#206 : The Transformers: Super-God Masterforce

More classic tales of the original 1980s G1 The Transformers from the vaults of Japan!; hip hip hooray! I first want to give the utmost thanks to Japan for not giving up on The Transformers in the late 1980s. In America the tastes were changing, how fickle, and I am sure many marketing adults wanted to pump different toylines into the market, but hey… don’t mess with The Transformers, or fans of the original storyline. Japan began a second original G1 series in 1988 after the previous year’s The Headmasters and while it has The Transformers name, in terms of plot, it really jumped the shark at times. Yet The Transformers: Super-God Masterforce proved to be a strong successor.

TF_SGM_1Often when we think of The Transformers, we expect a mecha show about sentient robots. For Super-God Masterforce we insert a major twist. Humans have played a major role in The Transformers from the beginning. Spike and Sparkplug and then Carly and Daniel were key side characters from the original American version. The concept of combining the human with the machine was also explored in episodes like Autobot Spike and Almost Human. For the American fourth season, The Rebirth trilogy, the Headmasters and Targetmasters were humans and humanoids in robotic suits that allowed them to become the heads, or weapons for their corresponding Autobot and Deception machines. Japan meanwhile went with a differing mythology for The Headmasters as human sized Cybertrons (Autobots) and Destrons (Decepticons) would use larger bodies (transtectors) in an attempt to survive in their particular surrounding.

TF_SGM_2Now we move onto Super-God Masterforce where the human element of being part of the machine would take full fruit in Japan. We begin with the Pretenders who were life sized real honest to goodness Transformers, that have an alternate form of either a human (Cybertron), or demon (Destron). Maybe they used the same shrinking technology that Soundwave and Blaster had, or maybe they are cousins of Ultraman? Talk about ‘Robots in Disguise’… literally. Then we have the Headmaster Juniors which take two sets of three kids and give them fancy suits which become the heads of transactors via magic bracelets. Sounds a little like henshin meets the American Rebirth version of the Headmasters characters. And then you have Godmasters, or Powermasters in the west, who via magic bracelets gain fancy suits to turn into the engine’s of transtectors. Humans piloting robots… you know if this show was not licensed as The Transformers, this could have been like many other run of the mill mecha shows?

TF_SGM_3While Super-God Masterforce is a direct followup to the previous shows, there are some odd plot holes. First, there hardly is a mention of the back history of The Transformers including: the exodus from the planet Cybertron, or the wars from the American G1 shows. The Headmasters is occasionally referenced with the concept of Cybertrons fighting in space and a short communication from Chromodome. Then we get introduced to the new leader of the Cybertrons, Ginrai, who looks an awful lot like Optimus Prime. Didn’t he die again in The Headmasters? So… how did a red semi truck that transforms into the most iconic robot of the entire franchise end up again on Earth to be found by a young truck driver? I have no idea, but we have to roll with it I suppose. While Super-God Masterforce may make you wonder what happened to all the back story I may conclude that maybe this is an alternative universe? One truth to Super-God Masterforce is that it never takes itself seriously, so maybe I shouldn’t with my expectations for this show.

TF_SGM_4Feeling my inner child/longtime fan resonate with this show could not be denied. I too could finally become one of The Transformers, even though I am like you, a human being. While Super-God Masterforce really goes out on a limb in certain categories to what we consider the usual framework of The Transformers universe it certainly worked. And in the end all of the Transformers would revert to sentient robots. My only wish is that I would like to have a pair of those magical bracelets for myself. Then I could yell out, “MASTA-FORCE!” and become like many of my heroes. But as a substitute I and you have this show, which will suffice for now… until I move onto the third series… The Transformers: Victory.

#25j : Robot Carnival : Closing

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCj_1The time has come as the show is over and as much as the anime Robot Carnival has to come to an end, the behemoth vehicle of destructive entertainment, Robot Carnival, also has to find a place to retire. The second bookend to the Robot Carnival anthology begins with the ever awesome machine giving everything it has to climb a sand dune with all it’s shear power. In the process of straining the engines beyond their limits, the once mighty Robot Carnival destroys itself in a blaze of glory. The end, peace in the land at last as the mighty beast has fallen… yet it’s not quite over. Katsuhiro Otomo still has a little more to tell, but first the credits so everyone can get their name in lights.

