Takara Co., Ltd. was a Japanese toy company founded in 1955, that merged with another prominent Japanese toy company, Tomy Co., Ltd., on March 1, 2006.
The company motto was 「遊びは文化」(asobi wa bunka) which means "playing is culture."
Takara is perhaps best known for producing the transforming Diaclone and Micro Change toylines which were collectively re-branded as Transformers for the western market by Hasbro in 1984. Takara is also the originator of the hit toylines Battle Beasts (BeastFormers in Japan), E-kara karaoke microphone, Battle B-Daman and Beyblade (toy), all of which were sold or distributed internationally by Hasbro. Takara continues to sell Microman - the basis for the popular toyline "Micronauts" - which was first sold internationally by the now-defunct Mego in the 1970s, and Choro-Q, a mini pullback car, production of which has been running since 1978 and which has often been marketed in Western countries as Penny Racers.
Takara was also a video game developer and publisher, well-known during the early 1990s for porting some of SNK's Neo-Geo-based arcade games - especially the Fatal Fury and Samurai Shodown series - to less powerful home consoles such as the Sega Genesis and the SNES, and also for the Game Boy. It published its own 3-D fighting game series, Battle Arena Toshinden, which was developed by Tamsoft. Takara also published other Japan-only games based on semi-popular franchises in that country. The extent of Takara's actual involvement in videogame development is largely unknown, however, since many of the company's games were developed by smaller companies not credited on the packaging or title screen, such as Tamsoft, BHE, E-game and KID corp, and therefore are often mistakenly credited to Takara.
Takara purchased a controlling stake in publicly traded software publisher Atlus in 2003, and for several years the licenses of some Takara properties were licensed to and published under that name. After the merger with Tomy in 2006, the ownership stake in Atlus was sold to Index Holdings (the merged company's lead shareholder), and Takara-branded licenses such as Licca-chan, Jinsei Game (The Game of Life) and Choro-Q were brought back in-house to the merged company's consumer software division, alongside the on-going Zoids and Naruto series's.
"Life entertainment products"
Takara has manufactured several unusual gadgets it calls "life entertainment products," including BowLingual, which is claimed to "translate" the "barks, whines and yelps of more than 80 breeds of dog into human language". The BowLingual was named one of the best inventions of 2002 by Time magazine. See also Yumemi Kobo "dream generator".
In 2005 another Takara product, Walkie bits, which are colorful, multi-function miniature robotic turtles, was honored as a Time magazine's best invention, this time in the robot category. Though relatively simple in functionality, at 5 cm long and less than 15g each, upon introduction they were said to be among the smallest ever mass-produced programmable robots.
In the 80s the company received criticism for its original mascot, which was a golliwog-like character named Dakko-Chan. Takara later replaced it with a fantastical character called "21st Century Colorful Dakko-Chan", which bears enough similarity to connote the original symbol, while divesting the traits which brought criticism. Besides the design, the new Dakko-Chan may be any color, rather than the constant black of the original.
Takara and Tomy announced their merger on May 13, 2005, to become effective March 1, 2006. In English the legal name of the merged company is TOMY Co. Ltd. while in Japanese the legal company name is the combined name, K.K. Takara-Tomy (株式会社タカラトミー ). The decision to use the Tomy name in English and the Takara-Tomy name in Japanese was made for pragmatic reasons. Tomy had built considerable brand recognition internationally, particularly in the area of infant and preschool products, where brand trust is very important. On the other hand, most of Takara's international hit products (Microman, Transformers, Battle Beasts, Beyblade, B-Daman, et al) have been sold and branded by other companies, most notably Hasbro. Therefore, going through the costly process of registering and/or changing the company name in all the countries where Tomy does business would have been expensive and unproductive. Thus, with the merged company's international subsidiaries continuing to use the Tomy name, it seemed appropriate to keep a domestic English name which matched that of the international subsidiaries.
While Japanese commercial law allows wide latitude in translating Japanese corporate names into official English names, the merged company took the unusual step of adopting the one-sided TOMY Company, Ltd. name in official English, while taking the combined name K.K. Takara-Tomy (株式会社タカラトミー ) in official Japanese. Additionally, international subsidiaries of Takara were merged into those of TOMY. Therefore, while the "Takara" brand is still in use for some products, officially, in English, Takara as a corporate entity no longer exists. Confusingly, the Japanese company's corporate logo is a simple amalgamation of the former Takara and Tomy English logos. The logo, along with the tendency for direct translations of Japanese information into English and an ardent international fan base for some famous toys originating at Takara, have caused much of the press and the general English-speaking public to call the merged company "Takara-Tomy", even in English.
Domestically, Takara-Tomy continues to use the former names as brand names on toy lines which originated in each company, although most new toy lines or stand-alone products carry the new Takara-Tomy brand and logo. Production of staple toy lines such as Transformers, Choro-Q and Licca-chan are continuing, and in many cases gaining synergy from the cross-marketing with Tomy's brands.
Media reaction to merger
It should be noted that the editors of many Western (English language) business publications ignore "merger" declarations and declare one company to be bought by another, often by splitting hairs over the number of board members, etc. Therefore, the English media largely categorized the Takara-Tomy merger as a "take-over" of Takara by Tomy. This viewpoint was strengthened by the adoption of only the Tomy name in English.
While it was true that several years of losses had put Takara in a financially weakened state at the time of the merger, Takara did in fact have significantly higher sales than Tomy for three years preceding the merger. It is also known that over the years, Takara and Tomy, which were located less than a kilometer apart in Tokyo and had admired and competed with each other as they grew side-by-side into world-class toy companies, had discussed merging several times, including times when Takara appeared stronger. Thus, ultimately, philosophically, culturally and legally under Japanese corporate law, the companies can be held to have agreed to have merged on an equal basis.
Control of brands
There has been much post-merger speculation on the control of brands such as Transformers. Much of this speculation arises due to the new use of the English "TOMY" branding on all packaging, including former Takara brands shipped by Hasbro. This is simply the natural result of the practical decision to use only the Tomy name in English. In fact, internally, where 99% of the employees are Japanese and speak mainly Japanese, there is only one company known in Japanese as "Takara-Tomy", and almost all the merged company's internal departments have a healthy mix of management staff members from both former companies. The fact that the English name is Tomy bears little relevance for most employees.
Relationship with Hasbro
Both Takara and pre-merger Tomy have had strong relationships with Hasbro, which has distributed Takara's hit products such as Transformers, Beyblade, e-Kara and Battle B-Daman and Tomy's Zoids brands internationally. Although the merged company has stated that the Transformers business with Hasbro and the OEM business in general was not as profitable as they would be if they were directly distributed, the relationship with Hasbro is low risk in the case of Transformers, since Hasbro assumes the inventory risk internationally.
This long-term relationship will certainly continue, as both Takara and Tomy have long held the licenses to "localize" and distribute many Hasbro products in Japan, including The Game of Life, Blythe dolls, and Magic: The Gathering and Duel Masters trading card games by Takara and Monopoly, Furby, Super Soaker and Play-Doh by Tomy. Hasbro has also previously distributed Tomy's Pokémon toys in the US, although it eventually started selling its own versions.
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