|Loving Japan Obligatory! #2: Pedophilia and Optimus Prime|
by Julian X  /  non-fiction  /  3 Jun 2008
Are you aware that the much-loved leader of the Autobots had a fetish for underage girls?
Or that a Megatron look-alike not only shared the same fetish, but repeatedly tried to rape those girls?
That contact between Transformers and underage girls was the point of an entire Transformers line?
And that all of this occurred in official Transformers products? Supposedly starring the original, beloved versions of these characters?
In 2006, the Transformers toy line was in a transitional phase. The line known as Cybertron had wrapped up, along with the animated series that went along with it. The 2007 live-action movie was on the horizon, and the Transformers franchise was mostly concerned with keeping something in the stores until the movie, and its corresponding toys, could be released. In the U.S., Hasbro launched its "Classics" line, featuring redesigned versions of beloved original characters.
Takara, the Japanese company that releases Transformers toys in Japan, had more ambitious plans... ones more in keeping with the Japanese audience.
Parallel to the Cybertron line, Takara was also offering a wonderful line called "Binaltech." Binaltech toys all transformed into cars -- and only cars. Rather than being made-up cars, these would be real-world models, lisenced from real car manufacturers. (Volkswagon famously prevented a version of the character Bumblebee from transforming into a Beetle, not wanting -- for understandable reasons -- to be associated with "war toys.") What's more, these cars would be reproduced to scale, in metal, and in exacting detail -- so much so that Binaltech toys look like model cars, yet still transform into robots. The transformations were notoriously difficult.
The line was conceived as consisting only of the good Transformers faction, logically known as the Autobots. But, as the line proved successful, it was expanded to include a few of those evil Decepticons -- who now also transformed, unlike past incarnations, into real-life cars.
In the U.S., Hasbro released Binaltech toy molds under the "Alternators" label. To keep the price down, the metal used in Japan was swapped for cheap-looking plastic, which kind of defeated the whole point of the line. Understandably, Alternators didn't sell well in the U.S., and a number of Japanese models were never released stateside.
In Japan, Binaltech had an accompanying manga series. Unlike all the Transformers stories since the beginning of Beast Wars in 1995, these Binaltech stories were officially set in the original Transformers universe, known as "Generation 1." Nerdy readers will nostalgically recall that the original Transformers animated series, originally set in the present day, jumped forward to 2005 for the 1986 film Transformers: The Movie. Transformers comics continued to be set in the present day, creating continuity problems, before stopping prior to the 1995 advent of Beast Wars.
The Japanese Binaltech stories were supposed to be set between 1986 and 2005 in this original continuity. A robot plague of sorts forced the Autobots to find new bodies, and the real-world car companies were eager to do their part for the cause of good. This explained the new figures, all of which had Generation 1 names. When a few Decepticons were added, the story explained that they had hijacked the Binaltech process. How they were going to get their old bodies back in time for the events of the animated movie, set in 2005, was never explained.
It was in this context that Takara came up with the idea of "Kiss Players," the line set to succeed Binaltech. The original idea seems to have been to pair Transformers toys with figurines of girls. Reportedly, the line was supposedly even created in order to appeal to girls.
In fact, the early Kiss Players releases were just old Binaltech figures, recast in plastic instead of metal, with silly little plastic figures of Japanese girls. Some kind of accessory, which also transformed, was also added -- such as a surf board that turned into a sword.
All of this sounds perfectly benign. Past Transformers toys have included human figures. In fact, whole lines, going back to the Headmasters during Generation 1, incorporated humans. With the Headmasters, they wore exo-suits that transformed into the heads of the robot Transformers. The Targetmasters had humans who transformed into the robots' guns. The Motormasters had humans who transformed into the Transformers' engines, allowing them to transform and apparently acting as a power source.
So including figures of cute girls with Transformers wasn't entirely unprecedented. But this is Japan, so you can guess what happened.
