The history of Transformers has always been as interesting as the toys themselves. There is a whole family tree behind the eponymous Robots in Disguise, and those fans who venture up its branches eventually find the faces unfamiliar, but the family resemblance strong nonetheless. This might be the most fascinating part of the family tree, because it is so unfamiliar. Today, Transformerland takes you to the base definitive of the trunk, Takara’s Diaclone, with these scans of the first product catalog from 1980. Mind you, the story goes deeper underground to the roots, but that’s another article! So pour yourself a tall glass of Freezon, sit back, and enjoy our high-res (click the images to view full-size!) scans and exclusive translations…
The beginning of the Diaclone story!
THE GREAT ROBOT-BASE
The front cover introduces us right away to the largest offering in the initial Diaclone lineup: Robot Base. The “Great” is not actually part of his name, though it often appears in Romanized representations. Also, Robot Base is a vehicle, operated by human personnel, as are all Diaclone mecha. It’s very hard to break the habit of anthropomorphizing the non-living robots as we all do with our favorite ‘living’ ones. The inch-tall Diaclone personnel on his shoulders and the wonderful refinery diorama around his feet give the sense that he is huge… and he is. We also see all three Diaclone logos: metallic-looking Japanese Katakana block text reading “Di-a-ku-ro-n”, metallic Latin letters with large-ended design, and the Latin logo with Robot Base’s face appearing above.
Fight! Diaclone Corps-
A branch to defend Earth’s energy. They will not let the future of the human race fall into the hands of the Waruder Army invaders from space! Diaclone Corps has a unity and friendship as hard as diamond, and camaraderie as strong as a cyclone – we are Earth’s Defense army!
The first spread treats us to a wonderfully retro full-spread diorama of (guess who?) Robot Base in tank mode, and Dia-Battles in his separate vehicle modes, two of which are obscured in the billowing fog. There is also nice art of the Power Rangers Voltron Force Super Sentai Diaclone Corps personnel in different colored “Type 1” suits. I’m a bit disappointed that they didn’t put this art on the relatively empty opposite page, rather than covering part of the mecha diorama. The text teases the story of who the Diaclone Corps is.
Plot of the Story…
ACT-1 Earth fell into an energy crisis!
Year 198X……The energy crisis was the worst ever. Oil rationing was more difficult, and nuclear fusion energy still had too many problems to be put to practical use.
Countries had been looking desperately for new energy. Finally, scientists in Japan discovered the super-substance “Freezon” gas in Earth’s core. “Freezon” can produce hundreds of times the energy of nuclear!
ACT-2 Finally, the new “Freezon” energy was discovered!
Year 199X…… With the discovery of the super-energy substance “Freezon”, mankind had an exhibition of progress. The world becomes a federation of five states called the “Macro Zone”. Each city has a giant city-computer is tied to a hotline information system, managed by “Landmaster”, the largest city zone computer.
ACT-3 Earth’s Freezon in the hands of the Waruder alien invasion!!
In a distant part of the universe, the Waruder stars were about to run out of Freezon resources due to their abuse of the energy. The Waruder aliens knew this, and extended their aggression into space, in search of Freezon. The Waruder Army became known as the Legion of Horror by those in their path, all that remained was a dead planet after they robbed its energy. Waruder Army reconnaissance craft flew all throughout the universe. Finally, one machine picked up on the rich Freezon resources of Earth.
ACT-4 Now, Earth’s defense army, Diaclone Corps is formed!
Just as Land Master started up, it caught an interstellar message from a star that was destroyed by the Waruder Army. So it was that Earth’s imminent crisis became apparent. Land Master protects the Earth. It took action by ordering four machines from the other zone computers. “It is possible for those who love the earth, and have a fiery courage and passion, to ambush the Waruder Army! Urgently find those who have the heart to carry out this task!”
ACT-5 Protect the Earth! Land Master takes action!
From all over the world, those who would protect the Earth created a strong friendship and formed Earth’s defense army – Diaclone Corps.
Not only the full use of Freezon energy is enough to counter the Waruder Army. Diaclone Corps cooperates with Land Master while a Waruder Army Interceptor Brigade approaches.
ACT-6 The combat intensifies! Hang in there, Diaclone Corps!
The Waruder assault to plunder all of Earth’s Freezon Energy began! Diaclone Corps was mobilized! Using a new strategy, Waruder Army gathers reinforcements from a nearby star, one after another. Diaclone Corps also repeatedly powered-up their combat capability in the increasingly violent battle. Fight, Diaclone Corps! Defend our Earth!
Finally, after nearly 35 years, the Diaclone story is revealed! The story speaks for itself, and is accompanied by five small pieces of artwork. Each “Act” is a snippet of the story, which is reduced to an even shorter snippet in the yellow summary text. The story is surprisingly prescient, debuting in a time when the energy crisis was real, and the 1979 Iranian oil crisis was fresh in the larger world’s memory. I’d also like to note that Land Master seems to be the friendliest version of the AI singularity that sci-fi has yet presented!
ロボットベース Robot Base
-This is a Robot base!
Inset picture captions:
This is the heart of the Robot Base!
Intercept the Waruder Army no matter what! / Roger!
Punch that flies from both arms!
Dia Punch fire!
Fighter rides in the head!
