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Transformers - Takara: Headmasters
voice cast: Ikuya Sawaki, Hideyuki Hori, Masashi Ebara, Tesshô Genda, and Banjô Ginga

director: Keisuke Fujikawa

765 minutes (U) 1987
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
With a live action movie imminent, the comics undergoing a third renaissance and the toys still selling, it's clear that there's something inherently appealing about giant robots that turn into something else. Transformers are as popular now as they've ever been and this release offers fans a glimpse into a unique corner of Transformers history.

Whilst the cartoon was cancelled in America, it remained hugely popular in Japan for years afterwards and production of the cartoon was taken over by a different company. In their hands the plot was moved forward in time, characters were introduced, re-introduced and in some cases killed off permanently. For some fans, the Takara episodes are the holy grail, for others they're an aberration. So which one is it?

Well, to be honest, a bit of both. There are some jaw-dropping moments in the series, especially in the opening trilogy that sets up the status quo for the series. The violence is noticeably more extreme here, most obviously in a spectacular, brutal duel between Blaster and Soundwave that leaves both of them in pieces. In turn, this is backed up by a different feel to the show. The overt science fiction elements of the shows are brought even further to the fore with a lot of the later stories taking place in space and on other planets. There's a real epic sense to this that the best Transformers stories always have and it's to be applauded for that.

However, whilst the change in location and style gives the series a breath of fresh air it also causes problems. The Blaster versus Soundwave duel is almost immediately dealt with, the huge cast of characters can be difficult to tell apart and crucially, several of the show's least popular characters are pushed to the fore. Juvenile autobot Wheelie and Daniel, the son of the autobot's first human friend are front and centre far too often. The series was always overly guilty of playing the kid card but here it reaches epidemic proportions. The only plus side to it is the friendship between Daniel and the deceptive SixShot, which gives the series an air of ambiguity it would otherwise lack.

Despite these problems, any Transformers fan will find a lot to enjoy here. There's a huge range of episodes on these four discs and they're backed up by some great extras. The commentary on the first three episodes is both informative and genuinely funny, whilst the English audio track has to be heard to be believed: character names change, grammar is thrown out of the window and the overall effect is as amusing as it is bewildering. An unexpected comedy highlight it's the icing on the cake for an impressive set of discs.

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