That's right: the girls came out looking like sexualized pre-teenagers, stylized in the anime fashion. Although officially of age, and shown to be old enough to drive in the accompanying literature, the artistic style deliberately exaggerated proportions to make the girls appear not only younger but actually underage.
Well, you might say, that's just the anime style. You can object to it, if you want, but it's nothing new.
But the artistic style was far from the only problem. A more serious one stemmed from the fact that the toy line needed a narrative justification. Even the most ridiculous Transformers toys have little blurbs explaining their existence. If the toy in question is simply a repainting of Optimus Prime, something on the box will explain why Optimus Prime chose that color scheme. Moreover, the Binaltech manga series would be succeeded by a Kiss Players manga, which would have to explain the concept?
So why would the Transformers hanging out with underage girls? Because, like the earlier Motormasters line, they got their power from these girls. Yet these girls didn't transform into engine blocks. No, they powered the Transformers through kisses -- hence the name "Kiss Players."
That's right: the power of an underage girl's kiss just seemed to charge Optimus Prime's engines, readying him to go into battle against the Decepticons. Because there's just nothing like suggestive sexual contact with underage girls to make the body of an extraterrestrial war machine flood with energy.
I'm sure someone thought this was a cute idea: combine Transformers with the popular phenomenon of anime girls, then make the girls give those Transformers cute and innocent little kisses. Who could object?
Until you see those figures. And how they're posed in promotional photographs. And the art on the box.
Consider the Optimus Prime toy, packaged with a girl named Melissa. In Japan, Optimus Prime is known as Convoy. Melissa was supposedly a character named Marissa Faireborn in the U.S., though she had never been seen this young.
Here's the box:
That's right: there's Optimus Prime, marginalized on his own box in favor of a blonde girl in panties, sticking her ass out towards the viewer.
Here's the box for Autorooper, known as Jazz in the U.S. His girl, dressed in a fetishistic sailor outfit, seems particularly in distress. Due, of course, to an electrical gremlin of sorts that is emerging from her crotch. Because girls' crotches are filled with energy.
These boxes are glorious in their design. Besides focusing on the girls, the part of the front of the box that features the girl opens to give a better view of the toys. This lets you see another image of the girl on the inside of this flap. Like this one, from the Convoy x Melissa box:
That's right: Optimus Prime's girl companion, already in her panties, is taking off her shirt, revealing (if not removing) her bra beneath. And she's sweating, looking alarmed for some unknown reason. Perhaps some Decepticon is forcing her to do this and Optimus Prime will soon rescue her.
You'll also note the transformation of the Transformers motto, "More than Meets the Eye!" Originally, that signified how these were "Robots in Disguise," robots who could mask themselves as human vehicles. Now, however, "More than Meets the Eye!" takes on an entirely new meaning. It appears in a soft, feminine arc right along the edge of that flap that opens on the front of the box, as if suggesting that, when you open the flap, you're getting at what lay beneath.
Clearly, "More than Meets the Eye!" is deliberately played with here, coming to signify the careful masking of pedophilic sexual content behind a veil of innocent kissing. Of course, you're free to ignore this if you want, prefering the traditional interpretation for the Transformers -- a fact that helps mask the truth beneath, since you can always claim that it's only perverts who see the phrase as acquiring a special meaning for this toy line.
The boxes also featured a see-through window on the side, as well as an image of the girl kissing the robot in the box. Here's Optimus himself, getting his charge of power from his here particularly empassioned girl:
Takara's publicity images also hightened the sexuality. Here's how the company positioned Melissa in one advertisement:
At the risk of over-interpreting, what she's leaning into, as she again bends over to show her panty-clad ass to the camera, is the surf board that transforms into Optimus Prime's sword -- his phallic weapon, which is flaming hot, suggesting his sexual passion.
If you look around the internet, you can find plenty of images of Optimus Prime posed with his female figurine: her sitting on his face, for example.
But these images weren't enough to provoke much controversy. Anyway, Takara ended up producing only a few of these toys. What was far more controversial were the stories spun out of the toy line.
