Cheesy Toy Knockoffs!

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Optimal Knock Offs: Part 2 - Korean Generation 2 Optimus Prime!
By Alex Thatcher

In the beginning, there was Optimus Prime and Megatron, and all was good. One was the epitome of evil, a gun - a German gun at that. The other, the embodiment of freedom, a semi, painted red, white (yeah, I know, silver-close enough), and blue. Was it intended to be a metaphor for the world at the time, two equal super-powers in a never-ending cold war, much like the United States and The Soviet Union, I cannot say. What I can say is that the choices made for these two diametrically opposed leaders were brilliant because of the inherent nature of the things they were. Not only that, but they were equal, equal in stature, size and overall playability. But…wait you say? Optimus had his trailer, not fair. Let us not forget, Megatron had a mega cannon that could also be assembled out of his extra bits and pieces.

We had, essentially, the ultimate healer, Optimus with his repair bay, and the ultimate destroyer in Megatron with his mega cannon. It was too perfect. It could not last, and it did not. Optimus prime was killed and Megatron became Galvatron. Not only did he become more powerful than before, he was larger than and almost twice as tall as the original Megatron and Optimus Prime.

For storytelling, it is always nice to have an underdog fight back against a superior power, but as far as play value went, it was awkward for a resurrected Optimus to take on this new Galvatron. There was Ultra Magnus, who fit the bill for play value equivalents and should have been Galvatron’s equal, but fell woefully short thanks to his performance in the cartoon and movie. Rodimus Prime was written as the equivalent to Galvatron instead, but his toy, compared to Galvatron, was inadequate as well. In two years, we would get a Prime back that was an equal, but Galvatron was no longer on the shelves.

Leaders came and went until, seemingly, Transformers was dead. Never quite catching the magic of the first few years of Generation 1; again Hasbro decided to bring back as much of those early years as possible with Generation 2. Optimus Prime was back and so was Megatron, but, once again, the two opposing leaders could not look each other in the optics. Eventually, we got a downsized, brilliantly done, version of Megatron, but at the same time a new Optimus Prime. So there was still that disparity never quite resolved, at the beginning of Generation 2, that is, until the Koreans fixed it.

In 1996, under the name Hasbro International Inc., with permission apparently granted by 3D Licensing International represented by Toon Town, Generation 2 Transformers came to Korea. They released a Generation 2 Optimus Prime, at least twice the size of the original, which could finally look the giant M-1 Abrahams Megatron, right in the optics. I can’t say what all was introduced or in what shape or form but the box would seem to imply Sideswipe, Ramjet and Megatron (tank) were intended to be released as well. With online auction sites just coming online, and Americans living on military bases in Korea with postal rates that were as cheap as sending it inside the states, it was everywhere. Not cheap, but everywhere Korean Prime could be found as high as $500, as low as $100.

But wait, didn’t the box say Hasbro International? Okay, first rule about bootleggers, they lie. While this is a very well done toy, it still appears to be a Knock-Off. Normally I would go off the fact that the toy does not appear to have any production stampings or copyright information on it, in this case, my real Optimus from Hasbro does not though, so we fall back on the basics.

This larger Optimus Prime is physically different from the real Hasbro one in almost every way possible. First off, starting with the obvious, what should be red is white, what should be silver is red, what should be chrome is gold, and what should be blue is black. Next, almost every piece that makes up this “Optimus Prime” is different even though on a quick glace it looks the same. Starting with the Head it almost appears to have been stretched vertically. Additionally, two rectangular ridges are missing from the helmet, one on each side. The Cab no longer opens. The bumper does not have the slots around the license plate recess and the fins right above the bumper on the grill are missing. The arms do not have rivets. The legs do not have nearly as much detail on the inner lower legs, but for some reason an additional louver panel was added right below the knee where the decal would go on the Hasbro product. The wheels appear to be reminiscent of the plastic ones that sometimes can be found on Ultra Magnus, only with cardboard inserts (yeah, I fixed that, see the next article for where I got the spiffy new wheels from) and the little fender between the wheel and gas tank is gone. Overall, this Korean Optimus was completely remade, which screams “Knock Off”, but why all the effort?

In reality there is not any extra effort going on here, it is just further proof that this is a Knock Off. Fine details are missing because of the fact that they are creating a new mold off the actual toy, instead of using the actual mold. Still, the attention to detail is surprising. All the louvers on the legs would have been easier to get rid of, but instead, they were changed from introverts to extroverts, and as said before, more were added. However, the bad spray ops on the louvers and the head even out any positive with their negative. Still, there are name brand toys that have poor spray ops with plastic that feels inferior to the plastic used in this Prime; not normal, not normal at all.

The trailer is amazing. Aside from the goofy, cheap wheels, the rest is very well done. Yellow and black just look wicked. Almost all of the small detail lines appear to be intact. It also comes with the Gen 2 voice box and it actually works. Speaking of things actually working Rollers launch platform is fully enabled and functional as well, and when the trailer got bigger so did the spring. That means Roller can fly out of the back of the trailer and fly 12 + feet through the air, if you, for some reason, happen to take it off the ground. Let us just say it hurts at very close range and leave it at that.

Another surprise is a complete, well-detailed, precut decal sheet and detailed instructions all included in a plastic baggy. The decals are very limited, in comparison to the Hasbro versions (those Gen 1 Autobrands did not come with it, I added them), but nonetheless they are there and using the Gen2 Prime head logo. The instructions seem to be a mishmash of Gen1 and Gen2, but I never saw what the Gen 2 instructions for Hasbro’s Prime, maybe they were this way too.

I really do not know how to explain the existence of this Optimus Prime. I can understand how people would believe that it is an actual licensed, legitimate toy, like G.I. Joes made in India and distributed under the Funskool name. Those G.I. Joes meet bootleg criteria with their ridiculous colors, cheaper plastic and sometimes-horrible spray ops, spray ops just like this Prime has. Nevertheless, the Funskool Joes are not bootlegs, they used the actual, licensed Hasbro molds, there are really no changes in scale or detail, and all of the packaging and toys have copyright info everywhere. If this Prime were legit it probably would not even have Hasbro listed, it would list Takara as Hasbro licenses from them, and for some reason I just cannot imagine Takara being okay with a licensee Okaying a copy of their product being made.