The Brave Series (also called just “Brave” or “Yūsha” for the Japanese word), was Takara’s foray into Super Robot style mecha anime. Eschewing the idea of living robots (despite Transformers still continuing in Japan until 1993), Takara partnered with anime studio Sunrise (of Mobile Suit Gundam fame) to produce eight consecutive one-season animes centered around teams of humans piloting giant robots to save Earth from the monster of the week. Competing more on the field of Bandai’s Chogokin, Brave’s structure would probably be most recognizable to Western fans as similar to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Each series within Brave generally centers around one or two main hero mecha, which has other mecha that combine with it to power up to a “Super” or “Great” mode. The main mecha is joined by a couple combiner teams of allied mecha, piloted by the show’s supporting characters. In many segments of Brave, the supporting combiner team also includes a “power-up” mecha that is not necessary for the combined form but can instead be added to it. This feature has not been exlored in the context of Transformers, but would be familiar to Power Rangers fans. Only a few villain mecha were produced, so not every series contains one. Many of the villains (who often represent a recurring, but not main, anime character) were recycled Transformers desgins, often from the latter part of Japanese Generation 1, selected from toys not released outside Japan.
Each Brave Series entry is divided into Deluxe (DX) and Standard (STD) size classes, not unlike Bandai’s Chogokin, or even their US-release GoDaiKin. The Deluxe figures are fully transformable, including weapons and accessories depicted in the anime, and can combine to achieve all of the modes depicted on-screen. The less expensive (both new and in the modern collector market) Standards generally are less fully featured, perhaps including only one transformation or power-up mode, but otherwise simply a lightly-articulated action figure five to six inches tall. Some characters are represented by multiple STD figures, with each figure able to display one of several possible transformations. Later series experimented with other lower-priced size classes such as Brave of Gold Goldran’s Power Collection (non-transforming figures with a battle action feature), Brave Command Dagwon’s HG or Hyper Gattai (similar to STD, but figures disassemble and can be built into any of the combined modes), or Dagwon’s Dagtectors, figures of the human characters (in their special pilot suits) featuring weapons and action features.
The Brave Series had varying impact from each series, although its popularity was more often tied to the quality of the anime than that of the toys, which stayed largely consistent across the years. Some of the more popular series have received re-issue toys, Masterpiece figures tartetted at older fans, and even entries into Bandai’s Soul of Chogokin line, a modern toyline which markets modern recreations of popular super-robots of all forms with origins stretching back to the 1970s. Brave was also popular in Korea, with many locally-produced official toys licencensed by Korean toymaker Sonokong. Like Sonokong-produced Transformers, many of these were nearly identical to their Takara counterparts, although some (especially figures from Brave Police J-Decker) were modified to suit the Korean market, changing sticker decoration and logos on the toys. In the West, most Brave toys and characters are only known among anime fans (who are likely most familiar with the popular King of Braves GaoGaiGar), or to Transformers fans due to the re-use of some toys and in-show designs. Brave’s consistent quality and innovative designs during a dry period in Transformers releases worldwide (until Beast Wars) deserves attention and appreciation from fans of Takara’s other transforming robots.