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THE TRANSFORMERS: COMICS, BOOKS AND MANGA

IDW Publishing
(2005-now)
Devil's Due
(2003-2007)
Dreamwave
(2002-2004)
Club/Con Exclusives
(2001-now)
Titan Books
(2001-now)
Marvel Comics
(1984-1994)
Japanese
Manga
Other Books
and Titles

JAPANESE TRANSFORMERS MANGA AND INFORMATION

Japanese Transformers Manga Summaries

Introduction | F!SRL Transformer | The Transformer | TF: Big War | The Headmasters
Super-God Masterforce | ...more to come!

INTRODUCTION

I've gone crazy for Japanese Transformers stuff at the minute, mostly as a result of the recent DVD release of Headmasters and the impending Masterforce set in the UK. As an extension of that, in the last two weeks, I've purchased the "Transformers History of Music" CD set, and the topic of this post, the "Transformers: The Comics" manga collection, which reprints all of the TF manga printed in Japan's TV Magazine from the original series through to "Battlestars: Return of Convoy."

As this information is stuff that still remains little-known in the west, I thought to myself that I would write some kind of guide to the series. The strength of the art in the manga was the main influence here - although I do not speak any Japanese, for the vast majority of the strips, the art makes the storyline abundantly clear. But, for where I could not progress without some translation assistance, the ever-awesome DrSpengler lent his aid with explanations abounding. Although if I have made any errors in my summaries here, please, anybody, let me know! And, all due apologies to purists, but yeah, I've used the American names and terminology.

After an opening “prologue” issue [ translated version ] which narrated the basic history of the Transformers – the war on Cybertron, their coming to Earth, their new disguises – in 1985, the Transformers manga began properly in 1986. Like the Japanese animated series, it is subdivided into various storylines based around each series, beginning with “Fight! Super Robot Life Transformer” and running through to “Battlestars: The Return of Convoy.” With that out of the way, myself and Spengs present the first installment of the guide to the Transformers manga! So, class, let’s begin at the beginning!

—Chris McFeely

FIGHT! SUPER ROBOT LIFE TRANSFORMER

Fight! Super Robot Life Transformer is the title for the Japanese dubbed version of both seasons one and two of the American Transfomers series. The “SRLF” manga takes place after the end of the second season, but before the Japanese-exclusive OVA, "Scramble City."

ISSUE #1 — translated version

Trouble is brewing in Tokyo, Japan – Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker are on the attack, out to pillage energy and cause some general destruction. But the Autobots have pursued their foes to Japan, and Optimus Prime, Smokescreen, Wheeljack, Trailbreaker and Sideswipe speed onto the scene, just in time for Prime to transform and save a young boy named Kenji from a deadly aerial dive from Starscream. Prime introduces himself and the Autobots to Kenji, who reciprocates, and Smokescreen is then ordered to transform into vehicle mode and convey Kenji while the other Autobots deal with the Decepticons. Unfortunately for them, they are immediately confronted with Menasor, who, despite Smokescreen’s smoke screen, soundly thrashes Sideswipe and Trailbreaker. Kenji, meanwhile, spots a broken road bridge and has the Autobots drive up it, straight towards Menasor. Shooting off the end of the bridge, Prime, Smokescreen and Wheeljack transform into robot mode and clobber Menasor and the three jets with a joint “Transform Attack” As the battered Decepticons beat a hasty retreat, Prime thanks Kenji for his help, and gives him a communications helmet that will allow him to call on the Autobots if the Decepticons threaten Japan again.

Notes
  • The helmet given to Kenji by Optimus Prime, in addition to resembling Prime’s own helmet, is based on the electronic voice changing helmet toy available at the time.

ISSUE #2 — translated version

The Autobots and Decepticons are in battle in the Oregon desert when Optimus Prime receives news from Ratchet and Gears that Soundwave and his cassettes are on the loose in Japan. Kenji and Bumblebee are charged with keeping an eye out for them, although no sooner do they receive the message than the duo are pulled over when a couple of policemen spot the clearly under-age Kenji apparently driving Bumblebee. Bumblebee transforms to clear up the issue, and the shocked policemen let them go on their way, although – after pointing out that Cliffjumper and Ironhide are also in the area - they are then almost immediately attacked by Ravage. Kenji calls for help on his helmet, and Powerglide swoops into the rescue, socking Ravage one and flying Kenji off to safety. Bumblebee, however, is then surrounded by Soundwave, Ratbat, Rumble and Laserbeak, but somersaults out and manages to evade them, and they split up to search for him. As Soundwave rounds the corner Bumblebee is hiding behind, Bumblebee nails him with a “Bumble Kick” shattering his chest. The cassettes, meanwhile, have run into Ironhide and Cliffjumper, but they can’t hide in Soundwave’s chest, because it’s smashed up, and Cliffjumper is able to grab them all in cassette mode and even tugs their tape out. Everyone meets up, and Kenji reports their success to Prime.

ISSUE #3 — translated version

While the Autobots are performing a test of their new “Scramble City,” they are unaware that Astrotrain and Reflector are spying from above, as the Triple-Changer uses his companion to take pictures of the city’s transformation into battle station mode. Returning to base, Megatron gleefully studies their images and proclaims that he will use the information to build a Decepticon counterpart to Scramble City – Trypticon – and sets Hook to work on the project.

Elsewhere, Kenji, Trailbreaker, Beachcomber, Hound, Outback and Swerve are on patrol when they come upon the Insecticons, and all save Trailbreaker (whom Kenji is inside) transform to engage them, only to be caught in the explosion of a landmine the evil trio have planted. The Insecticons are quite pleased with themselves, but suddenly, out of the smoker crater, the silhouette of what appears to be a giant robot appears. In reality, it’s the four Autobots forming a “human” pyramid, who unleash all their weapons in a combined “Scrumbuster” attack, then “Grand Dash” towards the shocked Insecticons kick the sheer heck out of them. Thoroughly trounced, the Insecticons transform and flee, while Kenji gets out of Trailbreaker and starts running back towards the Autobot base, fearing the Decepticons may know too much about Scramble City.

Notes
  • This issue occurs at some point before “Scramble City,” with construction on Trypticon only beginning, and Scramble City itself not yet completed.

ISSUE #4 — translated version

Optimus Prime brings Kenji to the Autobots’ new base in Japan, disguised as a parking structure and managed with help from humans, and tells him about the “Autobot Road,” a subterranean highway that the Autobots use to move around undetected. Prime is also wondering where Scramble City’s commander, Ultra Magnus, is – he has sent him off with his trailer to get it upgraded with some new equipment. Suddenly, an alarm blares, warning of Decepticon activity in Yokohama Harbour… where Jazz, Perceptor, Sideswipe and Warpath are having some serious trouble with Starscream, riding atop Blitzwing in tank mode, and wielding Megatron in a non-shrunken gun mode! Warpath transforms into tank mode to go up against Blitzwing, only to find that he’s substantially smaller than the Triple-Changer, and… crunch!

A trailer-less Prime and Tracks speed onto the scene, but even Prime can’t stand up to the Decepticons’ attacks, until Ultra Magnus make his dramatic arrival, towing Prime’s upgraded trailer with him. Prime opens his trailer and unleashes the new “Scramble Power Buster” cannon within, forcing the Decepticons to transform – Blitzwing and Starscream take to the air in jet mode and destroy Prime’s cannon, but Tracks then sprouts his wings and goes airborne to catch their attention. Megatron commands the two jets to pursue him, but soon regrets it when Tracks dives at him and veers away at the last second, causing the jets to crash into their leader. Prime and Magnus seize the opportunity and perform their “Convoy Magnus Double Cross Kick” on the pile of Decepticons, as Kenji whoops for their victory, and a battered Warpath weakly joins in the cheer.

Notes
  • The “Autobot Road” is a remarkably similar concept to the Global Spacebridge from Robots in Disguise – a roadway beneath the Earth to allow the Autobots personal transit from one region to another.

ISSUE #5 — translated version

The Stunticons are causing chaos, and unluckily for Kenji, it just so happens to be at a baseball game he’s attending with a girl. Acting fast, Kenji uses his watch to summon help from the Aerialbots and the Protectobots. As Menasor rampages, a lighting rig catches fire and starts to fall towards the crowd, but just in the nick of time, the Protectobots come roaring in and immediately start seeing to the fire and rescuing the civilians. The Aerialbots show up right after and combine into Superion, and the Protectobots follow their lead as Defensor. Not to be outdone, the Combaticons appear and the four combiners square off in what Kenji calls a “tag match,” and Defensor immediately takes a double punch from the two Decepticons, causing him to separate. Groove lands in front of Kenji and tells him that Hot Spot is too badly damaged for them to combine again, but Kenji’s got a plan of his own – Groove transforms to motorcycle mode and jumps high enough so that Superion can hear Kenji as he tells him to shoot his rifle at the two Decepticons’ legs. His blasts force Swindle, Brawl, Breakdown and Wildrider to disengage, and Blades, First Aid, Streetwise and Groove quickly leap in and take their places, becoming Bruticus and Menasor’s legs and sending them flying far off into the distance!

