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 of the TFArchive leant hs aid with explanations abound. 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. So, with that out of the way, myself and Spengs present the first installment of the guide to the Transformers manga! - - - After an opening “prologue” issue 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.” So, class, let’s begin at the beginning! - - - 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, occurring both before and after the Japanese-exclusive OVA, “Scramble City.” ISSUE #1 Trouble is brewing in Tokyo, Japan – Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker are on the attack, out to pillage energy and cause some generation 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 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 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 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 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 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 - This issue takes place at some point after “Scramble City,” since Trypticon is active and acquainted with Metroplex. - In this issue, Kenji’s watch communicator is the Ultra Magnus transforming watch toy. ISSUE #7 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 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 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 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 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. Turning into his own battle station form, Metroplex 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 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 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 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 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 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.” - - - Next time - Headmasters!