Transformers: Victory - my review

Discussion in 'Transformers General Discussion' started by Takeshi357, Apr 3, 2008.

  1. Takeshi357

    Takeshi357 "Research"

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    After yet another long re-watching of the entire G1 series, including the Japanese shows, it was time for me to watch Victory again. Despite downright hating it the first time around (and I did not look forward to see it again), I figured that since I enjoyed Headmasters (which I also hated after the first viewing) a lot more on the subsequent viewings, I figured Victory might enjoy the same. It did, it's not quite as awful as I remembered it...but it's still pretty bad.

    Picking up a few years after the events of Masterforce, like that series, Victory has a very loose continuity with it's predecessor, however, thanks to God Ginrai's fairly frequent appearances, the continuity is much stronger than that between Headmasters and Masterforce. The Autobots have a new supreme commander, Star Saber, hailed as the greatest swordsman in the galaxy. His underlings consist of three autobot subgroups; firstly, the Brainmasters, which he himself too is a member. The three other Brainmasters can form a gestalt robot named Road Caesar. The toys may be familiar to you in the form of European Motorvators, with their combiner parts removed; the gimmick involves a Brainmaster figure inserted inside the robot's chest, and closing the hatch will make the robot face slide up and appear inside the empty helmet. Then there is the Multiforce, a group whose gimmick is very similar to Energon Powerlinx in that two separate robots form the upper and lower halves of a bigger robot. In addition to this, the Multiforce can also form a gestalt named Landcross. Lastly, there are the Micromasters; although it is the Rescue Force who steal the spotlight, Holi in particular who befriends Jean, the token human character of the series. Jean was adopted by Star Saber when his parents were killed in a decepticon attack.

    The decepticons themselves have a new leader, Deszaras. He is a Breastmaster, whose gimmick is that their breast plates come off and transform into weapons and animals. The other Breastmasters are led by Leozack, something of a Starscream wannabe in that he is very ambitious and desires to get the role of Decepticon Emperor of Destruction (the Japanese title of the supreme decepticon leader) to himself. The Breastmasters (Deszaras excluded) can combine to form a gestalt as well, named Liokaiser. The only other decepticon subgroup is a pretender team named Dinoforce, whose toys were repaints of the western monster pretenders but with new, dinosaur-themed shells. Their combined mode carries the name Dinoking.

    The story of the series is simple; when Star Saber was only a commander, he led a strike force into Deszaras' giant space fortress (which is something akin to Death Star in it's abilities), draining it of it's energy and sealing it within the dark nebula, which has caused Deszaras to take his rivalry with Star Saber very personally. The premise pretty much involves decepticons raiding various places for energy in a bid to re-energize the fortress, only for the autobots to foil their plans

    Of all three shows, Victory is undoubtfully the most Japanese. Not only in the way the characters act and talk, but also in that pretty much none of the toys ever showed up outside Japan; and if they did, they did so in vastly altered form. For example, aside from the aforementioned Motorvators, four of the six Breastmasters were released in Europe as "Autobot Rescue Force"...without their breastplates or even names, which has resulted in the whole release becoming something of a butt end for many jokes as the gimmicks were what made the toys - and those gimmicks had been done away with. Dinoforce, however, is actually a repaint of the Monster Pretenders with new pretender shells, and the micromasters were largely unchanged between the Japanese and the western releases.

    Victory is a series that had tons of potential but falls flat on it's face at every oppoturnity. For starters, it is very obvious that the budget had been severely cut; keeping the animation quality consistent with the previous shows, there is now loads and loads of stock footage, particularily for Star Saber himself. If you've watched the Unicron Trilogy, Cybertron in particular, you might have noticed how each character has one lengthy transformation sequence which is steadily abridged over the series to the point it isn't always used at all (with the exception of Optimus Prime's combinations). Not so with Star Saber, whose whole transformation footage is used every. Single. Time. After Victory Leo and subsequently Victory Saber, Victory Leo's and Star Saber's combined mode, are introduced, the entire transformation sequence runs over a minute, longer than the opening of the show itself...and of course, there's the whopping six clip shows, for a series that is only 38 episodes long, none of which have any new animation (fortunately, Metrodome excluded these clip show episodes from their subtitled DVD release).

    The characters are very weak, and I don't mean their physical traits. I can't really even call the characters two-dimensional; in the original American cartoon, the characters weren't exactly deep, but they all had some distinctive character traits to set them apart, even if it was just a funny voice. Not so here, as the autobots are incredibly bland and completely interchangeable. As far as the autobots are concerned, the characterization is pretty much limited to "Wingwaver doesn't get along with Blacker in that one episode". As if one-dimensional autobots weren't bad enough, the fact that they are so stiffly militaristic, always addressing each other with their titles (and often not even using their names in addition to that), makes it very hard to associate with them.