Notes
  • Kenji’s watch communicator is the Superion transforming watch toy later available in the US as part of Generation 2.

ISSUE #6 — translated version

Kenji, Seaspray, Hound and Perceptor come upon a beautiful island where animals of all shapes and size are living together in peace… until a stampede of said animals leads them to discover that the Constructicons are tearing the island apart, and to make matters worse, are holding Blaster and a group of Autobots captive! Kenji uses his watch communicator to radio Scramble City, and Prime orders the Aerialbots to head out, but for First Aid to go in Slingshot’s place, putting the lone Aerialbot into a huff.

Meanwhile, Starscream and Megatron are also on the island surveying the Constructicons’ work, and Megatron deems the island the perfect place to launch Trypticon, who promptly erupts from within a mountain. Just then, Superion (with First Aid as a leg) arrives, and the Constructicons form Devastator. Unfortunately, Devastator happens to have put himself in between Trypticon and the stampede of animals, and immediately finds himself picked up and tossed aside by the simple-minded saurian. Trypticon attempts to stomp on the stampede, but Superion leaps in and struggles to hold aloft the giant’s foot as the animals get to safety. Just then, over the horizon, Metroplex appears! Air Raid disengages from Superion and flies around Trypticon’s head, getting his attention and making him notice Metroplex, and naturally, Trypticon immediately charges at his enemy… only to pass right through him and fall off the cliff they’re standing on and into the ocean below. It’s not Metroplex at all – it’s one of Hound’s holograms, magnified to gigantic size courtesy of Perceptor’s scope. As Megatron and Starscream flee, the Autobots put the Constructicons to work repairing the damage they have done to the island.

Notes
  • The fact that Trypticon does not recognise Metroplex indicates that "Scramble City" has yet to occur.
  • In this issue, Kenji’s watch communicator is the Ultra Magnus transforming watch toy.

ISSUE #7 — translated version

It looks like Onslaught and the Stunticons are causing devastation again… but if it’s them, why are they wearing Autobot symbols, and leaving notes saying “The Autobots Were Here,” signed by Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus?

After Kenji discovers the anti-Autobot sentiment this has created at school – particularly from a boy named Makoto with a Galvatron watch – he is picked up by Tailgate on his way home, and they pass by a large crowd of people. Investigating, they discover two robed, hooded figures preaching support for the Decepticons to the crowd, who are quite receptive to the idea. Just then, the Stunticons and Onslaught burst onto the scene, quickly followed by Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Prowl, Hot Spot and Inferno; the two fire engines douse the Decepticons, washing off their phoney Autobot symbols and exposing them as frauds, while Eject and Rewind leap out of vehicle-mode Prowl and fire upon the robed figures, incinerating their cloaks and revealing that they are, in fact, Rumble and Frenzy. The four smaller Stunticons immediately fly off, leaving Motormaster and Onslaught to fight alone – the former hops on the latter’s shoulders, and they spin their bodies together in the destructive “Decepticon Great Wheel,” knocking aside Prime and Magnus. Hot Spot, however, rolls the two spinning Decepticons up his ladder, and pitches them towards Inferno, who uses his own ladder to smack them flying back towards the two leaders. Battered by the “Convoy Magnus Finish Double” (which looks suspiciously like the Double Cross Kick from issue #4), the two Decepticons are sent soaring through the air, and crash back down on a Decepticon craft floating in the ocean, where Megatron laments their failure.

ISSUE #8 — translated version

When Powerglide spots the Combaticons pursuing a dog and shooting the poor animal down, he swoops in to help the creature. However, as Megatron is busy explaining to Starscream, it is no ordinary dog – the Decepticons have experimented on it, and it now contains massive amounts of destructive energy in its body. The wounded dog tries to escape and the Combaticons open fire, but Powerglide leaps into the path of their attack, taking the blasts and signalling for help as he transforms, pulling the dog into his cockpit and trying to flee the Decepticons. Fortunately for him, Bumblebee, Beachcomber, Pipes, Tailgate and Hubcap then turn up to help. The dog, meanwhile, proves that the energy in its body has affected it in other ways, and it intelligently taps at buttons on Powerglide’s console, and two tubes emerge from it and touch the dog’s temples, allowing it to telepathically communicate with Powerglide. The dog tells him of the energy within it, and transfers it into Powerglide, giving him “Scramble Power,” which Powerglide uses to link up with the other Minibots (in vehicle mode, they simply affix to different points of his plane mode). As the Combaticons merge into Bruticus, the Minibots begin to whirl themselves into a tornado and strike Bruticus with the “Spiral Attack” boring straight through his chest! The critically-injured combiner flees, and the Autobots gather around as the dog, having given Powerglide all of his energy, sadly dies.

Notes
  • “Scramble Power” is the power that the combiners use to merge into their giant robot forms.

THE TRANSFORMER

Published from 1986 to 1987, The Transformer is the strangely simplistic title for the manga version of Transformers 2010, which is in turn the Japanese name for the third season of the American cartoon series, its date altered from 2005/6, as in the English version. Its assorted adventures take place at various points throughout the series.

ISSUE #1 — translated version

Responding to an SOS, an Autobot team consisting of Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Blurr, Springer and Arcee head into space at full speed, and discover the spaceship that sent the call for help held prisoner by another, larger craft, pinned between two massive rows of “teeth” in its bow. The Autobots leave their own vessel and fly over to the captive ship, severing the teeth with the combined power of their lasers and freeing the ship. Rodimus heads further into the mystery craft to investigate, only to discover who’s behind the plot… naturally, it’s Galvatron! The corridor behind Rodimus shuts and his means of escape are cut off as Galvatron, Cyclonus, Scourge and a Sharkticon surround him, and Galvatron hits him with a blast from his cannon. Rodimus collapses, but an image of Optimus Prime appears before him and urges him on; Rodimus leaps up and Galvatron fires at him again, but this time he dodges and the blast shatters the door. Transforming to vehicle mode, Rodimus roars off down the tunnel, dropping a small oval device as he goes. A puzzled Cyclonus picks it up, and Galvatron screams at him – it is, of course, a bomb, which detonates as Rodimus escapes the doomed vessel.

ISSUE #2 — translated version

The Autobots are under attack by… Megatron?! Five of him, to be precise! Although they’re all wondering how this can be, recalling Megatron’s transformation into Galvatron and suspecting Quintesson involvement, Rodimus leads the Autobots head out to meet their foes in battle in space, only to be hit by a combined blast from the Megatron Militia’s five different cannons, sending them crashing to a nearby rocky moon. Springer tries to convince Rodimus to escape while they hold them off, but Rodimus refuses, rallying them to fight together as they assume a “scrum” formation and charge the Megatrons in vehicle mode. Rodimus collides with one and it simply smashes into pieces, revealing that they’re just simple robot copies of the real article. Furthermore, one of them is Galvatron in disguise, controlling the others, and when the Autobots spot him, they form a ramp that Rodimus Prime uses to “hop, step and jump” over the front line of Megatron clones, transforming to robot mode and tackling the Decepticon leader. Galvatron is grabbed and slammed into the ground by Rodimus, breaking his concentration and allowing the other Autobots to easily defeat and dismantle the remaining Megatrons. His plan foiled, Galvatron escapes to fight another day.

Notes
  • This issue specifically refers to the continuity-disrupting five-year gap that exists in the Japanese series between Transformers: The Movie and the 2010 series.

ISSUE #3 — translated version

Ultra Magnus welcomes a group of children on a school trip to Scramble City, where they meet several Autobots and are greeted by Rodimus Prime over a viewscreen. However, the day takes a sudden turn for the worse with the arrival of Trypticon, with Galvatron in his cockpit, and Magnus orders Scramble City to transform into Metroplex. Trypticon fires the plasma gun in his mouth at Metroplex, nailing him in the chest, and charges in for a “Dina-Head Attack” headbutt. Clutching his wounded head, Metroplex deploys Scamper from his chest, who transforms to robot mode, but in response, Trypticon launches Full-Tilt, then transforms into his battle station mode to rain destruction down on the collapsed city-bot. At Bumblebee's command, Metroplex assumes his own battle station mode and returns fire with his “Scramble Missile” attack, and Trypticon transforms back to robot mode, unleashing his Brunt tank, manned by Full-Tilt. To counter this, Metroplex forms Six-Gun, who soundly thrashes Full-Tilt and takes control of Brunt, turning the tank’s firepower on Trypticon. His head aflame and Galvatron’s control console wrecked, Trypticon stumbles off in retreat as the kids and Autobots celebrate.

ISSUE #4 — translated version

From beneath the depths of the ocean, the Quintessons’ latest robotic creation rises – Guiltor, a deadly mechanoid who combines the mightiest aspects of Optimus Prime and Megatron into one mighty whole!

