Transformers Takara Collection vol 1: Headmasters

UK Distributor:  Metrodome (DVD Only)

BBFC Certificate:  PG

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £29.99

Episodes:  1-35 (of 35)

Audio Options:  Japanese 2.0; English 2.0

Subtitles:  English

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


Transformers is fondly remembered in the UK as one of the cartoon staples of the 1980’s, captivating viewers with a its transforming robots and timeless battle of good against evil.  Transforming robots were popular in Japan too, in fact Transformers creators Hasbro had used a Japanese toy line as the basis for its own, and it wasn’t too long before the Japanese made their own Transformers series.  Strangely, even though the Western series began to fade, the Japanese Transformers (often referred to as Transformers Takara, after the company that made it) remained confined to Japan.  Until now.

The first series of TakaraHeadmasters – begins in a manner familiar to Transformers fans, with the Autobots and Decepticons battling it out over ownership of Cybertron once again.  However, just when things start to look bleak for the Autobots, unexpected support comes in the form of the Headmasters, a group of powerful transformers led by the courageous Fortress Maximus.  The Headmasters are small robots who have developed the power to transform into heads in order to control larger transforming suits, and their appearance turns the tide in the Autobot’s favour.  All is not going to go their way though, there are Headmasters on the Decepticon side too and their enigmatic commander Lord Zarek is scheming to create a weapon that none will be able to stand against.  There is one being that has the strength to stop him, Fortress Maximus has the ability to unlock a power that could match Zarek’s weapon, but such power is not easy to attain…

Transformers Takara: Headmasters is an odd series indeed.  Although fans will recognise many of the new characters, several of which turned up in the Western series and toy lines shortly before they ended, there is just something distinctly, well, Japanese about it all.  I know that sounds a very obvious thing to say about a Japanese series, but most viewers will know the Western series and to be honest Headmasters is not a lot like it.  Whilst the premise is the same the story itself is darker than you may expect, and most of the familiar characters fade into the background within the space of about ten episodes.  The Japanese aspects of the series are odd and quirky – Transformers getting drunk and doing Karaoke is an undisputed highlight – but the habit of each new character introducing themselves when they arrive and making grand proclamations about the prowess does begin to grate quite quickly.

Once you get your head round this though there is a lot to like about this series.  The overall story is pretty good and throws up some real surprises, whilst there are several big action scenes in every episode.  As mentioned the series is darker than its Western counterparts, with characters dying and the creepy Lord Zarek manipulating events secretly from the shadows.  In fact Zarek is one of the best aspects of the series, appearing only as a mist-shrouded shadow until around half way through, he remains a mysterious and malevolent force throughout.  The Japanese aspects make it less predictable than the Western series and there are some story arcs that stretch across several episodes, and then there’s the dub.  Yes, the series was dubbed into English many years ago in the most alarmingly amateur fashion possible, the voice ‘actors’ are atrocious and the dub script is poor, with some inexplicable name changes (Blaster gets renamed as Billy for example).  This makes for hilarious viewing which is probably why Metrodome included it, but needless to say they also include the original (and vastly superior) Japanese dub and an English subtitle track.

Transformers Takara: Headmasters is most certainly a very different kettle of fish to the Transformers series you remember, but it is also interesting to watch. The animation hasn't dated well, but the mechanical design is great as ever and the story is more sophisticated and surprising than you may expect.  The sheer Japanese-ness of it may be off-putting for some (I’m sure there will be a few viewers that will be annoyed at seeing Arcee effectively become a secretary for Ultra Magnus), but it does make for an interesting viewing experience.  It’s not ground-breakingly amazing but despite some annoyances with the animation and pointless posturing of characters it is entertaining and action-packed viewing.  It’s unlikely to turn many heads with viewers new to the franchise but if you remember the old series then this is great value for money and well worth picking up.


As well as the English dub, which is effectively an extra as it just seems to have been included for kitsch value, the discs also carry the episode scripts as DVD ROM content and the first three episodes have a commentary by Transformers expert Chris McFeeley.  The commentary is definitely interesting from an anime fan point of view as McFeeley frequently talks about the ties between the series and well known anime series like Dragonball.


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