Transformers: Masterpiece is making new toys for the Trainbots, but who are these Japanese-exclusive Autobots and their combined form, Raiden?
Transformers is largely an American franchise, but it was born out of a collaboration between East and West. That resulted in the original Generation One cartoon taking on a wildly different form in Japan after it ended in America. One facet of this was the anime series Transformers: The Headmasters, which focused on concepts and characters only glanced at in the West. It also had a bevy of exclusive characters, including the Trainbots.
A team of combining Autobots who transform into trains, the Trainbots are fairly unknown among the Western fandom. Nevertheless, they’re incredibly popular in Japan, resulting in them being the inaugural entry in 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.
The Trainbots, also known in the West as the Railbots, made their first appearance in the toy line and anime series for Transformers: The Headmasters. This series was the Japanese-exclusive replacement for the five-episode fourth season of the original Generation One cartoon, featuring a much different take on the Headmaster concept. Beyond the series’ main quintet of Autobot Headmasters 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 only having five members. Thus, Raiden’s Decepticon rival was none other than the iconic Constructicon combiner Devastator.
The members of the Trainbots were their leader Shuki/Shouki, Getsuei, Yukikaze, Suiken, Seizan and Kaen. They were all repaints of formerly released toys in the non-Transformers toy line Diaclone, and together, they formed the mighty Raiden. Trains are a huge part of modern Japanese culture, so it’s no surprise that the team is quite popular there.
Ironically, Raiden and the Trainbots were very rarely featured in The Headmasters, usually only showing up to fight off other Combiners. They also lacked much in way of characterization, being blank slates besides the somewhat brash nature of Shouki. Even some of the later anime didn’t bring them back, with their only real cameos being in American Transformers comic books. This is perhaps why they’ve yet to see a release outside of America, or even a re-release of their original toys. However, that lack of representation is finally ending thanks to the collector-oriented Transformers: Masterpiece toy line.
The Masterpiece toy line is expanding with the new subseries of Transformers: Masterpiece G. The G stands for “gattai,” which means “combine” in Japanese. To many fans’ surprise, the first member of this toy line wasn’t someone recognizable like Devastator, but instead Raiden. This isn’t without precedent, as one previous caveat in the Masterpiece line was the release of the similarly Japanese-exclusive character Star Saber. Given that Masterpiece figures are designed by Hasbro, the Japanese side of Transformers‘ toy development, it makes sense that another Japan-only character might headline this new series.
The Trainbots, which will indeed be able to combine into Raiden, are all being released individually and sporadically. The first in line is Shouki, their leader, who transforms into a white, blue and gray bullet train. This toy, which is set to release soon, has already won an award from the 2022 Japan Toy Awards for its engineering. The absolute artistry of the figure has won over many Western fans, who’ve taken to pre-ordering it from 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 the 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 reissuing their originals. The franchise as a whole has been dipping into nostalgia more than ever, bringing back characters in toy form that have largely been ignored. Thankfully for Japanese Transformers fans, Raiden now counts among that number.
Timothy Blake Donohoo is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he majored in Communication and minored in Creative Writing.
A professional freelance writer and marketing expert, he’s written marketing copy and retail listings for companies such as Viatek.
In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing video games, watching documentaries and catching up on the latest Vaporwave and Electro-Swing musical releases.