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Microman (ミクロマン Mikuroman?) is a line of toys manufactured by Takara (known as TOMY in English and K.K. Takara-Tomy (株式会社タカラトミー) in Japanese since 2006) from 1974 to the present. Microman toys were originally imported to the United States by Mego Corporation as Micronauts until the company went bankrupt in 1982. Some of the toys later became a part of the first line of Transformers.
The line of toys consists mainly of small 3.75" action-figures that are known for their high number of articulation points, averaging thirty, relative to other toys of similar size. The toys include vehicles and robots, and interchangeable parts that can be transferred from one toy to another.
An anime adaptation was released January 4, 1999 under the name Chiisana Kyōjin Microman (小さな巨人ミクロマン, The Small Giant, Microman).
Microman in Japan
In 1972, Takara released a series of 8" and 12" action figures called Henshin Cyborg ("Transforming Cyborg"). The Henshin Cyborg line was a spin-off of the earlier Combat Joe line. The Combat Joe line was created from the mould of the 8" and 12" G.I. Joe figures that Takara licensed from Hasbro. The body of the Henshin Cyborg was molded in clear plastic to expose the gleaming inner cybernetic implants and the "atomic engine".
Since both the cost of producing and the large size of the vehicles and playsets for the 12" dolls were prohibitive, in 1974 Takara decided to produce a miniature version of the Henshin Cyborg line which was called Microman.
The first series, Microman Zone, included four figures and several vehicles in kit form that needed to be assembled. Microman Zone proved to be popular and by its second year, the Microman line was spun off from the "Henshin Cyborg" line.
Unlike other toylines at the time, Microman figures were marketed as being the "actual" size of the cyborg beings they were meant to be replicas of. The cyborg beings were said to hail from the fictional planet Micro Earth, and to disguise themselves as toys. All of the Microman toys used 5 mm connectors and ports, which allowed parts from one toy to be attached to another toy to form new toys.
New Era (1998–present)
In 1999, Takara, for the first time since 1984, produced new Microman toys. (Microman 21 series was produced under license by Romando). The new Microman series was divided into two distinct lines - the Magne Powers series and the Replica Microman series. The Replica Microman series was mainly aim at adult collectors and older fans and consisted of reissues of vintage Microman figures along with limited and exclusive new color variations. The Magne Powers Series (and later LED Series) was designed for the kids with brand new toy designs and new story line, including for the first time in Microman history, a Microman anime series. Beside the anime, Takara also commissioned manga serial for Bom Bom comic magazine.
The Founder series launched the Replica Microman Series and soon were follow with the reissued of many old favorites such as the Acroyear A30X, Spy Magician M14X and Lady Command during the first year. Beside the reissue versions, Takara also released several new color variations and even new members to add to the rank of the old. In 2000, Takara followed with more reissued and even more color variants. However, the Microman market became very saturated with many variants and by 2001 Takara had severely scale back the release of the Replica Series.
The Magne Power series was launched with much fanfare and anticipation on December 26, 1998. The series eventually achieved only a mild success with kids and even less with adult collectors who felt the new series was too different from the old especially with the 8 cm scale and limited articulations of the new figures. By 2000, Takara, also in financial dire, reduced the new series to just a few dozen of toys and canceled the very expensive Microman anime and also eventually the manga in Bom Bom. In 2001 Takara put the new Microman series for the second time on a hiatus.
The Replica Series was still being released in 2002 but was on a very limited basis and mainly through Takara e-Hobby Shop. In 2003 Takara decided to test Microman market with brand new but small series called Microman 2003. This time the line was aim more at the collectors and older fans.
In the late 2000s, Takara expanded the Microman brand to include various licensed brands, including Batman (both comic-based and from Batman Begins), Superman (both comic-based and from Superman Returns), Evangelion, Street Fighter, Godzilla, Alien vs Predator and Kinnikuman. A Spider-Man toy was announced at one point and a photograph of a prototype does exist. However, the figure was never produced; its product number eventually went to one of the Predator figures.
Microman in the US
When the Microman toys were imported to the US, different US companies acquired the licence and took the toyline in different directions. The Mego Corporation in the US acquired the licence for the 3.75" action figures and vehicles and released them in the US as the Micronauts.
In the early 1980s Takara produced a second Microman line called New Microman. Many of the playsets and accessories were based on, or disguised themselves, as "life-sized" realistic objects. A subline called MicroChange was launched which featured toys that transformed into vehicles or robots which could be used with the Microman figures.
In 1984, Hasbro acquired the license for the transforming vehicle toys from the "Micro Change" subline and the Diaclone toyline. With help from Marvel Comics to flesh out the back-story, the two were combined to create the Transformers toyline.
