Disguise line in 2001. The Indy racer Go-Bot, originally called Double Clutch and then repainted into a new version of Mirage in Generation Two, was called "Counter Arrow" in the Japanese Car Robots line, but Hasbro took the opportunity to re-lay claim to one of their old Generation One trademarks by calling the mold Mirage again for Robots in Disguise. This particular toy, however, was never released in the United States, and thus is not Mirage. But neither is it just "Counter Arrow." Let me explain.... The Car Robots/Robots in Disguise fiction started what has since become a trend in other Transformers franchises. Whereas it used to be that a recolored toy almost invariably represented a different character, Car Robots suggested that certain recolors represented a "powered up" version of the same character as the original color scheme. Although this was never demonstrated with the Counter Arrow/Mirage character in the cartoon, this was clearly the intention with the Japanese exclusive set of recolors that included this red version of the Indy racer mold, as each toy in this series was called "Super (insert the Japanese character's name here)." Hence, this toy is "Super Counter Arrow."

This toy wasn't actually released during the course of the main run of the Car Robots line, either, but actually came out a couple of years later, in 2003. Both Hasbro and Takara found that the "Spychangers" (as the Go-Bot molds were now commonly called) made for excellent recolor fodder. Hasbro released several clear and/or differently-colored versions of these molds mostly as exclusives through KB toy stores, and Takara released several entirely different clear and/or differently-colored versions of these same molds on their own. Each one of the ten (or more, depending on how you count them) distinct "Spychanger" molds were eventually released in multiple color schemes across various lines by the time the toy companies finally stopped.

Perhaps the molds were finally destroyed from so much use. But who knows? These smaller toys may well have been able to take more abuse than some of the larger ones (we've been definitively told that larger molds created specifically for the Car Robots era have since been used beyond capacity), and if Hasbro has proven anything, it's that they're more than happy to milk a few more recolors out of an existing mold if they think the new colors will sell. And there are always plenty of Hot Wheels-style racetracks out there....

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