The year 1984 saw the last vestiges of the Diaclone and Microman/Microchange toyline, and the emergence of western-branded Transformers. At the same time, Choro Q- a popular line of stylized mini-cars- was enjoying a diversification into Super Robot territory. Somewhere in the mighty Takara empire, the tinder must have caught fire in the mind of a product designer (or savvy marketing type, perhaps). In a fusion of transforming robots, little cars and little robots, we were given two toys called "Chorobo," which combined the pull-back motor and kiddish styling of Choro Q with the transformation gimmick of the popular robot line.
This is Chorobo 01, which came from one of the many Mandarake storefronts in the Nakano Broadway. I bought it on sight, knowing almost nothing about the toy. I thought it was a little pricey at 2100 yen, so I didn't pick up the 02 figure, which was also for sale (stupid stupid). I'm always game for obscure transforming robots, and the fusion of Choro Q and Takara's transformation gimmick was too good to pass up.
Packaging is compact and simple. The instructions are printed on the back of the box, commonplace among cheaper toys. In particular, the package art is well done- this is always a treat when buying vintage toys since most modern companies will substitute CG art or toy photos for actual hand-drawn artwork on toy packaging. Note the parallels to G1 Transformer artwork in the stance and style of the drawing (more on this later).
The era of delicious styrofoam inserts. No crappy, finger-cutty plastic trays for 1984 Japan. Mini toys were still sold in full boxes in Japan (e.g., Microchange cars, Transformer Minibots) well into the late 80s.
Foil paper decals (oh god, yes) unapplied. Note the Diaclone-esque "Chorobo" logos. They kind of stopped this practice with Transformers, presumably because of the "robots in disguise" thing. Which one is Optimus? Maybe it's the one with "AUTOBOTS" written on the trailer. Naaaaah.
...although if they really wanted to be 'in disguise,' shouldn't they have all been beige Toyota Corollas, and not million dollar supercars? I wonder about these things.
Chorobo 01 is packed in its jet form, probably for good reason. It is a Choro Q styled Harrier GR-3 fighter plane. This model of plane, more properly called the Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR-3, was heavily used by the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force (hence the RAF insignia on wings). The toy does a fairly good job of capturing the main features, particularly the enormous forward intakes. Rear wheels equipped with a pull-back motor feature are hidden under the body of the plane.
Transformation of the plane to robot mode is simple, but nerve-wracking. I've put up a lazy mid-transformation photo to give you a general idea. The legs need to be pulled out on thin metal rods to allow them to the clear the body when being folded down in robot mode. This can put a lot of stress on a very small point, and I'm sure that a good number of these were broken by impatient child-hands. I honestly feel like I am going to break it every time I transform the toy.
So here's the robot mode. Not much to look at these days, I guess, but it was pretty damn good for its time. Chorobo 01 is on par or better than most small transforming robot toys of the day, especially when you consider that the Choro Q motor had to be figured into the design. Discernible head, arms and legs are pretty much a bonus in the early 80s era of robot toy design. As someone has noted, he is apparently quite well-endowed.
Later pull-back-and-go Transformers (Throttlebots, I'm looking at you) became pretty crude. Most times, there was only a passing suggestion of things like arms and hands. This one even has little hands sculpted on to the arms. Nice touch.
I particularly like the head sculpt. The whole toy is only a touch larger than the Transformer Minibots, so there is quite a bit of detail packed into something about the size of a pencil eraser. The head has a very combat-oriented feeling- appropriate to the design.
Several times throughout this write-up, I've mentioned similarities between the Chorobos and Transformer Minibots. The reason for this is that I find it puzzling that Takara would create an entirely new line, blending Choro Q and Microchange engineering, and then promptly can the endeavor after only two toys (the other is a F-15 Eagle). The shared features with Transformer Minibots make it even stranger, since Chorobo probably could have been easily wrapped into the Transformers toyline.
I have to chalk it up to a poorly timed release. Chorobo was likely intended to be a tie-in with the Microchange vehicles (note that Microchange consisted entirely of land vehicles, while both Chorobos are planes); unfortunately, it was introduced as Diaclone and Microman were being phased out, and was probably caught in the resultant whirlpool. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that distribution was probably pretty limited as well. If they had been produced a year later (Transformers began in Japan in 1985, not 1984), you can almost bet that they would have been "Transformers" and made successful by association.
This is purely speculation, since it could have been the case that Chorobo was scrapped due to incompatibility with other Choro Q toys. But it is interesting to wonder what might have happened had a few key decisions been made differently at Takara HQ. Maybe Twin Twist and Top Spin would have been small planes with pull-back motors. But then I doubt we would have this review.
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