From humble beginnings as a “half-hour toy commercial” in the 1980s, the Transformers franchise has existed in an unbroken succession of different series for almost 30 years. In that time it’s grown into one of the most beloved science fiction universes of our time, and naturally spawned literally thousands of characters to populate it. The principal characters, like Optimus Prime and Megatron, are pop culture icons, but not every Cybertronian robot can be on their tier. These five are notable for different reasons: For being eccentric, obscure, and just plain weird.
A devoted scientist committed to mastering every discipline of knowledge he can find, Perceptor is easily the smartest of the heroic Autobots. Unlike many of his braver friends, he’s completely averse to combat, preferring to flee when Decepticons menace him rather than to defend himself. Maybe that’s because he has one of the least intimidating alternate modes in Transformers history: Perceptor turns into an ordinary optical microscope. Yes, as in a device for magnifying objects, with no offensive capabilities whatsoever. The original toy representing him was indeed a working microscope, which could only magnify up to 14X because only quite crude lenses could be manufactured for it. The said toy, however, does get a combat upgrade over the fictional version of Perceptor because it comes with a quite out-of-character missile launcher. With this in mind it’s understandable why Hasbro chose to represent Perceptor as a truck in future toy releases.
Much like Perceptor, Botanica is initially a scientist, and a passive observer to conflict. She does, however, get inexorably drawn into the war on Cybertron between the scattered Maximals (the Autobots’ successors, or possibly ancestors–it’s complicated) and the triumphant forces of Megatron in the Beast Machines series. And, luckily for her, she’s much better in a fight than Perceptor is, when pressed. The thing she can turn into, however, is a million times weirder than even a microscope. Botanica is the only Transformer in the history of the franchise who is neither an animal nor a machine in her alternate form–she’s, well, if the name didn’t tip you off… a plant. A walking plant with perfectly functional limbs, mind you, but still a very chlorophylly, vegetarian-friendly autotroph. Though she spends most of her time tending to the orchard that she believes will restore organic life to Cybertron, she also finds the time to cultivate (heh) a romantic relationship with her Maximal teammate Rattrap, forever indoctrinating kids who grew up into the early 2000s into the idea that plant-rat dating is acceptable.
Though American writers came up with most of the robots on this list, you can finally blame the Japanese for this one, because it wouldn’t be a list of weird pop culture trivia without at least one entry from Japan. Heinrad is an emissary of forces beyond time and space, and hence one of the most powerful characters in the entire franchise. He also happens to be a lazy, party-loving drunk who can’t be bothered to use his incredible capabilities for anything but pranks most of the time. There is, in fact, a class of trickster spirits in Japanese mythology which fits that personality type–they’re called tanuki, and resemble small East Asian canids called raccoon dogs. Tanuki are distinguishable by their ever-present bottles of sake, and–there’s no easy way to put this–enormous distended testicles. Heinrad transforms into one of these mythological tanuki, and has the bizarre and kind of sketchy distinction of being the only Transformers toy with visible genitalia. But enough about that junk–the toy Heinrad also has a working and very shrill alarm clock in his chest which actually keeps very accurate time according to tfwiki.net.
One thing that you have to admit about the names of Transformers is that they rarely fail to deliver on their promises. Sky Lynx is very much both of those things, and yet he’s so much more. The original series’ incarnation of Sky Lynx is the Autobot Lieutenant Commander, a position he very much earned for his valor and cleverness. And he’ll make sure everyone knows that. The consummate braggart soldier, Sky Lynx prefers to be referred to as “the Glorious” or “the Magnificent,” his very battle cries are boasts, and he’ll never admit a mistake, often pulling “outside interference” out of thin air when something goes wrong for him, something reflected in his gleefully in-character tfwiki article. Yet for all he has going for him, Sky Lynx is missing one critical thing: A proper robot mode. He turns into a space shuttle, yes, and a big cat that could certainly be described as a “lynx,” but his third mode, on the other hand, rather defies description. In his toy form, the nose of his space shuttle section extends to form a neck and splits into a mouth, and the legs of his lynx mode drop down, resulting in a quadripedal dinosaur bird…ish.
The only Decepticon on this list is a one-robot army, and even better about living up to his name than Sky Lynx is. Sixshot has the catchy rank of S.T.A.G. in the Decepticon forces, and that doesn’t mean he’s an elk or performs at bachelor parties–it stands for Solo Transformer Assault Group. And he’s about as pleasant as that sounds. A moody berserker who’s prone to fits of depression when he’s not laughing as he kills indiscriminately, Sixshot longs for opponents who can give him a real challenge in a fight, and such foes are hard to come by for a walking weapons platform who’s supremely intelligent, completely ruthless, and has five alternate modes. Yes, five, when the average Transformer only turns into one thing. Counting his robot form as the sixth, Sixshot can become a laser gun, a tank, a spaceship, an ATV, and some sort of fantastical animal resembling a wolf with wings. A staggering none of these were fun to play with in the original toy version, however, since Sixshot had to have few and specific points of articulation in order to accommodate the design demands of a toy that had to also be five other toys.
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