Elsewhere, Rodimus has been summoned into a one-on-one duel by Galvatron, and has managed to win, when Guiltor makes his arrival – Galvatron’s set up was a trap, as Rodimus quickly realises when Guiltor transforms to robot mode and blasts him with his “Revolver Laser,” and then a blast from his two combined guns, leaving a smoking crater. Immediately, however, Guiltor turns on Galvatron, kicking him into the crater, where is surprised to land on a still-living Rodimus, who is just as shocked by the turn of events. The two leaders call a truce and team up to stop Guiltor; in vehicle mode, Rodimus slams into Guiltor with a “Rodimus Crash,” and Galvatron assumes his cannon mode and destroys Guiltor’s revolver. Finally, a combined “Rodimus Kick” and “Galvatron Kick” shatter Guiltor’s body… and the two are shocked to see Starscream’s ghost fly from the ruins! Outraged at the Quintessons’ manipulation, Galvatron swears that his and Rodimus’s next meeting will be as enemies.

ISSUE #5 — translated version

On the planet Feminia, the Autobots are set to defend the planet’s Prime Energy tower from the attacking Decepticon army. A massive blast from their weapons knocks the unwitting Decepticons from the air as they approach the tower, and a furious Galvatron instructs the Stunticons, Combaticons and Constructicons to combine. Rodimus counters by sending Superion, Defensor and Omega Supreme into battle, but then, suddenly, Predaking enters the fray, taking down the three giant Autobots with one mighty punch. To make matters worse, Galvatron has ensured that Predaking’s perennial foe, Sky Lynx, has been detained on Earth by the Decepticons there to prevent his involvement. But Rodimus has another ace up his sleeve – the Omnibots, who arrive on the scene and immediately entwine Preadking’s leg in wires deployed from their vehicle modes. Adopting their attack modes, the Omnibots pull the wires taut and Predaking is toppled over, on top of the other Decepticon gestalts, smashing them all and ensuring the Autobots’ victory.

Notes
  • Planet Feminia went on to appear again in Transformers Zone¸ where it was destroyed by the Decepticon generals in order to acquire the Zone Energy within. Perhaps the “Prime Energy” from this manga was, in fact, the Zone Energy...?

TRANSFORMER: BIG WAR

For whatever reason, rather than being one singular manga like every other series, the “2010” scenario and characters were split up into two separately-titled series – the previous five-issue The Transformer manga, and this three-parter, Transformer: Daisensou, or Big War, which, as you may have guessed from its title, turns its attention to the newest combiners, as much of the Super Robot Life manga did.

ISSUE #1 — translated version

The Decepticons have captured Dalton, a brilliant scientist from the planet Elan, but he is refusing to work with them, and the Aerialbots and Protectobots are already on their way towards Trypticon to rescue him. As Superion is formed, Motormaster and Onslaught – connected to the exterior of Trypticon in their base modes – launch their team-mates into battle at high speed, and they smash Superion’s limbs clean off. As the Aerialbots fall to the ground in a smoking wreck, Hot Spot adopts his repair bay mode and starts restoring them, while First Aid, Streetwise and Groove struggle to battle Menasor and Bruticus. Blades, meanwhile, sneaks into Trypticon and catches Dalton’s attention while the Decepticons are preoccupied watching the fight. Then, with the Aerialbots restored, Silverbolt transforms into his own base mode and launches the his four partners into the air, blinding the Decepticon gestalts with their speed, and making a hasty exit as Blades carries Dalton off to safety.

Back at Scramble City, the Autobots are unaware that Ratbat is spying as Dalton agrees to put his scientific expertise to use working with the Autobots, beginning with a special upgrade to Computron...

ISSUE #2 — translated version

Computron and Abominus are locked in battle, and Computron unleashes Dalton’s upgrade – the “Technobot Laser Shower,” which fells Abominus. But the Decepticons prove they were ready, as the Terrorcons separate into their individual forms and blast Computron with “Control Liquid” from their mouths, coating him in sticky goo that puts him under the Decepticons’ control. As the Terrorcons maul Computron, Dalton summons Spike and Daniel to his lab, where he shows them his latest work – an upgraded Exo-Suit! Since humans are not susceptible to the Control Liquid, a human can use the Exo-Suit to enter the battle, and Daniel immediately volunteers, before Spike stops him and dons the suit himself. Flying into the midst of the battle, he avoids Computron’s lasers and the Terrorcons’ liquid blasts, then shoots the Control Liquid off of Computron, freeing him and allowing him to smash the Terrorcons.

Notes
  • The first two issues of Big War take place somewhere within the small four-episode span between “Grimlock’s New Brain” and “The Return of Optimus Prime.”

ISSUE #3 — translated version

Optimus Prime is back! Out in space, he, Hot Rod and Springer battle and defeat Galvatron, Cyclonus and Scourge, while down on Earth, Ultra Magnus commands Metroplex in combat with Trypticon.

But, elsewhere in the universe, a different Transformer war is also raging, on the planet Master, where the Autobot Headmasters, Chromedome, Hardhead, Brainstorm and Highbrow are in pursuit of their Decepticon counterparts, Weirdwolf, Mindwipe and Skullcruncher. As Hardhead and Brainstorm argue a little, it soon turns out that they’ve been hunted themselves, as the Decepticon Headmasters erupt from the ground beneath their feet, and as the fighting commences, a dust cloud obscures the combat. When it settles, however, Weirdwolf and Skullcruncher are shocked to discover they’ve been beating up on Mindwipe… right before the vehicle-mode Headmasters crash into them. Help then arrives for the villains in the form of Sixshot, who blasts the Autobots, allowing the Decepticons to make good their escape. As the Autobots pull themselves together, their commander, Fortress, arrives to tell them they’re going after the Decepticons… they’re heading to Cybertron!

Notes
  • This issue takes place somewhere in the year between “The Return of Optimus Prime” and The Headmasters.
  • This issue offers an unusual bit of unintentional cross-media continuity. In “The Rebirth,” Part 1, Strafe makes a reference to the Decepticons being in hiding after the Autobots served them a defeat following Optimus Prime’s return to life, but such a thing never occurred in the “The Return of Optimus Prime.” This issue, however, does indeed open with a battle between the Autobots – led by Prime – and the Decepticons, set after “The Return of Optimus Prime.”

THE HEADMASTERS

Published from 1987 to 1988, with an extra-long special included early in the series, The Headmasters is something of an oddity when compared to all the other Transformers manga. Where Super Robot Life, The Transformer and Big War were all designed as supplements to their respective existing animated series, and the later manga, Masterforce and Victory, were completely alternate versions of their series, telling their own version of the story, Headmasters does not fit neatly into either camp. Of its eight issues, seven of them are stories in the vein of the earlier manga, which are intended to take place “off screen” within the continuity of the animated series (with the first and last chapters specifically referencing events from the show). Issue #4, however, tells the story of how Daniel and Sixshot became friends in a completely different way to the animated series, supplanting the episode which did the same, and issue #7 contains some notable continuity conflicts. Ultimately, it seems that the best way to describe how the Headmasters manga relates to the anime would be the same way that the Marvel UK comics relate to the Marvel US comics – an alternate universe, which is primarily the same but where more stories and some differences occur.

Also, bizarrely, although Fortress and his battleship, Maximus, appear on occasion, neither Fortress Maximus nor Scorponok ever appear in the manga.

ISSUE #1

As the Autobots and the recently-arrived Autobot Headmasters ruminate on the current state of play – the death of Optimus Prime, their base on the planet Athenia, the power of the Headmasters – Galvatron leads the Decepticon Headmasters in a plot to destroy Battleship Maximus. Alerted to the Decepticons’ approach, the Headmasters take off in Maximus and meet their foes in space – as Mindwipe prepares to hurl the bomb that will finish the craft off, the Headmasters burst out in vehicle mode. Chromedome leaps out of his Transtector and grabs the bomb from Mindwipe, reconnecting with his Transtector and saving Maximus.

Notes
  • This issue takes place somewhere between episodes 3 and 9 of the Headmasters anime.

THE GREAT DECISIVE BATTLE
OF THE BEAST LIFEFORMS

Having received an SOS from the Battle Beasts on Planet Beast, the Autobot Headmasters head to the planet on Battleship Maximus. As Fortress reports to Rodimus Prime, the other four Headmasters head out to investigate, and Brainstorm and Highbrow discover Predaking and a couple of Sharkticons under the command of the Decepticon Battle Beast commander, Alligatron, attacking some of the planet’s heroic warriors. The two transform to robot mode but are immediately shot down and captured by Predaking, and Hardhead and Chromedome are unable to come to their aid as their Transtectors have been entwined by living vines that are draining their energy. When Hardheard climbs out of his Transtector in an attempt to reprogram its power meter, he becomes entangled as well – but just then, a young boy clad in armour comes leaping down from the trees with a team of Battle Beasts behind him, and severs the vines, freeing the two Autobots. The boy is introduced as Cain, who has joined the heroic Battle Beasts since the Decepticons killed his parents.

