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Transformers Japanese Collection: Headmasters
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A year has passed since the events of Sunbows third season, and the war between Convoys (a/k/a Optimus Prime) Cybertrons and the Destrons has finally come to its conclusion. Peace once again reigns supreme over the galaxy: but the game quickly changes with the emergence of a new breed of Transformers . . . the Headmasters!
Now you can finally watch the rarely seen Japanese series thats had Transformers and anime fans talking for over 20 years! Includes the original Japanese audio with brand-new English subtitles!
In 1987, the toy company Takara and the Toei studio began producing an alternate version of the popular product-based Transformers series featuring characters and story lines geared to the Japanese market. For decades, American mecha fans could only watch Headmasters in dim conversions from other formats and/or bootleg copies. Shout Factory is releasing the series for the first time in the United States. During this first season, the familiar Autobots and Decepticons are replaced by a new corps of robots who turn into tanks, helicopters, and other mechanical devices designed to please the core audience of elementary-school boys. However, the basic components of the story line remain the same: friendships are forged, battles are fought, allegiances shift, threats appear, situations grow dire, and good robots triumph over bad ones. For viewers who grew up on the original Transformers, Headmasters offers an enticing blend of nostalgia and new adventures. However, anyone who lacks those childhood memories may wonder what all the excitement is about. The animation is extremely limited, the Japanese voice actors chew the painted scenery endlessly, and the direction repeats many of the clichés of '80s Saturday morning kidvid. (Instead of creating transitions between scenes, the directors simply cut to a spinning logo, as their counterparts at Hanna-Barbera and Filmation did.) The designs of the robots, including the central cadre of Fortress Maximus, Brain Storm, Chromedome, Hardhead, and Highbrow, lack the dynamic sophistication of Yoshiyuki Tomino's Gundam, which debuted in 1979. When Transformers premiered, children's advocates and parents' groups denounced it as a thinly disguised commercial, created to sell toys to boys. Those boys have grown up, and men who want to revisit that part of their childhood will revel in the struggles of Fortress Maximus and his fellow warriors against their evil counterparts. (Not rated; suitable for ages 6 and older: cartoon robot vs. robot violence) --Charles Solomon
(1. Four Warriors from Outer Space, 2. The Mystery of Planet Master, 3. Behold the Birth of Double Prime, 4. The Autobot Cassette Operation, 5. Rebellion on Planet Beast, 6. Approach of the Demon Meteorite, 7. The Four-Million-Year-Old Veil of Mystery, 8. Terror of the Six Shadows, 9. Planet Cybertron Is in Grave Danger, Part 1, 10. Planet Cybertron Is in Grave Danger, Part 2, 11. Zarak--The Shadow Emperor, 12. The Dormant Volcano Mysteriously Erupts, 13. Head On, Fortress Maximus! 14. Explosion on Mars! Maximus Is in Danger! 15. Explosion on Mars! Scorponok Appears! 16. Return of the Immortal Emperor, 17. SOS from Planet Sandra, 18. Daniel Faces his Biggest Crisis Ever, 19. Fight to the Death on Planet Beehive, 20. Battle for Defense of the False Planet, 21. Find Scorponok's Weak Spot, 22. Head Formation of Friendship, 23. Mystery of the Space Pirate Ship, 24. The Death of Ultra Magnus, 25. The Emperor of Destruction Vanishes on an Iceberg, 26. I Risk My Life for Earth, 27. The Miracle Warriors--The Target Masters, Part 1, 28. The Miracle Warriors--The Target Masters, Part 2, 29. The Master Is in Danger, 30. The Zarak Shield Turns the Tide, 31. Operation: Destroy the Decepticons, 32. My Friend, Sixshot! 33. Duel on the Asteroid, 34. The Final Showdown on Earth, Part 1, 35. The Final Showdown on Earth, Part 2)
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Top Customer Reviews
1. This occurs 6 years after the events of Transformers: The Movie. Daniel still looks the same age and attitude and is voiced by what sounds like a girl. Eessh, I can get over that.
2. They ignore the events of The Rebirth. They did not like it and decided to reimagine what happens after the events of Season 3.
3. The American version Transformers are there for show, but have little to no importance to the story. Goldbug, formerly Bumblebee, one of the biggest child favorites in the States, is not even mentioned or shown. Optimus is in the way so they kill him off early in the story, again. Rodimus and Ultra Magnus are there but not nearly as important, some times just a second thought in the action that is ongoing. Springer, is shown a couple of times, never mentioned by name, and is referenced only as Triple Changer and has no lines. Arcee is there and so is Blurr but Arcee is mostly there for show and the Japaneses Blurr doesn't talk as fast as the Moschitta Blurr and comes across as young and annoying. Blaster and Soundwave both die and are reborn under new names, presumably for selling a new and different products in Japan. Their cassettes go from being noteworthy to invisible after a few episodes. Sky Lynx is not present at all and is replaced by a new set of Japanese combiners called Trainbots. They look horrible. Basically 6 robots that connect to make one very long train with extended compartments, but it flies like Astrotrain or Sky Lynx. It looks utterly ridiculous and completely out of place. Jazz shows up here and there and has lines early on then no lines way later.
4. Oddly, the older American Transformers that cross over do a lot of standing around, speaking here or there, but really aren't ever apart of the action as the series goes along. A classic example of out with the old, in with the new.
5. It has been said on the TFWiki and is true that this version starts off taking the story and focusing on the Headmasters and Trainbots. These are the hot toy items that they were wanting to push to little boys of Japan back then so they get all of the focus. It becomes obvious that the American imports are not highly thought of and slowly phased out to the Japanese brand of Transformers they were pushing at the time.
