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Info:

  • DVD TV Series: Transformers Headmasters
  • Rating: Unrated
  • Starring (Voices): Various
  • Written By: Various
  • Directed By: Katsutoshi Nakano, Shoji Tajima
  • Distributor: Shout Factory
  • Original Year of Release: 1987-1988
  • Extras: None
  • Series:

Transformers Headmasters DVD

The Japanese Series on DVD for the first time in the U.S.

By Tim Janson     July 12, 2011


Transformers; Headmasters Comes to the U.S.
© Shout Factory

 

By 1988 the Transformers toy line had waned in popularity in the U.S. and the TV series was canceled after 98 episodes.  However, the Transformers continued to be enormously popular in Japan and three new series were produced between 1987 and 1989: Transformers: Headmasters, Transformers: Super-God Masterforce, and Transformers Victory.  The three series totaled 115 episodes but previously had only been available through cheap bootlegs.  Finally, after over 20 years these series’ are being released on DVD in the U.S. with Transformers: Headmasters being the first to arrive. 
 
Headmasters virtually ignores the three-part “Rebirth” storyline that ended the U.S. series.  Instead it picks up a year or so after the events in “The Return of Optimus Prime”.  There is relative peace on Cyberton and Earth but it doesn’t last long.  We meet the Headmasters who are small Transformers who left Cybertron millions of years earlier and arrive at a planet called “master”.  There they constructed large bodies they called Transectors and merged with them by becoming their heads.  Galvatron recruits the evil Headmasters (Mindwipe, Skullcruncher, and Weirdwolf) in his plan to try and take control of Cybertron’s supercomputer Vector Sigma.  Meanwhile the Autobots are aided by the good Headmasters: Chromdome, Brainstorm, Hardhead, and Highbrow, along with the Headmaster leader Cerebros, who is the Headmaster of Fortress Maximus.
 
There are many differences between the American and Japanese series’ right off the bat.  First off, many of the familiar characters of the original series like Ironhide, Jazz, Bumblebee, Starscream, Trailbreaker, Grapple, etc…are nowhere to found in Headmasters or VERY minimally in background shots.  Instead as the name implies this series focuses on the Headmasters as well as the various combiners like The Aerialbots, Technobots, Trainbots (known as Raiden in Japan ), Stunticons, Terrorcons, Combaticons, and Predacons.  Later on in the series we’ll see the Autobot and Decepticon Targetmasters. One of the other key characters is the ninja Sixshot who can change into six forms and is among the most deadly of the Decepticons. 
 
Another difference is the more minor role that humans play.  Spike Witwicky is now an adult and his son Daniel is the “kids appeal” of the series along with the young Autobot Wheelie.  While they appear throughout the series their importance is far less important than in the original series.  Finally, the Headmasters is a darker, more mature series.  There’s mild profanity used and several characters are killed off over the length of the show.  This is underscored in episode #2 “The Mystery of Planet Master” when rivals Soundwave and Blaster battle in a fight that results in both of their deaths.  Later, Blaster will be reborn as Twincast and Soundwave reborn as Soundblaster.
 
The leadership of the Autobots is transferred from Optimus Prime to Rodimus Prime early on while Galvatron has to contend with Scorponok for control of the Decepticons.  The series is truly galaxy-spanning and bounces from planet-to-planet including: Cybertron, Earth, Charr (Decepticon base), Master, Athenia (an Autobot base), Hive, Mars, and several others.  Fortress Maximus is used strictly has a giant spacecraft and Autobot base until Episode #13 “Head On, Fortress Maximus”, when Cerebros transforms him into his robot form for the first time to battle a giant carnivorous plant on Earth, stunning the rest of the Autobots with his gigantic form.  It’s one of the great geek-out moments of the show when you see him transform for the first time. While the stories due tend to jump around a lot you generally get the feeling that Headmasters was more about the stories and characters than they were about trying to sell toys. This might explain why the Transformers remained more popular in Japan than in the U.S. The series concludes with the two-part episode “The Final Showdown on Earth” as Fortress Maximas faces off one final time with his archenemy Scorponok with the fate of Earth in the balance. The Autobots gain an unexpected and welcome ally!
 
The series is in its original Japanese language with English subtitles and it brings out one of the series’ few weaknesses. The Japanese voice actors don’t do as good a job at distinguishing the many characters differently as the U.S. voice actors did. Some voices tend run together making them difficult to tell apart. Other voices are simply just annoying such as Blurr’s rapid fire delivery of every line and I wondered if even those who understand the language can figure out what he’s saying. Then there is darling little Daniel Witwicky. By the fourth episode I was hoping an Autobot would step on him. Daniel sounds like he was voiced by a four year-old girl and even worse, he breaks into tears at the drop of a hat making him a candidate for the worst character to ever appear in a Transformers series. The series doesn’t appear to have been re-mastered for its U.S. DVD release. It looks good it’s not standout. If definitely looks like a 1980s cartoon.
 