Elsewhere, as the Decepticons cackle at the prospect of what they will do to the captive Brainstorm and Highbrow, their Battle Beast allies are concerned at the prospect of interference from the Autobot Battle Beasts under the command of White Leo. They are right to be concerned, though, as Chromedome, Hardhead, Cain and the Autobot Battle Beasts watch from the jungle, and Cain then jumps into action, bouncing off the Decepticon Headmasters’ heads to draw their attention. As they transform and chase after him, Brainstorm and Highbrow break their bonds, and the Decepticon Battle Beasts charge them, only to be caught in a hail of arrows launched by the newly-arrived White Leo and the other Autobot Battle Beasts. As they tear into their foes, another team of new arrivals shows up – the Trainbots, who merge into Raiden and lay Preadking out with their “JR Kick.”

Cain, meanwhile, is having trouble outpacing his Headmaster pursuers, and when he eventually trips, Mindwipe is almost upon him when a sudden blast knocks him out of the sky. The four Autobot Headmasters have come to Cain’s aid, and combine their weapons in the “Headmaster Grand Laser,” which soundly defeats Weirdwolf and Skullcruncher. His forces bested, Galvatron orders the Decepticons to flee, and the united forces of the Autobots and the Battle Beasts celebrate.

Notes
  • This special issue takes place somewhere after episode 5 of the Headmasters anime, “Rebellion on Planet Beast,” as the Autobots are clearly already acquainted with the Battle Beasts. Presumably, as Galvatron leads the Decepticons, the issue occurs before episode 9, though it could conceivably occur after Galvatron’s later return to leadership, during the period in the series when the Decepticons are travelling from planet to planet.
  • The katakana for the name of the boy in this story reads “KE-I-N.” I’ve chosen to romanise this as “Cain.”
  • I’ve referred to them by their Japanese names here, but White Leo and Alligatron are known as “Pirate Lion” and “Gruesome Gator” in the Battle Beasts toyline.

ISSUE #2

The Autobot Headmasters clash with the Decepticon Headmasters at an Alaskan energy facility, but when the Autobots try to transform, the Decepticons tackle them, preventing their heads from connecting with their bodies. Now decidedly disabled, the small Headmasters are chased by the Decepticons and cornered, but as Weirdwolf pounces, they perform the “Southern Cross Jump,” bounding over their foes’ heads and reconnecting with their Transtectors. As the Decepticons open their cockpits to look around and see what has happened, the Autobots attack, blasting their Transtectors.

Notes
  • “Southern Cross Jump” appears to come from Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, one of three anime series, along with Super Dimenson Fortress Macross and Genesis Climber Mospeada, combined together to form the animated series, Robotech.

ISSUE #3

In an effort to prevent the Decepticons from accessing the plentiful energy dwelling beneath the ocean near the Earth’s crust, the Headmasters and Daniel head underwater aboard the Trainbots. But, lurking in the watery depths are a team of aquatic Decepticons – Skullcruncher, Rippersnapper, a team of Sharkticons… and a giant robot squid under their control, which seizes the Trainbots! Daniel suits up in his exo-suit as he and the Headmasters disembark the Trainbots – with Chromedome slamming into the back of Skullcruncher’s head on the way – allowing the team to separate and escape the clutches of the squid. The Headmasters transform and the Trainbots form Raiden as the group breaks the surface of the ocean, and the Headmasters seize the squid, tangling it up in its own tentacles, then tossing it to Raiden, who spins it to clobber the other Decepticons.

ISSUE #4

The Autobot Headmasters and Daniel engage Sixshot in battle in space to prevent him from making off with a capsule of emergency food rations. Seized by a “Headmaster Tackle,” Sixshot has his head pounded on by an exo-suited Daniel, and then escapes with a bit of trademark ninja trickery, disappearing in a burst of smoke. Sixshot sets down on a nearby planet to recuperate, where he finds himself surrounded by lots of cute animals…and Daniel, who has hitched a lift on his back! Having observed Sixshot’s gentleness with the animals, Daniel suggests that he join the Autobots, but Sixshot is having none of it. The debate is then interrupted by the arrival of the “Universal Hunters,” a team of heavily armed humanoids who have been on Sixshot’s tail. Shielding Daniel from their blasts – although one clips his arm – Sixshot assumes his jet, pistol, car, tank and wolf modes in sequence, decimating the hunters’ ranks, the finally transforming into his seventh, secret “Wingwolf” mode to finish off the last of them, forcing the hunters to flee. Sixshot bandages Daniel’s wound as he makes his suggestion again, but, although he has taught Daniel something about being strong, and Daniel has taught him the importance of being gentle, he is loyal to the Decepticons, and cannot leave them… yet.

ISSUE #5

At the shore of a storm-whipped sea, the Horrorcons, Apeface and Snapdragon, watch as Chromedome and Daniel scale a spiralling tower rising from the sea – the Omega Tower, atop which rests the legendary Charge Arrow, a one-shot weapon that possesses the accumulated power of every possible energy resource. Chromedome – in his small Headmaster form - has previously acquired the key to the tower and unlocks the arrow, as the Horrorcons transform to their jet modes and fly to the top of the tower, assuming their monster forms to attack. Chromedome connects with his body and draws the arrow’s bow, aiming it at the Horrorcons, who do not believe he will use the weapon on them, and attack, knocking him to the ground. As Chromedome begins to pass out, he hears his own Transtector speaking to him, telling him that he is a hero and worthy to wield the arrow. As the Horrorcons loom over him and Daniel, Chromedome springs back into action to protect Daniel, shooting the arrow which imbeds in Apeface’s head and channels the power of thunder and lightning, devastating the Horrorcons and blasting their charred chassis off the tower and into the ocean below. Daniel laments the loss of the arrow, but Chromedome tells him that he now knows that a true hero becomes one through action and experience, not some quick-solution super-weapon.

Notes
  • The setting of this issue is not given; it could be on Earth or another planet. Given the presence of the Horrorcons, who debuted one episode prior to the Decepticons’ trip through space going from planet to planet, the latter option is not unlikely.

ISSUE #6

It’s Christmas, and the Autobot Headmasters are doing their part for the season by giving out presents to patients from a children's hospital. As a doctor explains, though, there’s a boy who is not there – Masato, who is currently in the hospital, having undergone surgery following some kind of accident. The surgery was successful, but Masato is too depressed to begin walking again - he is an orphan, and has no family to spend Christmas with. Highbrow volunteers to go and get him, transforming to helicopter mode and flying off, but no sooner has he departed than the Decepticon Headmasters show up to wreck the party!

Meanwhile, Highbrow puts a bad-tempered Masato into his helicopter and heads back. On the way, they pass by a window through which Masato sees a family celebrating Christmas together, and goes quiet. Highbrow soothes him, explaining that robots don’t have biological families either, and that your family is not necessarily the people you are born to. Then, they arrive back at the party, where they find the Decepticons tearing the place up – Highbrow transforms to robot mode and is about to set Masato down when he is blasted by Mindwipe and drops him… only for everyone to gasp in shock when Masato strains and stands up! As the boy walks slowly to safety, Chromedome blasts the approaching Mindwipe out the air, and the Headmasters unite in their powerful Head Formation, generating a spinning vortex which finishes the off the Decepticons. As they retreat, Chromedome wishes the readers a Merry Christmas.

ISSUE #7 — translated version

Chromedome and Daniel are joined by the Targetmasters Stepper and Artfire in dealing with a fire in a city block, with Artifre immediately transforming to fire engine mode and extending his ladder to allow his Targetmaster partner, Nightstick, to transport people trapped inside the building to safety. Meanwhile, Stepper also transforms, and his partner Nebulon, Daniel and Chromedome (in his small form) leap atop him, angling Artfire’s water hoses at the blaze. Just then, the culprits behind the fire arrive – the Decepticon Targetmasters, Slugslinger, Misfire and Triggerhappy, who “Target On” with their partners and open fire on the Autobots. Fortunately for our heroes, Battleship Maximus then appears overhead, dumping a massive tank of water over the building and extinguishing the fire, allowing the Autobots to turn their attention to their opponents. Stepper and Artfire “Target On,” and they and Chromedome open fire on the Decepticons, who flee with Daniel’s shouts in their audio receptors.

Notes
  • No origin is offered for Stepper and Artfire in the manga, but it is hard to reconcile them with the Targetmaster origin given in the anime, in which small Cybertronians from planet Master are fused to the arms of the Pointblank, Sureshot, Crosshairs, Slugslinger, Misfire and Triggerhappy in a one-time plasma energy explosion.
  • Additionally, is hard to chronologically place this issue – immediately after the creation of the Targetmasters in the anime, the Autobots and Decepticons headed to Master, and there is no time for this issue to occur after their return to Earth. Logically, it must operate outside of the established continuity of the anime.
  • Stepper and Artfire’s Targetmaster partners are those which formerly belonged to the Targetmaster versions of Cyclonus and Scourge (who were not released as Targetmasters in Japan) with their names reversed. The Fracas toy, partnered with Artfire, is now “Nightstick,” although the Nightstick toy, partnered with Stepper, is now named “Nebulon.” This likely stems from the fact that in Scourge’s Tech Spec, Fracas is never referred to by name, only as “the Nebulon,” so presumably, when translating, Takara simply assumed that “Nebulon” was his name.
  • Notably, although in the anime the Master robots cannot speak, communicating only in electronic gibberish and beeps, Nebulon and Nightstick talk up a storm in the manga.