6. As far as the enemies, yes, the Decepticon Headmasters get most of the screen time along with SixShot, a six-changer Decepticon. Galvatron is there and just as unruly, temperamental, and stubborn as the American version. SixShot is a good new addition and is impressed. The Predacons are there but not nearly as intimidating as their bios make them out to be or how they are in the comics or American version. The emphasis here are the Headmasters and Terrorcons with heavy doses of SixShot and Soundblaster (Soundwave reborn). Galvatron takes a lesser role compared to the American version and Cyclonus and Scourge are more the patsy other troops that get beat up on like Thundercracker, Skywarp, Dirge, Ramjet, and Thrust were in G1.
7. Eventually Rodimus disappears after a major event and leaves the Autobot leadership to Cerebros, the leader of the Headmasters (go figure). The main Japanese products, the Headmasters and Trainbots head off into space to search for the Decepticons so they leave the American Transformers (Blurr + Ultra Magnus who all pretty much disappear or die) on Earth. The focus becomes space bound from there. Arcee tags along but is mostly for show. Weird thing is Daniel joins the Headmasters and splits from his parents. At no point would anyone believe a parent would endanger their children but they do a great job of that in this show (most asinine).
8. The feel and tone of this Japanese collection reflects the mood, attitude, and design of the Japanese culture. Brave, bold, daring in the face of danger, and a strong emphasis on fighting with honor. There is literally one episode where the Trainbots wish to defend Japan because they claim it is where they were born, no joke. Not born millions of years ago on Cybertron or some other settlement, but in Japan and apparently pretty recently considering the history of the Transformers so they have a sense of devotion to their homeland. I just wasn't used to that kind of thing with the American version where all Transformers were Cybertronian born and merely took some form of vehicle on earth, but their "spark" did not originate in any particular country. Even the Dinobots were Cybertronian scouts and took forms of dinosaurs once on Earth.
9. Yeah it wreaks of cultural favoritism but I can get over that. It's their product, their story, so why not?
10. Once I get over that, the subtitled dialog is a bit wordy, clunky, and not always funny or cute. A lot of cases it's forward, blunt, and argumentative between each other. They do a lot of talking in dumbed down kid ways that makes you want to roll your eyes big time. American Transformers did that some, but not to this extent.
11. Graphics and animation take a big step back from Season 3 and it feels more like Season 1.
12. There is narration in the middle and at the end of episodes that weren't always in the American version where the narrator is literally talking to one of the characters instead of narrating to the listener. It's different but gives it a look and feel of a soap opera in that sense.
Some times these episodes draw you in and makes you wonder what's going to happen next. The main reason is because it's not anything you remember seeing from the American version so the novelty helps with the draw. However, some episodes, feel like other episodes, just penned differently. They some times even feel like former American episodes so you may find yourself waiting for the episode to end.
As I said, as detailed as I am trying to be, I thought it was ok and worth the purchase for the price. I would NOT buy it for more than $20 if ever there is a price point that high or higher.
Hot Rod keeps running away from fights that lead to other Autobots getting killed (something American Hot Rod would never do). How many battles are fought with Transformers just standing out in the open, shooting at each other without moving? Optimus Prime spends 3 episodes trying to reach Vector Sigma, and then as soon as he does, all of the other Autobots and Decepticons who have been doing other things this entire time, arrive immediately after him? Why didn't it take them 3 episodes to get there too? Prime and Galvatron fight and are blasted by the same energy from Vector Sigma. Galvatron gets up and runs away, but Optimus is dead? Seriously? It's just really awful. Aside from the G1 animation (which I think is still the best of any Tranformers series since), Headmasters has zero redeaming qualities.
Shout! Factory's official U.S. release of these cartoons is a blessing by comparison. Not only do the subtitles reflect the "correct" names for the characters, but they opt to use the American names of the characters (Optimus Prime, Kup, Cerebros, Autobots, Decepticons) vs. the Japanese (Convoy, Char, Fortress, Cybertrons, Destrons). It is easier to get into the story when you're not thinking "Did they really just call him 'SPARKLE'?!?" The "Japanese with English Subtitles" may turn off the casual viewer, but it's really the only way to watch the show, as the only "legitimate" English dub track is absolutely abominable in it's badness. The story is much broader and more engaging than the three-episode "Season 4" although the toy collectors among us may grumble about the cool Japanese-exclusive characters that we never got back in the '80s (the Trainbots, Twincast, Soundblaster, and so forth). Also be on the look-out for one episode appearance by Hasbro's Battle Beast characters, who were released in Japan as a Transformers tie-in called "Beastformers".
While some of the storylines are a bit darker than the American version (i.e., major robot character deaths as early as episode 3), it won't traumatize any child who survived watching the wholesale robo-slaughter in the original "Transformers: The Movie" (or the spine-tearing, face-ripping goodness of the live action movies, for that matter). In fact, those hoping for a "hardcore and mature Transformers story" in the vein of "TFTM" or the Michael Bay films may walk away a little disappointed. "Headmasters" is completely and unabashedly a kid's show, and a Japanese kid's show at that. As such, there's much focus on the human POV character, Daniel, and the occasional bits of shtick and slapstick that might turn off the hardcore G1 "purist," but it is overall a good show.
Besides, Blurr's Japanese voice actor is absolutely awesome and certainly evokes the legendary John (FedEx, Micromachines) Moschitta, Jr. in his portrayal. That and Grimlock's subtitles being in "Me-Grimlockspeak" make me a very happy Transfan.
The set is beautifully packaged and affordably priced. While the extras are a little sparse (an art gallery and nothing else), getting 35 episodes of an anime for $20-$25 is worth the price of admission in and of itself.
The only major complaint I have is that occasionally the timing of the subtitle track will get a little "off" and doesn't quite keep up with the dialogue at times. It happens rarely, but often enough to be noticeable.
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