Former MicroChange toys re-badged as Transformers include:
- "Megatron" - originally a black-and-brown Walther P-38 who turned into a robot wielding a laser gun and a sword. Although the Japanese version (sold in 1985) was this version, the American version was the U.N.C.L.E. variant, named after the hit TV show), featuring a chrome body with "extensions" (a sight, scope, and barrel extension/silencer). However, the sword, also included with the Japanese "U.N.C.L.E." version, was excluded from the American Megatron, possibly for fear that children may stab themselves in the eye with the sword. Furthermore, the original Japanese toy's ability to fire plastic pellet-like bullets was removed from the American toy. The U.N.C.L.E. extensions converted into a cannon capable of being operated by one of the Micromen.
- "CassetteMan" - a microcassette recorder that turned into a robot. This toy was converted into the Decepticon Soundwave and was capable of carrying a number of other robots who turned into actual-sized micro-cassettes. The Transformers version was imagined in comics and TV as changing into a traditionally-scaled cassette recorder.
- "Car" - Seven MicroChange robots were made to disguise themselves as "toy cars". Three of them were made to resemble Takara's own Choro Q (Penny Racers) cars. All seven were released as Transformers, more specifically Autobot Mini-cars, but only six of them were sold as named characters:
- The seventh, modeled after a Choro Q version of the Mazda Familia 1500XG/Mazda 323, was sold on "Bumblebee" and "Cliffjumper" cards and thus uses one of two names created by the Transformers' fan community, namely Bumblejumper or Bumper.
- "Perceptor" - a microscope (originally black) that changes into a robot wielding a rifle and missile launcher, plus the microscope's own magnifying scope as a weapon. The "Perceptor" also had an alternate third transformation mode, that of a rover-like tank vehicle that a 3.75" Microman cyborg figure could drive. The Transformers version was recolored dark red and became the Autobot scientist, Perceptor. In Japan the toy was released in black again by the company e-HOBBY as a Decepticon named Magnificus.
- "Blaster" - the second micro-cassette-holding radio for MicroChange. However, this one is made to resemble a much larger boom box. Also unlike CassetteMan/Soundwave, this cassette player came with a special component resembling a micro-cassette that allowed it to receive FM radio broadcasts. While the original version of this toy was molded in dark blue with a light blue cassette door/chest, a recolored version for Italian company GiG was also produced in red with a dark blue door. The Transformers version, the Autobot Blaster, is based on the Italian red version with all electronics removed from the toy. Its ability to open its cassette door (without excessive force) was also removed (as the Autobots did not have cassette/robots at the time Blaster was released, a feature was later restored, however, when new tapes were made specifically for Blaster in 1986).
Additionally, the Transformers: Superlink line in Japan included a Microman figure of the character "Kicker"; the American Transformers: Energon line did not import this figure, and a new sculpt based on that of a G.I. Joe was made instead.
In 2004, Takara started exporting Microman toys to the US again under the original name. Of these, one sub-line is the Material Force assortment, consisting of "blank", featureless male and female mannequins, molded out of different colored plastic and packed with several interchangeable hands, which proved very popular as templates for custom made characters.
The basic female figure from the Material Force line (known as Microlady), in addition to the differences in plastic color, was also issued in varying bust sizes (S,M,L and L+). Another addition to the line made in 2006 was the introduction of a new female mannequin dubbed the Micro Sister, which depicts a waifish female, with the innovation of toe articulation.
|Microman, The Little Giant|
(Chiisana Kyōjin Mikuroman)
|Original run||October, 1998 – December, 1999|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Noriyuki Abe|
|Original run||January 4, 1999 – December 27, 1999|
|Microman VS Gorgon|
|Directed by||Noriyuki Abe|
|Released||July 31, 1999|
The anime adaption of the series is based on the toys and the manga serialized in Comic BomBom with Takara's permission in 1999. Produced by Studio Pierrot, the series ran from January 4, 1999 to December 17, 1999. Unlike the toyline, the story is much different and focused on five Microman heroes.
One spring day, a small package is delivered to Kohei Kuji, a school boy. When he opens the box he finds five small action-figures inside. To his surprise, they begin to move around and start to talk to him. They introduce themselves as "Microman", coming from the planet Micro Earth which is located at the far end of the universe. They start to explain about their mission, telling him that Earth is now in danger. There is an evil power, call Acroyer, who is conspiring to conquer the universe. The five Microman are sent by the mysterious Professor K to Kohei to save Earth.
The series is released in VHS and later on in a four-volume DVD series by Pioneer LDC.
- Furman, Simon (2004). Transformers: The Ultimate Guide. DK Publishing Inc. p. 62. ISBN 1-4053-0461-8.
- Studio Pierrot's Chiisana Kyōjin Microman Website
- Chiisana Kyōjin Microman (anime) at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
- Chiisana Kyōjin Microman: Daigekisen! Microman VS Saikyō Senshi Gorgon (film) at Anime News Network's encyclopedia