ISSUE #8 (EPILOGUE) — translated version

The Decepticons have finally been defeated and are withdrawing from Earth, and the Autobots make preparations to pursue them. As Chromedome, Wheelie, Daniel, Spike and Carly ruminate, Soundblaster appears to make it clear that he will be staying on Earth to record information for the Decepticons. Soundblaster ejects Slugfest and Overkill, who target the humans, and Spike blocks Slugfest’s charge at Daniel, but Daniel jumps into action, clambering onto Slugfest’s back and covering his eyes, making him stagger blindly into Overkill. With the situation turned around, Chromedome strikes back at Soundblaster and seizes him in his “Master Chrome Hurricane” throw, hurling him over the horizon. Then, a voice congratulates them on their victory – Rodimus Prime has returned to Earth! Having survived many challenges in his travels through space, Rodimus has learned the value of Earth and humanity, considering the beautiful planet something that even Transformers must strive to become. Robots, Rodimus says, must live and work together with Earthlings in order to evolve – but for now, the Autobots must return to space and pursue the Decepticons, and Wheelie and Daniel say their goodbyes.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, Soundblaster recovers from his crash-landing to be greeted by the sight of Sixshot, who has abandoned the Decepticons, and now plans to travel from planet to planet, learning new transformation skills... starting by making Earth his priority and learning to transform into a human, a concept which baffles Soundblaster.

Two months later, the last of the Decepticons have finally been driven off Earth, and the Autobots, too, have departed... but Earth will not go unguarded... and the story of the Transformers... as always... it never ends!

Notes
  • This issue takes place within the final minutes of the last episode of the Headmasters anime, after the destruction of Scorponok’s Transtector, but before the Autobots leave Earth. The manga inserts a much longer time span between the two moments than the anime itself shows.
  • Rodimus Prime departed for space in episode 10 of the Headmasters anime, “Planet Cybertron is in Grave Danger,” Part 2, searching for a new world for the Transformers to live on after the decimation of Cybertron. It is never stated if he accomplished this goal, but fans speculate that the Transformers may have settled on Planet V from Transformers: Victory, or, given Rodimus’s later return as a Micromaster in Battlestars: Return of Convoy, Planet Micro, home of the diminuitive robots.
  • Rodimus’s talk of humans and Transformers working together and evolving, the suggestion that humans can be Transformers, Sixshot’s desire to transform into a human and the narrative’s promise that Earth will not go unguarded all appear to foreshadow the next series, Super-God Masterforce.

SUPER-GOD MASTERFORCE

With the previous three manga series totalling twenty-four issues amongst them, thereby spanning two years (1986 through 1987) in monthly publication, Super-God Masterforce was where things got shook up a little. Running to twelve issues, it ran for the entirety of 1988, and, rather than being an accompaniment to the series, telling new stories that fitted in an around the existing episodes, Masterforce was an alternate version of the anime, retelling the story in a new, different way. In a first, each issue has a story title. Writer Masumi Kaneda was able to get across a few ideas in the manga that he did not in the series, and took some concepts in different directions.

ISSUE #1 – “GODS? DEMONS? THE PRETENDERS!” — translated version

After the events of The Headmasters, the Autobots and Decepticons have departed Earth... or have they? On the island of Karin in the South Sea, three shadowy figures are in the midst of launching an attack on the island’s inhabitants, and although his guardian, Donq, is eager to hold him back, Prince Cab would rather fight. Energy beams from one of the figure’s eyes explode nearby and Donq is thrown to the ground, and Cab retaliates by hurling a blade at the figures, who merely laugh as it bounces off them and clatters back to the ground, bent and crumpled. A young boy, Shuta, suddenly appears, rushing towards Cab to push him away, out of danger, but Cab takes offence, punching Shuta in the face. Undeterred, Shuta dives and shoves Cab aside as another pair of energy beams explode nearby, and then points into the sky – help has arrived in the form an armoured human. But, as Cab watches, the form of the human vanishes, and in his place materialises the Autobot Pretender, Metalhawk!

Metalhawk fires a beam from his forehead at the shadowy figures, and their own disguises vanish, revealing their true identities – the Decepticon Pretenders, Blood, Gilmer and Dauros! As the islanders react in shock and Donq refers to Metalhawk as a god from Karin folklore, Shuta explains that when a small group Transformers crashed on Earth ages ago and adopted their organic disguises, the Autobots were mistaken for gods by the fledgling mankind, while the Decepticons were thought of as demons. Dodging a “Bloody Moon” axe-slash from Blood by transforming to jet mode, Metalhawk swoops back around and transforms into robot mode, unleashing his “Shining Arrow” attack – his whole body glows with energy, and he rains it down in blasts upon all three Decepticon Pretenders, who are forced to transform and flee.

Metalhawk explains to the islanders that he is not a god, but a living being like them, referring to himself as a Pretender, causing the islanders to cheer for him, chanting “Hail Pretender!” Cab remarks to Shuta that he wants to be friends with Metalhawk, and Shuta says that it’s as good as done.

Notes
  • You’ll notice I’ve used the Japanese names for the characters here (barring “Autobot” and “Decepticon”), because the whole world of Masterforce and its characters are simply so different from their Western incarnations. Blood, Gilmer and Dauros are Bomb-Burst, Submarauder and Skullgrin, respectively. Metalhawk was an exclusive character to Japan, so named for the large amount of die-cast metal in his toy.

ISSUE #2 – “BIRTH OF THE HEADMASTER JUNIORS!”

At the Autobot base in Japan, Metalhawk introduces Shuta and Cab to the Autobots’ third human ally, a young European girl named Minerva, whom the two boys recognise from school, immediately taking a liking to her. Metalhawk informs the kids that they are to be given the “Masterforce” to become the new Autobot Headmasters, showing them plans and armour sent to Earth by Chromedome, currently fighting the Decepticons out in space with the other Autobots. After a period of rigorous training, the kids are given their “Master-Braces,” which, when crossed with a shout of “Masterforce!” surround them with armour, enhancing their physical abilities. Now, they’re the Autobot Headmaster Juniors!

The other Autobot Pretenders – Diver, Lander and Phoenix – introduce the kids to their Transtector vehicles, and Cab and Shuta peel out in a fire engine and a police car. Lander instructs Minerva to bring them back from their joyride, and she follows in an ambulance, but they take no notice of her. This soon leads them into trouble, however, as drive smack in the middle of a scene of devastation, with the three Decepticon Pretenders tearing up the city with a Seacon drone, Lobclaw. With a shout of “Transform! Head On!” the kids and their Transtectors transform and combine into robot mode. Minerva is immediately struck by Lobclaw, and the enraged boys are then lashed by the Seacon’s electrically-charged antennae. It’s Metalhawk to the rescue again, as he assumes his robot mode and severs Lobclaw’s antennae with his Titanium Saber, seizes it with a Hurricane Spin, and finally, blows it up with a twin blast from his Jet Rifles.

As the dust from the exploded Lobclaw settles, Hawk chastises the Headmaster Juniors for their lack of teamwork... but, out to sea, in their own base, the Decepticons have a little teamwork of their own prepared, having recruited three young boys of their own...

Notes
  • This issue shares its title with the episode of the animated series in which the Headmaster Juniors are introduced.
  • Diver, Lander and Phoenix are known in the West as Waverider, Landmine and Cloudburst, respectively.
  • Lobclaw is Nautilator, though oddly, the Seacons were actually still called the Seacons in Japan, not the Seatrons, going against tradition.
  • The Headmaster Juniors are based on the Headmasters released in the West this year, Hosehead, Siren and Nightbeat. Cab is Hosehead, with no differences between the two, while Shuta is Siren, redecorated with white in place of Siren’s grey, and made a police car, rather than a fire department vehicle. The most startling change is that of Nightbeat into Minerva, repainted from blue and yellow into red and white, and the changing of the alternate mode from an ordinary car into an emergency rescue vehicle (treated as an ambulance, but honestly, that’d be a fairly crappy ambulance), thereby making the Headmaster Juniors a complete trio of rescue vehicles for fire, police and ambulance.

ISSUE #3 – “DESTINY’S CONFRONTATION, THE CHILDREN OF GOOD AND EVIL!”