The toys themselves featured CDs, which contained radio plays featuring the Kiss Players. One of the real strengths of the Transformers has always been the fact that the toys were part of stories, wherein characters had real personalities and the Transformers grew into a real mythology.
Any Kiss Players story was going to be problematic, but the manga just seemed to take real joy in deliberately pushing the pedophilic edge. The manga wasn't allowed to feature explicit nudity or depiction of sex. Takara would not have allowed it. But the manga certainly contained a large amount of sexually evocative imagery.
For example, almost any excuse was used to splatter the scantily-clad girls with something resembling white fluid. The girls frequently were shown cowering in fear, blushing and teary-eyed, backed against walls in suggestive postures, asses raised in the air.
For example, here's Atari, clad in her sailor uniform, in distress and showing off her ass:
Here's the same character, all but nude, shocked in her panties, her sailor costume ripped, her arms fearfully covering her breasts, and her back arched to shove her ass out towards the approaching Transformer. Which, in this case, is none other than Optimus Prime, in his Binaltech body. The apparently nude girl who appears as a ghost inside him is a visual shorthand that occurs commonly in the Kiss Players manga, seemingly meant to indicate the power he has achieved through the girl's kiss.
Most famously, however, the story involved a villain named Legion, a Megatron-look-alike who bound and ate girls, allowing further titilation.
Note the fluid splashed around on the page below. It apparently drips from the body Legion is eating, flowing down over the helpless girl, which is horrific enough. But the ambiguous art also suggests that the girl in bondage is pissing her panties. And, of course, the art evokes pornographic images of semen splattered on women, particularly on their faces.
But Legion is most known for his very peculiar tongue -- which acts like a long, veiny, obviously phallic tentacle. This plays on the long-standing motif of tentacle rape in Japanese art and film, though this is more commonly associated with pornographic works than ones stemming from a toy line ostensibly for kids. In Legion's case, his tentacle of a tongue -- suspiciously organic for a robot -- even had a urethra and seemed wet, splattering some kind of ambiguous fluid all about. It often thrust out towards the girls, implying a threat of rape.
Check out that tongue! On the page below, Legion thrusts out his tongue at the girl in the middle of the page, weilding it as a prehensile weapon:
Admittedly, the character of Legion isn't Megatron -- he just has Megatron's distinctive original head. But Optimus Prime, while in a new body, was intended to be the original version of the character.
Takara's claim that Kiss Players was intended to bring girls into the Transformers cannot be taken too seriously -- such ridiculous justifications are pretty normal to explain away sexual content in Japan (consider the Hello Kitty vibrator marketed as a back massager). It's hard to imagine many Japanese girls thrilling to imagery of girls in their panties, bound and horrified, drenched in blood and body parts in a manner that suggests semen. Or images of such girls fleeing rape from tentacles emerging from extraterrestrial robots. But you never know. Certainly, reports from Japan indicate that it was overwhelmingly men who bought the Kiss Players toys.
It has to be pointed out that some Japanese objected to such content in a Transformers comic, not so much due to the content as its inclusion in material derrived from a line of toys aimed primarily at children. For many fans, such content was seen as destroying their childhood memories of the Transformers and their characters.
In the U.S., coverage of the Kiss Players was limited mostly to the internet. Apparently, cable news never got a hold of the story, which probably would have been covered, especially given the success of the live-action movie just a year later.
Many Americans dismissed the content as the product of those crazy Japanese. Some were offended by the content, while others justified it as having deep resonances with Japanese culture.
Kiss Players didn't last long, and few toys were released. But it remains a fact that, just one year prior to the live- action movie, Optimus Prime was cavorting with girls in their underwear, getting power from their kisses. Just a year before the movie scored at the box office, the Autobots were busy defending screaming girls in their underwear, splattered with unknown fluids, from implied tentacle rape.
More photos of Kiss Players available here. Takara's official Kiss Players site is available here.
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