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Felix Lu of Fantasia Toys. Felix has been a long time Microman and Japanese toys dealer. I met Felix many years ago at the Shrine show in Los Angeles and he introduced me to the on-line Microman community.

I was able to attend Botcon this year as it was held in Los Angeles area. Felix of Fantasia Toys, a good friend of mine offered me a ticket to the show and to share his table at the convention. It is always fun hanging out with Felix at the show as he seem to know everybody. It never cease to amaze me how many toys dealers Felix know. Felix also help me sell a few things from my collection at the show so not only did I have fun I also made some cash. Felix was the only dealer there offering up a full selection of pre-TF toys line - Microman. The show overall was very good with excellent panel and dealer room, especially if you are a Transformers collectors. The only panel that perk my interest was presentation by a well known Japanese collector Fumihiko Akiyama on the subject of pre-TF toys history. The one man panel was a great highlight for a Microman collector like me. Other highlight at the show of course was meeting people that share my interest in Microman. I met up with Vince and Joe again and met Adam for the first time. I also met a guy who told me that plan for bringing Microman Magne Power line to the US was in the work. We will have to wait and see if this will come to fruition.

One of the most amazing display at this year Botcon however was not on the dealer or toy company tables but on the tables of Tony Preto who brought his amazing collections of Transformers toys. The display took up almost a quarter of the convention floor with rows and rows of tables full with TF toys from past to present. This is the most I have ever seen of Transformers toys in one setting. It was just simply mind boggling.

Tony Preto's collection, that was on display, including everything from G1 series up to the present day Energon and Alternator line. It shows that the guy just loves all things Transformers. Tony also put on display some of the rarer TF toys in his collection including many of the super hard to find "Lucky Draw" from the recent TF campaign in Japan. Tony's display alone was worth the admission price to the show.

Pre-TF History Presentation

Takara drew up proposal to dealer on selling Microman and Diaclone as one series called Henshin Sentai Transformers. The idea came from watching Hasbro US Transformers line and their own attempt with Kronoform series. Above is the dealer catalog for the Henshin Sentai line.

And you thought you will never see Microman on display at Botcon. Above Microman Robot V and Micro Ridor along with Microman Eiji from Mr. Fumihiko Akiyama collection.

*** Special Thanks to Felix Lu for inviting me to come along with him and of course to Botcon 2004 organizer along with Tony Preto and Fumihiko Akiyama for putting on impressive presentations ***

Tony Preto of  Tempting Toys. Tony was responsible for the awesome display at this year Botcon 2004. He also had large dealer table and offer up TF and related toys from his Tempting Toys store.

AcroSatan (Adam) display his rare find at Botcon 2004 - a boxed Micronauts Rocket Tubes.  Vince and Joe whom I have met before at the Shrine and Comic Con also showed up at Bot Con.

Fumihiko Akiyama, a prominent collector from Japan, was getting ready to give his presentation on pre-TF history of robot toys. The presentation not only confirm the history of Microman and Transformers but also shed some new light on the period leading up to the demise of first Microman line in 1984. (See below)

Botcon 2004 Presentation by Fumihiko Akiyama on Pre-TF history

One of the more interesting panel offered at this year Botcon 2004 was by Mr. Fumihiko Akiyama. The presentation was on the "Overview of the Pre-TF history of robotic toys in Japan" and offer up brief history of transforming robots from early 1960s up to the birth of Takara Transformers. It was unfortunate that the script of this presentation was not made available. Here are some of the highlight information pertaining to Microman aspect (many of which confirm what many Micro collectors already knew or suspected).

- Japan Robot toys traced its root to the early wind up and battery operate tin-toy robots. (Some of these early robots were featured in Takara  MYCLONE retro robot)

- Father of Japanese robots was none other than Tetsujin-28. However the modern robot toys was made popular by Popy (Bandai) Chogokin line namely Mazinger Z. Raideen became the first true transforming robot and the first TV tie-in line. (The show was made to promote toys)

- Takara was actually better known for its line of girl toys (Licca dolls). Takara also was the first and only (then) toys company to produce "enemy" toy. The first enemy toy was King Walder and followed by Acroyears. This practice by Takara of producing and selling enemy faction would later have a big consequence in the creation of Transformers series. One can say the Destron (JP-TF: Decepticon) really owe their existence to King Walder and Acroyear (and even the Waruder)

- Takara culture was rooted in the philosophy of creating original line of toys without the cumbersome (and short live) of TV show tie-in. This would be both the blessing and the downfall of Microman series. The first Takara tie-in line was Kotetsu Geeg which offered the revolutionary Magnemo series of toys. 

- Takara created Microman in 1974 as smaller version of their Cyborg line. This was the first action-figures line and pre-dated even Star Wars line. Like the Henshin Cyborg, Microman had no TV show tie-in and story was solely driven by toys and comics. Takara also was the only producer of action-figures toys in Japan at that point. (The Sentai Ranger team were sold as part of Chogokin toys)

- Takara reset Microman line in 1980's and start the New Microman series along with Diaclone to combat Popy die-cast toys popularity. Most Microman fans however hated the New Microman series and find the new reset story rather dumb and boring. Many long time fans were also very confused by the new series direction. Takara did this mainly to attract younger audience. Combiner was the most popular transforming toys as evidence by the toys in New Microman and Diaclone line.

- By 1980's transforming toys had became common place in Japanese toys market. Most of these toys were from the Sentai Ranger series produced by Popy (Bandai). Gundam popularity soon took over the boys segment and the old transforming robots were view as childish compare to the realistic robots (now called Mecha) in show like Gundam.

- Macross with its realistic transforming fighter jet was credit largely with the renewing interest in transforming robots. Takara picked up on this idea of realistic machines turning into robots and launched the new sub-series - Car Robot and Micro Change.

- In 1984, Hasbro licensed Takara Car Robot and Micro Change toys and introduced them in the US as The Transformers.  Takara was watching this with great interest and began formulating its own plan to convert the two line into new Transformers line. Takara proposed new series call Henshin Sentai Transformers which would have combined Diaclone Car Robot and Microman Micro Change toys into a single line. (The series would kept Microman and Diaclone names and act as a transitional series) This was a way for Takara to get rid of the old toys stock before moving into brand new "Transformers series".

- At this point Takara was already moving away from piloted robots. Both Microman and Diaclone series, the robots had became the central part of the series. The robots were now the "action-figures". If one were to look at the toys in these two  series in1983, this direction for both lines was very clear. Microman and Diaclone pilot figures were sideline and the new robots had less and less interaction with the figures. Some of the later Diaclone robots did not even include seat for the pilots and Microman no longer packed in with Micro Change series. 

 - Henshin Sentai however never came about and the plan to introduce this new combine Microman and Diaclone series was cancel. Instead, Takara went with directly importing US Transformers concept to Japan and both Microman and Diaclone went on hiatus in 1984. (No new toys and productions were ceased for both series)

- In 1985, Takara marketed TF in Japan as Super Robot Life Transformers and both Microman and Diaclone were cancel. In this retrospect, the end of Microman was already at hand since the end of 1983. If things were to happen differently and Henshin Sentai line was actually produced, it would have been the bridge series between the two line (much like how the miniature cyborg line Microman Zone became Microman series). TF would have trace its history and lineage directly back to Microman and Diaclone, well at least in Japan anyway. Henshin Sentai would became the "barefoot" series for the Transformer.