As Metalhawk engages Blood in battle in the midst of the city at night, he calls upon the Headmaster Juniors to provide rescue aid for the people in the area, but while Cab wakes up his treehouse, Shuta has to sneak Minerva out of her International School dormitory. Arriving in the city and assuming robot mode, the Juniors are shocked when the ground beneath them splits, and three animal Transtectors burst from under the concrete and with a cry of “Head On,” assume their robot modes and charge into the three Autobots, knocking them over. The three new Headmasters introduce themselves – they Wilder, Cancer and Bullhorn, orphans and social rejects who have joined with the Decepticons for power and money as their own Headmaster Juniors. Gilmer and Dauros watch from afar, remarking that they don’t think these human allies of theirs are that impressive – and their thoughts are not altered by what happens next as Cancer spots some injured humans lying in the rubble, and is distracted just long enough for Shuta to pounce, kicking him back into the other two Decepticons, allowing the Autobot Juniors to spring into action and beat them down. As Minerva tends to the humans, Metalhawk arrives on the scene, but the Decepticons have already made good their escape. Shuta moans about having to go to school the next day and being exhausted, but Minerva shushes him by pointing out that it’s Sunday.

As the Decepticons return to base, however, Blood is there to greet them, and prepares to introduce the boys to their new “parents,” the great Godmaster sorcerers!

Notes
  • Wilder, Cancer and Bullhorn are known as Fangry, Squeezeplay and Horri-Bull in the West.
  • “Godmaster” is the Japanese name for “Powermaster,” and although they are still nominally the same concept – small figure becomes engine of big figure – the ideas behind them are very different, so the Japanese name is being used here to make that distinction.

ISSUE #4 – “ENTRANCE! THE NAME OF THE SAVIOUR IS GINRAI!”

The aforementioned Godmaster sorcerers, Lord Giga and Lady Mega, are introduced, declaring to their new “children” that they will soon rule the world, and with the power of their new lifeforms, the Godmasters, the universe will soon follow.

Those selfsame Godmasters, the jet brothers Buster and Hydra, are busy bombing Tokyo – even as they idly comment on the beauty of Mount Fuji – and Metalhawk and the Autobot Headmaster Juniors race to intervene, although without Godmasters of their own to aid in the combat, they know they are in trouble. There is an Autobot Godmaster, known as Ginrai, and the Pretenders are desperately attempting to contact him, but as they are busy doing so, Buster and Hydra merge into the giant jet, Darkwings, and bomb the Autobots from above before transforming in mid-air and drop-kicking them in robot mode. As the Godmasters loom over them, salvation arrives in the form of a red tractor trailer… it’s the Autobot Godmaster, Ginrai, who transforms to robot mode and unleashes a blast of Chokon Power that sends the Darkwings brothers flying off over the horizon.

As things calm down, Hawk comments on the similarity of Ginrai’s robot mode to Optimus Prime, wondering if he could be his reincarnation. Although flattered, Ginrai says that is not the case, but will fight on the side of the Autobots.

Notes
  • The idea of the Decepticons as a family, with Mega and Giga as the parents, is occasionally mentioned in the animated series, but generally does not come across with any emotion, being limited to a few scenes in which Mega dotes on Cancer. The manga goes on to make much more out of this idea.
  • Buster and Hydra are known in the West as Dreadwind and Darkwing, respectively. Physically, the only different between the two sets of characters is that the light blue parts of the western characters are replaced with red in Japan.
  • Ginrai (pronounced "Jin-Rye") is, of course, based on the Powermaster Optimus Prime toy, with some differences – darker grey plastic; shorter, chromed smokestacks; a die-cast metal cab with a translucent windows; and retractable super-mode fists.
  • Although not a supplement to the anime series like previous manga, this chapter of the Masterforce manga, at least, relies on knowledge of the animated series to understand where Ginrai comes from. Summarising it, he is a Japanese trucker, working and living in America, who comes across his Transtector in a rental shop, finding his Master-Braces in its glove compartment. In the case of Buster and Hydra, though, the animated series does not offer any more notable detail on their origins.
  • “Chokon” directly translates as “super soul.”

ISSUE #5 – “THE ULTRA-SPIRIT! THE NEW SUPREME COMMANDER, SUPER GINRAI!”

Ginrai’s similarity to Optimus Prime has prompted the Autobots to appoint him as their new leader, and the team heads out to investigate Decepticon activity, as the villains are up to their usual tricks. However, what no-one is expecting is for the team to run right into a massive all-out Decepticon army attack, as Galvatron, Blitzwing, Astrotrain, Soundblaster, Preadking, Devastator and Menasor block their path! Naturally, though, this doesn’t sit right with Metalhawk, since he knows that Galvatron is dead, but out of the crowd a very definite threat emerges in the form of the Seacon’s combined mode, King Poseidon. As the Decepticons surround the Autobots, reinforcements arrive in the form of the other Autobot Godmasters, Lightfoot, Ranger and Road King, bringing with them a new weapon for Ginrai – a trailer, with which he then merges, becoming Super Ginrai! A blast of Tenchokon Power dissolves the surrounding Decepticons, while a burst of Chichokon Power makes the ground beneath King Poseidon erupt, and finally, Ginrai’s Jinchokon Power is unleashed in the form of the Super Fire Guts, destroying King Poseidon’s limbs.

The wounded Seacon leader, Turtler, limps back to the Decepticon base, where Hydra complains that Giga’s plan to use sorcerous three-dimensional energies of older Decepticons has failed, remarking that it will take true robots to beat them. Giga, however, assures him that their emperor, Devil Z, is on his way…

Notes
  • Again, this issue of the manga relies on readers having some knowledge of the animated series to understand where Lightfoot (Getaway in the west), Ranger (Joyride) and Road King (Slapdash) come from. To summarise quickly, Lightfoot is the son of the president of Canadian automotive company British Motors, whose signature car proved to be his Transtector; Ranger is a Canadian forest patrolman who discovered his Transtector in the Rocky Mountains; and Road King is a British Grand Prix champion whose sponsor gave him his racing car, which turned out to be his Transtector. Notably, in the anime, Ginrai’s trailer and his transformation into Super Ginrai happened before any of these three characters were introduced.
  • In addition to the older Decepticons listed above, an unidentifiable conehead (Ramjet, Thrust or Dirge) also appears.
  • Galvatron died in episode #25 of the Headmasters anime, “The Emperor of Destruction Vanishes on an Iceberg.”
  • King Poseidon and Turtler are known as Piranaking and Snaptrap in the west.
  • Tenchokon, Chichokon and Jinchokon, respectively, are the energies of the Heavens, Earth and Man, the three powers said by Buddhism to be the primal energies of life. Mastery over these three powers is the main ability of a Godmaster.

ISSUE #6 – “THE BATTLE BEGINS! EARTH: THE UNITED UNIVERSE FEDERATION!”

Ginrai is to be bestowed with a supreme honour – he is to be appointed the supreme commander of all the Autobots. The Trainbots come to Earth and transport the Godmasters and Headmaster Juniors to Athenia, where they meet Fortress and the other Headmasters and Fortress passes his title to Ginrai. Naturally, though, the Decepticons soon interfere – Buster, Hydra and Turtler have teamed up with the space-based Decepticons to attack Athenia. Turtler combines with Brawl, Cutthroat, Blast Off and Dead End into King Poseidon, and, wielding Tentakil and Lobclaw as guns, cuts down Chromedome and Raiden. Ginrai merges with his trailer into Super Ginrai, and Ranger and Road King pilot his “Cannon Craft” (his shoulder-mounted double-barrelled guns, here treated as flying vehicles) into his hands, with which he blasts King Poseidon to kingdom come. A black scorpion-like craft crests the horizon, carrying Buster, Hydra and the old Decepticon Headmasters atop it, as Hydra curses the Autobots, unable to believe that the humans can beat the true robotic Transformers. As the Decepticons escape, Fortress informs Ginrai that now that the space- and Earthbound Autobots are united, work on the Bomber Project can begin!

The issue ends with a double-page montage serving to provide introductions to several other key characters from the storyline, rather than have them be introduced in the narrative. The montage shows the black scorpion-craft in robot mode – it is BlackZarak, the reborn form of Scorponok in a new, smaller, but more powerful Transtector body; Devil Z, the mysterious energy entity in the form of a glowing sphere that Mega and Giga serve, who plots to take over both Earth and the rest of the universe; Overlord, the giant robot formed when Mega and Giga’s Transtectors combine; and Godbomber, the ultimate result of the Bomber Project, a drone trailer the Autobots are constructing that will be able to combine with Ginrai.

