As noted last week, when Hasbro and Sunbow ended their Transformers cartoon, Japan kept going with numerous series. We’ve already looked at The Headmasters, where the original post-movie cast was slowly phased out. This week they’re all gone outside of a random cameo…sometimes even when they’re supposed to be dead and their body lost in an exploding star in “Dark Awakening”. While we are far from done with Transformers intros this will be the last we see of G1 shows, although characters may pop up again in the future.
The Japanese shows included a mix of original toys we still haven’t gotten molds of in the US (though some of their ideas would be reused in Hasbro’s lines, as I’ll get to) and toys designed for the US line sometimes made into new characters and nothing like their US counterparts. For example, Nightbeat was turned into a medical car and his Headmaster into a girl I’m only calling 13 because she has bumps on her chest and I feel dirty just writing that sentence. Most of these are available in the US through Shout Factory if you want to pick them up (I know I do) so let’s see how G1 TV truly ended.
Transformers: Super God Masterforce
The theme song doesn’t change for the two intros of this series, which as noted last week is rare for anime. Usually a new intro comes with a new theme, but Toshiya Igarashi’s “Chôjin Masterforce no Theme” (translated by the TF Wiki as “Theme of Super-God Masterforce”, so probably the least creative intro name thus far–and that includes the one just called “Transformers”) is all we get.
No one can stop us now
We transform and risk our lives
Even if we get hurt, it has to be done
Who else will protect the blue Earth?
Boys will change into warriors
Go and fight, stand up
- Masterforce! Every time we fight
- Masterforce! We grow stronger
- Masterforce! Now is the time to push on
- Get on, God on, Head on
- Super-God Masterforce
The Masterforce in this series is what allows the Autobots to become Pretenders (rather than the usual shell they hide in or fight alongside like in the US and UK comics) and humans to become Headmasters (and later Godmasters–more on that in a moment), accessed by bands on their arms that come from planet Master, where the Head and Targetmasters from the previous series hail from. Don’t ask me to explain that. I’ve seen fansubs of the series from long before the Shout Factory releases and I don’t think it was ever explained. This leads the “Headmaster Juniors” (re-imaginings of Nightbeat, Hosehead, and Siren to become Minerva, Cab, and Shuta, 13 year old robot pilots. Because Japan. It’s also interesting that Shuta, arguably the main human of the three, is tied to Siren when Nightbeat was the stand-out of his trio. Minerva is only the standout for being the rare female Autobot and supposedly cute. And 13. And allowed to drive a lifeless car that she combines with. And the jungle kid drives the firetruck while a soccer player is the police car. They are also 13. Japan is weird is what I’m saying. It would make sense if the robots were alive like the US Headmasters but here they’re just mecha, which is disappointing.
The Pretenders are also different. The show is set years after Headmasters with the world free of the Autobot/Decepticon war but the Pretenders stayed behind in case Decepticons returned. They ended up doing so, also acting as Pretenders–only they’re giant monsters, as that was the shells the US versions were given. The Pretenders can be human or giant form as Pretenders but stay usual Transformer sized in their Cybertronian forms. However there were more name changes. Metalhawk is original (and die-cast metal, a rarity) who has gone on to find fame in US comics but his comrades are just the US figures. The Decepticon Pretenders are the same, but their boss, Overlord (who has found his own fame in comics and the Prime Wars Trilogy cartoons despite only being another Transtector mecha in this show), is a Japan original who has two Powermasters, which is also true for Dreadwing and Darkwind (or is it Dreadwind and Darkwing…I always confuse that). Oh wait, they aren’t Powermasters, they’re Godmasters. I’ll explain after the next intro, since they pushed the Pretenders out of the show later on.
Godmasters are also mecha-operating people, but this time they’re adults. This will not be the last time we see kids in this franchise being put in danger by adults and giant robots. The shows from this period has at least one per show, lest you think Daniel Witwicky and the Unicron Trilogy were the exceptions. If anything they’re the rule. At least Sari and Miko were dumb enough to get themselves into trouble, geez guys. Now you have the kids piloting a robot vehicle called Godbomber that connects to the new leader, Ginrai (the guy who looks like Optimus Prime because they used Powermaster Optimus Prime’s toy), to become his armor as God Ginrai. (You may have seen that in the Toys R Us reissues years ago.) Yes, have three kids inside your armor’s chestplate with only a windshield to protect them from lasers and giant fists. Godmasters also tap into a special power that’s about as well explained as the Masterforce. In other words, they don’t really explain a darn thing and what we get doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Enough about the shows though, let’s talk intros. The theme song is oddly calming for a series about giant robots and humans engaged in a war for the future of Earth. Even the intro is more like a poem than a battle theme. The only thing odder than the Decepticons new alien master, Devil Z, not making an appearance is that the first intro seems to be Shuta and Minerva on a date at the drive-in, while the second is just a huge battle. As a show intro there isn’t much to say here. Maybe that’s why I spent so much of this talking about the show itself?
