In this last installment of my year-end series about cool robot toys from Japan, I've decided to look back at one of the classics: Takara’s Microman line, which was released in the U.S. in the late '70s by Mego under the name Micronauts. Micronauts was a contemporary of another line of imported Japanese robot toys, Mattel’s Shogun Warriors, and both lines even had comic book series published by Marvel. While Shogun Warriors featured Super Robots from several anime series that had pilots and combination configurations, that toy line didn’t have any pilot figures or robot figures with combination capabilities; in contrast, Micronauts provided the first examples of mech and combiner robot toys to kids in the U.S. Read on for a look at four of Micronauts’ groundbreaking toys.
Before getting into the list of noteworthy Micronauts toys, it should be noted that Takara’s Microman line was a spin-off of another innovative robot toy line, Henshin Cyborg. Henshin Cyborg figures were modeled after Hasbro’s line of 12-inch G.I. Joe action figures from the '60s and '70s, but they differed from Hasbro’s figures in two significant ways: They were made with transparent plastic so kids could see the figures’ mechanical insides, and they had magnetic joints that allowed for greater flexibility and disassembly/reassembly.
A Henshin Cyborg figure.
The Microman toy line was a miniaturized version of the Henshin Cyborg line, and the modularity of the Henshin Cyborg figures carried over to the modularity of the Microman/Micronauts vehicles, robots and playsets. Even though the Micronauts line ended during the early ’80s, Takara continued the Microman line in Japan for many more years. Some of the later Microman toys would also become part of Hasbro’s Transformers toy line. While Takara’s Microman line features plenty of great robot toys, I am only including on this list the toys that were released in U.S. under the Micronauts line.
Biotron is an early example of a combiner mech toy. It can be “piloted” by a smaller 3 ¾-inch Micronaut figure, and it can be disassembled into a tank and a rocket sled. It also required two C batteries, which allowed Biotron to roll in tank mode and walk in robot mode.
Microtron is like Biotron in that it is also battery-power and can be re-arranged from a robot configuration to a vehicle configuration. Microtron’s head opens to form as seat for a Mirconaut pilot in both robot and vehicle configurations.
Giant Acroyear was an amazing combiner robot toy: It consisted of two humanoid robots, a missile-launching rocket plane and a missile-launching land vehicle that combined into a single large robot. Years before kids heard of Voltron, they had the Micronauts’ Giant Acroyear.
Hornetroid was one of the later releases in the Micronauts line. It was designed by Mego and not Takara, so it had no Microman counterpart. Even though it looks like a vehicle toy, Hornetroid is basically a giant flying robot that looks like an insect, complete with flapping transparent wings, six retractable legs, and figure-gripping pinchers.
For more information about the Micronauts and Microman toy lines, check out Innerspace Online and the Microman Forever site.