Base Fighter, scramble
Cutaway diagram labels, clockwise from topmost:
Vibration Wave Generator
All-directional Electron Wave Radar
Freezon Rocket Engine DC-X
Freezon Engine DC-II
Antiprotonic Missile Launcher
Main Freezon Engine
Freezon Rocket Engine DC-R
Freezon Beam Cannon
Small Fighter Hangar
Freezon Missile Launch Pad
Strategy Command Room
High Speed Particle Sensor
Page 6, inset captions
Fast escalator into base!
There’s an emergency meeting, come to the strategy command room.
Zone Fighters fly out from both feet!
Base attacker [Illegible]
Base Attacker 1, mission prep OK!
Become a tank base!
This spread is easily my favorite, with a wonderful central cutaway diagram of the star Robot Base, annotated with labels of all the various in-fiction systems and abilities it possesses. The outer ring of the spread shows product shots of Diaclone personnel interacting with all the toy’s play features. In the upper left corner, though, we are treated to some very unique art: a view from inside Robot Base’s Strategy Command room, through the multifaceted chest window. In the view, we see Dia Train, Cosmo Roller, and Dia Battles battling an unseen foe, and also the unlucky person who drew the short straw for fist duty. That’s not all, though, as we can see the shadowy silhouettes of the Robot Base’s operators, as well as some internal systems. I’d kill for a text-free poster of this!
Battles 01 Battles 02 Battles 03
-This is a Diaclone super-mecha!
-Triple machine combination operation
State-of-the-art combat robot made of three fighters, Battles 01 02 and 03, combined. It is especially powerful in aerial combat. Also, the Dia-punch fired from both arms have powerful destructive capabilities.
This spread introduces us to the second primary mecha to this point, Dia-Battles. Many Western fans will recognize this mecha only by his knockoff, King Dam, sold in the US with cheapened drivers and modified text on the stickers. This page is a little more standard layout for new figure promotions, showing the figure in its various modes, and citing a little story background. This is the least artistic of the pages, contributing only some streaky backgrounds for the three Battles vehicles.
Dia-Fighter Attack Change!
-A feint against the Waruder Army
A working mobile headquarters on the ground, this ultra-high-speed vehicle is a Power Base communication command center that can also change into a Dia-Fighter interceptor to fight in the air.
-Strategy to devastate the Waruder guerrillas
Large armored combat vehicles have been developed for counterinsurgency warfare. It can operate in all weather, on any terrain. It is especially capable in information gathering, and can field a large reconnaissance force. (Small reconnaissance vehicles are built-in)
This spread introduces two of the Diaclone Corps’ non-robotic vehicles: Dia-Train and Cosmo-Roller. These two vehicles transform, but possess no humanoid robot mode. A stark reminder of the non-sentient nature of the Diaclone mecha, these two vehicles would wind up representing a tiny fraction of the eventual Diaclone line. The more humanoid robots won out quickly, including those in the parallel Microman: Microchange line.
Diaclone Power Base
The front-line base of the last battle is again moved to the forefront of the action. Power Bases can function independently, or be combined (up to a huge base…) as needed.
TYPE-1 Command center
TYPE-2 Dispatch area
TYPE-3 Resupply area
TYPE-4 Repair center
Diaclone Corps will continue to fight tomorrow!
Waruder Army reinforcements come to Earth in one group after another. Diaclone Corps repeatedly powers-up by developing new combat mecha. Keep it up, Diaclone Corps!
The final spread introduces the lowest-cost offering for the 1980 line: the Power Bases. These small connectable playsets each feature a tiny vehicle with a tiny vehicle launcher, and were available in a variety of colors (only one color for each type is shown). These further demonstrate the initial intention to have more world-building for the Diaclone personnel to interact with, though this was quickly dropped in favor of focusing on the transformable humanoid mecha. It is possible that larger playsets for these to interact with were also intended, since all but one Power Base features a greatly elevated roadway terminating in a cliff at each end, and completing a loop with a large number of bases would only result in all the launchers facing inward, with nowhere for the mini-vehicles to “drive” out of the loop. The facing page is yet another reminder that the toy you really want to get should be Robot Base, who stands triumphantly in front of the Earth, and behind a city (presumably the one in which Land Master is located). In an in-canon way, we are promised that more mecha will be designed to keep up with the (so far nonexistant) Waruder Army.
Diaclone Corps three vows
1 It is right to try to act with courage.
2 Do not forget the friendly love for peace.
3 Let’s fight the Waruder Army.
The three vows, which appear on early catalogs until the growing product line left no room, seem to be a little out of order. I’d say “Be brave”, “fight the enemy”, BUT “don’t forget a love of peace”. An interesting addition to the Diaclone canon, nonetheless. We see again the Latin Diaclone logo with Robot Base’s face, as well as a red circle with the word ‘Diaclone’ oribiting it. I have not seen this logo elsewhere or again.
This is as far back as the Diaclone portion of the Transformers family tree goes, but it’s not the end of the story. Diaclone was initially conceived as a spinoff of the popular Microman series, though due to Takara contracting Diaclone’s design to Studio Nue, the canonical link was broken. In order to go back up the tree, though, to see the debut of toys that would become Transformers, you’ll have to read on, as the first Car Robots appeared in 1982. I mean, technically, the pre-Powerdashers debuted in 1981, but they’re not as exciting!
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Many thanks to Sanjeev “Brownnoize” for providing us with excellent scans of these hard-to-find pages!