Hey, we have a translated intro this time! And there’s only one intro for this show that I know of so this should be less work for me all around.
Now that’s more like it. The grid is back, the theme is all action and so are the visuals. This is setting you up for a giant robot war story. You even get kids singing along to cheer the Autobots on. Transformers Victory dropped all the mystic energy stuff and went back to good old Autobots versus Decepticon stuff. The Transtectors are still around, this time in the form of the original idea of Brainmasters. They’re basically Headmasters but they slide up into the head and just form a face. This does allow for more variety in head design than a robot folded over allows, although I imagine neck articulation didn’t exist. They also brought forth the idea that two robots could combine into one, with one forming the upper body and the other the lower, known as the Multiforce. It’s a combination idea we’d see again in Energon and the 2015 version of Robots In Disguise during the “Combiner Force” arc.
There’s a huge focus on the big toy of this line, the newest Autobot commander Star Saber, which is pretty popular with both show fans and toy collections. Saber is a Brainmaster that also combines with his jet’s booster to become Star Saber. Although the toy (this links to a review) could use a redesign as his internal mechanisms were not designed to hold up to time and use. Powermaster Optimus/Godmaster Ginrai was the first time we saw the leader get a trailer/base that also turns into armor (something Ultra Magnus could do since it was intended to be the first Optimus upgrade, but was never shown in action until the Dreamwave comic) but this is one of the best looking trailer armors out there. Yes, I know it’s not a trailer on Star Saber but usually it is so that’s what I call them. Oddly not as much focus on his Decepticon counterpart Deathsaurus, which is loved by US fans for the name alone.
I’m surprised there isn’t a second intro (unless I just don’t know about it) considering he gets an upgrade later when they introduce the idea of an Autobot who combines with the leader for further power, when God Ginrai (who–spoilers–gains sentience aside from his Godmaster at the end of Masterforce) is remade into Victory Leo and now combines with Star Saber. This also showed up a lot in the Unicron Trilogy. They also introduced the Micromasters here, so that’s an odd absence. One shows up in the outro…which only makes sense if you’re Japanese I think, even in English. The strangest absence…well, not so much absence since they’re technically there but the Breastforce–Decepticon whose breastplates form animal robots and their weapons, a possible ancestor to the Mini-Con. Also barely in there is the Decepticon Dinoforce, aka the Monster Pretenders of the US line, who now ride Pretender Shell dinosaurs. How do you not show robots riding fake dinosaurs more prominently? And they combine? That would be so cool if they weren’t all morons. Still it’s probably the best intro on this page. We only have one left and it isn’t going to stack up to this.
Now is the time to stand up
Now is the time to fight
Zone Mode Transform
Counter attack now
Overcoming the pain
Go, attack! For the universe
- WOAH WOAH
- Transformers: Zone
- Combining our strength
- Now aim for the bright victory
- WOAH WOAH
- Transformers: Zone
- Go star warriors
- Go, go hero!
- Dai Atlas
This one episode Original Video Animation (the Japanese version of Direct To Video) was the last of the G1 anime. Like Victory our heroes pick up stray kids to raise them on their own. Yeah, I didn’t mention Jan, the boy from Victory, but they’re mostly cheerleaders now, someone for the kids at home to project to if they want to hang out with Autobots without actually being a shapechanging robot who gets shot at a lot. It’s still rather calmer than Victory but not as bad as Masterforce. The title is “Transformers Z no Theme”–yep, “Theme From Transformers Zone”. I’m seeing a pattern between the theme name and the tone of said theme. It also shows how prominent the Micromasters (from planet Micro–which is less thought out than Planet Master, home of the Headmasters, Targetmasters, and Masterforce) are in this special and the two main heroes, Dai Atlas and Sonic Bomber, who combine into a battlestation thanks to the mysterious power of Zodiac (not to be confused with the constellations). We also get another non-Cybertronian alien leading the Decepticons, this time in charge of the classic Decepticon Combiners, in case you wondered what happened to them. Outside of the battle the special isn’t all that good.
This is not why Shout Factory hasn’t brought it over like the other series though. Like with Scramble City Toei really doesn’t want their OVAs being published outside of Japan. I wish I knew why but I’ve seen the fansub and fandub of this and it’s not a total loss to be honest. It isn’t terrible but it isn’t the best one to go out on. Transformers would continue as a toyline, but only manga would be promoting the series. This would also be the case in the UK with original toys being produced there, leading to the US return as Generation Two (where the “G1” name comes from), a series of repaints of the first line of figures followed by new original molds and characters but just being the original cartoon on TV. That’s why it was in the G1 US intros that started this series of articles. Then Hasbro tried to refresh the line with animals, but a bit different than their previous animal Transformers. Next time we begin the Beast Era with the American Beast Wars cartoon.