Now for the encore… with the destruction of Robot Carnival there is much in the way of debris. Some of it is quite appealing like a shining gem in the dirt, so thinks a traveling nomad who picks up a metallic sphere to give to his children. Once home they all stare in amazement at this ball as it opens to reveal a beautiful doll of a dancing ballerina. Hold on, have we seen this before? BOOM! Yup, that’s what I thought. Until next time… “That’s all folks!”

Robot Carnival entry index:

    1. Opening
    2. Franken’s Gears
    3. Deprive
    4. Presence
    5. Starlight Angel
    6. Cloud
    7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
    8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
    9. Ending

#25i : Robot Carnival : Chicken Man and Red Neck

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

Something’s lurking in the streets tonight. Almost like the dead rising from their graves, except this time round it’s machinery and raw building materials being drawn up from a superior power and taking on their own lives. And it was such a quiet pleasant day just a couple minutes ago. Enter the world of Chicken Man and Red Neck. An odd title for a comedic action horror anime, does Japan know what we in the U.S. refer to as a redneck?Streamline Pictures renaming to Nightmare was a good solution when the film came out here in the west way back in the 1990s. The original title refers to the two main characters, one a robotic spirit who looks like a hooded scarecrow and the other a salaryman with a long neck and rubbery movements who is just running scared.

RCi_1And I can’t say I blame him. Imagine waking up seeing all kinds of odd robotic type monsters walking all over and invading your home of Tokyo feeling like there is absolutely no escape. You gotta run! Director Takashi Nakamura has cited the Bald Mountain sequence from Fantasia as an inspiration, but I also see Chicken Man and Red Neck more in line with another classic from Disney, their telling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. An endless chase that can only resolve itself from the rays of the morning sun. How typical, even spirit infested robots seem not to like the glory of solar exposure. Perhaps an allergy to vitamin D?

Robot Carnival entry index:

    1. Opening
    2. Franken’s Gears
    3. Deprive
    4. Presence
    5. Starlight Angel
    6. Cloud
    7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
    8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
    9. Ending

#25h : Robot Carnival : Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCh_1Now this is what I call a proper parody of the classic super robot genre with the stock and trade five member sentai team. Hiroyuki Kitakubo’s Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: The Foreigner’s Invasion (also known as A Tale of Two Robots) could have been an episode for a full TV series, yet this is another specifically created segment for Robot Carnival. And forget about high technology, space, laser beams, or mythical magic as this is the early Meiji era, or the later quarter of the 19th century, so we are limited to coal, archaic electrical power, levers and pulleys and cannons (or fireworks!). Plus, a heavy dose of slapstick humor. And while several productions of Robot Carnival have a humorous bend to the story, Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture is straight up pure comedy gold.

RCh_2Ring the bells loud and clear as there is a strange machine arising inside a busy town. Commanded by a loose lipped wild eyed foreigner, this robot begins its invasion in earnest. Now who in their right mind could stop this behemoth? Enter five brave (and perhaps crazy?) youths who built a similar machine for an upcoming town festival. Although their robotic machine was not made for combat in any way, they give it all they can, fighting the good fight for both the pride of their hometown and all of Japan. Stuck in the middle are the rest of the town folk who watch in both awe and a little frustration as the town gets its fair share of damage. As the old saying goes… in order to make an omelette, you have to break a couple eggs.

Robot Carnival entry index:

    1. Opening
    2. Franken’s Gears
    3. Deprive
    4. Presence
    5. Starlight Angel
    6. Cloud
    7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
    8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
    9. Ending

#25g : Robot Carnival : Cloud

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCg_1Cloud is perhaps the most controversial of the Robot Carnival collection. Now for a little personal bias, Cloud is my favorite segment. Yet why is Cloud controversial? Mainly due to the strict minimalism of this short. Cloud exists as flashes of images and scenes that drift by (kind of like clouds?) while a little boy is just walking along. There is no plot per se, no story, just images set to music. Some may say Cloud to be boring and even skip over it in the process. Yet I ask you to look again. View cloud in one of two ways. First it is the most art for art’s sake production of Robot Carnival. Treat it more as a piece of fine art, to be looked at, questioned and absorb one’s self into the imagination of creator Mao Lamdo (Manabu Ōhashi). And second, view this as an example of meditation. Sit back, relax and take in what is being seen and go with it.