Transformers: Headmasters is a worthy sequel to the original Transformers show. It carries on the tradition with new and exciting stories and introduces a slew of new characters as it took the Transformers into the future. Simply a must own for any Transformers fan! 
 
Extras
 
Unfortunately there are no extras in the set. It would have been great to see some interviews with some of the Japanese creators of show to get their viewpoints on continuing the series.
 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 7 of 7
1 
Brodee 7/12/2011 10:14:01 PM

Headmasters was more about the stories and characters? I couldn't agree less. The plots are terrible and the dialogue is even worse. But the least they could've done was give us English voiceovers.

You won't see classic Transformers like Ironhide and Starscream because they're dead. Watch the original movie. And Blurr is supposed to have a "rapid fire delivery." His name is Blurr. 

I will agree, however, that this set is a must own for fans of the original series. If nothing else it's great to see our old favorite characters in animation extremely similar to that of the 80's US version. It's much better than that Transformers Animated crap they put out a few years ago.

Bryzarro 7/13/2011 6:11:23 AM

 @Brodee - I agree for the most part but the one I disagree on is Transformers Animated wasn't aimed at us but for the younger generation that hasn't experienced the animated TF world.  

While the old cartoons do hold up IMO most kids (like my son) say it looks old because the colours aren't as vivid as the new cartoons.

tjanson 7/13/2011 9:48:18 AM

i was just giving a few examples of some of the other Transformers that don't make it into the series.  Starscream cannot die as his spark is invulnerable...hence his appearance in Beast Wars.   The point I was trying to make is that Headmasters was really Generation 2.  it moved on from the original characters who American fans were familiar with and concentrated on other characters.  We'll have to disagree about the plots.  The American show was often little more than a 30 minute commercial for the toys.  That's why the series was canceled when the toys waned in popularity.  As far as Blurr goes I'm not even sure Japanese audiences would be able to understand him...it all sounds like "blbupbdumbpudbed".  I think the Japanese producers took a chance and got rid of Optimus Prime early on even though he is the signature character, and essentitally dumped Galvatron/megatron as well in favor of Scorponok.

I think every transformers show needs to grow on you a bit.  I wasn't crazy about Beast Wars at first but grew to love it.  I think TF Animated will find its place although it would be nice if new TF shows would adopt a uniform look.  Again though, make no mistake about it...Transformers toons...Armada, Animated, Prime, etc...are produced first and foremost to sell toys for Hasbro, not to provide great stories.

Brodee 7/13/2011 1:18:04 PM

As I recall, the toys continued on for quite a while after the show was canceled in the US. Actually, I bought quite a few of the toys that didn't show up until the Headmaster series. I still have my Powermaster Optimus Prime.

But Headmasters is a continuation of the original series, unlike Beast Wars and Armada which were series in themselves (as are the new movies). So as a continuation, those who die stay dead. Unless of course they're resurrected ala The Return of Optimus Prime or even Starscream's Ghost to an extent. But we're not going to see Wheeljack and Ironhide just pop up like everything's cool. Unless of course it was a zombie episode (which would've been rad).

30 minute toy commercial or not, I still say the writing in the US original was far and away better than that of the Headmasters series.

tjanson 7/13/2011 2:25:47 PM

Oh sure the toy line limped along for another couple of years but 1987 was the last real good year for the line.  What did we get after that?  Pretenders...micromasters...the thrill was gone.  A few Powermasters were decent like Doubledealer, Darkwing, and Dreadwind.   And Beast wars WAS a continuation...it may not have started off that way but as  they introduced more G1 elements and eventually even found Megatron and Optimus prime buried and in stasis, clearly BW tied into G1.  Not too mention Starscreams spark, Primus, Ravage all showing up.

RaithManan 7/13/2011 10:07:47 PM

I was first aware of this series continuing in Japan back in 2002 after reading up on it on Bot.con.  I don't think the episode "The Rebirth" aired in Japan as I believe the "The Return of Optimus Prime" was basically treated as the season 3 finale over there.  Much like we never saw the unaired Japan season 2 episode "Scramble City", which was the first appearance of Ultra Magnus, Metroplex and Arcee until it was released the first time when they added it as a bonus feature to tie-in the events with the 20 year anniversary edition of Transformers: The Movie, but it the timeframe of the year 2005 wasn't established in that episode. 

Transformers: The Movie wasn't released in Japan until 1989, and much of the changes during season 3 confused much of the Japan audience since Hasbro in the U.S. (spawning the infamous Optimus Prime death decision/ G.I. Joe Duke Hauser coma "when he really died" conumdrum) decided to dump most of the G-1 characters of the first two years in favor of Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus and company, which is the reason why The Headmasters series has a lot of continuity issues, such as Optimus basically dying for the second time when I read about it 9 years ago....technically three times in Japan since the Japanese audience really didn't understand why Optimus was replaced to begin with during the course of season 3 airing in Japan without the benefit of seeing the Transformers movie until 3 years after the fact, after seeing him killed again early in Japan's season 4.

tjanson 7/14/2011 8:43:58 AM

Raith...correct...Rebirth was completely ignored by Headmasters.

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