Notes
  • Planet Athenia is the world on which the First Galactic Olympics were held in the third season episode, “Five Faces of Darkness,” Part One. Unnamed in the original American version of the episode, it was given its new moniker in the Japanese dub, and then re-introduced – totally redesigned, not resembling the planet seen in FFoD at all - in the first episode of the Headmasters anime as the Autobots’ secondary base. When Cybertron was destroyed later in the series, it became their main base of operations, and continues to be during the battle in space that rages in the background of Masterforce. Some of you out there might know it better as “Sidnea,” the warped name it got in the StarTV Headmasters dub.
  • In addition to Fortress, the Autobot and Decepticon Headmasters (including the Horrorcons), the Trainbots and Turtler’s combination partners, older Transformers reappearing in this issue include Punch and Computron.
  • As he flies through space before combining and attacking the Autobots, Turtler appears in robot mode. He never transforms to this mode in the animated series, always appearing in his turtle form.
  • This issue also sees the only manga appearance of the Autobot Six-Changer, Sixknight (a blue and white redeco of the toy called Quickswitch in the west), in one panel, as the Autobots prepare to fight. He appears to simply be a member of the space-bound Autobots here, while in the animated series, he is a vicious solo operator who first sides with the Decepticons on Earth, and then joins the Autobots after being beaten in battle by Ginrai, coming to their aid on a few further occasions during the series.

ISSUE #7 – “SURPRISE OF GOD GINRAI, SUPER-HUMAN COMBINATION!”

Giga and Mega have unleashed their own Transtectors, the Gigatank and the Megajet, as they and the Godmasters and Headmaster Juniors attack Tokyo. With the Autobot Godmasters on their way to combat them, the Autobots have twice the trouble to worry about, as BlackZarak is approaching the Earth from space. Giga and Mega merge their Transtectors into the giant robot Overlord and dispatch the Autobot Godmasters, as Ginrai comes hurtling onto the scene with the completed Godbomber in tow, housing the Headmaster Juniors in its cockpit. Splitting into its separate components – the God Breast, God Legs, God Punch, God Cannon and God Wing – Godbomber combines with Super Ginrai, forming the mighty God Ginrai, who unleashes his deadly God Fire Guts on Overlord, shattering his chest.

Taking to the skies – with the Headmaster Juniors still in his chest cockpit – God Ginrai escapes into space with Overlord following close behind, where he runs smack into BlackZarak, who has already smashed his way through the space-bound Autobots barring his path. With Overlord and BlackZarak on either side of him, God Ginrai gets sneaky and unleashes his “Power Screw Bomber Escape,” whirling out from between the two Decepticons, who wind up crashing their fists into each other at shattering velocity, crippling each other. Chromedome, Brainstorm, Hardhead, Highbrow, Raiden and Fortress’s younger brother, Grand Maximus, celebrate his victory, as Cab observes BlackZarak fleeing back into space, and Overlord hurtling back down to Earth...

Notes
  • Many toys exclusive (and formerly exclusive) to Japan make their full, proper debuts in this issue of the manga.
  • Overlord was a newly-designed figure for the series, and would later be released in Europe in 1991, with Giga and Mega simply referred to as “Energon Mini-Figures,” the same label applied to the European version of the Brainmaster figures from the next series, Transformers: Victory.
  • Godbomber was the other new-mould figure for Masterforce, released both separately and in a God Ginrai giftset. When Powermaster Optimus Prime was reissued by Hasbro in 2003, it was in the form of this giftset. The Ginrai version of the toy was used, and Godbomber was released in Hasbro markets for the first time, albeit with a lengthened missile and renamed “Apex Bomber,” with a bio that suggested he was a rebuilt version of Prime’s old buggy companion, Roller.
  • BlackZarak is a remoulded and redecoed version of the original Scorponok toy, with a new helmet (into which the face is sculpted directly, rather than allowing you to see the Headmaster partner behind a clear visor) and spear accessory. Although the manga mentions it right away, It is never mentioned during the main 42 episodes of the Masterforce anime that he is a reborn Scorponok, which is later explained in a clip episode.
  • Grand Maximus is a straight recolor of Fortress Maximus in teal, white and red, with the added bonus of a Pretender shell for the Headmaster component, Grand.

ISSUE #8 – “THE EARTH FAMILY OF GOOD AND EVIL!”

The Decepticons have captured Shuta and Cab! Held prisoner in Overlord’s base mode and subject to vicious whippings from Blood, the boys’ only hope lies with Ginrai and Minerva, since Grand Maximus and the Godmasters are occupied fighting BlackZarak and the Darkwings brothers in space. Giga and Mega desire that Shuta and Cab join their family, but they refuse, and Shuta says that they are not a real family. Cancer is particularly infuriated by this, as they are the only family he has.

Meanwhile, outside, Ginrai directs Godbomber, carrying Minerva, to charge at Overlord’s base form, and the drone ramps up into the air and crashes through the base wall, right into the chamber where everyone is. Working quickly, Minerva cuts the boys free with a saw, while Giga and Mega form Overlord and open fire on Godbomber and Super Ginrai, keeping them apart to stop them combining. Just in the nick of time, however, a victorious battleship-mode Grand Maximus arrives with the Godmasters, and Ginrai and Godbomber leap into the air, meeting above Maximus where they combine and land atop him. Grand Maximus crashes headlong into Overlord, and as they blast past him, God Ginrai slashes him with Grand’s weapon, the Master Blade. Thoroughly defeated, Mega and Giga split back into their individual Transtectors and beat retreat, and a weeping Mega looks at the injured Headmaster Juniors and begins to wonder if she is doing the right thing by putting her “children” in the line of fire.

Back at the Autobot base, a recovering Shuta and Cab joke about how Minerva is filling the role of their mother, and how that would make Ginrai their dad.

Notes
  • This issue features the first manga appearance of Browning, a small pistol Transformer who acts as Cancer’s “pet,” given to him by Lady Mega in episode #20 of the Masterforce anime, “The Autobot Warrior, Sixknight?!” He is one of three guns from the Microman toyline (one of the others being the original Megatron figure), and he is the last Transformers figure to be taken from an earlier toyline.
  • The Master Blade is Grand Maximus’s version of his big brother’s mighty weapon, the Master Sword. Not included with the Hasbro version of Fortress Maximus, the weapon came with Takara’s release of the figure and was an important object in the Headmasters anime. The Grand Maximus toy comes with his own sword, but it is strangely not featured in the Masterforce series. Some fans may be more familiar with it as the “Matrix Blade,” the sword wielded by Omega Prime in the final episode of Transformers: Robots in Disguise, available only in the Japanese giftset of the toy. This version of the sword was remoulded with a new hilt to allow Prime to hold it.

ISSUE #9 – “THE DECEPTICONS’ GREAT COMEBACK BATTLE!”

The Decepticons have added a new warrior to their ranks – the final Godmaster, Doubleclouder, who is able to assume both Autobot and Decepticon modes – and have begun a new strategy of destruction, as Overlord takes aim at the major cities of the world with his new AO Laser, devastating New York, London, Tokyo and Moscow. Meanwhile, the Darkwings brothers engage Ginrai in an aerial battle, drawing him into close range for the AO Laser, but when Overlord fires on his enemy, Ginrai and Godbomber split into their separate forms, allowing the beam to pass harmlessly between them… until Clouder, in his Decepticon falcon mode, reflects it back at them, blasting them out of the sky. Overlord grasps the Headmaster Juniors in his arms as they all cheer in celebration, but when Clouder expects a little gratitude, all he gets in return is an insulting remarking about his bird mode from Cancer Utterly enraged, Clouder transforms into his Autobot robot mode and destroys the AO Laser with his “Double God End” attack, and Ginrai and Godbomber then merge into God Ginrai, who takes down Overlord with his God Punch. Ginrai welcomes Clouder into the Autobot ranks and takes him back to their base, while, back at the Decepticon base, Giga laments the loss of Clouder, blaming his own carelessness, while Mega tries to console him. And meanwhile, out in space, Devil Z has completed his power up to BlackZarak!

Notes
  • Once again, the manga relies on its audience to have some knowledge of the animated series to understand where Clouder – the Japanese version of Doubledealer – came from. He is a “geeky” youth who stumbled across the last Transtector, choosing to side with the Decepticons because he thought they were “cooler.” Using his Autobot mode to act a spy for the Decepticons, he orchestrated an attack on the Autobot base, but when he was left to die in the fire, defected to the Autobots. There’s also an implication that he has some undefined connection to the American Department of Defense.
  • Although the colours of Clouder’s toy are slightly altered from Doubledealer – the grey parts are white, the missile has some silver paint on it and his chest plate is gold chrome – in the Masterforce anime, Clouder is coloured like Doubledealer.
  • Presumably, “AO” stands for “All-Out.”
  • On two different occasions in the Masterforce anime, BlackZarak is decapitated, but continues to function. As the anime never covered the fact that he was Scorponok, the question of how he could continue to function without a head was not answered there. It is on the final page of this chapter that the answer is given, in the oft-spoken-of panel which reveals that Zarak is wired into BlackZarak’s chest compartment.

ISSUE #10 – “LIFE OR DEATH? SUPER-HUMAN COMBINATION OF THE DO-OR-DIE SPIRIT!”