RCg_2The imagery and the entirety of Cloud could be seen as an innocent dream of a young boy out one day just looking up at the clouds and giving into the wonder. While steeped in a very simple format, the artwork is very fluid and organic with a great sense of care given to the line work. So much in entertainment asks us to go on a wild ride, get into a fast paced mood and expect the images themselves to be just ephemeral ghosts that fly by not to be held in one’s hand or heart for more than a blink of an eye. Cloud asks us to slow down, observe, take in and view life and our world with our senses without any judgements.

Robot Carnival entry index:

    1. Opening
    2. Franken’s Gears
    3. Deprive
    4. Presence
    5. Starlight Angel
    6. Cloud
    7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
    8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
    9. Ending

#25f : Robot Carnival : Starlight Angel

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCf_1Hey!! You know what Robot Carnival needs? A simple little shojo story. And we have it with Hiroyuki Kitazume’s Starlight Angel. One of the more popular and familiar segments, Starlight Angel brings a breath of fresh air with a lighter, more innocent story. In a Disney World like theme park (Robot World?) two girls are having a good old time one evening… seeing the sights, riding rides, having a snack and enjoying a goofy photo opportunity or two. In the process of all the fun, she drops a star shaped pendant, which is found by a robot who works at the park. Comically he does his best to return it to her.

As the main girl continues to run all throughout the park, the robot mentioned earlier continues chase. As best as he can he shows kindness in the face of her heartbreak and confusion. Then out of nowhere we get a segment with a fight featuring a giant robot… now where did that come from? The original robot fights and protects the girl as the metal armor falls off to revealing a young man… PLOT TWIST! Who would have known that this robot is her true shining knight in armor instead of that blonde guy who showed up earlier with the toothy grin? Yeah, I couldn’t trust him either! The sweetness of Starlight Angel is what draws us back as fans and evens out most of the other segments that are either very serious, darker in humor, or just abstract in concept. If one needs to start with any of the segments, Starlight Angel is the most accessible and inviting to anyone no matter your background.

Robot Carnival entry index:

    1. Opening
    2. Franken’s Gears
    3. Deprive
    4. Presence
    5. Starlight Angel
    6. Cloud
    7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
    8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
    9. Ending

#25e : Robot Carnival : Presence

This is one of nine entries that take an in depth look into each of the segments of the 1987 anime compilation Robot Carnival. For the original entry, click here.

RCe_1“Ah… look at all the lonely people”… The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby. A sad song that feels quite lonely, a little despondent, saturnine and yet poignantly beautiful wrapped up in sophistication. The same can be said of Yasuomi Umetsu’s Robot Carnival contribution, Presence. This too is a story of loneliness, despondency and regrets that may also be the most gorgeous of all the Robot Carnival films. The level of detail, the colors and the music define this as perhaps the signature segment of Robot Carnival. Mostly in regards to the doll like robot, who could be the mascot for the entire production.

RCe_2Yet with so much beauty there is also pain. Set in a technologically advanced era that is reminiscent of the early 20th century we find a married man to a very successful business woman and also mourns over the fact that his mother never gave him the love he wanted so badly. Much is missing from the feminine in his life and in desperation, and in secret, creates a female robot as a companion in an isolated shed in the country. To some this may be an odd hobby, or fetish, but it is a cry out for loneliness, a desperation to connect to something… perfect. Still no human, or robot, or relationship is perfect. The robot develops her own personality and questions who she is to the amazement of the man. In fear he retaliates destroying something he loves and wanted to love him so dearly. The only thing left are the ghostlike memories that remain. What could have been and what shall I do now and is there a way to return to try again? Common questions that we all have, though we don’t share the same path as this man.

Robot Carnival entry index:

    1. Opening
    2. Franken’s Gears
    3. Deprive
    4. Presence
    5. Starlight Angel
    6. Cloud
    7. Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion
    8. Chicken Man and Red Neck
    9. Ending