A long, long time ago, when toy collecting was a simple business that could be enjoyed by a child of moderate intelligence and means, Hasbro graced diligent collector-lings with a way to buy Transformers that were sold IN NO STORES ON THE PLANET. Yes, each sizeable Transformer purchase came equipped with a small catalog to tempt the senses with pretty pictures of these wondrous things. BUT!.... But, there was a catch. The only way to obtain said toys was to buy, yes, MORE TOYS. Each Transformer sold came with "Robot Points": little Autobot or Decepticon symbol with a written point value, the value of which would differ depending on the size and price of the included toy. Only by cutting out said points, filling out a small form, and mailing both with a nominal amount of cash, could the children of yesteryear have a shiny, new toy mailed to them in 4 to 6 weeks. Ah, the glorious low-tech 1980s. No monstrous server-crashing debacles when a certain nameless company decides to sell a convention exclusive toy on its website. However, few children had the patience and understanding of the U.S. Postal System to negotiate its confusing, and often, arcane requirements. And damned if our parents were going to spend any more time and effort on those robot toys. As a result, few children would possess the mail-away exclusive figures, and fewer would survive to the present day.
For some reason in those carefree days of 1980-something, I wanted nothing more than a Powerdasher from the magic catalog. Yep, those cheap little holdovers from the Diaclone era with awesome pull-back action. My parents, in the infinite ignorance that is only displayed by well-intentioned adults, bought me a Reflector with my carefully saved Robot Points and probably their fifteen bucks. Well, SCREW THAT. Reflector- wasn't he that bunch of guys in the cartoon that all looked the same and had that really lame light power? He's even a camera- what the hell, Mom and Dad?? What am I supposed to do with this? Photograph the Autobots and steal their souls? I wanted the F-1 POWERDASHER, who is a COOL FUTURISTIC RACE CAR. Camera. Pff. He don't even look like the cartoon guy. What to do with these...
They can be the generic Transformers that are always getting blown apart in the background of the comics (Marvel comics, thank you). Oh, oh, and I'll make them AUTOBOTS with these extra decals that belonged to some other toy! Megatron attacks! BOOM, take that... blue visor guy! Close that door, folks. Thar's genius at work!
You probably can tell where this is going by now. Yes, my poor Reflector, the set of used-and-abused-and-mislabeled Decepticons, has emerged as one of the single most valuable domestically released Transformers. Loose, complete sets can easily go from $50 to over $100, depending on the condition; boxed sets, fuhgeddabouddit- you will never, ever see these. My set will probably go for a bit less.
Okay, fun's over. Time for the history lesson and personal nerd-wank for the night. Reflector, as it was known stateside, began life in the spawning pool of Takara's Microman Micro-change toyline as Microx, the Camera-Robo! Microx looked virtually the same as Reflector, owing to the fact that very little was changed upon its importation or its re-release as a Transformer in Japan. This was undoubtedly the source of much confusion among children, when they would try to figure out who was the real Reflector, and would he please stand up? Blue, red, WHY THEY SO MANY COLORZZ?!?! And that's pretty much the story here. Oh, and there's a buttload of knock-offs, so watch out.
In his camera mode, Reflector is a nifty little fellow and looks as much like a camera as Perceptor does a microscope. That is to say, you need to squint a bit for the illusion to work. Nonetheless, you can look through the viewfinder and click the button on top of Spectro's head. The flashbulb actually fires pointy silver missiles (well, it would have prior to its emasculation by American child safety laws). Hmm, maybe that's why my eyes always hurt after the flash.
The transformation is self-evident; the three pieces of the camera split apart and become robots with a few quick turns and pulls. This never occurred to me before, but Spectro's transformation is the mirror image of Spyglass'.
Although all three 'bots were known as 'Reflector' in their U.S. TV debut as clone-trons, the toys were each given different names to match their varying appearances. Spectro is the red robot with the clicky-button on his head. He also has that self-satisfied smirk on his little plastic face, and I therefore conclude that he is the asshole of the group, red being the universal asshole color. Spyglass is painted in sparkly metallic blue, obviously making him the cool 'bot- this is also supported by his awesome 80s visor. Spyglass can also wear the flashbulb in his "Doom Hammer" mode. Finally, Viewfinder is definitely the odd man of the group, partly because of his unique transformation, but mostly because he has the expressionless visor + mask combo that always suggests 'shady weirdo.' I imagine that he is a quiet loner who laughs at his own jokes, breathes through his mouth, and seems perpetually greasy no matter how many times he washes. The other two secretly hate him, moreso because they realize that they are useless without him. Yes, when you have Transformers with TV personas as nonexistent as these, you need to dig deep for these reviews, much as Dreamwave did in their MTMTE comic series. Well, characterization aside, it is interesting to look back at these toys when you recognize that they are the evolution of Takara's Microman line; there are numerous design elements that are shared with other non-Transformer Microman figures of that era (such as the individual components of Microrobot 7).
There is one last thing to note about Reflector: the copyright stamps. If you look at all three robots, they are stamped on their back with "Hasbro '83" and "TAKARA [ ] / Japan '83," below. This is strange for a number of reasons. First, 1983 is a significant date, because this is its Japanese date of release in the Microchange line. However, it also predates the earliest Transformers by about a year. Second, why is there a blank stamp after the TAKARA mark? This is usually reserved for cases where the factory had to change the country/date of manufacture for a particular run. This is seen quite frequently in the known Mexican Transformers.
Well, that's about all I have here. I will leave you with two tips. First, if you ever see a Reflector sold in a white outer box that is only marked "Transformers," get excited, because this is the U.S. release. Second, if you see a Reflector in the Microchange box with English text, this is a knock-off. Avoid it at all costs.
In other news, I'm sick of hunting for Transformers. People pay too damn much for them, because they're all crazy over the new movie. I'm only buying Machine Robo now. Seriously. Screw Transformers.
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