Transformers Japan Generation 1 Complete Collection Review

As detailed in our Transformers viewing guide, the Japanese Transformers series which includes Headmasters, Masterforce and Victory, carries on from the end of Season 3 of the original series. 

Headmasters retains many of the old favourite characters who survived the epic battle with Unicron. Still battling for control of Cybertron, the Headmasters are shown to be an ancient race of tiny Transformers whose power more than matches that of those twice their size. 

Onto Masterforce and this time it's the humans that deliver most of the action in taking on the nasty Decepticons who, like the Autobots, now have the ability to shrink down and pass themselves off as humans. 

Finally, Victory which introduces new leaders Star Saber and Deathsaurus, and completes Generation 1 of Transformers.

Unfortunately as the Generation 1 series' progress, the franchise slowly loses much of what made the original series so great. Not only do the stories start to drift from the foundations laid in seasons 1, 2 and 3, but the characters are far less likeable and less memorable. About mid-way through Headmasters and it becomes clear that this new direction in the franchise would be forging its own path, quickly shedding old characters in preference to new characters and, in turn, toys. Sure, many long-running series have changes to the general line up but what would One Piece be without Luffy? What would Dragonball be without Goku? What would Transformers be without Optimus? Granted, other series have substituted Optimus for another Prime but to have him, the most iconic Transformer, taken away is a bitter pill to swallow.

The animation also takes a bit of a hit. Granted, it is pretty cool to see more of a Japanese influence creep into the series in the manner of cool action poses (like what you'd normally see in Power Rangers or Voltron) and character designs, but the overall quality doesn't get the increase that you might expect. Some of the characters, while unique, come across as a bit of a cash grab. Yeah, sure, that's not  really anything new in the Transformers franchise, but in this instance there in no organic evolution of story lines to legitimise the introduction of new characters/action figures.

Probably the most notable change, and one that will settle an age old argument; the English dub. The English dub in this collection is woeful. Honestly, this has to be up there as one of the worst dubs of all time. Not only are the performances desperately lacklustre but the characters sound nothing like the originals. One of the greatest elements of the original Transformers series was the voice cast and direction with many of the voices achieving iconic status over the years. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Headmasters, Masterforce and Victory. Thankfully, however, the releases come with the original Japanese soundtrack and subtitles and they are both of a much better quality.

Transformers Japan Generation 1 has many a fault but there's still something satisfying about being immersed in the Transformers universe, beyond that of what we know from the original series. Transformers Japan Generation 1 Complete Collection is available on DVD from Madman now.

- Ryan

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