Transformers is largely an American franchise, but it was born out of a collaboration between East and West. This gave the original Gen 1 cartoon a very different form in Japan after it ended in America. One facet of that was the animated series Transformers: Directors, which focused on concepts and characters only seen in the West. It also had a slew of exclusive characters, including the Trainbots.
A team combining Autobots that transform into trains, the Trainbots are fairly unknown among Western fans. Nevertheless, they are incredibly popular in Japan, making them the first entry into the Transformers: Masterpiece G toy line. Here’s a look at who these mysterious Autobots are, as well as when fans can own them in die-cast form.
Who are Generation 1 Trainbots?
Trainbots, also known in the West as Railbots, made their first appearance in the toy line and animated series for Transformers: Directors. This series was the Japan-exclusive replacement for the original Generation 1 cartoon’s five-episode fourth season, with a very different take on the director’s concept. Beyond the main quintet of the Autobot Headmasters series were other new characters, including the Trainbots. This six-member Combiner team was the first of its kind on the Autobot side, with the other “Scramble City” Combiners having only five members. Thus, Raiden’s Decepticon rival was none other than the iconic Constructicon Devastator combinator.
The members of the Trainbots were their leader Shuki/Shouki, Getsuei, Yukikaze, Suiken, Seizan, and Kaen. They were all repainted from previously released toys in the non-Transformers toy line Diaclone, and together they formed the mighty Raiden. Trains are an integral part of modern Japanese culture, so it’s no surprise that the team is hugely popular there.
Ironically, Raiden and the Trainbots were very rarely featured in The directors, usually only showing up to fight other Combiners. They also lacked a lot of characterization, being blank slates in addition to Shouki’s somewhat brash nature. Even some of the latest anime didn’t bring them back, their only real cameos being in America Transformers comics. Maybe that’s why they haven’t seen a release outside of America yet, or even a re-release of their original toys. However, this lack of representation finally comes to an end thanks to the collector orientation Transformers: Masterpiece toy line.
Transformers: Masterpiece brings the Trainbots to international fans
The Masterpiece the range of toys expands with the new sub-series of Transformers: Masterpiece G. The G stands for “gattai”, which means “to combine” in Japanese. To the surprise of many fans, the first member of this toy line wasn’t someone recognizable as Devastator, but rather Raiden. This is not unprecedented, as a previous caveat in the Masterpiece was the release of the Star Saber character, also exclusive to Japan. Given that Masterpiece figures are designed by Hasbro, the Japanese part of Transformers‘ toy development, it makes sense that another uniquely Japanese character could headline this new series.
The Trainbots, which will indeed be able to combine into Raiden, are all released individually and sporadically. First in line is Shouki, their leader, who transforms into a white, blue, and gray bullet train. This toy, which should be released soon, has already won an award Japan Toy Awards 2022 for its engineering. The sheer artistry of the figure won over many western fans, who started pre-ordering it on sites such as BigBadToyStore and HobbyLink Japan.
Hopefully this increased exposure will make the Combiner team more popular in America, seeing them become as ubiquitous as the Constructicons or other non-Combiner teams like the Dinobots and Insecticons. This could rub off on all the anime-exclusive Transformers, with Hasbro and Takara both putting them in new toy lines and shows while possibly re-releasing their originals. The franchise as a whole is dipping into nostalgia more than ever, bringing back characters in toy form that have been largely ignored. Lucky for the Japanese Transformers fans, Raiden is now among that number.