Today we’re looking at one of the very first Brave releases from way back in 1990, a land so far back it’s actually before G2 and Beast Wars. Time can be weird sometime, with Beast Wars feeling simultaneously not that long ago and 20 years old somehow, and to many people who’ve only discovered the Yuusha series in recent years, it can seem weird that Brave is already 26 years old!
Blue Raker and Green Raker
Arriving in the very first Brave toyline, Blue Raker and Green Raker pre-date Rail Racer and the RID toyline by a whole decade,and are the first Bullet trains from Takara since Shouki and Yukikaze were released as part of Raiden in 1987 (coincidentally reissued in 1990 for the Zone toyline), but those molds designed by Kohjin Ohno date all the way back to 1982/1983 for the Diaclone line, making it the first time Takara had worked on Bullet Trains for some time.
The rumour has it that the Raker Bros. were first designed for the Transformers toyline (presumably the Japanese toyline who were favouring big and bulky while the Western mainline was totally Micro Master and Action Master focused), and were very far along in the design process when the decision was made to port them over to the Brave toyline, due to declining sales and the waning popularity of the Transformers TV show. While they may have been the first Bullet Trains in the Brave toyline, they certainly wouldn’t be the last.
They make pretty cool trains, very long ones at that, and the fact that they can join together to make one long train is a very cool feature indeed. If one had to criticise them, the front two thirds look way more inspired design wise than the back end of the train, but functionality and form are important, and these guys had to do a fair amount for their day.
Their robot modes are fairly basic with limited leg and arm movement, but the transformations are a little more involved then they might look at a glance, as the bodies have to fold around on themselves in order to get to robot mode from train mode. The legs can be a problem as while splitting the train apart, it’s very easy for the pegs on the white section of the legs to stick together and crack off inside the peg holes, meaning the black sections of the train which fold up against the inner leg to make the outside leg of each robot mode cannot peg into place. My Raker Bros. are a recent acquisition and are by no means mint, and this is how mine arrived, after a few hours of unsuccessfully digging around trying to extract the broken pegs from their peg holes, I realised I was never going to be able to do this and instead opted to hot-knife the black pegs off so the legs could fold together and form the robot modes. Annoying, but with one peg gone, the toy still holds together amazingly well in all modes. If both white pegs (or black pegs) were removed, this would probably not be the case, so; handle with care!
The robot modes are basically identical, with a superficial change on their train roof / outer chest and hip molding. The green and the blue just about does enough to make them distinctive, but that’s not a problem, as these two are clearly a team, and the first team in Takara history to do the vertical line of symmetry combination (is this the first ever vertical line combination? Comment below if you know otherwise!)
For those keeping count, Blue Raker is the older brother, and the two combine thusly:
Yup, like the majority of great Brave designs, these two combine, and pre-date the Gaogaigar King of Braves ___Ryu brothers by a number of years. The combination is incredible simple, with the trains basically connecting roof to roof and the train fronts folding down to make the shoulders and revealing the arms in the process.
The combined mode looks pretty cool, but there are limitations with zero leg movement and not even a basic head rotation, the head pegged into a rare bit of die-cast. The arms have a little more movement than some toys of this time period, but they’re still fairly limited in what poses can be achieved when the rest of the figure is shampoo-bottle levels of poseability. You can combine plug the head and chest in on the other side of the bodies for a blue / green gestalt, the only difference being the shape of the feet, the hands (though basic) are even molded for this back-to-front combination.
It’s also worth pointing out that the two guns combine to make a super-gun, basic but effective, and a theme we’d see built on over and over again for the next few decades of transforming robots. When combined, Ultra Raker can perform the Ultra Double Chain Crusher, Ultra Shoulder Crush, Ultra Cannon Beam, and Ultra Kick, because why wouldn’t they?
Sadly missing from my set are two hand-shields which clip onto the combined mode shins, I usually like to collect Brave toys MIB if not MISB, but the rising prices and the increasingly hard to find nature of the Brave line mean I grabbed this guy while I could, on the road to completing my Brave DX collection. Along with the weapons, the shin-guards store away nicely in alt. mode (so how did the previous owner lose them, huh? HUH?!), unfortunately the chest and the head do not store away in any mode – despite the forehead having a hole front and center that looks like something could plug into it – and are only used for combined mode. Brave can often be guilty of partsforming, but having leftover kibble is always a shame, but I guess for 1990 we shouldn’t expect more.
The winning part of this design is the head sculpt, which is just so Takara it hurts, and it fits right into the Brave shelf, and while in some ways it looks more Transformersy, the basic shape is perhaps a bit too Optimus Primey to fit into that toy range without confusion. While the build quality is very good, perhaps it’s triple changing trainbot vertical-combination is too ambitious a design for 1990, but while it doesn’t quite land I still see it as a valuable step on the way towards some really quite cool stuff.
And whatever your opinion, it still turned out better than this KO.
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