    The worst offender is Star Saber himself, who steals the spotlight most of the time. He is the amalgam stereotype of every Japanese autobot leader ever, frequently falling into rants about how he will not forgive the evil decepticons for endangering humans/destroying the nature/walking on the flowers and the beautiful blue earth. Particularily painful example is in one episode where the decepticons have accidentally caused a landslide with their energy gathering, and he tells Leozack he will not forgive the decepticons for ruining the nature...twice. In a row (admittably, Leozack does say somethin in return between those, but it doesn't really change the fact that Star Saber is repeating himself). Ironically, for someone who is supposed to be a stepfather (to Jean), he is completely lacking the fatherly qualities of Optimus Prime, whom one could genuinely admire and look up on as a sort of mentor. Remember that one episode that began with Optimus Prime playing basketball, and then he was seen later hanging around in front of Teletraan-1 doing tricks with the basketball? Star Saber never does anything cool like that. Why exactly Star Saber even got his job is beyond me.

    Oddly, the series also seems to spend very much time spotlighting the scheming of the decepticons as opposed to the daily chores of the autobots. This only serves to point out that the decepticons are much more interesting characters than the "heroes"; particularily, Leozack and Hellbat (another Breastmaster) who are both Starscream-wannabes; the former wishes to overthrow Deszaras while the latter wishes to overthrow both him and Leozack. Unfortunately, despite actively keeping his ambitions secret, Deszaras beats Leozack into his place, leaving it up to Hellbat to do all the backstabbing. In a rare good stroke, the Liokaiser team, tired of Hellbat's misadventures, summon a seventh Breastmaster named Deathcobra to replace him. Learning of this, Hellbat tries to persuade Deathcobra out of it, but fails...and accidentally kills him. He manages to cover it up, but typically to the lack of proper in-show continuity, this is never explored upon again. The Dinoforce is an oddity, bringing the kind of slapstick humor into the show not seen before in Transformers (and very Japanese; expect a lot of chibi shots). Led by Gouryu, who is proud to a fault, their combined intelligence is that of a brick, but despite all their nefarities, they come off as...well, quite a loveable bunch, actually. Kakuryu in particular is the kind of character that makes one wonder, how did he end up being a decepticon in the first place? If you didn't feel sorry for this lot already, when Blacker threatens to break Kakuryu's neck, Blacker comes off as a complete jerk than the hero he is supposed to be. Also, the fact that the autobots and the narrator speak of the decepticons like they were the worst thing since Hitler seriously undermine the level of threat they are supposed to represent.

    The stories are very poor. Pretty much the entire first half of the series is recycling the exact same premise; decepticons attack power plant, autobots come to the rescue and save the day. Although this was not uncommon in the original American cartoon as well, this was usually done with flair that kept it interesting, sometimes using it only as an introduction to another, more interesting plot. Here, there is hardly any imagination to it, and it gets very old very fast. This is not helped at all by the fact that the decepticons are the eternal underdogs; Star Saber is bound to show up and slash through the decepticon forces to their humiliating defeat, removing any excitement out of the equation. The episodes get a little more imaginative and interesting after the first half when the autobots shoot off into space to planet Micro and battle decepticons on another planet, and Star Saber himself starts receiving some real punishment when Liokaiser begins appearing. Because of the weak individual episodes and the very loose overall storyarc, I'd say there's maybe nine episodes tops that are an essential viewing for the overall storyarc; the rest are practically filler. The only strong episodes are the last three, but not wanting to spoil those, I'll just say that the final battle ranks up there with Optimus Prime vs. Megatron of '86 animated movie and the final episode of Armada in awesomeness. Another thing where Victory actually succeeds is having a good ending; as opposed to the 'Autobots buzz off into space' ending of the last two series, we get a nice 'Where are they now?'-montage.

    As a whole, Victory comes off as a series that tries to be like the original American cartoon...and fails miserably. There's none of the imagination, the characterization (no Megatron/Starscream rivalry here) or even the stories (No Wheeljack coming up with the superweapon of the week that the decepticons set their sights on, either). Although I admit, Headmasters was fairly stupid, it's never so flat-out boring as Victory. The extremely lazy writing is to blame, with a little effort this could have been a genuinely good series to end the Japanese G1 with. I still fail to understand how on earth this cartoon managed to develop such hyperbole in the fandom, frequently hailed as the best Japanese G1 show...but I guess most of the fans are just too stupid to care, they just wanna see big robots fighting and that's it. *sigh*

    PROS:
    -Character designs
    -The last episode
    -Dinoforce

    CONS:
    -Story
    -Characterizations
    -Star Saber

    In the other hand, I think I can kind of understand where the fans of Victory are coming from...Headmasters suffered from a bad case of Daniel & Wheelie overdose, and Masterforce was practically Transformers in name only. Victory does represent return to the roots in a way, although Victory does seem closer to super sentai in some aspects (A combiner consisting of a spaceship and a lion?). I myself still prefer Headmasters though.
     

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