I decided to pick up the Transformers Japanese Collection now that it's in that window where it's out-of-print but its eBay price hasn't gone through the roof yet.
I've watched the first three episodes, and...well, at least the animation is good.
So, okay. Simplified overview of what happened:
Transformers started out as a Japanese toy line, by Takara.
It got licensed in America, by Hasbro.
Hasbro licensed a TV series to promote the toys. It was animated by Toei.
The TV series ran for three seasons and a movie, plus a truncated fourth season, and then ended.
The TV series was exported to Japan (except for that fourth season), and after it ended, Takara commissioned Toei to continue it from where season 3 left off.
So anyway! I'm watching Headmasters, and...I don't know if it's as dumb as season 3 (it's at least less racist
) but it's really dumb
. First and foremost is the seeming pointlessness of immediately undoing everything that happened at the end of the last season. The Return of Optimus Prime did what it said on the tin; by the end of the two-parter, Optimus was back, Rodimus was just Hot Rod again, and the Matrix was depleted. By the third episode of Headmasters, all that shit's been undone; Optimus is dead again, Hot Rod is Rodimus again, and he's carrying a recharged Matrix of Leadership.
So that all feels awfully pointless.
But nothing leading up to it makes any sense either.
The setup in episode 1 is that Optimus has to go to the core of Vector Sigma. And he doesn't have the Matrix with him, and he hasn't told anyone else where he hid it, because they need a reason to fuck around for an episode and a half.
Rodimus and co go to Earth to retrieve the Matrix so they can help Optimus, and when Optimus makes it to the core, not only are they right behind him, somehow Cyclonus has gotten there first
. Even though Optimus has just spent two episodes fighting his way to the core and Cyclonus wasn't even on the same fucking planet
at the beginning of the episode.
This is some Game of Thrones "travel takes as long as is narratively convenient" shit, except at least Game of Thrones waited a few seasons to start fudging the travel time between Winterfell and King's Landing. This is more like if Ned had taken half the first season to make the trip and he got there and Jon was waiting for him. After
spending an episode or two at the Wall.
Nothing anyone does makes any sense, time itself doesn't make any sense, and I don't care about any of the characters.
You know what it does? It makes me appreciate what Ron Friedman pulled off in Transformers: The Movie. It's pretty fucking impressive that he managed to kill off nearly the entire original cast and introduce a bunch of new toys nobody had ever seen before, and actually make us give a fuck about Hot Rod and Kup and Ultra Magnus and Arcee.
Say, have I shared this yet?
Mark Evanier interviews Ron Friedman, who talks about a lot of stuff but does spend some time on Transformers: The Movie (and how killing off Optimus Prime wasn't his idea but he committed to it -- and also foresaw the fan backlash).
Anyhow. I'm finding Headmasters fascinating, if not very good. The animation, at least, is pretty; it's the same studio so it doesn't feel like a major departure (though the Autobot symbol is weirdly off-model in the scene-change animation). It's been over 15 years since I actually re-watched the original series, but my gut reaction is this looks better than season 3 (but not as good as the movie). Of course they apply a lot of the standard tricks -- detailed figures who don't move much, reused animation (I'm pretty sure Galvatron made that same turn in the movie...), strobe-style sequences with only a few frames of animation, slowed down to make it look dramatic. But anyway, it looks good.
Also Galvatron doesn't seem to be crazy anymore? I wonder if he was ever crazy in the Japanese-localized version.