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Transformers: The Headmasters is a Japanese animated series that aired from July 3, 1987 to March 28, 1988 for 35 episodes, in support of the toyline of the same name.
The Headmasters was the first Japanese-exclusive Transformers franchise, and as such, marks the departure of the Japanese animated continuity from that of the US. Planned out by TV Magazine writer Masumi Kaneda, who had previously worked on the Transformers manga, the series follows on from the events of "The Return of Optimus Prime", ignoring "The Rebirth" and introducing the Headmaster characters in a distinctly different way than their American counterparts. Emphasizing the difference between east and west, the series (and its accompanying manga) employed different character models designed by Ban Magami.
The “-master” concept was entirely re-imagined for the series, discarding the Western idea of Nebulans, and establishing the Headmasters not as Transformers who bonded with organic beings, but as diminutive Transformers who connected to and controlled large, lifeless bodies named “Transtectors”. Drawing on a plot point established in American episodes such as “Desertion of the Dinobots, Part 2” and “Fight or Flee”, the Headmasters were introduced as refugees who fled Cybertron millions of years ago and settled on the planet Master, where they developed this new technology and trained hard in order to survive the harsh environment. Kaneda notes that he chose to give the Headmasters non-combatant origins in order to add an extra layer of meaning to the concept of “transformation,” as the young 'bots grew from civilians into fully-fledged warriors. Consequently, it was Chromedome – a character essentially overlooked in the West – who was chosen as the lead of the series and cast as a “fiery youth” in order to emphasize this “personal transformation” theme, as well as to carry on the pattern of leaders with automotive vehicle modes. His opposite number, and perhaps the true breakout character of The Headmasters, was Decepticon Six Changer Sixshot, a powerful ninja character who also embodied the “personal transformation” concept with his shifting allegiance.
According to the booklet included with the Pioneer DVD release of the series, the earliest episodes of the series were based on aborted scripts written for the unmade fourth season of the American cartoon, and indeed, after a opening three-parter that introduces the new characters, the series does indeed adopt the American format of individual episodic stories. As the series progresses, however, it develops an ongoing story and style that Kaneda openly admits is steeped in Toei's history of sci-fi robot anime – likely due in no small part to the involvement of production staff who had a history of work in the genre, including writers Keisuke Fujikawa, Toyohiro Ando and Yoshihisa Araki, and producer Kenji Yokoyama.
When Optimus Prime released the energy of the Matrix of Leadership to cure the Hate Plague, he could not have predicted the consequences of his actions. In 2011, without the energy of the Matrix to regulate it, the mega-computer Vector Sigma begins to destabilize, opening the planet up to an invasion by the Decepticons and their new Headmaster warriors. Although the Autobot Headmasters, led by Fortress, arrive to help turn the tide of the battle, the day will not be won without the Matrix, and so Hot Rod and the Headmasters scour the Earth in order to recover the talisman and stabilize Vector Sigma once more. During the course of the conflict, Optimus Prime dies once again, and Hot Rod again becomes Rodimus Prime.
The status quo of the renewed war sees Rodimus Prime in command across Cybertron and the Autobots' secondary command post on Athenia, with Ultra Magnus leading his own individual squad on Earth and operating out of Autobot City. In contrast, the Decepticons are based out of their old base on Chaar, with Sixshot leading the Decepticons' Earth forces, operating out of Trypticon. Operating in the shadows is Galvatron's secret ally, the Decepticon Headmaster leader Scorponok, who has a vendetta against Fortress for exiling him from Master. The first major shift in the direction of the series occurs when Vector Sigma develops a new alloy named Cybertonuron, and Scorponok arranges for the destruction of Cybertron itself in order to keep the alloy from falling into the hands of either the Autobots or Galvatron. Galvatron is caught in the planet-destroying blast and believed dead, while Rodimus Prime decides to venture into space and search for a new homeworld for the Transformers, leaving Scorponok and Fortress in control of their respective factions.
Scorponok immediately begins a plan to harness the power of plasma energy, destroying Mars in pursuit of his evil scheme. However, Galvatron soon reveals that he has survived and returns to take control of the Decepticons, leading them on a series of interplanetary raids for the purpose of gathering up enough energon to enact his master plan. In battle in Alaska, the Autobot Headmasters collapse a glacier on the villain, removing this threat, but allowing Scorponok to take leadership once more.
The Decepticons withdraw to planet Master, leading several refugees to escape to Earth to alert the Autobots to their plight, where a plasma energy explosion fuses the refugees and a group of Autobots and Decepticons together, creating the Targetmasters. The Autobots head for Master, where Scorponok is attempting to construct a weapon that can counter Fortress's mighty Master Sword, and engage the Decepticons in a series of battles. When Scorponok's weapon, the Zarak Shield, lays Fortress low, the Decepticons return to Earth in order to destroy the planet and gather its plasma energy. In a final battle at the South Pole, Fortress is super-charged with the combined energy of the entire Autobot army, and is finally able to defeat Scorponok and foil his plans.
- See also: List of The Headmasters episodes
- Four Warriors Come out of the Sky
- The Mystery of Planet Master
- A Dream Is Born, Double Prime
- Operation Cassette
- Rebellion on Planet Beest
- Approach of the Demon Meteorite
- The Four-Million-Year-Old Veil of Mystery
- Terror! The Six Shadows
- Cybertron Is in Grave Danger, Part 1
- Cybertron Is in Grave Danger, Part 2
- The Shadow Emperor, Scorponok
- The Dormant Volcano Mysteriously Erupts
- Head On!! Fortress Maximus
- Explosion on Mars!! Maximus Is in Danger
- Explosion on Mars!! MegaZarak Appears
- Return of the Immortal Emperor
- SOS from Planet Sandra
- Daniel Faces His Biggest Crisis Ever!!
- Fight to the Death on Planet Hive!!
- Battle for Defense of the False Planet
- Find MegaZarak's Weak Spot!!
- Head Formation of Friendship
- Mystery of the Space Pirate Ship
- Ultra Magnus Dies!!
- The Emperor of Destruction Vanishes on an Iceberg
- I Risk My Life for Earth
- Miraculous Warriors, Targetmasters (Part 1)
- Miraculous Warriors, Targetmasters (Part 2)
- The Master Sword Is in Danger!!
- The Zarak Shield Turns the Tide
- Operation: Destroy the Decepticons
- My Friend Sixshot!
- Duel on the Asteroid
- The Final Showdown on Earth (Part 1)
- The Final Showdown on Earth (Part 2)
- Heroic Legend: Optimus Prime VS Megatron!
- Heroic Legend: 2010 Wars
- Heroic Legend: Head On! Master Warriors
As one of the three series that received the RTM 1 dub treatment, The Headmasters fell under the ownership of TV Loonland, and consequently was made available for potential release by Transformers license-holders.
In the UK, the dubbed version of the first episode was released on Maverick Entertainment's The Transformers: The Movie DVD, and the company subsequently released the first six episodes in dubbed form on a single-disc. Later, Metrodome included the dubbed version on their “Season 2, Part 2” boxset of the original series, and finally, released the entire series in a subtitled, dual-language format boxset in 2005. In 2007, Madman Entertainment also released Metrodome's version on their own boxset. In the same year, the RTM 1 dub version of the series was also aired in a late-night slot on the UK channel, Anime Central.
As of this writing, The Headmasters has still not been made available in North America in either form.