With the Autobots temporarily off Earth, the powered-up BlackZarak has made it to the planet! As he and Overlord begin tearing through Japan, the Autobots return from their space trip aboard Grand Maximus, having been off-planet to acquire the new VX Bomb weapon from the Autobot space force. Super Ginrai and Godbomber disembark the Maximus to tackle Overlord, while the Godmasters stay aboard as the ship slams into BlackZarak. Godbomber holds Overlord while Ginrai lays him out, and to escape their clutches, the Decepticon Emperor of Destruction separates into the Megajet and Gigatank, but with precise timing, Godbomber and Ginrai steer the two Transtectors around, causing them to crash into each other just as the VX Bomb detonates. Their Transtectors mangled, Giga and Mega wait nervously as the smoke clears... and the uninjured God Ginrai emerges triumphant!

ISSUE #11 – “GREAT TURN-AROUND! AUTOBOTS!”

Forbidden by Lord Giga from returning to his home country, China, to celebrate the New Year, Cancer runs away to do so with Browning – unaware that his Decepticon family had wanted him to stay so that he could celebrate with them, having spent all day making decorations, only to discover Cancer’s tearful note. Unfortunately for Cancer, while in China, BlackZarak attacks with the Sparkdashers, and it’s not long before Grand Maximus arrives on the scene, carrying the Autobots into battle to stop the villains. Road King and Ranger grapple with Sizzle and Clouder and Ranger tackle Jabile while God Ginrai takes out Guzzle, but as they fight, BlackZarak spots Cancer. At first reacting with surprise, BlackZarak seizes Cancer, using him as a bargaining chip to keep the Autobots back – he cares nothing for the boy, viewing all humans as weak and foolish. As he unleashes his “Spear Hurricane,” generating a cyclone blast with his spear which encircles Grand Maximus, BlackZarak spots Overlord approaching from the air, but is more than surprised when he transforms to robot mode and brutally attacks him, outraged by his treatment of Cancer and dismissive attitude to humans. With BlackZarak weakened, Grand seizes his chance, leaping out of his battleship and assuming his Pretender form – without shrinking! The giant-sized Pretender Grand crashes into Overlord and BlackZarak with a “Big Mode Pretender Shell Power Kick!”, and the Godmasters follow it up by firing their weapons as one, creating an explosion around the villains. Out of the smoke cloud, the battered and beaten Decepticons flee into the sky, as Grand explains to the startled Ginrai the reason for his enlarged size – long ago, the Pretenders did not shrink, remaining enormous in their suit modes, spawning legends of giants among early man. Back then, man learned as the robots taught them, but now, man- and robotkind are truly equals.

Back at the Decepticon base, Cancer is depressed because he did not trust his family, and as Mega forgives him, Browning notes that running away never solves anything.

Notes
  • This issue introduces the Decepticon Sparkdashers, known in the west as the Firecons. Guzzle is Cindersaur, Sizzle is Flamefeather and Jabile is Sparkstalker. Treated as multiple drones like the Seacons in the Masterforce anime, although their toy colour schemes were slightly altered – Guzzle is grey and green instead of yellow and purple, Jabile is red where Sparkstalker is pink – their animated forms match the Firecons’ colour schemes. One will also notice the similarity of their Japanese names to the English names of the Firecons’ opposite numbers, the Sparkabots (or the “Sparkler Mini-Bots”), Guzzle, Sizzle and Fizzle, but they do not appear in Masterforce. Their toys, however, were released in Japan as the Autobot Sparkdashers, Hardspark, Hotspark and Wildspark, respectively.
  • Grand’s smallest Headmaster component briefly appears in this issue, which it never does in the animated series. Robot-mode Grand himself, outside of his Pretender shell, appears only in this issue and for a few seconds in episode #35 of the anime, “Crisis! The Day of the Downfall of Humanity.”
  • The idea that Pretender shells were formerly – and are still able to become – giant-sized is not used in the anime. Presumably, its inclusion is an attempt to justify the scale of the Pretender toys somewhat – as the suit-mode Pretenders are always human-sized in the anime, their fixed-size toy counterparts are therefore sorely out of scale with the other figures in the line, robbing them of interactive play value. This, of course, was not a problem in the west, where, per the Marvel Comics series, the Pretenders did not shrink, remaining giant humans.

ISSUE #12 – “BIRTH OF THE SUPER-LIFEFORMS!”

The final battle is underway! As God Ginrai struggles with Overlord, the true extent of Devil Z’s power-up to BlackZarak is revealed as the villain removes his own head, revealing that Devil Z now sits between his shoulders as his Headmaster! More revelations come quickly – BlackZarak transforms into a new alternate form, that of a twin-headed serpent, and riding on each head are Buster and Hydra, who have shed their humanity and been transformed by Devil Z’s power into true robotic beings. Devil Z, Buster and Hydra’s hatred of humanity has come to a peak – mankind will now be wiped out, and that includes the humans within Overlord and the Decepticon Headmaster Juniors! Just then, Grand Maximus swoops overhead, carrying the rest of the Autobots, and the Autobot Pretenders leap to the Decepticons’ aid, holding off BlackZarak as God Ginrai boards Maximus. Overlord makes his peace with the Autobots, offering an alliance to stop Devil Z, which Ginrai happily accepts. And so, together, the Autobots, Overlord and the Decepticon Headmaster Juniors gather aboard Grand Maximus, and unite their energies in the “Perfect Transformer Attack,” as Maximus crashes headlong into BlackZarak, shattering his body and utterly destroying both him and Devil Z, as the Darkwings brothers flee intact.

At first, there is darkness… and then, an explosion of light, as the Godmasters and Headmaster Juniors, along with the Pretenders, suddenly find themselves in their human forms again, with their Master-Braces fading from their wrists into nothingness. A voice over their heads speaks, and they turn in shock to see their Transtectors, in robot mode, alive and moving on their own. Super Ginrai explains that with the destruction of Devil Z, the connection he created between the Transtectors had the humans has been severed, but that a miracle has happened – by absorbing the human spirit, the Transtectors have become truly alive, the perfect super-robot lifeforms! With all this sinking in, Lightfoot asks the question that is on everyone’s minds – what, exactly, was Devil Z? Ginrai explains that he was a super-energy being from outer space who brought the Transtectors and Master-Braces to Earth long ago, but had wound up crashing in the depths of the ocean. Choosing two human beings – Mega and Giga – to begin a Masterforce and complete his plan for the Transtectors, Devil Z’s death has also caused the passing of Mega and Giga, to which Cancer tearfully reacts. But now that the Transtectors are complete beings, it is time for them to depart the Earth, leaving their human friends and the Autobot Pretenders to watch over the planet. With the bonding of human and robot, a new breed of super-robot lifeforms have come into existence, and while the Masterforce battle may be over... the war rages on!

Notes
  • Though not shown, only referred to, in the manga, Buster and Hydra’s transformation into robotic begins occurred in episode #39 of the Masterforce anime, “Battle to the Death!! God Ginrai vs. Darkwings Reborn.”
  • The two heads of BlackZarak’s serpent mode are referred to as the Neck of Earth and the Neck of Heaven – two of the three Chokon Powers. Naturally, the absent power is that of Man – although the manga presents an outright hatred of mankind as Devil Z’s reason for wanting to exterminate them, the anime points at Devil Z possessing an actual fear of the potential for Jinchokon Power that exists within all humans. Buster and Hydra viewing humans as weak, however, is the same in both manga and anime.
  • The manga offers less explanation for the Transtectors than the anime, but at the same time, is less confusing, as the only version of the story that the anime offers is the contorted one told by Giga, full of lies and half-truths told to him by Devil Z, which suggests that the Godmasters were formerly one Decepticon entity that split into many. The official line is that Devil Z stole the Godmaster Transtectors from a region of space known as the G Nebula, rich in Tenchokon, and scattered them on Earth, where they absorbed Chichokon. To complete his plan, Devil Z had the Transtectors bond with human beings, thereby adding Jinchokon to the equation, giving the resultant lifeforms control over the three Chokon Powers, the primal energies of life. One of these bodies was intended for use by Optimus Prime – this was the Transtector to which Ginrai bonded, hence his resemblance to the legendary leader.
  • Although not outright stated in dialogue, the art – which depicts two bodies sinking in the ocean – strongly implies that Giga and Mega were a couple who drowned at sea, where their bodies were found and resurrected by Devil Z to be his agents. Consequently, then, Devil Z’s death meant their deaths, as the power sustaining them ceased. Although the anime plays their deaths a little different (they perish when Devil Z forcibly separates them from Overlord and gives the Transtector life through his own power), nothing about it truly contradicts this idea, which adds a lot more life to the couple. With the anime not making as much of the “family” angle as the manga, the pair come across as very flat “supervillain” characters there – here, there is the somewhat touching backdrop of them as a couple who perished before being able to start their own family, and achieving that goal in a different way in their renewed lives.

 

And that's Masterforce! Victory [lots of translations here] is next, but I don't know when I'll get it done - I'd quite like to watch the anime first, which I have only just begun to do. So you'll see it when you see it!

 

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