Friday, August 5, 2011

Transformers – Headmasters DVD Review

Transformers – Headmasters represents the missing link in the Transformer mythology for American audiences since the show only aired in Japan.  The toy-line was made by the company Takara, were originally known as the Diaclone and Microman’s Micro Change toy-lines, which were re-branded as “Transformers” by Hasbro when the toys were brought to the U.S. market.   Takara imported the original series to sell their toys until they felt they could do it on their own and created their own series known as Transformers – Headmasters which took place after the events of Generation 1 (More Than Meets the Eye) that aired in America.  While most of the continuity from the original show was retained, there were some differences between the two such as how the Headmasters were created.

Film (3 out of 5 stars) 

I remember not being pleased when the anticipated fourth season of Transformers ended after a three-part miniseries.  At the time, I wasn’t aware that the show was going to continue in Japan only, but I did hear about the new show over the years.  Until now, the show had only been available as bootleg copies or in small scenes on the internet.  Fortunately for American Transformer fans, Shout! Factory has finally released the entire season on DVD!
Set six years after the battle with Unicron and one year after the events of the G1 series, the Autobots have been enjoying the peace and quiet after decisively defeating the Decepticons.  It isn’t long before a an evil faction of a new type of Transformer called the Headmasters join forces with the Decepticons in an attempt to seize control though force.  Not only are they attempting to take control of Cybertron, they are also planning to take over the master computer called Vector Sigma that is the heart of Cybertron.  During the fighting, Vector Sigma is damaged and no one should be wondering who will attempt to save it.  Let’s just say that it’s fairly obvious when he isn’t even in the opening credits despite being the main star.  Let’s just say that Takara made some not so subtle subtractions and additions to the show to allow them to sell new toys.
Even the Transformers that do survive the cut may not remain as they were for long.  For example, the bitter rivalry between the tape deck robots (I loved both of these toys!) Soundwave and Blaster engage in what seems to be a final confrontation that ends in the death of both, only for them both to return as new robot with new names and appearances.  When the robots can come back from death this easily, it really diminishes their efforts and sacrifices.  Then again, I’ve never understood the arbitrary way that some of the robots are resurrected while other’s aren’t.
Despite those reservations, there’s still something to be said for a show that kills three main characters in the first episode.  Compared to the almost pacifistic original show where no one was ever really hurt (until the movie), this show provides a shock to the system for longtime American fans.  The stakes seem higher too as the Autobots aren’t just trying to save Earth and Cybertron, but they also have other worlds like Athenia where they have a base.  The addition of new robots on both sides adds a new feel to the show but it’s partly at the cost of less screen time for the original lineups.
The animation is comparable to the original show and it also had some interesting story-lines that I enjoyed a lot more than I did when I reviewed Beast Wars: Transformers. Takara did a good job continuing the series but I’ve got to admit that I really missed hearing the original voices for each of the characters.  Characters like Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Megatron (Frank Welker) were performed so well that their voices are indelibly linked to those characters for me.   Other than that, this is a perfect companion to the original show that I highly recommend to any fan of the franchise.

Video (3 out of 5 stars) 

The show is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio non-anamorphic fullscreen transfer that could be better but at the same time, this is probably the best it could look due to it’s age.  There’s some dust and grain present throughout the season and many shots look very soft.  There’s a variety of colors shown but most of them look muted and washed out.  Black levels also lack the dark richness they should have.  I’m sure the Shout! Factory did they best they could with the elements they had to work with, but I wish it looked better.
The disc offers the original Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mix with english subtitles that are frequently unintentionally hilarious because of of the translation or because of misspellings.  I’ve already commented on my missing the original voices so I won’t mention that again but it is interesting to hear how the characters sound in Japanese.  The music took some getting used to (especially the sappy sad music) but I have to admit that I did enjoy the fight music.  This is a front channel mix which is acceptable for a show from the 80s.

Special Features (1 out of 5 stars) 

The only extra on here is an art gallery.

Final Thoughts (3 out of 5 stars) 

If you don’t mind the Headmaster robots stealing the show, some funny Ninja Warrior style narration, and the subtitles, then I think you will enjoy this show.  While I wish they had just continued the original show, this one did a pretty good job continuing the mythos even if it meant the elimination of some old favorites.
If you’d like to purchase this, please click on the image below!

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