After the first Japan-exclusive season of Transformers, titled Headmasters, ended, Japan got to work on another season of the show. Head writer Masumi Kaneda felt that they had wrapped up any lingering story threads from Transformers: The Movie and season 3 of the original Transformers series, so they decided to start fresh. The result was Super-God Masterforce. I’ll warn you now that it isn’t as bizarre as Headmasters. It’s much more down to earth.
It does take place in the same continuity but it has hardly any previous characters. It retains a few concepts such as the lifeless Transformer bodies called Transtectors that can be controlled. Headmasters ended with the Autobots and Decepticons leaving Earth to fight in space. “Rise Up!! Pretenders” begins with the Earth having no Transformer activity for several years. We begin with a cruise ship captain singing to himself because of course we do.
Read on to meet the main characters of Masterforce.
The best part of Masterforce seems to be a big uptick in the quality of the animation. Obviously we’ll have to watch more episodes to see if this remains consistent, but this is good. It uses much richer colors, has interesting character design and some pretty good movement for a weekly series.
The episode begins on the cruise ship. A dude is filming his new wife when a monster pops up behind her, which causes this to happen:
Then a second monster lands on the ship’s radar. This guy’s name is Blood and he’s a pretty cool vampire-looking monster, which is pretty new for Transformers.
Blood summons Gulf, which are a bunch of piranha-looking Decepticons that promptly punch holes in the ship’s hull.
As the ship begins sinking and catching fire, the first monster takes the stage. His name is Gilmer. Weird name. Maybe it’s Japanese? His U.S. toy’s name was Sub-Marauder, which I think is way cooler, but here he’s Gilmer. Sounds like a 50s sitcom neighbor.
The monsters laugh with delight and taunt “Metalhawk” who isn’t there. But that first dude dropped his camcorder so maybe they know they’re being taped.
Meanwhile, some kids are playing soccer. A businessman-looking dude named Hawk compliments the skills of Shuta.
His pal is Shuta’s father, Professor Go. The Professor looks pretty old to have such a young son, but what do I know? Maybe the Prof has skillz with the ladies. The Prof says Shuta’s soccer skills are all thanks to Hawk. So they’re all close buds.
Driving home, Hawk gets a call from his pal, Diver, who tells him about the Decepticon attack on the cruise liner. He gets to take his calls on his watch. Pretty cool, but he still has to hold it up to his face. No speaker phone? Pshh! Bullshit.
Hawk heads over to Professor Go’s lab and lets him know what’s gone down. It seems Hawk knows about these Decepticons and had told the Professor about them at some point in the past. He refers to the Decepticons being “revived” which explains that they’ve been on Earth but why they never helped the Decepticons out in past seasons.
Shuta shows up, psyched about his soccer match. His dad asks him to leave but Hawk says that Shuta should know about the danger.
Hawk first tells Shuta that he’s not from Earth but Shuta isn’t buying it. Which is sensible since Hawk seems like a completely normal guy. The “acting” is a little silly but it isn’t slapstick and I’ll gladly take some personality over episodes starting with bored Autobots musing about what Scorponok could be up to.
Hawk lays out the big reveal – he says he’s actually a Transformer!
He says that he and some Autobots were battling Decepticons millions of years ago and crashed on Earth. However, they weren’t really injured and decided to adopt the appearance of native lifeforms.
The Autobots took on the appearance of humans (cavemen at that point) to fit in and the Decepticons created monstrous appearances to scare the humans.
Hawk leaves it vague about how the Autobots defeated the Decepticons but says they sealed them away and decided to live alongside humanity. No one comments on the glowing beverage on their table.
In the city (no clue which one) another monster, Tentakil, appears and blows up an oil refinery. Military helicopters try to stop it but are pulverized. Earth seems to have nothing strong enough to stop this single Decepticon.
From a rooftop above, Dauros watches the destruction with delight.
Blood shows up and we see there’s a bit of a rivalry between the two. This spark reminds me a bit of the old Megatron/Starscream dynamic so these characters are already more interesting than the evil Headmasters.
Hawk decides it’s time to do something and he makes like a Power Ranger:
Shuta happens to be driving his motorcycle at full blast with no helmet when he passes Hawk standing in his Pretender getup. He looks like a dipshit low-budget sci-fi character now. Boooo.
But then he instantly emerges from that body (it sort of turns into a shadow and he leaps forward out of it) in a Transformer body. His real name is Metalhawk. ‘Cuz he’s still Hawk but now way more metal.
He then ditches THAT form to transform into a vaguely jet-like form and blasts off for the city. Shuta chases after him in his motorcycle, pretty much straight down a steep cliff. Shuta’s a madman.
We then see a montage of the other Autobot Pretenders answering the call of duty. Diver is a dude who turns into some sort of submarine.
Lander is on a date but when he gets the call, he does the whole “suit on” thing in an elevator…
When the elevator hits the lobby, a massive dude in an armored suit runs out. Lander’s date is in shock. What a dick!
Not only that, but then Lander emerges as his robot form, runs down the city street attracting the police, and transforms into his race car vehicle form. The police promptly crash trying to apprehend him. What a dick!
Phoenix also turns into some sort of jet.
Metalhawk arrives first and the Decepticon Pretenders decide to hang back and see how well he does against a Tentakil drone. Kinda smart, actually!
But it does pretty terrible. Metalhawk bonks it right in the head and sends it to la-la land.
Shuta drives into the chaos and just starts cheering wildly. This kid has a death wish!
Sure enough, another Tentakil shows up and grabs Shuta. Metalhawk begins to get kicked around by the two Tentakils. If only he’d brought his pokemon with him.
Eventually, Metalhawk creates enough breathing room to break out his big weapon: the titanium sword. It’s just a sword but he treats it like it’s the crown jewels.
And to be fair, he does slice the Tentakil holding Shuta in half. That’s fairly badass.
Gilmer, Blood and Dauros decide to step in, in their robot forms, and finish off Metalhawk, griping the whole time about being sealed away for millions of years. Jeez, hold a grudge why don’t you?
Their plan is to take over the world. So those are the stakes.
But then Metalhawk’s allies show up. Phoenix tosses out a really strange quip as he flies in.
Lander drives past Diver. I guess he can drive on walls and stuff.
Lander crashes into Dauros and acts real tough.
But he ain’t as tough as he thinks and gets judo tossed away. That’s a decent comeuppance.
Gilmer decides to end things by threatening to kill Shuta, but he seems to have a poor sense of where all the combatants are.
Diver promptly socks him in the face. Again, better animation than we typically got on Headmasters.
Metalhawk also wastes no time in killing the other Tentakil. These Autobots don’t mess around.
The Decepticon Pretenders quickly retreat and Metalhawk begins speechifying about how much they admire humanity.
His big message is that everyone needs to work together.
And then they vow to protect humanity from the Decepticons. Thanks!
And so there you have it. A pretty good episode. It had a lot to do, establishing all-new characters and a completely new status quo within its 22 minutes or so. I would’ve liked to have seen a bigger battle or learned more about their past, so I guess it did its job. It’s much more relatable and grounded than the futuristic space stuff from Headmasters. We’re back on Earth and we don’t have tons of characters. It’s a good starting point.
Come back next time to dig a little deeper into the mythology and I’ll share my opinions on the Pretenders toys themselves.