I've been hesitant to pick up the Japanese versions of the Transformer Classic (TFC) lines (Henkei), since they are basically the same toy with slightly better applications and paint. Then I saw their version of autobot leader of Optimus Prime in a Cybertron PH display at the recent Hasbro Grand Toy Fair and was totally convinced. It's esentially the same toy, with just subtle changes, but those little things go a really long way to selling the toy!
Unlike the American version of TFC Prime, the toy is packaged in his robot form. The box is ALOT smaller than the TFC version (always a good thing for loose collectors who may want to keep the boxes), but it's covered jumbles of words and pictures in the common Japanese aesthetic (bad thing for guys who grew up in the US). It's got a nice window that lets you see the figure you're getting, but from the examples I saw on the shelf at Toy Kingdom, quality control isn't as much of an issue with Takara Tomy as it is with Hasbro.
The first thing I noticed is that the legs are not just molded out of cheap looking grey plastic, but painted in a nice silvery finish. The US version also has some blue paint applications where you'll see alot of badly registered lines. One for Takara!
The second was that this version had the Autobot insignia on him! The TFC version doesn't. A really bad oversight on Hasbro's part since this is THE Autobot, the one a generation cried over after seeing the animated movie. C'mon, Hasbro! You've been doing this for 20-30 years! What happened?! Two to Takara!
Third is that there are less of those garish yellow highlights that the Classics version has (arms, crotch, etc). They're itty bitty spots really, but the yellow always seemed to shout at me from the red areas and it didn't look right. Also on the arms, you'll see that they are a solid red. The grey arms of the Hasbro version now looks to me like Prime in shirt sleeves, rolled up after a hard day at work. Not cool. That's three strikes, Hasbro! You're out!
The last and best difference between the Henkei and Hasbro lines is the use of the silvery parts. These are different from the silver paint on the legs. They're more vac-metallized, though I'm unsure if that's the process they used here. Apparently, all Henkei toys use these parts and it's hit an miss in my opinion (for example, I don't like the silver missles on the Seekers).
On Prime, they used it in his Truck mode, for his grill and bumper. Takara Tomy FTW!
I'm really not sure where to get him now. I got mine at Toy Kingdom in Podium for P1,300 and saw some at TK in SM Marikina a couple of weeks ago, but they are both probably out of stock. If you don't have TFC Prime and see this guy, grab him and don't think twice.